Russia at the WTO Gate: Locking the Status of a Raw-Materials Supplier, or Striding Toward a Modern Economy?

Uncle Volodya says,”Know why God created trade analysts? To make weather forecasters look good.”

Once again, kovane has been busy in his secret lair, this time researching and understanding trade relations, so you won’t have to. I’m being flippant because it’s all I know, but I have to say it is a very good primer on international trade relationships. It makes them easy to understand, which is a remarkable achievement because there’s a lot more to it than you might think, and there are strong opinions on both sides – some of them, unfortunately, accompanied by zero knowledge. I can’t promise this will make you an expert, but I think I can safely say you’ll come away at the end of it knowing a good deal more than you did at the beginning. Kovane?

Hello, everyone. On 23 July 2012, Russia at long last notified the World Trade Organization about the ratification of accession protocol. That officially means that after 30 days Russia will become a member – the 18-year journey is coming to an end.  But the sentiments in Russia are very far from unanimous support. Earlier, over 130 MPs filed an appeal to the Constitutional Court, contesting its accordance with Russian law. Polls data also show substantial ambivalence – 32% believe that the entry will be beneficial for Russia, and 18%, harmful.

The resulting change in tariffs and legislation will directly affect almost every Russian company and the economy as a whole. Some sectors will gain billions of dollars, others will lose even more. And as with all matters concerning such amounts of money, there’s no shortage of lobbying, hysterical advertorials and misinformation. These disagreements by themselves are nothing new – it’s the same old protectionism vs free trade dispute dating back centuries. In order to learn who supports or opposes the entry and why, a clear look at the inner workings of the WTO is required.

The precursor of the WTO came into existence during the post-war overhaul of international economic relations, along with the IMF and the World Bank.  The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which was initially intended only as a stepping stone to the functioning organization, provided the regulation of international trade for almost 50 years. In 1994, it formed the core of the newly established WTO. What gave rise to GATT was a rethink of the Great Depression and reasons behind it. During its worst years, governments tended to raise tariffs in order to protect the domestic industry. This caused reciprocal measures from other countries, thus aggravating the world crisis.

The WTO’s stated goal is boosting the global economy by lowering trade barriers, thus helping poorer countries to develop their economies through export growth. It is achieved through a number of agreements which all the members are bound by. They set rules for international trade and intellectual property, define methods for resolving disputes, and encourage countries to adopt clear and unified laws. Through the agreements the WTO implements basic principles that lie at the foundation of trade between members.

The principle of most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment means that all members of the WTO can’t normally discriminate against their trading partners. Thus, any favourable trading condition granted to one country must be provided for all other members as well. The principle of national treatment obliges countries to treat imported and local goods and services equally. The principle of transparency ensures that every member maintains institutions that publish their trade regulations, presents them for review and notifies the WTO about any changes. And the principle of reciprocity prevents new members from getting all the advantages from the MFN status without making reciprocal concessions in tariffs and regulations. The list of these concessions is drawn up during the accession procedure as a result of negotiating with every interested party. All commitments made by a new member are binding in nature – the country can’t normally raise tariffs beyond the agreed level or has to negotiate compensation with its trading partners. Thus, the conditions of accession greatly differ from country to country depending on the outcome of the initial negotiations.

The WTO agreements go much further than that, of course, and deal in detail with many other aspects of international trade. Particularly, exceptions for trade unions – thus, the WTO entry is not an obstacle for the EurAsEC. Special measures for protecting domestic industry in case there is evidence that imports are actively harming it, like the temporary steel tariff the USA imposed in 2002. Clear requirements for non-tariffs limitations – technical or sanitary – that a country can place on imports. Any such limitations that don’t conform to international standards and appear to be imposed only to provide unfair advantage to domestic industry can be contested in the WTO dispute settlement system. Bad, very bad news for Gennadiy Onishchenko, indeed. Also the WTO differentiates between developed, developing and least-developed countries and practices a more lenient approach to economically weaker countries.

The basic premise of the WTO is David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage , which is almost 200 years old. It states that a country should specialize in producing those goods and services for which it has a relative cost advantage compared to other countries, export a portion of those goods and services, and use the proceeds from those exports to import goods and services for which it has a relative cost disadvantage. It’s certainly true – most economics textbooks usually prove it in the first hundred pages, and Nobel Laureate Samuelson hailed it as “both true and non-trivial”. But as with all assumptions, it ignores so many complex issues that it at times seems hardly relevant to the real world.

First of all, it treats comparative advantage as something inherent, set in stone. But it’s clearly not. China was known as a producer of cheap, shoddy goods and poorly-made knock-offs just two decades ago. But nowadays, while much of it still applies, most major companies don’t hesitate to locate factories there. So what happened? Obviously, China refused to embrace the comparative advantage of the time, and through active economic policy, changed it. Aggressive protectionism was its key element, following in the footsteps of the post-war Japan and Asian Tigers. Investment in education, the fixed yuan rate, the system of government procurement and the active support of small business created a favourable environment for local entrepreneurs and foreign investors. Owing to these measures, local companies were able to hold or even expand their markets, refine their technological process and implement staff training programs. And when China entered the WTO in 2001 they were not crushed by lower trade tariffs, but benefited from it. The results are pretty clear – the Chinese are much better off now than then.

Another consideration is the completely different nature of markets for different goods and services. For example, RosAtom holds the first place in the number of nuclear plants being constructed abroad and 40% of the world uranium enrichment market. With only one major competitor, Rosatom has considerable freedom in its price policy, and obviously gets extra profit from that. Considering the almost impenetrable entry barriers that exist in this business, it’s safe to say that the situation is very unlikely to change in the near future, and RosAtom will hold its superior market position. Meanwhile, it provides thousands of high-tech and well-paid (one would hope) jobs for Russians. A similar situation exists in the world arms industry, where Russia dominates the market along with the USA. Maybe the Russians have some kind of special knack for weapons and nuclear technology? While many jokes say so, the reason for these successes is quite simple. The USSR was among pioneers in the respective technologies and had to stay competitive there, as opposed to many other sectors. The same story of success applies to many Western companies in other sectors.

On the other hand, developing economies whose trade barriers have been breached by the WTO find themselves in a serious predicament. Having no chance whatsoever to compete with transnational corporations in most sectors, they are stuck with the “comparative advantage” imposed by the global market. The primary sector and labour-intensive manufacturing are basically their only options. And the market for those products is vastly different than the one RosAtom operates in. The multitude of producers makes it as close to perfect competition as it’s possible, meaning that the profit margin is quite slim.  In addition, the crippling feature of the primary sector is costs growing with the total output, as opposed to manufacturing, where costs fall due to the effect of scale. But this turns out to be the least of their woes.

The UNCTAD Trade and Development Report for 2002 shows that the massive growth in exports has not added significantly to developing countries’ income. The reason behind this is that developing countries lack technologies and money to develop their resources or build factories, and have to seek external help. The intense competition for FDI leads to a weakened bargaining position for them and, in the end, developing countries compete with each other on the basis of wage levels and special preferences for foreign companies. Moreover, profits from these sectors tend to flee the country as further investment opportunities are few.

There is another significant advantage that economies with high-tech sectors have. Technologies and specialists from them tend to flow into other sectors, increasing productivity or, sometimes, creating completely new products. For example, having a cutting-edge electronic industry can contribute to such a traditional sector as agriculture. Devices for soil-testing and complex sensors still look like an oddity, but more and more farmers adopt them into their day-to-day operations. On the other hand, biotechnology promises to revolutionize modern agriculture, and the lion’s share of profits from that will be reaped by countries that are leaders in that area. Not by ones with sweatshops and open-pit mining.

Yet another obstacle for developing countries is the WTO TRIPS agreement, regulating intellectual property rights. It is best exemplified by India’s pharmaceutical industry. In the 1970’s, the country adopted a quite lax patent law which allows generic medicines to be marketed there even if the product remains under patent protection. As a result, the burgeoning pharma industry now employs hundreds of thousands of people and makes affordable drugs for the poverty-stricken population. Since its accession to the WTO, India came under growing pressure to change the law. Moreover, when an Indian company launched a project for exporting a cheap AIDS drug to Africa, the USA intervened and threatened sanctions. Also, China’s frivolous treatment of intellectual property is a kind of open secret even today, so such a policy is practically a staple of successful catching-up development. Acknowledging the need for patent legislation, nevertheless, it’s obvious that the TRIPS only widens the already bottomless chasm between poor and rich countries.

All that being said, it’s extremely easy to portray the WTO as an agent of enslavement and colonialism, but that would be a gross oversimplification of the complex reality. However ugly some facets of globalization can be, sweatshops that are opened in third-world countries don’t lack workers. A 14-hour workday, the virtual absence of safety standards and child labour are surely a much better prospect than malnutrition, illness and death. No amount of tariff barriers alone can lift a country from poverty; the only way out is a sound economic policy over a period of several decades. And that task is a tall order for developing countries with weak government institutes, low human capital and squabbling elites. It is no coincidence that most instances of successful catching-up development occurred during the reign of authoritarian or semi-authoritarian regimes. The irremovable Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, Gaullism in France, and the two-decade dominance of the Christian Democratic Union in post-war West Germany – the list goes on and on.

Protective trade tariffs can be a boon or a bane, depending on the situation. Provided that they are applied in a timely fashion to sectors that have a potential to become competitive, tariffs give local companies both time and money in order to adapt to the world market. In time, the tariffs have to be gradually lifted, or the companies would have little incentive to develop. Consequently, the correct use of such a policy can bring a country’s level of industrial development to a completely new level. However, tariffs and other protectionist measures can be easily abused, especially where local businesses have excessive lobbying power. If, hypothetically, some clever entrepreneur opened a banana farm in Chukotka and managed to lobby a very high tariff on imported bananas under the slogan “Buy Russian!”, he could successfully compete with Ecuador and Philippines on the local market. But consumers would end up paying exorbitant prices for nothing. It’s obvious that no matter how much time the farm would have, it would never bring the costs down enough to an acceptable level. In essence, protective tariffs are nothing more than a transfer of money from customers to producers, and any government should be very careful when using them. History has demonstrated the perils of economic isolation countless times, and to forget it for former citizens of the USSR is doubly a sin.

What is extremely baffling about Russia’s accession is the way the government covered it. Such an important and controversial event that will affect the vital interests of virtually every citizen is routinely treated as a no-brainer. Details about the course of negotiations itself hardly got to the media, and in the end the government couldn’t allocate money to translate the entry conditions into Russian. As a result, they appeared as late as May of 2012, a whole 5 months since Russia’s application was approved.. It’s very hard to call such coverage something other than abysmal – many small and medium companies were faced with them as a fait accompli, without being able to express their views.  That, weak awareness of WTO rules even in business circles and the drastic lack of specialists on them gave rise to a number of bogeyman myths.

Unfortunately, arguments usually cited in support are of a declarative nature, such as “the WTO is an objective need”, “the WTO will bring more foreign investments”, etc.  Even Putin, who is rarely at a loss for words, fudged the direct question about what sectors will benefit from the WTO directly, referring to some “majority of experts”. A more or less good explanation was provided by Maxim Medvedkov, the head of Russia’s negotiation team, in his article.

According to the data of another poll, people who support the KPRF tend to view the WTO entry as harmful to the interests of Russia, while those who sympathize with other parties are more favourable to it. During the ratification in the Duma, the KPRF, the LDPR and “Just Russia” voted against it, representatives of the same parties disputed it in the Constitutional Court. Even more vocal in their opposition are sundry left political figures and activists – Delyagin, Kagarlitsky, Kurginyan, who don’t hold back on black paint when drawing the future of Russia in the WTO.

But however fiery the rhetoric of the opponents or however unconvincing the arguments of the supporters are, they are not a substitute for a detailed analysis. Fortunately, some interesting reports and resources are available as well, and they can help to shed light on this complex issue. A pro-WTO site, maintained by the Higher School of Economics – the true alma-mater of the liberal thought in Russia. The pro-WTO site of the working group on the WTO accession under the Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists. And two anti-WTO sites: WTO-inform and stop-WTO. The World Bank prepared a research paper at the request of the Russian government to assess the potential impact of Russia’s accession to the WTO. The Accounting Chamber provided an informative report analyzing possible measures for increasing effectiveness of trade regulations. Two comprehensive papers are of a particular interest – “The economic consequences of Russia’s WTO accession” and “The Industry analysis of Russia’s WTO accession”. Although both the papers are outdated, many points are still relevant today.

Even a cursory glance at the most radical arguments (like the Kurginyan center’s report) raised by the opponents causes a slight feeling of perplexity. First of all, the ranks of WTO members include 156 countries which control around 95% of world trade (with Russia’s membership). Secondly, the Marrakech Accords stipulate a withdrawal procedure, but so far no countries have opted for that path. So, should Russia find the economic consequences of the WTO membership completely unacceptable, it can always leave the organization. In general, it’s still unclear how such a harmful organization (according to Kurginyan) manages to stay so popular.

The number of inaccuracies and outright mistakes in the report completely distorts the perception of the WTO that the reader might get. Several references suggesting that the WTO will force on Russia some agreements that undermine its sovereignty or will deprive it of rights on natural resources run completely counter to the accepted rules of the WTO. All decisions are made in fact by a consensus of all members, and Russia will be bound only by those agreements that it accepted before the accession. The consensus principle applies even to the Dispute Settlement Body. A country can refuse to implement a ruling and then the DSB will try to negotiate compensation or will set the criteria for retaliation. This practice is unfortunately often abused by strong countries like the US, as was the case with the cotton subsidies. And moreover, it can’t veto a parliament’s or a government’s decision.

Considering the economic impact of the WTO on Russia, it is worth noting that its level of import tariffs is not very high to begin with. In addition to that, high transportation costs form natural trade barriers. But what’s much more important is the sad state of the Russian customs service. In 2011 Medvedev called the level of corruption in customs “exorbitant”, and he’s not mistaken (1,2). Unfortunately, smuggling and understating customs value are part and parcel of importing operations and that has a significant effect on Russian companies. In effect, for many markets effective tariff rate is much lower that the official rate, and Russian companies have been competing with imported goods on very unfavourable terms. While to expect that the WTO magically eliminates corruption in the customs service is naïve at best, implementation of WTO international practices can be a stimulus for change.

As it has been already noted, entry conditions vary greatly from country to country, and the effect of WTO membership mostly hinges on them. Russia has spent 18 years on negotiations, after all, and one would expect extremely favourable conditions, would one not? Well, comparing them (a short overview, a very detailed report) to those of other countries, they are much better than entry conditions of developed countries, but fall short of the protection level enjoyed by other BRICS members. Russia has to lower its average tariff rate from the present level of 10% to 7.8% by 2018. China, for example, is bound by an average tariff ceiling of 10.4%, Brazil 10.9%. Also, Russia managed to uphold some specific law and practices like internal gas pricing, the high export tariff on oil and gas and limitations on foreign presence in some sectors.

Kommersant prepared an excellent infochart demonstrating what changes lie ahead for different categories of goods and services. When assessing the impact of the WTO on a particular industry, both direct and indirect effects should be factored in. If, for example, a company gets some advantageous conditions, but the whole economy tanks, the total effect could vary. If the company derives most of its profit from export, then the advantage will be magnified, due to the falling costs and devaluing currency.  In case of orientation toward the internal market, the effect would be sharply negative. Also, it is important to take into consideration the sector cost level. By doing so, it’s possible to separate the wheat from the chaff – companies that will go below the break-even point from companies that are taking advantage of the high tariff barrier and are able to compete with imports on more even terms.

So what consequences will the WTO membership bring? The immediate and most obvious one is the decline in budget revenues due to the cuts in trade tariffs. The ministry of economic development’s estimates are 188 billion rubles in 2013 and 257 billion rubles in 2014. It’s not hard to guess where all that money will go – importers and trade chains. They are among the biggest winners of the WTO entry. Considering the relatively low level of competition, it’s safe to assume that consumers will see only a portion of this money and definitely not immediately.

The much-touted access to the WTO dispute settlement system that Russian companies will get is not likely to resolve all discriminatory measures against some products. The estimates for their extent range within $2-2.5 billion. Those among the most aggrieved are steel and parts of chemical industries. They are also considered the main force behind lobbying the WTO entry. The problem of discrimination was especially acute in the beginning of the 2000’s, but steel companies mostly found a way to circumvent those barriers. But having an official tool to deal with discrimination is undoubtedly very useful for any company planning on entering the global market.

And that’s it for the list of sectors that stand to gain something from the WTO directly. The explanation for that is very simple – the disappointing structure of the Russian export. More than 80% of it is comprised of natural resources, raw materials and production of low processing level. Such categories of goods are rarely discriminated against. More than that, developed economies are interested in their continuous flow, as without raw materials the factories and plants stop, and rearranging supply lines can be a tedious and costly process. The conventional wisdom is that the WTO is an organization for advancing production with high added value. Even the most optimistic experts acknowledge that the Russian government’s best bet is the expected improvement of laws and investment climate. Needless to say, this is a lot of ifs and maybes.

The main cash cow of the Russian budget – the oil and gas industry – will remain largely unaffected by the WTO membership. Gazprom may benefit from the accelerated leveling of internal gas prices for industrial customers, while the whole industry will be able to import machinery at lower prices due to the import tariff cut. Roughly the same applies to the energy sector. The extent of import-export operations there is insignificant, while the purchase of equipment comprises a hefty portion of the costs.

The market of financial services also expects some changes. The Russian negotiators managed to defend the limitation on foreign capital in the banking sector. Foreign banks will be still forbidden from opening branches in Russia. Their only option is a subsidiary bank, with a 50% limit on total participation of foreign capital in the banking system. The sector could use a little competition – long-term interest rates remain prohibitive and seriously limit investment options for Russian companies. Foreign insurance companies will be allowed to open branches after 9 years from accession. The telecommunication sector will be also opened for foreign investments – the existing limitations will be lifted.

Earlier, a group of companies addressed a collective letter to the government asking to revise the entry conditions. The make-up of signatories broadly reflects the sectors of the Russian economy for whom the WTO membership can bring only trouble. That’s various companies of mechanical engineering, especially producers of agriculture machinery, automotive industry, light industry, parts of the chemical industry oriented to the internal market, agriculture and food-processing industry. Babkin, the chairman of the RosAgroMash association, issued a sobering analysis of their plight. While far from being an impartial observer, he nevertheless highlights important points.

Sectors that are supposed to represent the modernization campaign so much extolled by the Russian government now face sharp reduction of import tariffs, loss of markets and, worse of all, uncertainty. The heavy mechanical engineering industry is plagued by a 50% degree of equipment wear, low workload and a 60% prevalence of imports. Even the delayed tariff reduction will be a serious blow to the industry, and WTO regulations will prevent the state from implementing direct protectionist measures. Taking into account a large number of companies that operated at a loss in 2009, the damage may be critical for the industry.

Very similar troubles will be experienced by the producers of agricultural machinery. With very strong foreign competition, imports constituted more than 50%. But in 2009, the government introduced a subsidized loan program for domestic machinery and raised the tariff from 5% to 15%. That and the devalued ruble resulted in the sharp drop in imports. The WTO accession will bring an end to this window of opportunity for the industry – the tariff is to be lowered back to 5%, and the program doesn’t conform to WTO practices.

For light industry, the defining characteristic is the extremely high level of counterfeit production – its share is estimated at 42% of the market . So even the appreciable decrease in the tariff on clothing – from 10-20% to 5-7% – and textiles won’t change the balance in any meaningful way. Only the most efficient companies were able to compete with “grey” imports before, and they probably will be able to do so after the WTO accession. Although for certain companies, it could become a definite turn for the worse.  The main potential loss is in the increased difficulty of realizing any state development programs.

The most controversial debates are raging about the agricultural sector. WTO opponents predict mass impoverishment, famines and Russia at the whim of Western capitalists. Traditionally, WTO negotiations on agriculture remain one of the most time-consuming and arduous parts. And Russia’s party managed to defend the existing quotas on pork, beef and chicken meat, although on worse terms. The quota sizes are to be changed, and tariffs both inside and outside the quotas lowered. The expected decrease of the tariff on live pigs from 40% to 5% will also appreciably affect the pork market. The tariffs on dairy products, cereal crops and fish will be lowered as well.

All this change will certainly put extra pressure on agriculture producers, and will affect the profitability of existing and planned projects. While large agribusiness will be able to withstand it, the WTO will push many small farmers past the breaking point. And their future will be determined by how well the state will soften the blow. Many existing state support measures and benefits will be overhauled in accordance with the binding concessions. In particular, Fertilizer pricing for farmers and preferential VAT tax rate will be reformed in the following years.

The total trade distorting agricultural support will be limited to $9 billion in 2013 and will be gradually reduced to $4.4 billion by 2018. The final level was determined by the average support for the several years preceding the WTO accession, that’s a standard WTO practice. At the same, time critics point out the absolutely incomparable level of support afforded by the EU, the US, China, Brazil and Russia. France alone provides about $15 billion to its farmers. The above level of support excludes indirect support defined by the WTO’s “green box policies” – they can be used without any limitation. Examples are research funding, environmental programs, disaster relief and infrastructure development.

Another sensitive issue for the Russian government during the negotiations was the automotive industry. Due to the existing obligations to foreign investors, Russia bargained for a prolonged transitional period. The final agreement includes the gradual reduction of the tariff from the present 30% to 15% in 2017. An especially hard hit awaits producers of commercial vehicles – the tariff on new trucks  will be reduced from 25% to 15%, and an even more dangerous threat presents in the potential inflow of used ones.  KAMAZ expects nothing positive from those measures and is already tightening its belt. Also, many initiatives such as the state procurement of only Russian-made cars will become a thing of the past.

The WTO accession promises no easy life for the aircraft industry as well. The tariff on airliners will go down from 20% to 7.5%, although many exceptions to the tariff were already in effect. The share of Russia-produced aircraft is very low – around 10% – and without state support the whole industry is doomed. Although the lowered tariffs on aircraft mean lower costs for airlines, the biggest one, Aeroflot, will probably lose the rights on flight royalties. According to Vedomosti, in 2010 they amounted to $117 million, or around 17% of Aeroflot’s EBIDTA. It’s highly unlikely that the state will throw its flagship carrier to the wolves, and it will probably come up with some compensatory measures.

Despite what many publications in the Russian media say, the WTO doesn’t prohibit all kinds of state support and subsidies. In fact, according to the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, only two narrow types of subsidies are explicitly forbidden – those that are contingent on export performance or import substitution. Most of other subsidies fall in the “actionable” category. That means that other WTO members whose economies experience a negative effect due to some country’s subsidy can challenge it in the Dispute Settlement System and negotiate compensation or implement a countervailing measure. The need to provide the proof of negative effect lies with the complaining member, and at times it can be a very time-consuming and difficult endeavor.

Probably, one of the most inspiring examples of successful subsidy application is the history of Airbus. In the 60’s, when American producers dominated the market, Germany and France joined forces to create Airbus. Through various state support measures, subtle or not, the consortium managed to survive the fierce competition and now equally shares the large aircraft market with Boeing. Meanwhile, Airbus employs 55,000 well-paid workers.

For Russia, a well thought-out system of subsidies can become the primary tool of the state-wide economic policy. The fact that so few sectors actually stand to gain something from the WTO also means that any countervailing measures can’t hurt Russia’s economy much. And therefore, the government can apply subsidies without looking back on possible retaliation from other countries. The main difficulty is in converting the existing state support measures in accordance with the WTO agreement without harming the affected sectors. And of course, the priority is to create such a transparent system of subsidies, so companies would receive strictly defined amounts of money for specific goals. Otherwise, any good undertaking will turn into an endless bonanza of state money for well-connected companies.

Another important factor in the mechanism of international trade is the interaction between a country’s balance of payment and  exchange rate. Even in the case of total absence of tariff barriers, the growth of imports is checked by the exchange rate. If the import growth is not balanced out by an equal growth of export or inflow of capital, the country will simply lack foreign currency, and its national currency will depreciate. Thus, any imported goods will become more expensive for local customers, and imports will stop growing. In effect, the exchange rate acts as a trade barrier. For example, depreciation of the ruble by 1% is equivalent to a growth of all trade tariffs by 0.92%.

Russia doesn’t have such a luxury as a fixed exchange rate, which the Chinese use. It makes it possible to keep the Yuan severely undervalued, thus giving the Chinese economy a strong level of protection. But the Russian government can also control the inflow of foreign currency in the country, albeit indirectly. By taxing the export of oil and natural gas and levying an export tariff on it, the government is keeping the ruble undervalued, directing part of the foreign currency into the country’s reserves. That’s why both China and Russia have such a high level of international reserves. According to the Economist’s Big Mac index, the ruble is 43% underestimated. Due to the obligation to lower export tariffs on many goods, in the future the tax on natural resources must become one of the primary tools in protecting the economy. Simultaneously, it will serve as a limitation on undesirable exports and an instrument for keeping  a favourable exchange rate. The problem here is the external debt of the Russian economy. Although its level is relatively low – 33% of GDP, China maintains it at 5%, Brazil 20%, India 22%. Any devaluation of the ruble will fall as a great weight on companies which borrowed money abroad.

Unfortunately, Russia doesn’t utilize to a great extent export support measures that don’t distort trade and therefore are allowed by the WTO. State export guarantees, insurance and credit are essential in advancing domestic goods on the global market nowadays, and Russia has only begun to master such instruments. In 2007, only 2 guarantees were issued to the amount of $119 million – that’s 11.9% of the total planned budget. Such a level is absolutely incomparable with the support provided by other countries, and should be addressed in the nearest future. Modern global competition also requires a close interaction between exporters, state agencies and trade missions, and Russia has much to learn in that area as well.

On the whole, the WTO makes a point of providing enough measures to protect the national economy, Undoubtedly, the profitability of many Russian companies will be negatively affected by the more open trade barriers. And it’s really up to the government if it will be able to effectively use them. However, the consistency of Russia’s economic policy doesn’t inspire optimism. The most indicting evidence of that is, probably, development strategies of various sectors, adopted in 2010. The WTO is not mentioned even once there, and many state support programs described there require revisiting. That basically means that in 2010 the Ministry of Industry and Trade had no idea about the state of WTO negotiations. Which is rather telling. A lot of concern is caused by Russia’s inexperience in dealing with the WTO dispute settlement system. An active implementation of state support measures will certainly be met with a stream of lawsuits. And the damage from the inept handling of them can be overwhelming.

The worst case scenario, many of Babkin’s gloomy prediction will come true. If the government fails to organize coordination with the sectors of economy that are in danger and back out of most of the state support programs, bankruptcy and economic recessions awaits many companies. Although the 4.4 million potential job loss voiced in the report seems a bit overboard, even half of that would cause a heretofore-unseen wave of social unrest. The remains of the high-tech industry will be swept away during the course of the transitional period and Russia will firmly become solely a supplier of raw materials.

However, this is a highly unlikely scenario. The Russian government seems to be full of resolve to use all instruments provided by the WTO in order to protect the economy. Moreover, recalling Pikalevo and the protracted support of AvtoVAZ that seemed redundant at the time, it is evident that true social unrest is one of few things that the government is very wary of. And the choice between a membership in the WTO and the potential backlash against poor economic performance is not a remotely real one, considering how only a few years Russia nonchalantly demonstrated that it could do without the WTO just fine. As described before, the state has a lot of leeway in using even the most outrageous support programs, and it has both money and incentive to do so.

The optimistic scenario, hailed by liberal economists, proclaims almost immediate benefits for everyone. Consumer will get lower prices on a wide range of goods, businesses will become more integrated into the world economy, and the WTO will improve Russia’s law system and investment climate. The World Bank’s research forecasts a gain of 3.3% of GDP in the medium term, inflow of FDI and the reduced cost of business services. Moreover, according to the report, 99.9 percent of the households will gain from 2 percent to 25 percent of their household income, poor households slightly more than rich ones. The influence of the WTO on particular industries is presented here.

This scenario also stirs questions. The experience of Ukraine and Georgia shows that any expectation of significant price reduction is somewhat inflated. As a consequence, the described gain of households will be significantly lower. The inflow of FDI due to the lowered administrative barriers is also a very bold assumption. The WTO accession is no magic elixir to such deeply-entrenched ills of the Russian economy. And Russia is certainly not the first choice of foreign investors. But the hope for improvement in the law system is not baseless, and Russia certainly could use it, especially in the customs code and accounting.

The WTO entry is a necessary step for any country aspiring to develop a modern economy, however the timing and conditions leave much to be desired. The problems encountered by Ukraine highlight the dangers of a rash decision to seek membership in the WTO no matter the cost and an inconsistent economic policy. But the Russian government has all means to deal with the challenges of a more open economy. And the way it will carry out the complete revamping of the economic policy will be a litmus test for the ability of Putin’s Administration to modernize the economy. However, the price of error here is very high, and all that remains for the common voter is to wait and watch.

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548 Responses to Russia at the WTO Gate: Locking the Status of a Raw-Materials Supplier, or Striding Toward a Modern Economy?

  1. Dear Kovane,

    This is far and away the best, the most sane and the most balanced discussion of this subject I have ever read. I completely agree with your views.

    I am very busy so I won’t say more now except that this has been an even longer running saga than most people realise. As I can very well remember during the mid 1970s at the height of the detente the USSR intended and was fully expected to join the WTO’s predecessor the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (“GATT”). This was all supposed to be part of the general normalisation of international relations and of international trade and business that was supposedly taking place at that time. It goes without saying that as part of any GATT accession process the USSR would have been expected – and expected – to carry out radical reforms to its economy. Then the Jackson Vanik amendment came along, sponsored by Senator Henry Jackson of Washington state (“the Senator for Boeing”), supposedly to help Jewish emigration but actually intended to protect Boeing’s interests from Russian competition (Lockheed had negotiated a deal to build Lockheed Tristars in Voronezh) and the whole project turned to dust.

    • kovane says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Alexander.

      As far as I remember, the USSR declined an invitation to participate in the GATT in 1946, preferring to concentrate on Comecon instead.I honestly dont’ see how the USSR could become a member of the WTO considering that it was a command economy. But with the GATT it was a possibility, as the GATT was mostly oriented towards tariffs.

      • Dear Kovane,

        You are absolutely right about GATT. The USSR did refuse to participate in GATT in 1946. This was of course at the start of the Cold War when the world was dividing into two rival camps. However all the talk in the late 1960s and early 1970s was of convergence between the two systems and it was in that context that the idea of the USSR joining GATT was revived. In fact as I well remember it was a lot more than just idea. It was actually Soviet policy to which the Nixon administration agreed but which the US decisively opposed later. I remember one of the USSR’s economic experts, an official or academic called Stanislav Menshikov, was constantly appearing at the time on British and US television to explain the policy. When it all fell through we never saw him again. A little known fact by the way is that the Soviet media reported the Watergate scandal as a plot to undermine Nixon because of his detente policy with the USSR and China. I didn’t think that at the time but today I think there might have been some truth in it.

        Of course the USSR could not have joined WTO but that only emerged after the USSR had itself collapsed. However if the USSR had been a member of GATT Russia would presumably have been a founder member of WTO.

        • kovane says:

          Yes, participation in the GATT would have allowed the USSR to become a member of the WTO. Alternative history is a lot of fun – who knows what could have been different then.

  2. yalensis says:

    (As they say on Russian blogs.)
    i.e, first to leave a comment on a most excellent post.
    Congratulations, kovane, this is a masterwork of objective analysis. I think I might have to read it several times, like you say this is an extremely complex issue.
    You did mention that, if Russia finds down the road that WTO membership is doing harm, then it has the right to secede. That answered one of the questions I was going to ask.
    Good job!

    • yalensis says:

      Oops, I am not First, Alexander beat me to the punch. He must have snuck in there somehow….

    • kovane says:

      You’re too kind, yalensis. I just collected most obvious points and put them together – that isn’t even analysis, let alone a masterwork. As with many economic issues, the main difficulty is in the multitude of interplaying factors. Some of them are important, some not. And to string together the whole picture is very hard.

      • yalensis says:

        @kovane: Don’t be so modest! You undertook the herculean task of compiling all this material; the very act of compiling it partially leads to its own analysis, and certainly assists everybody to form intelligent opinions.
        By the way, everybody, kovane’s piece is also available in Russian, on Apetian’s blog. lots of positive comments there too:

  3. kirill says:

    It’s not very bad news for Gennadiy Onishchenko, it’s very bad news for Russians who will be subjected to chlorine “cleaned” rotting “Bush’s legs”. Perhaps now Georgia can start forcing its fake wines into the Russian market again.

    It was premature for Russia to sign up to the WTO. Russia needed another 10-20 years before opening itself up to predatory foreign “competition”. Russia had de facto free trade under Yeltsin and its economy was evapourating. Only the 1998 financial meltdown and large rouble devaluation saved Russia’s economy. So Russia has only had 13 years of development. This is much, much shorter than the Asian Tigers as well as the USA and western Europe.

    • kovane says:

      That’s not true. Russia will be able to maintain more strict standards as long as they are based on clear specifications.

      As for the 10 years that Russia requires in order to prepare for the WTO, that is exactly what manufacturers said 10 years ago. And probably what they would say 10 years from now if Russia hadn’t joined the WTO. Trying to present local manufacturers as hard-working bees relentlessly perfecting their business is a bit of a exaggeration. Most of them are quite content with taking advantage of high trade barriers and selling their compatriots crappy goods at exorbitant prices. The local industry should be protected and developed, but high tariffs are about the worst way to do it.

      • kirill says:

        That’s a vapid caricature and you know it. Where was the vast quality improvement driven by competition between 1991 and 1998? There was unemployment and non-payment of salaries which included a degeneration into barter (e.g. payment with company products and not money). To claim that there was no qualitative improvement in Russian goods and services between 2000 and 2008 and from 2008 until today (in spite of the great recession that hit most of the world) is simply a lie.

      • kovane says:

        That’s what I point out in the piece. When your economy disintegrates, what competition is there to talk about? And a sound economic policy is to ensure that local business can normally develop, but always have a good incentive to do so. Namely: foreign competition. What happened in the 90s and eternal state support without any clear goal are equally bad ways.

        Once again, I never said that there was no improvement of Russian-produced goods and services in 2000s. There’s no need to see everything in black or white. I don’t like to mention that as some source of credibility, but I have actually been living in Russia all my life. And I remember well both 90s and 00s. State should provide reasonable protection for local business, but there are better ways.

    • yalensis says:

      @kirlll: Yes, yours is the POV I tend to agree with too. kovane did mention in his post that WTO membership is more favored by the liberals, less so by Communists and patriots. Even without knowing any facts, my gut instinct is to oppose whatever it is the liberals favor, on the assumption that their intentions towards Russia are not good!
      We shall have to wait and see what happens now. Russia can secede if this experiment turns out badly. It is doubly important to make sure that Russian public opinion is consulted at every step. (I think Putin is aware of that; he seems to be sensitive to public opinion.)

