Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Corruption Index

Uncle Volodya says, “It is said that power corrupts, but actually it’s more true that power attracts the corruptible.”

Russia has an acknowledged problem with corruption. The dispute goes back and forth on whether the government is doing anything serious to combat the problem, or simply paying it lip service while remaining relatively unconcerned. But statistics released in June 2011 by Transparency International, and based on its research, are discouraging.

I mean, the conclusion is inescapable – from surveys which examined 23 sectors and institutions, researchers learned:

  • Some 53.4% of respondents to a national survey believed corruption had increased “a little” or “a lot” in the past 3 years. Only 2.5% of respondents believed corruption had decreased a little or a lot. A whopping 48.1% did not think the government was effective in tackling the corruption problem. Damningly, 92.7% of respondents would like to report corruption, but only 30.1% would know where to report it.
  • A leaked police investigation report from 2006 suggested there were approximately 1000 corrupt prison officials currently working, while a further 600 were having an “inappropriate relationship” with a prisoner.
  • An estimated 38, 000 people are involved in organized crime, and a 2006 survey of the construction sector reported that 41% of respondents had been offered a bribe at least once in their career.

Who is running this benighted country? Let its Prime Minister step forward, and bow his head in shame. Step forward, Vladimir Put….no, wait, wait, my mistake. I got my pages mixed up, sorry for any unintended attribution of blame. Just a minute, let me get my notes together….

There, sorry once again for being so disorganized; I can’t think what came over me. Step forward, David Cameron, because those statistics reflect the state of corruption in the United Kingdom. Shame you have to take the rap for it, considering some of those values were realized before you took office – but that’s why you get the big bucks.

Today’s discussion of bribery and corruption was inspired by the smug pontifications of EU-Russia Centre Director Fraser Cameron. It appeared not to be Mr. Cameron’s intention to rip on Russia for corruption – no, he wanted to talk about the recent Duma elections, and had no problem passing on the estimate of “some observers” who believed United Russia actually received less than 30% of the vote, although that would imply 20% fraud and international observers suggested nothing like that. He likewise is comfortable quoting GOLOS and Mikhail Gorbachev, which begs the question why the appointee to the Directorship of the EU-Russia Centre seems not the slightest interested in obtaining any official statements on such an important event from the current Russian government. But he could not resist dragging the old “party of crooks and thieves” chestnut out for a quick airing, which was one time too often for me. So instead of just assuming the western reports of corruption in Russia – portraying a country on the verge of collapse due to its own internal rot – reflect the true state of affairs, let’s take a closer look at the other half of the EU-Russia Centre: the European Union.

So; going back to the United Kingdom for a moment. Although more than half the country surveyed believed corruption had increased in the past 3 years and nearly the same number believed the government was ineffective in its anti-corruption efforts, and although the UK did fall from 17 to 20 in the CPI between 2009 and 2010, this reflects the fact that the 2009 survey measured 180 countries while the 2010 survey measured only 178, and the UK’s actual score only faded slightly from 7.7 to 7.6.

Well, let’s move on. The country is reluctant to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. For those who don’t realize the difference between signing a convention and ratifying it, until you do the latter, you as a nation are not legally bound by it; the country justifies its reluctance with worries that ratification might mean more bribery investigations. Refusal to ratify the convention ranks the country with peers like Saudi Arabia, Syria and North Korea. Is it Russia? Nope – it’s Germany, one of only two countries in the EU that have yet to ratify the anti-corruption convention. It’s not hard to see why, if you look: Siemens, Volkswagen, Daimler/Chrysler. Deutsche Bank. GM/Opel, Linde, Infineon. Scandal, scandal, scandal. Siemens was just the biggest in the country’s history – 2.5 Billion in fines for bribery and falsification of corporate records. Deutsche Bank was fined $1.32 million by the Financial Services Authority in the UK for “irresponsible lending practices”: issuing home loans exclusively through mortgage brokers to customers with poor credit histories, then soaking them with made-up fees when they fell into arrears. The FSA reported that this was the first time they’d ever had to fine a company for irresponsible mortgage lending, and that the fine would have been $1.8 million if Deutsche Bank had not cooperated with the FSA.

Gosh; Germany must have gotten hammered on the Corruption Perceptions Index, what? Ummm…not so you’d notice – number 14 in 2009, falling a single place to 15 in 2010 when two less countries were rated, and losing a tenth of a point to fade from 8.0 to 7.9.

Transparency International produces its index “based on business people’s perceptions of the problem in different countries”, we are told. Really? Business people like Bernd Hafenberg, German economist? I guess not – because he commented on the online Frankfurter Allgemeine, “I consider this to be merely the tip of the iceberg. Based on 45 years’ work experience, Germany is thoroughly corrupt and whoever talks about this is considered a Judas.” Between 1000 and 2000 corruption cases come before the courts annually, and some experts suggest these might represent a tenth of the actual instances.

All right; one more. Who does this make you think of: “The impression is of a clique of powerful men up to no good, linked by a potent mix of money, politics and business, and of an executive branch too close to the justice system”? How about, “…her husband went often to Switzerland and returned with suitcases of cash. He travelled there, she said, with Ziad Takieddine, a Franco-Lebanese arms broker, who has also been charged in the Karachi affair“? The Karachi Affair referred to kickbacks on the sale of submarines to a foreign country, and to a bombing which killed 11 French engineers, said to be in retaliation for unpaid bribes. How about when the Best Man at your wedding is charged with “complicity in the misuse of public money”? Did you think of Russia? Sorry – just another day in the rough-and-tumble scrimmage of those close to the French president, Nikolas Sarkozy. Similarly tawdry allegations – by a judge, no less – suggest Sarkozy received funds directly from France’s richest woman (L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt) to be used in his presidential campaign. Judge Prévost-Desprez further alluded to witness intimidation, and claimed she was removed from the case so as not to damage Sarkozy’s reelection prospects (which I personally – without knowing anything about his opposition – would rate as between “not a chance” and “never happen”). Although France is a ratified signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Corruption and the French government claims to be in the forefront of the anti-corruption ambush, a Sofres poll in October 2011 found a full 72% of French citizens believes its politicians are corrupt – the highest percentage ever.

What’d that do to France’s position on the CPI? That’s right; nothing. France moved down one position, and its score slipped from 6.9 to 6.8; the de rigueur tenth of a point. Starting to see a pattern?

So, we’ve looked at three prominent EU economies. Of those – the UK, Germany and France, 48.1% (UK) and 72% (France) believe their leaders are corrupt, while the other (Germany) has been rocked with corruption scandals that resulted in over $1 Billion in fines. A recent survey of European companies by London’s Ernst & Young revealed that two-thirds acknowledge bribery and corruption are widespread in their country, nearly 80% have received no training in anti-corruption practices and 77% want regulators to do more to reduce the risk of company fraud, bribery and corruption. Yet each of the three countries profiled here slipped only a tenth of a point on the CPI, which was more than accounted for by the decrease in countries surveyed.

How did Russia do, since I’ve mentioned it so often? The country that rebounded quicker than most from the global financial crisis, whose currency rose faster in value than any other during the recovery, which paid every penny it owed in loans and built up the third-largest cash reserves on the planet while cutting national poverty in half and steadily increasing the living standard of its citizens….plummeted from 146 to 154 on the CPI. This, too, apparently represents a difference of only a tenth of a point, from 2.2 to 2.1. In another ironic twist, if you are fond of irony – Greece admitted to a substantially higher level of cash bribery than Russia. What has been the western response to Greece’s out-of-control corruption? They gave Greece a multi-billion dollar bailout. When the chronically-irresponsible country missed its $52 Billion target for funds realized from privatization and reforms by around $48 Billion, and the Swedish finance minister announced the original bailout funds had been “wasted“, the exasperated EU punished the Greeks by….agreeing to take a 60% – 70% “haircut” on owed value on Greek bonds and preparing for another bailout.

If this has made you as curious as it has me, you must be wondering now – if Transparency International (“fighting corruption worldwide”, ha, ha) formulates its standings based on “business people’s perceptions of the problem in other countries”…..who are the business people they poll in Russia to formulate that nation’s standings? If Russia is supposedly “as corrupt as the Congo” – which it is according to Fraser Cameron – who is left in Russia who is trustworthy to report the state of corruption?

I couldn’t say, because I don’t know, but I would guess foreign businessmen. Foreign businessmen whose yardstick of corruption draws heavily on how they are doing, profit-wise. Business and political reporting by western-owned or western-leaning newspapers such as The Moscow Times and Novaya Gazeta. Business reporting in the western press, which is often agenda-driven and tailored to achieve a goal, such as “The Hermitage Effect” as practiced by William Browder. The alternative is that Transparency International does not actually poll any Russian businesses at all that are Russian-owned.

This should not suggest the corruption problem in Russia is imaginary. Of course it exists – it stands to reason it would if corruption is so widespread in Europe as a whole. The real difference is that reporting on corruption in Russia receives a fierce spotlight that similar or worse problems in other countries do not, and that this distorted perception of corruption in Russia is rigorously applied to its international standings, while corruption levels as established by their own citizens have little part in the standings of other European countries. Transparency International is a fierce partisan zealot in its reporting of corruption in Russia, and a sleepy blind man in the countries that provide its funding.

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114 Responses to Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Corruption Index

  1. Dear Mark,

    Another very good article. I wish by the way I’d waited for this article before writing my last comment on your previous post concerning the Greek 1960s joke about the three forms of corruption.

    For what it’s worth and based on an experience that is limited entirely to Moscow and St. Petersburg I do not think that Russia is actually anywhere near as corrupt by international standards as many Russians themselves believe. I suspect this will be disputed by many people who comment on this blog and who I generally find myself in agreement. In truth though I think that on the subject of corruption as on many other issues many or even most Russians still have a tendency to think that they are doing less well than others even when they are actually doing as well or better. It is an odd attitude that I find difficult to understand but which seems to be very embedded in the national psyche. It is in stark contrast to the US and British attitude, which is to believe that they do better than other people even when objectively they are doing worse.

    I would say that generally speaking and based on my own experience standards of public and private honesty in Russia are reasonably high. People pay their taxes, which find their way into the local and state budgets rather than the pockets of officials, contracts are fulfilled, bills get paid and work that is contracted gets done. There are of course exceptions but that is true everywhere and I do not get the impression that compliance levels in Russia are worse than elsewhere in say central or eastern or southern Europe. On the contrary I would say they tend to be better. Standards are not as high as in Germany or Scandinavia or Japan, but given the very high standard of these countries and the difference in wealth between Russia and these countries it would be asking a lot if they were.

    There is a fair amount of petty corruption but I suspect this is a legacy of low wages in the public sector and a culture of petty corruption that got embedded in the 1990s when it was the only way for many people to get by. I get the impression that it is at its worse in the health system but I may be wrong. Contrary to claims that the Russian court system is corrupt I never heard of a case of a Russian judge taking bribes, though when I used to work in the British High Court we often used to hear of such cases in places like Nigeria, India or Pakistan and even Portugal and Spain. Bribery does not in my experience happen on any significant scale in negotiating international contracts and I have never personally come across cases of western banks that lend money to Russian companies encountering compliance issues or finding that the money they loaned has been syphoned off for use in unauthorised activities as is often the case elsewhere.

    Things of course were not like this in the 1990s but that period was exceptional and I think it is unfair to generalise from it.

    I think one of the reasons why corruption has such a high profile in Russia is precisely because Russians dislike it so much and complain about it so loudly. In other places including Greece (where corruption is the organising principle of society) it is accepted as a fact of life and simply does not provoke much comment. I suspect this is one reason why in international surveys a country like Greece does so much better than it deserves whilst Russia does so much worse.

    I would just finish by saying that any discussion of corruption that makes international comparisons ought to consider the open and legalised corruption that is rife within the US political system where money now seems to be the decisive factor both in winning elections (particularly Congressional elections) and in framing policies (as a result of lobbying). Many of the practices that happen in the US would certainly be considered corrupt if they happened in other places.

    • HUnter says:

      So in essence the CPI is really a Corruption complaints index which depends on how often one complains about corruption regardless of the actual level of corruption. I guess in that way it is useful for determining attitudes towards corruption (and attitudes towards corruption in particular countries) but is pretty much useless as a yardstick for actual corruption. Good thing AK came up with his own corruption index.

      • Dear Hunter,

        “So in essence the CPI is really a Corruption Complaints Index which depends on how often complains about corruption regardless of the actual level of corruption”.

        I think that is basically right.

    • Eugene says:

      Dear Alexander,

      I don’t care what different indexes are saying about Russia (AK being the only exception:)). But Russian minister of economic development Elvira Nabiullina recently said that the country’s economic growth by 5-6% annually can only be achieved via dramatic reforms of the judicial system and fighting corruption. Those lacking, economic growth will be limited to 2-3%. Sounds impressive to me.

