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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Top Chechen Ordered Abduction, Austria Says

Musa Saduayev/Associated Press; Israilov Family

Ramzan A. Kadyrov, left, denied any role in the killing of the whistle-blower, Umar S. Israilov.

Chechnya’s president, Ramzan A. Kadyrov, ordered the kidnapping of a Chechen whistle-blower in Vienna last year, in which the man was fatally shot, Austria’s counterterrorism department concluded after a yearlong investigation. The nation’s public prosecutor’s office released the news on Tuesday.

Mr. Kadyrov, who is supported by the Kremlin and Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, has denied any role in the killing of the whistle-blower, Umar S. Israilov, who was living in exile when he was fatally shot last year.

But the Austrian government’s investigators concluded that Mr. Kadyrov ordered that Mr. Israilov be kidnapped, and that the group of Chechens who tried to snatch Mr. Israilov from a Viennese street botched the job. One of them shot Mr. Israilov after he broke free and tried to escape, the investigators found.

Their conclusions, pointed and direct but based largely on circumstantial evidence, shift the focus now to Austria’s federal prosecutors’ office, which has been preparing indictments.

Three Chechen exiles are in custody in the case: Otto Kaltenbrunner, who is accused of being the local organizer of the crime; Muslim Dadayev, who is accused of monitoring Mr. Israilov’s movements before the crime and driving the getaway car; and Turpal Ali Yesherkayev, who is accused, with a fourth man, of confronting Mr. Israilov as he stepped from a grocery store and then chasing him as he fled.

The fourth suspect, Lecha Bogatirov, left Austria and returned to Russia after the killing, investigators found; he is suspected of shooting Mr. Israilov three times with a pistol.

Mr. Israilov, who was 27, was a former bodyguard and midlevel official in the paramilitary forces under Mr. Kadyrov’s command.

In 2006, after leaving Russia for asylum in Europe, he filed a complaint in the European Court of Human Rights in which he accused Mr. Kadyrov of participating in abductions, torture and murder as part of a Kremlin-backed counterinsurgency effort against separatists in Chechnya, a Russian republic.

Before he was killed Mr. Israilov said he had been threatened by an emissary from Mr. Kadyrov, and he asked for police protection, which was denied. In interviews with The New York Times while in hiding, he said that Mr. Kadyrov had “promised a bounty for me.”

Among the evidence the Austrian investigators found, said Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Vienna prosecutor’s office, was a digital picture in Mr. Kaltenbrunner’s cellphone that showed him sitting on a couch with Mr. Kadyrov. The investigators also determined that Mr. Kaltenbrunner had been in Chechnya shortly before the killing, which is when, Mr. Israilov’s supporters say, Mr. Kaltenbrunner received the final instructions from Mr. Kadyrov to kidnap or kill the whistle-blower.

The authorities also determined that a close aide to Mr. Kadyrov met with two of the suspects in the killing — Mr. Kaltenbrunner and Mr. Bogatirov — before Mr. Israilov was shot and that Mr. Kaltenbrunner placed a call to the aide’s cellphone number immediately after the shooting, while the group fled.

The aide, Shaa Turlayev, is a former rebel who has been accused in Russia of organizing political killings for the Chechen president. A copy of Mr. Turlayev’s Russian passport and an electronic airline ticket used by Mr. Turlayev were found in the getaway car.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Россия: тоталитарный режим, преданный Царю, который создает новую Фашистскую империю

Russia: A totalitarian regime in thrall to a Tsar who's creating the new Facist empire


As ex-President Putin settles in to his new role as Prime Minister, he has every reason to congratulate himself.

After all, he has not only written the script for his constitutional coup d'etat, but staged the play and given himself the starring role as well.

Of course, he has given a walk-on role to Dmitry Medvedev, his personally anointed successor.

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The Russian bear: Despite a new President, Vladimir Putin remains in overall control

But the transfer of power from Putin to his Little Sir Echo, Medvedev, and the show of military strength with those soldiers and clapped-out missiles in Red Square on Victory Day which followed it last week, made it clear who is really in charge.

No decision of any significance for the Russian people or the rest of us will be made in the foreseeable future without the say - so of Medvedev's unsmiling master.

