latest articles on russia by nytimes

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.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Russia Wins 2014 Winter Olympic Games

Published: July 4, 2007

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) -- Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi was awarded the 2014 Olympics on Wednesday, rewarding President Vladimir Putin and taking the Winter Games to his country for the first time.

Sochi defeated the South Korean city of Pyeongchang in the final round of a vote by the International Olympic Committee.

The Austrian resort of Salzburg was eliminated in the first round of the secret ballot, setting up the decisive head-to-head contest between Sochi and Pyeongchang. The vote totals were not immediately released.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Putin finally gives in

Czar Vlad finally gave in and expressed his desire to increase the presidential terms to 5-7 years. When Czar himself proposes such things you know it will be so. As if Russia's rotten government could not get any worse, we have this self-preserving worm doing the worst possible thing for Russia. Changing the constitution to give presidents 5-7 year terms is just a precursor to much bigger things. Having expressed desire to restore the Soviet Union before and the it's dictatorial powers, I have no doubt that Putin wants to change the constitution to eliminate any kind of check on his authority. First it's lengthening of presidential terms, then it's abolition of number of terms a president could serve, and the it's the abolition of elections completely or any semblance of political plurality.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


New Concerns on Russia Media Freedom

MOSCOW (AP) -- More than a half-dozen journalists with the Russian News Service, which produces reports that reach millions of radio listeners, resigned to protest the new pro-Kremlin management's policy that at least 50 percent of coverage must be positive, according to former correspondents.

The company that owns the service, Russian Media Group, said Saturday that no one was available to comment on the claims, which come amid growing concern about media freedom in Russia.

In another case highlighting the concerns, the Russian Union of Journalists is protesting an order that it vacate its offices that house state media operations, including the RIA-Novosti news agency and the Russia Today satellite television channel.

During Vladimir Putin's presidency, major Russian media have increasingly come under state control or influence. The media arm of the state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom took control of NTV television - once noted for its criticism of the Kremlin and independent reporting on the war in Chechnya - and the newspaper Izvestia.

Analytical programs on Russia's main TV channels are increasingly infrequent and less likely to express criticism of the Kremlin.

Artyom Khan, who left the Russian News Service in protest on May 9, told The Associated Press that seven of his colleagues also had left or submitted their resignations in the wake of the shake-up at the service, which provides news for its own station as well as others, including Russian Radio - the nation's biggest radio broadcaster, with an audience of 7.4 million daily.

Khan said his new editors told him a report on pro-Kremlin protests outside the Estonian Embassy in Moscow had a "pro-Estonian accent" and was "unprofessional." Editors refused to air material he produced on a Moscow march by the Kremlin's political foes in April, which was broken up by club-wielding riot police, he said.

"I can't say that the new policy is anti-Western or anti-American, but it is clearly pro-Russian," Khan said. "You have to convey the line of the party of power."

Mikhail Baklanov, the former editor-in-chief who was fired in April by the new managers, confirmed that a number of his colleagues had quit.

"People left because there was no chance to work professionally," he said. "They weren't able to do what journalists do," he said. "They were told that the first news item must be positive and the last news must be positive, while negative news must amount to no more than 50 percent" of the report.

The newspaper Kommersant cited the Russian News Service's general manager Vsevolod Neroznak as saying that the departure of journalists was "a usual affair ... restructuring of the company is taking place."

The service's policy "has not changed. The delivery of the news has simply become more considered," he was quoted as saying.

Earlier this week, the journalists' union said that it received an order from the state property agency to vacate its offices by Friday to make space for Russia Today, an English-language channel that critics see as little more than a Kremlin propaganda tool. The union said the order was dated April 18, but delivered only on Tuesday.

The property agency "is throwing out into the street an organization with a 90-year history, counting more than 100,000 journalists in its ranks and making, we may assert, a definite contribution to the construction of a democratic society," the union said in a statement.

"The explanation that 'freeing' the premises is necessary for widening the work of Russia Today, created to put forth to the world a positive image of our country, sounds ridiculous," the statement said.

The international watchdog group Committee to Protect Journalists decried the move.

"The CPJ calls on the government to reconsider its actions, to stop harassing our colleagues, and to allow them to do their work freely," executive director Joel Simon said in a statement.


Associated Press Writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Article published May 8, 2007
Kremlin's U.S. policy: From Yeltsin to Putin
The death of Boris Yeltsin in many ways symbolized the ending of an era in U.S.-Russian relations that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Already strained relations between the two Cold War superpowers deteriorated markedly when the Pentagon announced plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic.

