Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times:
I confess that I have been thinking for a long time about the collective looney bin that best describes Russia’s leaders. I mean loony bin in the direct sense — when our leaders, suffering from real delirium, utter complete nonsense.
Take, for example, the in absentia conviction last week of Alexander Poteyev, former deputy head of the “S” department of the Foreign Intelligence Service who oversaw sleeper agents. In the verdict written by the judge, Poteyev betrayed Anna Chapman and the other sleeper agents working in the United States.
But in the material released by U.S. prosecutors after the Russian agents were arrested, it was clear that they had been followed by U.S. investigators for 10 years — and without any help from Poteyev.
Opposition leader and Echo of Moscow radio host Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:
On Jan. 15, Nikita Belykh was inaugurated as the governor of the Kirov region. The ceremony, which was held at Kirov’s main theater, had the trappings of a drab Soviet obkom meeting, although it also offered some new post-Soviet attributes, such as the blessing by two Russian Orthodox metropolitans. To add a little extra dazzle to the ceremony, a Cossack general from the Urals regiment presented Belykh with a traditional Cossack fur hat and saber.
This was the first time in years that an outspoken member of the opposition was installed as governor. Belykh emphasized the values of democracy and freedom in his inaugural address, quoting President Dmitry Medvedev’s phrase that “freedom is better than non-freedom.”
Will Belykh be able to create a Kirov-based “island of freedom” in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s sea of “power vertical”? Working to his advantage is his passion for change, as well as the cart blanche the Kremlin has apparently given him to form his own team. In another positive sign, Belykh was not required to join United Russia as a condition for his appointment.
In another installment of its “Kremlin Rules” series the New York Times reports on the sellout by former “opposition” politician Nikita Belykh. As always, the Times has translated the article into Russian and posted it on a Live Journal blog, collected comments and translated them back into English. One commenter stated: “Can there be two opinions on this? Belykh sold himself completely, but isn’t he a human being? The liberals have absolutely no chance for success.” Another wrote: “Why do you think Belykh surrendered after years of tough criticism of the Kremlin? He was persecuted by the bloody K.G.B. Just visit the Lubyanka basements, listen to the growl of the ungreased stone crusher, and you won’t have these questions any more.”
Vladimir V. Putin was sitting behind his desk. Before him was a prominent opposition leader named Nikita Y. Belykh, a beefy and bearded liberal with a fondness for scribbling poems on the side. In one, each stanza began with a word that he said characterized Mr. Putin’s Russia: Autocratic. One-Party. Authoritarian. Aggressive. Yet there Mr. Belykh was, ready to abandon it all.
Mr. Putin had invited Mr. Belykh to his office on Dec. 5 to make an offer. Renounce the opposition. Come work for the Kremlin. Mr. Belykh was feeling beaten down, “a sense of my own degradation,” as he explained in an interview last week. He said he was tired of being vilified in the state-controlled news media, of being hounded by the state security forces, of being arrested at demonstrations, of having his political party thwarted at every turn.
And so Mr. Belykh, 33, who represented the future of the liberal opposition, said yes. He accepted an appointment as one of the Kremlin’s regional governors, turning his back on his party allies and becoming emblematic of the opposition’s difficulties this year.
Bizarre, Even by Russian Standards
And that’s saying something!
The Moscow Times reports that
Exactly a year ago, then-President Vladimir Putin warned that the liberal opposition was trying to return to the power it enjoyed in the 1990s by staging street protests and enriching themselves, while bringing the country to its knees. Now former Union of Right Forces head Nikita Belykh, one of the leaders of the liberal opposition who was arrested at a Dissenters’ March this spring, will likely become governor of the Kirov region after President Dmitry Medvedev nominated him for the post Monday. Belykh said he accepted the nomination because the position was “very interesting from a professional point of view. I understand how to do it, and it is interesting because it is a big challenge. I have not said that people should not cooperate with the powers that be.” Several opposition figures, including former SPS activist Maria Gaidar, have accused Belykh of striking a deal with the Kremlin to destroy SPS.
Belykh claims that he plans to work against the Kremlin from the inside, making common cause with like-minded such as Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, Central Bank chief Sergei Ignatyev and Federal Anti-monopoly Service head Igor Artemyev.
What are we to make of this? Has the Kremlin shown yet another sign of weakness in light of the massive economic caststrophe it is facing, or is Belykh just one more sellout to the Kremlin’s brutal repression?