September 30, 2011 — Contents


(1)  EDITORIAL:  We Told You So

(2)  EDITORIAL:  Estonia Whips Russian Butt

(3) EDITORIAL:  The Russian Economy is Collapsing

(4)  Viking Russia, Land of Barbarians

(5)  Andrei Zubov, Russophobe

(6) Kara-Murza on Putin’s Return

(7)  CARTOON: Yelkin on Putin’s Return

NOTE:  In her latest column on the mighty Pajamas Media megablog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld details the absolute vindication of the blog she started on April 2, 2006, in order to  warn the world that neo-Soviet Russia under Vladimir Putin was here for good.

NOTE:  In her latest column on the powerful and influential American Thinker blog, Kim lashes out at the cowardly, craven evil that is Gordon Hahn, a representative Kremlin stooge working feverishly to help lower resistance to Vladimir Putin as president for life.

46 responses to “September 30, 2011 — Contents

  1. Shakira and Vanessa-Mae will play at the opening of Grozny-City, a seven-building complex that includes a 45-story building, five-star hotel, business center with a helipad on the roof and subterranean parking for 3,000 cars.

    The choice of Shakira, who wears revealing clothing and dances suggestively in more than one of her videos, is curious for a region where Chechen women who do not wear Islamic headscarves have increasingly faced state-sanctioned harassment and discrimination.

    The two-time Grammy winner is also a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and an outspoken advocate for universal childhood education. She is scheduled to receive the person of the year award at the Latin Grammys in November for her “renowned artistic and philanthropic contributions.”

    It was unclear Wednesday whether Shakira is aware of alleged widespread human rights abuses in Chechnya — including accusations of disappearances and torture at the hands of pro-Kadyrov forces — or whether she plans to raise them with Chechen authorities.

    The Grozny show is not among the tour dates listed on Shakira’s official web site or her Facebook page, which both list the next tour date as Oct. 14 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    It is rumored that Vanessa-Mae will receive $500,000 for the show, and that Kevin Costner, Hillary Swank and Eva Mendes will also make appearances at the festivities, RBC reported.

    Kadyrov’s taste for international stars and luxury goods is legendary. U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks feature the former rebel dancing “clumsily with his gold-plated automatic stuck down in the back of his jeans” and showering children with $100 bills at a lavish wedding held for oilman Gadzhi Makhachev’s son.

    In another memo, U.S. diplomats said Kadyrov pockets a third of federal aid to Chechnya.

    Read more:
    The Moscow Times

    • Shakira won’t.

      • Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov turned 35 on Wednesday with congratulatory calls from Russia’s ruling duo and Hollywood stars attending grandiose celebrations in the Caucasus republic.

        Actors Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kevin Costner and Hilary Swank all participated in the festivities, which were televised live and were officially decreed to be held for the opening of a new skyscraper complex, Grozny-City. Violinist Vanessa-Mae also performed at the glitzy gala that culminated in a fireworks display.

        The swaggering leader, whom critics accuse of megalomania and heavy-handed tactics, had banned bureaucrats from celebrating his birthday on pain of being fired, so the events in the former war zone of Chechnya were tied to the city day, as well as a national teachers’ holiday and a “day of Chechen youth.”

        Numerous stars were invited to participate in the birthday celebrations, with Colombian singer Shakira, known for hits such as Hips Don’t Lie, reportedly hired to perform, but she denied that on Twitter, saying she was never booked for the event.

        However, Kadyrov claimed in a live televised interview on Tuesday that human rights activists had warned Shakira against coming. “Rights activists wrote a letter to Shakira telling her not to come to us, because the authorities here kill people, human rights are breached here. Only enemies of the people could write this,” he said in typically belligerent rhetoric.

        Local media said that celebrities were handsomely rewarded for attending the celebrations, with British violonist Vanessa-Mae rumored to have received US$500,000.

