Sacrilege at Seliger
Vladmir Putin is no stranger to hypocrisy. For example, though calling the USA a “parasite” whose economy is not based on productivity and which therefore is unreliable and harmful, under Putin Russian investment in the US economy has increased by a stunning one thousand six hundred percent.
Putin deals with hypocrisy of this kind they way Soviet rulers like him always have: He lies to his people, seeking to cultivate a nation of thoughtless automatons who can do nothing but worship at his feet. It all begin with the youngest, at summer camp, the way it always did in the USSR.
In the photo above, two participants in the Kremlin’s Hitler-Jugend variant, Camp Seliger (one with a bra with eyes drawn on the outside of her t-shirt) walk past a billboard showing the faces of Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin weirdly fused into a single person, with the explanation “they are interchangeable.”
Elsewhere at the installation, campers walk by a row of photographs of Garry Kasparov, Mikhail Kasyanov, Boris Nemtsov, Eduard Limonov and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, under the banner: “Losers of the Year.”
The Ghastly Horror of Russian Barbarism
It’s really amazing how, no matter what horrific and repugnant thing you may have seen from Russia, the country can always surprise you with something even more vile tomorrow.
What would you say if we told you, for instance, that the bus shown above is “home” to dozens – that’s right dozens — of helpless animals?
What if one of them was a super-famous animal celebrity, who had performed at a nationally famous circus, in feature films and even at the Olympic Games?
What if that celebrity, Katya the Bear, now “spends the long hours jumping up and down in her cage and trying to crack the rusty metal railings with her chipped and yellowed teeth”?
Well, it’s the case. In fact, here she is:
Top Russia blogger Vladimir Kara-Murza reports:
For Yuri Andropov, who headed the KGB from the 1960s to the 1980s, suppressing political dissent was a top priority. “Every such act represents a danger,” he told his colleagues in 1979, “The struggle against them must be decisive, uncompromising, and merciless.” The regime tried different approaches. Dissidents were convicted to long sentences for “anti-Soviet agitation”—an offense under Article 70 of the penal code—and sent away to prisons and labor camps alongside real criminals. Often, they were labelled “insane,” committed to special psychiatric prisons and subjected to torturous “treatment.” Both of these practices—criminal convictions and “punitive psychiatry”—met with worldwide condemnation and ultimately proved too costly for the Kremlin’s international image.
Then Andropov had an idea.
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. ”
One Nora Fitzgerald recently had a letter to the editor published in the Moscow Times, responding to a recent op-ed piece by Richard Lourie which exposed the naked propaganda fraud that is “Russia Beyond the Headlines,” a paid supplement churned out by the Kremlin and foisted upon financially hapless Western newspapers. What follows is the letter verbatim with our commentary in boldface following each paragraph.
Interestingly, “Russia Beyond the Headlines” doesn’t publish letters to the editor.
A Thousand days to Apocalypse in Russia
On May 14, 2011, Russia switched on a countdown timer in the city of Sochi to tick off the days remaining until the 2014 Winter Olympiad unfolds there. The clock should have been in the shape of a ticking time bomb, in order to do justice to horror of anticipating what may be the bloodiest sports contest in modern memory.
Just the day before, Russia had gone down to utterly humiliating defeat to tiny Finland, getting blanked 0-3, at the semi-finals of the world ice hockey championships in Slovakia (Russia then promptly surrendered seven goals to Czech Republic and lost the bronze medal as well) . The world was reminded that Russia is inviting it to gape upon the spectacle of Russian failure in 2014; if Russians are unable to meet the high expectations for gold medals the whole country will be forced to bow its head in shame.
But even if Russians manage to reap a fistful of gold in Sochi, they still must face the horrifying specter of terrorism.
Russia, Behind the Curtain
Over the past year, the confidence of the Russian people in their government has plummeted. From a high of 56% in May 2010, the approval rate has fallen steadily until last month it dropped, stunningly, below a majority to 48%.
In July 2010, only 29% of Russians thought their government was moving in the “wrong direction.” As of last month, that figure stands at 40% — a whopping increase of one-third in less than a year. Back in July a majority of Russians thought the country was moving in the right direction; now, just 43% think so. Only 27% of Russians firmly believe the government will be able to change things for the better, while 37% are sure there is no chance that will happen.
