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Friday, August 31, 2007

August 31, 2007 -- Contents

FRIDAY AUGUST 31 CONTENTS

(1) EDITORIAL: Who Killed Anna?

(2)
Ingushetia is the New Chechnya

(3) Another Day, Anther Raid by Putin's Gestapo

(4) The Horror of Summer with Nashi




EDITORIAL: Who Killed Anna?

EDITORIAL

Who Killed Anna?

"We think the prosecutor-general's announcement was premature, as not everyone has been arrested by a long way. The question of the person who ordered this killing has not been worked out in full - the interpretation of the prosecutor-general is more political than judicial. Our names of those who organized the murder coincide with the official investigation. But the identity of the person who ordered the murder does not coincide."

Those are the words of Novaya Gazeta's deputy editor Sergei Sokolov, as quoted by ABC News and the Moscow Times. Sokolov was responding to the announcement by the Russian prosecutor of ten arrests, which led to four suspects being charged with complicity in the killing of his colleague Anna Politkovskaya. Dimitry Muratov, the paper's editor in chief, told the Independent: "We are absolutely amazed that they have openly stated they know who ordered the crime before the investigation has even been completed." Igor Yakovenko, secretary-general of the Russian Union of Journalists, echoed Muratov: "It's worrying that, even before the investigation has been officially completed, they are pointing the finger at people abroad."

What are they talking about? They're talking about Prosecutor Yuri Chaika's statement, announcing the arrests, that they represented a group of persons hired by someone living outside Russia who wanted to "destabilize the situation in the country. . . and return to the previous ruling system, when money and oligarchs decided everything." Obviously, he meant exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, whom the Kremlin has already blamed for the killing of Alexander Litvinenko. And Chaika was not content to stop there. As the Independent reports: "He also linked the group to the killings of Andrei Kozlov, the corruption-fighting banker who was shot dead last year, and the Forbes magazine editor Paul Klebnikov, killed in 2004."

In an article in Novaya Gazeta, Sokolov made his position clear (we've edited his text slightly for English fluency from the original translation):

Ten people have been arrested on suspicion of the involvement in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Announcing the arrests, an official statement was made that this crime has been solved.

This is not so.

First, not all involved have been arrested.

Second, the guilt of those arrested is yet to be proved. Our own investigation allows us to assume that the arrested people were actually involved in the murder to some degree, but a great deal of routine work remains before the prosecutors (interrogations and searches) before they will be ready to try the case, we we don't believe will happen before the end of this year.

Third, the question of what client ordered murder be carried out by those arrested is yet to be answered.

Fourth, and most important, a revelation to the media was organized because someone had a wish to gain something and someone wanted to prevent investigation from establishing all the circumstances of the contract murder of the journalist, and this leak has complicated the whole situation. From the day that the arrests were announced, starting from 27 August in the Prosecutor’s Office, in the interior ministry and at the FSB, everything has been confused – the names of the suspects, the circumstances of the arrest, their past criminal records. It may seem that perhaps it is the client and client’s protectors who have caused all this fuss.

Even those arrested did not know each other's identities before 27 August, the date of the press conference that featured the statements of the Prosecutor General and various special services officers. And those who are still at large certainly did not know the full list of the arrested. Now those people who remain at liberty can guess the main direction of the investigation and they will have opportunities to escape. The first arrests were made on 13 August, and they were planned and prepared carefully. There was no leak and the investigators planned to make unexpected confrontations, interrogations and lineups The lawyers of those who had been detained were warned against any breaches of the investigation's secrecy. Now it appears that all those measures were in vain. It seems that someone had a wish to make the current list of suspects final and, besides, not to allow any other crimes committed by those arrested to come to light. That's probably because the list of the involved in those other cases could be rather unexpected.

So Kremlin foes drop like ducks at a shooting gallery, and it turns out that they were all killed . . . by another Kremlin foe, the one the Kremlin can't reach by any other means than convincing the world he's a mass murderer? Only someone totally cut off from reality, a fully-realized neo-Soviet man, could possibly think he could get away with making a statement as outrageous as this -- even if it was solely aimed at domestic consumption. But nobody should be surprised to find that there are still plenty of such people in the world, eager to lap up the Kremlin's propaganda like cream and help recreate the USSR. After all, how else could a proud KGB spy ever have come to power in Russia?

For instance, one of the Kremlin's most sycophantic bag men, Charles Ganske of Russia Blog, has written:
Here at Russia Blog, we have declined to speculate on the outcome of these criminal cases before hard evidence is presented - unlike the many media outlets that immediately accused the Russian government of "getting away with murder" and of being "the enemy" last year after Alexander Litvinenko's sensational and public death from radiation poisoning.
Then guess what he writes next:
In terms of motives, it's no secret that Anna Politkovskaya was a staunch critic of the Putin Administration. It's also not a secret that in his book, Godfather of the Kremlin, Paul Klebnikov had publicly accused Boris Berezovsky of ordering the contract killings of his business rivals during the Nineties, and of having direct connections to terrorist groups operating in Chechnya.
So much for his promise not to speculate. His post is chock full of speculation that anyone and everyone, except the Kremlin, killed Anna (just note the length of his sentence noting the Kremlin's motive compared to the length of the one letting the Kremlin off the hook!). Ganske carefully avoids mentioning that, as reported by his employer Forbes magazine, at the time of his death, Klebnikov "was believed to have been investigating a complex web of money laundering involving a Chechen reconstruction fund, reaching into the centers of power in the Kremlin and involving elements of organized crime and the FSB (the former KGB)." So in fact, he was threatening the Kremlin power structure just like Politkovskaya, Litvinenko and Kozlov.

Taking a page right out of the Soviet playbook, Ganske then claims, totally without any attempt at substantiation:
"The fact is that the number of business-related murders and killings of journalists in Russia has actually declined since the 1990s."
He actually expects people to just take his word for this. It's simply amazing that the blogosphere allows this nasty Russophile propaganda to continue. We demand that Ganske source this statement, and prove that political murder has declined in Russia under Vladimir Putin. And if he can't, then we demand an apology and retraction. The blogosphere should enforce this demand so as to maintain some semblance of professional standards.

Ganske is only part of a concerted propaganda onslaught by the Kremlin and its sympathizers -- and those who have simply been suckered by them. For example, the Strata-Sphere blog (operated by a Pat Buchanan clone eager to avoid U.S. "entanglements") totally ignores the statements quoted above from Novaya Gazeta, and quotes out of context a different declaration from Muratov, that:
“We are fully satisfied with the way the investigation proceeded,” said Dmitry Muratov, Novaya Gazeta’s editor in chief. “It was an honest, unbiased and efficient investigation. What’s more, we fully cooperated with the investigators and they didn’t hide anything from us. We know everything the investigators know, and they know everything we know,” he said. “This is why the authorities couldn’t hide the results of the investigation even if they wanted to.”
It's hard to tell whether this is just ignorance or outright duplicity. Strata-Sphere then opines:
This is big news which should up end the conventional wisdom that Putin is the dangerous leader. It is turning out those in exile and desperate to get back into power are the ones who would use murder as a propaganda tool. And if this is the case, then why would they not use nuclear material smuggled through London to disrupt Russia and begin the take over of Russia one such Oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, has openly called for.
It's big manufactured news, classic Soviet propaganda. Novaya Gazeta has said that it feels the Kremlin has arrested the correct people in terms of the actual killers, but it has also said that it doesn't feel the conclusions it has reached about who hired those killers are accurate. Strata-Sphere chooses to simply ignore this basic fact, exactly as the KGB would do if it were writing his article, as well as all other facts that clearly show the Kremlin's guilt. It's propaganda of this kind that deflected our attention from the rise of Soviet dictatorship in Russia the first time. Are we going to let this exact same thing happen again? Even proud athiest and communist Sean Guillory, who detests Berezovsky, America and capitalism itself, doesn't believe Berezovsky engineered all these killings -- only real extremists like Russia Blog and Strata-Sphere go that far.

