Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on World Affairs:
Russian officials have a selective approach to holidays. When it came to arrestingopposition leader Boris Nemtsov on New Year’s Eve and sentencing him on January 2 (a Sunday), no effort was spared. Yet when it came to hearing his appeal, Tverskoy Court remembered that January 1 to 10 is a period of vacation. By law, an appeal against administrative arrest must be heard within 24 hours. The former deputy prime minister has been in detention since December 31, but his appeal has still not been reviewed due to “holidays.” On January 8, another attempt to vindicate Nemtsov’s legal rights ended with Mr. Nemtsov’s lawyer, Timur Onikov, being escorted out by bailiffs. On January 11, the appeal was admitted as a priority case — by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Parfyonov vs. Putin, the Smackdown
One of the most remarkable events in Russian history occurred in November 2010, but you can be forgiven if you missed it. State-sponsored Russian television did not think it worthy of mentioning.
The event was an acceptance speech by Leonid Parfyonov to a black-tie audience at a ceremony where was presented with the first Listyev Prize from state-sponsored Channel One television, in honour of Vladislav Listyev, a Russian journalist who was murdered in 1995 in Moscow. Thankfully, it survives on YouTube, with subtitles. Parfyonov blogs in Russian on LiveJournal.
Little did the Kremlin realize what it was in for when it authorized Parfyonov to receive this award!
Simon Shuster, writing in Time magazine:
It must have been an awkward meeting for Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. On Dec. 29, he convened a session with his economic aides to talk about attracting talented businessmen to Moscow. No one mentioned that across the river from where they were sitting, a judge was reading out the guilty verdict of one of Russia’s most successful businessmen, oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose case has scared off a lot of capital from the country. But when the subject turned to Russia’s appeal for investors, Medvedev’s tone became forlorn: “The investment climate in our country is bad. It’s very bad.” And everyone understood why.
The brilliant Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on World Affairs:
In Russia, New Year’s Eve is usually a joyful family occasion. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov spent it in a police detention cell — a five-by-ten feet concrete cubicle with no windows, no ventilation, no plank bed, not even a mattress. The Moscow Public Supervisory Commission, a prisons watchdog group, reported that conditions of his detention violated the most basic rules. On January 2, the former deputy prime minister of Russia was driven from his cell to Tverskoy Magistrate Court and sentenced to 15 days in prison for “disobeying police.” Judge Olga Borovkova, who forced Mr. Nemtsov to stand for the duration of the trial (more than four hours), disregarded statements from 13 witnesses as well as the video of his arrest. The conviction was based on the words of two police officers who asserted that Mr. Nemtsov was “cursing” and “attempting to block Tverskaya Street” (Moscow’s main avenue). He is currently being held in a detention center on Simferopolsky Boulevard.
Anne Applebaum, writing in the Washington Post, explains why the Kremlin feels strong enough to ignore the law and extend Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s sentence illegally:
The judge had already postponed the verdict without explanation (“The court does not explain itself,” said a spokesman). Before reading it, he barred journalists and the defendant’s family from the courtroom. No one should have been surprised, therefore, when Mikhail Khodorkovsky – the Russian oil baron who once defied the Kremlin – received a further six years in prison last week, on top of the eight he’s served. This time, he was sentenced for “stealing” an impossible quantity of oil, the same oil he has already been accused of selling without paying taxes.
Nemtsov Arrested, Again!
Boris Nemtsov, New Year's Eve 2010
Once again, the Gestapo-like goons of Vladimir Putin, who pretend to be police officers, have arrested the former first deputy prime minister of the country for daring to publicly criticize the Putin regime and to support jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. This time, they did so even though Boris Nemtsov and his followers had a fully legalized permit to demonstrate. That did not stop Putin, who ordered mass arrests (120 or more were taken into custody, more than a third of all those present — many dressed in Santa Claus outfits) because that’s the only way he can silence his critics.
Nemtsov has now been sentenced to shocking term of fifteen days in a brutal, savage, uncivilized Russian prison where he, like Sergei Magnitsky, could easily be murdered by any number of killers. All for doing nothing more than peacefully speaking his mind in public. Mind you, the New Year’s holiday is protracted in Russia, the most important of the year by far. Nemtsov will be held apart from his family throughout it, in mortal peril. This is the nature of the enemy he faces, that we face.
Welcome to neo-Soviet Russia!
The Kremlin turns its Eye towards the Aged
“This is a big country – there’s the Far East, and Siberia.”
—Yevgeny Savchenko, Putin-appointed governor of Belgorod Oblast, when asked to where Russia’s elderly could be relocated.
Well, that did not take long.
In power for only a brief period, the Kremlin’s hand-picked Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin has already jumped on the bandwagon being driven by Belgorod governor Savchenko and is proposing the resettlement of all of Moscow’s elderly citizens in order to bring down real estate prices for the city’s younger set.