Just before he stood down as President, Putin declared: "I have worked like a galley slave throughout these eight years, morning til night, and I have given all I could to this work. I am happy with the results."

As he surveys the nation today he reminds me of that chilling poem by Ted Hughes, Hawk Roosting, in which the dreaded bird sits at the top of a tall tree musing: "Now I hold all Creation in my foot - I kill as I please because it is all mine - I am going to keep things like this."

In a way he is right to be so self-satisfied. He has told the Russian people that life is much better than it was before he took over - and, after a journey of some 10,000 miles across the largest country in the world for a new book and BBC TV series, I am in no doubt that the majority of his subjects believe him.

I travelled from cities to towns to villages by road, rail and boat and met a great diversity of people - from St Petersburg glitterati to impoverished potato-pickers, from a witch who charms the sprites of the forest to the mountain herdsmen who worship fire and water, from oilmen to woodcutters.

It was an exhilarating and revelatory experience in a land of extremes. But it was also deeply disturbing.

Despite the fact that Putin's Russia is increasingly autocratic and irredeemably corrupt, the man himself - their born-again Tsar - is overwhelmingly regarded as the answer to the nation's prayers.

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Vladimir Putin Dmitry Medvedev March 2008

Vladimir Putin welcomes his personally selected successor, Dmitry Medvedev

Russia has a bloody and tormented history. Its centuries of suffering - its brutalities, its wars and revolutions, culminating in the collapse of communism and the anarchic buffoonery of the Yeltsin years - have taken a terrible psychological toll.

Cynicism and fatalism which eat away at the human psyche have wormed their way into the very DNA of the Russian soul.

In a nation that has not tasted and - with very few exceptions - does not expect or demand justice or freedom, all that matters is stability and security.

And, to a degree, Putin has delivered these twin blessings. But the price has been exorbitant and the Russians have been criminally short-changed.

Putin boasts that since he came into office investment in the Russian economy has increased sevenfold (reaching $82.3 billion in 2007) and that the country's GDP has risen by more than 70 per cent.

Over the same period, average real incomes have more than doubled. But they started from a very low base and they could have done far better.

Nor is this growth thanks either to the Kremlin's leadership or a surge of entrepreneurial energy.

On the contrary, it is almost solely down to Russia's vast reserves of oil and gas.

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Vladimir Putin

Ex-President Putin is overwhelmingly regarded as the answer to the nation's prayers

When Putin came to power, the world price of crude oil was $16 dollars a barrel; it has now soared to more than $120 dollars - and no one knows where or when this bonanza will end.

But this massive flow of funds into the nation's coffers has not been used "to share the proceeds of growth" with the people; to reduce the obscene gulf in income between the rich and poor.

It has not helped to resurrect a health service which is on its knees (and is ranked by the World Health Organisation as 130th out of the 190 countries of the UN), or to rebuild an education system which is so under-funded that the poor have to pay to get their children into a half-decent school or college.

It has not brought gas and running water to the villages where the peasants have been devastated by the collapse of the collectives, or even developed the infrastructure that a 21st century economy needs to compete with the rest of the world.

Russia may be a member of the G8 whose GDP (because of oil) should soon overtake the United Kingdom, but, in many ways, it is more like a Third World country.

Stricken with an epidemic of AIDS and alcoholism which both contribute to a male life expectancy of 58 years, the population is projected to shrink from 145 million to 120 million within a few decades.

So where has all the oil wealth gone? According to an Independent Experts Report, written by two former high-level Kremlin insiders who have had the courage to speak out, "a criminal system of government [has] taken shape under Putin" in which the Kremlin has been selling state assets cheaply to Putin's cronies and buying others assets back from them at an exorbitant price.

Among such dubious transactions the authors cite the purchase by the state-owned Gasprom (run until a few months ago by Dmitry Medvedev) of a 75 per cent share in an oil company called Sifnet (owned by Roman Abramovich, the oligarch who owns Chelsea Football Club).

In 1995 Abramovich, one of Putin's closest allies, paid a mere $100 million for Sifnet; ten years later, the government shelled out $13.7 billion for it - an astronomical sum and far above the going market rate.

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Putin claimed he worked 'like a galley slave' before he stepped down

Even more explosively, the authors claim the Kremlin has created a "friends-of-Putin" oil export monopoly, not to mention a secret "slush fund" to reward the faithful.