Strata-Sphere also chooses to ignore the British goverment's formal conclusion, after a full-scale investigation, that Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in a state-sponsored assassination (as well as Russia's stonewalling of the extradition of the alleged killer), asking "why is the UK still sticking by Berezovsky?" and "is Britian being played here?" as if that conclusion had never been made. SS quotes a KGB officer who is now in the Russian Duma blaming Berezovsky, but he ignores the KGB defectors who have blamed the Kremlin. And SS also chooses to ignore the recent ruling by the Swiss Supreme Court that the Kremlin railroaded oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, its chief political rival, into prison and stole his assets. In other words, SS is engaging in propaganda. Read the SS post and ask yourself: How would this have been different if the KGB had been the author?

Strata-Sphere does, at least, quote Muratov's expression of shock that the Kremlin would blame Berezovsky before the investigation had even been completed, but it seems unable to understand the words it is quoting out of context. They don't make sense unless you have the additional material quoted above, and Strata-Sphere's attempt to analyze them ends up being pure gibberish: "Who wouldn’t be ‘absolutely amazed’ when their preconceptions prove to be in error?" Strata-Sphere speaks as if it is incapable of having false preconceptions, although it brags about having never believed the Kremlin was guilty, and it ignores the fact that Muratov is affirming his prior concern that Politkovskaya was targeted by forces friendly to the Kremlin.

The net result is that Strata-Sphere is saying we must believe Novaya Gazeta when it says the Kremlin's initial investigation was credible, but we must ignore it when it says the investigation is not complete and has produced conclusions that are not supported by facts. On top of that, it's saying that puppet-master Berezovsky is pulling the strings not only of a ruthless pack of killers, but of the Russian nuclear industry, the KGB, and Scotland Yard -- and his best plan to undermine the Kremlin is to kill of all of his own best allies, exposing himself to deportation and execution. That's just plain crazy. It's an embarrassment to the blogosphere!

Strata-Sphere seems not to understand (or it chooses to ignore) the fact that Novaya Gazeta has said from the start that it was on the trail of the people who pulled the trigger on Anna. This meant that the Kremlin had no choice, unless it was going to shut down the paper and muzzle its staff, but to investigate and arrest those people, and to show a good effort to the paper in doing so. For Strato-Sphere to suggest, as it seems to be doing, that the Kremlin, if it were guilty, would follow such an investigation past the trigger to the highest reaches of power, exposing and arresting even Vladimir Putin himself if he were guilty, is an insult to the intelligence of every thinking reader in the blogosphere and gives conservatism a really bad name.

If Vladimir Putin thought he could get away with all these murders without the West taking any decisive action against him, he has clearly been proved 100% right, and those who claimed in his defense that ordering such killings would have been wildly dangerous proved 100% wrong. No action of any kind has yet been taken against Putin on account of these killings.

But all is not lost. There is, at least, reason to hope: When Slate magazine reviewed the blogosphere's reactions to the announcement of the arrests, for instance, it cited Robert Amsterdam's analysis, and Mark MacKinnon's supporting it (as well as even Sean Guillory) and ignored Strato-Sphere and Russia Blog. Such understanding is the first prerequisite to action, and indicates that the West is going to much harder to fool this time around. That's encouraging. The Washington Post's editors weren't fooled for a second, echoing Sokolov's words and warning: "Mr. Putin probably intends to use the lie that foreigners are sponsoring deadly plots against Russia as a theme in a domestic political campaign before parliamentary elections this year." The Wall Street Journal said it best: "Mr. Chaika's sweeping dismissal of even the possibility that someone within Russia ordered the killing undermines his credibility. Anna Politkovskaya would not have bought the government's line in such a story without substantial evidence to back it up. To accept anything less would be to dishonor her memory." An avalanche of reporting is rising to Politkovskaya's defense, showing that killing a journalist does have at least some consequences.

We've already documented at length a long list of obviously political murders that dates back to the inception of Vladimir Putin's installation in the Kremlin by Boris Yeltsin and begins with leading human rights advocate Galina Starovoitova. How many opponents of the Kremlin need to fall by the wayside before the world will take the necessary action to stop it?

That's a question to be answered in the future. It's clear that no amount of evidence will ever convince the rabid, frenzied Russophile cabal to disavow their Supreme Leader, and the West's cowardice fits a pattern than began with Hitler. Just try asking one of these folks what action against Russia they would be prepared to support if Putin admitted having ordered all these killings. You'll hear the sound of silence that destroyed the USSR.

And, after all, we've known -- as has every thinking person -- from the beginning who ordered Anna to be killed. Vladimir Putin's Kremlin did. Now we know (perhaps) who actually pulled the trigger at its behest. Hopefully, the world will fully realize, and act on, this obvious fact -- however belatedly and clumsily. Right now, though, there's a more important point to address: A proper answer to the question "who killed Anna?" doesn't place the lion's share of the blame with either Putin or his henchmen. Do you blame a lion for killing a zebra? Those who run the Kremlin are beasts, pure and simple, and beasts kill and eat, that's what they do. If you bring home a lion and put it in your house, it'll eat your children. If it does, you're to blame, not the lion. Do you blame a child for eating the trans-fat-laden food a parent puts in front of him, or breathing in their second-hand smoke? The witless drones who pulled the trigger are nothing more than pathetically helpless children doing the Kremlin's bidding.

No, the people of Russia killed Anna Politkovskaya. They killed her slowly, tortuously, by embracing a regime presided over by a proud KGB spy who launched a barbaric war of aggression against Chechnya, obliterated the independent press, crushed opposition political parties and wiped out local government. They killed her by allowing that regime to appropriate Russia's mineral resources and divert them to a new cold war, radically escalating military spending whilst ignoring Russia's horrifying poverty and demographic crisis. They killed her by making the same mistake twice, and forcing her beloved country down the road traveled by the USSR. And those who stood idly by in the West watching all this happen, rationalizing it, like Strata-Sphere, surely did their part in digging her grave.

Anna was a dead reporter walking, and not mostly because she was doomed to be whacked by a cowardly Kremlin hit. She could handle that, she was made of steel. Threats to her body meant nothing to her. Her soul, though, was another matter - and only her fellow Russian citizens could lay a glove on that. The withering flames of the Russian people's cowardly indifference to their own fate, their own history, that killed Anna long before she fell, melted her soul, inflicting upon her a pain that must have been unbearable even by a true hero like her. In fact, when Putin and his henchmen finished the job, they were probably doing her a favor, preventing her from having to see the worst her country could become.

A worst that is yet to be.


Ingushetia is the New Chechnya

Reuters reports that Ingushetia is the new Chechnya (remember, this region is where the world has insanely chosen to stage the 2014 winter Olympic games, a fundamentally corrupt decision that will live infamy).

Petimat Tatriyeva was woken up one morning late last month by shouts and banging coming from the courtyard of her home. She said it was a raid by Russian security forces. "About 15 men ... burst into the yard. One of them put a machine gun to my forehead. They said: 'Where are the men? We'll count to ten, then throw a grenade into the house'," she told Reuters. "When my 15-year-old son woke up, they threw themselves at him and beat him up," she said. "They beat my husband on the kidneys and pressed their fingers into his eyes."

Tatriyeva and her family live in Ingushetia, a mainly Muslim republic where for more than a decade Moscow's forces have been fighting a low-level military campaign against armed Islamist militants linked to separatists in neighboring Chechnya. But things are getting worse. In response to an escalation in attacks by insurgents, Moscow in late July sent in an additional 2,500 interior ministry troops, almost tripling the number of special forces in Ingushetia. The escalation in violence shows that seven years after President Vladimir Putin came to power on a pledge to "wipe out" the insurgency in Russia's North Caucasus region that includes Chechnya and Ingushetia, the rebels are not beaten.

