The Zaslavskys, whom the Moscow Times described as "two Russian-American brothers" who both "graduated from Oxford Univerisyty" are accused by the FSB (KGB) of "illegally collecting classified commercial information for a number of foreign oil and gas companies to gain advantages over Russian competitors, including in CIS countries." The MT states that "the arrests appear to signal further pressure on TNK-BP, a 50-50 joint venture between BP and three Russian oligarchs, and threatened to plunge relations with both Great Britain and the United States to even deeper lows." The MT also reports that "foreign workers employed by BP were warned to stay away, a source inside the company said. The 50-50 Russian-British venture does not fit into the current landscape of majority state control over the energy industry. The State Duma is due to vote Friday on a law enshrining state control over strategic sectors."
The Zaslavskys got exactly what they deserved, even more so if they were totally innocent of any ridiculous "industrial espionage" charges and therefore allowed to go on with their insidious activities of attempting to form commercial partnerships with dictatorship. In fact, we hope that the Kremlin will go on to arrest every single person physically present in Russia without a Russian passport who is attempting to make money by forging commercial relationships with Vladimir Putin's Kremlin, and send them to Siberia just as was done to Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Simply booting them out of the country is far too good for them.
Let's be clear: All such people are helping to legitimize a corrupt and illegal regime, helping to funnel wealth towards efforts to fund a new cold war with the West and a harsh new round of draconian cruelty aimed at civil society in Russia. The warning was given loud and clear and long, long ago that anyone from any foreign country attempting to profit from Russia is an idiot blinded by corrupt greed, and fair game for the malignant forces that the control the Kremlin. The sooner they are all cooling their heels in the neo-Soviet Gulag, the better we will be pleased.
The MT reports:
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said late Thursday that the actions of Russian law enforcement should not be politicized. "They are doing their job and doing it well," he said, adding that charges of economic espionage are deemed serious everywhere. "Everyone is equal before the law."So let's see if we understand you, Mr. Peskov: You're saying that Russian law enforcement would never, ever take action on a political, rather than a strictly legal, basis? Or, are you saying that if this was in fact done, you'd admit it?
Either way, of course, any sentient human being can only view Peskov's statement as ludicrous in the neo-Soviet extreme. The Swiss government, as we've previously reported, has already made an official finding that Russian law enforcement can and does act contrary to law and for purely political purposes. Anyone who claims it didn't do so in regard to the British Council is either a liar or a fool. And anyone who thinks that the Kremlin would openly admit acting illegally in a situation such as this needs to have his head examined. Is there one single example of any such admission in the whole history of Putin's Russia? We think not.
Vladimir Putin lacks the financial and bureaucratic resources to implement full-scale totalitarianism right now. To maintain dictatorial control, he has to rely on threats, and threats require illusions of power greater that reality. As we reported recently on Publius Pundit, Russia is second in the world in producing refugees; this is hardly consistent with a vibrant, successful country such as Putin claims to have erected in Russia. So Putin must suppress information like this using propaganda, and Westerners who invest in Russia play right into his hands (even as they gamble away resources that Russia will, inevitably, either steal or destroy).
The FinRosForum blog reports:
On Thursday, 20 March 2008, authorities carried out extensive raids against dissidents active in Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas in Russia. The police searched the premises and homes of several human rights and opposition activists, confiscating computers, mobile phones, and passports. The raids were directed against activists of the opposition Other Russia coalition and the Nizhny Novgorod Foundation to Promote Tolerance, the offices of which were sealed.Try to find news about these events in the Western press. You can't, but you can easily find reports about certain treacherous Western firms pouring money into Putin's Russia, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a single instance of any such company funding Russia's democracy movement or, indeed, any form of protest against the Kremlin's outrages. Such conduct helps Putin to bury the real facts about the brutal crackdown that is underway in neo-Soviet Russia, and hence is part and parcel of it. Anyone from any Western company who invests money in any Russian enterprise other than those designed to safeguard human rights and protest the Kremlin's barbaric actions is complicit in these events and deserves arrest and relegation to the worst Russian prison that can be found. They is only one word for them: Collaborators. We are well rid of them.
The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum expresses its utmost concern over the events and demands an immediate end to the repression of human rights and opposition activists. The measures are clearly directed against civic activists opposed to the current regime. There are real fears that the authorities are preparing show trials meant to crush any dissent. The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum will follow events closely and disseminate information about the events in Nizhny Novgorod. Repressive measures against the opposition and the human rights movement have long since ceased to be mere isolated cases, and have to be seen as part of a concerted campaign against free civic society in general.
The Moscow Times also reported, for instance, on the front page right under the item about the Zaslavskys, that "PepsiCo said Thursday that it would pay $1.4 billion to buy Lebedyansky, the country's largest juice manufacturer, in an effort to step up beverage production in Russia, its biggest growth market." It quoted Michael White, PepsiCo International chief executive, stating "that the companies were committed to investing in Lebedyansky's brands and building an even brighter future for the company."
In that case, we can only hope that Mr. White's arrest will be not long in coming. He's a collaborator, pure and simple. Then again, just because he's the "international chief executive" doesn't mean he's ever stupid enough to set one hobnailed toe inside the Russian Federation, so Putin may actually never be able to get his hooks into him -- perhaps, in other words, he chooses instead to sacrifice even stupider subordinates to that fate. In any case, those who struggle for human rights in Russia had cause last week to stand and loudly cheer for the Kremlin, and to enthusiastically urge it to continue this shameless neo-Soviet purge. For once, the Kremlin is dispensing an utterly pure form of true justice, and we couldn't be more thrilled.
So we say: Attaboy, Mr. Putin. Give 'em one for the Gipper!