Send In The Clowns

Uncle Volodya says, "But look! Amazement on thy mother sits; O step between her and her fighting soul: Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works. "

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear;
I thought you’d want what I want:
Sorry, my dear…
And where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns:
don’t bother…they’re here

Very likely the most oft-quoted of Marx’s observations on the human condition is taken from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon; to wit, “…all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice…the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Say what you like about Marx, he had a flair for philosophy. Not to mention for forecasting. Alexei Kudrin appeared first as a tragic figure, tormented beyond endurance by being denied the appointment that was rightfully his and forced instead to serve under a man he likely considered not only his inferior, but a poor choice for the post. He…well, he lost his head and said some things – to the delight of the western press – that could not be unsaid, immolating any chances he might have had to be part of the new government. Not surprisingly, he was fired immediately, as we discussed in detail here.

Right on schedule, Kudrin descended into farce, trying to manage an ugly-duckling-to-swan transition at Sakharov Prospekt, only to have his coming-out speech drowned in “boos and catcalls”. Correctly assessing that his electoral appeal suggests he might as well take up the electric guitar if he wants to draw a crowd, Mr. Kudrin has taken the next step. From PV Mikhail on the Hungarian Desk, we learn that Mr. Kudrin is forming his very own think tank. Of course, the Intertubes are all atwitter about it, reporting it in the Kyiv Post, the Washington Post and Reuters. Mr. Kudrin has assumed a newsworthiness known only to those who oppose the Putin government, or who are found hanging in their closets wearing their wife’s underwear.

What’s all the excitement about? Let’s see.

Mr. Kudrin, we’re told by the Moscow News, is “a respected ex-politician”. Really? Respected by whom? The Moscow News must have a short memory, because it was the source which reported his speech at Sakharov Prospekt was drowned out by boos from the people who are supposedly eager to participate in the political process with Mr. Kudrin. Commenters here have accurately pointed out that Mr. Kudrin is, strictly speaking, not a politician of any kind, considering he has never successfully stood for election to any office, but has instead been appointed to his positions. The definition of “politician” would seem to include him, since it includes anyone who pursues politics as a profession, so I’ll leave it to you, although it seems to me he gained his political status as a result of appointment rather than political popularity. Well, no use being mean, I suppose. But I can’t help noticing the “respected” part seems – lately, at least – to come mostly from western pundits. Respect for a Russian public figure from western sources, oddly enough, seems to accompany a western perception that the person might be instrumental in forcing Vladimir Putin out of office. That could be just a coincidence, of course.

Anyway, let’s move on. The Committee, whose membership is not yet complete, but in which a couple of journalists were accidentally incorporated, has released a statement – a manifesto, if you like – which announces it intends to “unite professionals from a range of different spheres, including science, healthcare and culture” (sounds like a good job prospect for any crank who considers himself an “elite” and believes the future for Russia lies in extensive privatizations and letting the market take its course) and to “openly oppose the actions of the government, regardless of who they are or their position”.

Regardless of their position. Maybe something got lost in translation there, but it sounded an awful lot to me like, if the government proposed raising the minimum wage again, Kudrin’s Komittee would reflexively oppose it, because it was put forward by the government. Sure; that’ll work. How long do you think it will take people to predict the way the Komittee is going to jump on every issue? Or to notice that lockstep opposition and wailing that it can only end in the collapse of the country will accompany every initiative, whether it is brilliant or awful? Or for the government to just carry on as if Kudrin’s organization did not exist, since they can be relied upon to fight against whatever the government does no matter what it is? What’s “Tea Party” in Russian? I’ll tell you what; there’s a group of people that needs remedial instruction in how to write a mission statement.

Where’s the money going to come from to stroke this panel of experts? Oh. From Russian businesses. Well, good luck with that. Just off the top of my head, I would guess that Russian businesses who depend on government spending in order to turn a profit might be somewhat reluctant to finance an organization that vows to fight government spending tooth and nail. But that’s just a guess – don’t take my word for it, I’m not a Russian businessman.

Of course, Mr. Kudrin might mean businesses that work for Mikhail Prokhorov, with whom he on-again-off-again talks about forming a “rightwing party”. Say, can you think of a Russian businessman who tried to use his wealth to overthrow the government of Vladimir Putin by financing the opposition? I can. Want me to tell you where he is right now? I think Mr. Putin made his position on oligarchs and political meddling quite clear.

Anyway, that’s enough of that for a minute; too much politics is kind of a downer. I know – let’s play a game. I’ll give you a set of conditions in a hypothetical country, and you form a hypothetical opposition committee that can expect popular support for a position whereby the committee opposes every action the government takes. Ready? Here we go. Interest rates dropped from 25% to around 7% in the past 6 years. Tick tick tick. Balance of trade doubled in the last 5 years. Tick, tick. Third-largest cash reserves in the world. Tick. Come on, there’s a time limit! Poverty cut by more than half in a decade. Tick, tick. Steady per-capita GDP growth year-over-year.