      Best,
      Eugene Ivanov

      • cartman says:

        Not to deny the corruption problem, but I think that estimate is influenced much more by the eurocrisis.

        • Eugene says:

          I don’t have my own opinion here, however, it seems to me that what Nabiullina was saying is that due to the lack of attractive investment climate, Russia is losing 3% of GDP — euro-crisis or not.

          • Dear Eugene,

            Like Mark and Cartman I do not deny that corruption exists. As for what Nabiullina said, she might be right though I suspect that what she says is a little exaggerated. It is difficult to see how she could give such precise figures given that the effect of corruption by definition is something which is so difficult to measure. I would add that an attractive investment climate and corruption are not the same thing. One hears all sorts of stories for example about the immense number of bureaucratic obstacles foreign businesses encounter when they try to open plants or factories or retail outlets in Russian regions. I should also say that from Soviet times and perhaps even before Russians at least in my opinion have a tendency to look for someone to blame for their problems rather than admit to themselves quite how complex and intractable many of their problems actually are. Blaming lower growth rates on corrupt officials falls into precisely that category. By contrast bringing inflation down to 2-3% or simplifying regulations simply does not attract the same sort of interest.

            I think a lot does also come down to perception. The perception that Russia is corrupt and that the judicial system is politicised deters investors even though in the case of the judicial system there is actually surprisingly little evidence of this.

            One last thought: the fact that Russians at least in my opinion set themselves such a high standard and that such a high standard is demanded of them might in the end work in their favour if it induces them to develop a more honest society than is found elsewhere.

        • marknesop says:

          Considering how much of Russia’s exports go to the EU (nearly half the total in 2010), I’d say that was likely an accurate assessment. Note also that under current conditions the EU gets every euro of its FDI back in the form of Russian direct investment in the EU. I’m bound to suggest I don’t see how that equates to a country in which you should not invest because your money isn’t safe.

      • marknesop says:

        Hello, Eugene; it’s great to see you!! I have to wonder sometimes to what extent such statements of self-deprecation are merely pandering to the west in the hope of getting a little positive recognition. If such truly is the motivation, I wish they would learn that it is counterproductive. The west heaps insults on Russia’s head about its problems, Russia acknowledges there are indeed problems and – grinning with embarrassment – goes along with the western line that reforms are urgently needed. Does it ever get any positive reaction? Not that I have ever observed. Instead, confirmation of the problem merely serves as a spigot for a flood of scorn and abuse. No other country behaves that way – Greece denied it had a debt problem right up until it could no longer be hidden, and the west let it get away with that although all the fiscal vectors pointed to imminent disaster. Then Greece held out its hands, and Europe poured money into them, although Greece acknowledges it is more corrupt than Russia and much of the bailout money vanished into the pockets of government figures and their cronies, to be promptly spirited out of the country.

        Russia was once in a very bad way financially as well, although the death-spiral could as easily be laid at the feet of Jeffrey Sachs and the Harvard Boys as at those of Yeltsin or any Russian politician: Yeltsin was led to believe the drive to reform must be rapid and relentless in order to ensure Communism could never come back. Now the west is rooting for the Communists, if they will only displace Putin! But Russia paid back every bit of its debt, and was never again a fiscal burden to its neighbours. Greece shows every sign of intending to nurse at the teat as long as the milk will run, and it receives only the mild exasperation accorded a favoured child who will one day grow up, but must meanwhile be indulged. Russia, by comparison, is treated like a cockroach on a wedding cake.

        Russia should stop mirroring the west’s complaints in the hope that such behavior will bring sympathy and rapport. It should look out for its own interests, and cooperate with the west only when it serves its own interests to do so. That’s the way other “great” nations work, and nobody suggests they should be more altruistic or more up-front about their domestic problems. And to accusations like, “but you’re corrupt!! Nobody should invest in your country, because you’re corrupt and untrustworthy!!”, Russia should reply, “When we can’t pay our bills or meet our financial obligations, our problems will become your problems. Until that day, what you are complaining about is a domestic matter which we are addressing in our own way, and you are invited to shut your pie-hole”.

        Russia’s growth is its own responsibility, and if the west wants to keep arguing that Russia is a bad place to invest, what does the west care about Russian growth? Since Russian growth under Putin has done extremely well under Putin’s leadership – consistently outstripping the alarmed portents of the denizens of Moscow’s School of Higher Economics – the west should hope Nabiullina is low-balling her estimate; Russian growth has been higher than western of late, a trend which looks likely to continue.

        Russia does indeed need reforms. Economists sometimes describe the requirement for reform on a national level in terms of riding a bicycle – if you don’t keep moving forward, you’re falling over. There most certainly are improvements to be made and plenty of room for them. But few geographical locations are in a worse position right now to be sneering down their aristocratic noses at anyone else’s need for immediate and sustained reform than the European Union.

        • Eugene says:

          Mark,

          I do agree with you: many things that Russia produces in “words and prints” (books, movies, articles, even statements by politicians) are of export-grade. (If your homeland doesn’t need you as a prophet, you look elsewhere.) However, Nabiullina made the estimate at the Gaidar forum which was largely internal affair. And, btw, Nabiullina is very “sober” person belonging to the Gref school and not known for exaggerations. Again, I’m in no position to prove or disprove of what she’s saying, but given that the bribe is a form of taxation — however “implicit” — the fact that higher taxation slows down economic growth makes sense to me.

          Again, I agree with you that the Western reaction to what’s going on in Russia is generally negative and not helpful, to say the very least. Yet, IMHO, time to time, it’s instrumental to forget about “the West” and take a hard look at the internal developments in Russia as they are. That Greece is more corrupt than Russia is a poor explanation for the fact that having earned, over the past 10-12 years, around 1.6 trillion of petrodollars, Russia has failed to build a single modern highway. And it can use one or two — trust the man who travels in Russia time to time…

          Best,
          Eugene

          • Dear Eugene,

            Your comment about Russia’s failure to build super highways would provoke bitter laughter in Greece were a well known symptom of corruption is the appearance in deserted country districts of gleaming motorways going from nowhere to nowhere.

            Having said this, obviously I agree with you that Nabuillina is a serious person and that corruption the existence of which in Russia noone disputes is a tax on the economy that inhibits its development. Having said this there are three points I do want to make:

            1. I think you are being a little unfair when you complain about the failure in Russia to use its energy windfall to build up infrastructure. First of all I think there has actually been quite a lot of investment in infrastructure. The main reason why there has not been more is because following the chaos of the 1990s the government’s priority understandably enough was to restore stability to the financial system. The government therefore used the energy windfall first and foremost to pay off its debt, recapitalise the banking system and build up its reserves. There has also been quite a lot of social spending and of course personal taxes have been kept low. One can make the case that the government should instead have used the energy windfall differently through direct investment in manufacturing and infrastructure (as the Communist Party has constantly urged) but that would have involved taking risks with the trade balance, the budget and inflation, which the government in my opinion rightly thought unacceptable.

            2. Kudrin today seems to be taking a rather more optimistic view of the economy than did Nabuillina in the quote you refer to. He says that Russia’s economy will develop to the point in a few years when energy dependence will decline and that this will happen because of what he calls objective conditions in the economy. He also says that once things have been sorted out after about three years (and he seems confident that they will be again for objective reasons) growth rates will rise. I agree with him.

            3, Lastly, I thought I would just say that I have been comparing Zyuganov’s economic programme on the KPRF website with Putin’s as published in Vedomosti. If one cuts out some of the verbiage and Zyuganov’s ritualistic calls for renationalisation of the mineral resources industries it struck me that there was really not much difference between the two. Both Putin and Zyuganov seem to envisage a programme for industrial expansion and modernisation based on investment in key industries with the state playing an active role and with the state also actively supporting and funding the reconstruction and development of the country’s science base. Judging from his comments today Kudrin belying his liberal reputation supports this programme. The fact that there is broadly speaking a consensus on the way forward at least on the part of the main political actors suggests that for all the recent street theatre the country’s economic course is fairly set presumably because it corresponds with the country’s objective conditions.

          • marknesop says:

            Good morning, Eugene! I completely agree Russia’s infrastructure is in terrible shape from a national perspective, and that it should be a priority when money is handed out. It also serves excellently to point up the extent of corruption, because the construction industry worldwide is riddled with it, and it is even possible that hesitation in improving the highways owes much to worry that the enforcement effort to ensure half or more of the funds spent did not disappear in the form of graft would be disproportionate or even unachievable. You would first have to be sure of your enforcement officials’ integrity, you would have to have enough of them to oversee the industry full-time throughout the project and you would need back-channel communications for reporting throughout that could not be interfered with by the industry – sort of two parallel projects.

            However, the west does in fact bear some of the responsibility; if not for regular menacing noises from the west and semi-covert attempts to bring down the government, building up and revitalizing the defense industry might be less a priority, and the government might be able to dedicate more funds and oversight to industry. Russia has signaled frequently in the past that it does not particularly want or need a massive military, and you’d have a difficult time making a case that it wants one so it can attack its neighbours. Even in the case of the missile defense systems the U.S. wants to site in encirclement, Russia only asked for written assurances that the system would never be used against Russia. The U.S. declined to comply – what sort of message would a reasonable person be expected to get from that? I don’t want to go off on a defense tangent, but the huge amounts of money that will have to be spent to modernize the military could quite easily build a first-rate highway system instead.

            Also, I don’t think modest estimates for growth are particularly damning in a climate in which the world’s largest economy is struggling not to slide back into recession and the European Union is grappling with implosion. You could argue that money lost in corruption comes directly at the expense of growth, and you’d be right – but I would argue that Greece was used as an example not because it is more corrupt, but because of the west’s enabling munificence: Greece is only encouraged to be corrupt by throwing money at it and trusting its government to spend it efficiently instead of stealing it. Now Greece and a few others like it threaten to topple the entire alliance and wreck the Eurozone, and staggering amounts of money will have to be spent to forestall that eventuality. I’d just like to see a little more positive reinforcement in Russia’s case, a sense that the world wants to see Russia solve its corruption problem rather than wishing for it to get worse so the government will fall and because it serves as a convenient distraction from corruption closer to home.

            Warmest regards,

            Mark

    • marknesop says:

      Hi, Alex; yes, when I saw your comment it made me smile to myself, because the new post was complete except for the closing paragraphs. Your comment was the perfect lead-in.

  2. nooralhaqiqa says:

    http://snippits-and-slappits.blogspot.com/2012/02/waking-up-on-wrong-side-of-corruption.html

    Most informative piece and tyvm. I have posted this at the above URL.

    Surely you must realize by now that only NATO powers are not corrupt! And, of course their minions who do much of their dirty work for them.

    This Westerner wished Russia all the best in what the arses of the West have planned for it, and we all can see that writing on the wall. Alas.

    I weep for the liberty of my country when I see at this early day of its successful experiment that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives, and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office. ~ Andrew Jackson

  3. Meanwhile the guys at the Guardian are becoming cross with the BBC for the “pro Putin” take of its documentary.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/01/russian-exiles-bbc-putin-documentary

    • cartman says:

      It’s from Mr. Bean in the Land of the Soviets. Their other article calls Syria a legacy of the Soviet Union (not a state of minorities cobbled together by the British Empire in a secret agreement with France.)

    • Luke Harding. Quelle surprise.

      • marknesop says:

        I thought that, for Luke Harding, it was fairly unbiased in that it gave a thorough airing of the producer of the series’ viewpoint as well, and quoted her sources rather than making it appear as if she were just flailing to try to create a distraction. I noted with amusement that he drew heavily on the grumblings of noted Putin-hater Vladimir Bukovsky, considering he has warned that the EU is becoming the new Soviet Union.

    • Hunter says:

      From that article: “Percy is a renowned documentary film-maker whose previous work includes The Death of Yugoslavia.”

      I remember that documentary and the CNN one based off the same source. I think there were still some quibbles with it, but overall it was a fairly good documentary. At the very least it attempted to interview everyone involved rather than interview only those with a certain view.

    • Hunter says:

      “Critics of the series, however, are incensed by an interview with Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff. In it, Powell admits that a spy “rock” found in a Moscow park was used by British intelligence officers – a claim originally made by Putin in 2006, to the embarrassment of Downing Street.

      Last month a pro-Kremlin journalist, Arkady Mamontov, used the Powell footage in a 30-minute programme shown on Russian state television. Mamontov claimed that Russians working for non-governmental organisations were agents of British intelligence – a smear, activists say, to discredit opposition groups. The rock was shown next to Big Ben, together with clips of “British spies”.

      Writing in Monday’s Moscow Times, the columnist Victor Davidoff said the timing of the Powell revelation was “suspiciously good for Putin”, following unprecedented protests against his rule and ahead of next month’s presidential election.”

      Amazingly, what Luke Harding wrote was that critics of the series are incensed over the admission of the truth by Jonathan Powell. So I suppose they would rather that Mr. Powell had lied. Sad really.