        • In place of the shattered and empty carcass that the war left behind, a sort of fantasy Grozny is almost complete, including a fairground and ice-skating rink and plans for a water park, a racetrack, a cultural center and a ski resort.

          “They finally realized that the war cost more,” Andrei Mironov, who works with the Moscow-based human rights group Memorial, said of the Kremlin. “The Chechen regime looks like a winner who gets money from a defeated country.”

          The binge of construction and the emergence of a bright new Grozny are extraordinary developments in a republic with hardly any economy of its own. Unemployment stands at 85 percent, said Lyoma Turpalov, editor of Groznensky Rabochy, an independent weekly newspaper. But Chechnya subsists on huge subsidies from Moscow that are not publicly accounted for, he said.

          No matter how much the city is remodeled, however, the trauma of the war continues to torment its residents, said Taisa Isayeva, 40, a former journalist who now reports on human rights abuses.

          The Colombian singer Shakira denied in a Twitter message that she had been booked to attend the grand opening of Grozny City, but Mr. Kadyrov insisted that she had been and said she was frightened away by human rights groups that report continuing kidnappings and torture.

          “Rights activists wrote a letter to Shakira telling her not to come to us, because the authorities here kill people, human rights are breached here,” he said in a statement reported by Agence France-Presse. “Only enemies of the people could write this.”

          In return for its largess, the Kremlin has enjoyed relative stability in Chechnya in what is viewed in Moscow as a success for Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s policy of Chechenization.

          The government in Moscow has ceded effective autonomy to Mr. Kadyrov and he is enforcing his own mandate that includes the imposition of Islamic standards, including a ban on alcohol and gambling and pressure on women to adopt Islamic dress.

          “They enjoy the current situation,” said Andrei Piontkovsky, a political commentator in Moscow. “They enjoy the fact that they are independent, plus getting generous money from Moscow.”

  2. However, Jennifer Lopez did appear at a wedding reception for a private show in Ukraine, for one of the oligarchs, not too long ago.

    And Britney Spears just did a lap dance show in Ukraine – video here:

    For a change of pace, LR, here is an interview with George Neva, born in France, a renowned professor and expert of Russian literature.

    He was a friend of Boris Pasternak, and when he was a student in Maskva a long time ago, he fell in love with Olga Vinsky. Before they could get married, he was deported, and she was jailed.

    In this interview,, he explains how he really did not know the meaning of the word “посадили” at the time. He learned the hard way. She became the inspiration for the Laura character in “Doctor Zhivago.”

    He knows world literature very well.

    There is a brief introduction (in Ukrainian) before the interview, which is in Russian.

    • There was a very interesting program released here in Australia on Putin on the National TV channel SBS several years ago, and which I taped for future reference sake.

      One of the participants on the program who was asked many questions and supplied answers happened to be his Russian female school teacher, with whom he had close rapport. She revealed that Putin was nicknamed “Penguin” by his fellow students on account of the way he walks. And guess what, the way his head and body sways from left to right when he is walking, is superbly revealed when he is heading directly towards the camera – and to me most certainly – does resemble the manner of a walking penguin.

      • I used the word “program” at the start of my last paragraph. This word in hindsight should not have been used as it was in reality a documentary.

  3. I think this cartoon is not appropriate. Putin is very fit. And he is genuinely popular Russian leader. He is much better than Brezhnev. He is the best leader for Russia now.

    • Stalin was also genuinely popular to say the least. So were Mao, Hitler, Mussolini and many other dictators. This cartoon is very much on point, It is not about fitness

      • But Peskov, Putin’s press-secretary, said yesterday that Brezhnev was not bad for Russia. There was modernization during Brezhnev and Russia developed very well. So, comparing Putin to Brezhnev, is not bad thing. Brezhnev was good for Russia, Putin is even better.

        • That explains all the people having to line up for toilet paper, food etc in Brezhnev era Russia…..