According to an analyst at Moscow's Carnegie Centre, which promotes greater collaboration between the U.S. and Russia, the report is "a bomb which, anywhere but in Russia, would cause the country to collapse".

In Britain such revelations would certainly have provoked mass outrage, urgent official inquiries and a major police investigation - if not the downfall of the government.

But because of Putin's totalitarian grasp on power (he has not only appointed his own Cabinet, which used to be the prerogative of the President, but will remain in charge of the nation's economy), there will be no inquiry.

You can forget any talk from the new President about "stamping out" corruption. This social and economic disease is insidious and rampant.

According to Transparency International - a global society which campaigns against corruption - Russia has become a world leader in the corruption stakes. Foreign analysts estimate that no less than $30 billion a year is spent to grease official palms to oil the wheels of trade and commerce.

But when you raise the subject, Russians shrug their shoulders: "What's the problem?" they retort.

"That's how the system works. It will never change."

And that is because everyone is at it. From corporations (including foreign investors who claim to have clean hands but cover their tracks by establishing local "shell" companies to pay the bribes) to the humblest individuals who buy their way out of a driving ban.

In a country where the "separation of powers" has become a bad joke, the law courts are no less corrupt.

Except perhaps for minor misdemeanours at local level, the judiciary is in thrall to the Kremlin and its satraps.

The threat of prosecution for tax fraud is the Kremlin's weapon of choice against anyone who dares to challenge its hegemony.

When Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia, used his oil wealth to promote human rights and democracy, Putin detected a threat to his throne.

The oligarch was duly arrested and convicted of fraud. He now languishes in a Siberian jail where he is in the third year of an eight-year prison sentence.

None of this is a matter of public debate in Russia where the media has been muzzled by the Kremlin, their freedom of expression stifled by the government.

Almost every national radio and television station is now controlled directly or indirectly by the state, and the same applies to every newspaper of any influence.

In the heady days immediately before and after the collapse of the Soviet empire, editors and reporters competed to challenge the mighty and to uncover scandal and corruption.

Now they cower from the wrath of the state and its agents in the police and the security services.

That diminishing number who have the courage to investigate or speak out against the abuses perpetrated by the rich and powerful very soon find themselves out of a job - or, in an alarming number of cases, on the receiving end of a deadly bullet.

Some 20 Russian journalists have been killed in suspicious circumstances since Putin came to office. No one has yet been convicted for any of these crimes.

Putin calls the system over which he presides "sovereign democracy". I think a better term is "cryptofascism" - though even the Kremlin's few critics in Russia recoil when I suggest this.

After all, their parents and grandparents helped save the world from Hitler - at a cost of 25 million Soviet lives. Nonetheless, the evidence is compelling.

The structure of the state - the alliance between the Kremlin, the oligarchs, and the security services - is awesomely powerful.

No less worryingly is popular distaste - often contempt - for democracy and indifference to human rights.

In the absence of any experience of accountability or transparency - the basic ingredients of an open society - even the most thoughtful Russians are prone to say: "Russia needs a strong man at the centre. Putin has made Russia great again. Now the world has to listen."

The new Prime Minister has brilliantly exploited the patriotism and latent xenophobia of the Russia people to unify them in the belief that they face a major threat from NATO and the United States.

This combination of national pride and insecurity has been fuelled by the America with its proposed deployment of missiles only a few hundred kilometres from the Russian border, allegedly to counter a nuclear threat from Iran.

No serious defence analyst believes this makes any strategic sense, while even impeccably pro-Western Russians recoil from this crass assertion of super-power hegemony by President Bush.

Similarly most Russians feel threatened - and humiliated - by the prospect that Ukraine and Georgia, once the most intimate allies of the Soviet Union, may soon be enfolded in the arms of NATO.

Georgia, which is struggling to contain a separatist movement that is openly supported by the Kremlin, has the potential to become a dangerous flashpoint in which the Western allies could only too easily become ensnared.

Does this mean - as some have argued - that we are about to face a new Cold War? I don't think so for a moment.

With communism consigned to "the dustbin of history", there is no ideological conflict of any significance. And there is now only one military superpower.

In comparison with America, Russia's armed forces are a joke. Only catastrophic stupidity on either side could lead to a nuclear confrontation.