      • kirill says:

        Russia has this syndrome of trying to accommodate and play fair with the west, expecting that there will be reciprocity. This is just a demented delusion. Kovane talks about stability and we know who wants no stability in Russia and its total dismemberment. Elevating gangsters like Berezovsky into dissidents is the exact analogue of sending “privateers” aka pirates against the Spanish by the UK centuries ago. Turning inane non-events like the arrest of the Pussy Riot hooligans for breaking Russian law into some sort of epic fight for freedom is more of the west’s “fair play”. Russia needs protectionism exactly because the west does not play fair. We’ll see what pretexts they use to deny Russian companies entry into western markets as they have been doing since the 1990s.

        • Dear Kirill,

          I am with Kovane on this one. Like Kovane I think both supporters and opponents of Russia’s WTO membership overdramatise its immediate consequences. WTO is a body that regulates world trade. It is not a free trade zone. I don’t think there is much risk of Russian manufacturers being obliterated by a flood off western goods if only because the Russian government is determined to support Russian industry and because exactly as Kovane says WTO does not prevent it doing so. Russia does have the option of reducing its trade links and turning to self sufficiency and is perhaps because of the extent of its resources the only major economy with this option. However it surely makes better sense for Russia at this stage of its economic development to integrate itself with the world trade system, which is no longer western dominated, rather than retreat into self sufficiency in which case becoming a member of the body that regulates world trade is in Russia’s interests.

          • kirill says:

            I am afraid as a lawyer you are missing too many things about the WTO. Companies can sue the Russian government for enforcing local regulations they feel violate the spirit of free trade. This happened with the manufacturers of the MMT gasoline additive when the Canadian government banned it as a neurotoxin (which it is given it is based on Manganese). The Canadian government is alleged to have deprived these companies from making a fair living by selling MMT in Canada.

            The WTO is all about erosion of state sovereignty in favour of corporate rights:


            We are talking about the rights of only the most powerful western based corporations.

            • Dear Kirill,

              I wouldn’t be too worried by this sort of thing. Cases of this sort go on all the time at all levels. The Russian government every day faces all sorts of cases of this sort brought under the whole complex web of national and international trade law of which WTO is part. So do the governments of all other major trading countries. It wins some cases and loses others and the lawyers are kept rich and happy but overall the impact is small. Speaking specifically about the case you mention, though I no few details I suspect the Canadian government lost it (if it did lose it) because it did not defend it sufficiently aggressively. How you fight a commercial case matters as much as anything else and I doubt somehow that the Harper government would be one to defend itself aggressively against this sort of suit. The Russian government has a good reputation for standing up toughly against this sort of thing, which is why by the way people are leery of taking it on, and the fact that the Canadian government lost this case (if it did) doesn’t mean the Russian government would. Bear in mind also that countries like China, Japan and South Korea are able to operate pretty dirigiste economic policies within WTO. There is no reason why Russia cannot do the same thing.

              In my opinion the biggest legal effect of WTO membership is that it make the open discrimination practised by western countries against Russian goods and Russian companies more difficult. I don’t have to tell you that this goes on all the time. Restrictions by western countries against Russian exports are a much greater economic reality than restrictions by Russia against western imports. Now Russia is in a position to do something about it.

        • Misha says:


          Regarding Gessen’s recent NYT over the top reference to the fatality of 13 Jews in the USSR with the current situation with PR, there’s a politically incorrect over the top counter-Gessen not fir for “the paper of record”. Among others, I wouldn’t expect the congregants of a rebuilt synagogue previously destroyed by bigots and frequented by Holocaust survivors to take kindly to a neo-Nazi group doing a pro-Hitler/anti-Israeli government skit at that house of worship. In this hypothetical instance: at a trial offering a petty crime charge to the aforementioned neo-Nazis, I wouldn’t expect the public at large to be sympathetic to them, upon seeing their track record and smug courtroom attitude of: we didn’t intend to offend the venue in question.

          • kirill says:

            There’s a symmetry breaking aspect to this example: that the Vagina Thugs (aka Pussy Riot) are supposed to be standing up for all that is good and holy. This is obviously inane spin since all they did was spew their insults at the Church and Putin. Neo-Nazis are obviously bad but the Vagina Thugs can be made to look good with enough propaganda about evil Putin and his evil Church minions.

            • Misha says:

              Gessen’s tripe and that of others ignores that PR has performed even more provocative exhibits elsewhere without penalty. The issue is their “performance” at a venue they weren’t accorded permission to perform and wouldn’t have been granted approval if their intended manner was known beforehand. The venue in question was rebuilt after having been destroyed by the Communists as part of a period that was discriminatory towards the ROC. PR’s manner in that rebuilt venue was insulting to the ROC in a way that the likes of Gessen ignore and probably don’t care to know on account of their own interests/sympathies.

              As Cartman noted in the previous thread at this blog, musical instruments are not part of a Russian Orthodox Church service ever – only singing.

              In the most legally advanced of countries, the defense in a case involving some obvious wrongdoing can expect a harsher sentence if he/she/they and their counsel carry on in a disrespecful way.

  4. kirill says:

    Regarding external debt, it’s not 33%. Russia’s GDP in 2011 was 1885 billion US dollars so the 480 billion external (private+government) debt is 25% of the GDP. It is interesting how most of the OECD has much higher external debt percentages and that is never brought up as a weakness. For example take the UK and its 360+/-% debt.

    Also, it is rather bizarre to cast the performance of Russian private companies on the world market (which includes the domestic one now) as some sort of Russian government responsibility. Are we talking about a state run economy or a capitalist economy? This spin on Russian trade does not pass the smell test. A private economy does not modernize through the actions of the country’s leadership unless you are talking specifically about laws and regulations. I haven’t seen any substantial analysis of the alleged failing of Russian laws and regulations. Jut chirping about Putin’s responsibility to wipe everyone’s bum.

    • kovane says:

      I took the data from Wikipedia, good to hear that it’s lower now.

      Nothing bizarre here. The performance of particular companies is certainly not the responsibility of the Russian government. But the performance of the Russian economy definitely is.Which is comprised of many companies. Modernization requires many factors, such as capital, the promise of future profits, stability and so on. And while the state can’t busy itself with the problem of every company, it must improve the general environment. To wit: lower long-term loan interest rates, clear laws, the stability of the economic policy, etc.

    • kirill says:

      Interesting how the growth of small and medium size businesses was exponential over Putin’s two first terms. Looks like his “regime” had it right over five years ago.

    • kovane says:

      kirill, As I already said, I’m very surprised by how you take almost every remark about Russia’s problem (they exist, I hope you don’t contest that), as a general attack on Russia and Russians. I never said anything about Putin’s supposed murder of small business in Russia.

      • kirill says:

        Instead of answering my points you turn it into an ad hominem and start twisting my examples. The “Russia is underdeveloped because Putin is not doing enough” spiel is straight from the liberast propaganda handbook. The WTO entry will not modernize Russia’s economy. It will just help western corporations finish what they started in the 1990s. Banana republic Russia is something no sane Russian would support.

      • kovane says:

        kirill, I apologize, attacking you is the last thing I wanted to achieve. For the third time, I don’t bring up Putin and don’t want to do it. Russia is underdeveloped (I hope you will not argue that) due to many historical, political and even geographical reasons. The only reasonable thing to here is to accept it and to try and change that. And with the WTO, Russia’s still holding the reins, and if the accession turns into a robbery akin to the one in the 90s, it will be able to put a stop to that. Can we agree at least on that?

        • Dear Kirill,

          I don’t think Kovane is blaming Putin or even the Russian government for very much. All he is saying is that if Russia is going to make the most of the real opportunities offered by WTO membership it needs strong and consistent policies. He is not saying that Russia did not have strong or consistent policies before though he does say that it has not fully worked out its policies now. However if you follow what the Russian government says you will see that working out its policies is being given extremely high priority. It’s just that the government hasn’t got there yet.

          Ultimately (like you) I am a strong optimist about the Russian economy and I have no doubt that it will prosper in the WTO and that Russian companies (whose skills are generally underestimated) will benefit from it and make the most of it.

          I would say that I think that like many people (including me) you are nervous of anything the liberals support. If the liberals ever get their hands on the Russian economy (and by liberals I absolutely include the guys at the Higher School of Economics – a university or institute which I would personally love to see closed) it will be a total disaster. However that would be a total disaster for the Russian economy whether Russia was in the WTO or not just as it was a total disaster for the Russian economy when the liberals did get their hands on the Russian economy in the 1990s when Russia was not in the WTO. The destruction of the Russian civil aircraft and shipbuilding industries for example took place during that time, Simply because the liberals for their own deluded reasons support Russia’s membership of the WTO does not mean that we should oppose it.

          PS: Since I gather that the Higher School of Economics relies heavily on foreign (ie western) funding does anybody know if it falls under the scope of the new NGO law?

          • kovane says:

            Educational institutions are not subjected to the new NGO law, so no.

            • What a shame. Thanks for the prompt reply.

              • marknesop says:

                Agree with Alex – minimizing Russia’s problems is not going to make them disappear, and even westerners should be supported in criticism of Russia if it is done constructively. By that, I mean addressing faults that are correctable and proposing valid solutions which are likely to be seriously considered by the government. Much liberal criticism does not fall into this category at all, as the solution seems to be little more helpful than, “Putin must resign, and a new coalition government must be formed that gives us power out of all proportion to the share the popular vote has traditionally given us”.

                I have said before that adopting some western business practices might have the effect of forcing Russian businesses to modernize their sometimes-Byzantine methods, which will be all to the good. It certainly isn’t treasonous to want something better, or sycophancy to benefit from western examples if they will serve Russian interests and offer the potential of increasing Russian market share. China must have adopted some degree of western corporate regulation in order to sell to the west, which is about 50% of its current massive economic power (the remainder being the ability to call in its notes on all the money it loaned the west to pursue recreational warfare). It certainly hasn’t hurt China. It’s not as if Russian companies are being told, “shut your doors; you’re done”. They’re being told, “adapt or perish”. The Russian government seems to have a decent array of tools available to protect key industries while they are finding their feet, and nobody who insists on survival despite a refusal to change anything could be expected to survive anyway.

                Worry that Russia will be disadvantaged by western tricksters suggests a lack of confidence that Russian leaders cannot maneuver as skillfully on the corporate battlefield as their western counterparts. I believe they can, and will.

          • cartman says:

            There should be alternatives at least. It is unfortunate that the Chicago School has taken over almost all economics and business programs, despite its enormous faults.

    • AM says:

      “I haven’t seen any substantial analysis of the alleged failing of Russian laws and regulations”.

      How about “ease of doing business” report? Or “global competitiveness report” – read it and weep because Russia is very uncompetitive. It usually says with Russia – education, human capital great and everything else – crap. And this, infrastructure, availiability of credit, bureaucracy etc. – is government’s responsibility.

      • marknesop says:

        Would that be the same Ease of Doing Business Report that is produced by the World Bank? The same report that put Georgia at 16th in the world for ease of doing business – above Germany, Japan, France and Switzerland?

        If so, whoopty doo. A country’s placement on the Ease of Doing Business index gives them a warm glow around their hearts, and little else: if Georgia is such a business hotspot, somebody has got some explaining to do on the subject of why its FDI according to official government figures (the kindest that can be found) never broke $1 Billion for 2009, 2010 0r 2011.

        2009 – $759.1 Million (USD) – biggest investor, UAE
        2010 – $160.4 Million (USD) – biggest investor, Netherlands
        2011 – $814 Million (USD) – biggest investor, USA

        Russia’s FDI for 2010 was $43 Billion. Georgia might be a tiny country compared to Russia, but I think it’s clear that being artificially jacked on the Ease of Doing Business index does zip for your bottom line. Russia is placed very low, yes, just as it appears somewhere down around Zimbabwe for corruption as compiled by Freedom House or Amnesty International or whichever of those western affiliates writes it up. Investors do not seem to be inspired by a country’s ease of doing business rating. They seem to be inspired by the potential for profit.

        • AM says:

          Boom! Georgia? Really? Poor litte country that lives off American aid and maybe tourism since Russia banned their wines and mineral water. Why don’t you compare Russia to Poland or Kazakstan, even. “Ease of doing business” is not like “what I imagine about corruption” report. It actually measures stuff.

          • kirill says:

            You’ve been snookered and this is your pathetic comeback? WTF, you think that micro-economics does not exist? So small countries are not affected by corruption or bad government? Please buy another spiel to sell.

            Back on topic. The USA, Japan, South Korea, all of western Europe were protectionist when their capitalism was in its development stage. Free trade is only something that they support once they are assured that their corporations *and* transnationals will not be affected but actually gain from opening of new markets and lowering of tariffs. Russia cannot be expected to start with free trade before it has a functional capitalist economy. This does not happen in 13 years, it takes 20-30 and only from an existing capitalist culture (e.g. South Korea and Japan). So please spare the strawman about Russia’s economy being developed.

            • AM says:

              Please, Russia will not develop on her own in your protectionist bubble. Capitalism has changed, nowadays it’s alliance capitalism and being connected to the network as much as possible is important.
              Russia’s already losing out in this competition (or why did Renault-Nissan Alliance aquire majority in AvtoVaz). Russia should be doing what China is doing (in WTO for 10 years), leverage and access technology/innovation through links with companies from developed countries. Otherwise she’ll be left behind.

            • AM says:

              By the way, how can anybody compare Russia and Georgia (or Estonia) with a straight face? Or hail Saakashvili’s war on corruption as some kind of example of “how easy it is” well, maybe if you hve a tiny country with 4 mln people.

          • marknesop says:

            Actually measures stuff, how? In the case of Georgia – if you don’t mind me going back to them one more time – much of their data on corruption is sourced from the government and selected government-friendly businesses, according to the Georgian opposition. The west swears by opposition data everywhere else. Is the Georgian government likely to label itself as corrupt? Where does the data on ease of doing business in Georgia come from? Presumably, the assessors go through the steps of setting up an actual business; applying for permits and so forth. Does the government know this assessment is being carried out? If it does, permits will likely be expedited at lightning speed. Do the assessors speak Georgian? What is the effect of trying to negotiate the process in English? There are so many variables that influence the process, and the nature of measuring success so subjective that establishing a hard baseline is virtually impossible. It’s easier to business in Ireland than in Germany? Really? Suppose I want to set up a heavy-industry business in Ireland – is it going to be easier to do that in Ireland than in Germany? Again, I would have to know more about the criteria. Is the business the assessors use a standard model, the same for every country? Then it’s full of shit, unless it’s a bakery or something every country has, and even then some countries will have vastly more experience than others. Does that mean they’re an easier place to do business? For that particular line of work, maybe. What if I want to make bricks instead of cake?

            But all of that is beside the point, which is that it matters not a tinker’s damn where Georgia appears on the Ease of Doing Business Index in relation to profit and loss, investment and savings, growth and pensions – if a high rating on the EDB Index translated to high confidence in actually opening a business there, Georgia would be rolling in foreign investment and opening new businesses right and left. Is that the case? No, it’s not. The EDB index is just a pat on the head some countries get for being compliant. None of that in any way implies an endorsement on the ease of doing business in Russia if you’re a foreigner, or even if you’re not, because people who are in business internationally say it’s bloody hard and the rules are ridiculous. That’s their personal experience, and I’m more than ready to stipulate it needs improvement – anything that isn’t perfect needs improvement. But Russia boasts the 10th-largest economy in the world nonetheless, so obviously people will do business there regardless how hard it is and the EDB Index is a silly tool for measuring a country’s competitiveness.

            Poland? By all means. Poland came in at number 62 on the EDB Index. Russia is at 120. Poland’s balance of trade? A 3 Million Euro deficit. Russia’s balance of trade? A 17 Billion USD (13.8 Billion Euro) surplus. Poland GDP per capita adjusted for PPP? $19783.26. Russia GDP per capita adjusted for PPP? $19840.45. Poland government debt to GDP, as a percent? 56.3, and heading up. Russia government debt to GDP, as a percent? 9.6, and heading down.

            Yet Poland is ranked twice as competitive? Sure.

            • AM says:

              mark, obviously ease of doing business is not the only or even main variable that you consider when investing somehere (more important being markets/GDP or what tax breakes you get from host country!). What I was pointing out is that such reports shows stuff that governments can actuall influence, as opposed to market size or having or not/natural resources. Polan’d exconomy wasn’t crashing down when oil prices fell – it’s not like Russian government can magically change oil prices, but it can and should change other things.

              • marknesop says:

                Yes, on that I agree. All those points make perfect sense. Although I think you would find Russia has more potential effect on oil prices than many believe. The amount of panic generated in the markets around a potential loss of supplies is to some extent regulated by the amount of panic the west will allow – for instance, sometimes it will allow panic because its good for its oil companies’ business, whereas sometimes it will announce that the west has plenty on hand to weather a short-term crisis and will tap the strategic reserve to keep prices down. But if Russia were to announce a 50% cut in production over 6 months to carry out maintenance of drilling equipment, I don’t think reassuring words would contain the panic and the price spike even if no change was the west’s desired result.

          • AK says:

            AM is correct. For the most part, the Ease of Business report measures objective shit like # of steps needed to license a business, average cost of getting some license as percentage of GDP per capita, etc, etc.

            • kirill says:

              Western investment in Russia is not a Holy Grail for Russia to pursue. Most corporations have full time staff to handle bureaucracy and clearly this does not bankrupt them. Then there are certain issues such as land ownership and control of infrastructure. This applies to the City of Moscow where road construction is the most expensive in the world, not because of 3rd world corruption, but because of complexity:


              This clearly can’t be attributed to the federal government and its policies. No amount of “reform” will reduce such costs unless we have 1917 type reordering.

            • marknesop says:

              How does that make AM “correct”? Because they actually do measure “stuff”? Does that indicate the EDB Index actually is an accurate measure of a country’s competitiveness? I’m quite happy to agree the EDB Index measures “stuff”. So does the Corruption Perceptions Index; it’s based on reports from international and local businesses and news stories. It’s in no way an accurate measure of the country’s overall corruption, as I believe we’re agreed.

              • AK says:

                The EDB index is fundamentally more useful than the CPI because it is based on objective, real-world criteria and not “perceptions.”

                Are you seriously going to argue against its fundamental point that starting up and running a business in Russia is a pain in the ass in terms of bureaucrats and paperwork?

                • marknesop says:

                  Not even. I am arguing (1) that the EDB Index does not “prove” that Russia is uncompetitive, and (2) that any index which places Mikheil Saakashvili’s Georgia significantly higher for ease of doing business than Germany, France, and Japan is simply not credible. If it really was so easy to start up a business in Georgia, more businesses would be…well..starting up. I am also arguing that while the index does measure real things, they are all real things that can be artificially adjusted by a government which has been tipped off that a certain application is the test business used to form the assessment.

                  Luckily, we don’t have to guess, because EDB helpfully explains its rationale. According to their own site, “A high ranking on the ease of doing business index means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm”. If that has anything to do with national competitiveness, it is going to be years down the road; it has nothing to do with an international moving in and setting up a subsidiary, which it is going to hire locals to do anyway.

                  Also according to EDB’s guidelines, the assessment criteria are:

                  1. Starting a business,
                  2. Dealing with construction permits,
                  3. Registering property,
                  4. Getting credit,
                  5. Protecting investors,
                  6. Paying taxes,
                  7. Trading across borders,
                  8. Enforcing contracts,
                  9. Resolving insolvency, and 10. Getting electricity.

                  If it is aware it is being assessed – fairly simple for a government which makes it its business to know everything – it can directly impact the “score” in all categories except 5 and 7.

                  Furthermore, the quality of infrastructure is specifically excluded from the EDB Index: “It does not account for an economy’s
                  proximity to large markets, the quality of its
                  infrastructure services (other than services
                  related to trading across borders and getting
                  electricity), the strength of its financial
                  system, the security of property from theft
                  and looting, macroeconomic conditions or
                  the strength of underlying institutions.”

                  Lastly, Russia is among the nations recognized by the EDB Index as “economies that in 2010/11 implemented
                  regulatory reforms making it easier
                  to do business in 3 or more of the 10 topics
                  included in this year’s ease of doing business

                  I am more than happy to acknowledge it is difficult to start a business in Russia. There are a lot od stupid rules, endless “inspectors” and a crushing bureaucracy. I’m happy to stipulate it needs fixing. I object to the characterization that it is always going to be that way and that reports by western institutions are an objective measurement.

        • Voice of Russia had this report referencing a study by Ernst & Young that appeared to rate Russia much more highly.

          I would add a word of caution which is that I have still not been able to find the original of this report so I cannot say for sure how accurately Voice of Russia is reproducing it. Anyway it seems to give a very positive view of developments in the Russian business climate whilst the one negative it identifies, Russia’s supposed political instability, seems to me to be groundless and was probably the result of the exaggerated reporting of the protest movement during the winter.

          • AM says:

            “Another conclusion made by Ernst&Young, which surprised experts, is that Russia has one of the lowest levels of political stability in the world, only 18%.”

            Unfortunately I think Russia is condemned to being always characterised as unstable and losing out on investments. Not Putin’s fault but then hard to blame investors/people who compose these reports that they perceive strong personalisation of power (and for such a long time) as unstable.

            • Dear AM,

              The one part of the Ernst & Young report I absolutely don’t buy is the one about political instability. I see no sign of it in Russia and comparisons with Egypt are absurd. I think that on this one Ernst & Young got carried away by the media reporting of the winter protests. By contrast when their report apparently deals with material based on their own experience as an accountancy and business consultancy firm operating in Russia they give Russia a far higher assessment. My impression for what it’s worth is that this Ernst & Young report reflects a growing trend amongst business investors in London, which is to see the Russian economy in much more favourable and optimistic terms. It’s perhaps too early to speak of a sea change but the trend definitely is there and it is positive.

              On some of your other points, the reason some (not all) Russian companies have struggled to compete internationally is because they have not been allowed to compete on equal terms. The whole point about joining WTO is to change that.

            • marknesop says:

              “Not Putin’s fault but then hard to blame investors/people who compose these reports that they perceive strong personalisation of power (and for such a long time) as unstable.”

              Not so much perception as prejudice, I submit. Pierre Trudeau ruled Canada for more than 15 years; there is no limit to the number of mandates a Prime Minister can hold, and he just keeps on keepin’ on as long as parliament supports his government and his party keeps winning elections. He wasn’t even the longest-serving, he was something like 4th – but he was certainly the most personalizing of his power and arguably the most polarizing figure in Canadian politics. Throughout, the Canadian economy continued to grow and prosper; I couldn’t say if there was such a thing as the Ease of Doing Business Index at the time, but had there been Canada would have rated roughly as well as it does now – another planet from where Russia currently sits. Nobody from outside the country wrote impassioned letters that ordered Trudeau to give up power immediately or be forced out on a tide of protest. He was the only Canadian leader to my knowledge who invoked the War Measures Act and called out the military as internal security, and during that time hundreds of suspected FLQ (Front de Liberation du Quebec) members and sympathizers were arrested without warrants. Oddly, the USA – right next door – did not flood the country with NGO’s and request to conduct exit polls of Canadian elections.

              In short, nobody seemed to regard the country as in any way unstable. Hey, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, right?

          • kirill says:

            Such reports are a dime a dozen. For serious analysis one needs to go peer reviewed academic literature where they actually try to study the problem from a process perspective. Putting the cart before the horse with free trade is an idiotic option for Russia. One that has not been demonstrated to work anywhere else. I will exclude trade points like Hong Kong and Singapore for obvious reasons. Maybe Putin’s regime thinks that Russia is developed, but they are sadly mistaken.

            I guess it comes from Russia’s over-reliance on resource exporting industries. Yeah, they compete on the world level already. But so what. It needs to be worried about other industries including small and medium size companies. Actually, the latter have already suffered with production exports to China, believe or not.

            • AM says:

              If you saw peer reviewed literature on Russian competitiveness or perspectives for modernisation I’m afraid you wouldn’t find much positives (with the notable exceptions of a few multinationals in IT and telecoms like VimpelCom, Kaspersky etc) .

              • Dear Kirill,

                I think there is a misunderstanding. The WTO is not a free trade zone or area. Obviously if Russia were entering into such a free trade arrangements with established manufacturing producers that would be unwise but that is not what Russia is doing. The Customs Union that is being set up apparently is a free trade zone but to repeat WTO is not. WTO is a regulatory body that provides a legal framework for world trade. Joining it will work to Russia’s advantage because it will be able to benefit from the same rules as everyone else. Since it is Russian companies that are the ones that get disproportionately discriminated against the benefit is clear.

                • kirill says:


                  “Opening markets can be beneficial, but it also requires adjustment. The WTO agreements allow countries to introduce changes gradually, through “progressive liberalization”. Developing countries are usually given longer to fulfil their obligations.”

                  You are mistaken, lowering of tariffs and internal barriers to foreign goods is the primary goal of the WTO. The only accommodation to developing countries is a grace transition period. Every article I have read about Russia and the WTO talks about this transition period and the fact that Russia must open up its markets and lower/eliminate tariffs. It’s so-called obligations under the WTO. The trick here is that the west has already established the climate, which is free trade, that applies to international trade (the GATT negotiations mentioned in the above link).

  5. Meanwhile the Pussy Riot affair is acquiring ever more comic aspects. It seems a Finnish professor and his students attempted to pull a similar stunt in support of Pussy Riot at the Orthodox Cathedral in Helsinki only to be promptly arrested and prosecuted under the laws that seem to me almost identical to those in Russia. I haven’t figured out whether this professor realised that what Pussy Riot did and what he was proposing to do was as illegal in Finland as it is in Russia but now he knows. Readers of my post on Pussy Riot will know that its main point was precisely that what Pussy Riot did would be a criminal offence in any European country just as it is in Russia.

    Even more bizarre is the news that Playboy is apparently in all seriousness proposing that Tolokonnikova (she of the orgy in the museum and the live cockroaches) pose on its cover. If it ever happens I wonder what some western feminists (those who read the Guardian especially) will make of that?

    • Misha says:

      Actress Alicia Silverstone has requested that PR recieve vegan meals in prison.

      From a certain definite slant, this piece concerns some Russian legal aspects and ongoing criticism of Alexander Dugin:

      The author of the above piece has a way of pecking at certain issues unlike some others, which aren’t so intellectually easy to counter:

      • kirill says:

        Canada, i.e. Harper’s regime, denied entry to British parliamentarian George Galloway too. His outspoken criticism of neocons and George Bush was deemed a reason to deny him entry:

        • Misha says:

          Concerning “tolerant” Canada (government as opposed to the country and people at large):

          Besides Trifkovic and Galloway: Michael Savage is another law abiding person from a Western country who was denied entry into Canada for his views. Galloway eventually got clearance unlike Trifkovic and Savage. Galloway is portrayed as having a pro-Muslim/pro-left of center/pro-Palestinian lean, which is different from what Trifkovic (described in the above linked) and Savage are known for.

          During the recent Olympics, London gave clearance for a blatantly anti-Serb exhibit, twisted along the lines of nationalist anti-Serbs. London wouldn’t give such to an Armenian exhibit of Turkish atrocities which was far greater than what actually occurred in 1990s era former Yugo.

          Nicolai Tolstoy faced a harsh libel case for detailing the Brit involved betraying anti-Communist east Europeans.

          In contrast to these examples, PR aren’t “victims”, “heroes” and “dissidents”.

    • peter says:

      … under the laws that seem to me almost identical to those in Russia.

      Not according to RIA Novosti:

      “A criminal case was launched under two articles of Finland’s Criminal Code: infringement on religion’s inviolability and hindering religious rites,” said human right activist Johan Baeckman, who was among a group of public figures who initiated the case.

      • Dear Peter,

        Interesting that this is your view because to me this all looks rather similar to Article 3 paragraph 6 of the Law on Freedom of Conscience, Religion and Religious Association. Having said this I am absolutely not going to devote still more time and energy to researching the law in Finland of all places so let’s agree to disagree on this.

        • peter says:

          I am absolutely not going to devote still more time and energy to researching the law in Finland of all places…

          Well, since research is clearly not your forte, let me help you out. The two articles in question read as follows:

          Chapter 17 – Offences against public order (563/1998)

          Section 10 – Breach of the sanctity of religion (563/1998)

          A person who

          (1) publicly blasphemes against God or, for the purpose of offending, publicly
          defames or desecrates what is otherwise held to be sacred by a church or
          religious community, as referred to in the Act on the Freedom of Religion
          (267/1922), or

          (2) by making noise, acting threateningly or otherwise, disturbs worship,
          ecclesiastical proceedings, other similar religious proceedings or a funeral,
          shall be sentenced for a breach of the sanctity of religion to a fine or to imprisonment
          for at most six months.

          Section 11 – Prevention of worship (563/1998)

          (1) A person who employs or threatens violence, so as to unlawfully prevent worship,
          ecclesiastical proceedings or other similar religious proceedings arranged by a
          church or religious community, as referred to in the Act on the Sanctity of Religion,
          shall be sentenced for prevention of worship to a fine or to imprisonment for at most
          two years.

          (2) An attempt is punishable.

          • Dear Peter,

            Thank you for going to all this trouble but I am afraid that now that I have seen the relevant Finnish Articles they do seem to me to be very similar to the Articles that provide the legal basis for the case against Pussy Riot. Both create a public order offence which is aggravated where there is a religious dimension. The one significant difference is that Finland also has a blasphemy law in Chapter 17 (10) (1) which Russia doesn’t.

            • peter says:

              … they do seem to me to be very similar…

              Okay, let’s make it a yes or no question. Does the Russian criminal code contain an article/articles “very similar” to the above two articles of the Finnish criminal code (Ch. 17 Sec. 10 and 11)?

              a) yes

              b) no

              c) no clue

              Thank you in advance for answering.

              • AK says:

                I believe the answer is (b).

                But I do not see how this is germane to the issue. Russia’s laws are just a lot more general (“hooliganism”) than Finland’s (“disturbing worship”, “blasphemy”). But what substantive difference can (or should) this make?

              • yalensis says:

                peter: You must be an ex-schoolteacher? ’cause you love to spring pop quizzes. People, are, like, arg, I came onto this blog in order to have a political discussion, and now I suddenly have to take this test, which I didn’t study for….athough, to be sure, your quizzes are mostly fairly easy multiple-choice or True/False.

                Is your last name Korehov, by any chance? ’cause there’s this guy named Korehov who posed kovane quite a challenging quiz on the Politrash blog. He said it would be a quadratic equation, but then it turned out to be differential calculus. I’m still trying to figure out the answer (my calculus is a bit rusty), so maybe you can help?


          • cartman says:

            Do you agree with Finland’s law, which is more stringent than Russia’s?

            • Dear Peter,

              Where did you obtain this fascination for multiple choice questions?Anyway, since we are all intent on becoming experts in comparative law let me provide some explanation.

              Unless legal draftsmen in different countries deliberately copy articles in other law codes (which by the way happens often) or adopt wholesale the law codes of other countries (which also happens often) the wording and layout of different codes in different countries is inevitably going to be different. One does not therefore compare the exact wording and layout of articles and law codes in different countries in order to say whether they are similar or not. What one compares in each case is the offence and the elements of the offence.

              If we compare the positions in Britain, Finland and Russia as they would apply in each case to the Pussy Riot case were it being prosecuted under the applicable laws of all three countries we find that in all three of these countries there are common elements making up essentially the same offence. Thus

              (1) there has to be a breach of public order as set out in the heading of Chapter 17 and as further detailed in section 25 of the Finnish Code, as set out in Sections 4 and 5 of the British Public Order Act 1986 and as appears in Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code. In each case the definition of a breach of a public order is left purposefully vague since this is a matter for the Court to decide applying case law (in Britain) and jurisprudence (as in Finland and Russia);

              (2) The element involving insult to religion is then introduced into the public order breach in Finland by the qualifying sections (10) and (11) of Chapter 17 of the Finnish Code, in Russia through Article 3 (6) of the Russian Law on Freedom of Conscience, Religion and Religious Association and in Britain by sections 28 and 31 of the British Crime and Disorder Act 1998; and lastly

              (3) there has in all cases to be an element of criminal intention (“mens rea”), which is essential in all criminal cases except for offences of strict liability (which these are not) and which laws codes and statutes for that reason rarely spell out. In all cases this can be aggravated where there is evidence of malice as the prosecution is arguing there was in the Pussy Riot case.

              The question to ask therefore is not whether the the wording of the articles in the Finnish and Russian codes or the sections of the British Acts are the same or “very similar”. The correct question to ask is whether if the offence were prosecuted in Finland, Russia or Britain the elements the prosecution would have to prove would be similar or different. As I have argued previously they look very similar to me though the law in Finland goes into more detail and introduces an offence of blasphemy which does not exist in Russia or Britain.

              • peter says:

                So I gather your answer is (b). Thanks, thought so.

                • Dear Peter,

                  No it’s not.

                  My answer is (1) your multiple choice question is meaningless and (2) if anything I lean to (a).

                • Dear Peter,

                  Please don’t attribute to me answers to your questions. If you don’t like or understand my answers or think I am being unclear or evasive (which I was not) then just say so. Regards!

                • AK says:

                  My answer is (b) but with the reservation, how is this germane or relevant?

                • yalensis says:

                  @alexanderMercouris: [In a stern voice]: This was NOT an essay question. You were only allowed to answer (a) through (e). Please fill in the circle correctly with your #2 pencil, then lay your pencil down and close your book. All these results will be fed into peter’s super-computer. Once he adds the Higgs-Boson particle to the results, he will be able to RULE THE WORLD — Mwahahahaha!

                • peter says:

                  how is this germane or relevant?

                  I don’t know, it was Alexander’s idea to bring Finland into this argument.

    • yalensis says:

      Tolokonnikova has a nice figure, so she should probably go ahead and pose naked for Playboy. (Preferably without the cockroaches, yuck.)

      • kirill says:

        A beautiful body attached to a sick head is ugly.

      • AK says:

        5. Wouldn’t bang.

        • yalensis says:

          Moot point. She only dates Alphas. Wouldn’t go near a Gamma.
          Well, you always have the option of cyber-bullying her on Twitter.

          • AK says:

            Internet white knight yalensis comes riding to Tolokna’s rescue.

            She has a husband BTW though granted I doubt she’s the sort to avoid banging the odd lothario behind his back.

            • yalensis says:

              You are the one whose avatar is a Knight, not me. I reckon you must have skipped class that day when the lesson was Code of Chivalry.

              • AK says:

                A prerequisite to male chivalrous conduct is that its object behaves in a courteous and lady-like manner.

                Some fat cunt attacking me on Twitter unprovoked doesn’t fulfill said requirement. Neither does some knocked up whore f***ing in public and prancing about and screeching scatological lyrics in a house of God.