          • They had no chance to become a billionaire, or take a 100 000 USD mortgage from a bank. They had to wait in queues for some types of food and clothes, had no right to vote for another party but communists, and many other bad things.

            Still they had a free healthcare, sanatoriums, secondary and tertiary education, low crime levels, fertility much higher than in modern EU, free apartments, zero unemployment and many other good things.

            That’s how socialism works.

            • And yet for some mysterious reason, despite having all these “good things” the people did not want to have that socialism any longer and overthrew the Communist rule. Not that what they got is any better. Or is it?

        • Why do you care so much about the opinion of “Peskov, Putin’s press-secretary”?

          Even according to Russia Today:

          The long rule of the next Soviet leader – Leonid Brezhnev – was dubbed “stagnation”. The country entered a decade-long standstill, its rigid economy slowly weakening and its political climate growing increasingly pessimistic. Bureaucracy, threatened by Khrushchev’s reforms, flourished. Years of neglect, both on the farms and in the factories, led to shortages of food and consumer goods. Soviet citizens had to queue for basic necessities and the standard of living dropped.

          On the international arena, Brezhnev was committed to the ongoing struggle with the U.S. In 1968, Soviet tanks rolled into Prague, crushing a brief wave of political liberalisation known as the Prague Spring. In a speech justifying the move, Brezhnev spelled out Moscow’s right to intervene in the affairs of other socialist states. A brief warming-up of relations with the U.S. known as “détente”, began in 1972. But things worsened after the start of the Soviet War in Afghanistan in 1979 and the election the following year of Ronald Reagan, a staunch anti-communist, to the U.S. presidency.

          Shortly before Brezhnev’s death, Moscow dazzled the world with arguably the biggest extravaganza of Soviet times: the 1980 Summer Olympics. The last years of his rule were marked by a growing personality cult, widely seen as hollow and cynical. Brezhnev was well known for his weakness for flattery and love affairs with medals – the final count stands at 114. He also wrote poetry and was a great womaniser. Being married for almost sixty years didn’t stop Brezhnev from having numerous conquests.

        • What?? Listen, durak, learn your own history. Shortly after Brezhenv THE USSR COLLAPSED due to his misrule, and disappeared into the ash can of history. And you want Putin to do the same to Russia??? Yikes!!

        • It’s an utter lie. There was no modernization under Brezhnev, only a period of relative stability and prosperity (by Russian standards of course) followed by a steady decline and collapse.

          If it’s really Putin’s press-secretary words, then… good luck to Ms. RU and Mr. PU on their way to repeat it.

          How it’s usually said? History repeats itself? :-)

  4. Meanwhile, more in the Neo-Soviet charade that is V.Putin….

    Vladimir Putin diving discovery was staged, spokesman admits

    Vladimir Putin’s seemingly remarkable discovery of two ancient Greek amphorae beneath the waters of the Black Sea this summer was a staged set-up, his spokesman has admitted.

    In an uncharacteristically unguarded admission, the Russian prime minister’s spokesman conceded that the amphorae had been planted in shallow water for Mr Putin to find by well-meaning archaeologists keen to please the Russian strong man.
    “Putin did not find the amphorae on the sea bed that had been lying there for thousands of years,” said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman. “That is obvious. They were found during an (archaeological) expedition several weeks or days beforehand. Of course they were then left there (for him to find) or placed there. It is a completely normal thing to do.”
    The archaeologists had wanted the 58-year-old politician to experience what it was like to be on an expedition, he added.
    The disclosure is totally at odds with how the episode was presented to the Russian public on state TV.
    In typically fawning coverage, state TV broadcast images of a wetsuit-clad Mr Putin emerging from the sea clutching the remains of the two ancient vessels (that were once used to store wine or olive oil). “Treasure!,” Mr Putin said with a big smile, quipping that there was nothing left to drink in the artifacts.
    The ‘find’ was presented as the latest in a long line of remarkable feats by Mr Putin, shoring up his image as an energetic action man who is successful in everything he does.

