latest articles on russia by nytimes

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