In Chechnya, attacks have grown rare, but the problems appear to have shifted next door. Some people in Ingushetia draw parallels with Chechnya eight years ago. Then, after a lull in the fighting that had already dragged on for six years, troops were sent back in to respond to a wave of rebel attacks. That unleashed a new war. Now in Ingushetia, reports emerge almost daily of gun battles or ambushes on police vehicles.

This summer the insurgents have killed an aide to Murat Zyazikov, the region's pro-Moscow president, and launched an audacious attack on an army base. Last week a Russian soldier was killed in an attack on a column of troops. In July, the rebels murdered an ethnic Russia schoolteacher, Lyudmila Terekhina, and two of her children. A bomb went off in the cemetery as she was being buried, wounding several mourners. In Ingushetia's capital, Nazran, armored personnel carriers drive through the streets. Roadblocks check the documents of everyone entering the city.

"ROUTINE OPERATION"

Zyazikov, a former official with the Federal Security Service (FSB), a successor to the Soviet KGB, told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday it was a "routine precautionary operation."

"There are no curfews, no punitive operations, no violations of anyone's human rights, whatever anyone says. It has had no impact on the situation. There is no public outrage." However, residents who spoke to Reuters described a massive security operation underway, with regular and often violent raids on private homes by security forces looking for insurgents. Homes in the village of Ali-Yurt were raided after shots were fired at government buildings in the nearby town of Magas. "They brought my husband outside in just his underpants and they pressed me against the wall," said Madina Martazanova. "They told him to lie on the ground, he didn't want to and they forced him down and kicked him in the stomach."

Nazran resident Idris Khamkhoyev said heavy-handed police operations were causing bitterness among the local population. "They (Russian security forces) are rampant and answer to no one," he said. "They are exacerbating the situation and we now fear a repetition of the Chechen problem."

In Moscow, some observers see other parallels with Chechnya. The start of the second Chechen war helped the then little-known Putin show off his credentials as a tough politician. It was a factor in his victory in the 2000 presidential election. Early next year, Russia is due to choose a new president because Putin, limited by the constitution to two consecutive terms, says he is stepping down. Most observers say the Kremlin will encourage voters to back a Putin lieutenant as his replacement. "In theory, the new deterioration of the situation in the Caucasus could be used to raise the profile of the successor, or as a pretext for calling off the election completely," said New Times, a Russian-language news magazine.

RIA Novosti reports:

The murder of a Russian-speaking teacher's family in the North Caucasus Republic of Ingushetia, could be a possible revenge killing following the death of a militant, an aide to the republic's prosecutor general said. Islam Belokiyev a suspected militant field commander was killed during a police operation August 30, in the Nazran district, the largest city in Ingushetia. On August 31 at around 01:00 a.m. unknown assailants broke into a house in the town of Karabulak, in Ingushetia, and shot Vera Draganchuk's husband and two sons, 20 and 24 years respectively, with an automatic rifle. "The woman was hiding and the murderers could not find her," the source said adding that Vera also has a daughter but that her fate was unknown.

No suspects have been arrested to date and a criminal case has been launched. Russian Interior Ministry officials have arrived in Nazran to assist in the investigation. This is the latest crime in a series of similar incidents in the republic neighboring troubled Chechnya, which saw two Moscow-led military campaigns against separatist regimes in the 1990s- early 2000s.

In the early hours of July 16, ethnic Russian teacher Lyudmila Terekhina, 55, and her son and daughter were shot in their house in the town of Ordzhonikidzevskaya. Policemen said possible motives were robbery and nationalistic sentiments. At their funeral two days later a tripwire bomb went off leaving 11 people injured.

The region is inhabited by a predominantly non-Slavic Muslim population.

And from the BBC:

Deadly blast in southern Russia
Map

Four people have been killed in a large explosion in the city of Nazran, capital of the southern Russian republic of Ingushetia, reports say.

The blast took place as a security forces vehicle passed a government building, Interfax news agency says. Earlier, gunmen killed three members of an ethnic Russian family. Explosions and gunfights have become increasingly common in Ingushetia, a largely Muslim republic bordering war-torn Chechnya. President Vladimir Putin earlier this month announced the deployment of an extra 2,500 troops in the republic. The Nazran blast killed four policemen, Russian news agencies reported. Three died at the scene and one later in hospital. The explosion took place at 1900 local time (1500 GMT), one official told the Itar-Tass agency. One police officer told the Reuters news agency a Lada car packed with explosives blew up in the town centre. On Thursday night three men - the husband and two sons of an ethnic Russian schoolteacher - were killed in an attack. The woman, Vera Draganchuk, escaped by jumping out of a window, police said. The attack is the second of its kind in two months.

Lyudmila Teryokhina, a Russian teacher, and her two children were shot dead in Ingushetia in July.

Another Day, Another Raid by Putin's Gestapo

Human Rights First reports:

On August 29, 2007, police raided the office of the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Promote Tolerance, the successor to the Russian Chechen Friendship Society, with an order to seize the organization's computers to investigate alleged "computer-related crimes." The police also said that they were carrying out an investigation into the organization's finances. The raid has resulted in further disruption of the legitimate activities of a non-violent independent human rights organization that has now been the target of sustained repression for over two years. It follows in quick succession the further restrictions imposed on the organization's director, Stanislav Dmitrievsky on August 17, 2007.

Human Rights First regards all of these measures as unwarranted official interference in the legitimate activities of a human rights organization. We are concerned that these measures may be indicative of an escalation of repression against non-violent independent non-governmental organizations in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia. On August 28, 2007, Almaz Choloyan, of the Nizhny Novgorod Center to Support Migrants, was informed that she was the subject of a criminal investigation and banned from leaving the city. Police and security officers who raided her apartment and the organization's office warned her that she could risk prosecution for "stirring up ethnic hatred" for her activities in support of the rights of vulnerable migrants.

Also on August 28, 2007, at a meeting of the regional counterterrorism committee of the Nizhny Novgorod district, the regional governor announced the creation of a "list of extremists" and the need to "check the activities of all organizations where young people work." Activists in Nizhny Novgorod fear that in the months leading up to the 2008 presidential elections, further measures will be taken to disrupt the activities of independent non-governmental organizations, especially those that are publicly critical of various aspects of government policy.

To take action in support of these dissidents, through HRF, click here.

The Horror of Summer with Nashi

The horror of Nashi, revealed by Germany's Financial Times:

In a sunlit glade fringed with pine forest and a deep-blue lake, thousands of hands clap in unison with the beat. It could be a rock festival, were it not for the song's refrain - "Go on, Russia." - and the clunky slogans splashed across the speaker stacks: "Let's modernise the country! Let's defend our sovereignty!"

This is morning aerobics at Lake Seliger, 200 miles north-west of Moscow. For two weeks, 10,000 student-age activists from Nashi, a youth group that supports Vladimir Putin, the president, are gathered at a summer camp to sing, dance, swim, and take part in an "educational megaproject", with lectures on everything from entrepreneurship to civil rights.

Nashi - Russian for "our own" - was formed with Kremlin blessing two years ago to channel youth political activism and oppose attempts at a Ukraine-style "orange" revolution. Today, thanks to its largely corporate sponsorship, it is the best funded of a handful of pro-Kremlin groups. Claiming 10,000 active members and 200,000 volunteers, it dwarfs any opposition movement. Nashi calls itself a "youth democratic anti-fascist movement". Others say it is an example of what it claims to oppose, deserving its nickname - the Nashists.