    More all too Russian BS…….

  5. Vladimir Putin is trying to take Russia back in time
    The Russian prime minister’s aim of recreating the zone of influence of the former Soviet Union in a ‘Eurasian Union’ is doomed to failure.

    If Vladimir Putin plays his cards right, by the time he has finished ruling Russia, he will have spent more time in power than Leonid Brezhnev, the great bear of the Soviet era. Poised to return as president next March, after a four-year stint as prime minister, Putin would be 71 in 2024 at the conclusion of two six-year terms in the Kremlin. Whether he lasts that long we shall see, but thanks to a recent encounter with a plastic surgeon’s scalpel, we can at least be sure that he will never look as old as his predecessor in the Kremlin. And as he has laid bare his intentions to retake the centre stage, Putin has been rolling back the years in other ways.
    This week he has unveiled a grand vision to create a “Eurasian Union” linking old Soviet neighbours, foreseeing a “powerful, supranational union, capable of becoming one of the poles of the modern world”. Coming from a former KGB colonel who described the break-up of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century”, his words could easily prompt fears that he wanted to resurrect the USSR. He stressed that wasn’t the case. “It would be naive to try to restore or copy what was in the past. But time dictates that we should have closer integration based on values, politics and economics,” he wrote. The Eurasian Union could provide an “economically sound and balanced partnership” with the European Union.
    So what does Putin want? His idea of a fully functioning revisionist fraternity seems a non-starter. Its success is likely to be as cosmetic as his recent operation. A customs union agreed with Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2009 is still very much a work in progress. Kazakh officials privately admit that they are not doing well out of the deal. It is hard to see who, from the 15 republics that were in the USSR, would welcome Moscow’s entreaties.
    The three Baltic states – Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania – are happily independent and tired of Russia’s sneering and cyber-bullying. Ukraine, which would be crucial to any new alignment, wants to join Europe and has not appreciated Russia’s threats to its gas supply. The other “Stans” – Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – have shown a desire to balance their foreign policy interests between Moscow, China and Washington.
    “It is utterly pie in the sky,” says James Nixey, Russia analyst at the Chatham House think tank. “This is Putin living in the past, trying to recreate the supposed glories of his first stint as president. The fact is Russia has no mates, and if you don’t have any real friends this won’t work. The EU may have its problems with the eurozone, but it is still more attractive than something that harks to the past.”
    During Putin’s first two terms as president, from 2000 to 2008, Russia recovered from the ignominy of seeing its economy fall apart under Boris Yeltsin. Revolts in the Caucasus were contained and a level of stability was achieved that will be his selling point in the so-called election that will take place in March.
    As he prepares to take over from President Dmitry Medvedev, his hand-picked seat-warmer for the past four years, Putin needs to demonstrate that he can live up to the action-man image he has cultivated – hunting bears, flying planes and getting his pecs out for the media at every opportunity. Exerting control over neighbours is an obvious step towards reasserting Russia’s role on the world stage.
    “Expect more bellicose rhetoric, more nationalism and other worrying signs,” says Mr Nixey. “Like anyone of his generation or older, Putin is a child of the Soviet Union. Russia doesn’t wield the influence it did then but it is almost inevitable that anyone in power holds ambitions swayed by that era.”
    Medvedev, who is 15 years younger than his master, has tried to modernise and liberalise the economy. He adopted a softer tone with the West and cooperated with President Barack Obama’s “reset” policy that followed the 2008 invasion of Georgia. Putin may have been pulling all the strings, but Medvedev showed signs of understanding that Russia was at a crossroads, facing a choice between becoming a semi-Westernised, half-decent democracy with a semblance of the rule of law, or continuing towards a thugocracy where corruption is rampant, exiled critics are fatally poisoned in London hotels, political opponents are either jailed or shunned by the state media, while political clones and clowns are created to present a veneer of democratic choice.
    It would be too simplistic to portray the junior partner in the ruling tandem, as it was called, as a champion of reform. He did little to challenge the power of the ruling nexus of politicians, oligarchs, businessmen and security chiefs of which he is a junior member. Mr Putin and his advisers have succeeded in creating a patronage network based primarily on the state-owned hydrocarbon giants Gazprom and Rosneft.
    Putin has not pushed as hard as the man he will replace for new technologies, especially when that requires Western investment, and does not express the same awareness that the economy cannot sustain itself as it has for the past decade on high oil and gas prices. “Without very serious changes in the investment climate and economic structure, the Russian economy will not succeed in the medium and long term,” says an adviser to the president. “All the sources of growth that drove the first decade of this century [oil and gas] are almost exhausted. There is growth – from manufacturing and consumers – but it is insufficient to meet our goals.”
    The government has touted headline-grabbing projects such as the futuristic Skolkovo business school, designed by the British architect David Adjaye, and the occasional new high-speed rail link. But they mask the fact that barely 100 miles from the designer stores and BMW-clogged streets of Moscow, Russia recedes rapidly into the early 1980s. This is a country that sent the first man to outer space, but has 17 airlines banned from operating in the European Union. Last month, yet another passenger plane crashed, killing an entire professional ice hockey team.
    Russia faces an existential dilemma that goes well beyond the characters of its current political protagonists. There is much more nostalgia for the safety nets of the Soviet era than many in the West might expect. Putin’s popularity rating is about 50 per cent, not least because Russians are proud of their country’s size and culture, and appreciate his projection of strength. They also share his ambivalence towards the West. “Russians admire the West but often disdain its lack of social services,” says Dmitry Babich, a commentator with the official Ria Novosti news agency. “And the elite has mixed feelings. It doesn’t hate Europe – look where they educate their children and buy their homes – but they don’t like being dictated to and told how to behave by the West.”
    Many Russians loathe the system – and Putin – but shrug and observe the fatalism that accepts that strongmen and corruption will preside over their lives. On a recent visit to Moscow, I met a rare creature, a businessman trying to make his way without political connections. He had turned for help to Rusnano (as in nano-technologies), an organisation set up to encourage new industry. Alexey Korsh, vice president of Optogan, which makes smart lighting, had spent several years in the West before taking his entrepreneurial spirit home. His conclusion: “In the US, 60 per cent of people want to start their own business. In Russia, 60 per cent of people want to work for Gazprom – that’s their ambition,” he said.

