EDITORIAL: A Thousand days to Apocalypse in Russia

EDITORIAL

A Thousand days to Apocalypse in Russia

On May 14, 2011, Russia switched on a countdown timer in the city of Sochi to tick off the days remaining until the 2014 Winter Olympiad unfolds there.  The clock should have been in the shape of a ticking time bomb, in order to do justice to horror of anticipating what may be the bloodiest sports contest in modern memory.

Just the day before, Russia had gone down to utterly humiliating defeat to tiny Finland, getting blanked 0-3, at the semi-finals of the world ice hockey championships in Slovakia (Russia then promptly surrendered seven goals to Czech Republic and lost the bronze medal as well) .  The world was reminded that Russia is inviting it to gape upon the spectacle of Russian failure in 2014; if Russians are unable to meet the high expectations for gold medals the whole country will be forced to bow its head in shame.

But even if Russians manage to reap a fistful of gold in Sochi, they still must face the horrifying specter of terrorism.

Explosions and assassinations are now routine in the lands surrounding Sochi, which teem with open revolts against the Kremlin that target all authority figures.  A day without such killings is the rare exception to the norm.  The Caucasus people have already made it plain that they believe the Sochi ground is sacred and that the Russian games are an abomination.  The rebels can hardly be expected to look the other way while Russians attempt to celebrate beneath their very noses, nor to let pass an golden opportunity to draw the world’s attention to Russian atrocities in the region.

Russia has been convicted over and over and over again of state-sponsored, kidnapping, torture and murder throughout the Caucasus.  It has lost control over Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya and he in turn has lost control of the Islamic revolution against Orthodox Russia.  It will be child’s play for these shadowy figures to strike against the Sochi games.

If they do, the world will have little sympathy for Russia. It will remember the outrage of Russian aggression in Sochi, it will be reminded of Russian atrocities in Chechnya, and it will realize its own folly in allowing the games to be vested in a place like Russia.

And even if Russia manages to acquit itself on the playing fields and to stave off a major terrorist event, it still cannot win.  What can the Kremlin have been thinking to invite the world’s journalists to probe into Russia generally and the Caucasus region specifically, to lay out before the eyes of a slack-jawed world the true extent of Russia’s KGB dictatorship?  Does the Kremlin really think opposition leaders like Boris Nemtsov will remain silent and ignore their own golden opportunity to speak out against Putin? Or does the Kremlin think it can get away with arresting such figures just before the games to keep them silent?

Nemtsov is from Sochi and ran for office there not long ago.  If left free to do so he will be omnipresent on Western TV, making a mockery of the Putin regime. If arrested, he will become an international martyr, and Putin a pariah. Russia cannot win by staging the Olympics in Russia, it can only lose.

It will lose billions of dollars in funds desperately needed for social services in a country where the people don’t rank in the world’s top 130 for life expectancy.  It will lose face, and be exposed for the outrageous autocracy that it is.  It will lose on the playing fields, and in all liklihood it will lose many human lives in bloody acts of revenge.

Russia is proudly counting down a ticking time bomb right beneath its feet.

4 responses to “EDITORIAL: A Thousand days to Apocalypse in Russia

  1. Georgia lawmakers call Circassian killings genocide

    Reuters
    May 20, 2011

    19th century killings of a Muslim minority by Russia’s tsarist forces genocide in a resolution on Friday likely to strain Tbilisi’s already troubled ties with Moscow.

    Originally from the northwest Caucasus, Circassians say 1.5 million of their ancestors were systematically killed in a Russian military campaign in 1860-64 to conquer the Caucasus mountain area on the southern border of today’s Russia.

    The deaths were recorded by Russian imperial historians in 1864. No nation has recognised them genocide.

    “We as a representatives of Georgian people should end the 150-year long sufferings of Circassians and restore their rights,” said Nugzar Tsiklauri, the head of a parliamentary committee for relations with diasporas and Caucasus nations.

    The move is likely to strain relations between Russia and Georgia, which have yet to recover from a five-day war in 2008

    • Posted it wrong. Full article:

      TBILISI, May 20 (Reuters) – Georgia’s parliament branded the 19th century killings of a Muslim minority by Russia’s tsarist forces genocide in a resolution on Friday likely to strain Tbilisi’s already troubled ties with Moscow.

      Originally from the northwest Caucasus, Circassians say 1.5 million of their ancestors were systematically killed in a Russian military campaign in 1860-64 to conquer the Caucasus mountain area on the southern border of today’s Russia.

      The deaths were recorded by Russian imperial historians in 1864. No nation has recognised them genocide.

      “We as a representatives of Georgian people should end the 150-year long sufferings of Circassians and restore their rights,” said Nugzar Tsiklauri, the head of a parliamentary committee for relations with diasporas and Caucasus nations.

      The move is likely to strain relations between Russia and Georgia, which have yet to recover from a five-day war in 2008 over the Moscow-backed separatist province of South Ossetia.