Critics point to the group's high-profile, and controversial, activities. These include the month-long hounding of Sir Tony Brenton, British ambassador to Moscow, after he spoke at an opposition conference. It was Nashi members who organised thuggish demonstrations outside Estonia's embassy after Tallinn dismantled a Soviet war memorial.

At Seliger plenty of what Nashi calls patriotism, but others might term nationalism, is in evidence. There are ubiquitous calls to defend Russian sovereignty, with one poster illustrated with a nuclear missile. A board headed "Red Light District" shows posters with the faces of Mikhail Kasyanov, Garry Kasparov and Eduard Limonov - leaders of the opposition Other Russia coalition - digitally superimposed on lingerie-clad women. "They're shown as prostitutes because they're traitors to the country," says Alina Belyagina one of several members of Nashi's information section assigned to "escort" journalists around the camp.

Nearby there is a lecture on electoral law. The camp aims to train leaders to form a 60,000-strong force to monitor voting and conduct exit polls at parliamentary elections in December and next March's presidential election, to counter any opposition claims of vote-rigging. "We will have exit poll data that will confirm the official results," says Dmitry Baranovsky, co-ordinator of Nashi's election programme.

Conversation is dominated by the idea that the west will work with domestic opposition to subvert the elections. Activists reverently of Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin ideologist who coined the term "sovereign democracy" to describe the closely-controlled Putin political system, and who will address the camp's final day. Asked against whom "sovereign democracy" must be defended, Yulia Kuliyeva, a 20-year-old member of Nashi's ideology department, echoes Kremlin officials twice her age: "We are defending our sovereignty not from someone else, but for ourselves, so that people listen to us, so that we can speak and our opinion will be taken into account," she says.

Nashi does attempt to counter the racist nationalism of far-right groups. An "ethno-village" at the camp displays cultures of Russia's many minorities. Invited foreign guests will lecture on their national cultures. And, for many, politics seem secondary to a belief that attending Seliger is good for career prospects. In the "Gazprom tower", Nashi members can apply for internships with the state-run gas company and other energy groups.

Analysts suggest that just as today's pro-Putin United Russia party resembles the Soviet Communist party in that ambitious officials feel they need to join, so Nashi has echoes of the Komsomol, the communist youth league. Vasily Yakemenko, the former Kremlin official who founded Nashi, admits some symbols are similar but insists that the ideology differs fundamentally.

August 30, 2007 -- Contents

THURSDAY AUGUST 30 CONTENTS

(1) Annals of Russian "Patriotism"

(2) Russia's Economic War on the West

(3) Another One Bites the Dust

(4) Annals of the Russophile Sociopath

(5) Annals of Russian "Sportsmanship"




Thursday, August 30, 2007

Annals of Russian "Patriotism"

The BBC reports on how Russians love their country, and how their country loves them right back:

Russia Plesetsk map
Pte Sergei Sinkonen was beaten by two drunken superiors, then thrown into a kennel with guard dogs, officials say. He was found in a coma the next day and underwent an emergency operation, but died of his head wounds. Bullying incidents are frequent in the Russian armed forces, sometimes resulting in the deaths of soldiers, either by killing or by suicide.

Sinkonen, 21, was a conscript from the northern city of Petrozavodsk, serving with the space troops at Plesetsk, a cosmodrome used to launch mainly military satellites.

Two weeks ago, he and another soldier were beaten by two officers who had been drinking heavily at a wedding celebration. Doctors said belt buckles had been used to inflict severe injuries on Pte Sinkonen's head.

Dozens of deaths

Russian military prosecutors are investigating the case as one of "exceeding professional authority" - a vague Russian legal definition most often applied to torture cases, BBC Russian affairs analyst Steven Eke reports. Harsh physical discipline has historically been a feature of Russian military life, he adds, but bullying now claims the deaths of dozens of young men every year. It is the major reason why most Russian families do everything possible to help their sons avoid military service, he says.

Monsters and Critics has more on the story:

After the deadly abuse of a soldier at the Russian Plessezk space base, Defence Minister Anatoli Serdyukov has dismissed its commander, the Interfax news agency reported on Wednesday quoting military sources. According to the sources, the major general was responsible for the situation. The Russian military has repeatedly made headlines with the torture of soldiers. The 21-year-old soldier was beaten up so badly by two of his drunk superiors in mid-August that he died of his injuries. The forces at the rocket base near the city of Archangelsk are considered elite units. According to statistics by the Defence Ministry, during the first half of this year more than 260 soldiers died off duty - most of them took their own lives. Every year thousands of young recruits are injured in abuse by superiors), where many soldiers suffer lasting damage. Parents often pay substantial bribes to save their sons from conscription, media reports say. The public prosecution on Wednesday brought charges against an ensign who is believed to have beaten up the 21-year old. The second suspect, a captain, was currently being treated in a psychiatric unit, news agencies reported. Another soldier, who was also abused, survived the attacked.

Barbarism, pure and simple.

Russia's Economic War on the West

The Financial Post of Canada reports on Vladimir Putin's continuing neo-Soviet efforts to undermine the economies of the West. When will we meet this threat with the appropriately aggressive response? Perhaps not until Putin soul-gazer George Bush is out of power, which would explain Putin's aggressive scrambling to take advantage now:

Frank Stronach's deal, approved yesterday by shareholders, to sell 42% of his voting control in Magna International Inc. to 39-year-old Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska will be either a home run or go down as one of the most naive business transactions ever. Keep in mind the plan was sparked by the introduction of the two men by Barrick Gold Corp.' s chairman, Peter Munk. His endorsement is why Barrick's chief executive, Greg Wilkins, joined Magna's board this month. "It's Frank's best deal ever," Peter said in a recent interview. "[Russian President Vladmir] Putin wants to build an auto industry in Russia and will use oil to sell cars. He will force the Indians and Japanese to buy Russian cars in return for oil." Well, good luck, Moscow.

That's a worrisome strategy and not the way markets outside of Russia work. It's also a geopolitical agenda that could be at odds with the best interests of Magna shareholders. But it will take years to find out and shareholders who don't like the way things are going can cash out, and employees are free to leave, too. When I first heard about it, I remembered a story that Frank told me about his first transaction when he was a young boy in Austria involving a horse and some Russians. "After the war the Russians invaded us. Thousands came with tanks and horses. I was only 12 and watched two Russians fix an abandoned car by the side of the road and get it started. When the car worked, they gave me their horse. I put it in a barn," he said. "The next day it was gone."

Now it's 2007, and not war-torn Europe, and Frank needed a succession plan and another market. This is a succession and marketing plan because Frank has decided to sell half of his control to a Russian with a potential upside rather than give it all to his children, Belinda and Andrew. It's a bold, risky move. It will require all the talent that Frank Stronach and his managers possess, and then some, to essentially pull off the transformation of Russia's auto industry. Mr. Deripaska, a relative of Boris Yeltsin's and buddy of the current Russian President, has never done a turnaround or even run a business for very long.

His skill set is the acquisition of assets in a country without the rule of law. On the other hand, Frank is no fool, nor is Peter Munk, who has no interest in this deal but does mining business with Deripaska. "Oleg's a friend and I've known him for years," Peter said. "He's a fabulous businessman. He's a scientist and very brilliant. He's part of Russia's younger generation and has credibility and contacts which you need in Russia. He has the backing of its government."

"Barrick is partners with him in gold mining and we're very comfortable with him. [Deripaska] has been checked 100 different ways. He wants to keep Magna and turn it into a global champion," he said. I think the deal represents a creeping foreign takeover by Russians of Canada's sixth-largest corporation. So if Deripaska succeeds, the company Frank Stronach founded will be a Russian global champion, not a Canadian one.

Another One Bites the Dust: Who Will be Next?