    • I’ve always said from day one, when the picture of him discovering those artifacts was shown, that this was a blatant piece of propaganda, i.e. lies, as the so called artifacts were clean of any sea algae that they would have been covered in IF they had been underwater all those centuries.

      Similarly I now say that those photos of him supposedly fishing too are a heap of lies as the way he is holding the rods show conclusively that he has no idea of how to hold them correctly and are purely posed photos. Neither are any of his minders from the Propaganda Ministry any help as they too are clueless in this “department”. May the almighty help poor neo soviet Russia.

      What next ‘president for life’ fuehrer Putin? That you can fly by flapping your hands like a bird?

  6. The Russian secret service authorised the “elimination” of individuals living overseas who were judged to be enemies of the state and ordered the creation of special units to conduct such operations, according to a document passed to The Daily Telegraph.

    The directive refers specifically to the European Union and western Europe and appears to be signed by the head of counter-intelligence of the FSB, the successor to the KGB.

  7. Muslims Fight Back Against Russian Nationalists

  8. Moscow: Russia on Friday said the office of one of its energy companies was attacked in Syria by opposition forces it claimed were increasingly resorting to “terror” tactics.

    The Foreign Ministry said the Stroytransgaz company’s office in the protest hub city of Homs came under gunfire on Thursday.

    It reported no injuries but said security at all Russian facilities has been stepped up as a result.

    “We believe that such terror methods deserve the firmest international condemnation,” the Russian statement said.