Savchenko is blunt: “Make it so that there would be five million people living here [in Moscow], and all the issues would be resolved without capital investment.”
But we think he is not bold enough.
A Few Words About Methods
By Viktor Shenderovich
December 7, 2010
Translated from the Russian by The Other Russia
I intentionally waited a few days – would anybody speak out?
Nope. All is quiet…
Impudence is bliss.
“The methods of our security services differ in a good way from the methods used by United States security services,” Putin told Larry King. “Thank God… the officers of our intelligence services and other security services are not noted as having been involved in the organization of secret prisons, kidnappings, or the use of torture.”
They were noticed, naturally, and more than once.
The difference between Russia and the US is that the people who used torture in Guantanamo are in prison, having been convicted by American courts, and the Russian citizens, kidnapped and tortured by FSB officers, won’t get justice from anywhere closer than Strasbourg.
The second difference is that the American journalists who investigated Guantanamo won the Pulitzer Prize and are all alive, and Politkovskaya and Estemirova, who investigated the filtration camp in Chernokozovo, have been murdered, and their murderers have not been found, and Putin still managed to publicly spit on Politkovskaya’s grave.
So that’s it about the methods. And not those of the security service, but of Putin and his propaganda. They are simple, like a stick: lie through the teeth, nobody will notice!
Yana Plucer-Sarno of the Voina art collective
A scathing item on ArtInfo by Yana Plucer-Sarno, editor of the Voina art collective, condemns the outrageous neo-Soviet crackdown on art:
Voina is a well-known group of Russian artists that engages in radical street protest actions. These artists have protested against the total elimination of freedom of speech, against the violation of human rights, and against the utter liquidation of democracy that have taken place in Russia in recent years.
In their manifesto, the group proclaims that its main goal is to create a new contemporary art language for the sake of pure art — and not for money. Within Russia, they want to create a real left-wing art movement in the best traditions of the Russian Futurism of the 1920s. They aim to trigger a revival of political protest art around the world. Voina struggles against the climate of socio-political obscurantism and right-wing reaction that has overtaken Russia.
Serpent Russians and their Forked Tongue
The world saw yet another horrifying example of the amazing duplicity, dishonesty and hypocrisy of which Russians are capable last week when the Kremlin’s Gestapo turned a blind eye to an unsanctioned protest by over 1,000 chanting nationalist goons.
Mother of Russian Anti-Corruption Lawyer Killed in Custody, Has Been Harassed in Moscow, Complaint Revealed Today
Nataliya Magnitskaya, mother of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky
3 December 2010 – The mother of Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian anti-corruption lawyer killed in police custody, has been harassed outside her home in Moscow since receiving, on behalf of her son, the 2010 Integrity Award from Transparency International two weeks ago. A team of people from the Russian television station NTV, who have interchangeably represented themselves both as realtors and as journalists, have followed Magnitsky’s mother, attempted to enter her house, carried out covert filming of her and intruded upon her with offensive questions. NTV is controlled by the Russian state-owned gas company, Gazprom.
A complaint about the abusive harassment of Sergei Magnitsky’s mother has been filed today by Sergei Magnitsky’s former partner, Jamison Firestone, with the Grand Jury of the Russian Union of Journalists (Russian version available at: http://russian-untouchables.com/docs/Letter%20to%20Journalist%20Union.pdf).
Medvedev the Marauder
Russia’s so-called “president” Dmitri Medvedev announced feverishly a few days ago that he was sending out a “Mercader” to deal with the “traitor” who exposed the Anna Chapman spy clan under deep cover in the United States. As a result of that scandal, of course, Russia was totally humiliated before the entire world. We offer further insights about the debacle in a post from the head of Agentura.ru in this very issue.
Medvedev was referring to “Ramón Mercader, the secret agent sent by Joseph Stalin to kill archrival Leon Trotsky with an ice pick.” That’s right, Medvedev was openly patterning himself after Josef Stalin, and bragging about it in public. Lest you think the world saw this as another silly Russian joke, the “traitor” was soon under FBI protection.
Posted in editorial, espionage, medvedev, neo-soviet crackdown, potemkin villages, propaganda, russia
Tagged Anna Chapman, dmitry medvedev, Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, Ramón Mercader, russia, vladimir putin
Sobyanin Cracks Down
Finding a juicy hotdog lathered in ketchup has gotten a bit harder since Mayor Sergei Sobyanin took office. Forty of the 150 Stardog!s hotdog stands dotting Moscow have been shut down over the past week, and another 20 are expected to be closed shortly, said Sergei Rak, director for development with Markon, the private company that runs the Stardog!s chain.