                It is too bad you do not understand basic things and take out your frustrations on me. But that’s not my problem. In the meantime, kindly get off my back.

                • yalensis says:

                  You need psychiatric help….

                • kovane says:

                  Hm, I thought you two were on friendly terms. What happened?

                • AK says:

                  Some Ukrainian nationalist female (as with La Russophobe, it’s hard to dignify her with “woman”) attacked me unprovoked on Twitter. I made some curt but correct remarks critiquing her weight and her website. She then launched into a hysterical bile-filled jeremiad against me (proving that I’d hit the mark) and brought her Internet orbiters to join in. Then I wrote a post making fun of her and her orbiters, causing yalensis to flip out for his own reasons, namely some weird idea of his that you can’t answer back to a girl or something like that.

                  I really couldn’t care less. He is of course free to leave my blog if he detests my ideas and attitude that much. I’d be lying if I said he (that is, the linguist and Arab Spring/Russia commentator) totally won’t be missed but it’s ultimately quite a minor issue. However if he is going to continue his campaign against me here then I am not going to stay quiescent either.

                • marknesop says:

                  Come on, guys. You like each other too much to fight over girls. I hate people who wear their hats at the table; just a holdover from my stepfather, who disliked it so much that if he saw anyone doing it in a restaurant, he would go over to their table and ask them to take off their hat. When I was a kid, it was tremendously impolite. Now the baseball cap is part of the uniform for boys to young men, and most never take it off until they go to bed, including eating all meals with it on. I can – and do – control it at my own table, but beyond that I have to recognize I have no right to impose my values on others; the best I can do is lead by example, and hope others follow.

                  This is no different, really. Personally, the more someone insults me, the more polite I try to be – it’s kind of a game, them losing their cool and me not. But that’s not for everybody, either. Come on, I want to see a hug. No crying, though. Crying is for girls.

                • yalensis says:

                  @kovane: I regret that this unfortunate incident occurred on your blogpost, thus distracting discussion from your excellent research, and all the discussion we should be doing on that. On the other hand, we ARE Russians after all (at least some of us), so these Dostoevskian blow-ups are inevitable from time to time.
                  @mark: Ditto.

                • kovane says:

                  No problem, yalensis. I always appreciate a good flame war anyway. :) Besides, it seems to be an established tradition at Mark’s blog that the initial subject is quickly forgotten, and then the last post turns into an open forum on all possible topics. Look at the previous post: while Mark was on a vacation, it swelled to almost a thousand comments, with discussions on most of the current events.

                  It’s just that I was surprised to see such a heated exchange between you and Anatoly. I remember that you were a frequent guest at his blog and you two were also getting along fine here as well. It seems to me that you have much more common ground than things sowing discord. And sometimes it’s better to focus on the former, ignoring views and habits we consider wrong and even repugnant. For example, me and Mark mostly see eye to eye, but he does have this one completely unreasonable point of view. I many times proved to him what an excellent idea it would be if Russia conquered Canada. But no, he keeps on rejecting it on some irrational grounds. I’m sure he’ll come around eventually, but in the meantime forgive him this minor quirk.

                • marknesop says:

                  If you sent over all your attractive women – except Nadya Tolokonnokiva, of course, because she’ll be in jail; yes, GUILTY, although the sentence had yet to be passed when I read it on the BBC link – you might find our defenses in disarray.

                  Going back for a moment to that story, I was a little amused to see overnight-sensation Nadya’s analysis, “Our imprisonment serves as a clear and unambiguous sign that freedom is being taken away from the entire country”. Got that? If you’re not allowed to perform obscenity-laced “punk prayers” at your local place of worship, you just plunged on the Freedom Index. Incidentally, expect Transparency International and Freedom House to take their revenge for that decision by dropping Russia a few more slots on the old freedom billboard as well as all their other silly indexes. Apparently if you are not free to do just as you like, you’re not free to do anything. Stay tuned, though, because apparently that means next time somebody is awarded huge damages in a Russian court, it means every citizen is going to wake up with a big cash bonus.

                  Anyway, hopefully that will be the last we will hear of Pussy Riot for a while. Oh, their name will be on everyone’s lips for a week or so; I’m sure talentless shock troops everywhere are taking notice that this is the route to overnight stardom and I personally hope they decide to show their support in the USA by staging duplicate performances in American churches rather than just parading about in balaclavas. But after the excitement dies down, perhaps they’ll attain a degree of Khodorkovskyism – mentioned as obligatory every time human rights in Russia is brought up, but otherwise in the dead zone.

                • marknesop says:

                  Speaking of conquest, I had a very nice conversation with Mark Galeotti over at his blog, In Moscow’s Shadows, in which in an incidental mention near the end he said that even the Russians admitted the Georgians outfought them in 08 – Russia simply had too much firepower and didn’t fight too badly. Anyone see anything like that, anywhere? Russian military commanders or defense analysts admitting Georgia outfought them? I’m curious, because I didn’t even see the customary “they fought well” reserved for enemies honourably defeated. In fact, I noticed the tone on the part of their U.S. military advisors in-country go from “what a bunch of fire-eaters; these guys are ready to kick some ass, for sure” to “no way were these guys combat-ready”.

                  I’d be interested to know where he got that story, because I haven’t seen anything remotely like it, although I am sure he has access to a lot of great sources I have not.

                • kovane says:

                  I knew we could negotiate something :)

                  Absolute rubbish, if you ask me, regarding the supposed admission you mention. It could only come from such noted military analysts as Garry Kasparov or Yulia Latynina. No one is sane mind from official structures as the Ministry of Defence would tell that.

    • iastreb says:

      The whole story is a bit of a hoax. There is no criminal case – the person who petitioned the Helsinki police is the same person whose press release is the main source for the story in most of the Russian media. Teivainen has not been arrested or charged, did not enter the church,was not locked out of the church, and did not bring urine. See:

      For a Russian-language interview published today, see:

      See also :

      • …….Wonderful! But at least the result of the hoax (if such it is) has been to show us what the law on this subject in Finland is.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          I wonder what contributors to this site think the PR verdict will be tomorrow? The PR defence has been going on and on this past week that the majority of verdicts in Russian criminal cases are what the prosecution has demanded, therefore maintaining that PR will get a 3-year custodial sentence, thereby whipping up “world protest” over the severity of the sentence and the Evil One’s “repressive regime”.

          I think the three accused PR members will get a suspended sentence minus the almost 6 months that they have already spent on remand, albeit that they have spent so much time on remand largely because of their defence counsel’s tactics and because they continued to claim that they were not present at the cathedral whilst at the same time other members of the PR movement (I refuse to classify them as members of a “feminist punk rock band””) who escaped arrest have continued to mouth it off about the reasons for their “performance” in the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer.

          I also think that the suspended sentence might very will be an 18-month one. In any case, I think the three accused PR members will walk out of the court tomorrow.

          Whatever happens, however, it will be a lose-lose situation for the government: if the PR accused get 3 years inside, there will be an orchestrated outcry about the severity of the sentence, which sentence, of course, the Evil One will have ordered; if they get a suspended sentence, the oppositionists’ claim that Putin has been scared shitless by the PR case will have been vindicated.

          • Misha says:

            The salutations, trips and awards awaiting these ever so gallant heroes

          • marknesop says:

            I’ll go with the 3 years the prosecution asked for, minus one to show mercy and as a minor concession to the world’s bleating that these priceless talents and freedom firebrands must go free. Two years.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              You win first prize!

              PR have been sent down for 2 years.

              Let the wailing and the gnashing of teeth commence!

              I wonder if the US congress will now pass a bill to punish all those involved in the conviction of the three PR members?

              • Moscow Exile says:

                When asked by Novaya Gazeta whether she regretted her actions, Tolokonnikova said:

                “No, of course not. We’re happy that we unexpectedly became the epicentre of such a large political event in which so many different forces are in play…I don’t believe in the court’s decision at all… There is no court. It is an illusion”.

                Well keep on dreaming, Nadya!

        • yalensis says:

          It’s probably one of those laws that is never enforced. LIke laws about spitting on the sidewalk, or something like that.

          • I think there will be a conviction.

            As to the sentence if something like this were to happen in say Westminster Abbey with the same sort of excremental abuse of the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury I doubt the court would hand down a sentence of much less than 2 years though they would probably only have to serve one. Deleting from that the five months they have already served they would be probably be released by March though there might be a chance they would be let out early say by Christmas.

            • Dear Moscow Exile,

              Just out of historical curiosity, I was intrigued by what you said about how your wife’s grandfather who was an Old Bolshevik got caught up in street fighting in Moscow during the Revolution. It struck me that there might have been two occasions for this:

              1. In November 1917. There was much more resistance to the October Revolution in Moscow than in Petrograd with street fighting between Red Guards and Cadets who were defending the Provisional Government and who were at one point occupying the Kremlin; and

              2. In the summer of 1918 following the assassination in Moscow of the German ambassador Mirbach. The Left Socialist Revolutionaries who had previously been in coalition with the Bolsheviks were bitterly opposed to the Brest Litovsk Treaty. They not only assassinated Mirbach but launched an insurrection against the Soviet government with the help of the anarchists. Since the Left SRs and the anarchists were strongly represented in the Cheka they were able to capture Dzerzhinsky and their insurrection almost succeeded. This was the most critical moment Lenin’s government faced following the Revolution when its survival hung by a thread. In the end Lenin prevailed because he was able to rally loyalist forces in Moscow and call on the help of the Latvian Rifle Regiment.

              Both events were seminal in the history of the Revolution. If your wife’s grandfather was involved in either of them that would be really exciting.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Dear Alexander Mercouris,
                I have just had a chat with my wife concerning the activities of her paternal grandfather, Andrei Stepanovich, during the revolutionary years at the beginning of the last century. She tells me he was born in 1898 in a village near Penza and was the youngest of six sons. At 14 years of age he was sent to St. Petersburg, where he was apprenticed to a master cabinet maker. (In fact, the big dining table that we have in the country was made by Andrei Stepanovich.) Clearly, he became politicized in the imperial capital and joined the Bolsheviks.

                Now here’s the bit that you are interested in: in 1918 he was sent to Moscow, where he and other Red Guards were billeted in the Alyoshinskiye Kazarmy ( Алешинские казармы – The Alyoshin Barracks), whence he and his comrades helped put down the insurrection that took place in that year. Perhaps he was billeted with the Latvian Rifles?

                My wife tells me that, coincidentally, the barracks where her grandfather was billeted were situated only a few streets away from where we now live in Moscow. She also tells me that after her paternal grandfather’s death, her father often voiced his regrets over his not writing down all that his father had told him of his activities and of what he had witnessed during the revolutionary years.

  6. yalensis says:

    Meanwhile, in an earlier blogpost (a couple of days before kovane’s), Politrash exposed that Udaltsov has joined forces with Islamist Fundamentalist political parties and separatists in Tatarstan. Udaltsov’s plan is to build a Popular Front of the Russian “White Ribbon” forces with regional Islamists.
    No doubt Hillary Clinton will soon recognize this motley alliance as the legitimate government of Russia and call for Putin to hand power over to them toute suite.

    • How seriously do people take Udaltsov? To me he comes over as a cross between a cult leader and a thug. During the 1970s and 1980s the extreme left fringe of British politics was full of tiny Trotskyist groups (brilliantly ridiculed in the Monty Python film the Life of Brian) led by various eccentric people some of whom were also pretty brutish. Udaltsov reminds me a lot of them. Nobody who was not part of their microscopic world took them seriously and they played absolutely no role in mainstream politics though they did have a certain following within the student community.

    • cartman says:

      Is the guy in the middle holding the green flag the one who sewed his lips shut? Or is that Udaltsov?

      I thought he wanted to take over the KPRF, but this stunt probably blows that. That party still relies on democratic support so putting the leadership on the fringe will ruin it.

  7. yalensis says:

    Meanwhile, back at the Navalny blog, the King of the Hamsters is whining about the FSB being all in his face and getting involved with the KirovLes case (=Conspiracy to commit embezzlement on a Grand Scale, which Navalny has been charged with).
    A couple of developments, according to Navalny:
    Last week some FSB agents carried out a search of Petr Ofitserov’s (home?) (business?)
    (У Офицерова)
    More significantly, last Friday The Sberbank Bank of Kirov (=the bank in which KirovLes keeps its company accounts) was subpoened to hand over bank records, again by a visiting FSB agent from Moscow. The issue is whether or not Navalny’s alleged co-conspirator Ofitserov did actually complete an electronic transfer of 14.5 million rubles into the KirovLes account, as he claims; and if so, when?
    According to Navalny, there are 4 FSB agents from Major Case Squad involved in the investigation.
    If I were Navalny, I would keep my big mouth shut until the case goes to trial, rather than blogging about it. He is not taking this very seriously at all! Narcissistic over-confidence?

    • kirill says:

      He is acting like the Pussy Riot bimbos: complete contempt for the system. So we have here another Trotsky wannabe. But he ain’t no Trotsky and the state of the country has no similarity to 1917.

      • Actually this seems the current opposition practice – to defend criminal cases not in the courts but through public relations campaigns. Isn’t that what Khodorkovsky and Browder/Magnitsky have also been doing?

        • kirill says:

          Yes. But let’s see them pull this in the USA or UK. I haven’t heard of such brazen contempt of court by any accused here in North America. It’s time for Russian authorities to stop coddling these idiots. They should have the book thrown at them for contempt of court alone. Then they would have an incentive to shut up. Naturally, Russia cannot yield on any case no matter how much the west screams. This is to establish the absolute supremacy of the law. And not mob rule by some malcontents. The west can huff and puff all day long but their “case” is a joke. Like Amnesty International’s declaration that Khodorkovsky is a political prisoner.

          • R.C. says:

            Apparently, Amnesty International claims to have delivered 70,000 Pussy Riot petitions to the Russian Embassy in the US only to have the petitions unceremoniously dumped on the street outside of the Embassy by workers there! Meanwhile, the UK government is threatening to over-run the Ecuadoran embassy to get Julian Assange and what exactly does AI have to say about this blatant disregard for law? Not much……so far, though I certainly won’t be holding my breath.

            It seems Pussy Riot has them “preoccupied.”

        • AK says:

          That is exactly right.

          Ben Aris had a good article on this. As I recall he called it “oligarch’s poker”.

          Ah, here it is:

        • yalensis says:

          @alex: Yes, you hit the nail on the head. All of these defendants are conducting their cases in the (Western) court of public opinion. I suppose it’s all the only defense they have, because the actual facts and evidence tend to trend against them. Russian law, if left to the rules of its own inexorable machinery, would probably crush them. (Like we discussed on your blog, acquittal rates in Russian courts are very low.)
          Hence, the defendants’ appeal to external forces to pull their nuts out of the fire. Unfortunately, these meta-legal tactics may enjoy a certain measure of success, since the Russian government is overly sensitive to Western public opinion; and since Russian courts are not exactly 100% independent of government infuence! :(

          • Moscow Exile says:

            re: the Western policy of manipulating public opinion over matters sub judice

            I posted this on the previous thread:

            Voice of America Moscow bureau chief, James Brooke, explains why the Russian government is “defending the indefensible” in its protesting to the US Congress over the proposed “Magintsky Act” by its “painting the attack on about 44 suspected Russian criminals and corrupt government officials as an attack on Russia’s 144 million people”.

            Note the expresion “suspected ciminals”. Brooke does not seem to find anything strange in the passing of a bill that shall punish those suspected but not in any way proven in the due process of law in criminal courts of their guilt in perpetrating said criminal acts.

            He does, however, consider one particular “court” to be of extreme importance when he states: “The Kremlin is losing big time in the international court of opinion”.

            So there you have it from the Voice of America: the “international court of opinion” is of paramount importance, it seems, overiding not only international law but all other laws.


            • kirill says:

              Pompous VOA BS. Only in the little mind of this idiot is the whole world about to launch a crusade against Russia based on hysterical western shenanigans. Rousing NATO against Russia is like preaching to the choir, i.e. pointless. So Magnitsky died in custody because he failed to get proper medical attention to a non-obvious ailment (i.e. he was not left to bleed out on the cell floor or something that brazen) as if that has never happened in the USA or other NATO states before. Accusing everyone in the vicinity of murder is the utmost inanity. By this measure the leadership of the USA should be tried and jailed as well since more than just a few bad things happened on their watch.

    • marknesop says:

      “Narcissistic over-confidence?”

      Or perhaps the comforting knowledge that should things get really hot, he will be spirited away out of reach where he will act as leader and chief financier (through grants) of the government-in-exile.

      • yalensis says:

        Yeah, except that everybody, both enemies AND fans, seems to want him to rot in jail for a few years, just to turn him into Russia’s Nelson Mandela! If he flees, then he loses some of his martyr cachet. Well, I am willing to bet a few rubles that when push comes to shove, he will TAKE A POWDER (to his safe house in Tallinn).

        • In the old days open discussion of a case before the Court delivered its judgment was a serious criminal offence under the concept of “sub judice”, which treated such discussion as a contempt of court. Until the 1970s the concept was well nigh universal in European jurisdictions and was rigorously enforced. The reason it existed was of course precisely so as to prevent Courts being pressured through public relations campaigns. I don’t know whether such a concept ever existed in Russia but obviously it doesn’t now. In Britain it barely exists any more but I still think that the campaigns Navalny and Pussy Riot are engaged in would be illegal and would probably be prosecuted as contempts of court.

        • cartman says:

          It seems like Assange will take some of that attention away. But the public in the West is fickle, and has already forgotten about Bradley Manning who has been in detention for more than two years.

  8. Misha says:

    Russia is really ripe with promting pro-ROC and pro-Putin views while brutally suppressing the extreme opposite:

    No surprise to see the above linked piece being JRL promoted, unlike some more cutting edge and accurate analysis from a different perspective.

    • R.C. says:

      What’s especially comical is that people continue to refer to “Putin’s prosecution of Pussy Riot” as if Putin was the one who ordered their arrest and detention and that he’s some sort of grand inquistor presiding over every single case in the Russian legal system. I believe Putin has spoken once on the PR issue, and if I recall, he said he wasn’t too crazy with their stunt but clearly stated they should be granted leninacy. It’s just silly that people continue to believe that Putin is this omipotent overseer who knows/controls everything in Russia. The next time I see an article with someone claiming that “Putin is afraid of these young women and that’s why HE’S prosecuting them, blah, blah, blah” I don’t know what I’ll say. It always gives me a chuckle to hear the press speak of him as if he ‘s the Q-entity from Star Trek or something. I mean, he must literally have no time to be head of state since (according to them) he’s literally involved in every single thing that happens in Russia regardless of significance. The thought has never crossed their minds that the PR case just MAY not be worth his time or attention. Perish the thought!

      • yalensis says:

        Putin as the Q Entity? I LOVE IT!

        Q: “Humanity’s potential exceeds the power of the Gods!”
        Picard: “What a piece of work….”

        • Dear RC,

          I think you have got it exactly right. Unless Putin really is some sort of divinity there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for him to keep on doing all the things he is supposed to be doing. The idea that he is micromanaging cases like those of Pussy Riot and Navalny or indeed of Khodorkovsky is absurd. Like most people I think he must at least have given the nod to the Khodorkovsky case given what a powerful man Khodorkovsky had become but even of this no actual evidence has ever come to light. That Putin was spending his time fussing about Pussy Riot as the Presidential election reached its climax and he was busy forming his new government is impossibly farfetched.

  9. Misha says:

    *More than meets the eye?


    Excerpt –

    This has prompted an online poll [ru], comparing an ethnic Armenian competing for Russia and an ethic Russian competing for Kazakhstan. The poll asks a simple question: “What do you view as a victory? The gold medal of Russian Federation citizen Arsen Galstyan? Or the gold medal of ethnic Russian Aleksandr Vinokurov?” Over eighteen thousand people have voted so far, and the results are 80% in Vinokurov’s favor. Coincidentally, ethnic Russians make up around 80% of Russia’s population.


    Put mildly, there’s reason to doubt how well the above excerpted conforms with actual reality – which isn’t to say that intolerance doesn’t exist in Russia.

    For openers, one might ask why Vinokurov didn’t (apparently) make an effort to represent Russia? The Kazakh born Russian ice hockey goalie Yevgeny Nabokov was able to successfully petition and compete for Russia.

    One senses that most patriotically inclined sports fans the world over root for their country, with ethnicity being of little importance. The historical recollections I’ve come across indicate that in an era of Jim Crow laws, 1930s white America at large enthusiastically rooted for Joe Louis against Max Schmeling and Jesse Owens’ performance at the 1936 Olympics.

    Would most ethnic Russians root for Moscow born ethnic Russian Nastia Lukhin of the US against ethnic Tatar Alija Mustafina of Russia, in a hypothetical Olympic gymnastics gold medal showdown?

    If the Russian Olympic men’s basketball team beat the US for gold (every now and then dramatic upsets happen in sports), their American-Israeli coach David Blatt would get the czar treatment without any hesitation. As is, he’s highly regarded. Awhile back, he openly expressed the desire to leave the Russian program because of (what he termed as) bureaucratic shortcomings hindering process. Apparently some of the higher ups wised up.

    Be asking too much for a court appointed “Russia hand” to pick up on something like the aforementioned.

  10. Misha says:

    Regarding Romney’s running mate relative to improved US-Russia relations, the views expressed in this piece aren’t upbeat:

  11. AK says:

    I haven’t read the post yet but I will do so this weekend and provide more detailed commentary. It does look excellent however. Congrats kovane!

  12. Misha says:

    Tweet, Tweet:

    Funding the trip herself as in a Berezovsky kickback at some point in time?

    Some meatier Brits can be used to bust into Ecuador’s embassy.

  13. yalensis says:

    Part II of kovane’s piece on politrash:

    • kovane says:

      Don’t rub salt into my wound, yalensis. I’ve been completely overrun by autarchists there, sons of Kurginyan’s sect.

      • yalensis says:

        Yeah, kovane, I noticed they are a pretty tough audience over there at poliTrash. But you hold your own with that “autarchist” flashmob, hang in there, you are doing okay!

        (I would jump in and support you there, but I don’t have a LiveJournal password.)

        (Also, I am kind of “autarchist” myself, but I try to keep an open mind.)

      • yalensis says:

        Hey, @kovane: I believe I may have have solved that differential calculus problem which that troll Korehov posed you on Apetian’s blog, trying to force you to prove that you’re “human” by answering his stupid “captcha” question.
        I had a couple of free hours today, so I fished out my old calculus textbook, and plowed through it, and I believe the answer is 0. (So, turns out to be a trick question, naturally.)
        “Show your work,” you say skeptically? Okay, here it is:
        The problem is: Differentiate 4 * sin(7 * x – pi/2) , and then solve for x = 0
        So: If
        g(x) = 4 * sin(7 x – pi/2) , then the derivative
        g’(x) = 28 cos (7x – pi/2)
        Plug in (x = 0) and you get:
        g’(0) = 28 cos (- pi/2)
        Since (pi/2) radians = 90 degrees, and cos(-90 degrees) = 0, the the final answer reduces to 0.
        Did I get it right? (Any mathematicians out there?)

        • kovane says:

          Absolutely! And there are far quicker methods for solving problems like this :) SOLVE

          • yalensis says:

            You’re kidding me, this app solves calculus problems? I can’t believe I had to do it the hard way, with pencil and paper! Thanks for the link, I saved it as a favorite for future use.
            BTW, I always found derivation to be way harder than integration, so I don’t know why they always teach it in the other order.

            • kovane says:

              Where in the hell did you study Calculus? Linguists are exempted from this ordeal, as far as I recall.

              • yalensis says:

                School. I was fortunate to get a very good education. I didn’t learn math very well, though. Never did understand logarithms. I was better at languages. And you? Do you have to use math a lot in your job?

              • kovane says:

                I work in finance, so yeah. Nothing too fancy, but there’s no avoiding that. Theoretical economics requires much more rigorous math, so I’m trying to keep myself in shape. That’s not burdensome for me at all – I’ve always loved math anyway.

                • marknesop says:

                  I knew something bizarre about you would surface sooner or later. Confessing to a love for mathematics is the equivalent of showing up at a party with an inflatable sheep under your arm.

                  Incidentally, that’s how you know the Rolling Stones were not Scottish. They sing, “Hey You, Get Off Of My Cloud”, while in Scotland they sing, “Hey, McLeod, Get Off Of My Ewe”.

                • kovane says:

                  Too bad that you don’t even try to hide your distasteful racism toward the Scottish people!

                • marknesop says:

                  I have nothing against the Scots, they’re not baaaaa-d.

                • yalensis says:

                  “”The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!”
                  (Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson)

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          A mathematician would say that the solution is x = k*pi/7 with k a signed integer, i.e. x = 0, -pi/7, pi/7, -2*pi/7…
          Yalensis, you have a strange attitude toward mathematics. You didn’t understand logarithms, and find derivation harder than integration. Generally, it’s the other way around. The harder things get, you find them easier, perhaps you could have became a good mathematician ;-) .

          • yalensis says:

            Hey, Giuseppe! Are you a math person too, like kovane? I don’t understand your solution, but it looks way easier than the way I did it! The reason I find integration easier is because I “get” what we are trying to do, we are basically trying to measure the area of a container with jagged edges. I don’t really “get” derivation, I know that we are morphing one function into a different function, but I don’t know WHY we are doing that, except that it has something to do with accleration. I can mechanically go through the steps to solve a (relatively easy) derivation problem, but I do not grasp the basic concept of what I am doing! Arggggg!

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              I confess I like math, kovane isn’t alone. The solution I gave comes from the fact that cos(y) = 0 when y = pi/2+k*pi, i.e. y = pi/2, -pi/2, 3*pi/2,… Equating 7*x-pi/2 = pi/2+k*pi we get x = (k+1)*pi/7 which is the same set given by x = k*pi/7.
              Now I understand why you find integration easier to understand. You mean definite integration, I thought you meant indefinite integration.
              Why we do derivation? Suppose you are traveling on a straight road and you have the function that gives the distance you’ve covered as a function of time d(t). Your average speed between time t and t+delta-t is (d(t+delta-t)-d(t))/delta-t. To get your instantaneous speed you have to “collapse” delta-t to 0, i.e. find the limit of the above fraction when delta-t goes to 0, which is the derivative of the function d(t).

          • peter says:

            Sorry to butt in, but it seems there’s a bit of misunderstanding going on here. The original problem was to find the derivative of function 4sin(7x-π/2) at the point x=0. Yalensis solved this correctly, the answer is indeed zero.

            Now, Giuseppe, for some reason, was solving a different problem: find all points where that derivative is zero. The answer is indeed x=nπ/7 with n integer, so both are correct in their own way.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              It was the ‘solve’ instead of ‘calculate’ that gave me the wrong idea about the problem. You and Yalensis are right.

      • hoct says:

        “Some sectors will gain billions of dollars, others will lose even more.” – So in the start you make it sound as if net losses outweigh the gains.

        “The WTO’s stated goal is boosting the global economy by lowering trade barriers” – A goal which you do not question, thus letting the association between lower barriers to trade with advocacy and pressures from foreign powers hostile and semi-hostile to Russia which have the most influence in WTO stand.

        “Thus, any favourable trading condition granted to one country must be provided for all other members as well.” – Which right there is actually just as likely to prevent tariffs from coming down on average as it is to help bring them down.

        “Special measures for protecting domestic industry in case there is evidence that imports are actively harming it, like the temporary steel tariff the USA imposed in 2002.” – You mean there’s a bunch of regulation. Are such measures really “special” or are they quite regular.

        “The basic premise of the WTO is David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage , which is almost 200 years old.” – That’s the premise of human exchange on any level. Not just of WTO or international trade.

        “First of all, it treats comparative advantage as something inherent, set in stone.” – That’s the first I’ve heard of this. Actually it changes all the time. Maybe a good versatile football player plays right-back when everyone in the team is healthy, but switches to center-back when one of the center-backs is injured, as the team can more easily replace a right-back than a center-back, or assigns that position more importance. In one case the position where he can do the most good for the collective is playing right-back, but with one injury only (without even any additional training or acquiring of additional skills by the player) it may in an instant switch to center-back.

        “Obviously, China refused to embrace the comparative advantage of the time, and through active economic policy, changed it.” – That’s not so obvious. There simply isn’t a better way to make money than in the field where you have a comparative advantage. Even if your goal is to eventually reach the stage where you export advanced electronics, it simply doesn’t make sense to switch to making and selling those as long as you can actually still make more money selling timber.

        “For example, RosAtom holds the first place in the number of nuclear plants being constructed abroad and 40% of the world uranium enrichment market. With only one major competitor, Rosatom has considerable freedom in its price policy, and obviously gets extra profit from that.” – You’re looking at it too narrowly. RosAtom does not only compete with other builders of nuclear power plants. It competes with all energy providers. If RosAtom quotes a price that is too high, the customer may choose to build a different kind of power plant, or just import more oil.

        “On the other hand, developing economies whose trade barriers have been breached by the WTO…” – That’s an interesting use of words. You erect a trade barrier to protect yourself (from trade?) and then the WTO breaches it and leaves you defenseless (from trade?).

        “Yet another obstacle for developing countries is the WTO TRIPS agreement, regulating intellectual property rights.” – Good point. So called intellectual property is a huge hindrance to prosperity and growth and another example how WTO obstructs the free flow, in this case of knowledge and ideas.

        “No amount of tariff barriers alone can lift a country from poverty;” – Not alone, but shutting yourself off to trading with the outside world (to an extent) is a necessary prerequisite to growth in this early stage. That’s very interesting. So it is when you’re really, really poor, that you should prevent your dirt poor consumers access to the world market and squeeze them for every penny when they try to buy something off it anyway and make them overpay through the teeth for both foreign and domestic goods. That will boost local production! (Ie Stripping your customers of purchasing power.) But then as you grow richer this suddenly doesn’t make sense anymore, and it is now better to have more trade? How come? First of all it seems to me that if something (eg protectionism) will work to lift you from poverty, it should continue to work as you grow more affluent to make you even richer. And second, it actually seems to me that it is precisely when you are poor that high tariffs are so inhumane and harmful. Rich people can more easily afford higher cost of their consumption goods and a corresponding decrease in living standards than poor people. In fact in the extreme example high barriers to trade can mean starvation and mass death for poor people as happened in the Irish Famine.

        “In essence, protective tariffs are nothing more than a transfer of money from customers to producers, and any government should be very careful when using them.” – Ah but don’t worry, grandpa Stalin teaches us that the consumer is there to serve the producer! Yes, I agree that is what tariffs are, so why is there justification for any level of tariffs at all? Do you agree that if no Russians bought anything Russian at all, this would still not affect the demand for Russian goods. If all Russians only consumed foreign goods, this would only mean that foreigners would acquire huge quantities of rubles, which they could obviously only spend in Russia, on Russian goods. The aggregate demand for Russian products would not be affected. This is even presuming there was little demand for Russian goods outside Russia, because then the importers into Russia would be that much less interested in importing to Russia as rubles they would get in return wouldn’t be worth much as they could buy only unattractive goods and therefore you would have that much less international trade going on naturally, without any additional, artificial disincentives.

        Think I’ll stop now.

        • kovane says:

          Wow, you do love to criticize :)

          So in the start you make it sound as if net losses outweigh the gains.

          Yes, that’s the general impression, provided that the government won’t intervene.

          A goal which you do not question

          How can I question this goal? Or is the WTO about something else, and I completely missed it?

          Which right there is actually just as likely to prevent tariffs from coming down on average as it is to help bring them down.

          Arguable point.

          Are such measures really “special” or are they quite regular.

          They are special in the sense that they are applied under some specific conditions. Although they are used quite often.

          Actually it changes all the time.

          Exactly. And this point is often skipped in economics.

          That’s not so obvious.

          There are many factors here. For example the price on timber can be high now, but you are certain that it will go down in a few years. Or the development of a high-tech industry can be quite costly at the initial stage, but if it provides high profits later, then it’s worth doing. It’s all about short term vs long term.

          RosAtom does not only compete with other builders of nuclear power plants

          Actually I was talking about the uranium enrichment market. Which is much less elastic. Once you have built a nuclear plant, you’ve got to get fuel, or your investment is only bringing you losses. If you are implying that RosAtom’s market power is not absolute – that’s correct. But I never said otherwise.

          You erect a trade barrier to protect yourself (from trade?)

          Not from trade, from strong foreign competition.

          Good point

          I can hardly believe my eyes :) One important detail, without patent protection companies would have little incentive to invest in research. So the free flow of information is good only up to a point.

          So it is when you’re really, really poor, that you should prevent your dirt poor consumers access to the world market

          You forget that in order to spend money your consumers have to earn money first. And in essence, this is a classical delayed/instant gratification dilemma on a state level. For example, China is obviously short-changing its citizens by keeping the yuan undervalued – they could consume much more otherwise. But at the same time China gives advantage to it companies, thus investing in the future. Looking at the GDP per capita chart I would say it’s paying off for everyone.

          why is there justification for any level of tariffs at all

          Only the infant industry argument. Otherwise, tariffs are mostly useless. Although there are myriads of additional consideration like security, reliance on trade partners, etc, etc.

          If all Russians only consumed foreign goods, this would only mean that foreigners would acquire huge quantities of rubles, which they could obviously only spend in Russia, on Russian goods.

          Foreigners generally don’t want rubles, they prefer hard currency. Can you believe those bastards? But you are right in the sense that this is a self-balancing mechanism, the exchange rate plays an important role here. I deal with that subject in the paragraph about the ruble rate.

          • hoct says:

            You forget that in order to spend money your consumers have to earn money first.

            No, I didn’t forget. If they have no money in the first place then a barrier to trade is completely superfluous even under your logic of protectionism, as “consumers” are already prevented from buying foreign goods on the account of their not having any money, ergo you have all the protectionism you’ll ever desire.

            And in essence, this is a classical delayed/instant gratification dilemma on a state level. For example, China is obviously short-changing its citizens by keeping the yuan undervalued – they could consume much more otherwise. But at the same time China gives advantage to it companies, thus investing in the future.

            You’re talking about this as if it were a form of saving and re-investing when it is emphatically not. Chinese consumers are short-changed as you say, but this does not result in delaying gratification, because on the other end consumption of foreign citizens is subsidized. It is in fact the equal of spending (which is the opposite of saving) money to boost the instant gratification of foreign citizens at the expense of your own. This does not actually help the Chinese companies because just as now some of their customers (foreigners) have more means to spend on their goods, their other customers (domestic populace) have less. It ultimately makes no difference to a Chinese company, who it sells to, foreigners or locals, and so this redistribution of purchasing power from one set of their customers to another is not a net benefit to them. Also it represents an additional hurt for companies when they themselves import, for example machinery and raw materials and must overpay.