But this does not mean that we can all breathe a sigh of relief and forget about the Bear.

An autocratic and resurgent Russia that feels bruised and threatened is an unstable beast.

The Kremlin's growing rapprochement with Beijing (the adversaries of a generation ago are now not only major trading partners, but conduct joint military exercises) shifts the balance of power in the world.

And as life on earth becomes less and less secure, with evermore people competing for a dwindling supply of vital resources, Russia, as an energy giant, is once again a big player on the world stage.

Make no mistake, we are in for a very bumpy ride.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Election Season in Russia

March 4, 2008; Page A17


It is election season again and the interest of the Russian people in the candidates has been high. There has been regular TV coverage, including debates. There is a tangible atmosphere of impending change. The election to which I'm referring is the U.S. presidential race. There is far more curiosity here in the Hillary/Obama debates than in the shuffling that is taking place in the Kremlin.

Our own presidential vote took place on March 2, but the choice had already been made for us. The highly-publicized appointment of incoming President Dmitry Medvedev by President Vladimir Putin was accompanied by some light electoral theater, but only those candidates who pledged total loyalty to Mr. Putin and his ruling clan got as far as appearing on the ballot. They will receive whatever number of votes the authorities feel is sufficiently marginal but not embarrassingly low. Overenthusiastic supporters pushed Mr. Putin's United Russia party over 100% in some districts in last December's parliamentary elections, requiring a unique brand of recount.

This does not mean the democratic opposition will remain silent. The Other Russia coalition has organized "Marches of Dissent" in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities across Russia for this week. Our application to rally yesterday was denied out of hand by the municipal authorities in Moscow. They did not even bother to suggest an alternative venue as required by law. "Find another place," they replied, meaning, "find another country, or another planet." We will march regardless. It is the only way.

Meanwhile, we are watching the American elections closely along with the rest of the world. The Russian ruling elite is rooting for Hillary Clinton, who represents a known and predictable entity compared to Barack Obama. John McCain has been outspoken on behalf of democratic rights abroad, including Russia. Regardless of the doubts about Mr. McCain's conservative credentials at home, the thought of him in the White House strikes fear into authoritarian leaders everywhere.

Mr. Obama, as his Democratic opponent has ceaselessly pointed out to no advantage, is largely an unknown quantity. But like Mr. McCain he has a history of compromise, of being willing to cross his own party and to cross the aisle. Mr. McCain horrified the GOP on campaign finance and immigration reform. Mr. Obama has been attacked by his primary opponent simply for acknowledging President Reagan's achievements.

This stands in contrast to the Bush-Clinton philosophy of energizing the base by attacking the other side. This year may see the creation of a new electoral map, with both candidates vying for independents and traditional red and blue lines breaking down.

This matters abroad because American democracy is still considered a bellwether around the world. The Florida debacle and Supreme Court involvement in the 2000 election are brought up at every opportunity by those nations looking to excuse their own failings in the democratic process. An additional chapter in a two-family dynasty would be another blow, especially to those in nations suffering from quasi-nepotistic succession practices elsewhere in the world -- including Russia.

The intriguing thing about this year's U.S. presidential race is that Mitt Romney's unlimited spending and the well-funded Clinton party machine failed to push their way into power. This is significant for the world to see. American voters are relying on impressions of character this time around. Personal integrity is back at the top of the voters' agenda.

Looking back over the past 20 years, it is not difficult to see why that is. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton squandered the limitless opportunities of the immediate post-Cold War era by failing to exploit the moral and military superiority of the world's sole superpower. Accommodation and non-confrontation were the order of the day, as the "peace dividend" went into dot-com stocks and an isolationist and delusional pre-9/11 mindset.

Shaken awake by that vicious reality check, the second Bush administration moved radically in the other direction, from inaction to pre-emptive action. There were solid grounds for this shift, however debatable it may have been in the case of Iraq. But the legitimacy of this policy collapsed not in Baghdad, but when it became apparent that for this White House, democracy was only to be promoted in a few select locations.