— The Moscow Times, November 15, 2010
Moscow’s new mayor, it seems, is a cheeseburger man. And he’s responded to his desires exactly the way Josef Stalin would have done if Moscow’s streets had been peppered with repugnant hot-dog stands in his time: He’s shut them down. The MT reports that Sobyanin’s minions “studied Markon’s leases for the hotdog stands in hope of finding errors that would justify their cancellation. Finding none, they said bluntly, ‘Close! At any rate, you are not going to work here anymore’.” The MT continues:
A visit by Sobyanin to the Ulitsa 1905 Goda metro station during an Oct. 30 city tour promoted the kiosk crackdown. Sobyanin complained that the kiosks blocked the view of a historical monument and were located too close to the metro station. The head of the Presnensky district, where the metro station is located, was fired on the spot, together with the head of the central Tverskoi district. The official reason given for the dismissals was that the officials’ work contracts expired Nov. 8, RIA-Novosti reported.
Now we ask you, dear reader: How is this behavior any different than Stalin’s would have been? Is Russia’s really the type of economy that can afford to wipe out hundreds of thriving small businesses on a daily basis in an arbitrary, unpredictable, nakedly illegal manner, thus sending a clear message that setting up any such business is a gamble at best?
We think not.
Just a few weeks ago, Sobyanin had declared: “Small and medium-sized businesses are in need of aid.”Referring to bureaucratic barriers for small business startups in Moscow, he said: “We should take them away. Then there will be a completely different investment climate.” Any number of kiosks might have opened specifically in reliance on these words, only to have the rugged yanked out from under them just as the Russian regime has done to so may others, domestic and foreign alike, for so many years now.
Masha Gessen, newly installed as an editor at Snob magazine, blogging at Reuters:
“Are you scared?” someone asked me during a talk in New York last Friday night.
I always get that question. I am a journalist working in Russia, where 19 murders of journalists remain unsolved. Russia ranks eighth in the Impunity Index compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists — the only European country on the list, it is wedged between Nepal and Mexico.
People may be forgiven that being scared is an occupational hazard for me.
So I gave my stock answer: “No, I am not scared,” I said. “I have been at times, but right now I don’t seem to be doing anything particularly dangerous.” This is true.
Other Russia reports:
Editors at Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s most well-renowned opposition newspapers, fear that the publication may be shut down in the coming year.
Following months of legal battles, a Russian court declared in September that a decision by Roskomnadzor (Russia’s federal media supervision agency) to issue an official warning against the newspaper for “propagandizing nationalistic views” was valid. Since a publication can be shut down after two such warnings, Novaya Gazeta editors say that the court’s decision spells the beginning of the possible end of the newspaper.
Paul Goble reports:
The way in which Moscow is arming and training units assigned to the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty suggests that these forces will be used against domestic opposition groups in the member states – not excluding the Russian Federation, according to some analysts — rather than exclusively against foreign aggressors.
Col.Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of the unified staff of the ODKB (its Russian acronym), said that “the international forces subordinate to him soon will begin to receive as armaments water cannon, traumatic pistols, tear gas and noise grenades – all “so-called non-lethal” weapons.
Up until now, such weapons have generally been used by the police or special services rather than by national armies or international alliances. Obviously, “tank columns are not dispersed by water cannon.” Indeed, most of the units in the ODKB are “motorized rifle battalions, the chief task of which is repulsing a foreign threat.”
Russia’s security services have changed a lot since late Soviet days.
They are much worse.
That’s the view of Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, two young Russian journalists who have just published a book on the FSB, the main present-day successor to the powerful Soviet KGB.
“The KGB was a very powerful organization but at the same time it was under the strict control of the Communist Party,” Soldatov told Reuters in an interview in London on Wednesday, when he and Borogan were promoting their book at a seminar.
“… With the FSB, we have no party control and we have no parliamentary control … we have got uncontrollable secret services.”
Michael Bohm, writing in the Moscow Times:
On the day President Dmitry Medvedev fired Yury Luzhkov, reporters asked Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to comment on the reason. “The Moscow mayor didn’t get along with the president,” Putin said.
Medvedev’s own explanation wasn’t any more substantial. “As the president of Russia, I have lost my trust in Yury Mikhailovich Luzhkov as the mayor of Moscow,” he told journalists in Shanghai on Sept. 28, the day he signed the dismissal order.
Since then, Medvedev hasn’t explained any further. Although the law apparently allows Medvedev to get away with this vagueness, the president has an obligation to explain the exact reasons why he sacked the mayor of Moscow, who held the most powerful positions in the country.
Backing the ruling tandem’s silence, one of United Russia’s top leaders, Vyacheslav Volodin, commented the day Luzhkov was sacked: “The president’s decision shouldn’t be discussed. It should be carried out.”
Putin’s Russia, Fading Fast
Public opinion polls show that only 13% of Russians (Russian-language link) believe that Dmitri Medvedev really holds presidential power in their country, even though he’s called “president.” More than twice as many think Vladimir Putin holds this power exclusively, and a whopping 78% of Russians believe Putin holds at least a share of presidential power. 64% of Russians believe that Putin’s actions are completely independent of Medvedev, while half that number think Medvedev can act independently.