            I can hardly believe my eyes :) One important detail, without patent protection companies would have little incentive to invest in research. So the free flow of information is good only up to a point.

            In your opinion. In my opinion trade secrets are more than enough to keep investing into research highly profitable. In fact patents lessen the amount invested into research as companies with R&D departments are too often content to sit on their continuously-profitable laurels. Without protection of the kind they would be forced to re-innovate much more rapidly.

            I really don’t see why everyone should be subject to the relentless pace of capitalist competition, EXCEPT for large corporations with massive research departments (which I believe are the entities which secure most of the highly-profitable patents)?

            How can I question this goal? Or is the WTO about something else, and I completely missed it?

            It seems to me that if your goal is free trade that an enormously complicated treaty organization like the WTO is entirely superfluous. The only thing you need are straightforward free trade agreements (or just the unilateral suspension of customs fees) that can fit on one piece of paper. Regardless its stated mission WTO in practice serves to regulate trade. Joining it does not have to mean the volume of your trade increases or that your tariffs will go down. What it does mean is that you accept a set of rules (which is to say restrictions) on how you are going to conduct your trade (and if the great western powers will have their way in the future even environmental and labor legislation).

            Wow, you do love to criticize :)
            I appreciate the opportunity of being able to say something on topic for a change. ;)

            • kovane says:

              If they have no money in the first place then a barrier to trade is completely superfluous

              Now, it’s true that for some inhabitant of slums in Africa thinking about tomorrow’s meal, the topic of buying a Louis Vuitton bag doesn’t crop up very often – he just can’t afford it. So the poverty of a country does act as protectionism – it’s reflected in the country’s exchange rate, as I already pointed out.

              “consumers” are already prevented from buying foreign goods on the account of their not having any money

              If these customers don’t have any money at all, it means that they are running natural economy and, therefore, don’t present any interest to both local and foreign companies. In reality, they just have a little local currency, however low it exchange rate is, and actually can buy foreign good, although at a great disadvantage.

              The problem lies in the inherent difference between economic sectors that I described and the huge entry barriers that exists in most sectors. So any country striving for economic development should use some measures to compensate for this situation. The low purchasing power of the local currency certainly helps – for example, in Russia after the 1998 default, when a lot of population was plunged into poverty, that led to the vibrant growth of import-substituting industries. But that concerned only the most simple sectors – agriculture, food-processing, light-industry. It wasn’t enough to overcome the disadvantage in more complex industries, like aircraft, electronic and pharmaceutical companies. So the state should use additional measures to level the playing field for the sectors it want to develop.

              but this does not result in delaying gratification

              So the chart of GDP per capita and virtually every Chinese economic parameter don’t look to you as delayed gratification?

              It ultimately makes no difference to a Chinese company, who it sells to, foreigners or locals

              Very true. But the question you should be asking is if Chinese companies would be selling the same amount of goods for the same profit without the undervalued yuan.

              in my opinion trade secrets are more than enough to keep investing into research highly profitable.

              Well, you are of course entitled to your opinion, but let me say that it’s very unorthodox. For example, the cost of developing a new drug in pharmaceutical industry can be several billion dollars easily. Once a drug company has completed the research, it would want to recuperate the cost. Which means marketing it and making it accessible to everyone. While reverse-engineering a drug is no simple task and requires more than some schoolboy with a chemistry set, it’s certainly within the limits of the possible. And every competitor will get what the company paid billions for practically for free. So tell me, what incentive to invest billions would this company have without patent protection, and where do trade secrets come in here?

              if your goal is free trade

              The goal is not free trade, as far as I understand. It’s predictable trade based on clear rules.

              I appreciate the opportunity of being able to say something on topic for a change.

              And I appreciate the effort :) It’s just that I was surprised by meticulousness :)

  14. If one wants to talk about legal nihilism just consider the threats the British government has been making to revoke the diplomatic status of the Ecuadorian Embassy in the light of Assange’s asylum application.

    I am sorry for Assange. I think the British have treated him in a shabby way. He trusted the Guardian and they shafted him. I can’t personally see on what basis he is being extradited to Sweden given that the Swedes have not so far charged him with anything and had previously told him that they would not charge him on the rape grounds we have heard so much about. I cannot see what prevents the Swedes from interviewing him in Britain if that is what they want to do given that he has repeatedly said he would agree to this. I can’t see why the Swedes can’t interview him in the Ecuadorian Embassy, which he has also agreed to. I agree with the commonly expressed view that Assange would be most unlikely to be charged with rape in almost any country I care to think of on the facts that have been published so far and that he would almost certainly be acquitted if he ever was. I also agree that the proceedings against him are really a thinly veiled device to keep him in detention until the US sorts out a case against him, possibly when Bradley Manning cracks. Last but not least I also wholeheartedly agree with what Anatoly has said on his blog, that the hostility against Assange and the way he is being persecuted has much to do with current western sexual identity issues.

    Suffice to say that one of Assange’s lawyers has for the last few months been living in my house and I cannot see how I can broadcast my opinions about the case more clearly than that.

    At the same time I cannot pretend that I am not quietly pleased that the British have got themselves in this asylum mess. The British and the US are constantly opening the doors of their embassies to various “dissidents” and defectors whilst preaching about the rights of asylum and human rights and the diplomatic sanctity of embassy premises. The US was at it just a few months ago in connection with a Chinese “dissident” who fled from Shandong. Now its the turn of the British to get caught. Serves them right.

    • yalensis says:

      Dear Alexander: I saw some news today that Ecuador has formally granted Assange asylum. I sincerely hope he is able to get there safely and stick it to the Brits!
      I disagree though that Assange’s case has anything to do with sexual identity or sexual politics. Sweden has very strict laws about sexual intercourse and use of condoms, true, but that is because they are a small-population country who could be potentially decimated by AIDS epidemic; hence they have a right to insist on condom use, as a public health measure, and they also try to protect women who might be coerced by their boyfriends into having unprotected sex.
      This whole thing started because the two Swedish girls Julian slept with knew each other and compared notes, they found out that he had used the same pick-up line on both of them and pulled the same stunt with pretending that his condom broke during intercourse. The girls started worrying about STD’s and wanted Julian to get tested for HIV. So they approached the police. (OR, maybe the girls were approached by Swedish Secret Service, who saw a fantastic opportunity here to nail Julian.)
      If Julian had lived as chastely as a monk, they still would have got him for something. For example, he could have spat on the sidewalk or incurred a speeding ticket. He was just foolish enough to hand them his dick on a silver platter, but, heck, nobody is perfect. If Julian had been living in Hollywood, he could have had all the sex orgies and unprotected sex he wanted, but they probably would have arrested him anyway for having a bad haircut, which, as I am led to believe, is a criminal offense in California.

  15. AK says:

    So 2 years it is.

    I’m rather disappointed. First, given their behavior patterns, it was probably inevitable that they’d eventually do something that actually merits 2 years. E.g., overturning police cars. In any case, the relative harshness of the sentence removes any moral superiority we in general may have felt as regards PR.

    • It is however in line with what they would have got if the case had been tried in Britain. See my comment above.

      Tomorrow I am going to add a postscript to the post on my blog discussing the verdict and the sentence.

      • Misha says:

        Just before the decision: in a Daniel Sandford BBC segment, the husband of one of defendants made it a point to say that Putin was trying them.

        Overall, PR and their supporters didn’t seem to help getting a lighter sentence. American attorneys have overwhelmingly re-confirmed to me what a defense could expect in a US court in the event of a credible charge being answered back with a smug innocent delivery, inclusive of a noticeable lack of respect to the prosecution and judge.

        • marknesop says:

          It bears repeating – just like Tymoshenko; imposing ridiculous conditions in order to obtain her testimony which is ordered by law, tweeting rude jokes about the judge which compared him unfavourably to a monkey during the trial proceedings and generally refusing to recognize the authority of the court. They don’t seem to see a paradox in behaving this way while arguing out the other side of their mouths for the rule of law. I guess they mean a court system that will not punish anything.

          That’d be fine until the first time somebody committed a crime against them.

    • kirill says:

      The Vagina Thugs got dozens of breaks in their nefarious career of the recent past. They pushed the line and paid the price. How can they be excused based on morality? Is their spiral of increasingly flagrant violation of the law and public order (such a thing exists and is actually worth something, unlike some anarchist utopia) somehow to be protected through appeal to morality. What morality? Pretend that they don’t exist? That their so-called “free” speech is holy and allows them to do whatever they please?

      No evidence of any lack of morality for having these hooligans slapped down for their crimes. I expect them to try to stage more flagrant violations of the law once they get out, if they stay in Russia and don’t run off to the west that is. If they do stay and try more of this then they should get a much stiffer sentence. Something like 5 years.

      Pandering to western anti-Russian hysteria will not help Russia. The west has a pathological dislike for Russia. The demented inferences being drawn from this case speak volumes to this fact. “Tyrant Putin running to the bosom of the Church as he loses popular support” sort of inanity is simply too much. How do you deal with westerners who think in these insane terms? You can’t have a rational dialogue with irrational people. If they make the Vagina Thugs case into some sort of show trial of the century, they will latch onto something else even if it never happened. They are looking for anything and everything to affirm their hate and the level of projection is amazing.

      • marknesop says:

        On the bright side, their first post-jail album will go double platinum as all the human rights activists in the west buy a copy to show their defiance of the Evil Neo-Soviet Freedom Crusher. It’ll be a huge success.

        Until the buyers listen to it.

        • kirill says:

          It would be nice if it were only on this level. But as other posts here show, the Vagina Thugs are a the project of a certain country with world domination ambitions. So I expect these “heroes” to engage in more soft terrorism once they get out as that is what they are paid to do.

  16. Moscow Exile says:

    Kasparov was arrested outside the PR court – for nothing, he says. However, whilst being arrested, he bit a cop’s hand, the little tinker!

    He says he didn’t bite anyone, so the cop must have done it to himself, I suppose, in order to set poor old Gary up.


    • yalensis says:

      Send in the forensic technicians! Do a bite-mark analysis of cop’s hand, compare with Garry’s teeth and also cop’s teeth. Be sure to swab for DNA.

    • cartman says:

      Now he thinks he’s a martyr: (When Putin’s Thugs Came for Me)

      • marknesop says:

        Yes, although it’s all about Pussy Riot, it is somehow also all about Garry Kasparov, the one-eyed man in the land of the blind where you can be imprisoned for two years for “a prank”, just for “singing a song”. How sad is he?

        Let’s try a simple analogy. Can you be imprisoned for two years for singing a song on the roof of a building? Pussy Riot did that, and walked away from it free as birds. Can you be imprisoned for two years for waving a gun around in your living room? Probably not. What if you do it in a bank, or a liquor store, or an elementary school? You’d be pretty lucky to get away with two years.

        Nobody cares about Pussy Riot’s screeching. It’s mostly the place they chose to do it. They must have noticed very few people were paying attention as they constantly upped the ante by shouting lyrics about shit in ever-more-public places. They decided to up the ante a little more, and now they’re paying for it. It really is as simple as that. If they want to go back to writing songs about shit and bitches and play them in nightclubs for paying customers, they might find rapidly-diminishing interest. Their only appeal lies in outrage, and sometimes that’s expensive. And if they chose to flee to America once they were released, and took up shouting in American churches about shit and bitches and casting out Obama, they might encounter very limited patience for that sort of artistic exhibition there, too.

        I wish the judge had imposed a multiple-choice sentence – two years in jail, or exile to the United States or the UK along with their families, never to return to Russia. Let the west make martyrs of them all they liked, because they’d just be more useless mouths to feed, and their only appeal lies in being outrageous. That can get old pretty fast.

        • kirill says:

          Exile may sound cruel but it has its merits. The stability of UK society is due in part to it offloading Scots and Irish to far off lands (Canada, Australia). Russia has had a very small emigration by contrast. All those freed serfs after 1860 ended up forming a displaced social stratum that contributed to the 1917 revolution. The current group of malcontents are smaller in number but are a source of current and future problems. Society cannot adapt itself to server their whims and they are not prepared to adjust to society. These seriously delusional people really need the swift kick in the rear that exile to their mythical west will give them. They will learn that law and order are enforced in the “free world” and “freedom of expression” is not a blank cheque to do whatever you please.

          • marknesop says:

            Precisely. Which is why what looks on its face like a tantalizing reward might well turn out to be a lesson taught in the only way poseurs such as PR can learn it. By living it.

            The United States is a great place to live, I’m not kidding. But you have to have a decent job and a good living wage to really reap the benefits. Freedom is great, but it doesn’t fill your stomach when you’re hungry. The punk craze in the USA came and went a couple of decades ago. PR could likely do all right for a year or so, cruising on their novelty, but the idea they could establish themselves through their “art” is somewhere to the right of comical. They could always get regular jobs like everybody else, I suppose. At which point they would be….just like everybody else.

  17. marknesop says:

    As regards the Russian forces confessing they were outfought by the Georgians, whom they simply outnumbered,

    the U.S. trainers who taught the Georgian Army its tactics report, “[they were] beginning to walk, but by no means were they running…if that was a U.S. brigade it would not have gone into combat.” The Georgians threw away their new American rifles in favour of AK-47’s because they did not trust the new rifles, and “appeared incapable of firing single shots, instead letting off bursts of automatic fire, which is wildly inaccurate and wastes ammunition”.

    All in all, hard to reconcile with the image of a disciplined force that lost only because it was outnumbered. According to a Georgian source in this piece, what did for them was Russian air power.

    • yalensis says:

      That bit about Gruzians “fighting well” in ’08 is a crock. They performed so badly and ran so fast that they even left their American advisors behind. The American mercenaries, on the other hand, stayed and fought bravely (to the death), leaving as trophies their Hummers, weapons, and bodies.
      Remember this video? You see African-American Blackwater special ops dancing and goofing off with the Gruzians.
      Why do we have this video? Because the spetz seen dancing here were all killed, and their camera phones taken as trophies by the Russians, who posted the videos on youtube.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I was in the army museum in Moscow with my two eldest children not very long after the cessation of hostilities in 2008 and US military hardware captured in Georgia was already on display there as well as that heap of junk that is the remains of the US U2 spy plane shot downover Soviet airspace in 1960.

        Of course, those subhuman, sly, dastardly, semi-Asiatic, untrustworthy evil Russians could have somehow simply bought the US gear as part of their never-ending evil propaganda against the Beacon of Freedom and Democracy.

  18. yalensis says:

    In Sofia, Bulgaria, Pussy Supporters attacked a monument to Soviet WWII dead:

    Actually, these WWII monuments get attacked all the time, under various pretexts, by NATO stooges. Americans probably pay hooligans a bounty for each act of vandalism.

    Meanwhile, Navalny came out strong for Pussy today on his blog, painting pathos-filled vignette of brave but helpless defendants sitting in glass cage surrounded by soldiers and sniffing dogs..
    I wonder if it is starting to sink in to him that he might be there in that cage himself in a few weeks?
    Assuming things progress with the KirovLes case against him.

    Yesterday, in fact, there was some indication that prosecutors are digging up some additional dirt on him in the Tambov Region:

  19. kirill says:

    What a load of drivel.

    “The case confirms a major ideological shift within the Kremlin, which is now relying on religion, not the public, for political endorsement, Oreshkin said.

    The majority of Russians will not support the shift in the long run, but the strategy can work for the next several years because “the heavenly mandate” allows the Kremlin to suppress public protests without harming its legitimacy in its own eyes, he said.”

    How can this inference be made from this case? What has trying the three Vagina Thugs for desecrating a church and hooliganism have to do with Putin desperately trying to cling to power via religion. This is a complete non sequitur to these event. If Putin was desperate to stay in power because of growing discontent then the last thing he would want is some nobodies to become martyrs and the focus of anti-government hate. Putin would instead pander to the alleged growing “pro-west” sentiment and slap a six month suspended sentence and some community service. Actually, I bet they would never have been tried under this section of the criminal law.

    As AK has labeled it this is the Putin Derangement Syndrome. In order for the above theory to have any basis in observed reality, it would require some sort of pro-Church propaganda campaign in the Russian media and having Putin pander to Church. NONE of this is in evidence.

    • marknesop says:

      This is just pretzel logic that will later be offered in support of Putin’s “catastrophic loss” when he has served two terms; see – I told you he was going to fall off a cliff sooner or later. Obviously, the public just wouldn’t put up with him any more.

      You can’t make this stuff up, as a friend of mine is fond of saying.

    • yalensis says:

      I love the way Reuters poses it as: If you speak out for PR then you are brave. If you oppose them or remain silent, then you are a coward afraid of Kremlin apprisals. As if there is only one permitted view in this complicated case.

      I liked Dima Bilan’s response: “Musicians have a huge influence, but everyone’s opinion is very personal,” said Bilan. “This is the same as asking someone ‘Who did you vote for?'”

      Dima has credibility because he won Eurovision a couple of years ago, bringing much prestige to Russia.

  20. Moscow Exile says:

    From yesterday’s UK Daily telegraph Pussy Riot are “young and brave freedom fighters in a society where political liberty is slowly being eaten away” and the PR “event” that led to their arrest is described as a “prank concert at the holiest spot in the Russian Orthodox Church”. (It’s not, actually. The “holiest spot” in the ROC is the St. Trinity-Sergius Lavra at Sergiev-Posad, situated some 40 miles or so from Moscow. See:

    The convicted members of PR are described in the article written by Anna Nemtsova as “three young, skinny girls” (they’re 22-, 24- and 29-year-old women, actually) who were wearing “short sexy dresses, colorful tights and their now-famous bright balaclavas”. (Nemtsova uses US English orthography – is she a US citizen?) Note: “sexy” and in an ROC church to boot, where the display of naked female limbs is frowned upon: their rules, not mine; *their* rules nevertheless and *their* house of worship.

    Surely Anna Nemtsova (no relation to Boris Nemtsov, I think) should be aware of this. (See:

    According to Nemtsova, in the Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer, Moscow, these delightful young things calling themselves Pussy Riot “sang a ‘punk prayer’ that asked the Virgin Mary to expel President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin, using a in Orthodoxy, and a church, for their act of political satire”.

    Here is a translation of part of the “traditional intercession prayer” that they “sang” in the cathedral:

    Holy shit, shit, Lord’s shit!
    Holy shit, shit, Lord’s shit!
    St. Maria, Virgin, become a feminist…
    Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin.
    Bitch! You had better believed in God!

    Curiously, no mention by Nemtsova of PR’s mouthing of obscenities whilst “praying”.

    Nemtsova continues by saying that despite protests by Madonna and other such renowned “celebrities” in the world of popular entertainment, “the musicians remained in jail”. (It seems that this article was written before PR were convicted yesterday.)

    Musicians? Has Nemtsova actually heard and seen PR “perform”?

    After having conceded that “some 65 percent of Russians identify themselves as Orthodox” and that many of these members of the ROC were “were offended by their barbs aimed at the church, and what they saw as scandalous sacrilege”, the journalist then continues: “Political observers say the decision to imprison the girls was the result of a deal struck between Putin and the church, without much involvement by the Kremlin’s administration”.

    No names. No quotations. Just “observers say”.

    Nemtsova also maintains in her article that “at least 17 political cases have gone to Russian courts”.

    Again: no names, no details.

    Nemtsova then goes on to claim that as regards PR’s actions, Putin is not simply “afraid of their ‘war’ and then quotes a PR member who had not been arrested, a certain Yevgeniya Rakina, who said: ” ‘Virgin Mary redeem us from Putin!’ that was of greatest concern to Putin. ‘I am convinced that Putin is afraid of the Virgin Mary actually taking his power away from him…’.”

    The Mother of God and, no doubt, His heavenly host of angels saints lined up against the Evil Sauron, eh? No wonder Putin has reason to be scared!

    Nemtsova then goes on to say that the lives of PR members may be under threat by quoting Nationalist leader, Alexander Belov, who stated: “indeed, there are quite a few radical nationalists eager to kill the girls”.

    I’m quite sure there are. And if PR had chosen to “perform” in a mosque calling upon Allah and his prophet Mohammed to rid Russia of Putin, there would very likely now be no debate over whether the lives of PR were at risk.

    She then winds up by saying: “When, this week, a flash mob comprising 18 Moscow activists returned to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior for a silent Pussy Girl homage, complete with punk outfits, it didn’t take long before security officers arrived to beat up the activists”.

    Note: the security officers didn’t ask them to leave and/or forcibly removed those that refused to comply with this request: they arrived to “beat up” the activists”.

    Well of course they did!

    Earlier this week a Telegraph Russophobic blogger stated that in the run up to and after the presidential election,”thousands of protesters have been arrested and beaten up by the Moscow police”.

    That’s what always happens in the “brutal Mafia state that is Russia”, to quote the erstwhile Guardian Moscow correspondent Luke Harding.


    • marknesop says:

      Freedom fighters?? Seriously??? I was only joking when I called them that. Unbelievable. How long will it be until they morph into “opposition leaders”, I ask myself.

      Actually, Boris Nemtsov does have a daughter, quite lovely in this photo, although I’ve seen others since in which she has….ummm….bulked up a bit. Her name is Zhanna, not that far a leap from Anna, and she is a television show hostess according to info included with her photos (as well as onetime political candidate), so in fact I would not be at all surprised if it were her. Interestingly, the second site describes her as an advocate for polygamy. Dad would certainly be onboard for that, to say the very least.

      In other PR news, Tony Cartalucci over at Land Destroyer has an interesting screen cap from the National Endowment for Democracy which describes Oksana Chelysheva – NED’s Girl Friday for the Helsinki-based Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, as well as a member of the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum – as the “Pussy Riot Support Campaign Coordinator”. Well, well; the hand of the U.S. State Department, once again with a finger stirring the pot. I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I seem to have lost the capacity. Or had it beaten out of me, more like.

      If you’re wondering why the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society is based in Finland, it’s because the previous Director was convicted of inciting ethnic or racial hatred in 2006 for publishing articles written by Chechen separatist leaders, and the Russian government designated it an extremist organization and shut it down.

      Politics makes strange bedfellows, and all that.

      • yalensis says:

        Tony Cartalucci quote:
        Finally, “Pussy Riot” are not punk rockers. They are US State Department-backed instruments of corporate-financier hegemony, used as leverage against a Russian government standing in the way of Wall Street and London’s order of international corporatocracy. The punk culture, ironically represents the antithesis of such an international order – ironic indeed that so many have superficially defended “Pussy Riot” as targeted “punkers” when substantively they are “poseurs.”

        Amen, amen and triple Amen!

        think Hegel might say the world is being turned on its head, everything is being turned into its opposite. Agitators for global rule of Goldman-Sachs go about wearing Che Guevara T-shirts, and militants for corporatist fascism pose as rebellious punk rockers…. What a world, what a world….

        • Misha says:

          Has been the Sorosian way.

        • marknesop says:

          I think Pussy Riot actually do consider themselves artists and musicians, although all they really do is dress up and shout, and I think Tony Cartalucci gets a little carried away sometimes with that capitalist running-dog stuff, but I love his site for his references; I often wonder, where in hell does the guy find this stuff?

    • Misha says:

      Imagine the reply to a hypothetical Anti-Pussy Riot group uninvitingly entering the home of the husband of one of the PR performers (who was in a BBC segment) and doing a taped performance with lyrics that include something along the lines of :

      Pussy Riot are a not so talented group of ****** *** stooges.

  21. AK says:

    Next episode: Caged Pussy.

  22. Moscow Exile says:

    And here’s an editorial from the British newspaper “The Independent”, whose proprietor is the “ex-KGB-thug” oligarch Lebedev that is now packing his bags and getting ready to leave Putin’s “Mafia state”:

    Interestingly, so far (10:29 Moscow Time, 18th August) the majority of comments to the editorial lambaste it for its hypocrisy.

    • Misha says:

      Reason does exist.

    • marknesop says:

      Generally speaking, in the vein that an insult from a fool is a compliment, any article in a western newspaper which bemoans what a tyrant autocratic slit-eyed rat bastard Putin is ought to be regarded as a compliment to the efficacy of his rule from a Russian standpoint, since the objective of the west is to get him out of there and install a western-leaning liberal who will reduce the country’s power to a whisper and wreck its economy. The worse they say he’s doing, the better he’s doing. Bear in mind Medvedev the Great Reformer never got more than a lukewarm response, it was always “Medvedev must do more”, so whatever Putin does would be wrong.

      • kirill says:

        Russia is too strong to have to bow down to the west. If the west was omnipotent it could slap Russia down with sanctions. Even the Magnitsky legislation in the US does not link it to trade which shows how weak the “hyper-power” really is.

        The over the top propaganda on this case and others will come back to bite the west in the ass. No unbiased third party observer with a modicum of knowledge would swallow the spin about “draconian punishment for free speech” line. If there was real meat for the west to chew on when it comes to Russia’s problems we would see many stories about Russian gulags and thousands of political prisoners. Instead we have Khodorkovsky the gangster oligarch with blood on his hands from the Apatit takeover and the Vagina Thugs and their brazen law breaking. The prejudiced will see these cases as confirming their preciously held anti-Russian beliefs. People without an agenda will not see these cases as establishing Russia to be a totalitarian hell hole that is a threat to them and the world.

  23. Misha says:

    I’m sensing the Brit in question showed more remorse and respect upon being prosecuted than PR.

    One definite difference is that the Brit authorities went after him for manner he expressed at his own (from what I surmise) Twitter account – as opposed to physically doing such in a place frequented by people who would be most likely offended.

    There’s a difference between crapping in your own toilet versus disrespectfully and uninvitingly doing so elsewhere.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Exactly! He immediately confessed his guilt and apologized for his behaviour, claiming that the reason why he had written such insulting and hurtful comments was because he was drunk when he did so.

      He appeared at a magistrates’ court and got 56 days. If he had pleaded not guilty at the magistrates’, he almost certainly would have had to appear in a Crown Court and stand trial by jury. And if he had been found guilty at Crown Court, he would almost certainly have got more than 56 days. Furthermore, if he had had such a shitwit counsel for defence as PR had, a barrister who mocked the court and claimed that the judge was acting illegaly and was biased against the accused, I cannot imagine what the consequences might have been.

      Only my opinion, by the way: Alexander Mercouris is the expert in such matters. My opinion is only based on what I have picked up whilst on the receiving end of the full might and majesty of the law.

      • Misha says:

        Intuition (a key ingredient to erudite commentary) isn’t something so easily taught.

        It’s somewhat perplexing how some Fox News conservatives are buying into the dubious spin, given that the subject under discussion involves what can be categorized as a left of center PR disrespecting a church and Christian denomination.

        I respect those on the left seeing a bigger picture. I wouldn’t support some group going into KPRF headquarters uninvited and doing a skit that’s (within reason) offensive to the KPRF – said by someone who is definitely not akin with the KPRF.

      • marknesop says:

        As long as we’re only exchanging opinions, in my opinion the west is inspiring ever-harder crackdowns by encouraging defendants and their counsel to express contempt for the court. That’s something activists on trial in Russia and in other countries the west does not care for might want to bear in mind when going on trial: the western media will report your shouting and rude behavior in court lavishly and approvingly, will characterize you as a freedom fighter and the hot bright spirit of your generation. But once you’re inside, your only continued novelty is for how long you remain locked up, and beyond the occasional interview – if that’s permitted – and the mandatory mention of your name every time the subject of human rights is brought up, they won’t be there while you’re doing your time.

        If the west really cares about Pussy Riot, Time Warner or whatever they have morphed into will offer them a fat recording contract when they get out – think what great material they will be able to write while they’re in jail!!! – and U.S. immigration will offer to fast-track their immigration. But that won/’t happen, because their actual musical entertainment value is on a par with Courtney Love’s, just the same as you don’t see anyone offering to compensate Khodorkovsky for his suffering with American citizenship and the presidency of Exxon-Mobil. Both are valuable only as a cudgel with which to beat the Russian state.

      • yalensis says:

        @Exile: Do you have recurrent nightmares about stern men in white wigs telling you what a bad boy you are?? :)

      • Dear Moscow Exile,

        Your analysis is in fact impeccable. I agree with it completely.

  24. Misha says:

    Been informed via a source that the PR prosecution wasn’t in their view given sufficient time under Russian criminal procedure to review the (as stated) seven volumes of written material and several computer hard drives, flash memory sticks, and video discs. The defense attorney is paraphrased as estimating that at the fastest rate of scanning the materials under the given conditions (no copies allowed and only a few hours per day permitted under the daily schedule of the place of incarceration of the defendants), it would require a minimum of 90 days to become familiar with the materials of the case.

    This is interesting enough to look into further detail – while not seemingly having a great bearing on PR’s guilt. It seems clear enough what they said and did in the ROC chapel in question.

  25. Russia handled Pussy Riot case pretty badly. 2 year sentence is far too long as these girls pose no threat to anynone and they didn’t really cause any damage. Hurt religious feelings should not be a cause of 2 year prison sentence.

    And rather than “hooliganism” these girls should have been accused of “hate crime” which would have been more politically correct.

    • Misha says:

      *IMO, the public service cleaning toilets suggestion has merit.

      I’m of the impression that if PR showed remorse and respect, they wouldv’e stood a greater chance at a lighter sentence.

      One example of carrying on in a way that leads to a stiffer penalty from what would’ve otherwise been given:

      Excerpt –

      Stewart is currently serving three consecutive life sentences in prison on kidnapping charges,[2] having rejected a plea deal of 12 years in order to spread his message in open court. After being sentenced, he began a religious tirade and had to be restrained by bailiffs.[8] He became eligible for parole in 2002, but was denied as recently as March 2010; his next parole review will be in 2017.[9][4] After this conviction, he was found guilty of four stink bomb attacks.[4]

      • kirill says:

        Very good example. The phony western indignation in this case is nauseating. The same pattern as with the Magnitsky case where it is completely ignored that similar incidents happen in the west all the time.

    • kirill says:

      They paid for their previous outrageous stunts such as the vagina chicken leg insertion case and the fornication in the museum case. These idiots were lucky to only get 2 years. The west’s hypocritical outrage is not something that the Russian judicial system should be concerned with and clearly it was not. A very good thing.

      • Misha says:

        As touched on by Moscow Exile, what court takes kindly to a defense that has been established as telling a lie on a key particular pertaining to the case in question?

      • Moscow Exile says:

        They weren’t on trial for their previous cunning stunts though. Peter reckons that none of the three convicted PR members were involved in the chicken “performance”. I have, however, seen the video and the one that stuffs a frozen chicken up her vagina and later, outside in the street, stands with her legs apart, lifts up her skirt and lets the chicken pop out and drop onto the road as though she were giving birth to the fowl, looks a dead ringer for the one with long blond hair who got sent down yesterday.

        I mean, I could just about handle the Bush “blue chicken” that were dumped in Yeltsin’s Russia, but I would draw the line at pizda-kuritsa!

        • kirill says:

          The court takes into account previous convictions when passing a sentance. So I will disagree with you on the “they were not being tried for previous offences” point. They were being slapped with fines routinely. There is a tolerance threshold in the law. Your first offence you get a slap on the wrist, your second offence you get more punishment and it gets progressively more strict with each subsequent offence. Slaps on the wrist don’t go on forever and at some stage the legal system can decide you are a serious problem that needs to be taught a lesson.

          All of this heart bleeding for the Vagina Thugs (not by you, but by many western moralists) is absurd. The characterization of this case is decoupled from reality.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            And that’s something that intrigues me, for as far as I am aware very few people were arrested and charged for most of the “politicized art” undertaken by Voina and/or Pussy Riot prior to the arrest, trial and conviction of the three who performed the “punk prayer” in the Moscow cathedral. Voina did their phallus jape on one of the decks of a St. Petersburg bascule bridge and overturned a cop car in St. Petersburg. They also performed their chicken in the pussy trick in the same city, I’m sure, because the “artistic collective” of that name is based in St.Petersburg and the opening shots of the chicken video were most definitely taken in St. Pete. And although the leader of PR certainly took part in the orgy escapade that occurred in a Moscow museum, again I’m pretty sure she wasn’t one of those charged with acting obscenely in a public place and causing a breach of the peace.

            Be that as it may, I am sure that the authorities have long been well aware of the activities and membership of Voina/Pussy Riot, so when they finally came up trumps in arresting the PR leader and two of her acolytes they were ready to throw the book at them – and
            they did.

            • marknesop says:

              Speaking of PR, they have released a new single (having quickly learned, apparently, to capitalize on the moment). They certainly beat hell out of those two major chords, but I imagine it will pass muster for punk and might catch on well as a background track for raves where all that is necessary is that something persistent be playing so that you don’t have to think too much.

              Probably if they kick in a copy of “Mafia State” with each purchase, it will be a big seller, and then Lucas Harding can claim his book is “flying off the shelves”. Win/win.

        • yalensis says:

          @Exile: The Russian delicacy pizda-kuritsa is Recipe #55 in Julia Child’s cookbook. Similar to Chicken Kiev, but with a tangier sauce.

          • kirill says:

            I have never heard of yeast used in a chicken recipe before. Is it kosher?

            • yalensis says:

              Congratulations, @kirill, you succeeded in grossing me out, and that’s not easy to do!

              • kirill says:

                Maybe she was offering an alternative to preparing Bush’s legs for human consumption. Instead of chlorine just use a vagina. There, I am sort of back on topic :(

                • marknesop says:

                  All right, let’s not get carried away, not to mention getting fixated on parts of the body lady visitors do not like to see discussed in any significant depth.

        • I too think it is the same woman. One hears different claims. In my opinion it is the same woman. After she was arrested the group claimed otherwise because it might have shown her in a bad light at the trial. Having said that Peter is sure it wasn’t.

    • yalensis says:

      Actually, the PR girls actually only have to serve 1 1/2 years, because they get credit for the 6 months they already put in.
      As for Russia handling the case badly, I agree. Probably the novelty of it: Russian court system is simply not used to seeing such bizarre and schizophrenic behavior. A drunken soldier stealing a tank and plowing into a house — now THAT’S something the Russian legal system knows how to deal with – probably 500 pages of the Codex devoted just to that one scenario.

  26. Misha says:

    From the last thread, some might recall what Navalny had previously said:

    • yalensis says:

      The PR trial judge Marina Sirovaya actually did a very good job, from what I can tell, and was as compassionate and lenient towards the defendants as the law allowed her to be. Navalny is full of shit, as usual.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Judge Sirovaya made me chuckle when, after the PR counsel for defence had been ranting on about art and culture and freedom of artistic expression, she said something like: “Well, we’ve heard at length what culture has to say, now let’s hear what the law has to say” and let loose the prosecution. She also refused the defence’s request that Navalny appear as an expert witness, saying that the Hamster in Chief had no connection with the case and no expertise whatsoever that would be relevant to it.