Nothing? What are you telling me; that an opposition organization that resolves to throw itself against the government on every issue stands little chance of gaining popular support as long as the country continues to prosper? You don’t say.

We’ve been over and over this business of Putin-is-playing-a-dangerous-game-relying-on-high-oil-prices, but much of the English-speaking media seems to think it’s a pearl of wisdom every time Kudrin says it. You know; him being the brilliant fiscal architect who steered Russia through the treacherous seas of the financial crash, and all. Well, for the record, Kudrin sang that same oil-prices song pretty much every year he was finance minister, foretelling disaster if Russia did not diversify. Was he ever right? No; no, he wasn’t. Is it smart to suggest that a major energy producer start trying to sell less than it is capable of producing? If it is, nobody has discovered that yet, because nobody advises any other major energy producer to do it. Until that becomes conventional wisdom, any nation that has a lot of oil but decides to sell cars or refrigerators instead is simply giving up market share to other producers. If Russia began cutting production, they would be accused of price-fixing and trying to create a world shortage to make energy prices increase, because that would be the net effect whether it was deliberate or not. And every time Russia announces it is trying to break into the auto market or the nanotechnology market, the response is laughing and finger-pointing from the western idiot-savants who are currently riding cratering economies. Is there a lesson in there? There sure is. If you really want Russia to succeed in diversifying the economy, shut up while they’re doing it. If you don’t care about Russia trying to diversify the economy, stop pretending to be concerned, because nobody is falling for it.

So, not to disturb a sugarplum dream of President Kudrin shaking hands with President Palin or anything, but here’s what you should keep in mind about Mr. Kudrin: One, despite a reputation for economic brilliance that verged on mind-reading, Alexei Kudrin in fact opposed the very reliance on energy prices nearly every year that they continued to improve the standard of living for ordinary Russians. He did recommend saving the money instead of blowing it on hookers and Jack Daniels, and that was smart, but let’s not get carried away. Two, Alexei Kudrin argued against all the wage and pension increases that saw Russians’ Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) move upward all the time Putin was running the show. Unless you’re prepared to argue that PPP should go down and that citizens have far too much money, you kind of have to go with that being bad advice, since Russia demonstrably could afford it.  And then Mr. Kudrin told eager English-speaking reporters that this was an example of how the Russian government could correct its mistakes, when it really didn’t make a mistake (not about that, anyway), but would have if it had listened to him. Three, Alexei Kudrin is not the charismatic, dynamic leader-in-waiting of a revolutionary caretaker government that you are looking for, and would have a hard time getting elected mayor of his home town. I hope that wasn’t you I heard laughing just then, Nemtsov.

Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?
Losing my timing this late
in my career?
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns..
well maybe…next year

This entry was posted in Economy, Government, Investment, Politics, Russia, Trade, Vladimir Putin and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

262 Responses to Send In The Clowns

  1. kirill says:

    Good post. It seems anyone and everyone who takes the anti-Putin position is being promoted by the liberast media (includes the western MSM) to be the new Trotsky. Seems like desperation to me since there is no background state from which to extract energy and grow the instability (sorry couldn’t resist the analogy to baroclinic instabilty which gives rise to our weather). Following this line of thinking, it will take a major disruption of the economy in Russia to create the conditions for a potential liberast takeover. I just don’t see a lot of discontent in Russia today, parades of clowns at some Moscow locations notwithstanding.

  2. yalensis says:

    Q: What’s “Tea Party” in Russian?
    A: Бостонское чаепитие

  3. I agree with you Kirill, though I would say that it is not the new Trotsky but the new Yeltsin they are always looking for.

    Whilst on the point there is a bizarre mirage image in the way the western media described Yeltsin’s fall as Moscow Party Chief in 1987 and the way the western media describes Kudrin’s fall as Finance Minister today. In the case of the former the western media always said (and still says) that Yeltsin was sacked when in fact he resigned, whilst in the case of the latter it always says that Kudrin resigned when in fact he was sacked.

    Like you I see no sign of mass discontent in Russia. There is therefore no chance of a liberal takeover. Even if there was after what happened in the 1990s there is as much chance of Hell freezing over as there is of many (most?) Russians trusting the liberals again. I would add that Putin is a much stronger and tougher political leader than was Gorbachev, that the condition of the economy is much better now than it was in the 1980s and above all that the Russian population is immeasurably more politically sophisticated today than it was then and is well able to see behind the fine words of those who talk a lot about democracy and justice but who really want the opposite for Russia so that they can make profit for themselves.

  4. PvMikhail says:


    and thank you for mentioning me 🙂

    • marknesop says:

      Thank you for the link. It cranked me so hard as soon as I read it that I knew I had to do a post on it. This is our one hundredth post, too, by the way – thanks to everyone who helped me out.

    • marknesop says:

      Jesus. Who writes this stuff; Hunter S. Thompson?