Ironically, on the same day that Yeltsin was buried in Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived on his first official visit to Moscow since his last visit to the Russian capital as CIA director some 15 years ago.

The mission of U.S. Defense Secretary was a clear-cut one: to press Kremlin's top leaders to accept a U.S. plan for anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. The answer from Gates' Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, was a firm statement that the Kremlin was absolutely in opposition to America's missile defense plans in Eastern Europe.

Three days later, Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the stake. In his meeting with Czech President Vaclav Klaus on April 28, the Russian president warned that the U.S. anti-missile system for Poland and the Czech Republic would "increase the danger of mutual damage and even mutual destruction many times," and he threatened strong Russian "countermeasures." In his annual address t0o his nation-the Russian version of the "State of the Union" address, Putin said that unless the U.S. plans were stopped, he would withdraw from Europe's key arms control agreement-the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, signed in the dying months of the Cold War and regarded as the cornerstone of stability in Europe.

The boiling dispute between the United States and Russia over the U.S. missile shield plan in Eastern Europe is clearly bubbling over into increasingly harsh rhetorical exchanges with disturbing overtones of the Cold War. As Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told London's Financial Times in an interview last week, "Since there aren't, and won't be, any ICBMs with North Korea and Iran, then against whom is this system directed? Only against us."

Boris Yeltsin was the man who brought down the Soviet Union from the inside and the archetypal symbol of post-Soviet Russia's "Westernism." In the mid-1980s, he turned decisively against communism and performed one of history's great acts of liberation. While he had no idea about how to bring stability amid the wreckage of the former Soviet Union, Yeltsin had nevertheless been converted to the concepts of democracy and free market.

Yeltsin's final act of handing the country over to a former KGB colonel as his successor, however, has proved devastating for Russia's new democratic enterprise. As Garry Kasparov, the leader of an anti-Kremlin coalition called "The Other Russia," pointed out during his recent visit to Washington, today's Russian state is unique: "the world's other dictatorships are monarchical, clerical or military. Russia's is government of and by the secret police."

"These days," writes Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, "Putin decrees everything. The parliament, from whose free elections Yeltsin sprung to become president of Russia and its liberator, is now a rubber stamp. The press is overwhelmingly a mouthpiece of the state. Power of all kinds-even corruption-has been re-centralized in the Kremlin. Twenty years ago, Yeltsin made a strategic choice for democracy. Putin and his KGB regime have made a different strategic choice: the Chinese model. They watched two great powers take their exits from communism-Maoist China and Soviet Russia-and decided the Chinese got it right."

In Putin's Russia, especially since the "color revolutions" in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, Yeltsin's "Westernism" has been replaced by a rebirth of nationalism. Xenophobia and strong nationalistic sentiments are increasing, both among the leaders of political parties ideologically close to the Russian government and among those that comprise its opposition.

By preaching nationalism and the United States as again a military threat, what the Putin regime is doing is to develop a policy of "enemy-projecting". Such a policy arbitrarily defines an enemy and argues that the West is Russia's "eternal" enemy and no matter what enemies Russia actually faces, like terrorists or Chechen "secessionists," they are really just instruments of Western manipulation in the end; and if Russia is in danger of falling apart, it is really the fault of the West's leader, the United States. Russian-U.S. relations are now at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Destruction of Russia as a modern civilized nation and revanchist illusion.

This is a great article which appeared on Gary Kasparov's site which talks about the world of illusion and lies that Putin has created for the Russian people. I have translated as best as I could.

Opposition by Alexander Trifonov

(The journalist on a calling, the historian by formation.
Has graduated from the Russian State Humanitarian University faculty of history of official bodies and public organizations. The expert in the field of the Internet-media for ethnic and minoritys. The coordinator of working group " Media " of the international Youth Association of Finno-Ugric people (МАФУН). One of founders of the first information resource to Komi language. Married, has a son.

Bifurcation in displaying and perception of a reality – characteristic feature of not democratic societies. Authoritative and totalitarian modes aspire to give out an all desirable view, to show "life" somehow differently, than it is actually. False images do not arise independently, have no objective nature, they are intentionally thrown into society. The doubled picture of the world is actively broadcast to the population through mass-media. Propagandists confidently say lies from tribunes, newspaper leading articles and television, naming black white either grey, or red, depending on a situation, and good bad.