Meanwhile, another poll revealed that 40% of Russians favor the installation of a constitutional monarch.
These are devastatingly bad poll results in a country where the state controls all major media outlets and public criticism of the regime is almost wholly absent. If the public had better information, the regime would no doubt be in single-digit approval.
In shockingly bizarre fashion, however, Russian approval of the country’s two leaders, Medvedev and Putin, is still stratospherically high. Medvedev has 68% approval and Putin, who is in charge of the government, is even higher at 71%. There is only one word for such results, and that word is: irrational. Or perhaps a better word would be: psychotic.
Corruption in Putin’s Russia
Political competition is a necessary element for properly structuring any economy. We would like to see more ideas and more political competition in the development of these ideas.
— Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, April 21, 2011
They say that a fish rots from the head. Nowhere is that more true than in Russia. The country ranks a genuinely shocking #154 out of 178 world nations when surveyed for corruption, meaning that Russia is the 24th most corrupt country on this planet. Three people can count on their fingers the number of nations more corrupt than Russia, with more than a whole hand going spare.
It did not get that way by accident. As we document in today’s special issue, Russian corruption is so shockingly extensive and deep-rooted because Russia’s very highest leaders are themselves on the take, and the nation is just following their example.
Paul Goble reports:
Preliminary results from the 2010 Russian census highlight some of that country’s most serious underlying problems and thus appear likely to be the subject of intense discussion and debate not only among commentators but also in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
The results show a continuing decline in the total Russian population, a hollowing out of much of the country, an increase in the gender imbalance Russia has suffered since World War II, and, what is especially disturbing to many Russians, a shift in the ethnic balance of the population as a result of differential birthrates and immigration.
And those trends — which some observers are already suggesting may be even worse than the official figures show — help explain why some Russian leaders wanted to put off the census or at least reports of its findings until after the 2012 presidential elections lest the census data call attention to the failures of Moscow’s policies over the last decade.
Boris Nemtsov has published the fifth installment of his White Paper series reviewing the manifold failures of the Putin regime. This time, his focus is personal corruption by Vladimir Putin himself, and the allegations are truly sensational. Nemtsov is clearly taking his life in his hands by publishing this material, once again translated professionally by the amazing Dave Essel. The four prior installments are located here. The original Russian version of Part V is here.
AN INDEPENDENT WHITE PAPER
V.Milov, B. Nemtsov, V. Ryzhkov, O. Shorina
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
Vladimir Putin’s decade in power associates in most minds with two highly negative phenomena – an extraordinary increase in the abuse of power and corruption.
Russia in 2010 managed to rank 154th out of 178 countries according to influential global civil society organisation Transparency International. Our peers in the list are some of the least developed countries of Africa (Congo, Guinea-Bissau) and other countries such as New Guinea and Tadzhikistan. Transparency International considers Russia to be the most corrupt of all the major countries in the world, the so-called G20. Our BRIC colleagues (Brazil, China and India) rate way above us as well in 69th, 78th, and 87th respectively.
The Vice President of the United States is a Moron
It’s pretty darned hilarious how members of the Democratic Party lampooned the last Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States, Sarah Palin, for being a buffoon then turned around and elected to that office a person who gives new meaning to the word moron.
At a recent meeting with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, the current U.S. Veep Joe Biden was asked by the Russian psychopath whether it wouldn’t be a good idea to let Russians waltz into the United States without visas. First Biden said “good idea!” then he said “Mr. Prime Minister, in case you haven’t noticed, there’s a real difference between being president and vice president.”
Only Joe Biden could cram so much utter stupidity into such a small space. He makes Sarah Palin look like Winston Churchill.
It’s actually hard to list all the ways Biden’s foolish utterance is wrong.
The heroic Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:
The smell of February is lingering in the air — February 1917, that is.
I am not talking about the revolutions in the Middle East but about Russia’s extraordinarily weak leaders and the growing contempt that the leading public figures and ordinary citizens are showing toward them.
Look how quickly the seemingly ironclad vertical power structure can evaporate into thin air. For example, Bolshoi prima-turned-celebrity Anastasia Volochkova had no qualms about publicly thumbing her nose at United Russia when she quit the party after revealing that she was “tricked” into signing a group letter in support of prosecuting former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In the 1970s, no Soviet citizen would have even thought about snubbing the Communist Party.