[Dmitry Medvedev]

U.S.-supported elections were touted in Palestine and Iraq while the Putin regime rolled the nascent Russian democracy back into a KGB dictatorship. This while Mr. Putin shared smiles at the G-7 summits with George W. Bush, Tony Blair and the rest. If Mr. Medvedev, after elections every independent observer and media outlet agree were a complete fraud, is allowed to take Mr. Putin's chair in the Tokyo G-7 summit this summer, we will know that empty words have again won the day over meaningful action.

Do not believe that the West has no leverage in dealing with the Russian energy giant. Any perceived weakness in Mr. Medvedev's credibility with the G-7 nations will throw the Russian ruling elite into a panic. The countless billions they have looted reside in the U.S., Europe and tax hideouts around the world -- not in Russia's shaky banking system.

This is the only reason the Kremlin bothers to stage these Potemkin elections. The Putin-Medvedev regime cannot afford the Belarus-level pariah status it deserves. Instead of shrugging their collective shoulders, Western leaders can investigate the money flow, deny visas to the crooks and those guilty of human rights violations, and at last make it clear that destroying democracy has a price.

Russia was finally mentioned in one of the seemingly endless U.S. presidential primary debates. Mrs. Clinton, prompted by the moderator, managed to stutter out something resembling "Medvedev" when asked for the next Russian president's name during a debate in Cleveland. It came out as "Medved . . . whatever," which accidentally focused on the key point. Who Mr. Medvedev is is far less important than what he is -- a hand-picked appointee with no democratic credentials.

Unfortunately, it was only a trivia question that served to show how far off the American radar Russia is. I would have been delighted to hear the answers to the follow up, "will you, as president, push for the removal of Russia from the G-7 since you have just said it is no longer a democratic nation?"

If the next U.S. president fails to address that question, any attempts to speak on behalf of global democracy will be hollow. In that case, for many of us around the world, change will be no change at all.

Mr. Kasparov is a leader of The Other Russia coalition ( He is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and resides in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kasparov Jailed After Anti-Putin Protest

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian authorities arrested former world chess champion Garry Kasparov on Saturday and sentenced him to five days in prison after he helped lead a protest against President Vladimir Putin that ended in clashes with police.

Kasparov, one of President Vladimir Putin's harshest critics, was charged with organizing an unsanctioned procession of at least 1,500 people against Putin, chanting anti-government slogans and resisting arrest, court documents said. His assistant said he was beaten during the demonstration.

At the hastily organized trial, two police testified that they had been ordered before the rally to arrest Kasparov.

"What you read is the fruit of a fantasy dictated on orders from above," Kasparov told the court.

The violence came amid an election campaign in which some opposition political groups have been sidelined by new election rules or have complained of being hobbled by official harassment.

The Kremlin has mounted a major campaign to orchestrate a crushing victory for Putin's United Russia party in Dec. 2 parliamentary elections — perhaps to ensure that Putin can continue to rule Russia even after he steps down as president in May. The constitution prevents him from serving three consecutive terms.

The fracas also comes at a time of growing concern in the West over the state of democracy in Russia, with western critics saying freedoms have been curtailed during Putin's eight years in office. Putin accuses the West of meddling in Russian politics.

Kasparov and dozens of other demonstrators were detained after the rally which drew several thousand people.

The opposition activist was forced to the ground and beaten, his assistant Marina Litvinovich said in a telephone interview from outside the police station where Kasparov was held.

"Putin's brakes don't work," Kasparov told a reporter in the courtroom. "I didn't hear any orders from police, unless you count the strike of a police club as an order."

Protesters were surrounded by metal fences and funneled through metal detectors while hundreds of uniformed police and interior ministry troops stood by. Men in black coats who refused to identify themselves circulated through the crowd shooting video.

After the rally ended, a line of helmeted police tried to prevent a march and channel protesters back toward a nearby Metro station.

Among the dozens of demonstrators arrested was Eduard Limonov, author and leader of the National Bolshevik Party, Kasparov's closest partner in a coalition of anti-Kremlin organizations. Supporters said he was later released.

Police in other Russian cities, including Nizhny Novgorod and Samara, detained local opposition protest organizers, according to the Interfax news agency.

Kasparov's coalition, which includes radicals, democrats and Soviet-era dissidents, has drawn wide media coverage but generated little public support.

Its ranks have expanded, though, as more mainstream political parties complain that officials have excluded them from freely contesting the upcoming elections.