The Moscow Times reports that an arrest warrant has issued for Mikhail Gutseriyev. When we predicted this four weeks ago, some Russophile slugs responded by saying we were over-reacting and this wouldn't happen. Well, it has. Now the only question is: Who will be next as Russia slips down in to the neo-Soviet abyss. If you are in Russia, dear reader, it could be you. Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

A Moscow court on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant for billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev, amid speculation that the former Russneft president had fled the country to avoid what he last month called a politically motivated campaign against him. The Tverskoi District Court approved an Aug. 6 request by prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant for Gutseriyev, spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said. "When they find him, they'll arrest him," she said. Gutseriyev had broken a vow not to leave the city, a police spokesperson said, Interfax reported.

Gutseriyev, who stepped down last month as head of Russneft, was charged in May with "illegal entrepreneurship" for exceeding production quotas at the country's seventh-largest oil company. He also stands accused of tax evasion. Gutseriyev wrote a scathing letter to employees upon his departure July 30, accusing tax and legal authorities of pressuring him to step down in favor of a more state-friendly leader. A source inside the company, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case, said he had not seen Gutseriyev for about two weeks. "I don't think he's in the country," the source said.

Gutseriyev has been placed on an international wanted list and has fled the country, an unidentified Interior Ministry official said, Bloomberg reported. Interior ministry spokespeople declined to comment, and Interpol's Moscow office and headquarters in France did not respond to requests for comment. The move against Russneft comes amid renewed speculation that the Kremlin is heading closer to creating a giant state-run oil holding, which would include assets from firms such as Rosneft, Surgutneftegaz and Russneft. Gutseriyev created Russneft from scratch in 2002 after leaving state-run oil firm Slavneft and subsequently buying its assets on the cheap. Forbes magazine estimates his personal fortune at $2.9 billion. "This [arrest warrant] is a different matter. It has nothing to do with Russneft," the company source said.

The Federal Tax Service has brought a total of eight lawsuits against 11 companies that are or have been shareholders in Russneft, and some of its shares and all of its assets have been frozen. Basic Element, the holding company controlled by Kremlin-friendly oligarch Oleg Deripaska, is hoping to buy the embattled oil firm. "Our plans regarding Russneft have not changed," Basic Element spokesman Sergei Rybak said Tuesday. Yet Irina Kashunina, a spokeswoman for the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, said Deripaska's holding had yet to send the service a request for approval of its bid.

Gutseriyev explained the reasons behind his departure in a letter published in Russneft's internal magazine in late July. "I was invited to leave the oil business 'on good terms.' I refused. Then, to make me more compliant, the company was subjected to unprecedented hounding," Gutseriyev wrote. "I am handing control of the holding to a new owner whose appearance, I am sure, will ensure that all Russneft's problems will be resolved in time," he wrote. The letter was quickly removed from Russneft's web site, however, and Gutseriyev subsequently disavowed the statements in interviews with Russian news agencies.

Yet the letter appeared to provide insight into the workings of a sector coming under increasing state control, with a boldness unseen since former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky accused the Kremlin of orchestrating his arrest to wrest the company from him. Khodorkovsky and his associate Platon Lebedev are currently serving eight-year prison terms on charges of fraud and tax evasion, while other high-ranking Yukos officials live in exile in Britain and Israel. It remains unclear when Gutseriyev was last seen. According to Kommersant, Gutseriyev attended the funeral of his son, Chingiskhan, who died after a car crash in Moscow on Aug. 22. The funeral was held Thursday in the family's native republic of North Ossetia. The newspaper said Chingiskhan, 21, died at home of a brain hemorrhage from injuries sustained in the crash and that police and hospitals had no record of the accident. The version of events presented by tabloid newspaper Tvoi Den was similar, adding that Chingiskhan Gutseriyev called his father from home after the crash to say his Ferrari was a write-off, but that he felt well enough not to seek medical assistance. The tabloid said Gutseriyev did not attend his son's funeral.

On July 31, Moscow's Lefortovsky District Court froze all of Russneft's assets, blocking Gutseriyev's ability to sell or transfer his stake of about 70 percent in the company. The city's courts have consistently upheld multimillion-dollar lawsuits against Russneft. In late July, a Moscow court upheld a 3.4 billion ruble ($134 million) lawsuit against the firm on tax evasion charges, and earlier this month a Moscow arbitration court upheld a further 17 billion ruble ($665 million) tax evasion lawsuit. The arbitration court was due to hear a further two lawsuits Wednesday brought by the Federal Tax Service over invalid share transactions. The Energy Intelligence newsletter reported last week that the Kremlin was aiming to incorporate Russneft into a new state oil holding, which would also include the assets of state-run Rosneft and Zarubezhneft, the state-run oil company that focuses on oil projects abroad.

Annals of the Russophile Sociopath

Writing in the Moscow Times someone named Gordon M. Hahn (pictured), identified as a "senior researcher and adjunct professor" at something called the "Monterey Institute for International Studies" (whatever the hell THAT is) and author of the book Russia's Islamic Threat spews forth the following heap of Russophile goo. Weirdly, this fellow seems to be deeply associated with the ultra-conservative Hoover Institute, to which Condi Rice also has ties. You probably know all you need to know about this sociopath if you understand that he's part of the wacko cabal of Peter Lavelle, a Kremlin shill who churns out propaganda for Russia Today state-owned TV. It just goes to show that we conservatives have to watch our backs as well as our fronts where Russia is concerned. Shame on Hoover for being associated with this crap (it's noteworthy he doesn't name them in his MT bio statement). Let's help him look foolish, shall we?

The West Lost Russia

LR: Let's start with the title. Just reading it show that this demented loser is automatically disqualified from serious consideration. Examine the text, and you won't find one single sentence that indicates Russia made ANY mistake in its relations with the West. It's 100% innocent according to this moron. You will find, however, the thesis that although Russia is now making common cause with rogue nations like China and Iran, and turning into a crazed neo-Soviet dictatorship, if only we had spoken the right soft words of tender encouragement to Russia, it would have been our bosom friend and a reliable democracy. Moreover, you will find the arrogant American theory that we control the entire world, that it's up to us to decide how Russia's history plays out.

In contrast to the purported global warming, Russian-Western relations are undergoing a real cooling. The mounting frigidity in the relationship was symbolized in Moscow's surprise rush to the Arctic. The aim of this expedition was to gather scientific evidence to support a legal territorial claim to the Lomonosov Ridge. But this was just one salvo in a summer flurry that underscored a new, resurgent Russia. Others include:

• A diplomatic offensive across the Middle East and Asia that included hints of forming a natural gas cartel.

• President Vladimir Putin's moves to withdraw from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

• The resumption of long-range strategic bomber flights that will patrol areas bordering European and U.S. airspace.

• An announcement to expand the Navy's global presence, including basing once again some of its forces in the Mediterranean Sea.

• The militarization of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as members and Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia as observers.

In short, Russia is back as a global player, and it is no longer a starry-eyed admirer of the United States.

LR: "Starry-eyed admirer of the United States"? What a completely demented statement! Never for one second in its history has Russia been any such thing. Perhaps he thinks that when Boris Yeltsin was besieging the Russia Duma, he was emulating George Washington? None of the examples he gives makes Russia anything remotely like a "global player" -- except to the extent that Osama Bin Laden is one. They are nothing more than the empty posturing of a pathetic, desperate, malignant little troll who is consumed with seething hatred for the values of the West and who enjoys the overwhelming support of the Russian people.