An editorial in the Moscow Times:
A February ruling by Judge Tatyana Adamova of Moscow’s Savyolovsky District Court must go down as among the most absurd in Russian history.
Adamova presided over the defamation case brought by opposition leaders Vladimir Ryzhkov, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who in answer to the question “What do Nemtsov, Ryzhkov, Milov really want?” on his December live television call-in show said: “Money and power. … In the ’90s, they stole billions of dollars.”
This is an outlandish and reckless claim that previously had never been alleged — except perhaps by a few crackpot bloggers on LiveJournal — much less proven.
Night Falls on Putin’s Russia
If you look at a map of the world at night, Europe and the United States and Japan and even India are lit up like Christmas trees. Compare them to the vast northern swaths of Russia and to Africa, which lie in sullen darkness. In Africa’s case, it’s because the population simply doesn’t have access to electricity. In Russia’s case, it’s because there are no people present at all.
But the world’s population is exploding. Experts say that “we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000” in order to feed all the new mouths. Russians are doing their part to help: Their population is expected to shrink drastically, by 15% or more, over the next few decades. So the question is: As Russia empties, who’s going to move in? Most likely, it will be the Chinese; but exploding Muslim populations across Russia’s southern border will also have a say.
Russia’s horrifying darkness is both literal and figurative, of course.
In a truly thrilling op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Boris Nemtsov, Mikhail Kasyanov and Vladimir Milov, Russia’s terrific trio, lay down withering crossfire against the advancing legions of the Putin dictatorship:
This year started quite symbolically in Russia. In the last days of 2010, government authorities decided to demonstrate their power and their intolerance for being challenged: The verdict issued at the farcical trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev had no relation to jurisprudence; leading opposition figures were detained for as many as 15 days on purely political grounds.
These heavy-handed actions set a peculiar stage for President Dmitry Medvedev’s address at the World Economic Forum. Nevertheless, the intelligent and well-informed audience in Davos enthusiastically applauded his nice words about Russia’s economic modernization and dynamic democratic development. International business leaders seem to accept his complaints that few Russians understand his great plans for the country’s future, which greedy oligarchs and corrupt officials from the 1990s prevent him from undertaking.
Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times, asks why her countrymen are so pathetically spineless:
In an interview with Gazeta.ru, Natalya Vasilyeva, assistant to Judge Viktor Danilkin in the second criminal case against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said Danilkin had to obtain approval from the Moscow City Court — and higher — for each of his actions, and that the city court wrote the verdict that Danilkin read at the trial.
There were two surprising things about the interview with Vasilyeva. The first is her claim that Danilkin considered the process unjust and was out of sorts as a result. If that is true, it is unexpected because people tend to rationalize their actions. I find it hard to believe that the average NKVD officer really considered himself an inhumane executioner, despite the historical record showing him to be exactly that.
The second is that, if Vasilyeva spoke the truth, it is amazing how easily Danilkin buckled under pressure and sold out his ideals. After all, what would have happened to him if he had acquitted Khodorkovsky?
Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on World Affairs Journal:
This week Russia marked the 80th anniversary of the birth of Boris Yeltsin, the country’s first democratically elected leader. The occasion was accorded official status. President Dmitri Medvedev, unveiling a ten-meter marble statue of his predecessor in Yekaterinburg, declared that “Russia should be grateful to President Yeltsin” and praised his “strength of character.” In Moscow, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promised the audience at a stately remembrance evening in Bolshoi Theatre to “continue along Yeltsin’s path, to transform Russia into a strong and free country where human rights are fully protected.” Exhibitions dedicated to the former president opened in Moscow, Kazan, and Yekaterinburg. Tatarstan is hosting the 2011 Yeltsin Cup international junior tennis tournament. This year will see the unveiling of the Yeltsin Presidential Center and Library, built with a 3 billion ruble (US $102 million) grant from the federal budget.
Russia and the Apes who Guard Her
Russia's Ape in Chief
Russia is guarded by apes, as if she were a bunch of bananas.
This leads to some truly barbaric consequences. For instance, in the wake of the arrest of former first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov for criticizing the Kremlin while holding a written legal writ to do so, followed by a torrent fo foreign outrage and a lawsuit against Russia by Nemtsov in the European Court for Human Rights, Russian parliamentarian Anton Belyakov of the “Just Russia” political party called for an investigation.
