Monthly Archives: May 2011

Livin’ La Vida Rooskie Loca

The Moscow Times reports:

Real estate in Dubai and Montenegro. Regular first-class travel. Millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts. Russia’s second-best country house.

And all made possible with an annual household salary of less than $40,000.

Those are the findings of a private investigation into the assets of Olga Stepanova — the former Moscow tax official who authorized a $230 million payment that no one disputes was embezzled.

The investigation is the latest conducted by supporters of Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail after accusing senior Interior Ministry officials of masterminding the $230 million fraud.

The Interior Ministry, in turn, accuses Magnitsky and Hermitage in the fraud.

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Corruption is Killing Russia, Literally

Kirill Kabanov, head of the nongovernmental National Anti-Corruption Committee and a member of “president” Dmitry Medvedev’s Human Rights Council, writing in the Moscow Times:

In an April 22 comment in Moskovsky Komsomolets, political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky called for the arrest of Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova and her husband, Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko, on charges of corruption. In particular, Belkovsky accused the health ministry of pilfering funds for tomographic scanners and recalled that Golikova had promoted a drug called Arbidol that is produced by Pharmstandard, a company believed to have close links to her family.

Russians, suffering from corruption fatigue, have had a rather ho-hum reaction to the Golikova and Khristenko scandal. It is long been accepted as a given that the higher an official’s rank, the more opportunities he or she has to embezzle.

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In Russia, they can’t even Pick a Mascot on the Up and Up

Mascot of the Monarch’s Will
Russia has one voter 
February 28, 2011
Gazeta.ru
Translated from the Russian by The Other Russia

The nationally televised election for mascot of the Winter Olympics in Sochi became a telling model for Russian elections in general and a possible repetition in the upcoming Duma and presidential elections.

The elections aired on Channel One for Russians to choose the mascot for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi bore an entirely predictable result, albeit one that directly contradicted the population’s opinion. The winner was the snow leopard, with 28% of the vote. This only happened because Vladimir Putin, while in Sochi, spoke out in favor of the snow leopard right on the day of voting. It’s true that the Olympics had to be split between three mascots, since not one received more than half of the vote – the polar bear (18%) and bunny (16%) were added to the leopard.

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In Russia, even History is Corrupt

Brian Whitmore, writing on The Power Vertical:

A Russian leader gives a four-hour speech filled with empty platitudes about imaginary accomplishments, promises of a bright future, and dire warnings about dangerous foreign influences. The speech was interrupted 53 times by applause.

Sound familiar?

Several months back, I blogged about the striking similarities between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Each replaced a reformist predecessor who was ultimately seen as bumbling, erratic, and ineffective — Nikita Krushchev in Brezhnev’s case, Boris Yeltsin in Putin’s. Both ushered in an era of stability and relative prosperity thanks to high oil prices. And both perceived a “golden age” that lasted roughly a decade.

But by the late 1970s, the luster began to wear off Brezhnev’s rule as the Soviet economy stagnated, life expectancy plummeted, and social problems like rampant alcoholism, worker absenteeism, and widespread cynicism became endemic.

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Corruption: Why Russians have nothing to Smile About

Michael Bohm, writing in the Moscow Times:

It is often said Russians don’t smile much, while Americans smile too much.

In general, the American smile has a terrible reputation in Russia. The campaign started in the early Soviet era. Look at the sinister smiles on old agitprop posters of caricatural “U.S. imperialists” wearing trademark cylinder hats, smoking cigars, salivating and smiling as they relished their piles of money and power over the world’s exploited classes.

Later, starting from the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras and continuing until the late 1980s, the Soviet print and television media carried regular reports called “Their Customs,” which focused on contemptible bourgeois lifestyles in the United States and other Western countries.

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Sergei Stepashin, on the Take

The Moscow Times reports:

The Audit Chamber has threatened to sue liberal activist Marina Litvinovich for implicating its head and his family in a report on government corruption.

But Litvinovich stuck to her findings, saying she relied on various media reports that had never been challenged in court — implying that they were true.

Her report, posted Friday on the web site Election2012.ru, is titled “Power of Families. The Government. Part 1.” It targets the families of 18 senior officials, including Audit Chamber head Sergei Stepashin.

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SPECIAL EXTRA: Bin Laden is Liquidated, Russia takes the Credit

With the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Bin Laden was elevated to the realm of evil in the American imagination once reserved for dictators like Hitler and Stalin. He was a new national enemy, his face on wanted posters, gloating on videotapes, taunting the United States and Western civilization.

— The New  York Times, Front Page, May 2, 2011

In yet another new low in the sordid annals of Russian history, while the world was being reminded on the front page of the American “paper of record” about the evil that was Josef Stalin Russia, which has been busily rehabilitating Stalin, was attempting to claim credit for the liquidation of Osama bin Laden:

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