On Friday, the Moscow offices of Kasparov's political organization were searched by police, who seized campaign materials, and the headquarters of the opposition Union of Right Forces party was hit by vandals, the groups said.

Police in Moscow and several other cities have used force to break up several so-called Dissenters Marches in the past year, sometimes beating protesters with truncheons.

The city gave organizers a permit for Saturday's rally but forbid them to march.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Russia is a democracy in name only

President Putin's Third Term
Russia is a democracy in name only.
by Reuben F. Johnson
08/20/2007, Volume 012, Issue 46

Americans might be pardoned for thinking that the presidential race is an out-of-control, ever-lengthening marathon. But defects in our presidential selection process are trivial in comparison with the sinister pantomime that is the March 2008 Russian presidential election.

Under the rule of President Vladimir Putin, political scientists and Kremlin spokesmen have had to invent new terms to describe Russia's system of government. When Putin assumed power in 2000, Russia was said to be a "managed democracy." This was a kinder, gentler label than Putin's own. The former secret policeman had at first declared that his would be a "dictatorship of the law." Unfortunately, he was right, and the emphasis increasingly has been on the dictatorship rather than the law. What was once "managed democracy" is now officially deemed "sovereign democracy."

This "Kremlin coinage," as Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Endowment puts it, "conveys two messages: first, that Russia's regime is democratic and, second, that this claim must be accepted, period. Any attempt at verification will be regarded as unfriendly and as meddling in Russia's domestic affairs." In other words, questioning Russia's pretense to being democratic will be greeted as an intolerable attack on Russia's sovereignty.

Russian spokesmen and the Kremlin's professional spinmeisters take full advantage of the fact that the average person elsewhere is largely ignorant of what takes place inside Russia. They try to present the manner in which "sovereign democracy" is practiced in Russia as being just like democracy elsewhere. But it isn't. Kremlin propagandists have to work overtime to maintain the illusion.

Back in early June on WAMU's Diane Rehm talk show, Andrei Sitov, the Washington-based representative for Russia's government-owned and controlled ITAR-TASS news service (and himself a government spokesman pretending to be a correspondent), portrayed the Russian election as analogous to the U.S. race. "There are two frontrunners now," he stated, "the two First Deputy Prime Ministers [Sergei Ivanov and Dmitri Medvedev]. An intriguing possibility is that [Putin] will say 'I endorse both--you choose'--the Russian people choose." Sitov went on to explain how these two would be promoting themselves to the Russian electorate just as American presidential candidates would do after the two parties have completed their nomination process.

At which point the U.S. commentators cried foul, explaining that Medvedev, a St. Petersburg lawyer and former head of Putin's administration, and Ivanov, the former defense minister and an old KGB crony of Putin's, are members of the same ruling cabal that has been progressively tightening its grip on Russia.

A comparable situation in America, clarified Stanford's Michael McFaul, would be "if George W. Bush decided that Karl Rove and Condoleezza Rice would be the two candidates and all opposition Democratic candidates would not be allowed to run. Second, all of the television stations from which Russians get their political news are either owned or controlled by the state. These are the reforms that Putin has instituted as president of Russia."

Unfortunately, this type of debate takes place only too rarely, and when it does, it's almost always somewhere outside of Russia. One of the few who has spoken out is the well-known reform politician Boris Nemtsov, who was a deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and later served as an adviser to Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko during the Orange Revolution. In a piece that he wrote last week for Russia's respected Vedomosti newspaper, Nemtsov pulled no punches:

It is disgusting to watch the Vremya nightly news on Channel One, which reminds me of the broadcasts during the Brezhnev era. It is appalling how all of the famous journalists who disagreed with the Kremlin were fired. It is disgusting that the St. Petersburg clan in the Kremlin controls billions of dollars in wealth. It is offensive that the level of corruption is now twice what it was under Boris Yeltsin, which has earned Russia shamefully low marks in international corruption ratings every year.

It is reprehensible that police beat people with truncheons, not because they are guilty of crimes, but because they have taken to the streets to demand justice. It is offensive that Putin's portrait hangs in every public office. It is disgusting that the Kremlin spends millions of dollars to bring students to Moscow by bus and train from all corners of Russia to participate in pro-Putin meetings. It is simply nauseating to see how Sergei Ivanov, Putin's best friend and likely successor, was promoted [from defense minister] to first deputy prime minister despite the vile gangsterism that is rampant in the nation's army barracks. . . . It is offensive that Moscow is swimming in wealth while the rest of Russia lives like a poor colony.