      “You may laugh at it…” Thanks for giving me permission, because I did laugh, loud and long. I particularly loved the suggestion that the USA is already starting to train managers to administer the new territories.

      This reads like a Russian version of “The Onion”.

  5. kievite says:


    Вредные вопросы Кудрину…
    Первые вредные вопросы
    Вторые вредные вопросы

    • kievite says:

      In other words it might be that he dismissal by Medvedev was a preemptive strike orchestrated by Kudrin himself to avoid an unpleasant questions. So essentially he provoked Medvedev with an explicit expectation of subsequent reaction.

      If we accept that, then Putin subsequent high praise was a like an obituary or masked sarcasm or both…

    • PvMikhail says:

      Illarionov is not just an economist. He supports political cases and makes political statements in connection with the secession of Chechnya or the war in the southern Caucasus. What do you expect from a libertarian?

      He is a traitor

      • marknesop says:

        Someone posted a link here some time ago to National Endowment for Democracy’s “causes” in Russia: here it is again. Readers will notice many are based in the Caucasus, and the funds are dedicated to supporting civic activism or “alternative” journalism or to teach methods of pressuring the government. I don’t think Caucasian attempts at secession would be a great disappointment to the western moneymen, and I imagine they would consider it money well spent in the interests of destabilization.

        • yalensis says:

          The Beslan victims grant is absolutely obscene. Those terrorists who tortured the Beslan children were recruited and paid by CIA and British intelligence, (Who still continue to harbor the organizer, Ahmed Zakayev.) it was part of their campaign against Russia and Putin. Even now they continue to milk their own crime for propaganda purposes. Just to remind people what these innocent children endured at the hands of these Western/Saudi terrorist agents:

          • marknesop says:

            Even more obscene is Masha Gessen’s allegation that Vladimir Putin was in on the whole thing, and engineered it to maximize bloodshed; other sources have offered that Putin could have given in to the terrorists demands, most of them either expats or admirers of the country whose policy is “we do not negotiate with terrorists”, and most of whom complained about the storming of the Dubrovka Theatre by Special Forces; that, too, was wrong, of course. Clever westerners in the same situation would have hypnotized the terrorists into believing themselves to be pigeons, whereupon they would have jumped out the windows in the belief they could fly.

            Masha Gessen seems to be desperately trying for martyrdom.

            • yalensis says:

              People who say they would NEVER give in to terrorists are just spouting macho bravado. Negotiating with terrorists is sometimes an option, in some circumstances giving in to them is the right way to go. For example, if the terrorists are requesting a specific practical thing, like to release one of their leaders from jail, or something like that, it might be worth giving in to them to save the hostages.
              In the case of Beslan, appeasement would have been futile, however, and the Special Forces knew this, because they had intel that the terrorists had wired the school with bombs and planned to blow the whole thing up, killing everybody, regardless of the outcome.
              So Putin was in a truly desperate situation here, there were no good options, and I don’t see that he had any other choice except to storm the school. In fact, Special Forces held off maybe a little too long, and didn’t start to storm in until one of the terrorists had already started setting off the bombs.
              In any case, even if there were tactical errors on the part of the Russian military, the West has no right to criticize them, since they were the ones who paid the terrorists, organized the whole attack, and continue to harbor the leaders of the perpetrators. Beslan, by the way (North Ossetia), was Phase 1 of the American/British war against the Ossetian people. Step 2 came in August of 2008, when Saakashvili attacked South Ossetia.

      • Dear PvMikhail,

        I agree. I would add that Ilarionov is not only not an economist but that he is on the contrary a follower of a bizarre religious cult that emerged in the US in the 1950s and which has spread its sinister influence to all sorts of places including I am afraid Russia. The key characteristic of this cult is that in place of God it believes in some sort of supernatural entity it calls “the free market”, which like God is invisible, all knowing, all powerful, rewards its followers, punishes unbelievers and heretics and which does and can do no wrong. The massive gripe people like Ilarionov have against the Russian government is that it shows no sign of believing in this mysterious (and non existent) entity and yet still succeeds.

    • yalensis says:

      Uh oh, @kievite is experimenting with italic fonts. What got ME in trouble!
      P.S. Is there nothing sillier than Russian cursive script (which shows up in italic font)? I grew up scribbling in Russian cursive from childhood, so it never occurred to me how ridiculous it is until I got older and started studying linguistics. It’s like having to (unnecessarily) learn 2 different alphabets for the same language. For example in print the letter “t” is just т, but in cursive/italic it is т, a completely different shape, how ridiculous it is that?
      Makes more sense to just use the same set of letters for printing and writing.
      I am going to start a movement to eliminate Russian cursive writing and fonts. Maybe I will have more success than the movement to separate Siberia and turn it into Far Eastern Pindostan.