Michael Bohm, editorial page editor, writing in the Moscow Times:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent a clear and chilling signal on Dec. 16 that the “soft autocracy” of his first decade in power will become more oppressive in his second decade.
It was on that day that Putin effectively delivered the guilty verdict in the second trial of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky during his annual call-in show — two weeks before Judge Viktor Danilkin actually found Khodorkovsky guilty of embezzlement and money laundering and added six years to his sentence, ensuring he will be locked up until 2017.
Putin’s declaration that Khodorkovsky belonged in jail was eerily similar to Stalin’s notorious practice of delivering a sentence and then having the court confirm it. Putin easily could have not selected the Khodorkovsky question during the call-in show and applied pressure on Danilkin in private. Instead, Putin flouted an apparent disregard for the law on national television. (Applying pressure or interfering in a trial is a violation of Article 294 of the Criminal Code.)
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.
Neo-Soviet Russia goes Berzerk
The cell is a concrete box, 1.5 by three metres, without a window and without even a mattress. A bare floor and that’s it. Absurdly, they have charged me with disobeying the police. For three hours the police bosses didn’t know what to charge me with; then they received an order from upstairs. I understand this action is designed to frighten the opposition. They are mad and don’t know what to do with us. We cannot and will not give in.
— Note written by former Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and smuggled out of his jail cell in Moscow following his arrest for publicly criticizing the Putin regime in a permitted demonstration
Vladimir Putin started of 2011 by making it seem that his New Year’s resolution was to conclusively prove to the world once and for all that his country has gone berzerk.
First, one of his “judges” convicted Mikhail Khodorkovsky again, ignoring his years of incarceration in Siberia and ignoring the fact that the evidence against him was a total charade. As we report in today’s issue, the “judge” cited testimony from witnesses who said Khodorkovsky did not steal oil as proof that he had done so, and convicted him of stealing more oil than the prosecution had accused him of doing. He was then sentenced to the absolute maximum allowable by law.
Then, another one of Putin’s “judges” convicted Boris Nemtsov of participating in an illegal demonstration even though the event had the formal written permission of the government. As we report in today’s issue, Nemtsov was held in a cell with bare walls (no windows, ventilation, raised bed or even mattress on the floor) and made to stand through his entire four-hour “trial.” Unlike Khodorkovsky, the only “crime” of which Nemtsov was even accused is speaking to harshly about the Kremlin’s crackdown on democracy. Unlike Khodorkovsky, too, Nemtsov has held high-ranking government positions and been elected to office.
But the rule of law, of course, is a meaningless concept for the barbaric clan of apes that now rules Russia.
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.
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!
Remember how dangerous it is for any Russian to criticize the Putin regime over Chechnya, as best illustrated by the murders of Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova and Stanislav Markelov, a recent interview by Boris Nemtsov is truly breathtaking in its courage. Paul Goble reports:
The North Caucasus at the present time is “our Palestine,” Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov says, the result of the deal between Vladimir Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov in which the former has purchased the loyalty of the latter for cash and at the price of allowing the Chechen leader and his minions to do what they like throughout Russia.
If Russia is to escape from this dilemma, Nemtsov said in the course of an online press conference, several steps are necessary because as the Manezh violence shows the problems of that region are no longer confined to it but rather spreading throughout Russian society.
Writing on Gazeta.ru Vladimir Milov delivers a one-two punch to the solar plexus of Vladimir Putin on the issue of nationality, along with his partner in opposition Boris Nemtsov. The latter handles the Caucaus region, while Milov addresses Putin’s weakness much closer to home. Paul Goble reports:
Russia’s liberals have ceded issues like migration and the violence in the North Caucasus to the nationalists by failing to address them openly and honestly and to offer programs for their resolution, a shortcoming that has helped to marginalize the liberals in Russia and give the nationalists an undeserved victory, a liberal commentator says
In a commentary on Gazeta.ru, Vladimir Milov, the head of the Democratic Choice Movement and of the Institute of Energy Policy, argues that the Manezh Square violence must become “a serious occasion” for re-assessing “the influence and role of nationalism and the factor of inter-ethnic relations in Russian politics.