  27. Moscow Exile says:

    The legislation of Western countries, including those of Germany and Austria, can impose custodial sentences as punishment for hooligan behaviour in cathedrals. This was announced today by a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Lukashevich, in what is clearly a fightback by the Russian state against orchestrated criticism in the West concerning Russian jurisprudence.

    The Russian FO, fully aware that many Western politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have all jumped on the bandwagon to condemn Russia over the PR case, has pointed out that in the German criminal code acts perpetrated against religion and beliefs, including hooligan behaviour in a place of prayer, can be punished by up to 3 years imprisonment or by a fine. In Austria, according to today’s Russian FO statement, hooligan and insulting behaviour on church premises can result in 6 months’ imprisonment or a fine commensurate to a year’s salary.


    (Link in Russian)

    I should imagine that it will be no difficult task for the Russian FO to reveal the hypocrisy of Western politicians concerning their allegations of the severity of Russian law as applied to the PR case.

    As the previous thread has pointed out, however, even when Russian law is similar to or even identical with that of the West, the Russians are always wrong!

    It should also be remembered that as regards the allegations made in the West that the punishment meeted out to the convicted PR members was disproportionate to the crime for which they were found guilty of committing, the three convicted women continued to claim for 5 months that they were not present at the cathedral where the crime took place and only finally admitted that this claim was untrue on the first day of their trial, which trial start date had finally to be imposed by the state prosecution service as a consequence of delays caused by continuous PR defence appeals that particullar witnesses appear, including The Russian President, the Patriarch, and Navalny; PR counsel also apealed that the judge be replaced and that the trial was illegal.
    Then, to compound matters, during the trial PR counsel showed almost non-stop contempt of the court, shouted and laughed at the judge and even declared that she was biased against the accused.

    If I were a convicted PR member, if it were possible to do so, on my release from gaol I would sue my defence counsel.

  28. Misha says:

    Forwarded to my attention with this cover note:

    From the good monk, Father Tryphon. A wonderful, intelligent man

  29. yalensis says:

    Here is some live video coverage of the PR sentencing, and the White-Ribbon crowd aka “The Usual Suspects” demonstrating and chanting outside the courthouse.
    Slightly noteworthy: at 2:40 in, you can see Navalny (I believe it’s him) in the lower left of the frame. He mentioned on his blog that he was present inside the courthouse. Probably trying to psych himself up for his own trial. Which will no doubt be a real humdinger!

  30. Misha says:

    *Questionable (put mildly) takes from some JRL promoted sources:

    Note how a certain individual (who does things like get “interviewed” by LR while avoiding more substantive discourse) has essentially been given carte blanche to use terms like “kook” to describe Zyuganov – not that I support the latter. I know of a disingenuous editor who has hypocritically lectured others on “proper” behavior.

    Not so along ago, “The Russia Hand” had the ironic gall to say he has trouble watching talking head pundit shows on Russia. That mindset applies to some of his commentary.

  31. yalensis says:

    In reading more about PR case, I stumbled upon this blogpost, by this political satirist who calls himself Lev Natanovich Shcharansky.

    This is really funny stuff…

    • yalensis says:

      This is the funniest comment in above post (placed under photo of PR girl in supermarket stuffing chicken up her hoo-hoo):

      Re: Весьма кошерно
      Какой ужассссс! Бешеная курица напала и изнасиловала невинную девочку!

      “This is awful! A crazed chicken attacked and raped an innocent girl!”

    • kovane says:

      yalensis, how dare you describe the brightest luminary of freedom fighters, dissidents and intelligentsia as a “political satirist”? We won’t tolerate this kind of chekist denigration here. As a frequent patron of cafe “Matrioshka”, I will file a complaint to the State Department, asking to take away your US citizenship. You don’t deserve it anyway – your hateful remarks toward the brave girls from Pussy Riot and Time’ great thinker Navalny give away your true totalitarian nature.

      • yalensis says:

        Oh, my apologies, kovane, I never meant to offend your freedom-loving sensibilities by denigrating your ideological guru, Lev Natanovich. I didn’t even realize you were Jewish. How is weather at Brighton Beach this time of year?

        Meanwhile, back at the ranch, all freedom-loving democrats know that today is 21st anniversary of beginning of 1991 Yeltsin putsch. White Ribbon folks on Facebook called for “millions” to show up to Arbat to lay wreaths for their Yeltsinite heroes; demand freedom for Pussy Riot; and “continue the revolution” into the next phase. According to rosbalt, about 100 people showed up. Well, as Comrade Lenin used to say, Лучше меньше, да лучше

        Meanwhile, Chirikova has decided to take a different route to power: She is going to run for Mayor of Khimki. Her candidacy is supported by Udaltsov and Navalny.

        Good. I hope she is elected. She should appoint Navalny her “unpaid advisor” to help increase timber production. They will build more roads throught he forest, cut down more trees, and help bring in foreign investment, thus making Khimki more competitive in the world lumber market. There, I have brought the topic back to WTO.

        • marknesop says:

          That’s genuinely funny (about the rally), because I had read somewhere about a big rally coming up to commemorate something or other, and how this was going to show the Kremlin hamster power unfettered or threats to that effect, so Putin better take a short vacation or it might just spill over and they might come get him and string him up. Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but the author really did suggest that the people’s anger was such that there was going to be a huge demonstration, and I meant to mention it here but it slipped my mind. About 100 people, eh? So if we exaggerate by a factor of 10, which appears to be customary for Russian protests, we have about 1000 people showing up. I bet I could raise 1000 angry people in Victoria, and the population including suburban incorporations like Colwood is considerably less than a half-million: about 360,000.

          I hope Chirikova gets elected, too. There’s nothing that leaves you little time for firebrand mouthy activism like having a steady job, and everybody underestimates how much real work governing is, sees themselves sweeping in in the morning and delivering a handful of concise, comprehensive and thoroughly brilliant orders and then leaving the place to run itself while taking off for lunch and vegan smoothies with fellow dissidents. It’s not like that, and you have to contend with office politics among the staff and subtle little maneuverings for power before you even get to the business of running the town itself. Remember all the people bitching about the potholes in the road, the ones you held up as champions of civic duty who were always ignored, back when you were in the trenches of activism? Well, now fixing those holes is your job. Run, Chirikova, run. And win.

  32. cartman says:

    Kimmie writes about the NYT article about the PR trial:

    She seems to think that the media is over-exaggerating to make the sentence seem harsher than it really is. But then she complains about the cages, the dogs, the lack of jurors, etc, and it is suddenly an atrocity. Did Putin really introduce juries into the Russian legal system? Does that not damn Yeltsin and liberalism because they did not do that? There is no reason they were unable to since they violently changed all the rules themselves.

  33. Moscow Exile says:

    Yeltsin and the liberals are already damned thrice over for trashing the constitution, dissolving the Duma, severely limiting opposition party political broadcasts, controlling the media, dissolving the Communist Party and, last but not least, bombarding the Russian parliament building that was occupied by democratically elected members of the legislature, thereby causing an estimated 2000 casualties and several hundreds of deaths of Russian citizens who were protesting against the West’s favourite Russian president and his liberal acolytes’ decidedly undemocratic ministry. And at the same time the thieves gorged themselves at the trough.

    • kirill says:

      According to the hamsters this was the golden era of democracy in Russia. This is the same schoolyard scum logic that the US applies to itself. It can kill millions of civilians in the name of democracy, but some leader who kills thousands of western backed guerrillas is a variant of Hitler.

      • marknesop says:

        Of course it was the golden age of democracy, because the west got to run it. Not remotely, not through NGO’s, but in person, through its Harvard luminaries and business experts.

    • marknesop says:

      Don’t forget all the investigations (157, I believe) started up by the KGB on day two of the three-day rule, into economic crimes involving the concealment of huge profits, a full third of which involved joint ventures with foreign companies. Boris took the helm, and poof! all those investigations went to ground.

  34. peter says:

    I have, however, seen the video and the one that stuffs a frozen chicken up her… looks a dead ringer for the one with long blond hair who got sent down yesterday.

    I too think it is the same woman. One hears different claims. In my opinion it is the same woman.

    This is called invincible ignorance. Anyone else here thinking that the girl in the chicken video is Maria Alyokhina? Mark? Yalensis?

    • kovane says:

      I’ve got to side with peter here. I am dead tired of pointing out that the frozen chicken video have nothing to do with Pussy Riot. At least formally. But this argument “look what else this punk band did” keeps on popping up almost everywhere. When this stupid PR stunt called Pussy Riot will sink into oblivion like so many other phony causes célebres did?

      • kirill says:

        Who cares. They are all part of Voina: It was another bimbo, Natalia Sokol that shoved the whole frozen chicken into here cunt. A bunch of nihilst degenerates who need to be shipped off to Yankeeland to experience true freedom and resolve their spoiled prat “angst”.

      • kovane says:

        That’s not true, kirill. The only connection between Pussy Riot and Voina is Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. The other two convicted girls have nothing to do with Voina, again, formally. They can be part of one big conspiracy to overthrow our benevolent dictator for all we know, but there are no facts tying Samusevich and Alyokhina to Voina. And when someone states that Pussy Riot participated in the chicken show, and then it turns out that they didn’t, it further undermines all the charges by creating the impression that they are being slandered and the only reason for the prosecution is their opposition to Putin. That’s why it’s so important to be accurate.

        I also don’t agree with your playing down of this case. Presently, the state is making a laughingstock of itself and glorifying these stupid fools. And it has to learn how to deal with cases like this. If Pussy Riot got a very long community service sentence or a very steep fine, no one would even noticed. And that measure would discourage any attempt to repeat their antics But instead of this Madonna and RHCP are interceding on their behalf, the state prison system has to feed and guard them for two years, and their children will be separated from their mothers. That’s a PR equivalent of shooting oneself in the leg.

        • R.C. says:

          I agree Kovane.

          I simply don’t know what’s wrong with the Russian government and their PR department – do they even have one? Most western governments have a press secretary who commincates with the media, much like the White House Press Corps. I remember when Mr. Mercouris pointed out the error to the Guardian about their story of the number of journalists who had been killed in Russia under Putin, they eventually corrected the “error” and then told him that they were surprised that the Russian government never even bothered to correct them. Would this have slipped by any western government? Mr. Putin has to bring things up to the modern age because so many of the myths plaguing Russia are due to these perceptions which go unchallenged by the government and leaves the impression that there must be some “truth” to the claims. This Soviet mode of thinking which worked when Russia was a relatively closed society, is today creating a PR disaster for Russia in this modern world of Twiiter, Facebook & other social media.

          I also agree that community service and a fine would’ve sufficed. Turning these girls into martyrs and emboldening the liberal protest movement will be the outcome of this bungling. I am not familair enough with the Russian legal system to know if Mr. Putin has the authority to step in and over-ride the courts sentence, but if he can, he should. The polls in Russia seem to concur with world opinion that the sentence was to harsh and even the church wanted a lenient sentence.

          • marknesop says:

            Once again, going back to the apparent mix of canonical law with criminal law, I would not be at all surprised if the defense wins on appeal. In fact, that might not be a bad outcome – scare the shit out of them, then have a miracle occur that nobody said could happen in Putin’s autocratic neo-Soviet hellhole. Putin should even complain about it if it happens – that would drive the hamsters wild with excitement.

        • kovane says:

          Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to object to that. There’s hardly a word that can describe Russian efforts on the PR front. Abysmal and horrible are too soft words here. The 08 war, the Magnitsky case – there are hundreds of examples. Even the relatively recent event when Peskov wrote an answer to the Guardian’s article about a laundry ticket. Keeping silence on the stream of lies that the Guardian produces on a daily basis and then acknowledging this idiotic story – that’s beyond bad.

          • marknesop says:

            The Russian state is always on the defensive on the PR (which, for once, means Public Relations and not Pussy Riot) front, always responding to the latest western accusation. Russia needs to be networking in the English-speaking press, greasing palms and making contacts, and looking for stories that make the west look bad. The current failure in Syria is a fine example. Surely a great deal of embarrassment for the west is to be had there. Stop defending and attack, attack, attack. Pick a superhottie reporter so everyone will watch even if they think they’re not listening. Come on, do I have to think of everything?

          • kirill says:

            Your example of the ’08 war is simply absurd. How is exactly “the Kremlin” supposed to counteract CNN showing Tskhinval and claiming it is Gori? I am sure you will not answer this question because it means admitting that you have no case about the PR optics. There is no objectivity in the western MSM. This is clear from the Pussy Riot case where they systematically ignore the facts and push a fairy tale. Even RIAN is joined in this two bit propaganda effort where it clips the all important fact that the Vagina Thugs slandered the Church and not just Putin.

            I remember the week of CBC radio coverage of the ’08 war. Aside from a report from BBC reporters on 6 am after the Russian counter-attack it was all a complete spew of propaganda. How dare Russia “invade” sovereign Georgia! Sakashvilli is democratic leader so all of his military actions are 100% justified. And of course the systematic disregard for the fact that the Georgian military launched an MLRS and artillery barrage on Tskhinval at midnight. And systematic disregard that Russian peacekeepers were murdered. Note how the western media worries so much about shelling of Homs and Aleppo, but that is only because it is not NATO or its allies that are doing the shelling.

            Reagan invaded Grenada on the pretext that some Americans were at risk. Russia was badmouthed for slapping down a war criminal and his punitive attack on ethnic enclaves that had no business being part of Georgia in the first place. So, according to you, it’s Russia’s fault for not having some Kremlin spokesman hold regular press conferences with the Russian media (now why would the western media bother to attend?). This is just inane. I can see the western MSM laughing at “comical Ivan” like the laughed at “comical Ali”, except that Ivan would be telling the truth. The truth is something the western MSM murders every single day.

            • kovane says:

              What a load of rubbish! Kirill, I’m sorry, but you represent the mirror image of Russian liberals you seem to hate so much. When they see everything in Russia as rotten, ascribe all possible failing to it and suffer from Putin Derangement syndrome, you are doing the complete opposite. Russia has no shortcomings, and even if there seem to be a sign of one – it’s the West’s fault. The Russian government is invariably a bunch of saints who are doing everything possible. Unfortunately, that’s often what happens to emigrants from Russia. Or from any other country, from what I’ve heard. They become either a hardcore fans of their new home, spending time on the Internet in order to prove what a hellhole Russia is, or, as it’s the case with you, a mega-patriot. THAT, by the way, was ad hominem.

              I’m not assuming that Russia could make CNN to side with Russia – it’s obviously a lost cause. Also, it’s hard to deny that odds were heavily stacked against Russia – Georgia, due to the evident reasons, had time to prepare for the information war as well. But nevertheless, the handling of the informational side was awful. There were very few journalist embedded with troops in South Ossetia. The press conferences held by the Ministry of Defence were in a inimitable Soviet style. There were no booklets released. By the way, the Russian government acknowledged these oversights and gave more attention to RT – but that’s only one step of many needed. Overall, even the recent flood in Krymsk showed that the authorities learned nothing in that regard.

              I don’t even know what to make of your argument about a “comical Ivan”. Does this mean that if the West is going to laugh at Russia for doing something, it’s better not to do it at all?

          • AK says:

            The problem is that, contrary to Western claims of Kremlin stooges left right and center, nobody is actually getting paid for this shit.

            I know that probably the two biggest anti-anti-Russia PR efforts in the US are funded by rich private sources. One of them is a Russian-American who emigrated in the 80’s, and the other is an American who initially made her mark in the nuclear disarmament movement. :lol: Totally depressing…

        • marknesop says:

          I recommend the interesting discussion going on at Mark Galeotti’s blog, In Moscow’s Shadows. There is also a newer post, regarding the popular spin of various special-interest groups on the PR trial, entitled “The Pussy Riot Cliches”.

          It is true that the trial was sloppy in that the prosecution attempted to mix canonical law and criminal law in an attempt to get criminal charges for something that is currently not a criminal offense, although I imagine it will be in the not-too-distant future. And the predictable response will be, Putin is messing with the law to crush dissent.

          Overall, though, Mark Galeotti’s take on it is quite reasonable and the post is informative.

          • Misha says:


            That source is RFE/RL propped and it shows by how he answered one of your points with a suggestion that Brit law would be more lenient.

            In contrast, Moscow Exile noted the 56 day sentence accorded to a Brit who made a racist anti-black statement at his own venue (Twitter account), as opposed to stating such at a black church uninvited. Unlike PR and their defense counsel, said Brit expressed remorse. As Moscow Exile suggested, the Brit in ? likely would’ve received a stiffer sentence had he challenged the prosecurion against him and lost. If PR, gave the same mock service via Twitter, would they be prosecuted – and if so to the same degress as what occurred?

            In terms of substantiveness, I’ll take this thread over that one.

            • kirill says:

              You are right, the analysis is crap. Chilling effect on protesters? What a load of bollocks. The largest protests in Moscow in December 2011 and later were all peaceful and law abiding. The “regime” did not stage any crackdown. The Pussy Riot “protest” has no similarity whatsoever to these legitimate mass protests and is nothing but hooliganism with the clear intent to offend the Church and the faithful. So using some (literal) hoodlums as stand ins fora all Russian protesters is just ridiculous.

              Also, last time I checked, Putin won the vote fair and square with a few names on the ballot from which Russians could choose. Even the inaccurate Golos’ measures of the vote in Moscow agree with the official tally for the city. They did not bother to track the rest of the country. I would say the massive failure of support for Pussy Riot was manifest from the tiny turnout to the latest protest. Pussy Riot and their hooliganism are not the voice of the opposition in Russia. And the opposition in Russia is not a monolithic pro-west, neo-liberal movement either.

              • Misha says:

                The following isn’t intended a personal attack.

                Something seems to be substantively lacking among some folks deemed as being more sympathetic towards Russia.

              • marknesop says:

                The massive failure of support for PR is also manifested in the polls – only 6% in favour against 51% who “found nothing good about them, or felt irritation or hostility. The rest could not say or were indifferent”, according to Levada.

                Pinning the opposition’s hopes to PR would be a huge mistake, because they will be in jail. Unless the defense wins on appeal, of course. The leaders the opposition has now are bad enough; invisible leaders who speak to the hamsters only in notes smuggled out of the jail would be a disaster for the opposition.

                And I beg to differ with everyone who says it would be much different in the west, in argument against those who say western religious faiths would never tolerate such disgusting behaviour. According to the Assemblies of God, USA, the following guidance governs the faithful with regard to “Reverence and Respect“;”The Bible clearly states that we are to show reverence to God and to the things that represent His person and presence… We live in an age that treats everything as common. Our prevailing culture teaches that no one should be regarded as any better than oneself. That attitude is one of many contributors to the general breakdown of structure and order in society… But showing respect and honor is much more than giving verbal homage to individuals. It involves acting and living in such a way that one avoids insults and injury, and instead extends commendation and value to others…Reverence and respect for church sanctuaries and facilities must be taught to children if they are ever to appreciate the biblical importance of showing reverence for God. The church board and congregation should show concern for the appearance and treatment of God’s house—the church auditorium and all the supporting facilities…Though some humor is appropriate in certain times and settings, it should always contribute to community edification, to building relationships, and strengthening our relationship with God and individual members.

                Behavior in the sanctuary should always be respectful and reverent towards God. Those who have not been taught such reverence sometimes treat it as a place to play, run, shout, and socialize. Not only during worship services and altar prayer time, but also when the sanctuary is nearly empty, all should respect and reverence the place where God meets with His church community. Though we firmly believe in the New Testament principle of our personal bodies being temples for the dwelling of God’s Holy Spirit, we also recognize that the facilities in which we assemble together for worship should also be treated as special—with respect and reverence for God. Just as we have stood on holy ground as we worshipped our wonderful Lord, we should respect the space as holy even when we are not worshipping…Though there are no biblical cautions about appropriate dress for the worship service, the dress of both men and women should show at least as much respect as we would expect to show in the presence of an important government leader. On the other hand, we cannot demand the same of a sinner who walks in off the street needing to find Jesus as Savior…Our choice of music in the church must acknowledge generational differences and preferences, and we must extend patient forbearance (Eph. 4:1-3) to music that is not our personal first choice. The test should be: Are people being edified and drawn closer to the Lord, even though other music would do that better for me? The mature saint is more concerned about the worship experience of others than about his or her own enjoyment and emotional experience. In all these matters of personal preference, respect for others will keep the peace of God in the church body.

                Granted, this is the Pentecostal religion, which as the document states, has no formal liturgy. However, this denomination also has about the loosest guidelines in the religion business. I’m prepared to guarantee the Catholics or, Heaven forfend, the Baptists, would have some sort of hemorrhage upon seeing a video clip of PR “performing” in their church. This is not law, and the gentle operative throughout is “should”, but I think it’s clear the behaviour we are talking about would bring broad disapproval.

                As to sentencing, that might well be different. Several states still have blasphemy laws on the books, and every state has laws against hooliganism or what would qualify as such behaviour. But that’s not the point – this case is being used to imply Russia is intolerant and savage, while no democratic state would simply tolerate such behaviour. What would setting PR free, as the protesters insist, be if not tolerance of the behaviour? Therefore, all we’re talking about is the sentence, and the legal proceedings which arrived at that point.

            • marknesop says:

              To each his own, I suppose. I’m quite happy engaging at any site which treats disagreement with politeness and counterargument, while I may not agree with it. I’m not interested in ideological purity.

              • Misha says:

                Neither am I. I’m also not into sucking up to what the establishment prefers in a way that downplays the input of erudite others, who’ve been very much kept out of the process at the more high profile of venues.

                “Politeness” is lacking at that and some other venues when it comes to acknowledging and respecting the valid views of others. On that point, some academics don’t appear to carry on in such an academic way. Among pro-Russian advocates, RFE/RL (where the academic in question is regularly promoted) isn’t known to be particularly sympathetic to pro-Russian views.

                Touching on the “to each his own” point and to underscore the opening: the desire to seek a better understanding of Russia should IMO include promoting under-represented (dare I say censored) sources over some of the establishment views.

          • kirill says:

            “As I’ve written in my most recent post, as near as I can tell in Britain you wouldn’t even get a custodial sentence.”

            Clearly total rubbish. As Moscow Exile has brought to our attention, the son of the Pink Floyd musician got 16 months for waving a flag he grabbed off a war memorial. He served only 4 months but that is irrelevant since the Vagina Thugs may get off in less than year too, for good behaviour. There was nothing antagonistic in Charlie Gilmour’s action towards the war dead or the memorial. The Vagina Thugs were defacing the cathedral with the excrement they call art. Sorry but there is no leeway here in terms of interpreting their “performance” as an affront.

            It appears the Russian Orthodox Church is being smeared as a regime tool because it does not oppose the government like a good, pro-west church should. This smear is an attack on the Russian people. Putin’s government has never relied on the Church or even nationalism to win. It is the only centrist political force in the country. The opposition consists of neo-commies and neo-liberals, neither of which are centrists. There is no Canadian style Liberal party in Russia. United Russia is the closest thing that comes to it.

            • marknesop says:

              While I quite agree the “performance” was disgraceful, the law is written the way it is written and you can’t bend it to suit your own purposes. Granted, you can choose to charge or not to charge, and there’s no denying some get away with ridiculous stunts while others have the book thrown at them. And the behaviour of the people in question (I’m getting tired of seeing and hearing their name everywhere, too), or should I say the nature of the offense with which they were charged, is not criminal under the law as it is presently written. Perhaps Alex can straighten it out, but I’m afraid until I see otherwise, I buy Galeotti’s argument that the prosecution bollixed it up by mixing canonical and criminal law in order to offer a greater span of sentence and apparently so the defendants would not get off too lightly. If that’s so – and I’ll wait for confirmation from Alex – I don’t expect to hear anyone argue that should fly or that it is of no consequence, because we all argue the rule of law is not only not too bad in Russia, but that it is improving. Blatant attempts to make a square peg fit a round hole are not improvement.

              The defense, likewise, behaved shabbily with their kitchen-sink tactics in order to induce delays. But again, as I suggested, that’s up to the judge and she should have stepped on it fast. Perhaps she was being sensitive to what a political hot potato the case had become, and wanted to provide every appearance of fairness. Mr. Galeotti is certainly correct that you cannot take resentment built up by the witless performances of defense counsel out on the defendants when passing sentence.

              I don’t disagree PR’s “performance” was an affront, an outrage, whatever you want to call it. All I suggest is that if it was not correctly charged in accordance with the law, the defense is extremely likely to win on appeal, and you should not be surprised if that happens.

              If Alex says the charges were correct and that the defendants’ performance is a criminal offense which was correctly pursued by the prosecution in accordance with the law as it is written, then I’ll be back where I was before. And I am certainly not advocating their release: I said community service would have suited me, but if the court says two years then two years it is – unless the case was improperly prosecuted. We’ll see, as I expect the defense to appeal.

              • kirill says:

                I don’t buy the selective interpretation of the Russian law being spread by the blogosphere. Specifically the claim that the law on hooliganism is tied to weapons use. Would spray paint be considered a weapon? How about defecation or urination? I will give Russian legislators more credit than some bloggers who claim that nobody in the UK would face jail time for PR style hooliganism.

                • Misha says:

                  Once again noting the example of the Brit who Tweeted a racist comment and received a 56 day sentence as noted by Moscow Exile.

                  The Brit in question showed remorse unlike PR. Unlike PR, the jailed Brit didn’t go to a black church to express the views he was charged with.

                  One senses that PR wouldn’t have been charged had they Tweeted what they did in the chapel of a venue that has a history of having been victimzed by anti-religious action.

                  If I’m not mistaken, Mark Galeotti hasn’t directly dealt with these particulars.


        • Moscow Exile says:

          Here’s Tolokonnikova artisticly performing with friends 4 years ago when she was a member of Voina. This is the woman whom the Guardian described as belonging to a group (Pussy Riot) that was defined by its “lightness and gaiety” and “whose protest is not made of slogans and placards but is crafted from art, dance and performance”.

          To quote Alexander Mercouris: “In the light of the activities in which they have been involved it is unlikely the members of either Pussy Riot or Voina (to which Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina at least also belong or have belonged) would recognise themselves in this description”.

          Of course Tolokonnikova could have reformed since 2008 and really have become (or believes she has become) a musician, member of a punk-rock group known as Pussy Riot, three members of which – described by Gessen in the NYT as “three skinny girls” – including Tolokonnikova, having been convicted last Friday.

          See (warning):

          • marknesop says:

            Yup; that’s art, all right. I can hardly wait to see that in an American museum, I’ll be looking forward to the positive reviews.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              What I cannot understand is why, in a police state, these “artists” who are members of Voina (St. Petersburg and Moscow branches thereof) and/or Pussy Riot were not arrested for their outrageous behaviour long before the “punk prayer” in the cathedral had taken place?

              One thing that PR and Voina (both branches) have in common is that every action that they have undertaken has been illegal, if only on the grounds that none of their actions has been officially sanctioned.

              Speaking about the objectives of Voina (Moscow branch), PR leader Tolokonnikova stated publicly that no so-called work of art can be considered genuine unless it had a political content. (See comment made by me on this mattter in a previous thread.)

              Tolokonnikova and her associates consider themselves to be artists. Therefore, by her own definition of art, every “event” that she and her colleagues have participated in has been a political act. In order to assemble and protest, be it in an “artistic” event, as Tolokonnikova and associates maintain, or not, one needs to apply for permission to do so. Neither Voina nor PR have ever had their “events” sanctioned by the authorities and they have all been, therefore, illegal.

              Furthermore, all of the Voina and PR “politicized artistic events” have involved criminal acts, e.g. hooliganism, indecent behaviour, insulting behaviour, criminal damage and theft (of a chicken). Although it is not a criminal act to insert a frozen chicken into one’s vagina if one should wish to do so, it certainly is a criminal act to steal said chicken and to perform its insertion into one’s vagina in a public place.

              If any of the PR members/members of Voina that took part in these outrageous public “performances” had been arrested and charged, would the Western media have been so eager to bay in unison that the arrests were yet another example of Putin’s clamping down on free speech in Russia? I should hardly think so.

              And so came the day when certain PR/Voina (Moscow branch) members decided to perform in Moscow’s main cathedral. Again, they weren’t immediately arrested for their performance, and charged with a breach of criminal and/or administrative law; the state prosecution did not immediately charge the three PR “freedom fighters”: the state waited until a complaint was made against PR by the church.

              The state, therefore, fell for a sucker punch that led to accusations of Putin cosying up with the church and that the PR trial was akin to a mediaeval inquisition: as a result, the West has had a field day.

              However, there have long been warrants out for the arrest of the leading lights of Voina (St. Petersburg branch). An arrest warrant was long ago issued for the arrest of the wife of the St. Petersburg Voina founder and co-founder herself, Natalya Sokol. (Perhaps this is why she has long wrongly beeen identified as the chicken-in-the-vagina woman.)


              She still remains at large, however, having apparently gone to ground, as have other Voina members who now find themselves on an international wanted list.


              Note in the above link that someone has commented: “Verzilov is a police provocateur, he has no connection with Voina…”

              Verlizov is Tolokonnnikova’s husband and founder of Voina (Moscow).

              As regards the comments, mine included, that the PR convicted were not charged or associated with anything to do with the infamous Voina (St.Petersburg) frozen chicken performance, there have been, however, demands made by some duma members that the State Prosecutor undertake investigations into any connection between Tolokonnikova and Voina (Petersburg). The duma deputies making this request are doing so on behalf of Russian citizens angered at the availability of video films posted by Voina on the Internet that show the chicken incident and also Tolokonnikova apparently fornicating in public, which clips anyone, including minors, can view.


              Note: The “heroine” who stuffs the chicken up her vagina is named in the link above as Elena Kostyleva. Amazingly, an arrest order has not been made out for this “artist”.

              [По данным открытых источников, главной героиней акции с курицей являлась Елена Костылева, которая не входит в число арестованных участниц группы - According to information from freely available sources, the chief heroine in the chicken event was Elena Kostyleva, who does not appear to be on the list of the arrested group participants.]

              See also:

              Again, how come in this police state, whose law enforcement agents are well known for their brutality and unabashed use of torture to obtain information, has it been possible that so many members of Voina (both branches thereof) have evaded prosecution?

              Is anybody protecting them, I wonder?

              Or are Russian cops just as bloody useless as most cops anywhere are.

              • marknesop says:

                “…the state prosecution did not immediately charge the three PR “freedom fighters”: the state waited until a complaint was made against PR by the church. The state, therefore, fell for a sucker punch that led to accusations of Putin cosying up with the church and that the PR trial was akin to a mediaeval inquisition: as a result, the West has had a field day.”

                Well, maybe, but I’m led to believe this is the way things proceed in a democracy. In the case, for example, of John Richards of Boston (the UK one), Mr. Richards – an atheist – exhibits a sign in his window which reads, “Religions are Fairy Stories for Adults”. He has been informed by the police that he may be arrested for this behaviour if (1) anyone complains that they find it offensive, and (2) he subsequently refuses to take it down when ordered. Complaint is a big part of establishing the nature of the offense, which in this case is said to contravene the Public Order Act of 1986. This Act prohibits behaviour which “is threatening or abusive or insulting with the intent to provoke violence or which may cause another person harassment, alarm or distress.” This is further amplified; “This is balanced with a right to free speech and the key point is that the offence is committed if it is deemed that a reasonable person would find the content insulting.” Pretty much a carbon copy of the way events proceeded in Moscow.

                As to why other members of Voina have not been arrested, I’m afraid I’ve got nothing, because their behaviour marks them at the very least as hooligans and surely there have been complaints.

              • Misha says:

                Some aspects of the American legal system have been known to periodically operate at a snail’s pace. Whether of the hard or soft variant, many perps the world over continue with suspect manner until getting apprehended.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      I agree.

      The woman who stuffed a chicken up her vagina is not one of the three recently convicted PR members.


      I feel, however, that I should repeat what I wrote above and prior to my later comment in which I stated that I believed one of the PR convicted was she who had inserted a frozen chicken into her vagina, namely that convicted PR members had not been on trial for participating in the lewd display that involved a frozen chicken and which was performed by members of Voina in St. Petersburg.

      (Can anyone explain what the purpose of this “artistic” happening was, by the way?)

      The convicted leader of PR, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and her husband, Pyotr Verzilov, were closely associated with Voina. Furthermore, despite the fact that both claim that they split away from the St.Petersburg-based Voina in acrimonious circumstances, Verzilov continues to use the name Voina for his Moscow-based “artistic group”, which is sometimes referred to as the “Moscow Faction of Voina”.

      Apparently, the founder of the St. Petersburg-based Voina and the members of that “artistic group” object to this.

      The “Moscow Faction of Voina” split from its parent organisation in 2009. Before the split, there were several Voina “events”, the most outrageous, perhaps, being the one labelled “Fuck for the Heir Puppy Bear”, in which Tolokonnikova and her husband participated. This was the infamous “artistic” event that involved an orgy in a public place. Four days after this work of art had been performed, Tolokonnikova gave birth to her child.


      Apparently, the Voina (St.Petersburg branch) “artist” whose vagina accomodated a complete, frozen chicken stolen from a supermarket, is a certain Natalia Sokol. This obscene/artistic act that took place in a St.Petersburg supermarket happened in 2010, namely after the alleged split that resulted in the formation f the “Moscow Voina”.


      I am unsure whether one can be legally judged by the company that one keeps; indeed, whether one should, in general, be judged by the company one keeps is, perhaps, a moot point for many.

      It certainly isn’t for me.

  35. kirill says:

    RIAN at it again:

    “Three members of the feminist punk band were jailed for two years each on Friday for performing an anti-Kremlin song in a church. The judge convicted them, finding them guilty of inciting religious hatred, but group members and most analysts said the verdict was masterminded by the powers that be as a warning for protesters.”

    Note how the fact that they screamed obscenities at the Church has been omitted in the above anti-Russian propaganda piece published by a state news agency! Also note how the opinions of some anonymous analysts are slipped in as an objective assessment of the verdict. Wow. This is clearly a nest of brazen fifth columnists. I may sound like a broken record but Putin’s “regime” should do something about this and quick. This sort of crap has no justification and it is irrelevant if English RIAN loses its readership in NATO states because they no longer hear the sweet music of propaganda just like the one they get from their MSM.

    • marknesop says:

      I can’t claim to have seen the famous chicken video, but if this truly is an accurate representation of the girl involved in it, I would have to say no. In fact, the one in the video looks more like Alexei Navalny in drag. I agree they are not the same person.

      But it’s not as ridiculous as you make it sound. Both have a largeish nose and a prominent lower lip, approximately the same hair colour and shape of face, although Maria Alyokhina’s looks wider overall. And if you looked at the two photos I linked earlier of Boris Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna, you’d likely be hard-pressed to say they were the same person.

      Still, I agree these pictures are of different people.