Let's recollect the mass campaigns in the USSR 30th years ago. Then one of elements of construction of a reality were served by means of negative reinforcement of type " Everywhere enemies ", " everywhere spies ", " wreckers among us " …

Within the post Soviet Russia white sometimes referred to black as in case of the first war with the Chechen Republic when " restoring a constitutional order " or " strengthening statehood " and canceling of elections of regional governors, but false images existed separately, not being the whole picture. Since the successful " the March of the Discontented " in Petersburg, Kremlin, similarly, has rolled up sleeves and has started collecting a great mosaic of a lie.

In mass-media the preferred mode is to design "reality" of life to which like during Soviet time, there is the concept of "Utopia". I'd like to bring up for comparison the great writer Orwell with the immortal "1984". We shall compare, for example, slogans of a party from the novel: " War is the world. Freedom is a slavery. Ignorance – force " with today's.

All this is accurate. War with own people in streets of the Russian cities is support of "stabilization", "peace" of an epoch of late Putin, dispersal by means of truncheons, peace and unarmed demonstrations is "freedom".

Now citizens of Russia are offered to not know and be afraid, to not gather in more than two square meters and understand " Marches of Disapproval " as provocation from agents of world imperialism. Everything Is forbidden, and everyone who had the nerve to think of freedom and constitutional laws are beaten. On behalf of the state veterans, youth, and women are caused quite concrete physical pain, punishment from ОМОН (Omon).

But thus masters of the one eighth part of the world quite seriously speak about the country as democratic, go on the different summits with chapters of the western states, and then daily accuse the West of plotting against Russia. It is pure Orwell's Utopia or a schizophrenia – whichever you prefer.

" The new reality " is more important, the web carefully weaved by the Kremlin has started to be incorporated into a network. " Uniform Russia " by puppeteers? What kind of elections can be allowed by the Ministry of Truth?

Also it is not necessary to deceive ourselves supposedly that there is no ideology behind them. It is – boundless authority and money. For the sake of this ideology they are ready to practically do anything and everything. From dead Yeltsin they will start to mold an icon that becomes both our Father and Mother.

So we are doomed. Are doomed to opposition, to a control system of people. Nobody will break off this web for us. The system of opposition, stuck the leaders to authority, itself has agreed to participate in performance under the name " Putin's Russia ", we no longer speak to the country about the parties in power or lured political "elite", of them but to observe terribly, how they have learned to halve consciousness so, that doctor Jekyll, it Mr. Hyde, would die of envy.

It seems to me, it is not necessary to try to prove something to them, the subject ill of schizophrenia requires treatment, and not proofs of their own lies. When you live in a context of double perception, a way back – to normal perception of a reality – is improbably difficult. In fact for this purpose it is necessary to show rationality as potential of the consciousness which will atrophy due to schizophrenia.

The statement is fair not only for participants of process, but also for moderators of an artificial picture of the world.

In the end they have agreed to descend to the level of lower primates. The crash of falsehoods is already predetermined, it is only a matter of time.

Alexander Trifonov

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Yeltsin firsts

1. First Democratically elected ruler in the history of Russia
2. First head of state in the history of Russia to peacefully hand off power on his own accord
3. First Russian head of state to publicly seek forgiveness of the people
4. First Russian head of state to allow complete freedom of speech

Monday, April 23, 2007

Yeltsin is dead.

Yeltsin is dead.

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin ( (February 1, 1931April 23, 2007) was the first President of the Russian Federation from 1991 to 1999.


In the context of Russian History, Yeltsin is both an anomaly and atypical ruler. He signified all the contradictions of Russia yet was strong enough to support what seemed to be the 'right' thing. The fact that he even tried to do what he did is nothing short of incredible. Yeltsin gave the Russian people freedom's they have never know. Yet he also doomed the state to autocracy.

In the company of Russia's 1000 year old history, let us remember Boris Nikolayevich as a flawed, naive, dove among a colony of murderous hawks. Who had the love of his people, however short lived it was.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Well, I see that Russian President Joseph Putin ... er ... I mean, Vladimir Stalin ... er ... well, you know who I mean, has decided that Russian winters will now be summers, anti-Kremlin demonstrations will not exist, opposition politicians and political parties will no longer exist, global warming is a positive thing, and the next time there's a natural or man-made disaster in Russia - say an earthquake or another Chernobyl-like nuclear disaster - Russia will refuse U.S. aid for the victims because A) there was no disaster, and B) it refuses to take aid from the enemy. Tomorrow's non-headline in Russia will be that Free Internet Press is banned from the Russian Internet ... sorry, that should have been "Internyet".

