Why now, Mr. Medvedev, why now?
Last week any intelligent Russian citizen had just one question in response to a pair of orders emanating from their so-called “president”: Why now, Mr. Medvedev, why now?
First, in response to the crash of an airliner that killed an entire Russian professional ice hockey team, Medvedev ordered the airline shut down. But intelligent Russians were asking: Why didn’t you shut them down before the crash, Mr. Medvedev? Why did you wait so long?
Then, in response to growing civil unrest, Medvedev authorized the Russian Gestapo to utilize water cannons, tasers and tear gas on peaceful opposition protesters who fail to disperse upon the illegal order of the authorities. Intelligent Russian citizens were asking: Why now, Mr. Medvedev?
The Evil Empire shows its Russian Face in Syria
We’ve previously reported on the appalling lack of openness to charity displayed by Russian citizens, especially in comparison with the much more generous Americans. The data clearly shows that Russians simply don’t care what happens to their fellow man. Two other items in today’s issue, an essay by Russian film director Andrei Konchalovsky and an editorial about personal corruption by Vladimir Putin, confirm emphatically that Russians simply don’t give a damn at best, at worst they wish their fellow citizens harm.
And that’s just other Russian citizens. When it comes to people from other countries, you may as well consider Russians to be sadists. Take Syria, for example.
Piter Drives the Final Nail into its Own Coffin
Before Vladimir Putin came along, the city of St. Petersburg, Russia enjoyed a national and even an international reputation for enlightenment. It was called Russia’s “window on the West” and it was famous for citizens who had a broader world view, a more democratic inclination, who were more civilized and intelligent than ordinary Russians.
But Putin, a native of Piter, changed all that. From the moment the world learned how he shamelessly plagiarized his dissertation at an elite Piter university, it became clear that Piter was just like every other rotten place in Russia under the skin. When it remained just as silent as the rest of the country (or cheered even louder) as its native son seized power in Moscow, filled the Kremlin halls with proud KGB spies and began a relentless neo-Soviet crackdown, the world saw the true St. Petersburg.
And nothing could have better confirmed Piter’s wretched barbarism than the recent election campaign of former governor and Putin lackey Valentina Matvienko for a local legislative post in the city, one she needed so Putin could appoint her to the Federation Council and name her speaker.
Craven Russia Soils Democracy Once Again
In light of what has occurred with former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov’s People’s Freedom Party, it is hard for us to see how any thinking person can now view the people of Russia with anything but naked contempt.
Shamelessly, the Putin Kremlin has refused to allow PFP to stand for elections, denying them the basic right of registration. As Kasyanov put it: “Nothing that has been said or promised by Medvedev during these past three years has materialized. It has only gotten worse: that is more pressure on political opponents, even more falsification in regional elections.”
Meanwhile, despite telling the Financial Times that he thought political competition was essential to Russia’s future and that it was “very bad” that there were no liberal parties represented in the Duma, Medvedev himself said the he would not run against Vladimir Putin if Putin chose to seek the presidency for at third time.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal our favorite blogger, Vladimir Kara-Murza, told the world who Medvedev really is: “Medvedev’s recent statements about freedom and political competition have led many Western observers to hope for a new wave of democratic reforms in Russia. The Justice Ministry’s denial of the Popular Freedom Party’s registration papers last week shows that these statements are a fraud.”
A group of leading Western Russia scholars was blunt: They called the Kremlin’s decision “clearly political” and held that it violated international law to which Russia was obligated. And they challenged the US to respond: “The Obama administration is on record that democracy and human rights are important to U.S.-Russia relations. If so, the administration, and the U.S. Congress, should respond vigorously with measures designed to support democratic rights and freedoms. ”
Victor Davidoff, writing in the Moscow Times, explains the shamelessly fraudulent and likely illegal means by which Vladimir Putin is generating support for his “People’s Front” initiative:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin first floated the idea of creating the All-Russia People’s Front on May 6. A week later, the front’s founding document was published. Since then — a little over a month — Putin has arguably become the most popular politician in history. Today his front has several million supporters and about 500 organizations as members. According to information from the local branch of United Russia in the Khabarovsk region, half a million people support the front out of a total population of 1.34 million. In one day, 39,000 employees of the holding company Siberian Business Union joined the front; that is, four divisions in military terms, an apt comparison when talking about the people’s front. Putin, it would seem, has outdone Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong — and he has done it without resorting to terror.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
There is something sinister in the way ballot boxes were purportedly stuffed during the March 13 Tambov regional elections to boost United Russia’s results. It was pulled off under the cover of a blood drive.