      • PvMikhail says:

        haha, I had the same idea when i got into contact with Russian. I learned printed script and then cursive, which was hard to me. I still use printed version when I have to write, for example, a test from Russian grammar. But i think this adds some uniqueness to the language. Like Cyrillic script. If there is already a Latin script, why would you invent a new one and use it? Because you are Russian. And your culture is a descendant of Byzantium and not Rome, written in Greek rather than Latin.

        BTW, wise people used to say, that history repeats itself. My feeling is, that the West did and wants to do exact the same to Russia:

        Think about that. The worst thing is, that beating up their fellow believers didn’t earn any strategic or political benefit. To the contrary: Jerusalem stayed with pagans and they was halted only in the outskirts of Vienna afterwards. Now the same with Russia. Russia dismembered itself 20 years ago. And they want to dismember it more controllable “Latin Empires”. The question is: what is it good for? What comes afterwards? Arab or Chinese attack on Vienna? Paris? Of course, this is only speculation. But think about the principles here.

        • yalensis says:

          @Mikhail: I think the Roman and Cyrillic alphabets are equally worthy. Both can get the job done, the proof is Serbo-Croatian, which can be written equally well (and completely phonemically) with either alphabet. I just don’t see the need for different “print” vs. “cursive” letters for either alphabet. I guess there was a point to it back in the day when people had to write with pen and paper, and it was faster to write in cursive. But in this day and age when everybody types on computers and texts on phones — UNNECESSARY!
          P.S. I mentioned before that I am studying Arabic, and this peculiar alphabet ONLY has a cursive variant. The script was obviously developed in some century before the invention of the printing press and so was suitable for scribes writing with pen and paper. So, all the letters just blur together with loops and curls. Looks very pretty, but is difficult to figure out where one letter ends and the other begins! Here is a good example, it’s the word for “Libya”:


  6. yalensis says:

    Y’all know how Russkies love to bug each others phones and tapes each others secret conversations? Well, if I were Oppositionist, I would most certainly stop using phones altogether and resort to carrier pigeon – much safer!
    Consider the case of Sergei Udaltsov, who has reputation as a pure-hearted Dragon-slaying Incorruptible Revolutionary, half Robespierre, half Rakhmetov ?
    Well if this expose is to be believed, even this revolutionary Parsifal is as corrupt as [insert the name of a very corrupt person]. After reading this, I don’t even believe Udaltov any more when he says he went on hunger strike against Putin regime. I think he was sneaking cheeseburgers into his cell in Lubyanka!
    Background: article claims that one of Udaltsov’s associates (unnamed, but probably this guy Dima) secretly taped his friend’s phone conversations and sold them to Komsomolskaya Pravda for transcriptions. In these tapes Udaltsov is recorded demanding payment (quite large sums of $$$) to deliver warm bodies to Opp rallies.
    Making it sound like a cattle round-up, Sergei and “Dima” bargain over $$$ and people, and it is agreed that there will be no “black mugs” among the delivered cattle, only pure white-skinned telegenic Slavs.

    Разговор №1
    – Алло, Сергей?
    – Да.
    – Это Дмитрий с “Речника”. Удобно?
    – Да, да, да, Дмитрий.
    – Сереж, привет. Значит, слушай. Вот как в прошлый раз, нам нужно на воскресенье явиться, митинг там хотим провести один, около тысячи человек. Сможешь дать?
    – А, ну понятно. Хорошо. Ну условия у нас те же. Давай я тогда до завтра повыясняю, будут ли там люди готовы, и завтра созвонимся. Хорошо?
    – У тебя… больше ты переживаешь за тысячу человек или переживаешь, что вообще ты можешь? Чтобы я просто надеялся или не надеялся на тебя.
    – Нет, нет, мне просто надо понять, как бы сказать, какие там есть возможности. Потому что в этот день кто наблюдателями работает, кто чего. Я завтра до обеда смогу точно сказать.
    – Значит, никаких чтобы черных рож там не было. Все чтобы были русскоязычные, приличные на вид. Любой возраст, любой абсолютно.
    – Нет, ну это я понял, да. Завтра, Дим, до обеда. Тогда, если тебе не сложно, позвони мне где-нибудь…
    – Я тебе наберу до обеда. Спасибо.
    – Да. И я скажу. Давай.
    Разговор №2
    – Алло?
    – Алло, Сергей?
    – Да.
    – Это Дмитрий с “Речника”. Я тебе звонил вчера по людям.
    – Да, да, Дим.
    – Получается?
    – Да, смотри, получается. Но сейчас, так как все люди раздерганы, двойная ставка.
    – А сколько двойная? Один? Единичка?
    – Да, по одному, да.
    – Так, многовато. А если 0,7 там? 0,75? Как?
    – Ну, 0,7, ну давай я до вечера еще обсужу. Ну 0,8 хотя бы. Потому что меньше…
    – 0,8, да?
    – Они сейчас, сам понимаешь, все прикормлены. Туда надо, сюда надо.
    – Я уловил, я уловил. Ну смотри, ты абсолютно уверен, там люди приличные все, как я тебя просил, никаких там рож…
    – Это сто процентов. Это сто процентов, да.
    – Вот, значит, соответственно…
    – А к скольки людей, если сориентировать? Я, уточни давай еще.
    – Смотри, количество подтверждаешь, что тысяча будет?
    – Да. Ну если хотя бы 0,8 будет, то да.
    – Все, сейчас я тебе перезвоню по адресу и по времени. Давай.
    – Да, давайте, подумайте.