      • marknesop says:

        Yes, he put on quite a dancing exhibition getting around the facts; or rather, presenting them in the least guilty-sounding way. Western countries often loftily dismiss discussion of intelligence ops they have run by refusing to discuss “sources and methods”. You might recall I brought up the rock incident in a post on Skolkovo last year, it was actually called “Operation Roadside”, and the “rock” was powered by a simple Blackberry.

        Considering it took forever for the west to admit its role in overthrowing democratically-elected Mohammed Mosadegh in Iran and giving that country a decade or two of rule by the Shah, I suppose we’ll be hearing about the west’s role in colour revolutions around the time we’re leaving our teeth in a glass overnight. The west’s position is that sometimes it must do bad things to keep people safe and free, and it takes no pleasure in them really.

        I’ll be away for the weekend at decadent Black Rock Resort in Ucluelet, and “off the grid” for a couple of days – be good to each other.

        • yalensis says:

          Okay, Mark, I googled Ucluelet and I have some suggestions for your dinner menu:

          I would start with the Kusshi raw oysters on truffle-buttered toast.
          Then: well, I am kind of torn between the Rangeland Cured Elk, the Saffron Prawn, or the Coho Salmon, but this is the Pacific Northwest after all, so you should probably go for the salmon:

          Enjoy your well-deserved vacation!

          http://www.blackrockresort.com/dining/menus/dinner-menus/

          • marknesop says:

            Sveta had the oysters, and besides their being a little small she said they were very tasty. I had the smoked black cod (who ever thought cod would become a delicacy!!!!) and followed with the croissant bread pudding with spiced apricots, ice cream and the lot doused with a pipette of rum – divine. The resort is in a lovely spot, very wild, and they have turned the often-raw weather into an attraction: storm watching. But today the weather was benign and sunny and about +48. It’s a beautiful drive, too; about 5.5 hrs from Victoria and some incredible scenery (especially along Kennedy Lake) but the road is so narrow and twisty the driver doesn’t get to do much sightseeing.

            • yalensis says:

              Hmmm… I would not have thought of suggesting the cod because, like you, I always considered it a business-like proletarian dish, not a delicacy. From your description it sounds like they take this modest fish and turn him into greatness!

              • marknesop says:

                Well, if you smoke something edible it immediately changes its flavour (and, apparently, the perception of its worth); I love using smoked cod for fish chowder, it really makes a delicious difference. But this humble fish was given the gourmet treatment besides; it rested on a lentil cabbage roll and was garnished with fat mussels and slices of some unidentifiable white fruit/vegetable – might have been jicama. Also, black cod is not usually cod at all, but sablefish. Sablefish are a cold-water fish apparently prized by chefs for the delicate, creamy flesh. Often it appears on the menu as sablefish rather than black cod, such as at Nautical Nellies, my favourite Victoria seafood restaurant. As the description suggests, it is buttery in flavour and has large, easily separable flakes. If you get a chance to try it and you are fond of seafood, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

                The Fetch Restaurant is a little pricey and is only open from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, I guess they do only the evening meal. But the view must be astounding – by the time we got there it was already dark, so we couldn’t tell.

                • yalensis says:

                  Mmmmmm! Is very true that if you smoke something it totally adds to the flavour. One of my favorite dishes of all times is smoked eel. I consider it an expensive delicacy and will go out of my way to find it. So I was surprised when I read somewhere that in olde England eels used to be considered a poor man’s staple dish. Cockneys would dredge eels out of the river and sell them on the street as cheap fast food! Similarly, I read that Atlantic lobsters (also an expensive delicacy nowadays) used to be the staple dish fed to slaves in American colonial times. I can imagine the slaves looking at each other and shrugging in disappointment: “What’s for dinner tonight? What! Lobster AGAIN?!”

                • marknesop says:

                  A good deal of what is driving prices is sustainability. I remember seeing National-Geographic-style advertising for conservation in which Cabot’s ships were unable to proceed because they were held fast by a school of cod, so that all one needed do to catch a couple was lower a bucket on a rope. That was staged, of course, but history reflects that they were indeed once so numerous. Years of overfishing and a stubborn attitude that any attempt to back off the ferocious pace was an attempt to cheat the working man of his livelihood have put paid to that, and now the East Coast’s collapsed cod stocks may never recover. Many groundfish from Newfoundland’s legendary Grand Banks have been fished almost to extinction to satisfy Asia’s voracious appetite for fresh fish, and species that were once panned as only fit to fertilize gardens are now relentlessly pursued. It’s already been nearly 20 years (1995) since Canada was nearly prepared to go war with Spain over turbot, which were previously thought barely fit to eat.

                  Eels, though, are a very sustainable species because they lend themselves well to farming and grow rapidly (although they are susceptible to pollution). So it isn’t sustainability that makes eel expensive; it must be something else. One of my favourite table fish is Basa, also known as the “snakehead fish”; I believe they originate from Vietnam. They’re repulsively ugly, and raising them is complicated by the fact that they’re very invasive. They can actually travel over land short distances in wet grass, and if they get from a pond into a river they will multiply rapidly and squeeze out local species. I guess they’re probably like a catfish a bit, but the flesh is white and delicate in flavour; it lends itself well to subtle sauces, but it’s easy to overpower it. It’s still relatively inexpensive because it’s in no danger as far as sustainability is concerned.

  4. More grumbling about the BBC documentary on Putin this time from the Daily Telegraph.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9055097/The-BBCs-distortion-of-the-truth-helps-Putin-suppress-his-critics.html

    Notice that Jonathan Powell is criticised and called a “useful idiot” for admitting the truth about MI6 and the fake rock and embarrassing Latyna & Co in the process. Presumably the Daily Telegraph feels he should instead have continued to lie about it.

    Notice also the claim that the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings were “almost certainly” the work of the FSB. Presumably to maintain balance the Daily Telegraph will now say that 9/11 was “almost certainly” the work of the CIA.

    • My comment there (in case it gets deleted). Perhaps too overbearing and slanted itself, but the mendacity of Oborne’s article is asking for it.

      So let me get this straight. Peter Oborne condemns Powell for admitting the truth about the spy rock, then has the gall to criticize the BBC for supposedly white-washing Russia (no matter how those of us who remember the BBC calling the Chechen terrorists in the theater siege “freedom fighters” might beg to differ).

      Incidentally, the Russian liberals had been ridiculing the Kremlin’s claims of the spy rock. I would venture that Oborne’s real angst stems from his heroes Latynina and Parkhomenko having been revealed as complicit liars in league with MI6, or – under the most generous interpretation – simply naive idiots with kneejerk pro-foreigner attitudes.

      I don’t really care to unpick the rest of Oborne’s propaganda, except to note the results of Litvinenko’s autopsy report have been sealed both from the public and from Russian investigators. And the Brits demand Russia hand over Lugovoi with no evidence. Do they think it’s the 1880’s and that Russia is their colony? But incidentally, this attitude does have antecedents; namely, sealing up the autopsy report on David Kelly for 70 years. Perhaps DT readers would be better served demanding the heroic journalist Oborne investigate that, as opposed to castigating those who shed a light on secret service activity from his comfortable perch.

      • marknesop says:

        “I would venture that Oborne’s real angst stems from his heroes Latynina and Parkhomenko having been revealed as complicit liars in league with MI6, or – under the most generous interpretation – simply naive idiots with kneejerk pro-foreigner attitudes.”

        Beautiful. I stood up and saluted.

      • yalensis says:

        On the topic of dishonest journalists, here is imperialist stooge Robert Mackey of the New York Times attempting to do a hatchet job on Lizzie Phelan, who occasionally works as a stringer for “Russia Today”.
        Lizzie was the only Western journalist who told the truth while reporting on Libya War (instead of the bullshit lies and NATO propaganda the rest of ‘em were spewing). She is currently reporting on Syria, also going againt the prevailing narrative carried out by the small army of Western hacks who are promoting still another genocidal war. Her truth-telling has incited the pack of journalistic jackals to try to take her down.

        ROBERT MACKEY: Since you have appeared on Press TV and Russia Today, as well as Syria state television, do you have any concern that you might seem to be endorsing the governments that finance those channels, or do you see your role more as that of an activist, opposing the policies of the US and UK, than as a neutral reporter?

        LIZZIE PHELAN: This question in itself is a very deceitful and loaded question, and it is taken out of all context. It implies that BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera etc and the journalists who work for those organisations are independent from their financiers. If I worked for BBC does that mean that I am endorsing the British government which funds it and that government’s centuries long and present abuses across the world?
        Why is the NYT concerned about my work for Russia Today and Press TV?
        I challenge you to find me specific examples of journalists that work for these organisations that have engaged in bad journalistic practise. Why are you not concerned about j-ournalists who work for Al Jazeera that is funded by and reflects the foreign policy of the Qatari emir and royal family. Al Jazeera has been proven many times over in the past few months to have published false reports about events in the region, not least Libya.

        How can their journalists be neutral when their employer hosts the largest US military base in the region, and has been responsible for sending thousands of fighters, weapons and a lot of money to kill and destroy in Libya and is now doing the same in Syria in addition to having called for Arab troops to invade the country. Likewise, I have yet to hear the NYT question the “neutrality” of journalists who work with the British state funded BBC, or journalists who work for the Murdoch Press which is well documented to have strong connections with all the major western powers which are responsible f*or the greatest violations of international law.
        So the question should start from the premise that no news organisations are neutral, and each represent a certain ideology. So if you ask me if I feel more at peace working for news channels which reflect the ideology of states that are defending themselves from constant attack by the west, that is an ideology that opposes foreign interference in their affairs and promotes their own independence, or would I feel more comfortable working for media organisations that reflect the arrogant ideology that western civilisation is superior and should be imposed across the world by any means necessary, then I think any person with the slightest understanding of global politics and at least recent history would say the former.

        An additional deception in this question is that there is such a thing as neutrality and that journalists are able to separate their own beliefs in what they choose to cover and how they cover it, or indeed the pretence that journalists do not hold an opinion.

        As I said, I am not concerned about others perceptions of these things, because anyone who perceives that because I have worked for Russia Today or Press TV it means that I am in someone’s pocket, whereas if I was working for a western organisation I would be “neutral,” is deceiving themselves and choosing to look at a tiny portion of a whole picture.
        Incidentally, when I was stuck in the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli with those 35 other journalists, one of the days, two American journalists rushed into the hotel and swiftly exited when they realised that the hotel was being defended by Gaddafi supporters. Actually one of the two in particular was worried about the Gaddafi supporters harming him, but they requested that they just leave. Why was he so worried? Because he said he was related to somebody senior in the NTC no less. I have never seen his neutrality being called into question by the mainstream media.


        http://libyasos.blogspot.com/2012/02/duel-lizzie-phelan-against-nyt-over.html

        • Dear Yalensis,

          Good for Lizzie Phelan!

          I suppose the BBC’s mistake is that it has failed to understand that Putin is actually Sauron the Great or at the very least Dr. Julius No.

          By the way on the subject of British media criticism of the BBC my overwhelming feeling is one of deja vu. I remember how back in 1980 on the eve of the Moscow Olympics BBC TV had the temerity to run a Russian language teaching programme. This included (as do all such programmes) a television play set in Moscow of quite mind crushing banality. Its title was “Goodbye Summer”, which says it all. Needless to say our great media Guardians of Truth rounded on the BBC for broadcasting Soviet propaganda.

          Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

        • marknesop says:

          Wow. Thanks for that glimpse of integrity. I had heard of Lizzie Phelan before; if I’m not mistaken, I saw a link to a site of hers on Democratist’s home page (he has started up his site again, by the way, after somewhat of a hiatus in which none of the posts could be accessed). I assumed she must be some democracy activist, which is not necessarily a criticism. Anyway, the site was a dead link or contained only very dated material, I forget. But this – this is inspirational. There’s something about it of epiphany, like when you feel you’ve been hitting all around the point forever, but somebody just expressed it in terms that stun you with their simplicity and directness.

          None of what she said should imply RT is not partisan, because of course it is, and like every news source, it spins the narrative so as to make the facts favour a certain conclusion. So far as I’ve seen, they do not simply make up the facts, which makes them no worse than any and better than some, but all news sources attempt to get out in front of the story and present it in a way that makes the reader either cheer or hiss in disgust, by appealing to basic emotions. Lizzie Phelan (who made me an instant fan) took the battle to Mackey without hesitation by correctly identifying his have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife question as a personal slur on her integrity, which it certainly was as well as a right-off-the-mark attempt to characterize all her reporting as originating either with a paid shill for the enemy or a wild-eyed democracy-hating activist. What had the flavour of epiphany for me was her question, does reporting for the BBC make me a shill for the British government? And of course the answer is, not necessarily.

          That kind of moral conviction and personal courage is sadly lacking in what passes for modern journalism. If all her stuff is like that, sign me up.