You can read this article by New York Times correspondent Andrew E. Kramer, reporting from Moscow, Russia, in context here:

Russia Tells Radio Network It Must Broadcast 50 Percent 'Positive' News

At their first meeting with journalists since taking over Russia's largest independent radio news network, the managers had startling news of their own: from now on, they said, at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be “positive.”

In addition, opposition leaders could not be mentioned on the air and the United States was to be portrayed as an enemy, journalists employed by the network, Russian News Service, say they were told by the new managers, who are allies of the Kremlin.

How would they know what constituted positive news?

“When we talk of death, violence or poverty, for example, this is not positive,” said one editor at the station who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution. “If the stock market is up, that is positive. The weather can also be positive.”

In a darkening media landscape, raio news had been a rare bright spot. Now, the implementation of the “50 percent positive” rule at the Russian News Service leaves an increasingly small number of news outlets that are not managed by the Kremlin, directly or through the state national gas company, Gazprom, a major owner of media assets.

The three national television networks are already state controlled, though small-circulation newspapers generally remain independent.

This month alone, a bank loyal to President Vladimir V. Putin tightened its control of an independent television station, Parliament passed a measure banning “extremism” in politics and prosecutors have gone after individuals who post critical comments on Web chat rooms.

Parliament is also considering extending state control to Internet sites that report news, reflecting the growing importance of Web news as the country becomes more affluent and growing numbers of middle-class Russians acquire computers.

On Tuesday, the police raided the Educated Media Foundation, a nongovernmental group sponsored by United States and European donors that helps foster an independent news media. The police carried away documents and computers that were used as servers for the Web sites of similar groups. That brought down a Web site run by the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a media rights group, which published bulletins on violations of press freedoms.

Russia is dropping off the list of countries that respect press freedoms,” said Boris Timoshenko, a spokesman for the foundation. “We have propaganda, not information.”

With this new campaign, seemingly aimed at tying up the loose ends before a parliamentary election in the fall that is being carefully stage-managed by the Kremlin, censorship rules in Russia have reached their most restrictive since the breakup of the Soviet Union, say media watchdog groups.

“This is not the U.S.S.R., when every print or broadcasting outlet was preliminarily censored,” Masha Lipman, a researcher at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said in a telephone interview.

Instead, the tactic has been to impose state ownership on media companies and replace editors with those who are supporters of Putin - or offer a generally more upbeat report on developments in Russia these days.

The new censorship rules are often passed in vaguely worded measures and decrees that are ostensibly intended to protect the public.

Late last year, for example, the prosecutor general and the interior minister appeared before Parliament to ask deputies to draft legislation banning the distribution on the Web of “extremist” content - a catch phrase, critics say, for information about opponents of Putin.

On Friday, the Federal Security Service, a successor agency to the K.G.B., questioned Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion and opposition politician, for four hours regarding an interview he had given on the Echo of Moscow radio station. Prosecutors have accused Kasparov of expressing extremist views.

Parliament on Wednesday passed a law allowing for prison sentences of as long as three years for “vandalism” motivated by politics or ideology. Once again, vandalism is interpreted broadly, human rights groups say, including acts of civil disobedience. In a test case, Moscow prosecutors are pursuing a criminal case against a political advocate accused of posting critical remarks about a member of Parliament on a Web site, the newspaper Kommersant reported Friday.

State television news, meanwhile, typically offers only bland fare of official meetings. Last weekend, the state channels mostly ignored the violent dispersal of opposition protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Rossiya TV, for example, led its newscast last Saturday with Putin attending a martial arts competition, with the Belgian actor Jean-Claude Van Damme as his guest. On the streets of the capital that day, 54 people were beaten badly enough by the police that they sought medical care, said Human Rights Watch.

Rossiya and Channel One are owned by the state, while NTV was taken from a Kremlin critic in 2001 and now belongs to Gazprom. Last week, a St. Petersburg bank with ties to Putin increased its ownership stake in REN-TV, a channel that sometimes broadcasts critical reports, raising questions about that outlet’s continued independence.

The Russian News Service is owned by businesses loyal to the Kremlin, including Lukoil, though its exact ownership structure is not public. The owners had not meddled in editorial matters before, said Mikhail G. Baklanov, the former news editor, in a telephone interview.