Last Thursday, Nikolai Vorobyov, a lawyer and Tambov regional head of the Party of People’s Freedom, released a 20-page report detailing election fraud. It contained hundreds of testimonies, photos, videos and statements made by witnesses. As a drop of water reflects the composition of the larger sea, a glimpse into the Tambov elections reflects the entire complex machinery of lies and fraud that United Russia apparently uses over and over again across the country to create the illusion of popular support for the party.
According to Vorobyov’s report, this is how the election fraud was carried out:
Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center, writing in the Moscow Times:
The Russian government, with its solid hold on power, has invariably gotten away with poor performance, inefficiency, corruption and widespread violation of political rights and civil liberties. Polls consistently demonstrate that Russians are not deluded. They routinely respond in surveys that government officials are corrupt and self-serving. According to a poll conducted last summer, 80 percent believe that “many civil servants practically defy the law.”
And yet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has enjoyed high and steady approval ratings for years. A mild drop in early 2011 probably reflected frustration over social injustice and a growing sense of insecurity and uncertainty about the future. Even so, about 70 percent of respondents in a February poll said they approved of Putin’s performance. President Dmitry Medvedev’s approval ratings are only slightly lower.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
The Tambov region provides an excellent illustration of the connection between United Russia’s political monopoly, rampant corruption and the low standard of living in Russia.
On July 13, President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Tambov Governor Oleg Betin to a fourth term. Betin has been governor several times since 1995. He is a member of United Russia, although in the 1990s he was a member of the Communist Party. Medvedev particularly values Betin for his role in the 2008 presidential election, when the president received more than 72 percent of the Tambov vote.
The results of the recent March 13 elections demonstrate that the Tambov region has not lost its touch in “organizing” elections, with United Russia reporting 65 percent of the vote there — one of its highest results in the March vote.
Stunning Failure for Putin at the Polls
In a jolting humiliation for Vladimir Putin’s “party of power” United Russia, despite relentless vote rigging the party could not muster a national majority in the last week’s regional elections. As reported by the Moscow Times, the election results are “a serious warning for the party, reflecting an increasing mood to protest in the regions,” said Alexei Makarkin, a political analyst with the Center for Political Technologies.
Even though Putin has purged every significant true opposition party from the ballot, his own party was in effect repudiated by the voters. And, as Nikolai Petrov reports: “Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is also the head of United Russia, took a more active role in Sunday’s elections he’s played in any since his own presidential election of 2000.” So the result was very clearly a personal repudiation of Putin — to the extent the cowardly, lemming-like denizens of Russia are able to achieve such a thing.
The New York Times reports (click the link to watch related video):
On the eve of regional elections, an opposition candidate named Olga V. Safronova arrived at a school for a campaign finale. She planned a rousing speech with a refrain that Russia had been seized by a dictatorial ruling party.
But operatives from that very party showed up to stop her.
What displeased them was this: Ms. Safronova’s political party was supposed to be a fake opposition, created by the Kremlin to give the illusion that Russia was a thriving democracy. Now, though, this puppet party was rebelling here in Siberia — battling for votes, defying the governing party and even assailing Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin himself.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
In December 2007, Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, suffered a crushing defeat in the State Duma elections. Each received less than 3 percent of the vote, short of the 7 percent threshold to gain seats in Duma. Yabloko led a poor campaign for those elections, and SPS, under Kremlin pressure, was afraid to run a number of well-known figures on its party list who were critical of the policies of then-President Vladimir Putin and United Russia.
Since then, the position of two of the remaining democratic parties has worsened. According to recent surveys, Yabloko’s ratings hover at about 1 percent. SPS was dissolved in 2008, and in its place the Kremlin created a new party, Right Cause, that is torn by internal divisions and is still unable to articulate a clear political platform. Yabloko and Right Cause have little chance of winning seats in the 2011 Duma elections.
Deputies elected to the next Duma will be the first to serve the new five-year term, which in December 2008 was increased from four years. That means that if liberal parties fail once again to gain seats in the parliament, they will have to wait until 2016 to give it another shot.
Nikolai Petrov, writing in the Moscow Times:
In its ongoing attempt to transform the political landscape, the government has been stepping up efforts to replace directly elected mayors with nominees from among State Duma deputies — who themselves are put in office not by voters in the districts they represent but as appointees from party lists.
This process has spread to a number of major cities. The direct election of mayors has been canceled in Nizhny Novgorod, Chelyabinsk, Ulyanovsk and Penza. The vote has also been canceled in cities that never even held direct elections, such as Ufa and Saratov as well as in Kazan, where direct elections had been expected to start. Under discussion now is the cancellation of the elections in Yekaterinburg, Perm and Volgograd, among others. According to various estimates, the direct election of mayors has been canceled in a third to half of all municipalities already.