    • kirill says:

      Now any shred of doubt I had about the nature of these people (e.g. that they may be misguided fools) is completely gone. These are nothing but fifth columnist scum.

      • Dear Yalensis,

        Interesting you should make the connection between Udaltsov and Rakhmetov, one I never thought of making myself. If I may be allowed a very general and very sweeping comment, it has always seemed to me that Russians have an alarming fondness for self declared ascetics. Such people are always dangerous and never what they seem.

        On the subject of Udaltsov I stopped taking him seriously from an ideological point of view when I saw him working hand in hand with Navalny whose views are supposed to be the opposite of his own.

        • yalensis says:

          @alexander: Well, the fictional Rakhmetov truly was an ascetic incorruptible superman. That’s why he is fiction!

          • cartman says:

            And too specific.

            • yalensis says:

              Wow! What a great video and song, thanks for that. I like this singer Bonnie Tyler, she has very strong, slightly husky voice. Plus it is ballsy of her to just lay out her female fantasy in such clear images.

              • marknesop says:

                I read that Bonnie Tyler had surgery to give her that roughness in her voice. That could be just another snippet of celebrity gossip, because she once was quite a celebrity; her first hit, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, is still her biggest.

  7. PvMikhail says:

    Speaking about economy… Remember last year when “experts” was like: “IMF predicts that Russia will grow ONLY BY 3 PERCENT”, which, of course, is “STAGNATION”. Loud and everywhere. Now we have, as always, a silent correction of facts:

    Given that Russian MinFin is always conservative as hell, this could go over 4 percent. Just remember last year. “Experts” said in 2010, that 4,5 % was a really weak bounceback from the -7,9% and economy will stop growing as the stimulus runs out. And again they said the same about 2011. And now we are in 2012. Really strange and long bounceback, isn’t it? I guess what will happen… Growth will be more than 4% again against all odds. “Maybe Russians started to fake their numbers?” “Pro-Putin/Kremlin-backed new IMF leader?” On the grounds that Russia supported this Korean dude praising his expertise.

  8. PvMikhail says:

    One more thing and I will stop the bombardment of comments.
    Looking for the economic indicators of Russia and other Soviet countries, I found out an outright strange indicator. Russia’s number one export destination is the Netherlands. Belarus’s number one is Russia, if I remember correctly, but the first in the EU is also the Netherlands. Number one investor in Russian economy is Netherlands. I mean COME OOOON, WTF IS GOING ON IN HOLLAND? How can they exchange so much money and so many goods being a 16 million strong nation and beating China and other historical partners like GERMANY. I can’t imagine…

    BTW Belarus had a currenct account deficit in 2011, but in 2012 they have a surplus improving trade with the EU. Devaluation helped?
    Growth slowed to 3%:
    What happened with Vitebsk oblast? 21% growth… maybe oil found? 😀

    • Dear PvMikhail,

      Whilst one should obviously treat some of the trade figures with caution it is not surprising that the Netherlands is such an important trade partner. The Netherlands is an extremely important producer of machine tools of which Russia is importing a lot as it retools its factories. Indeed last time I looked (which admittedly was some time ago) machine tools were Russia’s single biggest import item by value, well above consumer goods.

      On the general economic figures, I should say that though forecasting is a dismal science and much will depend on what happens in the wider world economy I too think with you and the IMF and against the Economics Ministry that overall GDP growth in Russia this year will be around 4%. The Economics Ministry is at the moment locked in a battle with the Finance Ministry as it lobbies for higher spending and a general fiscal loosening in order to boost growth. Given the different priorities of the two Ministries this is no more than to be expected. In order to win its battle the Economics Ministry has been busy lowering its growth forecasts in order to scare Putin and Medvedev into siding with it and the Finance Ministry. It has also been lobbying for a willingness to accept budget and even trade deficits in order to boost growth. Putin has however made it clear today that contrary to the wishes of the Economics Ministry the objective is still to achieve a stable budget surplus by 2015 and I don’t think he has the slightest intention of letting the country fall into deficit on its external trade. Incidentally I notice that Russia has kept its trade with China in surplus in the first quarter of this year even though China is now its single biggest trade partner.

      Personally I also think with the Finance Ministry that if the oil price remains at the present level the country is likely to achieve a balanced budget or even a small budget surplus this year just as it did last year despite the higher than expected (but still very small) deficit in the first quarter.