    Russia joined China on Tuesday in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution that threatened to impose “targeted measures” against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his crackdown on the opposition.

  9. UN published the first global report on the number of murders. Russia passed all its neighbors from the former Soviet Union.

  10. Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths a year, several times the per-capita rate in Western countries. The country suffers frequent fires at hospitals, schools and other state-run facilities, many blamed on negligence and fire safety violations.

    Read more:

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  11. Vladimir Putin: Russia’s Last Tsar?

    Vladimir Putin has a lot to answer for, and very good reasons for wanting not to do so. He is directly responsible for the second Russian war in Chechnya, in which an estimated 100,000 people have been killed. This is a crime against humanity, and arguably genocide.

    Everybody knows of the colossal level of corruption in Russia, in particular among the political leadership. A few years ago, political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky made sensational allegations in the German newspaper “Die Welt” that Putin owns stakes of 4.5 percent in Gazprom, 37 percent in Surgutneftegaz – both energy corporations — and 50 percent in Gunvor, an oil-trading company based in Zug in Switzerland and run by his close associate, Gennady Timchenko. At the time, the total value of those investments was estimated at $40 billion. Recent estimates are 50 percent higher, possibly making Putin the richest person in the world.

    Across several nights in September 1999, bomb explosions ripped through blocks of flats in Moscow and other cities, killing 294 innocent civilian Russians. Putin was quick to blame Chechen separatists, and he mobilized for an all-out military campaign against Russia’s small Caucasian neighbor.

    There are, however, abundant reports that the bombings were perpetrated by the FSB itself in a cynical operation to manufacture a pretext for a new Russian war against Chechnya, the purpose of which was to secure the presidency for the then totally unknown Putin in the Russian spring election of 2000. Yury Yushchenkov, Sergei Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, and Aleksandr Litvinenko were among those who wrote about the FSB involvement in that operation — and they were all murdered.

    Putin’s predecessor as Russian prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, has disclosed that the second war on Chechnya had actually been planned by the FSB as early as March 1999 — when Putin was still FSB director.

    Ramzan Kadyrov, whom Putin appointed his henchman in the oppressed republic of Chechnya, is completely subservient to Putin, calling him Chechnya’s savior. United Russia gained an astonishing 99 percent of the vote in the Chechen parliamentary elections in 2008, a result that is difficult to reconcile with Chechens’ hatred of Kadyrov personally and of the Russian regime that has killed a quarter of Chechnya’s population over the past 20 years.

    Sooner or later, the Arab Spring will come to Russia, and I wish the great Russian people the best of luck in their struggle for a better future.


    Luke Harding: ‘This campaign was designed to invoke your worst nightmare, that something would happen to your children’ – videoLuke Harding was the Guardian’s Moscow bureau chief until he was refused entry to Russia earlier this year, the first foreign journalist to be excluded since the Cold War. In his new book Mafia State, he lays bare the intimidation tactics that the FSB used on him and his family in an effort to stop him publishing stories the regime disapproved of

  13. “About 800,000 people, a number close to the population of a whole city, have committed suicide in Russia in the past 20 years, from 1990 through 2010,” head of the Center’s department for epidemiological and social problems of mental health Boris Polozhiy said on the open house day.

    Read more:

    • Hopefully Dtard will be joining them soon.

      Of course he is unlikely to live past 59 according to the latest CIA World Fact book for 2011.

  14. http was changed

    About 800,000 people, a number close to the population of a whole city, have committed suicide in Russia in the past 20 years, from 1990 through 2010,” head of the Center’s department for epidemiological and social problems of mental health Boris Polozhiy said on the open house day.

    Read more:

  15. Again about scores of Russian and foreign “celebrities” so shamelessly whoring out themselves for a share in Ramzan’s loot – the story of what took place in Grozny would fit in The Onion:

    Celebrities Slammed for Attending Chechen Concert

    MOSCOW (AP) An international human rights watchdog lambasted an Oscar-winning actress and other Western celebrities on Wednesday for attending a concert held on the birthday of Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed leader, who has been accused of grave rights abuses.