          • yalensis says:

            Lizzie has become a hero and legend among those who opposed NATO’s war against Libya. When NATO intevention was just starting, she was the one who exposed Al Jazeera’s lies about Gaddafi soldiers employing mass rape as a weapon of war against the Rebels. (As a matter of fact, as everybody knows now, it was the Rebels who employed and continue to employ rape on a mass scale, against pro-Gaddafi women, and especially against ethnic African women. Recently, some NTC officials ordered rebel militia captains to make their men delete rape scenes from their cellphone cameras instead of uploading them to you-tube so they could share the crimes with their friends.)
            Anyhow, Lizzie was in Libya almost right up to the end, exposing NATO lies and propaganda the whole time. Now she is in Syria, reporting on the situation there and blogging on Middle Eastern issues. She is one brave Irish lassie….

            • yalensis says:

              Latest from Lizzie Phelan: She is is reporting on ethnic cleansing in the refugee camp Janzour, near Tripoli, Libya. The new series of attacks started yesterday, carried out by Misurata rebel brigades. The Tawerghan people stuck in the Jansour refugee camp do not have any weapons and are not able to defend themselves against these armed militias.
              Reports of known deaths from yesterday include 11-year-old Hanin Saleh Aghiella and 22-year-old Nuraideen Belaid A’alghemati.
              Recall that before the war Tawergha was a flourishing “bedroom community” town consisting of as many as 30,000 men, women and children, mostly ethnic Africans, who worked as migrant labor for the Libyan government. Victory of NATO/Al Qaeda rebels led to immediate slaughter of as many as 10,000 of these people and the burning and destruction of the entire town. Some of the survivors may have escaped to sub-Saharan Africa, but most were dispersed into refugee camps, such as this one in Tripoli. Refugees are under continuous attack at the hands of the Misurata militias: refugees are murdered and beaten indiscrimately; women and girls are the targets of rape squads. Out of the original population of 30,000 Tawerghans, there could be as few as just a couple of thousand left alive now, and the Misurata militias will clearly not cease these pogroms until every last Tawerghan is dead.
              This is still happening right now:

  5. Ronny says:

    Mark, I’m going to have to disagree. You mention the flawed TI survey, combine it with instances of Western corruption, and then rationalize away a lot of the Russian corruption problem as a legacy from the 90s. Calling the West out on its hypocrisy is perfectly valid (not to mention refreshing), but shifting the blame on the West doesn’t absolve Russia of the issue. It should be pointed out that the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs recently noted that the size of the average commercial bribe increased in the last year more than three-and-a-half fold to 236,000 rubles – about US$7,800. See http://www.mvd.ru/news/show_101260. Even if this “corruption complex” is partly based on perceived, rather than real, experience, the fact remains that the problem exists and is hardly going away.

    • marknesop says:

      My intention was never to deny that Russia has a problem – only to point out that Russia candidly admits at the highest levels that it has a problem, and receives only scorn and ridicule for doing so. Other countries deny they have a problem, are allowed to get away with it, and Transparency International gives them political and economic cover by fudging their scores. Conversely, instead of rewarding Russia for admitting its shortcomings and vowing to do better – a perfectly acceptable substitute everywhere else for actually doing something – TI kicks the props out from under Russia and those who loathe it quote the plummeting score as substantiation for their urging investors not to venture their investments in Russia.

      • Dear Mark,

        I agree with all of this. As for Russia being rewarded for admitting its shortcomings, that has never happened in my lifetime and I expect to be long in the grave before it does. What happens instead is that Russia’s western critics seize on such admissions as “proof” that Russia is the terrible country they always say it is. Having said this it is definitely better that Russians should be open with themselves about their own shortcomings whatever advantage others take of this. The mistake when doing this is to neglect the positive, This is the mistake people like Medvedev and Shuvalov make and Anatoly is absolutely right to criticise them for it.

        • It’s not even that I’m criticizing them for but for focusing on the negative IN FRONT OF FOREIGNERS. No normal country does that.

          They are supposed to sell their country (in the good sense of the word). Sell sell sell, even if its counterfeit crap. But many of them seem to have a truly weird obsession with honesty and self-criticism.

          The results are as bad as they are predictable. If a country’s own representatives diss it (Shuvalov at Davos: “The system is protecting its own”; Medvedev at St-Petersburg international economic forum: “Our slow growth hides stagnation”) then why should a foreigner invest in it of all places??

    • There have been continuous stories of the average bribe size going way up and up since about 2009.

      It has been almost uniformly interpreted in a bad light because the responsible analysts don’t bother to think beyond the sound bite and think things through. What does it actually mean for the average bribe size to go up? It means that the practice is becoming riskier (so people no longer bother with smaller sums), and/or that investigations are moving higher up the economic food chain.

      Whichever explanation is correct, a larger average bribe size is almost certainly a good development.

      • Alex says:

        I can also suggest to report Russian bribes in CPI-adjusted and maybe also GDP/Gini -corrected.form 🙂

        Mark – thanks for the references to UK, Germany and Greece in your post – quite a solid set – just in time for me . It is a pity, though, that proving that corruption in Russia is comparable with that in the “west” is not going to reduce it.

        • marknesop says:

          Hi, Alex! I have to stress here that the purpose was not to imply that proof corruption exists elsewhere automatically renders corruption benign in Russia. Rather, it was to highlight that other countries hide their corruption problems rather than admitting them as Russia does, and that Transparency International and other democracy advocacy agencies assist them in this by keeping up a constant gong-beating about Russia’s rampant corruption – exaggerating it, if anything – and by consistently rating those countries high on the corruption-free scale because they take the trouble to keep it under wraps and do not force TI to acknowledge it.

          The post started from a vague ideal and sort of gathered steam as more information came to light; if anyone had suggested to me last week that Germany – for example – was riddled with corruption, I would have laughed. I’m an admirer of modern Germany’s rigid discipline and fierce nationalism (by which I mean a pro-German attitude, not a suggestion that everyone else is inferior and should be destroyed; I tend to equate nationalism with patriotism rather than racism, although it certainly can mean the latter), and the pervasiveness of corruption in Germany was as much a surprise to me as to anyone else. I remember hearing about the Siemens affair simply because it stood out; it was a huge fine, and reporting of it was hard to miss. But it was barely a blip on the radar, and reporting let it die quickly rather than hammering on it as symptomatic of a culture of corruption, or like constant shouting that Putin owns half (or more) of Gunvor in the face of no evidence whatsoever that it is so.

          Siemens peccadillo is not viewed in the context of a national weakness or embarrassment; it does not suggest all of Germany is secretly either involved in this scandal or tacitly supports it because “that’s just the way things are”, and Germans are allowed to be viewed as separate and distinct from it.

          Russians are not. Western reporting on corruption in Russia militantly insists that Russians are either involved themselves in bribery and graft or are victims of it and crying out for relief. It casts the Russian people as either begging the government to become more western (cough, liberals, cough) in its dealings – thereby implying the west is basically honest and comparatively free of corruption – or as unshaven brutes pausing for a moment from beating up old ladies in order to steal their few rubles to squall that the west should mind its own business and leave a perfectly lucrative arrangement alone.

          Although it’d be too large a discussion to open other than in a separate post, I’m sure I could find instances in which Russia has candidly stipulated to having a corruption problem and has officially solicited the west’s help in eradicating it, provided the assistance does not come in the form of attempts to undermine the government. I am much less confident that I could find examples of the west proactively doing as it was asked rather than heaping scorn and derision on Russia.

  6. cartman says:

    The last thread is too long to reply to, so I will put this here (and it is kind of relevant). Since the Rose Revolution the prison population of Georgia has tripled, and is now one of the highest per capita in the world:

    http://www.prisonstudies.org/info/worldbrief/wpb_country.php?country=122

    From the same site, I notice the foreign prison population of Estonia is a whopping 39.4%. The country has similar citizenship laws to Latvia, which is only at 1.1%. I wonder what is going on there.

    • cartman says:

      Russia’s is actually 534 now. The most interesting thing is that between 2010 and 2011, 100,000 prisoners were released from the RF prison system and the prison population is the lowest since the early 90s. The trend had been going down, but that it its biggest release since around the time Putin took over.

      Georgia is higher at 539 prisoners per 100,000 people, and the trend is that it is increasing.

      • yalensis says:

        Interesting. Maybe these newly-“democratized” countries are following the American model of privatizing prisons and turning them into profit-making gulags. There is a lot of $$$ to be made (or rather, shifted from taxpayers to private companies) in prison security and even such mundane services as cafeteria dining, laundry, cleaning, etc. So, you get to target social undesirables (in America this is mostly black men on drug-related issues), put them away for a long time, and make a tidy profit from their suffering. A win/win situation for the ruling class!

  7. Hunter says:

    Mark, in addition the CPI having negative effects on Russia in potential terms for investment it also has negative effects even on it’s credit rating when attempts are made to do transparent credit rating. Over at AK’s blog (http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/2011/07/30/us-debt-crisis-discussion/) I posted some links for a credit rating method I read through a post on ZeroHedge: the “Sovereign Wikirating Index” (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-aaa-rating-or-not-crowd-sourced-wikirating-values-your-input). Using the SWI (http://www.wikirating.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_credit_rating_(SWI) , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikirating , http://www.wikirating.org/wiki/Sovereign_Wikirating_Index , http://www.wikirating.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_credit_rating_-_comparisons ) a lot of the standard ratings by western agencies seems to be off “just a tad”, so to speak. Using the SWI we get only two countries with Triple-A ratings (Hong Kong and Luxembourg) but the rest of the ratings look like this:

    Australia – AA+
    Switzerland – AA-
    China – A
    Czech Republic – BBB+
    Russia – BBB
    United States – BBB-
    Poland – BBB-
    Germany – BB+
    Canada – BB
    UK – BB
    France – BB-
    Portugal – B
    Italy – B
    Greece – B-

    The SWI is supposed to have an open and transparent method for calculating credit ratings (you can download it in excel and suggest changes on the website, etc) based off “Public debt, Account balance, GDP growth rate, Inflation rate and Unemployment rate” all adjusted by multiplying it with a “scaling factor”, which is composed by the Human Development Index, the Corruption Perceptions Index and the Political Instability Index.

    AK didn’t think that the use of the CPI in the scaling factor would have much effect on the overall ratings, but I substituted his corruption index values for the CPI values where possible and got the following ratings instead:

    Hong Kong – AAA
    Australia – AA+
    Luxembourg – AA+
    Switzerland – AA-
    China – A+
    Russia – A-
    Czech Republic – A-
    Poland – BBB
    United States – BBB
    Germany – BBB-
    UK – BB
    Canada – BB
    France – BB-
    Portugal – B+
    Italy – B
    Greece – B-

    So it seems even in honest attempts at looking at some countries objectively the problems are just compounded by biased/subjective indices and information out there.

    • marknesop says:

      That’s very interesting; it would certainly alter a few perceptions if the rating system worked that way. I agree with Hong Kong at the top – fabulous place, very wealthy and safe in my experience. You have to be a millionaire to live there, though, unless you’re comfortable in about 400 square feet of living space, and that will likely be in Kowloon. Hotels, though, are surprisingly affordable.

      The CPI appears to be formulated to give certain western countries a feelgood factor and something to brag about. I don’t believe the countries referred (France, Germany and the UK) are irredeemably corrupt based on the examples given; overall, they’re prosperous and safe places to do business, and the cases cited are aberrations. But the same is true of Russia; although its business practices need overhauling and it’s not as safe as, say, Germany, the difference is not equitable with that between 7 or 8 and 150 something on the CPI. It should also not come as a surprise that the CPI score assists certain countries in securing foreign investment while spoiling the same for certain others.

      I maintain Russia would be wise to limit its dealings with the west and concentrate on the Asian market, strengthening its ties and business connections with China – who has most of the west’s money anyway – and relationships with Europe driven on a strictly Russian-advantage basis. If they don’t like it, let them take out a second mortgage to fill their gas tank. But stop trying to be pals – it will never work.

  8. Moscow Exile says:

    I checked out the Fraser Cameron EU-Russia site a couple of days back and found this comment:

    “Let’s see what happens this weekend. The regime is clearly rattled – the closing of Revolution Square for “drainage repairs”, flooding Moscow with troops including the Dzerzhinsky regiment, and the rumours the armed forces will be brought up from Chechnya.”

    I responded by querying the opinion that the “regime is rattled”; by asking what the Revolutionary Square closing had to do with today’s rally on Bolotnaya Square; by asking if the commenter had seen these troops that are flooding Moscow, since I as a Moscow resident certainly hadn’t to date; by aking what are the sources of the commenter’s information concerning movements of Russian army forces from the Chechen Republic; and, finally, by asking for more details concerning this “Derzhinsky regiment”, adding that the only such regiment that I know off was the Felix Dzerzhinsky Guards Regiment of the German Democratic Republic that ceased to exist over 22 years ago.