These are the bitter fruits of the West's -- and in particular the United States' -- mistaken policies toward Russia since the end of the Cold War. Instead of treating Moscow magnanimously, as historian Richard Pipes once urged, the West declared victory. Unlike the victory in World War II over Nazi Germany, however, no Marshall Plan was forthcoming. Instead, the West promised but did not deliver timely economic assistance in the early 1990s. It also backed a disastrous and broadly unpopular privatization and economic reform program. Worst of all, it alienated the entire Russian elite by expanding NATO to include Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Baltic states. Further rounds of expansion may very well bring Georgia and Ukraine into the alliance. The NATO and European Union expansion, which did not include a substantive role for Russia, effectively locked Moscow out of a Western orbit that the Kremlin thought it was joining.

LR: He's completely off his rocker! Germany fought in and was defeated by a hot war. Russia was not. Therefore, the analogy of the Marshall Plan is totally bogus. All Russia needed to do was to walk away from dictatorship and embrace democracy and market capitalism. It never did this. To suggest that if we had been nicer to the Russians they wouldn't have elected a proud KGB spy and launched a new cold war is childish to the point of insanity, and arrogant to the point of being embarrassing to every American and every Russian on the face of the Earth.

Early on, U.S. President Bill Clinton wondered aloud to his top Russia hand, Undersecretary of State Strobe Talbott, about how long they could continue to shove things down Moscow's throat. U.S. President George W. Bush followed Clinton's lead by declaring initially that Russia was no longer a major player in global affairs or a major focus of U.S. foreign policy. Shortly thereafter, Bush announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the expansion of NATO closer to Russia's borders. Now Moscow's bitter disappointment with the West has taken the form of harsh anti-Americanism. It has also translated into a burning desire among the Russian elite and public to finally show the West that it would regret its policies once Russia "got up from its knees." That time has surely come.

LR: Some scientist! Not for one second does this maniac even consider the possibility that, far from being to harsh with Russia, the West (and Clinton especially) was far too lenient. Having not tasted actual defeat, why shouldn't Russians have thought that they could dupe the West, bide their time, and then reassert a neo-Soviet dictatorship? NATO was not expanded to include Urkaine and Georgia as it should have been, and the result is a new wave of neo-Soviet imperialism in those regions. No effort was made to control the succession of Boris Yeltsin, and we were left facing a proud KGB spy as the ruler of Russia.

Some analysts warned that this would be the inevitable result of NATO expansion and other flawed U.S. and Western policies. Only a partnership with Russia and a firm policy of drawing it into the West would prevent Moscow's turn to the East. This also would have prevented the revival of traditional Russian suspicion -- if not outright antagonism -- toward the West. Finally, a closer cooperation with Russia may have prevented Moscow's disenchantment with democracy, which it has interpreted as being no more than an insidious and cynical Western ploy to weaken Russia.

LR: Partnership with Russia? Why, that sounds just like the partnership with Hitler that Chamberlain proposed. Apparently, this dolt hasn't heard that the idea didn't work out too well.

The cost of NATO expansion is that Russia has been lost in the medium term -- and perhaps in the long term as well -- as a powerful, committed democracy and Western ally. Moreover, the West has pushed Russia closer to China and Iran. If these are the costs of NATO expansion, what are the advantages? Few, if any. The alliance received from its new member states: a few thousand additional troops that are stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, a three-jet Latvian air force and five Estonian nurses. Compare these benefits to Russia's vast military and intelligence resources and experience -- particularly in Afghanistan. Moreover, Moscow has helped to track down global jihadists, prevent the proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction and reconstruct Afghanistan. As a true ally, Russia could contribute much more to the Western alliance than the small new NATO members.

LR: Committed democracy? Wow, he's really in outer space now. This paragraph has all the earmarks of someone who's been bribed by the Kremlin to spew their propaganda. Russia has never once held a truly contested election between rivals not associated with the Communist Party, and everyone with a pulse knows that nothing like democracy happened under Boris Yeltsin. "True ally?" Russia spurned the idea of membership in NATO from day one. Apparently, this lunatic thinks that suddenly, magically, as soon as the USSR collapsed, the people of Russia gave up their seething contempt for the West and were ready to become the West, and only failed to do so because we didn't talk nicely enough to them. It's exactly this kind of idiotic garbage that gives the American intellect a bad name.

All opinion polls now show that a plurality or majority of Russians regard the United States as the greatest threat to Russia and the world. Putin has repeatedly decried the U.S. impetus for a "unipolar" international structure -- which is to say, global hegemony. The Russian elite's consensus is even harsher. Alexander Solzhenitsyn recently said the United States seeks to encircle and weaken Russia. This statement is highly symbolic, coming from the esteemed writer who once took refuge in the United States as a political refugee from the Soviet state. It also underscores how cold U.S.-Russian relations have become.

LR: He's citing Solzhenitsyn! Can you believe it? He's saying that Solzhenitsyn says Russia can be trusted, so we should listen to him, because Solzhenitsyn has our best interests at heart! That's his big gun! The Moscow Times editors must have been rolling on the floor convulsed in fits of laughter when he submitted this.

One hopes the next U.S. administration will not repeat Clinton and Bush's mistakes of insulting and underestimating Moscow. Even in the best of circumstances, the next U.S. president and his or her Western allies will face the daunting task of piercing through the unfortunate and unforgiving perceptual lens through which resurgent Moscow views the West, especially Washington.

LR: Ironically, we could not agree more. The next U.S. president must directly confront Russia in a much more aggressive manner, demanding that it cease taking actions that directly undermine U.S. security or face full-scale cold war that will drive Russia into oblivion, the ashcan of history.



Annals of Russian "Sportsmanship"

The Irish Examiner reports:

The Russian Rowing Federation is the focus of an investigation after three of its members were disqualified from the World Rowing Championships. The three athletes, two from the men’s double sculls and one from the women’s eights, were not found guilty of taking an illegal substance but of using a prohibited method. An intravenous drip had been used by all three and, despite the fact the substances they infused into their body not being on the banned list, the methodology is not permitted. Drips may only be used where it is medically necessary. According to World Rowing Federation (FISA) rules, this was punishable by immediate elimination from the competition and a two-year suspension for each of the athletes.

However, the Russian federation could also face disciplinary action due to another article of the FISA statutes aimed at punishing any kind of organised drug use. An investigation was already under way since a Russian rower was also found guilty of a doping offence 12 months ago – on that occasion using a banned substance. “We have special rules to deal with systematic doping and if four or more violations are committed by athletes of one federation in a 12-month period, certain action may be taken,” explained FISA executive director Matt Smith. The question which must be cleared first of all is whether the three incidents this year and the one last year actually took place within the same 365-day period.

With an investigation still in progress, Smith was not able to confirm or deny whether that was the case, but he could reveal that the latest incident was the result of testing done before the start of the World Rowing Championships last Sunday. He said: “The test was not done here in Germany. We did extensive out-of-competition testing in June and July. “We had evidence which led us to the Russian team and so we did some extensive testing (of them).” FISA took immediate action on Tuesday night, calling the athletes before a panel and presenting them with their evidence. All the athletes admitted using the illegal methods and agreed to face the panel on Tuesday night to see if they would be able to compete on Wednesday or not. FISA had enough evidence to exclude them.

The haste of FISA’s action was in stark contrast to last year, when the Russian women’s quadruple sculls team was stripped of a gold medal as test results were delayed. “On July 23 last year, a woman athlete was tested at Russia’s training camp in Bulgaria and the example was sent to Paris for analysis,” explained Smith. “The Paris office closed down for the whole of August and, on September 20, we received the positive result. “We usually have a 10-day turnaround time, but this test was performed by WADA who did not closely follow the case and delivered the results late, forcing us to take away the gold medal. “This year, we have no cases hanging over. We did 44 tests last Thursday and Friday and all of them resulted negative.” Smith also revealed the athlete who failed the test last July 23, Olga Samulenkova, was also tested on July 22 – a test which resulted negative. The WADA returned 24 hours later to take another sample, and this came back positive. “I think this sends out a message to the athletes that, once they have been tested, it does not mean they will not be tested again,” added Smith. A FISA panel is to meet again on Wednesday evening and more details, including the possibility of further action, will be revealed.