      • cartman says:

        I can’t verify the chicken video either because I have not seen it. Still, if the media bothered to report any relevant facts about the women, they would not seem like feminist martyrs. Instead, all this hoopla is based on filters such as the New York Times. For example, the one who was in Voina with her husband was kicked out because they tried to get another member arrested. How viciously demented. When I read some of Voina’s screeds about her and her husband, it was clear much of their dispute with them was caused credit for the stunts. These people are in it for glory, not activism. They have their 15 minutes of fame, the public in Western countries will soon forget about them, and the domestic public will continue to be against them.

    • Misha says:

      Mind you that RIAN higher up Andrei Zolotov has indicated (if I’m not mistaken) being an observant ROC.

      Once again, the 2 year sentence appears like it was probably motivated by the disrespectfully pious manner of the defendants and their legal counsel. IMO, 6 months is more in reason. An arguably more appropriate option was community service (assuming that option is in sync with Russian law) minus jail time. As is, the 2 year sentence is a far cry from an action by an extremely oppressive state.

      One senses a judge who isn’t into PC BS.

      Much of the reporting and commentary on the issue omits why PR’s act is (within reason) seen as being repulsive to the ROC faithful among some others.

      • kirill says:

        This selective reporting of the facts makes this coverage brazen propaganda. Clearly PR were not charged for attacking Putin, but that is what the western media and their sycophants want everyone to believe. But some people think that Russia can give itself a better image in the west if only it spent some for money Hill & Knowlton whitewashing and its spokesmen did a better job communicating Russia’s position. This implicitly assumes that the west is interested in listening to facts about Russia and not to its own MSM chorus of anti-Russia hate. Clearly such an assumption is delusional.

        • marknesop says:

          It’s certainly true that Russia will never be able to improve its own standing in the public eye and win kudos from the west, because the only way to do that would be to do things that would damage the country beyond recovery. The west often reveals the Russia that would please it, because it cannot stop itself from projecting that state as the future for Russia – one in which the popuation has continued to hemhorrage people at about a million a year, and which is reduced to basically Moscow and its environs, the remainder being ruled and squabbled over by regional warlords who constantly threaten Moscow itself. I can’t see Russia agreeing to make that a reality in order to win an approving pat on the head from western leaders and neoconservative hawks.

          However, there is a lot Russia could be doing – especially in a world where influence-peddling is as legitimate as house painting and money can buy anything – to make the west pay for every inch of good public relations. As I mentioned, there is an embarrassment of riches just in the debacle over Syria alone. Russia can’t make itself look good, but it can level the playing field simply by presenting some western operations in the light of reality. The west is deliberately suppressing the real story in Syria, and prides itself on being able to shape perceptions. Wreck that.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Yes, I must hold up my hands up and confess that Alyokhina is not a “dead ringer” for the “chiclken woman” of the infamous Voina (St. Petersburg) supermarket stunt. I went completely over the top there and should have better said that Alyokhina, in my opinion, seemed similar to that woman who “performed” her politiciized artistry in a St. Petersburg supermarket and street.

            Having seen the Voina “chicken” video clip once only (one viewing was enough for me, not least because of its inanity) I could only recall that the woman in question was a blonde in her late twenties. In both these respects, both Alyokhina and Kostyleva (the “chicken woman”) are similar; they are not, however, the same person.

            As I have stated above in another posting, I was wrong.

            Because I was wrong in this instance does not mean, however, that I am always wrong or that all that I maintain should be automatically viewed as doubtful: nor would the converse be true, namely that since I have been proven right before, I should be considered as infallible.

            For example, I am sure that the convicted Pussy Riot leader, the woman Tolokonnikova is more than a dead ringer for the pregnant woman seen in the Voina (pre-split) video of their politicized performance that took place in a Moscow museum, which woman is apparently having sexual intercourse “doggy fashion”: I believe that Tolokonninova is that pregnant woman in the Voina museum “orgy” video.

            I should also like to repeat what I have said more than once previously: the PR trial was not concerned with the convicted three’s activities, real or alleged, with Voina, both before and after that “artistic” group split into its St.Persburg and Moscow factions.

            • Moscow Exile says:

              This comment was intended to follow marknesop’s below, which deals with this mistaken identity question. There was, however, no reply function to marknesop’s comment below.

              • marknesop says:

                Exactly. There can be little doubt it is Tolokonnikova in the museum orgy pictures. While that has nothing to do with the sentence drawn by PR in its latest stunt, it does go to linkage with other such “protest cells” and in turn to the credibility of that philospophical blather in her court statement, which appeared intended to make her sound like a cross between Titania Queen of the Fairies and Mother Theresa. Was that a feminist statement, too – getting rogered among the beasts, or something? Or perhaps that was an early protest against Medvedev: I did see a stuffed bear in there amongst all the skin.

                They are only looking for attention, and anyone who has attributed to them more revolutionary qualities than that based on the OTPOR clenched-fist gesture is asking to be disappointed.

        • Misha says:

          Consider the put midly so-so commentary often getting the nod over other sources which are better reasoned. Hence, putting the best foot forward has limits.

          • One of the most difficult things about trying to research Voina and Pussy Riot is that the information that appears about both groups on the internet shifts and changes continuously. Whilst I was writing my own post this was happening all the time with even Amnesty International altering or removing articles it had written about the case and about Pussy Riot from its website. For example the latest Wikipedia entry on Voina is quite different from the one I read only a short time ago. Yekaterina Samutsevitch (one of the Pussy Riot defendants) is now identified as another member or former member of Voina. I have read several pieces that clearly identified Maria Alyokhina as the woman in the chicken incident some of which appeared to originate with Voina. The point was never cleared up and it is interesting to see how responsibility is now being passed around from one woman to another. This was of course a straightforward theft so it is not surprising that as much confusion is being created about the identity of this woman as possible. Tolokonnikova was definitely a member of Voina, Samutsevitch also was a member of Voina and despite recent denials it seems that Alyokhina was a member of Voina as well. It seems highly probable therefore that all three women who were involved in the recent case are or were at some point members of Voina and it is surely likely that it was through their membership of Voina that they met each other. I notice that the Wikipedia article identifies Samutsevitch as participating in a Voina event after the 2009 split. There have been any number of claims and denials about the 2009 split and whether there was in fact a split or just a quarrel or whether what happened was simply a decision to create a separate chapter for the group in Moscow. With groups of this kind that operate largely in secret within a culture of criminality factionalism is always going to be rampant. All this will be of great interest to the police who are undoubtedly monitoring the group or groups closely and who surely know the identities and connections of all of Voina’s and Pussy Riot’s members (including the two women who were involved in the “punk prayer” and who not yet been arrested) and who now seem determined to close both groups down. For the rest of us these connections can only be of academic interest.

            • I am now working on a follow up post discussing the Judgment in the Pussy Riot case. I have to trawl through seemingly endless screeds of commentary on the subject. Even Julian Assange thinks they are heroes and apparently compared his plight to theirs. When I shut my eyes I see Pussy Riot in neon lights. Woe is me.

              • marknesop says:

                Take heart – once the western media was this much in love with Alexei Navalny. Look at their relationship now, and not all that much further down the road. Oh, they still love him, no question. But westerners no longer say, while making love, “Could you move your head a little? I think I just saw Navalny on TV”. Poor Navalny; it’s been a short, hard road from when he was strutting about on stage like Robin Hoodski, roaring about taking the Kremlin.

                The same will be true of Pussy Riot. They’re so corny, so dizzy with instant stardom – can a Nike endorsement contract be far away? Today I read a comment which compared them to Solzhenitsyn. And here, the defiant trio said, “Let them go to hell with their pardon!!”. Curiously, a pardon has not been offered, but of course this is great copy, really Jean Paul Sartre. Doubtless the story that will grow from it will be that Putin did offer a pardon, if only they would bow down and worship him, like Xerxes of Persia in “300”, and like Leonidas, Pussy Riot told him where he could stick it. Really and truly, narrative-shaping is almost boring when the people are so ignorant. I saw another comment, in the same forum in which a commenter compared them with Solzhenitsyn, which corrected the author and informed him the name of the group was actually “Free Pussy Riot”, and that he should get his facts straight. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

              • AK says:

                When do you think you will have it finished Alex?

            • peter says:

              I have read several pieces that clearly identified Maria Alyokhina as the woman in the chicken incident…

              Here you go again, flushing down the drain every last drop of your credibility. Frank is right, you’re already past invincible ignorance and into deliberate slander.

              • AK says:

                On closely examining the two faces, I agree Alyokhina isn’t chicken-girl. Her features look considerably sharper (more intelligent).

                However, I don’t see why you have to wage a smear campaign of your own against Mercouris. As he said, he does not have good eyesight, and the information on the matter is contradictory. I too have seen Alyokhina named as chicken girl.

                • peter says:

                  I too have seen Alyokhina named as chicken girl.

                  Sure, and I’ve read on the internet that the moon landing never happened. What’s your point, exactly?

                • marknesop says:

                  Although I’m late to the controversy as usual, and did not see the video (perhaps that’s an advantage) so therefore am making my decision based just on the still photos provided, the two are unalike except for a general similarity in features and hair colour. I would say that while it would be possible in certain circumstances to mistake one for the other, “dead ringer” is going too far. However, it seems to me as if this is being seized upon as the thread that will unravel the whole thing – Alex was wrong about the chicken girl, therefore everything he says about Pussy Riot is wrong. I don’t get the single-minded determination to elevate a bunch of thrill-seeking sluts to philosopher-queens and luminaries of our age. Did you buy all that tripe in Tolokonnikova’s statement about “reaching out” and just trying to make things better for the whole country with her silly stunts? Since all artistic performances are political (according to Tolokonnikova), what was the group-sex-in-the-museum one all about? Too many stuffed animals in the government?

                • Actually I take Peter’s harping on the subject as a compliment. It shows that he can find nothing else on my post to disagree with so he rushes to defend the woman not for the crime for which she was actually convicted (and which my post discusses) but one she has never been charged with.

                • AK says:

                  I can see (just about) where Peter has a point.

                  Basically, when explaining the severity of the judgment – something Alex doesn’t deny, though he takes care to place it in comparative context – the character of the defendants has to be taken into account.

                  Obviously stuffing a chicken up one’s twat in a supermarket in front of slack-jawed onlookers isn’t going to help anyone’s case.

                  This point falls away when it is revealed that Alyokhina isn’t in fact chicken girl. It obviously doesn’t negate the actual crime of hooliganism, but it does pose questions as to, say, why she was given the same two years as was Tolokonnikova, who DOES have a confirmed and undeniable history of previous hooligan actions.

                  Sure, and I’ve read on the internet that the moon landing never happened.

                  Because you are ascribing the worst possible intentions to Mercouris, whereas in reality, it is much easier to dismiss moon landing conspiracies than it is to conduct an investigation into what was ultimately a very minor point in Mercouris’ argument.

                  Especially as his eyesight problem would force him to outsource said investigation to others anyway.

                • peter says:

                  … Alex was wrong about the chicken girl, therefore everything he says about Pussy Riot is wrong.

                  Well, not “therefore”, but otherwise yes: virtually everything Alexander says on the matter is not even wrong.

                  Did you buy all that tripe in Tolokonnikova’s statement about… ?

                  Don’t be silly, Mark, she’s only 22.

                • kovane says:

                  Hey! That’s ageism!

                • marknesop says:

                  Why, Peter: I believe you have a soft spot in that cynical old physicist’s heart after all. Little in your previous commentary suggests you had such a benevolent tolerance for youthful mischief. And surely that’s all it was, right? When she shouted that the Virgin Mary “better believe in God, bitch”, Tolokonnikova (I’m getting so I can spell her name without even checking, God help me), never meant for it to be perceived as an insult to the church? On the other hand, when she spoke feelingly about “indifference to her honour and dignity” – I have to admit I nearly choked on a grape when I tried to reconcile her maundering about dignity with images of her taking it from behind in a public museum while heavily pregnant, as the photographer bounced around taking happy snaps – and her search for “authentic genuineness and simplicity”. Sadly, she did not find it in Putin’s autocratic state; no, she is “genuinely angered by the fear-based and scandalously low standard of political culture”, so angry that “even the air of Russia makes her ill”. A real poetic turn, that last line, don’t you think? Likely it derives from their impromptu performance atop the pre-trial detention center; Come on, you know this one, it’s “Death To Prison, Freedom to Protests“. One of my favourites, come on and sing it with me: “Egyptian air is good for the lungs; do Tahrir on Red Square”. Never mind that the Egyptian revolution was a disaster and that the country is now under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, and not one of the protesters’ demands has been met except that Mubarek is gone, you can’t deny it is catchy. She spoke of “reaching out” and in the end it transpires that she and her bandmates are just simple girls searching for understanding and truth. I know that because she said so.

                  Which is it? Silly girls who made a mistake and are genuinely sorry for it, but who just can’t help unleashing their simple natures in the pursuit of truth and understanding? Or powerful new leaders, inspirers of a new wave of Grrrrl Power? Influential divas who are spiking balaclava sales, or poor misunderstood waifs?

  36. kievite says:

    I do not see positive results from WTO accession for Russia. It is a Faustian bargain. Bad if you do and bad if you don’t. But timing is extremely bad for entering WTO. Everybody wants to export their way out of recession….

    The market of financial services also expects some changes. The Russian negotiators managed to defend the limitation on foreign capital in the banking sector. Foreign banks will be still forbidden from opening branches in Russia. Their only option is a subsidiary bank, with a 50% limit on total participation of foreign capital in the banking system. The sector could use a little competition – long-term interest rates remain prohibitive and seriously limit investment options for Russian companies. Foreign insurance companies will be allowed to open branches after 9 years from accession. The telecommunication sector will be also opened for foreign investments – the existing limitations will be lifted.

    This “little competition” is generally pipe dreams or cruel calculation to strip the nation from assets :-). This is especially true in financial sector. Ukraine can serve as a guinea pig of what will happen with Russia.

    True that interest rates are really criminal. What in Western law is defined as usury ( But those foreign sharks that are brave enough to test the water happily change extra-high interest. Low interest rate exists only for the members of the club. That’s the rule of the financial game, so to speak: kick the weakling. The reality will be faster rate of “Latin Americanization” of the country. And higher unemployment rate due to disappearance of the “uncompetitive” sectors and concentration of ownership in foreign hands (read banks). The scheme is trivial for those banks who come from convertible currencies club: print the money, buy industries… profit.

    Financial industries are key to WTO. Everything else is just a frosting on the cake. Here surprisingly Russia managed somehow defend herself from quick colonization. But in reality situation is far more complex. The pressure to allow foreign megabanks free hand in Russia will definitely be the part of the game. Especially “after Putin”.

    In Kiev now each second building on the main streets is occupied by banks. That’s simply unreal how many of them are present. So those parasites have a field day in this banana republic like they generally should. Local top 1% drives expensive (even by Western standard) cars and is more then happy to sell the country to foreigners. Which is how globalization works.

    We will see if the same happens in Russia (financial situation is really different) but the danger is real. Also some Russian financial institutions are Russian only by name. They already are part of the international financial cartel. Like Kissinger used to say ” this is no longer your elite, this is our elite” ;-)

    People talk about industrial production, but I think agricultural sector is the next target of foreign capital expansion into the country. Results are predictable. Coca-Cola is already on every corner. Next will be obligatory supply to schools ;-). At the same time in Kiev milk now costs approximately $0.8-$1.5 a liter with average salary less then $400 a month. More then ten time more then in “Soviet times”. Most milk factories are now foreign owned and it looks like a cartel without any hint of competition. I think Coca-Cola is the major owner. Meat costs ~$5-10 per 1 kilogram. So not everybody can afford meat even taking into account that state housing has very low rent ($50 a month for one bedroom apartment). Private sector rents are generally comparable with Canadians so this type of housing is not affordable for most of the population. You need to be a director of some shop with salary $1000 or more to afford to rent one bedroom apartment and that will be half of your salary or more.

    As for consumer market, domestic industries will gradually disappear under the press of China imports. That already happened in Ukraine. Almost everything you buy for home is “made in China”. China companies differentiate themselves with lower prices which is important due to low salaries. So they quickly dominate sectors where some local production was present. Forget about German electrical appliances. They are for top 1%. Everybody else buys Chinese. And local enterprises go bankrupt adding to unemployment. Most factories in Kiev are now closed. Resellers of imports dominate the picture. I wonder how they earn money as few people can buy anything other then necessities.

    One positive aspect will be disappearance of much higher prices on electronics, including computers. In Ukraine now the prices are probably typical for the rest of Europe (that means 20-30 percent higher then in USA). Of course on some semi-luxury items prices are 100% higher (Apple notebooks, iPhones, etc).

    But at the same time, for example, for cell phones models made specifically for poor countries dominate despite pretty high prices for those generally inferior to Western models.

    • kovane says:

      kievite, First of all, Ukraine negotiated extremely unfavourable conditions. Their average tariff was bound at a 4% level – that’s slightly higher than that of developed countries. Secondly, Ukraine fell a victim to its highly energy-ineffective industry. The gas prices made a big dent in its budget, so Ukraine had to deal with the IMF. And that’s worse than selling your soul to the Devil.

      I think I have no illusions regarding the danger of foreign banks, but the present situation is very confusing. The state invest it large reserves of foreign currency in US and EU securities, while Russian companies borrow money from US banks. And that’s supposedly because it just can’t effectively loan money through state-owned banks.

      Otherwise, foreign ownership becomes dangerous when it forms a monopoly, but that’s also true for any owner. For example, PepsiCo bought Wimm-Bill-Dann recently. If it paid a fair market price, what reason it would have to harm the new acquisition? Meanwhile, all factories stays in Russia and Russian workers learn more efficient labour organization – so it’s all for the good.

      In all times, elites have been treacherous and put their interests above those of the country. Now it reached a completely new stage. But the WTO is in no way complicit in that. Abramovich bought Chelsea long before it. Usmanov also prefers London, Vekselberg lives in Switzerland. The behaviour of the mega-rich is very similar in every country. And it’s up to the state how to deal with them.

    • marknesop says:

      If people without a management-level job cannot afford rent, where do they live? Still with their parents, as jammed-together roommates, or outside the city where rent is presumably cheaper?

  37. kirill says:

    Thanks for the dose of reality on global trade. It is simply predatory capitalism with the predators pushing free trade rules to remove obstacles to gain easier access to their prey.

    Russian interest rates reflect the Russian inflation rate. This inflation rate has only fallen to relatively tolerable levels in 2012. For most of the 2000s it hovered above 10% per year. No bank can lend at or less than the inflation rate. So just when the Russian inflation rate and associated lending rates are coming down we have the attempt to foist “competition” on the Russian banking sector.

    Given the ludicrous behaviour of western banks, Russia has nothing of value it can gain from importing the same racket. Russia’s banking sector has to be legislated into conservatism. No stock market and real estate casino “investments” that ultimately drive bubbles, burst and bring down the economy. For investors seeking to make a quick buck, the option should be to make these casino bets themselves. Banks serve a vital function in the economy and should be regulated as such. But of course, such regulations are against WTO rules. So Russia’s alleged securing of protection for its financial industry is likely to be an illusion that will disappear after the grace period of entry into the WTO is over (about 10-15 years).

    The bleating about quality consumer goods is simply moronic. Even here in Canada, places such as Canadian Tire, Walmart, Sears, etc are full of Chinese produced garbage. This trash has improved a bit since the 1980s but it is nowhere near the quality that is associated with Japan or Germany. In Ukraine you have a clear counter-example to the claim that foreign competition brings quality improvements and price reductions. Too much wishful theory and too little empirical fact.

    • kovane says:

      OK, Let’s see. Here’s offers on mortgage loan interest rates in the UK. Here’s Gazprombank’s offer on loans in dollars – it’s competitive and reflects the current market well.

      So, UK banks lend money at a 3,5% interest rates in pounds, while Russian banks at a 10% interest rate in dollars. A question: what does the ruble inflation have to do with this situation? It also reflects how the things are with long-term interest rates on business loans.

  38. marknesop says:

    If you need any further evidence that China is punching in an ever-higher weight category on a broad front,- not just economic – check out this year’s Miss World. And that’s on top of a fairly powerful performance in the summer Olympics.

  39. marknesop says:

    Oh, Dear. Is America falling out of love with France already, as soon as its favourite big-eared, model-shagging hot dog promoter has quitted the throne? It certainly looks that way. More importantly, the new socialist France might be a choice courtship candidate (for Russia) for better business ties post-WTO; never hurts to have a foothold in Europe, and the UK would be hysterical.

    • kirill says:

      If only Russia took its cue from France and not the monetarist US/UK. Now that monetarist Kudrin is out I hope that the 1990s nonsense will finally fade away.

    • AK says:

      Don’t see how that can work out.

      It is the left-liberals who are typically most opposed to Russia. Hollande is a left liberal. See the French Presidential candidates’ respective positions on Russia.

      • marknesop says:

        Oh, it’s quite true that Hollande’s position on Russia as expressed during the French elections was somewhere just to the left of strident. However, as we know, politicians will do and say anything to get elected, and what he said then need not reflect his true feelings, if his true feelings matter at all. If he continues to come under constant sniping and criticism from the U.S. and U.K. despite having turned the French economy around (although it’s a bit early to say that), he might well look with new eyes at how much he and Vladimir Putin have in common. At the very least, if trends in France still look positive at the end of 2012 I would recommend a visit by the Russian president, just to say hello and Francois, what’s up. Nothing wrong with Russia carrying out a bit of expansionist politics on its own instead of being reactionary all the time, and since Russia and Germany already get along fairly well, an attempt to make common cause among the three might fall on fertile ground, especially with the Germans sick and tired of bailing out every spendthrift in the Eurozone. If you look at Hollande’s policies, he’s bullish on Germany and is looking forward to Franco-German everything. If nothing else, it would force the west on the defensive for a change.

  40. Misha says:

    *Of possible interest to some, this site was forwarded to my attention:

    It’s the official site of the Foundation (Fund) of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior – a separate entity from the Cathedral, it serves as the manager of the various associated venues and services – such as the auditorium, exhibit halls, refectories, cafeteria, garage, etc., that are associated with serving cultural events, tourism and needs of personnel, such as dry cleaners. All of this can be seen in 3D and video panorama. These facilities are on the Grounds of the Cathedral, sub levels, etc., not in any place that holds religious services – like where PR was at the time of their “performance.”

    When the complex was completed a few years ago, the person who forwarded me the above link was given a personal tour that lasted 2 1/2 hours by Vassily Nesterenko, one of Russian’s most famous artists that painted the murals. It is an incredible achievement and something to be proud of for every Russian.

    IMO, this matter is of a greater substantive interest than the antics of PR.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Yes, the “business part”, if you will, of the cathedral is clearly separated from the “religious” part, although both parts are housed in the giant “inkwell” of a building. (The “inkwell” was one of the nicknames given by Muscovites to the original cathedral as it resembles a large, ornate, 19th century inkwell: you raise the cupola and there’s the inkpot.) This is because the cathedral is on split levels. The highest level, where the entrances to the sanctified territory wherein religious services take place, faces Kropotkinskaya metro station on Volkhonka St. However, the upper level of the cathedral – the cathedral proper – is situated high up on the banks of the Moscow River that runs parrallel to Volkhonka. When you walk down flights of stairs leading from the upper level and its large surrounding paved area (where FEMEN performed their mock scourging penitents jape last December) to the river embankment (Prechistenskaya naberezhnaya) and then turn around to look back at the cathedral, there it can be seen soaring high above you, whereas directly in front of you are the granite walls of the lower level with entrances that lead into a huge assembly area and a theatre. This is where my children and I were during the past two New Years in order to attend “Yolochka”. This is not where the “feminist punk group Pussy Riot” chose to perform, uninvited, their “punk prayer”.

  41. AM says:

    By the way Kovane this is an excellent analysis.
    Tho I think, if I may be so bold to say, that you, Putin and Lavrov should learn to write a bit shorter (Is this some kind of Russian thing?).

    I agree that WTO accession is a litmus test for this government, absolutely, it will put all their ingenuity and resources to the limits once direct protection of industry is not an option.

    • kovane says:

      Thanks! I will be sure to pass the word to Putin and Lavrov the next time I see them. Sorry for the length – some subjects require a thorough approach.

    • AK says:

      LOL yes I second AM.

      I still haven’t gotten round the properly reading the actual article. :) I promise I will though, as soon as I get my PR article out of the way.

      I’ve been having the mother of all writing blocks (as regards that article) this past week.

  42. Misha says:

    *More on Pussy Riot:


    Kirill in Poland:


    Moldova desires Pridnestrovie, with the latter not seeking such and Russia hoping to have good relations with the two former Moldavian SSR areas in dispute:

    To date, the following seems to be the best compromise:

    In sharp contrast, to Anders Aslund’s JRL and Moscow Times promoted commentary on the subject:

  43. Misha says:


    Respectful disagreement on one point having to do with what primarily influenced the two year sentence.

    International pressure in the manner of encouraging a Russian judicial middle finger was arguably not as influential as the disrespectfully smug attitude of the defendants and their legal counsel.

    • kirill says:

      The west simply cannot see Russia through impartial glasses. Every article that I have seen is tainted with prejudice and projection.

  44. kirill says:

    For future reference:

    “Police – acting under a state law that allows emergency, temporary psychiatric commitments upon the recommendation of a mental health professional – took Raub to the John Randolph Medical Center in Hopewell. He was not charged with any crime.”

  45. kirill says:

    “Russia runs the risk of repeating the “Greek scenario” and face a full-blown economic crisis, as wages grow much faster than labor productivity, Noviye Izvestia daily reported on Tuesday.

    Average monthly imputed wages in Russia grew by 16.3 percent year-on-year in July 2012, and by 15.2 percent in January-July 2012, suggesting an accelerated wage growth in the country, Maria Ivanova from the Economic Expert Group told the paper.”

    Maria Ivanova needs to go back to school. The Greek crisis was driven by its sovereign debt burden which simply has no bearing on Russia’s position today or in the next decade.

    It is also interesting how such a spectacular feature of Russia’s development (i.e. 15% annual wage growth with a CPI of under 6%) is being spun as a negative. The IMF is also bleating about Russia’s economy “overheating” with the “need” to restrict domestic demand ( This is simply crack smoke nonsense. Russia’s GDP growth is not even at the Chinese level and I have never heard the IMF warming China about reducing domestic demand.

  46. kirill says:

    Keeping with the IMF inanity theme we have the IMF downgrading Russia’s GDP growth forecast to under 4% in 2013. But at the same time it warns Russia about its economy overheating! Also, note the attention paid to Russia’s small sovereign debt of (allegedly) 11.5%. No member of the OECD has less and the so-called rich countries of the west are drowning in debts of 60-200% of GDP.

  47. cartman says:

    It seems that in Germany you can also get long sentences for what Pussy Riot did in the church. It would be easier to make a list of countries in Europe that do not have these laws. I kind of hope they get prison sentences. If the judge had succumbed to pressure, there could be a rash of incidents like these (for example, the blonde who chopped down the cross with a chainsaw). Then it is taken for granted that the law is also supposed to protect churches as well. Since churches are the sole target (we have yet to see anything similar in mosques or synagogues) this could easily qualify as a hate crime.

    • Misha says:

      Migranyan’s National Interest article (which I linked at this thread) brings up that point on mosques and synagogues.

      This occurrence has the making for a propaganda talking point along the lines of comparing the legal ruling against these protestors in a German church versus Pussy Riot (PR). Never mind the content of PR was more provocative than the German example – while also keeping in mind the restriction and/or prosecution of views in Great Britain and Canada as discussed at this thread.

      Of possible interest, this article contrasts from the anti-Serb propaganda regularly spewed at by Michael Dobbs:

      Excerpt –

      “The federation was from the start an unhappy marriage of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and Croats; the latter were ambivalent about being joined to the Bosniaks, whom they fought a nasty war against in 1993-1994 (one of the underreported aspects of the conflict since it did not easily fit the CNN version of events).”


      The reason given for underreported applies in some other instances.

      An additional point to the above excerpted notes that the Bosnian Civil War included instances of Serb-Croat cooperation against Muslim forces allied to Alija Izetbegovic. This Serb-Croat cooperation included Muslims allied to Fikret Abdic.

    • Misha says:

      Another counter to the kind of former Yugosaav (as well as former Soviet) commentary typically evident at some venues including RFE/RL and

  48. AK says:

    So peter, as you seem to have such strong views on Mercouris’ work on PR, what is your interpretation?

    Are they guilty? What are they guilty of? Why are they not guilty of 213 (if that is your opinion)? In what way does does what happened to them in Russia fundamentally differ from what would have happened to them in France, Italy, Poland, Germany, the UK, or the US?

    • I too would be interested to know Peter’s view.

      In the meantime here is an interesting article by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian which slams the hypocrisy of western reporting about the Pussy Riot case.

      • kirill says:

        The article is good until it gets to:

        “There is of course a difference between the liberties enjoyed in most western democracies and the cruder jurisprudence of modern Russia, China and much of the Muslim world.”

        LOLWOT. So Russia is not better than China and Saudi Arabia in terms of political and personal freedom? I am sorry but this is insane drivel. I guess nothing can be published in the western “free” media that does not cross the line into outright lying when it comes to Russia. I have noticed this pattern elsewhere: Noam Chomsky throws in the standard mischaracterizations of Russia routinely as well. It infer that if he did not he would have been removed on some pretext already.

      • AK says:

        That’s the thing with these folks.

        They start off by saying they aren’t all that different and then asserts, almost out of the blue, they they ARE in fact fundamentally different.

        The sad fact is this Simon Jenkins piece is actually considered pro-Kremlin propaganda by many of the commentators.

    • peter says:

      Borderline. Мелкое хулиганство at most. Article 213-б explicitly requires some sort of hatred/enmity as motive — not even close. They didn’t get a fair trial.


      • kirill says:

        What universe are you living in? Their words were quite hateful towards the Church.

        Once again, if they had staged their “protest” outside the Church gates they would not have gotten more than a slap on the wrist like on *all* the previous occasions. That they went out of their way to go into the cathedral and vent their bile speaks loudly to their malicious intent.

      • AK says:

        My view is that there was clear hatred/enmity for the Church and its values. The lyrics of the song alone are incontrovertible evidence. 213 applied.

        A totally different issue is whether the sanctions prescribed in 213 are merited, or even whether the clause should exist in the first place. My view is that even 2 years imprisonment (or the slightly more than 1 year that they will serve in practice) is far too harsh. As such, were I the judge, I would have convicted them on small-time hooliganism and given them 50-100 hours of community service.

        However, this is not the same as saying that 213 didn’t apply to them, or even that the trial was unfair.

        Nor should it mean I have any sympathy for them. There are millions of people even in the West who have been screwed far harder by various “unjust” but nonetheless actually existing laws than Pussy Riot; nor did all but a couple or three of them enjoy anything like the publicity earned by PR, who will be treated as cult figures once they come out of jail. They were the victorious party in this entire clusterfuck.

        • peter says:

          … there was clear hatred/enmity for the Church and its values.

          You totally misunderstand the word “motive”: it doesn’t matter how offended you or the Church feel, it only matters what the girls were thinking while planning and performing their gig. It looks like your upcoming post is going to be as epic a fail as Alexander’s.

          • AK says:

            Yes, they deny being “motivated” by hatred of the church. Of course they would. I wouldn’t want to risk doing up to 7 years time either.

            For obvious reasons it is impossible to actually get into their heads, nor is it possible to just take them at their word. It is up to the court to establish motive on the basis of the alleged infraction as well as past character. The lyrics constitute weighty evidence that the motive included hatred of the ROC (cue the references to golden epaulettes, venal priests, KGB patriarch worshiping Putin, crawling parishioners, etc, etc; as well as the general mockery of Orthodox ritual in their performance).

            Again, if they strongly disagree with the verdict, they are free to appeal all the way up to the ECHR.

            • peter says:

              The lyrics constitute weighty evidence that the motive included hatred of the ROC…

              он был порой несдержан на язык и в результате получил условный срок за разжигание вражды и ненависти к социальной группе «ебучие пидарасы».

              Even if we assume for the sake of argument that you’re correct here, there’s no such thing as “hatred of ROC” in Article 213.

              • marknesop says:

                Nor does there need to be. The legislation conforms fairly closely to international norms, and a complainant need not prove that the offending behaviour was directed at the Catholic Church, 1227 Spotswood Road, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, rows 6 through 8. It is hardly reasonable to expect legislation to be in effect prohibiting deliberately insulting behaviour or invective directed against each religion by denomination, merely that “a reasonable” person ought to know the behaviour would be offensive and insulting.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                “…он был порой несдержан на язык и в результате получил условный срок за разжигание вражды и ненависти к социальной группе «ебучие пидарасы»…”

                (…he was sometimes unrestrained with his tongue and as a result received a suspended sentence for inciting enmity and hatred to the social group “fucking queers”…)

                For those who may not know, from a work of fiction, “Pineapple Water for a Fair Lady” (2010), written by Vladimir Pelevin:





            • AK says:

              I’m not going to comment on your bizarre literary foray here.

              Even if we assume for the sake of argument that you’re correct here, there’s no such thing as “hatred of ROC” in Article 213. – peter

              All parishioners crawl to bow… – from the lyrics, with this verse explicitly referring to believers; there is no possible way you could possibly interpret it as referring to ROC.

              по мотивам политической, идеологической, расовой, национальной или религиозной ненависти или вражды либо по мотивам ненависти или вражды в отношении какой-либо социальной группы, – 213

              To me this is as clear-cut as can be.

              • peter says:

                No, that would be too easy. In Russian, “религиозная ненависть” means hatred fuelled by the hater’s religious beliefs — hence the judge’s weird theorising about feminism:

                “Мотив религиозной ненависти в действиях подсудимых суд усматривает в следующем: подсудимые позиционируют себя сторонниками феминизма, то есть движения за равноправие женщин с мужчинами”, – зачитывает Сырова, поясняя, что “хотя феминизм не является религиозным учением, его представители вторгаются в такие сферы общественных отношений, как мораль, нормы приличия, отношение к семье, сексуальное отношение”…

          • marknesop says:

            That takes the shiny thing for “most twisted squirming definition of ‘motive’ ever”. So the determinant factor in a criminal trial – leaving aside whether or not this should ever have been a criminal matter – is an unmeasurable quality to which only the alleged criminals could have been witness? What they were thinking while planning? Unless they are stupid enough to commit their thoughts to Facebook posts or other computer records, drop an incriminating written account of their plan at the crime scene or are implicated in the famous “jailhouse confession” by a stoolie planted in their cell, nobody would ever know what they were thinking when they did it. Anything the prosecution suggested as a case component which “goes to motive” could be blithely routed on cross by the defense: Ms. Tolokonnikova – when you shouted “God’s shit” in the lyrics of your “punk prayer” in the church, did you mean to cause offense to churchgoers and faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church? Why, no; we are just simple seekers after truth and understanding, we are not the enemy. Your honour, the defense rests.