    My comment was almost immediately deleted, there remaining now on the EU-Russia site only that comment quoted above whose content I had queried.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, I love that “the regime is clearly rattled” giddy excitement. How, pray, would it be discerned that the regime was “rattled”?? By its complete indifference to the protests? Yes, that was a dead giveaway, wasn’t it?

      Here’s another comment that reflects the abysmal ignorance typical of the genre – here’s “shay from the USA” on RFE/RL’s “The Power Vertical”, commenting on “The Medvedev Legacy”.

      “I disagree, I believe Putin to be a supremely evil individual, one who’s restraint has been determined by more powerful forces in the West where Putin and his cronies sell Russia’s extracted wealth and stash their ill-gotten gains. The only reason Putin hasn’t slaughtered 500,000 civilians is because its consequence in this globalized era is that the West would be forced to remove him. But have you overlooked the tens of thousands of innocent civilians who were slaughtered in the second Chechen war, which materialized as a vanity project in order to propel Putin into the presidency on the back of his tough-guy persona? And what about the unresolved murder of 300 Moscow citizens in their bombed high rise apartments in 1999 which advanced the appetite for war, and the Ryazan cover-up which pointed the finger of guilt at Putin’s FSB? What do you know of the occupants of Dagestani and Inghusetian refugee camps? What about the captives at the Moscow theatre or the school in Beslan who were needlessly sacrificed to Putin’s brute force when he refused to allow impartial negotiations to continue The KGB mindset has always been that the lives of individual citizens are expendable for the greater good of the Kremlin elite, and is not such a mindset in itself evil? What about the murder of Putin’s critics, namely Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, Markelov and Estemirova to name but a few, and the elimination of Sergei Magnitsky because his stand against corruption posed a threat to the foundations and corrupt methods behind Putin’s Power Vertical? I do not agree that Putin can retreat to a mansion somewhere in the democratic west, because he will ultimately be held accountable by his legitimate successors when democracy does arrive in Russia. Sometimes I suspect that Putin’s apologists in the west are more inspired by Russia’s low corporate tax rates and by the prospect of acquiring/laundering the Siloviki’s ill-gotten gains.”

      I started pecking out a rebuttal, but I thought, why bother? The smug, self-satisfied, ignorant blockheads of the world are never going to change their minds, and they believe they know it all. It would take all day to address each individual falsehood, there are so many, and then it’d take another day for the moderator to post it if he chose. I was told to watch my adversarial tone once before or I wouldn’t be allowed to comment there any more because I suggested another commenter had a pointed head. Today I notice a commenter said, “You suck oil from the Arabs” and his adversary replied, “you suck a lot worse than that” – apparently posted without any guidance from Mr. Whitmore. A reasoned and substantiated argument is never welcomed when it contradicts the popular view.

    • Yes, for people who so worship free speech and democratism, these people sure censor a lot. Weird huh?

      Case in point: The Guardianistas. See any Comment is Free article on Russian politics and chances are it will be riddled with comments deleted for violating their community code of conduct.

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    Something strange is afoot! I have just checked the reactionary online British “Daily Telegraph” and there is absolutely no mention in it of today’s rally in Moscow. At present that paper seems more interested in “Wills’s” (Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge) token posting to the Falkland Islands (the usual rabid Telegraph commentors look forward to his “kicking some Argentine arse”; he’ll have to get cracking if he wishes to do so so, as he’ll only be there for 6 weeks – postings there are usually for at least 6 months) and the “Siberian” weather conditions (minus 1C/30F in London) that the UK faces this weekend. This I find strange because during the previous “opposition” rally the Telegraph Moscow correspondents gave an “as-it-happens”, blow-by-blow report of events from the very beginning to the very end. Granted the time in the UK as I now (10:45) write in Moscow is 06:45, but the Moscow demonstrators will already be gathering. Perhaps the minus 19C (minus 2F) temperature here has made the Telegraph correspondents feel rather indisposed to standing on Bolotnaya all day.

  10. Moscow Exile says:

    The same holds true for the Lebedev owned London “The Independent”: absolutely no mention whatsoever concerning today’s rally in Moscow, whereas in December there was a frenzy of reporting from the Telegraph and Independent concerning the impending overthrow of the Evil Sauron. The latest news emanating fom the Independent’s Shawn Walker concerning Russian events is about Litvenenko’s father’s plea to return from his self-imposed exile in Italy (Putin wanted to kill him, you see) and his condemnation of his son for being a traitor. This gave Walker the opportunity to regurgitate the Litvinenko case, allowing commentators to give vent to their spleen in their accusing Putin of being a KGB murderer. Interestingly, it was the Independent’s Mary Dejevsky who gave the only balanced appraisal of the Litvinenko case that I have read in the British news media.

    • Funny and ironic as it is but the Independent seems to be the least Russia hostile of all the major British papers (The Grawnian, Telegraph, and Daily Fail).

      The Times used to be fairly good until they killed themselves off with their paywall, after which everyone stopped reading them.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        I agree. As regards reports about Russia, The Independent is the least worse of a bad bunch. But Shawn Walker of the Independent really does, in my opinion, seem mostly to concentrate on the negative aspects of Russian politics and society. Mary Dejevsky, on the other hand, used to give a more balanced view of matters Russian. The last Russian article that she wrote was of changes that had occured since she was Russian correspondent for The Independent. And she purposely chose to visit provincial Russsia in order to make her observations. I can’t remember now whether it was Tula or Serpukhov that she visited, but in any case, her observations were mostly positive. Of course, there was a comments section to this Dejevsky article and the usual troll contributions therein, saying that such a positive article was only to be expected as The Independent was owned by a former-KGB oligarch and that Dejevsky had a “Russian” name. I found that criticism of Dejevsky rather funny. I don’t recall the British bourgeoisie holding Peter Ustinov in contempt because of his family name.

    • yalensis says:

      Yeah, I read somewhere that Litvinenko Elder turned on his dead son and accused him of treason. Never since the Golovyovs has Russia seen such a dysfunctinal family!

  11. Moscow Exile says:

    At last! Found a mention in The Independent of today’s Moscow rally. Shawn walker writes:

    “The turnout at today’s rally, the first since the long new year holidays, will be a good indication of whether the movement that brought tens of thousands out on the streets in December was a flash in the pan, or the start of a sustained challenged to Vladimir Putin.”

    And that comment is buried at the bottom of a long article that he has written about Doku Umarov’s calling a halt to attacks on civilians in Russia while anti-government protests continue.

    Walker reports:

    “His announcement came on the eve of another large-scale protest in Moscow, planned for this afternoon.”

    Will it be a “flash in the pan” queries Walker. Seems that some in the West might be thinking that the regime is not so rattled after all, despite all attempts at making out that that is the case.

    • yalensis says:

      I also saw the bit about Doku Umarov calling off terrorist attacks on Russian civilians. Doku, who is a paid agent of the Britsh secret service, reasons cynically as follows: When majority of Russian people supported Putin, they were fair game for murderous attacks. However, now that we “know” that most Russians loathe Putin, we’ll ease up on them. Killng them will only turn them back towards the government. Everything that Doku says and does is plotted in London.

  12. Moscow Exile says:

    An article about the Moscow demonstration has now appeared in the UK “Daily telegraph” and it’s very subdued. Looks like the attendance is not going to be as great as the organizers and the Western pundits had hoped – so they’re already beginning to blame the weather. (Minus 22C now at 14:00 in Moscow) The last organization that failed to overthrow the Moscow regime and blamed a large part of its failure on adverse weather conditions was, if I rightly remember, the Third Reich.

  13. So, should we begin to discuss how many people turned out at: For Fair Elections @ Bolotnaya (general opposition); Anti-Orange Front @ Poklonnaya (pro-Putin); Pushkin Square (LDPR); Prospekt Sakharova (liberals)?

    My preliminary impression is that there were 50,000-70,000 at both Bolotnaya and Poklonnaya. The former was more crowded, but the latter covered a larger space.

    I noted with amusement Chirikova saying that not only Moscow was protesting but also Berlin, Paris, London, New York, and half a dozen other cities. Way to go liberals! But I think we already got it, all the foreigners support you.😉

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Ryzhkov made the same claim as well! I’ve searched high and low for evidence of this claim but have so far found none. I have just been watching the Russian TV channel Rossiya24 which has been showing lengthy coverage of the meetings at both Bolotnaya Sq. and Poklonnaya Gora. Fom the aerial shots shown, I should say that there were at least as many at Poklonnaya as there were at Bolotnaya, probably more. I suspect that this figure of 120,000 that the “opposition” is bandying around, and which is now being gleefully reported in the British news media, is based on Facebook confirmations of intent to attend, which confirmations they were crowing about yesterday. I noted that the speakers at Poklonnaya repeatedly attacked the US Global Empire and its machinations in fomenting colour revolutions and also Russian ultra nationalists, warning that they would have Russians fighting against Khazaks, Tatars etc. One speaker at Poklonnaya called out “Slava Rossiyanam!” (Glory to Russian citizens), whereas at Bolotnaya, I should think, that wouldn’t have gone down too well with many; indeed, at Bolotnaya Prokhorov called out to loud cheers “Slava Rossii!” (Glory to Russia). Another thing: I got the feeling that those that attended the Poklonnaya meeting were mostly working class. Of course, there were working class Muscovites at Bolotnaya, but I didn’t see much evidence of Muscovite Yuppies at Poklonnaya.

  14. yalensis says:

    ROSBALT reports on all the various protests du jour , including the pro-government one on “Poklonnaya Gora” in the center of Moscow.
    Speakers at the pro-Putin rally included legendary figure skating coach Tatyana Tarasova .
    Speaking of figure skating, looks like Russia has finally turned things around after years of decline in this sport. At the Junior Grand Prix finals Russia did very well. BTW, these are the younger skaters who will come of age just in time for Sochi Winter Olympics. Final results showing Russia ranked first of the nations, winning 30 medals, including 12 Gold. In the category of Junior Ladies individual freestyle skating, Russia swept the podium, with rising superstar Julia Lipnitskaya taking the Gold, Polina Shelepen the Silver, and Polina Korobeynikova the Bronze. Russia similarly cleaned up in the Ice Dancing finals. Very promising news for Russian sports!

  15. Moscow Exile says:

    BBC World Service TV actually has a man on the street there at Bolotnaya and he’s been reporting on the hour that the demonstration had been more of a protest march than an assembly on the square, as, after having reached Bolotnaya, the protesters were very soon told to go home and get warm. (The March started at Oktyabrskaya and, judging by the shots the BBC gave, I reckon they simply marched from there straight down the Prechistenskaya Embankment to the Great Stone Bridge at Borovitskaya, where they crossed the river to get to Bolotonya Square – so they didn’t march “through” Moscow, as he reports.) He and the BBC in London report the organizers’ claim that 120,000 took part in the demonstration, but the man in Moscow says that that figure is hard to believe and estimates that about the same number attended as did on 24th December. The BBC reporter in Moscow also mentions sizable pro-Putin meetings that have also taken place today, but adds that there are reports that some of those that attended had been instructed to do so and had been transported there.

    The British Daily Telegraph, I am sure, had nobody there and they’re just reporting agency bulletins. The photograph in the Telegraph that appears with their meagre report of events in Moscow is even one that was taken last December. Nothing at all in the British Independent. Don’t know about the Guardian: I no longer look at that rag. Don’t know what their chief plagiarist has to say about the demonstration.

    • marknesop says:

      The suggestion that those who come out for Putin were ordered or paid to attend and were given free government transportation is sort of a knee-jerk obligatory add-on to every such report, much like the “how much is the FSB paying you?” that you often receive as a response in comment threads at blogs like La Russophobe or The Power Vertical if your comment differs from the “kill the savage barbarian Russian pigs” fodder the ignorant use as a badge of recognition.

      Most of that lot still think it’s the Cold War and that Russia is building an ever-bigger military to enslave lovers of freedom, interspersed with government meetings in smoke-filled rooms where they all get roaring drunk on popskull vodka and dream of Communist conquest. Russia is actually doing other countries like Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia a favour, because those kind of people always need someone to hate.

      And journalists are happy to cater to that limbic emotion. It’s much easier than doing research and understanding complicated power dynamics. Also, if Nabvalny wasn’t there the western networks are just going through the motions. Protest events are just another roadside attraction without The New Solzhenitsyn, Dissident Of The Century.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Yet it’s never suggested by the Western media that those who demonstrate for causes supported by the West may also have received compensation. When Khodorkovsky was last on trial in Moscow, no Western journalist ever commented on the fact that a very large number of the demonstrators that regularly assembled outside the courthouse appeared to be elderly women, each clutching well-made placards bearing a blown-up, high quality, glossy photograph of that victimised humanitarian fighter for freedom and democracy. Why did so many Moscow pensioners, most of whom very likely being widows, have such strong feelings about Khodorkovsky’s fate? Why had they cobbled their meagre pensions together so as to have so many impressive placards manufactured? Greater love hath such an impoverished section of society never before shown for an imprisoned oligarch!