August 29, 2007 -- Contents

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 29 CONTENTS

(1) The Politkovskaya Arrests

(2) Why Does Russia Hate Children So Much?

(3) Russian, the Language of Slavery

(4) Cowardly Kremlin Attacks Voice of Beslan

(5) EDITORIAL: The Lies from Russia Blog Never Seem to End


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Politkovskaya Arrests

Robert Amsterdam on the recent arrest by the Kremlin of several alleged suspects in the killing of hero journalist Anna Politkovskaya:

Something I learned very early on in the Khodorkovsky case is that Russian prosecutors are specialized in arranging political show trials and performing illusions of due process - but when it comes to actual investigations and the procurement of evidence (even for real and legitimate criminal cases), they have not the talent nor ability to get the job done.

polit08271.jpg

In this spirit, we have no choice but to greet with caution the news that ten unnamed people have now been arrested in connection with the brutal slaying of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Prosecutor- General Yuri Chaika, who recently blasted Switzerland for having refused to cooperate with Russia on the Khodorkovsky case, has already declared that Politkovskaya's murder was ordered from outside of Russia by some nefarious opponents of the government, or, as he characterized them: "Forces interested in destabilizing the country, changing its constitutional order, in stoking crisis, in a return to the old system where money and oligarchs ruled, in discrediting national leadership, provoking external pressure on the country, could be interested in this crime."

Once Chaika got rolling, it seems he couldn't stop. By his reasoning, the group that conspired to murder Anna Politkovskaya was headed up Chechens, who were also possibly responsible for the murders of Forbes journalist Paul Klebnikov and even central banker Andrei Kozlov. However, once Chaika was reminded that the procuracy had already selected Alexei Frenkel to play the fall guy for the Kozlov murder, he backed off this assertion.

With the arrest of these ten people, it's hard to blame Chaika for wanting to clear as many troublesome outstanding cases as possible. May as well tack on the murders of Czar Nicolas II and his family - which is also currently under a renewed investigation by the prosecutor general.

Reader Penny writes that "this should be interesting, another sham of a show trial coming" and quotes FOX News as follows:

Alexei Simonov, chairman of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a leading Russian media rights watchdog, said he and the staff of Politkovskaya's newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, knew of the arrests a week ago. "I think these are serious arrests based on real evidence," Simonov said, asserting that the motive was "undoubtedly linked to Chechnya." He said that those arrested likely included the shooter and accomplices who set up surveillance. But while he said he was confident investigators tracked down Politkovskaya's killers, he expressed concern that the truth about who was behind the slaying could prove more elusive. He said the staff of Novaya Gazeta feared the authorities would "steer the case in the direction of London" and blame Politkovskaya's killing on Berezovsky. Weeks after the killing the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported that investigators were focusing on former Russian police officers linked to crimes against civilians in Chechnya. Pointing to Russian prosecutors' unenviable record in solving journalists' slayings, Igor Yakovenko, head of the Russian Union of Journalists, voiced caution about the prosecutor's announcement. "I really want to hope that we have reached a turning point, but I think we should wait for concrete results," Yakovenko said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Meanwhile, the bilingual ZAXI blog writes:

Why did this cover-up take so long?

And what a sad question to greet the arrest of 10 current and former FSB and other agents in the October 2006 slaying of the brave reporter Anna Politkovskaya. Need we ask? The shooting was masterminded from abroad by people who want to restore “the old system of order when everything is decided by money and the oligarchs.”

Prosecutor General Yury Chaika’s words should be read to mean that President Vladimir Putin is lucky to still be alive. Putin was the actual target – not the journalist who had just returned from Chechnya with footage of the Kremlin’s official henchman there torturing some detained locals for dinner party entertainment.

One irritating point to get out of the way: Why use kindergarten code when accusing London exile Boris Berezovsky of murder? Does the Kremlin believe that not mentioning Berezovsky by name somehow diffuses the weight and responsibility of the charge? Putin’s FSB entourage cannot expect to play this game forever – things are actually reaching court. So is it accusing Berezovsky of orchestrating the murder or will there be a mock trial against phantom foreign enemies of the Russian state? Does it fear actually charging Berezovsky because of how it looks in the West – or because the required tangible proof could unravel and lead to the actual culprits?

It matters little. The case was preordained to end exactly like this – with Chaika parroting the words Putin first uttered three day after Politkovskaya’s death. Putin came out of an ugly silence to tell the US president and the German chancellor – and eventually the Russian people – that “the level of her influence on Russia was very minor.”

This remarkable phrase was Putin’s way of stepping out of the shadow of suspicion immediately cast by Politkovskaya’s grave. The Russian president and former agent – who once famously said “there is no such thing as a former chekist” in reference to the Bolshevik’s first notorious security force – was an immediate suspect in Western eyes. He simply told George W. Bush and Angela Merkel that Politkovskaya was too irrelevant domestically for him to kill.

Putin pointed West. And Chaika pointed West. An explanation that in the words of the Stratfor global intelligence unit “sanitizes Putin.” So why did it take 10 months?

First of course were those FSB agents who got in the way. One problem for Putin was that Politkovskaya’s Novaya Gazeta was conducting a parallel investigation. The paper that dared was not about to let its most intrepid reporter’s ashes be brushed under the rug. It found some curious leads. A few of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov’s executioners came into focus. As did the FSB and some disgruntled military intelligence officers who served in Chechnya. The paper was due to report its findings in an issue marking the one-year anniversary of the crime – one whose official investigation would have been noted by even the Russian press to have gone nowhere.

But Chaika lifted the potential FSB culprits and turned them into agents of Berezovsky. A few bad apples in Russia’s mist that grew rotten under foreign influence. Even this took 10 months to produce. The FSB does not give up its own.

The head of Russia’s drug control agency identified the KGB/FSB mantra in a recent Russian article that was quoted in this week’s The Economist: “We must understand that we are one whole. History has ruled that the weight of supporting the Russian state should fall on our shoulders. I believe in our ability to put aside everything petty and to remain faithful to our oath when we feel danger.”

Does Putin hand his presidency to anyone but an FSB agent in such a climate? What hope does Politkovskaya's memory have?

It is fairly easy to assume that some of the detainees Chaika mentioned were about to be identified by Novaya Gazeta. But few people at the paper remotely believe that these 10 – and some mystery Chechen crime boss in their mist – are seriously involved in the affair. The paper’s editor told The New York Times the official version was “a nightmare.”

Yet these arrests and the accompanying finger-pointing at Berezovsky do far more than cover up the elimination of Putin’s fiercest critic in Russia’s press. They also tighten the grip of the siege mentality that has been suffocating Russia ahead of elections. Any Western thought is not simply foreign but dangerous to the Russian core – to Putin and his people. It is conniving and murderous.

The Russian foreign ministry said as much in a statement published while Chaika was debriefing Putin. It accused Russia’s opposition – which the state media now identifies as operating on Western coin – of “overstepping the bounds of elementary ethics” by giving foreigners testimony of Russia’s wrongs. “Where does this odd and humiliating desire to sacrifice one’s country’s interests for personal gain come from?” Could it be – the foreign ministry seems to be asking – capitalist greed for dollar donations?

Alas this opposition – or at least the small segment of it represented by Berezovsky – has done little to save its grace. It bickers and backbites where Politkovskaya wrote courageous exposes of Russia’s most notorious crimes while personally helping those she wrote about in Chechnya – saving some from certain death and others from endless torture in prison.

