Advertisement for a World War II party in Moscow. The message reads: Thank you Granddad for the victory we had!
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.
Three stunning events over the course of the past two weeks have revealed profound weakness in the regime of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. We, his foes, are winning. We have the upper hand, and no thinking person can dispute that. Putin’s choice now is stark, the same as the one faced by Hosni Mubarek of Egypt: Bloody repression followed by national collapse, or ouster.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on World Affairs Journal:
Another year, another terrorist attack in Russia. On January 24, a suspected suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in the arrivals zone at Domodedovo, Moscow’s busiest airport. Thirty-five people were killed and more than a hundred were injured. As Vladimir Putin prepares for this year’s parliamentary “elections” and a possible return to the Kremlin in 2012, his “pacification” of the North Caucasus has once again been proven a failure. Not that more proof was needed after last year’s attack on Lubyanka metro station – literally under the nose of the FSB, Russia’s Federal Security Service.
An editorial in Newsweek magazine, which begins under the subheadline “Putin’s get-tough policies are a disaster, as the Moscow airport bombing proves. Why are Russians so unwilling to admit it?” Good question! But the answer is obvious, isn’t it? Russians are an idiotic people, craven and backwards, seemingly bent on self-destruction. The facts speak for themselves. They won’t stand up and defend their children’s futures.
As much as she longs to avenge the killing of her husband, Taisa Satabalova needs to stay alive and look after their two small children. But her rage has not faded since he was beaten to death last May by police, according to Satabalova, in the Russian Caucasus village of Dylym, a few kilometers east of the Chechen border in neighboring Dagestan. When Marat Satabalov and two friends drove into town for bread and other items, they were accosted by two cops. A suicide bomber had just attacked a nearby police checkpoint, leaving two dead and 10 times that number injured; according to the Russian human-rights group Memorial, people in town thought Satabalov looked suspicious, with the long beard and shaven mustache he wore as a devout follower of the Salafi Muslim sect. Egged on by onlookers, the cops allegedly bludgeoned the three men with rifle butts and then hauled them to the local police station, where witnesses say townspeople gathered outside and shouted, “Beat the big beard!” Hours later, Satabalov died in the hospital. Now his wife has nothing but their two children—and a bottomless hatred. Her husband was no militant, she says: “Damn the executioners of my husband, and everybody who runs this country.”
She’s not alone in her fury.
An editorial in the Moscow Times:
“I felt terrorized!” the young woman told a Moscow Times journalist.
The young woman had not been at Domodedovo Airport, but instead was driving home when a Volvo owned by the Federal Guard Service — with its familiar EKX number plates, which drivers know as an acronym for “Drive Anyway I Want”— and a presidential administration Mercedes entered the oncoming lane and forced her and all the other drivers into the shoulder.
Were the government vehicles speeding to an urgent meeting to resolve a national crisis? Doubtful, since it was a recent Friday evening rush hour and they were heading away from Moscow’s center, toward the elite’s residential area.
Other drivers aren’t so lucky.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
One of the hot discussion topics in Russia these days is the revolutionary events in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and other Arab states. For years — even decades — these countries have been led by harsh, authoritarian regimes that are just as unscrupulous in using force against dissenters as they are in finding ways to enrich their ruling dictators and their families. It has become fashionable to theorize that the Russian regime — just as unscrupulous and corrupt, with a brutal leader who recently marked 10 years in power — could become one of the next rotten autocracies to collapse. But there is no reason to make such a prediction. Russia is fundamentally different from the countries of the Arab world, and Russian society and politics are developing along a completely different path.
Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Center, writing in the Moscow Times:
Last week’s horrifying terrorist attack at Domodedovo Airport that killed 35 people should serve as a wake-up call to the public. The suicide bombing reveals the unpreparedness of government officials at all levels to deal with attacks and their inability to mount an appropriate response. President Dmitry Medvedev singled out airport security staff for their inability to avert the disaster, although they were only the last of several agencies that failed to do their jobs. Although airport security could stand to make some straightforward improvements, that is hardly the main problem. The same argument applies to the transportation police, where Medvedev made several high-profile dismissals in the wake of the attack.
The authorities fail to learn the right lessons from their failures like inept generals who stick to the same strategy after losing battles. By requiring everyone entering the airport to pass through a metal detector, the Domodedovo security staff has created a thick crowd in front of the airport. The next explosion could take place there, or in any one of the countless locations in the capital where large throngs of people gather.