            I can’t wait to put your theory to the test, because we have some fairly strict rules here on sexual harassment, and currently our delusional lawmakers have the temerity to suggest it does not matter whether you, the alleged harasser, think your behaviour or speech is offensive – it is completely how the object of your alleged harassment perceives it. Little do they know. Now I can just say to my female co-workers, “I can’t seem to get anything done today, I just want to stare at your tits and imagine how soft they must be”: their horrified reaction will be of no concern to me. Because, you see, it’s not how they take it that matters, it’s what I was thinking when I said it. And you can take it from me, I meant it only as an expression of the deepest respect. I am bulletproof.

            • AK says:

              Hilarious reply Mark. Kudos.

            • peter says:

              So the determinant factor in a criminal trial – leaving aside whether or not this should ever have been a criminal matter – is an unmeasurable quality to which only the alleged criminals could have been witness?

              Yes, Mark, you got it exactly right. Only in Russia. These joke of an article and farce of a trial would be comical if this wasn’t about real jail time for real people.

              • marknesop says:

                If it’s not too much trouble, could you provide a link to motive as it applies in Russian law, in which it says only the defendants’ thoughts while planning and carrying out the act for which they are charged are attributable?

                I’m curious because, for one thing, motive is generally not important in a criminal trial, with the express exception of hate crimes. Pussy Riot is not charged with a hate crime, but with hooliganism, although various media narratives have mentioned “hate crimes”. Otherwise, motive is a nice-to-have, and can be supported with evidence substantiating either its presence or its absence, but generally the court is only concerned with whether or not the defendant committed the act for which he or she is currently in the dock. I don’t think there is any doubt there, since the defendants helpfully recorded it on video.


                Note that the introduction of evidence is specifically mentioned. What evidence might be submitted which proved what the defendant was thinking at the time of planning the act? Come on; you know better. Previous behaviour is admissible as to motive, especially if the defendant committed strikingly similar anti-social acts and suffered no repercussions as a result.

                • peter says:

                  … motive is generally not important in a criminal trial…

                  May I once again kindly ask you to actually read Article 213? Please do pay special attention to пункт б).

                • marknesop says:

                  Oh, are you kidding me? “Motivated” is used there as a verb, in the sense of “under the rubric of”, “inspired by”, or “on the grounds of” (the latter being what comes out of Google translate). It most certainly does not mean that if you cannot prove motivation beyond a reasonable doubt, no crime was committed. How in hell would anyone ever be convicted under such a law? What would they offer as a reason for having committed the offense, which in this case nobody disputes that they did – that they didn’t realize where they were? That the devil made them do it? Nobody knows what the defendant was thinking while they planned and executed the alleged crime except the defendant.

                  If the writers of the legislation had chosen “inspired by” instead, would you expect to reasonably argue that the defendants could not be found guilty unless the prosecution proved they were inspired?

                • peter says:

                  It most certainly does not mean that if you cannot prove motivation beyond a reasonable doubt, no crime was committed.

                  Great, you’re almost there, just drop the “not”: It most certainly DOES MEAN that if you cannot prove motivation beyond a reasonable doubt, no crime (as opposed to an administrative offence) was committed.

                  How in hell would anyone ever be convicted under such a law?

                  AK, for one, disagrees: according to him, the words “All parishioners crawl to bow” in the lyrics are all the proof needed to establish the religious hatred motive (as he understands it) and thus secure conviction under Article 213-б… As his nemesis La Russophobe used to say, with friends like this, Russia needs no enemies.

  49. kirill says:

    The claim that Russia’s hooliganism law involves weapons is a crock. It applies to intentional affront as well. It is clear that PR zealots wanted to offend the Church as part of their anti-Putin campaign.

  50. Moscow Exile says:

    An extremely irksome thing for me concerning the reporting of the PR trial and convictions that appears both in the Western media and, of course, RT, is that the PR trial and conviction “has split Russian society”.

    According to Levada, only 6% of Russian citizens support PR, 51% condemn PR and the rest are not bothered one way or the other. Levada must have conducted a poll similar to one of peter’s questionnaires:

    Do you support PR?


    (a) yes;

    (b) no;

    (c) don’t know/haven’t a clue.

    The “leaders” of the “opposition”, with the possible exception of Udaltsov, do not condone PR’s behaviour, though they do, of course, criticise the severity of the PR three’s conviction: Hamster King Navalny has, in fact, stated on his blog that he would not be pleased if his daughter were a member of PR.

    This 50/50 split in Russian society so lovingly reported in the Western media only exists, I should think, amongst that section of the bourgeois chattering class in Russia whose opinions the West feeds on and takes as representative of the opinion of the whole of Russian society. (The Guardianista approach.) Indeed, amongst my middle-class Russian colleagues I have noticed that there seem to be as many against PR as are for them. Those that are against are not all devout members of the ROC: they simply object to anarchy and what is, in their opinion, degeneracy. Those middle-class acquaintances of mine who condemn the PR actions seem to consider PR “political activists” and others of their ilk as work-shy artistic dreamers. I should add that many of those middle-class acquaintances of mine that hold this latter opinion are certainly not all pro-Putin. The thing that my Russian middle-class colleagues do have in common, however, is that they work for a living.

    Amongst the great unwashed, those whom Latynina and others despise because they vote for Putin and should, therefore be disenfranchised, it is, I feel, a different story. There are very many amongst the hoi-poloi who felt severely affronted by the behaviour of PR in their cathedral. Remember, not so long ago there could be seen for several days a queue of Russian citizens that stretched out for a couple of kilometres or so along the embankment of the Moscow River, which citizens were waiting patiently in inclement weather simply to gaze upon what they believed was the girdle of the Mother of Christ. It was the Mother of Christ whose intercession PR obscenely beseeched in the cathedral of Christ the Redeemer in order that Russia be rid of its president.

    As regards those working class Russians whom I am acquainted with and who think religion is a load of tosh, namely most of my neighbours, they all describe PR as “sluts”. In describing PR they also often describe PR as “bourgois”, that term apparently still having for them the pejorative sense that it possessed during the time of the Soviet Union.

    However, when asked their opinion of PR, their trial and conviction, the opinion of the majority of working class Russians that I know would have to be classified in a peter-style questionnaire as:

    (d) never heard of them/don’t give a flying fuck.

  51. Misha says:

    Establishment promoted commentary:

    “Claim to be offended.”

    Another area where “The Russia Hand” doesn’t appear so expert.

  52. Moscow Exile says:

    Likewise the latest Duma proposal that laws be passed to outlaw “desecration” following a spate of protest vandalism, i.e. graffiti sprayed onto church walls around Russia, including some very ancient places of worship and architectural treasures, that has taken place consequent to the conviction of the PR three.

    Why not just clamp down on vandalism? Passing laws against desecration will be like a red rag to Western liberals.

    • Misha says:

      Reasoned point.

      At the same time, there’s a (as characterized by some) grossly overrated (in terms of placement) bratty jackass, manchild punditry, that periodically goes over the top in a way that reveals arrogance, ignorance and hypocrisy.

    • cartman says:

      That law would probably be very popular, which is why it might go through. Western liberals will protest, again demanding they should be the ones writing Russia’s law. In this day and age, the word democracy shifted to doing whatever they say with no consideration towards the people who are actually affected by the law.

      In fact, parts of the present Russian constitution were not written by Russians at all, and there has never been a legitimate vote to establish it as the law of the land.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Vandalized by PR supporters wall of 13th century St.John the Forerunner Cathedral, Pskov:

  53. marknesop says:

    “May I suggest you actually read the article in question?”

    I must have missed the part where it said, “shall not be deemed enforceable unless the group toward which the hatred or enmity is directed is specifically identified by denomination herein.” Is that your argument? That “religious hatred or enmity toward any social group” does not cut it because it does not specifically say “against the ROC”? Thereby implying that every religious denomination should be identified by name, and if it does not appear it’s gloves off for hatred and/or enmity?

    I think you need to lie down, Peter; I’m worried about you. First the sardonic physicist with the pitiless comeback (Try again, Junior”, “Not even close”, “Another epic fail”, etc…) who makes absolutely no allowance for error actually goes all squishy over the human rights of three foul-mouthed trollops who have exhibited no end of unacceptable social behaviour, arguing that they should be treated with lenience because they are young and foolish and impressionable (I’m paraphrasing here, obviously you did not say those exact words, but I am interpreting based on tone and what you did actually say, such as “Come on; she’s only 22″). That alone was enough to make me wonder if you were really Kurt Cobain, and that you just faked your death so you could indulge a passion for physics undisturbed by crazed fans.

    Now you appear to be arguing that Russian law should be made even more complicated and convoluted than it is. If hatred or enmity toward religious groups must be redefined specifically as to denomination, then either the statute will become so bloated it would take all day to read it, or you would need a separate and distinct statute for every religion. Ha, ha, you can’t arrest me – there’s no prohibition against hating Presbyterians. Come on. You’re better than this. I confess your razor wit gives the level of dissent here a certain je ne sais quois not available on many other blogs, where the disagreement often consists pretty much of moaning and slobbering. But this last couple of days you’ve sort of come across like you’re on a Strongbow Cider binge or something. If you need help, don’t wait too long to ask: we’re your friends.

  54. AK says:

    Yes, naturally the Kremlin is behind it – maybe even Putin himself, God knows he has little else to do but micromanage the Russian Othodox Church. It’s a mystery to me why you and La Russophobe don’t get along better, because lately you sound more and more alike. – Mark Chapman on Adomanis’ blog.

    Can’t say I disagree actually. Adomanis has been adopting liberal talking points for months now, and basically moralizing his rhetoric. Absent the informative graphs and his posts are becoming increasingly lackluster. I wonder how much of it is genuine – and how much of it is a sop to the WSJ-reading troglodytes who constitute the bulk of the Forbes readership.

    • Very true. I stopped reading Adomanis a while ago. Moralizing is one thing, but what was the deal breaker for me is his inability to acknowledge facts that don’t fit in his worldview. In my opinion, this is what separates a propagandist from a scholar.

      • keivite says:

        There is one concern that I share with Adomanis despite clear tendenciosity of his article:

        it’s pretty clear that the incipient revival of aggressive religious conservatism is both really dangerous and really bad.

        I think this revival of aggressive religious conservatism is a world-wide phenomena and can be felt in all major religions. Muslims probably can serve as a litmus test. But evangelicals in the USA are not far behind. It would be really sad if Orthodox Russians are now in the same game too.

        Deliberately or not PR show was the masterful provocation in which government proved to be predictably inept and allowed passions outstep the real case by several orders of magnitude. And there was a real society split along the atheist/religious lines, despite clear hooliganism of the case. Which is a clear sign of a masterful provocation.

        Part of the society who defends PR are actually concerned about rise of religious fundamentalism but due to clear hooliganism of PR actions can do nothing. That’s why they instisted on lesser sentence for those bimbos.

        This is what the Russian word “Mrakobesie” used in desecration of Pskov cathedral implies ( ) . Religious fundamentalists = “mrakobesy”.

        Also Russian are (somewhat more questionably) are concerned about clear corruption of church leaders who drive BMWs and Mercedices, and generally “enjoy the life” like a part of the elite (to whom they really belong).

        Here is another confirmation of Pr actions as a masterful provocation from an apt comment to the Guardian article referenced above:

        21 August 2012 8:45PM

        For the British and US governments to get on high horses about Russian sentencing is hypocrisy.
        The UK and US governments care not for freedom of expression, they are just pissed off that Russia is no longer led by a drunken fool a la Yeltsin ready and willing to hand over the country to the IMF asset strippers. A Saudi journalist gets illegally extradited from Malaysia and imprisoned in Saudi Arabia without trial or due process for tweeting honest thoughts about the prophet – silence from the West. Thai citizens legitimately criticizing their monarchy end up in prison – silence from the West.

        The hypocrisy is sickening and highlights how the UK and US care not for ‘human rights’ or ‘freedom of expression’ but use these memes as a tool to further their geopolitical interests and ferment unrest whilst remaining silent on the human rights abuses carried out in states that tow the line.

        • AK says:

          Better the Cross than the vodka bottle.

        • marknesop says:

          I don’t see much threat of a rise of religious fundamentalism in Russia, except in the Caucasus, and that has nothing to do with this case. I imagine Russian religious conservatives see an opportunity to capitalize on the anger at Pussy Riot and the rush to their defense by the west, and coincidentally an opportunity to increase the influence of the church. But I don’t know that the Russian Orthodox discipline contains sufficient ritual and demand for self-sacrifice to turn the people into a bunch of moonies. I mean, I don’t know; I’m not particularly religious myself, but I think the Christian religions already preach sufficient freedom and tolerance that it would be difficult to weld them into any kind of coherent force, like the American Evangelicals.

          Of course I could be wrong, and often am, but I see the whole religious thing as just another opportunity to cause social unrest and chaos in Russia and to stoke discontent. If so, it isn’t working very well thus far, as support for the “Free Pussy Riot” meme remains low – at least in Russia, which is the only country that need be concerned about it.

          Totally as an aside, I wonder what is going to be the effect of a prison sentence on Ms. Tolokonnikova’s citizenship status. Her husband has Canadian citizenship, but Ms. Tolokonnikova has not; she is a Permanent Resident. In order to maintain your Permanent Resident status in Canada, you must be resident in Canada at least 90 days of the year. I can see where that will become….complicated.

          I imagine the Canadian government will grant some sort of exemption, they always seem to be able to do that for someone who is World Famous, as the young ladies of Pussy Riot are, although that may be a seven-day wonder. But if so, that will create a resentment of its own among those who have to play by the rules. I wonder if that’s why John Baird is said by the Canadian press to be soft-pedaling the whole Pussy Riot issue.

          • kirill says:

            So that c*nt had her foot in the Canadian door already. I hope she permanently leaves Russia after she gets out of jail. I will guarantee that she will not stage any such stunts in Canada. These are Russia haters who don’t belong in Russia.

            • marknesop says:

              I hope they don’t win on appeal – a distinct possibility – and that she stays in jail. A star-spangled visit here with local politicos falling over each other to kiss her hand would make me vomit.

          • Misha says:

            A Canadian government that has banned some law abiding citizens and residents of Western countries from entering Canada because of the latter groupings’ political views – some of which are perfectly valid.

            I know this has been repeated before. It’s substantively worth repeating again. There’s a repetitious propaganda effort going in the opposite direction.

          • kievite says:

            The question here is not rise of Orthodox Christian Fundamentalism as such but attempts to replace Communist Doctrine with its corrupt high priests with Orthodox Christianity supported by state and with equally corrupt high priests. This is what is rejected by a large part of Russian society. Attempts to introduce the couse of Orthodox culture in schools, etc.

            That’s why positioning the church as a victim in this case caused an allergic reaction in a large part of Russian society (and not only Russian, the phenomenon with promoting religion as a substitute for failed Communist ideology is broader).

            As Misha aptly noted:

            The wealth of the ROC pales in comparison to the Vatican. In the US, I’ve known my share of rabbis and non-Orthodox Christian/ Christian priests who’ve done and said suspect things.

            The level of corruption pales as well as pedophile scandal in Catholic Church in the USA and elsewhere attests (a popular joke is that the US President put Catholics on notice: “Either you are with us or you are with the child molesters.” )

            So in a way here Orthodox church is a victim of unjust persecution …. My impression (may be wrong) is that PR action just put a knife into relationship of church and state. You need to understand the brilliance of the idea (may be accidental, may be not) of attacking Putin personally and the government in general by attacking the links between the (supposely corrupt and hypocritical ) church and the state. There are multiple semantic levels in the line “Bogoroditsa Putina progoni”.

            I think everybody understands that revealing unjust enrichments of priests is much more efficient for raising public indignation then the revealing unjust enrichment of public officials. I think that corruption of the church is what makes punishment of those female puppets symbolically unjust. Classic Russian question put by Aleksander Griboyedov arise “Who are the judjes?” and by extgention “Who are the accusers?”

            I wonder why Tolokonnikova case was not selected for a separate trial on the base of the whole sequence of her “adventures” and the fact that she is definitely more dangerous female psychopath then the other two. That would help to defuse this bomb. Cockroaches, Zoo museum, etc. Is this simple inaptness or something more.

            • AK says:

              The question here is not rise of Orthodox Christian Fundamentalism as such but attempts to replace Communist Doctrine with its corrupt high priests with Orthodox Christianity supported by state and with equally corrupt high priests. This is what is rejected by a large part of Russian society. Attempts to introduce the couse of Orthodox culture in schools, etc.

              Good to know that Britain is a theocracy then by your standards. :)

              (Mandatory religious studies lessons; prayers in assembly every day; 30 min church service every Wednesday morning).

              • kievite says:

                Not sure about theocracy, but that might help to explain world famous British hypocrisy and double dealings ;-)

              • AK says:


                I do not think that has anything to do with British hypocrisy and double dealings. I was merely expressing the view that introducing the study of Christian religion into schools – the foundation of both Western and Russian civilization – does not presage some kind of descent into Taliban-like fundamentalism.

                In many ways one can argue that this is actually useful for imparting a good sense of ethics, building up social cohesion (something of which there is very little both in Russia and Ukraine), etc.

            • kirill says:

              You offer no evidence of Orthodoxy being the new communism. Talking about corruption in the church demonstrates no such development. I guess people can’t deal with Russian politics without getting hysterical and totally losing a grip on reality. In case you haven’t noticed the biggest ideology after 1991 and especially after 2000 has been *not to have an ideology*. Experience with decades of dogma was enough and the vast majority in Russia are sick and tired of *any* dogma, including the west’s “democracy”. That is why over 2/3 or Russians vote for personalities and not parties and their platforms. Western analysts routinely point to this as evidence of “absence of democracy in Russia”. No, it is absence of dogma.

              Talking about linkage between the ROC and the state in Russia is flimsier than claiming that the US is a theocracy because it mentions God on the money and presidents openly attend masses. There is simply no analogue of the evangelical infiltration of US politics in Russia. None of the parties is pandering to the ROC or Christian elements. The same cannot be said about the Republican party.

              • kievite says:

                You are mostly right in stating that Russian is much farther in neo-theocratic leanings then, say, the USA, where strong association of Republican Party and Christian right (especially evangelicals) is pretty much baked into the cake.

                That does not reject the possibility of the same trajectory for Russia from much more secular start. Some kind of “religious revival” is taking place in different forms in many societies now.

                The Republican-style neo-Christian charlatans typical for the USA might eventually emerge, may be on a new basis.

                But I think you are deeply mistaken stating:

                Experience with decades of dogma was enough and the vast majority in Russia are sick and tired of *any* dogma, including the west’s “democracy”.

                I think this is simply not true. Most Russians bought/were brainwashed (with gentle Western help) with the ideology of neoliberalism. It a sence it was neo-liberalism as an ideology that defeated communism. Now they face consequences althouth less severe then for, say, Ukranians.

                You can’t deny Latin-americanization of the country althouth, thanks to Putin this process never went as far as it went in Ukraine under Viktor Yushchenko.

                From Wikipedia

                Neoliberalism is a label for economic liberalizations, free trade, and open markets. Neoliberalism supports privatization of state-owned enterprises, deregulation of markets, and promotion of the private sector’s role in society. In the 1980s, much of neoliberal theory was incorporated into mainstream economics.

                Now neoliberalism is in deep crisis so is any society which it is accepted as the primary ideology. Unfortunatly that includes both the USA (what is Romney candidacy if not a manifestation of deep crisis of the USA elite?) and Russia (where a significant part of the top 1% represents compradors with capitals and families moved to the West).

                • Misha says:


                  Another undoubtedly influencing factor is what set of views offers more in terms of money.

                  On the ROC, from an objective standpoint, there’s penty of negative articles which can be written about the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Filaret led Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, as well as the Vatican at large.

                  There’s a definite geopolitical and cultural bias when a venue like RFE/RL singles out the Russian and Serb Orthodox churches for negativity.

                  I want to see a freer Russia that doesn’t discriminate against reasoned pro-Russian advocacy to the global audience in the English language.

                • yalensis says:

                  @kievite: Your analysis is very good, I agree with it, and I also think there is much danger of Latin Americanization of Russia. I.e., some kind of Pinochet-type hyper-capitalist authoritarianism backed by the full ideological power of the Orthodox Church. Putin was always set on that route, his saving grace is that he has a split personality: half of him looks out for Russian national interests, which is what got him so demonized in the first place. Now the Western demonization itself may be a blessing in diguise, as it helps keep him from getting too cozy with the West and pushes him into the arms of China. (“Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.”)

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Those who vandalized/desecrated the Cathedral of St. John the Foreruner in Pskov with graffiti clearly believe that religion is the stuff “of obscurantists” (мракобесов).

          I should be interested to know how these PR supporting vandals interpret the works of that organization that PR springs from, namely Voina (Moscow Branch) and also the works of that organization from which Voina (Moscow Branch) in its turn sprang, namely, Voina (St.Petersburg Branch).

          I mean, the “politicized” artistic meaning of some woman in a supermarket shoving a chicken up her vagina or of a group of people shagging in a natural history museum is pretty obscure.

          It is for me, anyway. I must be getting old.

          • kirill says:

            You are expecting too much rationality from these freaks. They are like internet trolls. No arguments or facts get in their way and they will say anything to provoke you.

        • Misha says:


          The wealth of the ROC pails in comparison to the Vatican. In the US, I’ve known my share of rabbis and non-Orthodox Christian/ Christian priests who’ve done and said suspect things.

          At the same time, there’re more earnest people involved with the faiths in question.

          I’ll say it again, had PR shown sincere remorse and respect to the ROC and judge, they probably IMO would’ve received something along the lines of community service – assuming that’s an option under Russian law. The self righteously disrespectful manner that PR and their legal counsel exhibited was a basis for a sentence – which IMO 6 months is sufficient. As is, the 2 year sentence is far from an extremely oppressive dictatorship

          One aspect not dealt with so much if at all is the mindset of the judge who from a distance comes across as someone who isn’t into PC BS, while wanting to show an independent mindset from Putin and elements in the ROC who sought a light sentence.

          • kirill says:

            Everyone is reading an unreasonable amount of information from the PR trial. It wasn’t a ROC lynchmob that decided to string them up from the nearest light pole. So this whole, reactionary ROC revival inference is nonsense. The opinion polls posted here and elsewhere do not show any fundamentalist revival in Russia, splitting society into atheist and believer factions. They show quite clearly that most Russians want these hooligans punished for hooliganism. It isn’t about the ROC or Putin.

        • kirill says:

          Evil Lord Putin is not going to boost the ROC to “stay in power”. Any revival of the ROC is natural and I don’t see the vast Russian majority turning into fundamentalist zombies at all. The Vagina Thug trial does not offer any evidence to support your concerns. You will have to provide opinion polls or some substantive analysis of Russian social trends to back it up.

      • Misha says:

        He showed signs along such lines for awhile. That he’s noticeably better than some establishment others is more a sign of lackluster propping than his being “fair.”

        The claim of being fair on account of getting criticized from two diverse perspectives doesn’t necessarily equate with being a truly well versed and competent pundit.

        One looks better on issues they know well. Conversely, some people get full of themselves to the point of making so-so (put mildly) comments on issues they don’t know much about.

        • Misha says:

          Above comments regarding “The Russia Hand”, who was “brave” enough to be “inteviweded” by La Russophobe, who punked out of a live one hour BBC panel discussion.

      • AK says:

        I decided to write an article on this.

        Do you have any examples of posts that particularly grated with the moralizing and/or not accepting facts?

        Mind you, I still think he’s better than 90% of the other Russia journos out there. Just no longer 99%.

        • Adomanis has several idees fixes that he likes to harp on: the ineptitide of “movement conservatives”, the nastiness and absurdity of the Russian Communists and the USSR, especially the Stalin period, and the insidiousness of the Kremlin. While I don’t care half a fig about Conservatives in the US, the other topics usually is the noticable source of his blinkers.

          The most obvious case I can remember is when I pointed out that Stalin abolished death penalty in 1946 and for several years the USSR didn’t execute anyone. Moreover, I provided links to the actual document, to the number of executions by every year. But Adomanis argued that this document doesn’t mean anything because the USSR was, like, totally lawless, and then resorted to his favourite tactics – flippancy and mockery.That was on True/slant and is unavailable now, I think. Now he continues to repeat some rubbish about executing millions and jailing 10% of the male population, and when I asked him to provide a credible source of this statements, he simply ignored it.

          Other than that, he’s more and more falling a victim to the standard side effect of Kremlinology – seeing the hand of the Kremlin/Putin in every minor event in the country, like with the Pussy Riot case (remember Mark’s comment) and being sure that the Kremlin will use laws that exists in many countries (NGO and public protest laws) to stifle freedom and fry dissidents.

          Add to that his adamant certainty that his moral views is “progressive” and the truth in the final instance (on gay rights, that Christians “should just grow a thicker skin” in the Pussy Riot case), and that’s it for his most apparent flaws that affect his credibility as an analyst on Russia (in my opinion. of course). Nevertheless, I agree that he’s better than 90% of other Russia specialists, but that’s unfortunately is the reflection of the Russian proverb “В царстве слепых и одноглазый – король”.

          • marknesop says:

            I would support that criticism – I loved it when he used to slag The Economist for its awful Russia coverage, and he has taken the odd academic to task here and there for glaring errors with a blood lust that was truly enjoyable to watch. Or read, I guess. Trouble is, you see that guy less and less – and more and more, even the most optimistic posts about the situation in Russia include a mandatory swipe at the government like, “naturally this positive outlook in (insert discussion point here) is tempered by the fact that the government is a bunch of thugs who do as they please”, as if trying to cater to both sides of the aisle by throwing a chunk of red meat here and there. Also, as kovane suggests, he appears to be relying more and more on sarcasm and flippancy in argument rather than blowing his opposition’s legs off at the knees with hard facts as he used to do. Gifts like that poor fool who suggested Poland and some other countries used to be part of the USSR are rare these days.

            All in all, a portrait of someone whose partisan zeal has been slowly eroded by more pedestrian concerns, like satisfying editorial suggestions. I couldn’t say if that’s the concern, but some kind of quality control is certainly having a detrimental effect, whether self-imposed or otherwise.

            • Misha says:

              Standard establishment line about Russia and anti-Jewish sentiment, in a way that reveals a good deal of ignorance for those in the actual know.

              Spoiled ignorant brat commentary on other subjects like the Olympics and Ukraine.

              Noticeably selective name dropping in a certain ass kissing to the top way.

              Getting “inteviewed” by LR while staying away from more intelligent discourse.

              • kirill says:

                Unrelated to this thread, but do you have any articles from 2011 and earlier that attack the ROC in the western commentariat? My memory is not so bad and I have the clear impression that the whole ROC is evil Lord Putin’s tool meme has been spun out of nothing over the past year. It seems that the Vagina Thugs were part of this propaganda effort.

                • cartman says:

                  I have heard before that Zbigniew Brzezinski said that after the USSR, the main enemy of the US was the ROC. That seems more like genetic Polish myopia than something to be taken seriously, but Carter, Clinton, and Obama were the ones using him as an adviser. Also Neocons (Trotsky acolytes) are in agreement about the religion.

                • Misha says:

                  As I previoulsy brought up at this thread, note the negative articles on the Russians and Serb Orthodox churches unlike others.

                  RFE/RL recently featured a piece on a Serb priest who (as stated in the article) abused his authority at a rehab center. That venue didn’t cover a Croat Catholic appointed official with (if I’m not mistaken) Croat government ties who recently belittled the mass murder at the Ustasha run Jasenovac concentration camp.

  55. Misha says:

    This piece brings the the CIA into the PR discussion:

    Shortly before, a former CIA analyst wrote this piece lauding PR:

    • Moscow Exile says:

      More PR madness:

      “With Pussy Riot being hailed across the world as Russia’s most recognized band, some suggest that the jailed members of the punk-rock feminist ensemble should be flying the flag for Russia at the next Eurovision song contest.

      ­’We have no doubt about the success of the band in Eurovision’, co-founder of Russia’s SEVER Production Konstantin Cherepkov has been quoted as saying.

      ‘Pussy Riot has become a new music phenomenon. The band has united musicians across the world under the slogan of freedom and change. Their nomination to enter Eurovision is set to affect the destiny of the punk-rock band serving as a good reason for the authorities to favor their release from jail. Bringing their prosecution to an end and their participation in Eurovision could help compensate Russia’s loss of reputation that stemmed from the case against Pussy Riot’, he added”.


      • yalensis says:

        @Exile: Pussy Riot representing Russia at Eurovision? Sure, why not? But that’s not enough! After sweeping all the musical awards at Eurovision, they need to be installed as the ruling Triumvirate in the Kremlin. (After The Revolution.) I was always curious to see what would happen if anarchists were put in charge of the government. (Lenin never gave them a chance to strut their stuff.) What could possibly go wrong??

        • hoct says:

          It’s difficult to see how they could have done any worse than the Bolsheviks. And as for Lenin, he desecrated many more churches than “Pussy Riot”.

          • kirill says:

            For now. Give these vermin the chance and they will be demolishing churches and sending millions to the gulags at the first opportunity. We had these “anarchist” maggots before and they still have the same agenda.

            • Misha says:

              You hit home on a point concerning why their action was especially offensive in a venue that previously experienced anti-religious persecution.

              It’s not like they didn’t have the freedom to express themselves elsewhere in Russia.

        • Misha says:


          Ideally, Eurovision isn’t intended to be a kind of flag waving nationalist event. At the same time, there’s a degree of national pride evident.

          PR doesn’t cut it in when it comes to patriotism and talent.

          Let some more deserving others represent Russia.

      • marknesop says:

        It’s ridiculous, of course, although all too symptomatic of the eagerness with which the popular press embraces the ridiculous these days – who remembers Katie Abram, the Republican activist who became an overnight sensation after challenging Senator Arlen Specter in a town hall meeting and suggesting he had “awakened a sleeping giant” (plainly a planted and rehearsed line)? By the next day excited GOP activists were already talking about her running for public office, but in an interview on “Hardball” she totally fell apart and indicated she did not even know her own family income (although more likely she simply did not want to reveal it).

        Musical fame is not in the cards for PR, but it’d be awesome if it were, because a totally different administration would take over their steering and it would be concentrating on selling music and making money rather than whipping up political excitement. The actual music audience for angry screaming is proportionally quite small, and it wouldn’t be long before their handlers would want them to do a ballad or two, sort of soften their image a bit a la Bananarama or The Bangles, and their angry-screaming fans would scream “sellout”, and it’d be all over but the puff of smoke. Unfortunately, we are going to have to put up with the silliness of their being cast as world freedom fighters for a bit longer, but in awhile something new and shiny will distract the media and it will move on.

      • Misha says:

        Having just come back from Manhattan, I was 3 for 3 in seeing/listening to street musicians who exhibited far greater talent than PR. They were also courteous in terms of where they placed themselves relative to the pedestrian street traffic. Sir Paul, Alicia Silverstone and Madonna would’ve a tough time spinning an award for PR over the aforementioned NYC musicians.

        One of the latter did a nice rendition of:

  56. yalensis says:

    Meanwhile, something mildly interesting going on within Opps movement. A couple of months back, Navalny (more likely,his American handlers) came up with the idea of Opps Internet Primaries (they use the actual English word “primaries” = праймериз). Purpose being to elect Opps leaders via internet voting and form the basis of a new “democratic” political party. (instead of doing it the usual way, with a party convention and delegates, etc.)
    Supporters of the ‘Primaries” approach = Navalny, Nemtsov, Udaltsov, Chirikova. Opposed = Ryzhkov. Not sure of Kasparov’s position, but I think he rides with Navalny’s posse mostly these days.

    • kirill says:

      Now all they need is some guerrillas like the FSA and the regime change is set to go.

    • Misha says:

      Re: Navaliny & the Western neolib, neocon, Soros leaning folks

      This venue is at it again:

      On the other hand, it has no problems uncritically referencing Mykola Riabchuk, who tends to get described along the lines of a “Ukrainian intellectual” as stated in an Economist piece.

      In this piece that was forwarded to my attention, Riabchuk speaks disparagingly of those in Ukraine preferring to speak Russian:

      Imagine the outcry if a similar characterization was used towards those preferring to speak Ukrainian.

      Riabchuk is refuted towards the end of this piece:

      Yes, oD has spoken negatively of Svoboda – in good part because that party appears suspect to Soros like intervention. On the other hand, oD has shown a clear slant for softer nationalist views that lean in an anti-Russian direction.

      Navalny has previously appeared in oD. That venue has allowed for the likes of Kuzio and Karatnycky to follow-up on oD material they don’t agree with. Of late, oD has run critical commentary on Navalny for being a “nationalist”. Along with the article linked at the very top of this set of comments, Riabchuk had such an oD piece as well. I’ve yet to see a firm and reasoned pro-Russian rebuttal at oD.

      There’s a definite wing in the West which is negative towards Navalny. A case in point is a certain anonymous blogger who punked out of a live one hour BBC panel discussion. The negativity concerns Navalny’s “nationalism”, which in reality is probably more indicative of how some shun anyone showing some Russian patriotic instinct. Unsubstantiated, I recall reading somewhere that Navalny isn’t on good terms with Kasparov.

  57. kirill says:

    Re: the PR farce from another forum post:

    “You stoop too low, my friend. Orthodox monkeys on crack??? You just going around insulting people on religious basis when you get upset or as a form of artistic expression? How did I demostrate “orthodox monkey(ness) on crack”??? Why the sudden turn to personal attacks once I posted an article? It does not appeal to you? Time after time, I have rationally shown various angles only to be jumped on by you in a final act of calling people “orthodox monkeys”. Who do you think you are?

    It is the same kind of irrational hatred frankly that these “art groups” posses. If you appreciate freedom, they you ought to appreciate that some people want to use their freedom to follow a religion of their choice. And just because you do not like it does not mean you can barge into anybody’s place of gathering and crap all over their religious observances. You have to be really thick not to get that. No matter how you may dislike the ROC, people have the right to like it and follow its rites and observances without your or anybody else’s disturbance. End of story.

    This has nothing to do with my religious affiliation. I have been to church several times in my life and that is it but I could be a Zoroastrian for all you or I care. Still you have to allow people to practice their religion. That is a part of their freedom. You do not chose that for them.”

    The second paragraph says it all. Why all the concern about the rights of PR and their “freedom of expression”. How about “freedom of religion” and the fact that the people attending the church have a right to worship in peace. Every space in Russia is not public. Your living room is not a public toilet for buskers and militant zealots spouting their dogmas. Neither is the interior of a church. So the charge of hooliganism is 100% correct. And I will repeat for the n-th time, if these zealots had staged their “performance” in a public space outside the cathedral, all they would have gotten is a $17 fine.