Governors, who are appointed, and United Russia functionaries share a common interest in this change. Incumbent mayors have even given their support in return for assurances that they can remain in office.
The Moscow Times reports:
United Russia has prevented lawmakers from debating police violence at a Moscow opposition rally this week, a Communist State Duma deputy said Thursday.
City police detained more than 150 people at an unsanctioned rally Monday on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad, and about two dozen people claimed that they were beaten or attacked as law enforcement officials tried to break up the event.
Sergei Obukhov, a Duma deputy with the Communist Party, tried to discuss the rally at the chamber’s session on Wednesday, he told The Moscow Times.
But his microphone was switched off by Duma Deputy Speaker Oleg Morozov, a United Russia deputy, because the issue was not on the formal agenda, Obukhov said.
Global Voices reports:
In 76 regions of Russia people went to voting stations on March 14 to cast their votes for local mayors and regional legislature representatives. The ruling party “United Russia” has won in most of those elections. However, the victory of the party in power wasn’t absolute: in Irkutsk people preferred opposition candidate Viktor Kondrashov but this was the only case. Despite the increasing wave of protests (like in Irkutsk [RUS] itself,Kaliningrad, Moscow and others), “United Russia” managed to keep its dominance in all Russian regional legislatures as well as city administration offices.
One of the secrets of such “political stability” (besides state-controlled mass media) is a range of alleged numerous fraud techniques used both by party members and public officials during the elections. These elections were the first to show the power of Web 2.0. in uncovering them. Bloggers gathered evidence of fraud with their cell phone cameras and published them online.
Particularly members of the election observer association “Golos”[EN] (”A Voice”) were quite active in promoting election transparency and exposing fraud. The association installed a fraud hotline website “88003333350.ru” where everyone could post a fraud report. So far, 561 fraud cases have been noted.
Dima Medvedev, Shameless Liar
Once again, Russian “president” Dima Medvedev has been proved to be a shameless liar. The Moscow Times reports:
Russians voted last weekend in the first major elections since disputed polls in October triggered calls from President Dmitry Medvedev for smaller parties to receive better representation in regional legislatures dominated by United Russia. Voters elected eight regional legislatures and 12 municipal legislatures on Sunday. About 84,000 candidates were running for about 40,000 open seats, according to the Central Election Commission. But despite Medvedev’s rhetoric, regional authorities have continued to back the ruling United Russia party and derail the campaigns of other parties ahead of Sunday’s elections, opposition activists and election monitors said.
United Russia swept the results across the board, except in the city of Irkutsk in Siberia, where outraged voters, shocked by the Kremlin’s decision to reopen a vast paper mill that pollutes Russia’s sacred Lake Baikal, rejected Putin’s party of power. But whom did the choose instead? Communists! That’s right, the only alternative allowed by the Putin regime to its own party of power and sham sycophant parties is the very party that destroyed and buried the USSR not so very long ago.
So much for Medvedev’s claims that this year’s elections would be somehow different from those of the past!
Medvedev drags Russia Deeper into the Mire
We published a barrage of items last week documenting in the most horrifying chapter and verse imaginable the barbaric, indeed ape-like, electoral fraud that took place during Russia’s recent elections. The facts are plain for all to see. They are scientific, they come from Russian sources. No thinking person can dispute them. The world stands slack-jawed and appalled.
But not the Kremlin.
Sergei Mitrokhin, chairman of the Yabloko party who served as a State Duma deputy from 1994 to 2003 and a Moscow City Duma deputy from 2005 to 2009, his pen dripping with acid, writing in the Moscow Times:
The level of falsifications in the Oct. 11 Moscow City Duma elections was unprecedented in modern Russian history. Officials did everything in their power to prevent opposition candidates from registering, and Yabloko was obstructed by local authorities and siloviki structures as early on as the signature collection stage.
The Power Vertical reports on the details of the latest shameful electoral fraud, as exposed heroically by a group of Russian bloggers:
After the December 2007 Duma elections and March 2008 presidential election (hello, Dmitry Medvedev!), some intrepid Russian bloggers and independent election observers performed some heroic work to highlight the extent of the election fraud in Russia. I wrote about their work here, paying particular attention to some meticulous statistical analysis that was done. If you want the full story, get a copy of “The Forensics Of Election Fraud: Russia And Ukraine” by U.S.-based professors Mikhail Maygkov and Peter Ordeshook and Dmitry Shakin of Moscow’s Academy of National Economy.