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, someone else mentioned that, on the occasion of Mr. Khodorkovsky’s second semester at the School of Hard Knocks – I think it might have been Anatoly. And in fact the aforementioned glossy posters (which, if I recall correctly although I never saw any, were described as having Putin and Medvedev whispering together in the background with a gentle-looking, subdued Brooks-Brothers-Ghandi Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the foreground, were available and in evidence as from the moment sentence was passed. So, obviously, they were already in waiting before that. How much would you like to bet there was an alternative poster that showed something like Khodorkovsky with his hands clasped above his head in victory and some appropriate slogan about the triumph of justice, in case the verdict went the other way, ready to go?

  16. Moscow Exile says:

    Word’s going round that there was only one arrest today – that of the organizer of the Poklonnaya meeting because the number that attended had surpassed the limit set by he cops. Putin, who is on ministerial business in the Urals, has promised to pay the fine.

  17. I have been away in Oxford so I missed today’s fun and games. Thanks to everybody on this blog for an excellent commentary that has filled me in with what happened.

    It seems that there were two rival demos with the pro Putin demo possibly (and according to the police definitely) bigger than the anti Putin demo. Moreover it seems that the anti Putin demo was no bigger than the demo on 24th December 2011 even according to its own organisers and the sympathetic media in the west. Even allowing for the cold weather this suggests that the protest movement is dead in the water and is going nowhere. Navalny’s prophecy at the demo on 24th December 2011 that the next demo would be a million strong has been exposed as nonsense though needless to say no one is going to remind him of it.

    All this coupled with the steady increase in Putin’s poll rating and the rally a few days ago in Yekaterinburg strengthens a feeling I have had for some time that a backlash is now building up. If so then this is entirely predictable given the juvenile tactics of the protesters and their failure to come up with a convincing programme or to unite behind a single candidate in the forthcoming Presidential election. If I am right about this then there is a strong chance that what the protests will end up doing is to increase the size of Putin’s majority.

    I am going to make one further observation, which is that if anyone has reason to be concerned at the moment that person is not Putin but Zyuganov. If a backlash is indeed building up then it is almost certainly drawing in many people who might otherwise have voted for Zyuganov. This was very obvious at the rally in Yekaterinburg where I think I am right in saying that the KPRF in the parliamentary elections did well and where the people who turned out for the pro Putin rally are precisely the sort of industrial workers who one would normally expect to support the KPRF. I strongly suspect that there are quite a few folk out there who voted for the KPRF in December and who might have voted for Zyuganov in March but who do not look kindly on the KPRF joining protests led by liberal “bourgeois” politicians like Ryzhkov and Nemtsov not mention Kudrin and Prokhorov.

    Lastly, I would again say (and here I accept that the one opinion poll I have seen does not bear out this impression) that it again seems to me that a large proportion of the anti Putin demo consisted of young people, many of whom are or have recently been university students and that this explains the loud cheers for people like Udaltsov, who as is the case with ultra leftists everywhere in the world find most of their (very limited) support amongst the more radical sections of the student community and of the urban youth.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks for your perceptive comments, Alexander. I think you are exactly right about the KPRF: They looked to be on a rising political tide, but they totally screwed themselves in the rear end (as usual) by joining the rotten Popular Front with the Orange Opposition. That, plus their pilgrimage to the U.S. embassy, made them appear to be unpatriotic.
      I think you are also right that the Orange movement has crested. In retrospect, Putin has played his cards exactly right, even though some of the things he said made people wince at the time. Even his sly dig at Akunin’s Gruzian ethnicity brought into relief the fact that major opposition figures such as Akunin and Shevchuk basically supported Saakashvili’s side during 2008 war. (Well, not in so many words: Akunin made a mealy-mouthed statement that “both sides were to blame for the war”, whereas Shevchuk, at the moment the Russian army started winning, suddenly turned pacifist and called on Russian soldiers to “Don’t shoot”.) In his own sly sarcastic way, without being self-righteous or bombastic, and without tossing anybody in jail, Putin helped to educate the average Russian exactly how unpatriotic these oppositionists truly are. Thus making it a foregone conclusion that they will never come to power without the assistance of NATO bombs.

      • marknesop says:

        Don’t be too quick to write off the protest “movement”. Having once aroused the west’s interest, it will not be so easily abandoned. True, the Dissent Of A Million Muscovites fell far short, but its supporters quickly blamed it on the cold. So they will have no such excuse in March, and I am expecting a full-court press. I’m also looking for a last-minute manufactured scandal involving Putin, when its too late for voters to verify its origin or provenance but before the vote, so that they go to the polls with it in the front of their minds – in the hope that it will turn voters against him. The west seems to have dropped its onetime hallucination that Putin is going to be overthrown ( speaking of that, I saw a brilliant poll on “The Other Russia”: “Boris Nemtsov has said either Putin will die first, or Russia will: Do you think, 1. Russia will die first, (2) Putin will die first, or (3) Host and Parasite will go down together.” Too funny for words: not only for the depth of Nemtsov’s philosophizing – either something will happen or something else will happen – but because voters are allowed no choice but condemning Russia and Putin; “Boris Nemtsov is full of shit” is not an electable option) in favour of hopes that his government can be sufficiently weakened that he will have to coalition-shop in order to get major legislation passed, and therefore liberal elements could still play a role by putting stumbling-blocks in his way.

        The nuts are just keeping their powder dry for a later reckoning. I wouldn’t be surprised if Navalny was warned off of this one, so as not to taint his charisma and mystique with failure.

        • kievite says:

          Compare with

          • yalensis says:

            Agee passed away before he was able to see what CIA and NATO did to Libya this past year. But I don’t think he would have been at all surprised. Agee always hammered on the fact that the game was all about stealing the natural resources of other nations. Most recently the biggest news coming out of Libya is that milions of dollars worth of oil seem to have vanished without a trace in the accounting ledgers of the NOC (National Oil Company). Most likely the oil was illegally refined on the spot then shipped away on French tankers. In addition, there are hundreds of billions of dollars of Libyan sovereign wealth (in pure cash and gold) which seem to have vanished into thin air (or most likely European banks).

  18. kievite says:

    Poklonny Hill meeting photos

    http://rostislavv.livejournal.com/

  19. Again, thanks for your kind words Yalensis.

    Also thanks to Moscow Exile for being the man on the spot.

    RIA Novosti (which is sympathetic to the protesters) has been showing a gallery of photographs of anti Putin protesters dressed up in all sorts of funny costumes. One has a hat that looks like a tank turret and another is dressed up like a horse. There are other photos of anti Putin protesters in costumes that are equally bizarre. All this is fine and good, politics should contain elements of humour and fun, but I have to say that it does give the anti Putin protest even more of the quality of a student prank. It is after all the government of their country that these people are supposed to be concerned about and this sort of exhibitionist behaviour is hardly going to encourage people to take them seriously.

    • yalensis says:

      Once again, it is all there in the OTPOR handbook: “People power” will triumph over tyranny using youthful humor and pranks. Encourage individual creativity in costumes and face-paint, everybody should be smiling and having a good time, etc etc. As Ebenezer Scrooge would say, “Bah humbug!” This Orangeoid bullshit is every bit as predictable as a bloody riot after Egyptian soccer match.

      • Which is surely one reason why the Orange movements never amount to anything. At the end of the day government is a serious business and anyone who approaches it in this sort of adolescent fashion approaches it in completely the wrong way. Just think of Saakashvili whose entire method of government at times resembles nothing so much as a succession of schoolboy pranks. That they end up killing people proves that Marx was right when he made the historical connection between tragedy and farce.

        • marknesop says:

          But Orange movements frequently serve their purpose – Saakashvili’s government is rated a great success by the west, because he is useful for provoking and, on a small scale, destabilizing Russia. His histrionic appearances and dramatic language frequently offer a stick to beat Russia with, and if the west could ever get control of that strategic area – as I’ve mentioned ad infinitum – pipelines could be routed that would offer the potential to cut both Iran and Russia out of the oil business where Europe is concerned. The west could not give a tin whistle whether Saakashvili improves the standard of living for his citizens or actually stamps out corruption as he frequently brags; nice to have, but not necessary.

          The west knows it is unlikely to be successful in eliminating Putin – therefore, what’s next best? Reducing the scope of his power. If he can be diminished, he has to negotiate with other parties and try to build coalitions to get anything done. The USA has refined the art of hobbling government and forcing it into gridlock through the use of spoilers and supermajorities until legislating grinds to a standstill. Liberals, or at least moderates, in the Duma could punch above their weight if Putin just were not so popular. Authoritarian government doesn’t scare western planners – they prefer it: look at Bush. Any legislation he didn’t like because it limited his absolute power, he amended with a “signing statement” which announced his attention to interpret it in the context of his power as the head of the unitary executive: to disregard as he saw fit, in short. He refused to be limited or controlled, and the corporate lobbyists just loved him. So did the press; criticizing him took the form of affectionate banter more often than not, and he responded with a folksy chuckle as he gutted the constitutional powers of Congress and the Senate.

          If Putin announced his intention to append signing statements to Russian law which allowed him to interpret the law in a manner convenient for him, the western pressrooms would be ankle-deep in foam. When Bush did it, it was just sort of cute to all but a few Democrats.

  20. Moscow Exile says:

    They’re pushing this 120,000 attendance figure in the UK newspapers. I have added to the Independent’s Shaun Walker article on yesterday’s meetings, saying that there were about 70,000 at Bolotnaya and at least as many and probably more at Poklonnaya. The comment was immediately flagged.

    • kievite says:

      That’s an important plan of the game plan to create an illusion that protests are growing and their social base is widening. This is extremely important for attracting currently neutral and those who always vote for the winner. Here is the quote from the reminiscence of an orange revolution participant:
      http://www.politonline.ru/ventilyator/10055.html#comments

      Add to that well-known property of the electorate, as Truffaldino from Bergamo, to be “always for those who win” (that’ why election campaigns are always accompanied by a “war of ratings,” in which each side argues that she is leading the race), and then, that many supporters of Yanukovych did not vote, knowing their farcical nature (and their “opponents” on the contrary — who do not want to feel like an accomplice of victory).

      In this sense Poklonny Hill rally success interferes with the their plans. So, facts be damned and liberasts media, including its flagman Gazeta.ru adheres to the predetermined line despite the facts:

      Despite the cold Moscow third campaign “For Fair Elections” – rally and march – broke the record in the Bolotnaya Square. area of meetings and Sakharov Avenue, gathering, according to organizers, 120,000 people, and to assess the police department – only 38,000. The next event is scheduled for February 26.

      What is strange is that this time NYT was not in line with British masters of disinformation:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/world/europe/tens-of-thousands-protest-putin-in-moscow-russia.html?_r=1&ref=europe

      The city’s authorities said the antigovernment crowd on Saturday was larger than at either of the two similar rallies in December, and they estimated that about 36,000 people where there. Organizers gave an estimate of 120,000.

      And NTY did mentioned Poklonny Hill Rally:

      Top officials were initially silent about the December protests, but on Saturday the government had taken an assertive approach, organizing pro-government demonstrations in several large cities as a counterweight.

      The police said the pro-government rally in Moscow drew 138,000 people, though journalists there said the number was greatly exaggerated. The nightly news featured the event as its lead story.

      Speakers condemned the antigovernment protesters, who were referred to at different points as “traitors” and “Bolotnaya snot,” after their gathering place at Bolotnaya Square. Participants carried signs reading “We don’t need an Arab Spring!” and “No to Orange Revolutions,” a reference to the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which is widely seen here as orchestrated by the United States.

      One speaker singled out the new American ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, who has been accused of coming to Russia to touch off a revolution.
      “We say no to the destruction of Russia,” Sergei Kurganyan, a political scientist, said from the stage. “We say no to the American Embassy, where these terribly degraded people turn for help. As soon as Michael McFaul arrived, they went there in an organized crowd, like cows to a watering place. We say to this: No, no, and again no!”

      At the same I would admin that globalists faction proved to be well organized, well entrenched and pretty powerful in Russia. As Zbigniew Brzezinski once said: national elite that keeps money in Western banks is no longer national elite … Sovereignty is a word that is used often but it has really no specific meaning. Sovereignty today is nominal. Any number of countries that are sovereign are sovereign only nominally and relatively.

  21. Moscow Exile says:

    Now the Independent is getting many complaints from Russian readers about the veracity of that paper’s statements as regards Saturday’s events (there’s even one from an “opposition” supporter), to which British (and notably one Australian) Cold War warriors are screaming “liar”, albeit that these Russophobes were not in Moscow on 4th February; I doubt that they have ever even once set foot in Russia. One claims in his racist slander against all Russians that those Russians that criticise the article are frightened of the FSB, that they cannot write the truth and – wait for it – that their English is bad. What obnoxious pieces of shit they are! I suppose their command of Russian is something awesome.