But the greatest calamity is that nobody is allowed to utter a word in protest regarding all of this. "Keep quiet," the authorities seem to say, "or things will go worse for you. This is none of your business." . . . It is truly disgusting that people's opinions don't mean anything. "You are welcome to elect whom you choose," they tell us, "as long as it is one of the candidates we have put forward." There used to be 100 million voters. Now there is only one. It is offensive that we have resigned ourselves to accepting as Putin's successor whomever he happens to slap on the back. According to recent polls, fully 40 percent of Russians are prepared to vote for whomever Putin supports--no questions asked.

What Russia's 2008 election promises to deliver is a "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" regime. It will be--in everything but name--a third term for Putin since the same band of Chekisty (Russian slang for those from the intelligence and secret police ranks) will still be in charge.

Even worse, the new man will be trying to show that, like Putin, he can rule with an iron fist. This means belligerence and a search for scapegoats bordering on the irrational will be the order of the day. For a taste of things to come, ponder the anti-U.S. tirade from TASS's Sitov towards the end of the WAMU broadcast. It would have done the Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky proud: "The Putin course will continue," Sitov declared. "He is saying this to the future U.S. president's administration. You need to know that the good old days when you could lie to Russia and steal from Russia, when you could trample on Russia--all those days are over."

In 1995, longtime Soviet ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin released his memoirs, In Confidence, which were reviewed by Steven Merritt Miner in Foreign Affairs. Miner's conclusion was that "one puts down this hefty book with a nagging worry. Dobrynin has advanced a stab-in-the-back theory explaining the Soviet collapse. How widespread this view is among the Russian elite remains to be seen. But carrying as it does a sense of betrayal, xenophobia, and imperial longing, it is a dangerous sentiment. One hopes it never becomes the reigning ideology."

Twelve years later nothing could be clearer than that it is the reigning ideology--and will continue to be so--in Putin's third term.

Reuben F. Johnson writes frequently on Russian politics.

© Copyright 2007, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, July 5, 2007



Translation by Whims of Fate blog.

05.07.2007 20:06
Andrey Savelyev
The decision OF IOC about the victory of Sochi is made only out of corrupt motives, counts the Deputy Chairman of Committee of the State Duma for constitutional legislation and state building Andrey Savelyev.

"The city, into infrastructure of which they will pack enormous money, is absolutely not ready for any mass sport measures", stated deputy in interview REGIONS.RU/"Novosti for federation", commenting on the victory of Russian health resort in the competition to the right of conducting winter Olympiad -2014.

According to the parliamentarian, "Russian mass sport is completely destroyed. Therefore the victory of Sochi causes in me no feelings, except displeasure, besides corruption there's nothing else to expect".

The deputy chairman of committee considers that for the victory of Sochi in the competition to the right of conducting winter Olympiad -2014 "was prepared the act of international corruption of large scale. And differently this cannot be concluded in any other way ".

After reporting that he himself has been in Sochi, Andrey Savelyev emphasized: "in this city neither Olympiad nor other large-scale sport measure cannot be undertaken. Indeed in order to convert this city into the sports center, it is necessary to spend colossal amounts of money, which are necessary in our country for other purposes. Moreover the preparation for the Olympiad will damage of the ecology of surroundings, because of the building it is necessary to change the landscape, which at the given moment does not make it possible to conduct mass sporting events. Therefore this entire idea will cause great harm to both the city and to country".

Deputy is convinced that the arrival of Vladimir Putin into Guatemala in no way influenced the decision of members IOC. "The decision was accepted only due to corrupt motives, and there are no other motives. Since any specialist, who would take one glance at Sochi, immediately would understand that it is not possible to carry out the Olympics there ".

"The decisive argument for the victory -was the huge sums of money, which will be pocketed by members of IOC, and also Russian sport officials, who suffocated Russian sport, and, apparently, for a good reward", the deputy chairman of committee was convinced.

Andrey Savelyev described that he himself spent his entire life practicing martial arts, and now is occupied by karate.