      • PvMikhail says:

        I talked about Russian and CIS exports to Netherlands. Holland is on the receiving end. The manufacturing tools come from Germany, that’s why Germany is on the first spot in imports.

        Hoping for the best scenario…

    • Giuseppe Flavio says:

      Hi all,
      it has been a long time I’ve not commented here, but I’ve followed Mark’s post and most of the comments. About Russia-Netherlands trade relations, some time ago a guy from Holland, writing with the nick Niels18, explained that it’s due to the laws in his country that attract the HQ of companies which actually do their real activity abroad. IIRC, he said that’s a sort of fiscal heaven.
      That is something that seems to happen often, so these economic data must be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, when we discussed foreign direct investments (FDI), it emerged that tiny Hong Kong attracts more FDI than mainland China. Probably, it is so because many Chinese companies have an HQ in Hong Kong for fiscal reasons.

      • marknesop says:

        Hey, Giuseppe: it’s great to see you back, I had been wondering what became of you. Nils18 was Nils van der Vegte, who – together with fellow Dutchman Joera Mulders – writes Russia Watchers, a great blog. We don’t see him much here any more because he’s too busy with his own efforts, but he used to be a regular and provided a lot of great discussion points.

        Hong Kong is attractive because a lot of western companies maintain at least branch headquarters there as well. The Chinese have learned a lot by observing human folly over the years, and very wisely offered Hong Kong special status as a Special Administrative Region. Visa requirements are much less onerous than those required to enter China proper, and though the description takes pains to differentiate them (Hong Kong and Macau) from Special Economic Zones, they are likewise very wealthy and important crossroads of international and regional business because they enjoy a high degree of anonymity. You can’t swing a cat in prestigious (and beautiful) Repulse Bay without hitting a Ferrari dealership, and if I had to live somewhere other than where I do, I would want to live in Hong Kong; bursting with vitality and so much to see and do. I’d have to be pretty wealthy to live there comfortably, though; a lot of junior executives could not afford to live in Hong Kong if their companies did not provide apartments, and most of the people who work in Hong Kong actually live in Kowloon, across the harbour. It’s surprisingly affordable for tourists, hotels and food are very reasonable, but dream on if you wanted to own a house in Hong Kong, and even a good-sized apartment is out of many people’s reach.

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          Hi Mark,
          I’ve been busy with work for some time, now things seems to have come back to routine. Almost every fiscal heaven looks like a very nice place to live, but I wonder how these places would do without their privileged status.

      • PvMikhail says:

        This explanation makes sense…

    • Moscow Exile says:

      There are mountains of flowers imported into Russia daily from the Netherlands. Russian towns have streets full of florists’ kiosks packed daily with freshly imported blooms.

      Presenting bouquets is a big thing witrh Russians. (Warning: never present an even number of blooms – strictly taboo here!)

      When you date a Russian woman, you always present her with a rose. I’ve often picked up the odd rose that has been chucked away on a metro station platform, presumably after a lover’s tiff, and proudly presented it to the wife. And theatre goers often head off for shows armed with bunches of flowers to chuck at their favourite crooners, actors and actresses etc.

      Her indoors always expects me to bring home regularly a bunch of flowers as a token of my undying love for her.

      Some bloody hope!


      • PvMikhail says:

        Wow… reading that I would not make a good Russian in this context. I don’t really like buying flowers when I date. It is irrational to me, that why would I frequently kill a plant, or buy it (flowers are very expensive here) just to cause a temporary happy minute. Afterwards she have to bring it to everywhere we go. I would rather treat her with a good meal or something…

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Exactly how I think! I tell Natalya Vladimirovna this, that I’d rather look at the roses growing at our dacha than cut them them off so that they should serve as some sort of sacrificial token of love for her, but she won’t have it.

          And they’re not cheap either! I reckon you can pay about 120RUR for a rose now at a Moscow kiosk.

        • marknesop says:

          Women are funny about flowers; simply more evidence that we are barely the same species. Maybe God made them that way to test the seriousness of men – if you really are shaken up by this woman, you will do it even if you don’t understand it. When I was in Russia the first time with my wife – who wasn’t actually my wife then, I bought her flowers every day we were out. Given the size of the refrigerator – meaning we needed to buy more food pretty much daily – that was pretty much every day. The second time was our wedding, and I did the same. Since she arrived in Canada (2005; we were married in Russia in 2002), my performance in the flower-acquisitions field has fallen off somewhat, but I still buy them fairly regularly for no reason at all except that I am still crazy about her. Cut flowers are already cut, and men not buying them will not save any over the short term, they’ll simply be thrown away. I suppose over the long term it might force a market adjustment, but they’re not expensive here and the biggest impediment for me is riding my bike with a bunch of flowers sticking up out of my backpack over my helmet. Upon presenting them, I’ve never been made to think, “well, that was a waste of time”. Come on, guys. Everybody wins. Those flowers are raised specifically for cutting, and it keeps florists in business. Just be grateful it isn’t the custom to present a gun; then you’d be keeping arms dealers in business instead.