      The resolution could increase tension over the 2014 Winter Olympics, which Russia is hosting in Sochi, a resort city in what the Circassians consider their historic homeland.

      Members of the Circassian diaspora are demanding the Sochi Games be cancelled or moved unless Russia apologises for what they say was genocide against their ancestors. Some Circassian leaders are demanding autonomous territory within Russia.

      Earlier this year Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pointed to Georgia as a potential security threat to the games.

      Tsiklauri presented a draft of the resolution, which said: “Killings and deportations of Circassians during the Russian-Caucasian War should be recognised as genocide and ethnic cleansing.”

      Deportations and turmoil led many Circassians south to Turkey and elsewhere, and their seven million or so descendants are spread across the world from the United States to Jordan to Israel. About 700,000 remain in the northwest Caucasus.

      The closest the Russian government has come to apologising for the bloodshed was in 1994, when President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged that resistance to tsarist violence was legitimate.

      http://georgiandaily.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=21496&Itemid=65&lang=ka

  2. 28 people were killed in armed confrontations in Northern Caucasus during a week

    May 10 2011

    During the week from April, 25, till May, 1, no less than 28 people were killed and minimum 18 wounded in armed confrontations in Northern Caucasus. These are the totals of calculation by the “Caucasian Knot” based on its own materials and other open sources.

    Details:

    http://chechnya.eng.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/17046/

  3. Kadyrov Makes Name for Himself in Horse Racing
    18 May 2011
    The Associated Press

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/kadyrov-makes-name-for-himself-in-horse-racing/436986.html

    The glamorous world of horse racing seems an unlikely place for a former rebel whose feared security forces are known to pursue anyone suspected of opposing his rule in Chechnya. But his acceptance at racecourses from Dubai to Australia gives the charismatic Kadyrov a degree of international legitimacy and bolsters his reputation as a sportsman. He also runs a local football club, has mingled with celebrities such as Mike Tyson, and even played football this month against a team that included Diego Maradona.

    His membership in the racing world has done little to quiet the criticism of rights groups, which accuse him of turning the war-torn region into his personal fiefdom and going to extreme lengths to silence his critics. Since succeeding his father, who was killed in a May 2004 bombing in Grozny’s stadium, rights groups have accused him of using his personal security force to impose his rule, and several of his foes have been gunned down in contract killings in Moscow and as far away as Dubai.

    The most brazen might have been the daytime killing of former Chechen commander Sulim Yamadayev in a Dubai parking lot — on the same day that the 2009 World Cup was run. Kadyrov had a horse in the Dubai Duty Free, which was run earlier in the day, but it was unclear whether he was in town for the race.

    The case stunned Dubai authorities and took on added intrigue when the two men convicted in connection with the killing — one of them an Iranian who worked in Kadyrov’s stables — had their sentences reduced from life to three years after Yamadayev’s family submitted a letter disavowing any desire for further punishment.

    “I think he should be barred from these races to demonstrate that what he is doing in Chechnya is not acceptable,” said Tanya Lokshina, a Russian researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch. “That would be a possible way to demonstrate that people around the world care about human rights violations in Chechnya. Since this is not happening, he is being in a sense convinced of his own impunity, his own invulnerability.”

    Kadyrov, who has denied any involvement in the alleged abuses, did not respond to questions from The Associated Press submitted to his spokesman.

    When he first came on the racing scene in 2009, Human Rights Watch initiated a campaign to highlight Kadyrov’s “unacceptable” rights record.

    It sent a letter to the Australian government ahead of the Melbourne Cup demanding that Kadyrov’s horses be excluded from the race. The nation’s media had a field day with the story, calling Kadyrov everything from a “brutal dictator” to a “tyrant,” and politicians jumped on the anti-Kadyrov bandwagon suggesting that the presence of his horses was staining the reputation of the famous race.

    “If this nasty character were to get his hands on the Melbourne Cup, it would be the lowest point in Australia’s sporting history,” Senator Bob Brown told The Sunday Age at the time.

    (…)

    In March, Kadyrov brought a team of former Brazilian soccer legends for a match in an effort to show that Chechnya is flourishing.

    But corruption remains rife.

    “Chechnya is a very corrupt place,” Lokshina said. “The way the money is expended is not transparent at all. There are very strong allegations that everyone who has any sort of a business in Chechnya has to pay up.”

    Similar concerns were expressed by U.S. diplomats in a 2006 classified cable published by WikiLeaks in December. They describe “the Chechen population as the great loser in this game.”

    “Kadyrov has slowly but surely also taken over most of the spigots of money that once fed the army, and like his father he has started agitating for overt control over Chechnya’s oil,” the cable said. “Kadyrov is at least as corrupt as the military, but the money he expropriates for himself from Moscow’s subsidies is accepted as his payoff for keeping things quiet.”

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