  58. Misha says:

    Picked these two news items items up care of

    It wouldn’t surprise if RFE/RL doesn’t pick up this strory. In contrast, that venue is full of negative imagery when it comes to the Russian and Serb Orthodox churches.

    On a lighter note:

  59. yalensis says:

    Latest news: PoliTrash “supports” Chirikova for Mayor of Khimki!
    According to Apetian, Captain Obvious predicts she will get 76% of the vote.
    After which, Khimki will secede from Russian Federation, implement Magnitsky Law, and invite U.S. 6th fleet to patrol. (Isn’t Khimki inland though?)

    As I mentioned before, Chirikova also needs to appoint Navalny her unpaid advisor to help increase lumber production in the Khimki forest. I call this a solid plan.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Have just read that Yabloko has given her full support in her candidacy.

    • marknesop says:

      I also support Chirikova for mayor (although I don’t get a vote), and while it will be spun by the opposition and the western media as a great opposition victory and a stunning, devastating blow to the Kremlin, bla bla bla, it will instead have the effect of keeping Chirikova far too busy fulfilling expectations that she is actually going to ring in big changes for her to have any time left over for political activism. If she doesn’t manage to dramatically improve the lives of her constituents, they will be disappointed and kick her to the curb in the next election, as well as being disgusted with liberals in general. The very worst thing that can happen for any of these career-sideline oppositionists is for them to be elected to office, because it is no challenge to criticize and preach how you would do it so much better when you don’t ever have to prove it.

      There’s always the chance Chirikova will do an outstanding job, in which case the constituents of Khimki Forest will have made a good choice and Chirikova will have proved she is capable of running something and getting results. There’s nothing wrong with someone like that being in office, whatever their political affiliation. Chirikova thus far seems to me like an idealistic airhead with a self-importance complex, but if she proved me wrong by being a tough political fighter who genuinely wanted to wring the last drop of government services for her constituents I would not be too disappointed.

  60. kirill says:

    Hilarious inanity. I bet there will be lots of noise and they will get community service. The west has to prove it is superior to Russia. What a joke.

    • marknesop says:

      This will be welcome news for lawyers – a rash of imitators who believe they are pushing the envelope of freedom into the world’s churches will run up against a brick wall, but they will be good cash cows. Of course they don’t have any money, but the government will foot the bill. If these Germans are actually prosecuted, keep an eye out for articles suggesting that Angela Merkel is actually driving the prosecution and actively colluding with it because she is an autocrat and a dictator. Of course, you won’t see any.

      It is pretty funny, but it’s good news as well, because the west has no empathy with Russia and consequently must learn the Russian percepective on domestic problems at first hand when they become domestic western problems. Everybody seems to think they are just being so hip and fresh supporting Pussy Riot, and now they will be dismayed and say, “these people are just disrespectful hooligans”. This will in turn bleed away their support and lessen their chances of winning on appeal, while putting their original sentence in context for westerners, who always seem to have to learn everything the hard way.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Frau Kanzler Merkel is also the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, so she’d better tread carefully if these German PR copycats have the book thrown at them, for she certainly won’t want to have accusations hurled at her that she’s bringing religion into politics.

      • kirill says:

        What gets me is what sort of lemmings these clowns are. They are led around by the nose by the media hysterics on this non-case and think that defending hooliganism in Russia is some sort of worthy cause. Out of all the real human rights abuse cases in the world today these morons choose to pick the PR case.

        Nobody who defends PR has a leg to stand on. They weren’t jailed for yelling obscenities in the street. They did it INSIDE the cathedral and aimed it at the ROC. Even if they aimed it at just Putin himself they are still abusing the rights of other people, aka hooliganism. Free speech does not trump all other rights. Everyone has the right to not be subjected to someone’s free speech. And you can’t claim that the parishioners should have left the building if they did not want to listen to the PR spew. That is like demanding you leave your house if some bum decides to move in and scream in your face.

        • marknesop says:

          I just left a similar thought at Anatoly’s Al Jazeera post; awaiting moderation.

          I could actually almost feel sorry for Pussy Riot, because they seem to have bought into the notion that the west will protect them simply because the western media is agitating on their behalf. The west in fact cares nothing about them or if they really are bold new defenders of freedom, so long as they stay in Russia causing trouble. Punishment is cumulative, so if they start right in again with their anarchist nonsense as soon as they get out, they might find themselves looking at a longish stretch. Russia plainly does not care what the west thinks would be suitable action in Russian legal matters, and it is likely Russia will not care in the future, either.

          • AK says:

            Hi Mark,

            Please feel free to repost the comment at my blog. In my experience, AJ isn’t very good at rescuing comments from the spam folder.

            • marknesop says:

              Nah. I didn’t save it, and can’t be bothered to reconstruct it. It was a response to that smart-alecky twit MarkJosephDavid or whatever, who wanted to know what makes people think they have a right to not be offended. I mostly just suggested that’s what all people say who forget how many times they are in a public place every day that is dedicated to a certain purpose which you are there to partake in – such as reading in a library, eating in a restaurant – in which a loud punk concert or a bunch of people screwing on the floor would be extremely unwelcome. I go to a restaurant to eat a meal, and some guy cleaning a carburetor on the table next to me would not be interpreted as him exercising his freedom. A bunch of weirdly-dressed women in balaclavas shouting about shit and bitches while I’m in the library trying to read, ditto. If I take a bus, I don’t want the ride interrupted by an orgy, not even if I am invited. I also pointed out that in a world of complete freedom, people would likely have simply beaten the living shit out of Pussy Riot rather than call the cops. Be careful what you wish for.

              That was pretty much it.

              If I’m sorry about anything, it’s that the verdict had to come out now and trample all over Kovane’s excellent post. I know we get a little off topic most days, but as soon as the stupid Pussy Riot verdict was out nobody wanted to talk about anything else.

          • yalensis says:

            @mark: PR wouldn’t be the first set of “dissidents” who were incited by Western propaganda, led to believe they would be rescued by American tanks, and then left to rot.

            • Misha says:

              I wouldn’t confuse PR with the 1956 Hungarian activists.

              In PR’s case, they’re likely looking at a bigger picture, which includes getting the best possible PR (from their vantage point), as in Public Relations.

              The sentence they received has made PR more well known in a way that can lead to greater prospects for them in the future.

              Their manner in court is in line with the “cruising for a bruise” term.

              The Russian legal system was caught in a Catch 22 kind of a situation.

              • marknesop says:

                If that’s their angle, I hope they’re putting their money on lucrative speaking tours, in which case they have a year and a half to learn English. Because if they were hoping for a big recording contract and a world tour as musicians, that’s going to evaporate as soon as westerners who know them only as “a feminist punk band” hear them play.

                • Misha says:

                  Seems like the choice of the chapel was a desperation move on their part to get greater publicity.

                  Had they done their “performance” like their others in more openly acceptable space (like what I mentioned yesterday regarding NYC street performers), their actual talent would come under greater scrutiny.

                • marknesop says:

                  Anyone who is as smart as the western press would have you believe these girls are would know their behaviour is unacceptable, now and in past stunts. All that malarkey about social conscience and reaching out for truth and understanding and freedom is just a cover for a group of people who get off on being obnoxious and on negative attention. Putin is just a convenient handle on which to hang their anti-social posturing, and he did not feature in their previous silliness except peripherally in the “song” on the roof of the remand center, in which they expressed the wish that Russia could have a revolution like Egypt. Egypt is now in the hands of an Islamic fundamentalist government, and has a per-capita GDP less than half that of Russia; I guess they didn’t get the memo, and believe Egypt is some kind of beacon of freedom.

                • Misha says:

                  You’re talking sense as some others cling to a blinded disdain of Russia.

                  Consider the Fox News conservatives (at least some of them) who’re simply treating PR as young misfits who were harshly dealt with by a menancing state.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      I saw their little copycat performance on Euronews (a France-based news channel) last week. The cathedral was full and a mass had started when the PR clones walked down the nave shouting “Free Pussy Riot” in German. They got about half-way down as members of the congregation looke on shocked, and then they were suddenly grabbed and promptly bustled out of the cathedral by attendants and outside, security men made sure they didn’t run away. There were others outside, not wearing balaclavas, who were carrying posters on which was written “Free Pussy Riot!” in English.

    • yalensis says:

      “Holy shit!”
      I just suddenly got the bi-lingual pun…

      • Moscow Exile says:

        “В Германии закон беспощаден к нарушающим порядок в церкви
        Католическая церковь Германии подала заявление на троих молодых людей, которые ворвались в прошлое воскресенье во время богослужения в Кельнский собор. «Спокойствие в Кельнском соборе было нарушено — этого мы не можем и не хотим допускать, — заявил газете Der Tagesspiegel декан собора Роберт Кляйне. — Право на свободу демонстраций не может ставиться выше прав на свободу вероисповедания и религиозных чувств участвующих в богослужении».

        Как отметил Кляйне, «это законно и, наверное, необходимо — протестовать против приговора, вынесенного в России, но делать это нужно в общественных местах. Есть границы, и не нужно нарушать права других». (Почему-то на Pussy Riot и Россию декан эти границы не распространяет. — «МК».)”

        [As regards a breach of the peace in a German Roman Catholic church, the law was ruthlessly applied to three youths who this past Sunday stormed into Cologne Cathedral during divine service. "The tranquility in Cologne Cathedral was violated: that we cannot and do not want to allow", Cathedral Dean Robert Kleine told the newspaper "Der Tagesspiegel". "The freedom to make demonstrations is a right that may not take precedence over the rights to the freedom of religion and religious sentiments involved in worship".

        As Kleine pointed out, "It's lawful and, probably, necessary to protest against the sentence imposed in Russia, but do it in public. There are limits, and there is no need to violate the rights of others".

        (For some reason the Dean does not apply these limits to Pussy Riot and Russia . — Moskovsky Komsomolets.)]


        Don’t do as we do: do as we say?

        • marknesop says:

          I think there’s everything necessary in there to both substantiate the Russian sentence – knowing as we do that there were already numerous “happenings” staged by both Voina and Pussy Riot which were treated as disturbances of the peace, and which evidently taught them nothing – and show solidarity with it. “The freedom to make demonstrations is a right that may not take precedence over the rights to the freedom of religion and religious sentiments ..There are limits, and there is no need to violate the rights of others.”

          I don’t see any way that can be interpreted as support for anarchist behaviour or ambitions. A lot of the unconditional support the media breathlessly passes on is based on the limited information the ignorant get to read, which implies the action actually was some kind of “punk prayer”, as if they just sang a psalm or something, and that the big fuss is all because they were bizarrely dressed and complaining about Putin.

        • AK says:

          Hey guys apparently the German copycat action was an FSB provocation.

          • marknesop says:

            Of course it was not, but it might have been for how welcome it would be for the Russian government. It does not even need to formally make the argument “how would you feel if it happened in your country”, and presto! it happens somewhere else.

            “FSB provocation” seems to be the go-to explanation for western media when they don’t have another one ready. “Al Qaeda provocation” is second choice. What difference would it make who originated it? Germany has a golden opportunity to back up all the fluff the west is throwing about philosophers and visionaries and freedom fighters: rather than prosecute them for anything, it should immediately give them all supervisory positions on the clerical staff of the cathedral, and offer them a couple of opportunities a week to deliver “punk sermons” where they can scream and jump and kick and wallow in their own shit if they want to, for all who wish to come and worship, with the condition that they scrub the place out afterward. That’d be one in the eye for the dirty Russian dictatorship, what? Lead by example, Germany.

            • kirill says:

              The intellectual bankruptcy of this tin foil hat accusation is breathtaking. Even if the FSB got some loons to stage the cathedral protest, the fallout has nothing to do with the FSB and everything with German (and western) law. If there are legal consequences for the Cologne PR clones then why should there be no legal consequences for PR in Moscow? Alleged good intentions don’t override the law. Obviously they don’t in Germany.

              All of these PR hysterics demonstrate the general low level of public awareness (and intelligence). It’s good if somebody does something to evil Russia, but it is bad if the same thing is done to any western entity. We good, them bad. Total hypocrisy, moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

        • yalensis says:

          @Exile: I can sort of understand the draconian German laws. Germans went through a hundred years or so of actual bloody wars (Catholic vs. Protestant), so is somewhat understandable why they might regard either religion as in need of protection. Not sure, but is Catholicism the minority religion in Germany? In which case, maybe is seen as vulnerable group needing of protection. Slightly different situation in Russia, where Orthodox Church is dominant religion and in pretty tight with government now. So I personally don’t see why it needs extra protection, other than the standard laws against privacy and vandalism, and so on. Although, to be fair, some people still seem to be holding a grudge about Bolshevik excesses in their zeal to instill athetism in the population. (Which campaign was mostly successful, by the way, at least in ethnic Russian areas.)

          • Moscow Exile says:

            The RC/Protestant division in Germany is now roughly 50/50. I also think that about 5% of the population there consists of Muslim Gastarbeiter. There are slighty more RCs in Germany than Protestants. The divide is approximately north/south, with the RCs to the south, the River Main being a convenient arbitrary dividing line between the two. However, there is an RC majority that runs northwards up the Rhine valley, hence the Gothic pile of the RC Köln cathedral, where German supporters of the Snatch Shriekers annoyed devout German Catholics who were attending mass.

            German governments traditionally tread very carefully so as not to antagonize the RCs and Protestants. When, during the late ’80s, I was resident in the Fatherland before my upping sticks and moving to Mother Russia, I often use to think that Germans enjoyed so many public holidays because apart from the Christmas, Easter and Whit holidays that both RCs and Protestants celebrate, for every public holiday that was also a “holiday of obligation”, namely a day when RCs were obliged to go to mass, e,g, on the feasts of Saints Peter & Paul, Corpus Christi, the Ascension etc., the Lutherans were given a holiday as well.

            As an aside, I lived for a while in the Catholic Rhineland. At first, my landlord’s attitude towards me was somewhat cool but later it noticeably improved after I had decided one Sunday to put on my Sunday suit on and go to mass and receive Holy Communion. Both he and his wife’s eyes were popping out when they were watching me walking back from the altar rails. I almost gave them a little wave. Up to then they had both clearly believed that as I was an “Engländer”, I must therefore be Protestant.

            I had made the decision to make a grand appearance in the church where they both attended mass every Sunday because he had been giving me notification of an imminent increase in my rent.

            The rent never went up.

          • Misha says:

            The recent action by PR and anti-ROC biases abroad from venues such as RFE/RL should be a cause for some concern as these instances serve to encourage negative manner against the ROC.


            A retired NYPD officer told me that during his career in law enforcement, his precinct had an informally positive relationship with Black Muslims who had their version of neighborhood activity which combatted crime.

            Police departments the world over are stressed with budgetary limits, while trying to combat crime. When properly mannered, community watch groups (religious or otherwise) serve a positive purpose.

          • kirill says:

            “pretty tight with the government”.

            Care to back that up. To me it is rather clear that the ROC + Putin = new USSR oppression BS is a new meme being foisted on Russia by its enemies like “corruption” before. The “corruption” smear apparently has not gained much traction and failing to make Russians into a bunch of liberast monkeys. So now the same intellectual giants are trying to infect their brains with the notions that the ROC is (1) a force in Russian politics and (2) part of Putin’s evil regime.

            Sorry, but it is patently obvious that neither (1) nor (2) is true.

    • kirill says:

      The Daily Mail piece is good. But he should have appealed to the balance of rights and not just to the spiritual sanctum aspect. The bottom line that the western media is bending backwards to not bring up is that PR have zero right to do *anything* in churches, private homes, and other venues which Mark mentioned such as libraries and restaurants. They can spout their precious hateful opinions in *public* spaces like streets and parks.

      Russia should make explicit legislation to outline these boundaries. Like in the west, these basic facts are lost in the cracks and need to be rediscovered by judges on a routine basis. So we will not have the retarded bleating about whether hooliganism applies to these thugs. They should be charged for violating the rights of parishioners plus trespassing. The trespass was obviously malicious and not an innocent mistake. Such rights violations should carry jail terms and not just $17 slaps on the wrist.

      • Misha says:

        Many Americans including myself reluctantly lean towards permitting freedom of expression within certain confines. The reluctance pertains to the expressing of extremely vulgar views. That said, I’m at somewhat of a loss in fully agreeing with what has been evident in some Western countries including Canada and the UK.

        Touches on something that Moscow Exile brought up:


        Re: &

        One should be careful when making a comparison between Lenin and Hitler. Hitler did promote the idea of Germany doing good. In contrast, Lenin used such characterizations as Great Russian chauvinism and Russia as a prison of nations – imagery which is inaccurately slanted in relation to what the rest of the world was like during the period in question.

        • kirill says:

          I should clarify that I am not proposing that vulgarity be regulated and punished. People do have a right to offend as part of free speech but they do not have the right to such speech on every square millimeter of the planet. Society is about rules. Just like it is a bad idea to smack somebody in the face for no reason as you walk down the street, it is a bad idea to go into a Church and start screaming obscenities. I am quite sure that PR and Voina are total hypocrites when it come to protecting their privacy. So somebody setting up a protest camp in their apartments would be something they would not welcome with open arms. Just like being verbally accosted everywhere they go. That is why I hate this scum; they like to dish it out but don’t like to take it.

      • marknesop says:

        Unfortunately, that is part of the game – insist that current law does not specifically prohibit such activities, with the express intent of boxing in the government so it has the choice of allowing the activities to continue (win, anarchists) or rewrite the law so the activity is now illegal (Putin is crushing dissent!!!!). It’s a no-lose situation for the west, all for the cost of a little manufactured outrage. Neat.

        • kirill says:

          I agree but the western propaganda case is flimsy if it uses some law clarifying protest venue restrictions as evidence of suppression of dissent. I know the typical mass media consumer is a drooling, couch potato moron but to claim that having PR protest outside the cathedral (as opposed to inside it) is oppression is simply beyond retarded.

  61. Moscow Exile says:

    Another out and out lie about the “regime” in Russia in this morning’s UK DailyTelegraph in a story on the latest arrest of that Russian and United States citizen, Garik Kimovich Weinstein, aka Gary Kasparov, who was arrested outside of the court where the Screaming Cnuts were sentenced last week.

    It may be remembered that Kasparov allegedly bit the hand of one of the arresting police officers. The Telegraph now says that the former chess player now turned politician “could be charged with using violence against a state official, a criminal indictment that carries a maximum custodial sentence of five years, rather than the 15 days for the first administrative charge”.

    The big lie that the Telegraph slips into the tale is that Kasparov before his arrest was allegedly “shouting illegal slogans, such as ‘Russia without Putin'”.

    So there you have it: there now exist “illegal slogans” in Putin’s Evil Regime.

    It’s true!

    I read it in the paper!


    • kirill says:

      Naturally when people shout anti-Putin slogans in other public venues they somehow are not heard or seen. They can only be heard or seen if they do it in your living room, your church, etc.

      Repeat offenders get harsher sentences in the west. Kasparov is a repeat offender who crossed the line by assaulting a police officer. Does anyone honestly think this clown would have gotten off without any consequences in the USA, for example? Incredible how compartmentalized the brains of western media consumers appear to be. Assault on a police officer is a serious offense that is not mitigated by “political slogan shouting at the time”, etc.

      • Misha says:

        Before the PR disrespecting of the Moscow chapel in question, I recall RFE/RL and BBC segments showing PR performing.

        The aforementioned PR performances seem pretty much like the street performances one sees in NYC – albeit the latter often exhibiting a greater talent.

        • marknesop says:

          Sean’s Russia Blog also covered their performance on the roof of the pre-trial detention center. It just sounded like noise to me, but that’s how my parents used to describe the music I liked, so perhaps I’m not the best critic.

      • kirill says:

        Kasparov has gotten the soft treatment. Now we will see if his biting the cop gets him into any trouble,

        Note how RAIN makes it sound like some goons attacked him. If you are going to stage impromptu demonstrations at certain venues, you should expect to be manhandled and forcibly removed. This is what happens routinely to the “Occupy” protesters in the USA.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Kasparov gets the soft treatment regularly, I think. A couple of years back he was whinging on Fox News or whatever in his other country about his latest arrest. That was when he was showing up every couple of months or so for a confrontation with the authorities at Triumfalnaya Square – the “31 movement” provocation on the 31st of any month in protest over the denial of the so-called right to assemble wheresoever one chooses. He had been arrested and, as nearly always happens, was released from police custody not long after, in this case the following morning. He was bleating on the news show about how awful the food was while he was banged up. It was so inedible, he claimed, that he had to have food brought in.

          The poor little dear!

          Around my old haunts in the UK, the usual fare that one receives after spending the
          night in police cells is beans on toast, one slice thereof and about 20 baked beans in tomato sauce. I have never had reason to complain about the quality of a British police cell breakfast, but I can well imagine the response I should have received if I had asked for food to be brought in for me.

  62. Moscow Exile says:

    And from this morning’s Moscow Times there continues the never ending barrage of that so-called newspaper against the Russian government and head of state:

    “The case of the now-famous punk group has conclusively proven to the world that Russia is an authoritarian country led by President-cum-dictator Vladimir Putin and an active repressor not
    only of the political opposition, but also of freedom of expression and creativity…

    “…Putin’s goal is to intimidate the dissenting members of society and to frighten the growing wave of protesters into submission”.

    Well, yes: I suppose that growing wave of protesters (they regularly have marches of millions) throughout this vast land must be somewhat disconcerting to the Evil One.


    • kirill says:

      The Moscow Times is the newspaper version of Novodvorskaya. She hates Russians and Russia and smears them at every chance. You see, if you don’t do what she wants you are really, really bad. To think that the will of the majority in Russia has a chance to manifest itself in the form of two thirds voting for Putin is a horrible crime against the minority that would be kings.

      • Misha says:

        I once again note how the Kyiv Post (KP) slants in favor of nationalist views leaning in an anti-Russian direction.

        KP being a non-Ukrainian owned/Kiev based English language operation, with The Moscow Times being a non-Russian owned/Moscow based English language venue.

        • kirill says:

          It is rather clear that “he that pays the piper, calls the tune” when it comes to “free” media. Rupert Murdoch’s empire was and still is a pure reflection of his wants and desires. This was also the case for Randolf Hurst’s newspaper empire of the past. It must be some sort of cold war propaganda that obfuscated the basic fact that top management decides on the editors and the editors decide on the news content. There is no internet style independent blogger aspect to corporate journalism. The journalist has to do what his employers tell him to do and they hire and fire journalists based on their obedience. Of course, the editors are smart and don’t engage in gross interference so there is some “balance”. But at the same time it is clear that they do orchestrate propaganda campaigns, such as the PR hysteria, with willing journalists.

          Does anyone really think that other aspects in the PR case do not matter? The western media is not just complaining about the punishment meted out to PR. They are trying hard to make it sound like their arrest is some sort of gross violation of the law and their rights.

          • Misha says:

            The “paper of record” (NYT) has a self described slogan of “all the news that’s fit to print”. That description doesn’t include carrying a full unedited transcript of what PR said in the Moscow chapel.

            On such a particular, the latter is apparently (essentially) expected by some to be more tolerant than the former, despite the contrasting reputations of the two (socially conservative leaning ROC versus a liberal to neoliberal NYT slant).

  63. yalensis says:

    More on the atheism front: One of the commenters on Adomanis’ piece claimed that Russian atheist dissident Maxim Efimov had sought asylum in Estonia:

    If this is true, it is doubly disappointing to me. Both that Efimov left (giving Estonians a propaganda point against Russia), and also that he felt he had to leave. Efimov was persecuted for his atheistic beliefs, not actions: Unlike the Pusses in Boots, he did not actually commit any crime whatsoever, not even a petty misdemeanor.

    • cartman says:

      Good riddance to the Scientologist scammer.

      • cartman says:

        Maxim Efimov’s organization (Youth Human Rights Group) could be affiliated with something else, but my bet is that it belongs to the Church of Scientology’s Youth Human Rights International. The CoS has been in a long battle with the Russian government, which has fought other cults like Aum Shinrikyo (extremely dangerous – they tried to get nuclear weapons from Russia into Tokyo) and the deep-pocketed Evangelical churches. Of course, the ROC is one of the institutions against the crazy, violent, and usurious religions that flourished in the Gorbachev-Yeltsin period. It’s wealth and organization pales in comparison to the other religions.

        You may think Russia is non-religious and secular, but that is not true. The Soviets downplayed their atrocities against the Orthodox Church and its believers because obviously they never saw through their own dogma about religion. The pagan spiritualism left behind was completely unknown to them.

        • kirill says:

          Thanks for the information. This explains why he got the rough legal treatment. There is more at play than simply an individual and his personal opinions. All such agents of malicious organizations should have legal action taken against them. And these are malicious organizations posing as “churches” and “NGOs”.

        • Misha says:

          Reminded a bit of how Albert Speer had some initial success in re-inventing himself, until more info on his Nazi era manner became known.

        • yalensis says:

          I did not know Efimov was a scientologist. Are you sure about this?
          If true, then I officially withdraw my sympathy from him.
          (I realize he will be all cut up to lose my vote.)

          • cartman says:

            I tell if YHRG and YHRI coincidentally have the same name. He calls it the Karelian chapter, and the parent has an English name, so I doubt it is based in Russia or the former Soviet Union. The only source of funding he discloses is a grant from the US Embassy. It all looks really amateur.

    • kirill says:

      I actually support such ROC militants. Russia’s fifth column needs to feel some heat and not coddling to please the west. If they hate Russia so much then they should get the f*ck to the west and live in peace and freedom. Some of them can go to the local supermarket and shove chickens in their birth canals. It’s something normal people do and the cops will not be called, I assure you. They will also not face a psych evaluation either.

  64. kirill says:

    I think this article brings up some serious facts. I don’t support Alex Jones because a lot of his ranting is pure tin foil hat nonsense. Such as his whole “global warming is a scam” BS. But this article by Paul Craig Roberts stands on its own in spite of some obvious errors.

  65. Moscow Exile says:

    I’m bloody sick to the back teeth of reading about these middle-class, educated degenerates being described as punk musicians who bravely and defiantly voiced their political message through the media of performing art and music.

    Here are some real punks getting their opinion over loudly and clearly about Margaret Thatcher:

    They’re the Scottish band “The Exploited”:

    None of them studied philosophy at university – I think.

    • kirill says:

      Good example of what a real punk protest band can produce. Note some key features:

      1) They can play instruments and actually produced a real punk song.

      2) They have a real beef with Maggie and her neo-liberalism. So it is not just shouting insults at Maggie.

      PR do not demonstrate the above two features. Number (2) is of prime importance. PR clearly can’t make a case against Putin if all they do is just sling insults at him. They also attack the ROC for supposedly being Putin’s lackeys. They don’t offer any actual content in their protests/spew. How does the ROC prop up Putin? What has Putin done that merits the abuse? They can’t include any actual criticism in their spew?

  66. Misha says:

    *This article on PR was forwarded to my attention:

    The sender added this note –

    Ames isn’t exactly right right on some points, while being better than the mainstream.


    An example of cliché journalism:

    It’s not like there’re Lenin statues galore in Pridnestrovie (Transnistria).

    The ones up are largely ignored.

    In terms of being historically revered, Alexander Suvorov is a far more popular figure in Pridnestrovie than Lenin.

    What seems to be the best English language book written on Suvorov, who is credited with founding Pridnestrovie’s capital Tiraspol:

    Pridnestrovie’s flag is often displayed without the hammer and sickle. In Pridnestrovie, a statue of Suvorov on a horse has served as a sort of unofficial alternative coat of arms to the hammer and sickle. There has been discussion in Pridnestrovie about adopting a version of the Russian tricolor flag.

    In Pridnestrovie, the Communist party is nowhere near as popular as the Communist party in Moldova – the latter which features the hammer and sickle.

    In an arguably problematic stance, Pridnestrovie defines the use of the hammer and sickle as an aspect of history, unrelated to supporting a return to the Soviet past.

    BTW, Austria’s coat of arms features a hammer and sickle:

    • marknesop says:

      I used to like Ames; I liked his edgy writing, and while he was vulgar it usually was in support of a point, rather than just gratuitous profanity. But here we go again with poor Pussy Riot “falling under the Kremlin’s gunsights”. The west is determined to make the trial and the verdict political, because if it cannot make it about the evil empire crushing brave prisoners of conscience, it will be left holding the truth – the Kremlin actually played almost no part in it at all. Putin did not mastermind the arrest or the trial, there was no arrest until the ROC complained – as any church would do in the same circumstances – and the affair did not become overtly political until the west took up Pussy Riot’s banner and resolved to refashion them into superheroes.

      • AK says:

        Matt Forney on Ames:

        I liked Mark Ames before he sold out.
        And make no mistake, he’s a sellout and a hack now. When he was at the helm of The Exile, the only “alternative” newspaper in the world ever worth a damn, Ames was a smart reporter and an insightful social critic. He was disgusting, puerile, offensive and reprehensible to be sure, but he was never boring, and much of what he wrote was on target.
        “Boring” is the perfect word for Ames’ post-Exile career.
        Ever since he and his butt-boy Yasha Levine came home from Russia, they’ve been jockeying to become part of the left-wing pundit class. As a result, they’ve been recanting every evil, “misogynistic” thing they wrote in the decade that the Exile was published in Moscow—and lamely mocking everyone who points out their lack of integrity and slipshod journalism.

        • Misha says:

          To reiterate, Ames exhibited such traits well beforehand.

          It should therefore come as no surprise.

          He remains someone generally better than Western mass media, while having opinions which can be (put mildly) debated.

      • Misha says:


        In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve called things for what they’re well before some others have seen the light.

        Perhaps you can consider thatt the next time you do a “ratings.”

        Regardless, I’m by no means alone in knowing what the real deal is as opposed to what has been evident.

        • Misha says:

          Make that last part:

          Regardless, I’m by no means alone in knowing what the real deal is as opposed to some of what has been stated.

        • marknesop says:

          No disagreement there, but my ratings posts are so far always done the same way – by the number of visits to those websites from this one. I don’t have any other objective standard of measurement.

          • Misha says:

            I do.

            Who tends to gets things right versus those getting them wrong.

            Likewise with how well diversified the given person is on the subjects covered.

            Is the person in question simply rehashing what has been said elsewhere or is he/she (comparatively speaking) exhibiting more of an orginally thought out point of view?

            The ability to successfully defend a point of view is another factor. This brings to mind the bully pulpit types who lob their questionable shots from a safe distance without directly answering their nay sayers.

            Technically, there’s an objective enough of a way to judge these aspects.

            Establishment venues have an adavantage in attracting greater hits which isn’t always indicative of superior analytical insight.

    • marknesop says:

      It starts out ignorant, in its presumption right off the mark that PR’s “performance” has nothing to do with religious hatred and everything to do with Putin. But the more I read the more I liked, especially the less-than-subtle mockery of western luminaries who claim to “identify” with PR, and who demonstrate it by going to poetry readings in Manhattan where the words to their “punk prayer” are read out and rhapsodized over for their Joan-of-Arc-like resonance. The topper was the announcement of a costume protest march, accompanied by the cautionary note that unfortunately participants would not be able to show solidarity by donning PR’s famous colourful balaclavas – because the wearing of balaclavas is illegal in Manhattan. You go, girl: protest that wicked oppression in Russia. You can’t make this stuff up.

      • Misha says:

        An overall inaccurate hack job in how it premises a non-legitimate prosecution of the individuals in question.

        The insight offered at these threads (your truly) is of a superior quality, when it comes to covering all the angles.

        • Misha says:

          Should read as:

          The insight offered at these threads (including your truly) is of a superior quality, when it comes to covering all the angles.


          Not particularly into propping inferior commentary that’s establishment propped.

          More into promoting better options that (comparatively speaking) are downplayed by the more high profile of venues.

          Such advocacy serves to better improve the coverage.

  67. Moscow Exile says:

    Ames writes that Tolokonnikova for “her role in the “Fucking For Medvedev” stunt, the Pussy Riot girl was thrown out of MGU university, as were several other members of the Voina collective”.

    The Western news media, however, has been at pains in pointing out what a smart young thing the degenerate exhibitionist Tolokonnikova is, namely that she studied philosophy at MGU. This is only true in so far as it goes: as Ames rightly says, she studied at MGU but never graduated from there as she was sent down together with some others who had participated in the “orgy” event :

    “7 марта 2008 года Учёный совет философского факультета МГУ констатировал, что «акция в музее, в которой приняли участие несколько студентов факультета, является непристойной и оскорбительной. Участие в данной акции не совместимо со статусом студента МГУ, тем более факультета, дающего педагогическую квалификацию по ряду специальностей»”.

    [On March 7th, 2008, the Moscow State University Academic Council stated that "the event in a museum in which several students of the faculty took part was obscene and indecent. Participating in such an event is incompatible with the status of an MGU student, even moreso of a student in a faculty that awards specialist pedagogical qualifications".]


    (I’ve not been able to find the Russian article that I read a few weeks back and in which her faculty boss also added that she and her dismissed colleagues had been performing badly and achieving inadequate marks and that they were in for the chop in any case.)

    Nevertheless, Tolokonnikova has often been labelled as a philosophy student or even as a “philosopher” by some journalists (as shown in the example linked below), as has one of her co-defendants, Samutsevich, because of the latter’s tendency to philosphize on the rare occasions that she spoke during the trial. Samutsevich, however, graduated from a school of photography: she does, however, like to to read philosophical works of Slavoj Žižek and Michel Foucault. (Quelle surprise!)


    Finally, to those that persist in claiming that PR only performed a “punk prayer” in a Moscow cathedral, I suggest that they look closely at the last in the set of four pictures linked below:

    Whether the person in the last picture is Tolokonnikova is debatable, although the person that posted it on a Russian blog thinks it is. Be that as it may, the person in question is not only “praying” at a “punk gig”, she is also wilfully displaying her “pudendum muliebre” to whomsoever wishes to gaze upon it. And I say “wilfully”, because either that is the case or she has simply forgotten to put on her panties or is not in the habit of wearing them.

    The caption above the set of pictures says: “Nadezhda Tolokonnikova – Art-Group Voina, Punk Group Pussy Riot”.

    The caption below the set reads: “Has she the right to bring up her child?”

    The blog is linked below:

    Below the main set of pictures it says:

    Надежда Толоконникова (Надя Толокно, Тролокно), Петр Верзилов (Петя-Пидарок, Поросенок Петр)

    Надя Толоконникова – недоучившаяся студентка из Норильска, Петр Верзилов – юный пройдоха с канадским паспортом в кармане, они были статистами на нескольких акциях группы, но не были авторами ни одной идеи. Все это не мешает им называть себя везде москвичами и лидерами группы.

    [Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Nadya Tolokno,T