    • The irony is that most of the Russian commentators there came courtesy of the Inosmi translation. #russiahasnofreemedia

    • marknesop says:

      Further irony is offered by the curious fact that such western forums, supposedly “free” and where one can do battle for truth on a level playing field, seldom if ever censor commenters for comment that goes the other way – over the top foaming hatred of Russia and everything Russian is indulged with apparent pleasure, since it doesn’t even elicit a warning. A dispassionate argument relying on facts and in which there is not even any profanity, aggression or personal attack is deleted without any explanation, often before it can have any effect, whereas otherwise the “moderators” appear to be asleep.

      An example I like to cite is that of General Paul Van Riper, American commander of the Red Force in the massive Millennium Challenge 2002 war games in the Straits of Hormuz. General Van Riper, a retired Marine officer, emphasized preplanning and briefing of all his forces, a collection of small boats and motley irregulars such as might be available to any mid-size Middle Eastern (or East European) nation. His tactics relied on a minimum of command and signals which might be intercepted; his messages to commanders near beachheads went via motorcycle courier, and the signal for the boats to attack was the muezzin, the Muslim call to prayer.

      Arrayed against him were the Blue Forces – a wall of steel; an aircraft carrier, support ships, cruisers, frigates and destroyers. The muezzin warbled from minarets across the land…and in less than 15 minutes the U.S. fleet was decimated, something like 9 major warships sunk (figuratively speaking, of course), including the carrier, and those elements who were able to effect a landing were immediately surrounded and cut off. It was an amazing victory to everyone except Van Riper, who understood the power of the asymmetric threat. In effect, his battle plan was a constructive argument – pay attention to this threat, because it is real and I can prove it works.

      The response of exercise assessors was to order all action ceased, refloat all sunken ships and restart the exercise, with significant limits placed on Red Force to ensure their success could not be repeated; making them fight on Blue Force terms, in other words. Blue Forces were victorious, and Mom and apple pie triumphed once again. A valuable lesson that might make all the difference in a future action was brushed aside and ignored in favour of a cheap win with the enemy pre-subdued.

      Thus it often is with “paper arguments” in online forums; a carefully-constructed argument complete with facts and substantiation is not usually hammered out on the spur of the moment. It takes time and effort and, when complete, is like a good punch – it might shut the whole line of argument down with its authority. It is a thing of beauty, and does not need to rely on threats or hysterics. Having it simply brushed aside as if it never existed is tremendously frustrating, but any eventual damage will all be to one side, and that side is the ignorant.

      • Dear Moscow Exile,

        I have just read the thread in the Independent. I thought your comments were excellent.

        It is good to see Russians starting to respond. Overall my feeling is that the British media is completely at sea about how to respond to Saturday’s events. As you correctly said a few days ago the anti Putin protest on Saturday received far less attention than the previous protests and the British media simply does not know how to respond to the pro Putin demo, which it obviously did not expect to happen. There is a bizarre article in today’s Financial Times (which unfortunately is behind a pay wall), which whilst giving figures for the anti Putin protest, gives no figures for the pro Putin demo at all whllst rather grudgingly admitting that it took place.

        I suspect that the problem is exactly as you said, that the story is simply not turning out as anticipated (ie. with a popular revolution leading to Putin’s fall) and so the British media are quietly dropping it.

        Two further points:

        1. I think on Anatoly’s Facebook page he asks what name the protest movement should be given. I definitely think it should be called the “Snow Revolution” since it will melt away with the snow in spring.

        2. The western media repeatedly claim that the protests have been the biggest since Putin came to power. I beg to disagree. The protests may have been the biggest in Moscow but across the country as a whole I suspect that the protests against Kudrin’s monetisation of benefits, which took place some years ago, were much bigger.

  22. Dear Yalensis,

    Since I know of your interest in Middle East affairs I thought you might be interested in reading the report of the Arab League Monitors. The Arab League tried to suppress this report as did the western powers at the Security Council meeting. It was eventually circulated to the members of the Security Council at Russia’s and China’s insistence but the western media has completely ignored it.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~hauben/Report_of_Arab_League_Observer_Mission.pdf

    Basically as I read it what the report says is that the Syrian government is facing an armed insurrection though the actual number of insurgents is small. Notice for example that the governor of Homs puts the number of armed militants in the city at just 3,000. I suspect by the way that many of these people are former jihadis who fought in the Iraq war and who then fled into Syria when the Sunni insurgency in Iraq was defeated.

    The report says that the government and the security forces attempted to carry out the Arab League peace plan in good faith despite a few odd incidents that were cleared up but the armed opposition simply took advantage of the withdrawal of troops and heavy equipment from urban areas in order to try to occupy them.

    The report also says that the violence was initially provoked by a heavy handed reaction by the security forces to the original demonstrations in the spring but that demonstrations are now able to take place peacefully and that the observers saw no evidence of the security forces acting to suppress violently peaceful demonstrations. If so then the Syrian government is acting with greater restraint towards peaceful protesters than do the governments of those models of democracy and human rights, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

    The report also confirms that many of the accounts of incidents reported in the western media are outright inventions or fabrications and that the Mission has been the target of a vicious media campaign intended to discredit it and which has actually aggravated tensions within Syria itself.

    On the subject of the report I should say that the Arab League initially accepted it (Qatar being the only country to vote to reject it) and agreed to extend the Mission as recommended in the report. Qatar and Saudi Arabia then sabotaged this decision by withdrawing their observers and the Arab League Secretariat then on its own initiative suspended the whole Mission.

    As for the proposed UN Resolution that was vetoed by Russia and China, I have been able to find and have read the draft of the text and I will see if I can find you a link. It is quite different from what the western media is saying. Basically whilst conceding the existence of armed groups it puts the blame for the violence in Syria overwhelmingly on the Syrian government, which it condemns in the most vitriolic language, very similar to the language used to condemn the Libyan government in Resolutions 1970 and 1973. Whilst it does not specifically demand that Assad stand down it refers to the Arab League plan that does. It then in the form of an ultimatum makes a series of demands of the Syrian government (including the withdrawal of troops from the cities) and though it does not refer to sanctions or a no fly zone it threatens the Syrian government with “further measures” if it does not comply with these demands.

    Needless to say even if the Syrian government did try to comply with these demands, which would amount to ceding control of much of the country to the rebels, the western media would report otherwise and as night follows day there would be demands from the west and from their friends in the Arab League for another Resolution on stronger terms, which the Russians and the Chinese having agreed to this Resolution would have found difficult to resist.

    Tbe inescapable conclusion from all this is that the agenda is straightforward regime change regardless of the actual facts on the ground and I have no doubt that it is in that direction that this crisis is going.

    By the way I have heard a story that after the Security Council meeting the US ambassador Susan Rice swore at Churkin. If this did indeed happen then I take it that it did not happen in the Council Chamber itself.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      Here is the text of the draft Resolution that Russia and China vetoed.

      http://edmonton.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20120204/un-resolution-text-syria-20120204/20120204/?hub=EdmontonHome

      As you can see the body of the draft refers to a Syrian led transition process in accordance with the plan of the Arab League. That plan of course requires Assad to stand down and it is impossible to read the Resolution as demanding anything else.. Whilst the draft does make token demands that the opposition as well as the government cease violence all the specific demands are made of the government. Paragraph 15 says that the Security Council would review implementation of the Resolution in 21 days and decide on “further measures” if its terms are not carried out. In other words what would have happened is that either the rebels would have escalated the violence or the western media would have reported an escalation of the violence (which amounts to the same thing), the renewed violence would have been blamed on the government, which would have been accused of failing to implement the Resolution, and three weeks from now Russia and China would have been faced at another Security Council meeting with renewed demands for a further Resolution, which this time would have certainly included provision for sanctions and possibly military action.

      By the way lost in all the commentary is the fact that since October there has been a draft Resolution proposed by Russia and China that calls for an end to violence and negotiations, which the western powers and their Arab allies have prevented from being put to the vote.

    • marknesop says:

      The swearing incident, if true, is particularly startling since – diplomacy being what it is – the outlines of the resolution would have been known to all parties in advance and there would have been a fierce pre-meeting push to ensure broad agreement before the dog-and-pony show of the meeting itself. That would imply the veto was a surprise to Rice, which it certainly should not have been, since I assume the west would have turned all the persuasion circuits to “overload” in anticipation that the resolution would be unpopular. This is particularly so following the debacle in Libya.

      This is some great work you have done, Alex, very impressive.

      • Dear Mark,

        Thanks for your comments.

        On the subject of whether Rice actually swore at Churkin, I want to make it clear that I do not know this for a fact. I heard it from a friend of a friend who is a diplomat. There may be some corroboration from a report by the Syrian News Agency SANA, which said that she engaged in a “profanity” and used “undiplomatic language”.

        Susan Rice is an interesting case study in how top appointments in Washington are now made through connections. Her father is a Cornell University Professor of Economics and she has had the usual glittering education available now only to the rich and the well connected including times as a Rhodes Scholar at New College in Oxford. She is extremely well connected to all sorts of people in the Democratic party establishment and is a known protege of Madeleine Albright who almost certainly played a role in her appointment. She was already influencing policy in the Clinton administration and as long ago as the 1980s was a foreign policy adviser to Michael Dukakis even though she was surely far too young and inexperienced for such a role. She has been called “brash” and “ambitious”, hardly proper qualifications for a diplomat. All in all she comes across to me as exactly what Talleyrand had in mind when he said that the worst sort of diplomat was one who suffered from “an excess of zeal”.

        • Lastly on the subject of Syria, here is the official summary of the Security Council debate as it appears on the UN’s website.

          http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2012/sc10536.doc.htm

          Notice the very lukewarm support for the Resolution from the ambassadors of India, Pakistan and South Africa. One wonders what pressure was put on these countries to get them to support the Resolution. I suspect that they were tipped off that there would be a Russian and Chinese veto and decided in the circumstances that they could safely vote for the Resolution in the knowledge that it would not be passed. Unheroic perhaps but not so surprising.

          • marknesop says:

            Since the outlines of resolutions coming up for a vote are known in advance for precisely that reason – so all the pressure and arm-twisting can be done in advance of the vote, which is itself a pretty sterile and generic event by comparison with the backroom dealing – I remain surprised that Rice would lose her cool like that, if indeed that is what happened. Countries which intended to veto the resolution would in all probability have so declared in advance of the vote.

            I read some extremely unflattering reviews of Rice, together with other triumvirate members Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power. All three are described as disproportionately hawkish, prone to escalate rapidly to military action and inflexible in their decision-making.

      • yalensis says:

        If Rice was susprised by the veto, then she must be an idiot. I knew there was going to be a veto, and I wasn’t even there!

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks much @alexander, I appreciate these postings and links. Yes, is very clear that Syria is next on the list for regime change. Once again NATO is trying to overthrow a legitimate.secular government, and replace with Al Qaeda terrorists, exactly like they did in Libya. This is basically a regional power grab by Saudi Arabia+Qatar+Al Qaeda, backed by USA and NATO. The figure of 3,000 Syrian jihadi rebels sounds about right. Add to that a few hundred more Al Qaeda mercenaries from Libya, and you see what Assad is up against. If Russia and China stay firm and NATO is not allowed to bomb,, then he will probably win, and good for him. Re. Susan Rice swearing at Churkin: That does not surprise me. That tosser is a rude imperialist ideologue, she has no class! Grrr!!

      • Dear Mark and Yalensis,

        Don’t discount the possibility that Rice really was taken by surprise by the veto. The pressure on Russia has been absolutely relentless. Back in March Russia cracked over Libya. The authors of the Resolution lined the key Arab states up behind them and got Morocco to sponsor the Resolution. They also of course invoked the authority of the Arab League, which they also did last year at the time of the Resolutions against Libya. It was decision of the Arab League to support the Resolutions against Libya that made it difficult for Russia to veto them. The impression I got here in Britain was that when the text of the Resolution was agreed on Friday the assumption was that Russia would again abstain rather than veto a Resolution, which might annoy the Gulf states. The furious and indeed over the top reaction to the Russian veto may be partly because it was unexpected.

        By the way there is a report on the Syrian news agency SANA that Putin has ordered the Russian Foreign Ministry to finalise a cultural agreement with Syria. If this is true then it suggests that following the Libyan debacle he has taken control of foreign policy at any rate in relation to Libya out of Medvedev’s hands. That might explain why the Russian reaction was so much tougher on this occasion.

        • Last Syria related post.

          French television is broadcasting what it says is a recording of an exchange that took place presumably outside the Chamber between Churkin and the Qatari representative Hasam ben Yasim. I reproduce it from memory as follows:

          Hasam ben Yasim: Russia must support the Resolution. We warn you against any veto.