    The New York-based Human Rights Watch said that American actress Hilary Swank, Belgian actor Jean Claude Van Damme and British violinist Vanessa Mae attended the concert in the Chechen capital, Grozny. The Oct. 5 show was held at a police-cordoned stage on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s 35th birthday.

    Human Rights Watch urged the artists to “avoid legitimizing people like” Kadyrov, who has been accused by rights groups of having orchestrated abductions, extrajudicial killings and the enforcement of sharia law in Chechnya, a Russian republic.

    “Ramzan Kadyrov is linked to a grim record of abuse,” the group’s Europe and Central Asia director Huge Williamson said in a statement. “When stars get paid to turn up to party with (Kadyrov), it trivializes the suffering of countless victims of human rights abuses.


    Dozens of Russian politicians, film and sports stars also attended the concert and praised Kadyrov from a stage arranged between a gigantic mosque and a newly built business center.

    During the birthday show, Swank said that she has been taken by the Chechen government’s “passion to make peace and to make something beautiful.”

    “I hope to have a film premiere here,” the two-time Oscar winner clad in a streaming evening dress said in remarks televised on Chechen state television. “Happy birthday, Mr. President.”

    Action star Van Damme said he “spoke from his heart,” but mispronounced Kadyrov’s name and called Chechnya a “nation.”

    The audience gave Kadyrov a standing ovation when the bullnecked and burly man performed a traditional Chechen dance during a song that praised his rule and called Chechnya “the center of the universe.”

    • More – the story is just incredible (Moscow Times, The Independent):

      Oscar-winning Hollywood actress Swank, Belgian action star van Damme, violinist Vanessa-Mae and British singer Seal were among a motley troupe of national and international stars that attended a lavish gala in Grozny on Oct. 5.

      None of them has commented on their appearances, where van Damme stammered, “I love you, Mr. K-Kadyrov,” and Swank exclaimed, “Happy Birthday Mr. President!”

      National media reported that Vanessa-Mae, who infamously performed at a Kremlin concert for the Federal Security Service in 2007, was paid $500,000 for the gig, and a senior Chechen culture official told the Caucasian Knot news service that the stars’ salary demands were “nothing out of the ordinary.”

      Rights groups initiated an awareness campaign and sent letters to foreign stars as soon as word got out that they would attend.

      Actors Eva Mendes and Kevin Costner said they declined invitations, while representatives of Colombian pop star Shakira first confirmed her attendance and later backtracked, the New York-based Human Rights Foundation said in a statement.

      The organization’s founder, Thor Halvorssen, singled out Swank as the least scrupulous by saying her manager, Jason Weinberg, told him in a Sept. 26 e-mail that “Hilary has no current plans to attend.”

      “Hilary Swank obviously has the right to earn a living entertaining the highest bidder, but this sort of venality should be exposed. Would she have accepted an invitation to entertain Pinochet? Al-Qaida?” he asked.

      On 26 September, Weinberg received an awkward inquiry from the Human Rights Foundation. Was it true, they asked, that another of his clients, Hilary Swank, had accepted a large appearance fee to attend the 35th birthday party of Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed despot in charge of Chechnya?

      Absolutely not, he replied, in a dismissive email which suggested it was impertinent to even wonder if an Oscar-winning Hollywood liberal of Ms Swank’s stature would consider such a vulgar and unethical career opportunity. “Hilary has no current plans to attend the party,” it read.

      Fast forward exactly nine days, and, well, I think you can guess what happened. Dressed to the nines, and watched by this newspaper’s Moscow correspondent, Ms Swank sauntered up Mr Kadyrov’s red carpet, before delivering a charming speech about how much she had already enjoyed her stay in Grozny. “I could feel the spirit of the people, and I could see that everyone was so happy,” she said. “Happy birthday, Mr President!”