Berezovsky has turned into an even more schizophrenic egomaniac. And his ravings not only discredit the opposition but also make it theoretically possible that he just might have hatched an odious plot to discredit Putin. His Russian business foes once made graveyard fodder and notorious killers still lounge at his Mayfair estate. To use a double negative now being exploited by the Kremlin – zaxi does not know for sure that Berezovsky did not arrange this murder to harm Putin.

But as the insightful US political scientist Ira Straus observes: this is “the Syrian defense.” Another anti-Syrian figure is assassinated in Lebanon. Syria says anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon killed one of their own to embarrass Syria in world opinion. “It is as if they are copying from Putin’s book – or vice versa.”

The UN Security Council for one is not buying the Syrian defense. Should it buy Putin's?


Why does Russia Hate Children so Much?

The Associated Press reports on how children continue to be abused and tortured in Putin's Russia (hence Russia's falling population is far from surprising):

The 15-year-old twins sleep among trash and dirt in a nook under a railway platform and spend their days at a Salvation Army shelter in a grim Moscow neighborhood. But Denis and his sister, Olesya, prefer being homeless to living with their parents in Elektrostal, 36 miles east of the capital. They said their mother abused them physically and verbally, then kicked them out in July, telling them to find jobs. “It was hard at home, not cozy,” said Denis, who spoke on the condition that his last name not be used. The twins are among a growing number of Russia’s children who face abuse and neglect despite an economic boom that has brought unprecedented wealth.

A report by Russia’s human rights ombudsman said that children’s rights violations remain “systematic” and that more parents are victimizing their children. Although oil wealth has enriched a minority of Russians, the poverty, social decay and endemic alcoholism that are at the root of the child abuse have deepened since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Public sensitivity to child welfare is growing, however, as Russians face up to the fact that the population has shrunk by about 4 percent a year since 1993, to 142.7 million. President Vladimir Putin sounded the alarm in 2006 and said in his annual state of the nation address that the country was on the verge of a demographic crisis and that Russia’s children needed special care.

Official statistics show that the number of children has fallen from 36 million to 29 million over the past eight years, part of an overall fall resulting from low birth rates, an antiquated public health-care system, poverty and alcoholism. Child’s Right, a Moscow-based advocacy group, said about 50,000 Russian children — one out of every 580 — run away from home each year. About 20,000 flee from state-run orphanages and other institutions. “Many people see children as their property. There is no concept that they bear some social responsibility for their children,” said Boris Altshuler, head of Child’s Right.

In recent years, the Russian government has established a foster home program and created hot lines for child victims.

Every year, about 2,000 of Russia’s 29 million children up to 17 years old are killed by their parents or other relatives — a rate of about 6.9 per 100,000, according to Child’s Right, a Moscow-based advocacy group. By rough comparison, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2005, the overall homicide rate for children age 13 and under — regardless of the perpetrator — was 1.4 per 100,000. The overall U.S. rate for children ages 14 to 17 was 4.8 per 100,000. According to a UNICEF report, the suicide rate for Russian youths ages 15 to 19 was 20.2 per 100,000 in 2004. That’s more than double the rate of 8.2 per 100,000 for the same age group in the U.S. in 2004, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Russian, the Language of Slavery

Radio Free Europe reports that, free not to learn Russian, most members of the old USSR choose not to:

Experts say in many former Soviet republics, where Russian used to be widespread, the language is starting to fall out of use.

Leonid Krysin is the deputy director of the Russian Language Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences and he warned use of Russian language is waning in former Soviet republics. "Firstly, the number of people who know the Russian language is definitely falling. Secondly, the younger population doesn't know the language as well as the older one, who learned it under the Soviet rule. And thirdly, of course, the number of schools [teaching Russian] has been dramatically reduced," Krysin said. He also claimed that "in the sphere of education, schools which taught Russian during the Soviet period have lost their status."

Only five former Soviet republics now have Russian as an official language alongside their own: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. But even in these countries, the issue of language remains contentious. In Belarus, the political opposition accuses the government of Alyaksandr Lukashenka of "Russifying" the country and have called for a return to Belarusian as the sole official language. In Turkmenistan, the Russian language is actively discouraged. In some regions Russian schools have been closed, and the department of Russian philology at Turkmen State University was shut down in 2002. All teaching now takes place in Turkmen, which means Russian-speakers often lose out on getting a full education.

Even within Russia's borders, the issue of language remains divisive. Writing in "Prague Watchdog," an online service dedicated to the conflict in Chechnya, journalist Ruslan Isayev remembers his schoolmistress in Grozny smacking him with a ruler for speaking Chechen, which she called a "dog's language." Today, he writes, the Chechen language is reappearing, but most Chechens still speak Russian or a complicated fusion of Russian and Chechen. But according to Leonid Krysin of the Russian Academy of Sciences, there are objective reasons why former Soviet republics shouldn't turn their backs on the Russian language. "In the sphere of education and the sciences, there is a whole vocabulary that simply doesn't exist in those [native] languages, " Krysin said. He added, "Either it is international vocabulary, with its roots in Latin or Greek, or it is of Russian origin -- for example, financial vocabulary or computer terminology."

Ans Andrei Busygin said, "we have ties that go back many centuries. There is no point in destroying them." Busygin pointed out "geographically, these countries are close to Russia. And many people understand that if their country has a border with Russia, or if it is close to it, economic ties [between their countries] are unavoidable."

In some respects, the economic opportunities mean Russian is still spoken. Millions of people from countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States work in Russia -- some temporarily, others permanently -- and the vast majority use Russian on a daily basis. Still, Krysin said that is not often the case. "I've heard about the situation in, let's say, Uzbekistan, where knowledge of the Russian language has sharply declined – as has the need to use it," Krysin said. He predicted that "It's very possible that in a few decades, Russian will no longer be spoken there. Or, at least, it will exist, but only as a foreign language that is taught in schools like any other." Krysin said in former republics like Uzbekistan it is possible that within a generation, the Russian language could be just a memory.

Cowardly Kremlin Attacks Voice of Beslan

The Moscow Times reports:

A court has ruled that a group that has been fiercely critical of the government's handling of the 2004 Beslan attack must change leaders. Ella Kesayeva, the current leader of the group, Voice of Beslan, called Friday's decision by the Leninsky District Court in Vladikavkaz unjust and said it had been based on forged signatures. "Since the moment of our creation, the authorities have been fighting us with every means possible," Kesayeva said by telephone Monday from Vladikavkaz.

Voice of Beslan was formed two years ago by relatives of victims of the 2004 hostage-taking incident, which ended with the deaths of more than 330 people, most of them children. Friday's ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Marina Melikova, a former member of the group who claimed to be its rightful leader.

Kesayeva said Melikova backed her claim with documents purportedly showing that she had been elected to head the group. The court ruled in Melikova's favor and ordered the North Ossetian branch of the Federal Registration Service to recognize her as the group's leader. Kesayeva said the signatures on the documents had been forged and that witnesses who would have backed this up were not allowed to testify. She said she believed that Melikova was being used by the service to undermine the group. A statement on Voice of Beslan's web site said Melikova had been kicked out 1 1/2 years ago for attempting to disrupt the group.

Attempts to reach Melikova on Monday were unsuccessful. The daily Gazeta reported Sunday that she had declined to comment and was planning to make a statement about the case later this week. A woman who answered the phone at the North Ossetian branch of the Federal Registration Service said Monday that the agency's spokesman was on vacation.

Voice of Beslan said it would appeal the court's decision Wednesday and ask prosecutors to investigate Melikova for fraud in connection with the signatures, Kesayeva said. A woman who answered the telephone at the Leninsky District Court on Monday said she was not authorized to comment on the case. In June, the organization helped 89 relatives of Beslan victims file a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights accusing the government of failing to investigate the massacre properly. Kesayeva said the Strasbourg lawsuit would not be affected by Friday's ruling and that the group would continue functioning as it had before.