The service provides news updates for a network of music-formatted radio stations, called Russian Radio, with seven million listeners, according to TNS Gallup, a ratings company.

Two weeks ago, the shareholders asked for the resignation of Baklanov. They appointed two new managers, Aleksandr Y. Shkolnik, director of children’s programming on state-owned Channel One, and Svevolod V. Neroznak, an announcer on Channel One. Both retained their positions at state television.

Shkolnik articulated the rule that 50 percent of the news must be positive, regardless of what cataclysm might befall Russia on any given day, according to the editor who was present at the April 10 meeting.

When in doubt about the positive or negative quality of a development, the editor said, “we should ask the new leadership.”

“We are having trouble with the positive part, believe me,” said the editor.

Shkolnik did not respond to a request for an interview. In an interview with Kommersant, he denied an on-air ban of opposition figures. He said Kasparov might be interviewed, but only if he agreed to refrain from extremist statements.

The editor at the news service said that the change had been explained as an effort to attract a larger, younger audience, but that many editorial employees had interpreted it as a tightening of political control ahead of the elections.

The station’s news report on Thursday noted the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Moscow metro. It closed with an upbeat item on how Russian trains are introducing a six-person sleeping compartment, instead of the usual four.

Already, listeners are grumbling about the “positive news” policy.

“I want fresh morning broadcasts and not to fall asleep,” one listener, who signed a posting on the station’s Web site as Sergei from Vladivostok, complained. “Maybe you’ve tortured RNS’s audience enough? There are just a few of us left. Down with the boring nonintellectual broadcasts!”

The change leaves Echo of Moscow, an irreverent and edgy news station that often provides a forum for opposition voices, as the only independent radio news outlet in Russia with a national reach.

And what does Aleksei Venediktov, the editor in chief of Echo of Moscow, think of the latest news from Russia?

“For Echo of Moscow, this is positive news,” said Venediktov. “We are a monopoly now. From the point of view of the country, it is negative news.”

Friday, April 20, 2007

Russian Parties Reveal Sources of Financing

Revenues and expenditures of major parties in 2006 (mln rubles)

PartyFunds available as of the start of the yearIncoming fundsExpensesFunds available at the end of the year
United Russia393,31382,61344,8431
The Communist Party of Russia19,8140,2116,843,1
The Fair Russia17,5152,4160,79,3
The Liberal Democratic Party0,9140,399,541,8
The Union of Right Forces15,129,134,110,1
The Yabloko2640,350,216,1
Patriots of Russia0,1144,2138,85,6
The Agrarian Party of Russia2,346471,3

Monday, April 16, 2007

Putin's Weekend (Just like Ceasar!)

Not to be bothered by the OMON beating down crowds of old ladies and reporters, Putin went to the mixed fighting championship held in St.Petersburg during the weekend. There he was joined by the "Muscles from Brussels" Mr.Bi-polar Jean Claude Van Damme and ex-prime minister of Italy Berlusconi! What a night!

Who cares about your citizens when there's a good fight in your home town!

- " It's so delightful that you guys don't take all this fighting too seriously! I could never lose like this and live with myself..... If only my citizens were as forgiving..."

It would be a mistake to expect a repetition of Ukraine's Orange Revolution on the streets of Moscow quite yet. But as the Putin presidency becomes ever more aggressive abroad, however, at home it seems increasingly paranoid. And the more paranoid a dictator becomes, the bigger the mistakes he tends to make. Those who lose their grip on reality soon lose their hold on power. For the first time since he came to office, Mr. Putin looks as if he too could be losing his grip.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

In Petersburg we shall converge again

Putin's double?

This is uncanny, according to the photographer this is NOT a photoshop! This picture was taken at the March in Moscow on April 14th, 2007.

More pictures from the author here, Live Journal is the most amazing thing!

But here's the first reports from Saint Petersburg where it is reported that the OMON (special units of militsiya ) from Archangel was let loose on innocent citizens like hungry dogs. Here's some pictures from the WAR in Saint Petersburg, the War on RUSSIAN PEOPLE.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Anti-Putin march photo reports on Live Journal; here , here and here.
Latest pictures from March of the Dissenters in Moscow

Police detain Kasparov at Moscow march

"March of the Dissenters"

Interior Troops at McDonalds

Latest pictures from March of the Dissenters in Moscow.