      Joining her was another vintage star: Jean-Claude Van Damme. Although he blotted his copybook by referring repeatedly to “the country of Chechena” [sic] he got warm applause for finishing his speech with the pronouncement: “I love you Mr Kadyrov!” Then, after hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of fireworks had been fired into the night sky (while Kadyrov shouted “Allahu Akbar” three times), the British violinist Vanessa Mae, performed a brief set. She was paid a rumoured $500,000 (£324,000).

      Every good party is followed by a hangover, however. And for all three celebrity guests, that arrived yesterday courtesy of a statement from the Human Rights Foundation, which had read The Independent’s coverage of the event and is calling for their appearance fees to be reimbursed. “Ramzan Kadyrov is linked to a litany of horrific human rights abuses,” it read. “It’s inappropriate for stars to get paid to party with him. It bolsters his image and legitimises a brutal leader.”

      So far, neither Swank, nor Van Damme, nor Mae, have tried to answer that pertinent question. Their representatives are apparently hoping that if they say silent, the whole awkward affair will disappear.

      • Update – Swank is now playing stupid, Mae and van Damme just ignore the media:

        The actor Hilary Swank has reportedly said she “deeply regrets” taking part in a lavish concert for the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, following criticism from human rights groups.

        The two-time Oscar winner said she was unaware that Kadyrov had been accused oforchestrating brutal extrajudicial killings and abductions.

        Swank, who has built a career playing morally minded characters, joined action star Jean-Claude Van Damme, British violinist Vanessa Mae, and singer Seal to fete Chechnya’s authoritarian leader on 5 October, his 35th birthday.

        Despite building a massive personality cult in the mainly Muslim republic, Kadyrov had banned birthday celebrations and fashioned the concert as a city day party instead. After Swank included birthday congratulations in her gushing speech to the feared ruler, the master of ceremonies asked how she knew it was his birthday. Swank replied: “I read. I do my research.”

        In 2009, the American organisation Freedom House named Chechnya alongside Burma, North Korea and Chinese Tibet on a list of the most repressive societies in the world.

        Representatives for Van Damme and Mae have not responded to AP’s requests for comment.

        At the show, Swank also appeared to be one of the few women to wear no headscarf even though women in Chechnya are compelled to adhere to an Islami dress code. Those who refuse to obey have reportedly faced threats and harrassment from Kadyrov’s feared security forces.

        The birthday show was the latest in a series of expensive and extravagant events sponsored by Kadyrov’s government despite Chechnya’s high poverty and unemployment rates.

        “Rights activists wrote a letter to Shakira telling her not to come because the authorities here kill people and human rights are breached,” Kadyrov said in a TV interview, the Agence France-Presse reports. “Only enemies of the people could write this.”

        Asked why the region has been plagued by human rights abuse cases and separatist wars for 20 years, Kadyrov said: “Allah gives it to us,” The Telegraph reports, before changing direction and adding, “I don’t know, it comes from somewhere.”

        Radio Free Europe has a video of Kadyrov Show (there is internationally-wanted Adam Delimkhanov in the audience at 01:42):

        Another video (from Chechnya Today, aka GroznyTV):

        Not directly connected, but worthy to recall:

        An inexplicable standing ovation followed Vladimir Putin’s slow-tempo, and excruciating, rendition of “Blueberry Hill” at a charity event in Russia. Chief cheerleader: the actress Sharon Stone, with Kevin Costner and Gerard Depardieu adding to the celeb count. Hospitals expecting to benefit from the gala later said they received nothing.

  16. I think Putin is great for Russia. The longer the better. Next government would be much worse.

    • And what are you on Mp X? Sounds like your self made somogonka is doing all the talking, for you to come up with such ridiculous remarks.

      Do have another big ‘slug’ of your favorite drink and you’ll feel better.

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