          Churkin: If you dare speak to me like that again there will be no Qatar for you to go back to.

          Good for Churkin!

          • yalensis says:

            That Qatari Emir HAS been getting unbearably uppity lately. He thinks he is tough guy because he can call on NATO to do his bidding as private airforce. Time somebody put that barking chihuahua in his place. Yay, Churkin!

            • cartman says:

              Qatar has been supplying money to terrorists from the North Caucasus for ages. Russia needs to slap them down hard.

  23. yalensis says:

    File this one under “There’s gratitude for you…”

    After NATO bombs brought him to power in Libya, Al Qaeda warrior Abdul Hakim Belhaj is now suing his new masters at MI-6 for “rendering” him to Libya for torture when Gaddafi was still in power. This guy has proved that he can hold a grudge forever. Torture is always wrong, but this violent terrorist certainly deserved to be incarcerated for his crimes. BTW, Gaddafi’s only surviving son, Saif Al Islam, disputes Belhaj’s version of events. According to Saif, Belhaj was indeed tortured brutally by Americans and Brits… but NOT by Libyans. Gaddafi was a kinder gentler soul and vastly superior, on a moral plane, to Tony Blair or David Cameron. Saif himself rescued Belhaj from American brutality (he says when the terrorist was rendered over to him, he was basically hanging upside down on a rack), and arranged for him and his family to all move to Libya together, where Belhaj was put in a comfortable prison cell and treated well. In retrospect: one of Gaddai’s biggest mistakes was that he was Mr. Nice Guy. He should have executed this creep when he had a chance, by doing this he could have proactively saved the lives of tens of thousands of ethnic Africans who have been tortured and murdered by Mr. Belhaj and his colleagues since they took power.

    http://rt.com/news/lybians-sue-spy-chief-655/

  24. I thought people might be interested to see an article by Israel Shamir that has appeared on Counterpunch, for which I have also provided a link on the Sublime Oblivion site.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/02/07/the-tug-of-war-in-moscow/

    As I also said on Sublime Oblivion, Israel Shamir is a deeply controversial figure who has been called an anti Semite and a Holocaust Denier both of which he denies. He is a close friend of Julian Assange and a strong supporter of the Palestinian movement and has written critically of aspects of Jewish history and culture, which together with the fact that he converted from Judaisism to Christianity possibly explains the hostility towards him. Regardless on Russian affairs he is a shrewd and well informed observer as this article shows.

    • yalensis says:

      I liked Shamir’s article, so II was curious about the charge of “holocaust denier” against him. Since I do personally consider such a charge to be a discreditor in many ways, and I am less likely to consider the opinons of a holocaust denier. Therefore I was relieved to read his version, which I consider to be an adequate explanation of his views:

      As for the accusation of “Holocaust denial”, my family lost too many of its sons and daughters for me to deny the facts of Jewish tragedy, but I do deny its religious salvific significance implied in the very term ‘Holocaust’; I do deny its metaphysical uniqueness, I do deny the morbid cult of Holocaust and I think every God-fearing man, a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim should reject it as Abraham rejected and smashed idols. I deny that it is good to remember or immortalise such traumatic events, and I wrote many articles against modern obsession with massacres, be it Jewish holocaust of 1940s, Armenian massacre of 1915, Ukrainian “holodomor”, Polish Katyn, Khmer Rouge etc. Poles, Armenians, Ukrainians understood me, so did Jews – otherwise I would be charged with the crime of factual denial which is known to the Israeli law.

      I think this is satisfactory explanation, and I can agree wtih it. German genocide against Jews was not a unique event in human history. Many genocides have occurred. European genocide against native Americans probably took move lives than Hitler’s death machine. The list goes on. A genocide is occurring this very moment in Libya, against ethnic Africans (=Tawerghans). I think people need to view all these facts objectively and as dispassionately as possible. A killing is simply a killing. There is no mystical or religious dimension to it.

      http://shetterly.blogspot.com/2011/11/re-wikileaks-and-julian-assange-is.html

  25. Dear Mark, Yalensis and Kievite,

    I think you might find this an interesting article, written by a Russian professor called Panarin, which has appeared on the RT website. It seems very well informed and appears to corroborate many of your theories about Navalny and Maria Gaidar. It also discusses McFaul’s role and the sources of Navalny’s funding.

    http://rt.com/politics/mcfaul-opposition-rallies-panarin-667/

    One interesting point is the way it identifies Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton as amongst the leaders of the Orange plots within the current US foreign policy establishment. There is no doubt that the two are closely linked to each other and as I have said Susan Rice who is the US ambassador to the UN is definitely linked with Albright. I am sure a lot of other people are however involved as well.

    PS: I gather the Russian foreign ministry are denying that the exchange between Churkin and the Qatari envoy broadcast on French television took place. Shame really.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, @alexander. If, as I suspect, Navalny is a paid CIA agent, then CIA will require him to report for a lie detector test and psychological evaluation at regular intervals. That might explain his penchant for foreign travel. Although I suppose they could rig up a portable lie detector machine just about anywhere, even in some back room of a Moscow apartment. (Not sure how that procedure works, except what I see on TV.)
      P.S. Do you have the link to the French television piece on Churkin/Qatari? I would like to watch it if it is available.

      • marknesop says:

        Although the lie detector has really changed little since its invention by the same individual who invented the character of Wonder Woman (with her “magic lasso of truth”; once caught by it, those caught could not lie – see some commonality there?), technicians now also use the Voice Stress Analyzer as well. However, both rely entirely on the symptoms of stress, which reason should tell you can be caused by a variety of emotions other than guilt.

        The “lie detector”, AKA the Polygraph, no longer uses a drum printer and needles, of course, it’s digitized and the traces appear on a laptop. Indeed you can set it up anywhere. There is a belt that fastens snugly around your chest to measure respiration and a clip that goes on your finger to measure changes in your heartbeat and sweating. If the line of questioning makes you nervous, the theory goes, the examiner can focus on an associated line of questioning and eventually get at the truth.

        The Polygraph is interesting as a curiosity, but can no more spot a liar than it can measure the migratory patterns of geese. It is useful for extracting a confession from somebody who is guilty and knows it; for example, it is unlikely to catch someone who is supporting terrorist organizations through charities that he or she does not realize are linked to those organizations. Aldrich Ames, legendary Russian double agent in the CIA for years, had to take a polygraph every 18 months or so; he wrote from his prison cell that it was junk science and easily beaten by anyone who knew how, and that isn’t what caught him. In fact, the polygraph has never caught a real spy. It’s probably caught quite a few hotel maids who were stealing towels or soap, if the hotel was prepared to go that far, but has had the deleterious effect of incriminating a lot of people who had done nothing wrong.

        The CIA and western intelligence services in general are completely unconcerned if Navalny is a liar. They believed “Curveball” in the run-up to the Iraq War, and to the best of my knowledge never tested him, and he was certifiably delusional. What is important is that he told them what they want to hear. I still believe ultimately that Navalny will be a flash in the pan, because he’s only useful for stirring people up: he has no apparent leadership skills.

    • kieivte says:

      Alexander,

      I couple of conspiracy theories:

      1. Navalny, Maria Gaidar and Belikh are somehow closely linked. Some people talk about Belikh organized crime unit (OPG):
      http://oper-kirow.livejournal.com/701.html
      http://www.politonline.ru/video/1707.html

      2. There are a conspiracy theory that somewhere in 2009 there was a split among “khozyastyvenniki” top management of state run corporation that lead to current events: http://m-kozharinov.livejournal.com/1141.html

      According to this theory one part of “khozyastyvenniki” that somewhat close to Chubatis that that we can call “chubajsyats” decided that its their time to became rich and decided to ally with Yeltsin oligarchs and depose Putin and Putin’s block of “khozyastyvenniki” (managers of state corporation) and “upravlentsi” (state apparatus).

      It might be that some national elites (Dagestan?) also joined fronda. At some point they recruited Medvedev in their ranks. The first shot was attempt to force Medvevev’s reelection and initiating Perestroyka-2 with Privatization-2 designed to immensely enrich “chubajsyats” in a way Yeltsis’s privatization did.

      Putin realize the danger and somehow neutralized the threat of Medvedev’s reelection by forcing Medvedev to make famous announcement on the United Russia congress. At this point fronda switched to orange revolution scenario and started to initiate protests and deligitimization of election with the help of foreign powers.

      Putin countermove was to hit “chubajsyats” where it hurt and announce start of investigation of Russia privatized energy companies. It might be that the recent decision of Chubaytis to move out of politics is connected with direct possibility of him being criminally charged for the Sayano-Shushenskay disaster.

      After this hit fronda sensed the danger and switch to overdrive in “orange revolution” scenario. Still Medvedev became less an asset for them and Putin influence was evident in appointing Sechin as a head of presidential administration and replacing Surkov (who by rumors became way too close to Medvedev and “fronda” and tried to distance himself from Putin).

      They needed a new man to challenge Putin and it might be that it was at this point were Navalny became a strategic asset for fronda. He fits well with “clean sheet”/”Let’s start over again” concept that orange revolution pushes. And he can become frontrunner is presidential election would be declared void as in this case none of those who participated in them can participate in the next elections.

      I think it was at this point were fronda allied with the USA and other Western powers to force this scenario and it pretty much was successful in orchestrated, multi-stage Western media attack on Putin who became kind of new target of Western establishment.

      The same “Anybody but Putin” campaign is in action is fronda local media strongpoint such as Internet sites, papers and TV channels which by-and-large is controlled by fronda operatives. Such as Nosik (LiveJournal, gazeta.ru, letna.ru, yandex.ru, etc), Natalya Sindeeva (Dozhd TV channel), etc.

      But the attempt to push for orange scenario by declaring presidential elections illegitimate was preempted by Putins Web camera initiative and recruiting for his observers members of law association of Russia. Also orange scenario created backlash in regions and lower strata of the country’s population who realized that they are pushed into second Yeltsin anarchy scenario.

      That’s when talk about stability became Putin’s trump card. This “orange resistance movement” which is non necessary pro-Putin as much as it is anti-orange came to culmination in the recent “Poklonny Hill” rally. So the trump card of “orange revolutionaries” — increasing of protest activity was beaten. That might be the largest success of Putin’s complain to this point. Now it is clear to deligitimaze results of presidential election by Orange revolution methods (which was by buying judges and forcing the decision of the Supreme Court) will be much more difficult as political backlash became pretty much widespread. They have money and probably they have judges but the popular mood is the major deterrent. Now Kasyanov realized that they overplayed “fair election” theme and that backfired ( http://www.politonline.ru/comments/10458.html )

      Also Putin is trying to placate those part of population who might ally with fronda. I think all his recent articles are steps in this direction. Also there are some, albeit inconsistent efforts to de-legitimize opposition by pointing out its too close connections with foreign powers. Still fronda enjoys uncontested dominance in Internet, newspapers and impressive line of TV channels.

      • Dear Kievite,

        Thank you for all this.

        As I hope I have always said I have no doubt that an attempt to create an Orange Revolution has been underway even if I am sure it will fail. One of the reasons it will fail is because of the kind of work done by people like Yalensis and you. I would not know about Maria Gaidar or her role in this business had I not read about her a couple of weeks ago on this blog. It seems to me that the connections you have identified between all these people are becoming corroborated.

        Though I am sure that there will not be a colour revolution look at the damage that has already been done. There was an election in December where there was a big swing to the left but instead of discussing that we have since been forced to spend hours of time researching and discussing the actions of a tiny group of marginal people who between them were supported in the elections by no more than 4% of the population. The result is that instead of a proper presidential election campaign in which attention is focused on those candidates predominantly of the left who the parliamentary elections show have some actual traction with Russian voters we have all been obliged to spend hours of our time and much of our energy worrying about a bogus revolution by the same tiny group of marginal people.

        One point where I also completely agree with you is that this would not be happening at all if the government itself had not become contaminated with Orange or Orange influenced elements. You are right to focus on Medvedev because he is seriously at fault here. In spite of everything that has happened and in spite of the fact that everything shows that these people take no prisoners I understand that he is planning on yet another meeting with the same group of radical opposition leaders he has met before. To understand how bizarre that is just imagine Obama wasting time meeting with the leaders of the hundreds of minor parties that exist in the US and that are unrepresented in the Congress. All Medvedev is doing is give these people attention and credibility they do not deserve.

        Needless to say Medvedev is not the only person who is to blame. It still seems incredible to me that so much of the Russian news media has been ceded to these marginal people. The equivalent would be if Radio London, the BBC’s top radio station in the British capital, had been handed over to the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyite group that is I suppose the biggest party in what one might call our own British “non system” opposition. I hope for the future of Russia and for the healthy development of its democracy that Putin puts things back in order when he becomes President again.

  26. Hmmm… Powerful post! Thanks for exposing what is going on behind the scenes.

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