Now Russia’s bloggers are at it again, putting the microscope to the official results of the October 11 Moscow City Duma elections, in which, according to official results United Russia won 66 percent of the vote and 32 of the 35 council seats. That’s right, under the grossly unfair seat-allocation system that they instituted before the vote, 66 percent of the vote translates into 91 percent of the seats. Official turnout in Moscow was put at about 35 percent.
When you know there aren’t any opposition parties in the Russian Duma, it’s somewhat disconcerting to read a headling saying they’ve walked out of the Duma in protest against the Kremlin’s outrageous rigging of Russia’s most recent elections. That that’s just what we recently got from Reuters:
Russian opposition parties walked out of parliament in a rare act of protest on Wednesday against Sunday’s disputed elections, with the Communist Party blaming Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for an unworkable system. Opposition leaders and independent observers said the vote was rigged and turnout was much lower than reported.
Sunday’s win means the United Russia party — backed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and nominally led by Putin — retains power in key locations, including Moscow city, the most populous and affluent region. None of the three protesting parties, the Nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), Fair Russia and the Communist Party, are usually critical of the Kremlin. Liberal opposition parties are not represented in parliament and are marginalised in state media.
Putin, Now and Forever
Speaking to the corrupt and repugnant “Valdai Discussion Club” which consists of a group of so-called “Russia Experts” who travel to Russia at the Kremlin’s expense, dine on caviar at the Kremlin’s expense (while the people of Russia starve and die), and then hopefully spread the Kremlin’s propagandistic lies throughout the world, Russian “prime minister” Vladimir Putin declared when asked whether he would run against “president” Dima Medvedev in 2012: “There will be no competition. We will reach an agreement because we are of the same blood and of the same political outlook. In 2012, we will think together and will take into account the realities of the time, our personal plans, the political landscape and the United Russia party and we will take the decision.”
The Moscow Times reports:
An independent election-monitoring group criticized election officials Monday for refusing to register all but one opposition candidate for next month’s Moscow City Duma elections, saying none of them would have won seats even if they had run.
“If elections were held according to European standards, these candidates could have become deputies,” Golos election monitor Andrei Buzin said at a news conference.
Russia’s Lethal Profession
Today we highlight the heroic efforts of the journalists at Novaya Gazeta as they struggle to preserve some vestiges of democracy and civil society in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. A recent report by the International Federation of Journalists reveals that all Russian journalists interested in telling the truth risk their lives every day they go to work. In light of the ongoing efforts of Putin’s Kremlin to shut down newspapers that don’t parrot the Kremlin line, it’s clear that we now face a fully realized neo-Soviet state.
Russian Apes, Scratching Themselves for our Bemusement
Once again, just when you think Russia has found a the bottom, it sink so low that its previous position looks like a mountaintop.
Last week the world was appalled by the issuance of a formal report from the United Russia political party, Russia’s party of power, the party of Putin and of Medvedev, condemning the very institution of democracy itself, supposedly a political party’s sole reason for existence.
Get this: When Russia is rich, it has plenty of time to become democratic so it doesn’t need to rush things. And when Russia is poor, it has no time to waste on “luxuries” like freedom, because it must bear down on the economy. In other words, Russia has no need for democracy of any kind at any time at all.
In a development which can surprise nobody, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has gone down to crushing defeat in the Sochi mayoral election; his opponent, supported by Vladimir Putin, won three quarters of the vote while Nemtsov took just over a tenth. Though billed as a pulse-pounding exercise in pluralism, 60% of Sochi residents chose to stay at home on election day. Despite massive controversy over corruption and abuse of power in preparing for the 2014 Olympics, the Kremlin’s candidate won 77% of the vote and the vast majorit of the candidates were struck from the ballot long before election day. This is “democracy” as Putin’s KGB understands it.
Once again, Putin’s Russia has made an utter mockery of the very concept of the election, showing that Russia is a barbaric state on a par with the banana republics of Africa. The always brilliant Robert Coalson has detailed the naked fraud by which Nemtsov was victimized throughout the campaign:
The mayoral election in Sochi – which President Dmitry Medvedev has hailed as a sign of healthy democracy in Russia – is coming down to the wire, with official voting scheduled for April 26 (although local officials already have the tried-and-true “early voting” scam working at full speed).
People interested in following this important election could do a lot worse than reading the blog of Ilya Yashin, a Yabloko youth activist who is running former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov’s campaign. Yashin’s blog is a fascinating catalogue of dirty tricks and illegal tactics used against Nemtsov. Among other things, the blog documents with photos and video how state-sector workers and soldiers are being bused in by the regional administration to vote early (and often?).