Despite the scorn heaped upon the street demonstrators by the Putin regime and the Russophile rabble, a whopping 85% of Russians (Russian-language link) believe the Kremlin should listen to what the protesters have to say, yet less than 30% think the Kremlin actually is listening. If an election were held today, only 27% of Russians say they are ready to cast a vote for Putin, while a pathetic 20% are committed to voting for Medvedev.
These facts add up to just one conclusion: Russia is a dictatorship.
Putin’s Internet Crackdown in Russia
Rustem Adagamov says: “The Internet is the last free territory [in Russia] — but it won’t stay that way for long.”
He’d know. He’s the most widely-read blogger in Russia, holding forth as “Drugoi” (“The Other”) on Live Journal.
You don’t have to look hard to find examples that prove he’s right.
Armed and masked police raided the opposition New Times magazine on Thursday, pressing journalists to hand over interview recordings used in reports on alleged abuse of authority by the OMON riot police.
A handful of police entered the magazine’s Moscow office seeking recordings of interviews and other material used in a February report that cited police sources as saying OMON officers are permitted to commit abuses when breaking up protests.
“We suggest you voluntarily — voluntarily — give us the recordings of the interview with the current and former OMON staff,” the officer in charge of the raid told New Times editor Yevgenia Albats in the presence of a Reuters reporter.
Another Day, Another Nemtsov Arrest
Once again last Tuesday, the former first deputy prime minister of Russia was arrested and accused of “provocation” by the Putin Kremlin for daring to challenge its authority.
Before we discuss the latest incidence of jaw-dropping barbarism from the Putin Kremlin, though, let’s take a moment to reflect on amazing photograph shown above, an image captured by a Novaya Gazeta photographer at the scene of the crime. It ought to strike sheer terror into the hearts of the loathsome reptiles within the Moscow Kremlin.
Posted in editorial, nemtsov (white paper), neo-soviet crackdown, opposition groups, russia
Tagged barack obama, boris nemtsov, European Union, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Leonid Brezhnev, russia, United States, vladimir putin
So-called law enforcement officers following Vladimir Putin's advice in Moscow on August 31
Oleg Kozlovsky, writing on the Huffington Post, reveals how Vladimir Putin has declared open, violent war against peaceful protesters (just for daring to march without a license, not for defying an order to disperse) and his own presidency-for-life:
Today’s Kommersant publishes a fresh interview with Vladimir Putin, where the dictator comments on opposition rallies:
Look, all our opponents support a Rechtsstaat. What is a Rechtsstaat? It is obedience to the existing law. What does the existing law say about [Dissenters’] Marches? You need to get a permission from the authorities. Got it? Go and protest. Otherwise you don’t have this right. If you go out without having the right, get beaned with a baton. That’s it!
Putin manages to lie three times in this short passage:
Posted in kozlovsky, neo-soviet crackdown, opposition groups, russia
Tagged Civil disobedience, Huffington Post, Kommersant, Law, Moscow, oleg kozlovsky, russia, united russia, vladimir putin
Robert Amsterdam interviews Lev Ponomarev:
Russia-watchers are no doubt aware of the recent arrest of my good friend Lev Ponomarev. Lev is one of the leading lights of the Russian human rights movement, part of the original perestroika-era generation of human rights advocates whose courageous efforts ensured that democratic reforms were an integral part of the changes that followed the collapse of communism. These reforms have been steadily and vigorously eroded over the past decade under Vladimir Putin. Several days ago, for example, Lev was arrested in Moscow on Flag Day – while walking with a Russian flag. The irony is all the greater because Russia’s Flag Day commemorates the day in 1991 when the tricolor was raised for the first time over the Supreme Soviet building after the failed August Putsch, a time when Lev was a deputy to the Congress of People’s Deputies of the RSFSR and a key figure in the fledgling democracy movement.
I spoke with Lev by phone after his release, and here is what he had to say:
Posted in neo-soviet crackdown, opposition groups, russia
Tagged Flag Day, Human rights, lev ponomarev, Lev Ponomaryov, Moscow, robert amsterdam, russia, Russian language, Soviet Union, vladimir putin
Paul Goble, writing for the Eurasia Daily Monitor:
Taking advantage of a “marked” decline in US activity in the former Soviet space, President Dmitry Medvedev is moving to “minimize” what some in Moscow see as the negative “consequences of the most serious geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” by setting “a certain Union of Sovereign Super-loyal Republics.”
In this way, the editors of Nezavisimaya Gazeta argue, the USSR is reappearing albeit in a somewhat different form, and it future development, they suggest, will depend in the first instance “on the political will and professionalism of those carrying out” this policy direction.