          • PvMikhail says:

            LOL ultimate campaign for flowers… Are you involved in flower business? How much profit is brings? 🙂 just kidding

            • marknesop says:

              Perhaps I will have to start calling myself “The Kremlin Florist”.

              I don’t pretend to understand women any better than you do, but I am grateful for the little things that make them happy but don’t cost much, so I try to make the most possible use of them, that’s all. Are you a liberal or something? Every time you don’t agree with me, you suggest I must be getting paid to say what I say. Hey – are you really Luke Harding? 🙂

              • PvMikhail says:

                You probably understand women better, than me, because I don’t understand them at all.

                Of course, I am joking. You know, this kind of black humour of mine evolved from the fact, that I can’t trust people after the many lies I heard. Everyone has interests and act accordingly. You would not like to watch a movie (especially cheap action movies) or TV program with me, because I constantly joke about the situations and moral lecturing attempts. This can be funny to a point, but I admit, I can cross the line… What is this called? Cynicism? Don’t really know in English. Of course, friends and online friends suffer from this. 🙂

                • yalensis says:

                  @mikhail, I think “cynicism” is the right word, but it’s okay, really. Better to be a cynic than a blind believer!
                  P.S. I have a brother who is exactly like you, and when we get together, we egg each other on. Nobody could watch a TV show with us, because we laugh at everything, even the bits we like, to the point we are sobbing with laughter and literally rolling around on the floor.
                  P.P.S. There is an American TV show for people who like to make fun of movies, they even mock high art shows like “Hamlet”. You can find some episodes on youtube, it’s a lot of fun to watch. And I just realized how serendipitously appropriate my comment is to the blog theme, because the name of Mark’s blog is “Send in the Clowns” ! Which is exactly what Hamlet does at some point.

                • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                  Cynicism is too general in your case. If you watch cheap movies to laugh at them, then you, like me, are a fan of the “so bad it’s so good” genre. In Italian there is a more poetic phrase for this genre “talmente brutto che è ad un passo dal sublime” (so ugly that it is a step away from sublime). If you spend your time actively searching for such movies then you are a shit-hunter (in Italian: filmbruttaro).
                  Happy PvMikhail, you’re not alone!

                • marknesop says:

                  You would not want to watch action movies with me, either, because I’m always picking them apart and saying “that couldn’t happen”. A classic was “Firefox”, starring Clint Eastwood as the clever American pilot Mitchell Gant who steals Russia’s advanced new fighter and flies it out of the very heart of Russia, with Russians in hot pursuit and sprinkled along his route. The helicopters put up to stop him still have American markings on them, and when he runs low on fuel he lands on an ice floe, to be refueled from a submarine. I’m sure I was stammering with incredulity the whole time, while my date (my second wife) only went to be entertained and could care less if it was realistic.

                  Yes, cynicism would be the right word.

                • PvMikhail says:

                  Thank you, people, the enlightenment. Mark, I do exactly the same. I am somewhat into weapons and military things, so I laugh hard when I see some stupid solutions. Also the same with ideological slant. So that’s that. Everybody here could make a big team watching shitty movies and release the ROFLcopter.

      • yalensis says:

        @exile, Ha! I am Russian myself, but I am a clueless Russian with poor social skills and I NEVER knew about that tabu on even-number of flowers. Hm…. actually, now I think about it, that explains quite a lot…
        P.S. I hope for your sake your wife doesn’t read this blog.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          I learnt about the even-number tabu when my wife had her thirty-second birthday during the first year of our marriage. I bought her a bunch of 32 red roses. I told her I’d bought her a rose for each year of her life, which I thought was highly romantic. Thereupon she promptly yanked one out and stuck it another vase. They cost me US$50 as well! They are much much more expensive now. I believe you bring bunches of even numbers to funerals. And there’s a colour code as well. Can’t be bothered to remember what each colour signifies. On her part, however, my wife finds it very strange that in the UK folk consider black cats to be lucky and send picture postcards and birthday cards with “lucky” black cats on them. In Russia, many people won’t cross the path of a black cat and wait for someone else to do so before progressing any further.

    • What a surprise! So Assange’s biggest crime is to appear on RT. This from the reporter and the newspaper who shafted him. If Luke Harding wants to find the explanation of why Assange turned to RT instead of a western media agency like the Guardian all he needs to do is look in the mirror.

      I have not yet seen the interview so I’m not going to comment on it until I do.

      • yalensis says:

        I haven’t seen the interview either, but I am pretty sure this is Julian’s debut as a television personality. He just got the Russian gig, and I’m sure the job is not as easy as it looks when done by slick professionals. I hope Julian gets better at it, and I wish him well, because I think he is a smart guy who has a lot to offer.

        • marknesop says:

          I personally could care less about Julian Assange; I don’t wish him any ill, but I think he’s acting mostly out of self-interest – just like those who hate him most – and don’t really see him as meriting all the attention. But what interests me is how he makes the Righties foam; there must be more to him than I’m seeing, because they really, really hate him. And they’re usually too busy making money and bragging to pay any attention to anyone they don’t see as a threat. Ergo, Assange must be a threat.

          I’d have to say, though, that Hassan Nasrallah was a bit of a coup for a first guest. A lot of the Israeli security agencies would give a lot to know where he is. Either Assange or someone connected to him must have; otherwise they could not have contacted him to arrange his “appearance”.

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    And repeatedly one sees in the comments section to Harding’s article concerning Assagne and the “Kremlin controlled” RT:

    “This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards. Replies may also be deleted. For more detail see our FAQs”.

    It never ceases to amaze me how Harding and the Guardian apparently never recognize the irony in all of this censorship that is imposed in their rag of a newspaper..

    And the amount of censorship in the comments section to Harding’s articles – if, indeed, a comments section to one of his articles has been allowed – has noticeably increased of late, which is possiblly why Harding now seems to be prepared to make more and more frequent responses in those comments sections that are sometimes appended to his articles: he has no need to answer any serious criticism as all such criticism to his articles has been deleted, thereby allowing him, for example, to address in the comments section the vile Zigfield and to bill and coo with her on first name terms.

    The last time he responded to a comment I made about something that he had written, he suggested that I was an employee of the FSB.



    • cartman says:

      The Guardian lost £33 million last year. At least they are not long for this world. The useful idiots are the ones who believe this paper represents progressives.

      • cartman says:

        Here is another example of Guardians neoliberal slant. They compare Kirchner to Peron because she nationalized a poorly-run oil company that would cost its Spanish shareholders. The Guardian is pro-privatization and – considering their lionization of certain rich oligarchs – anti-labour.

        • There is a hysterical rant about this nationalisation on the front page of the Financial Times as well, which is also running in the same edition a ferocious critique of the Indian government for betraying the cause of “reform” and “liberalisation”.

      • marknesop says:

        Ha, ha!! Reminds me of that old syndicated comedy, WKRP in Cincinnati. I loved that show, and rarely missed an episode. In one, curvaceous receptionist Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson) explains to a visitor, “WKRP employs a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get jobs”. What would Luke Harding do if he couldn’t write for The Grauniad? Would writing ever-more-hysterical books about being stalked by the FSB put potato crisps on the table? I doubt it. He’s found his niche…poor devil.

    • marknesop says:

      “The last time he responded to a comment I made about something that he had written, he suggested that I was an employee of the FSB.”

      You can avoid that sort of slanging if you use a name like “Kremlin Stooge”. It is so obviously intended to be ironic that it will disarm Rubbophobes of their weapon of choice. They will have to fall back on playground sallies about how stupid you are, such as Streetwise Professor’s recent “even someone as idiotic as you” and “(sic) you are a even a bigger fool than I thought (a staggering thought in itself)”. Coincidentally, the most recent posting at that venue is a discussion of that very same Harding article, in which the author proudly claims The Grauniad is “channeling Streetwise Professor” and gushes about how perceptive and right-on it is, causing one to wonder if just about any thought is not “staggering” for him.

      Perhaps if you change your name to “Moscow FSB Off-the-Books Accounts Receivable”, you will flummox the droolers at The Grauniad long enough for a comment or two to get through.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        In the past I used to sign myself off in the Guardian feature “Comment is Free” (CiF) as “Your friendly neighbourhood Kremlin stooge”. This was long before I discovered this site. However, I gave up reading the Guardian and making comments in that rag many months ago. Sometimes I even used to sign myself off in Cyrillic as a Colonel-FSB, but then he Guardian chose to make Cyrillic unavailable, even though some comments in CiF appear in Arabic. There were some complaints about this and the Cyrillic option returned, only to be removed yet again. It may be back now: I don’t know.

        I just simply got brassed off with the relentless anti-Russia line that that paper pursues and the total shite that its former “Man in Moscow” writes. I once even invited Harding to meet me in downtown Moscow and to show me the rioting populace about which he once reported a couple of years ago; that was, of, course, if he had time enough to spare to drag himself away from his “Moscow bureau” or one of the swank restaurants that he seemed to frequent and whose cuisine he once droolingly described.

        There seems to have developed during the past year or so in the Guardian a coterie of Russophobic contributors to CiF that wish to bask in the radiance of Russophobe-in-Chief Harding. I should think that the setting up of the Times pay wall may have had a little to do with this. Judging by the tell tale signs of Russian-English, namely phrases such as “in the nearest future” and endlesss errors in article and tense usage, many of these Harding accolytes seem to be Russian “liberast” immigrants to Moskva-na-Temze. Some of them may even be Berezovsky lackies. There are also clearly, in my opinion, many Polish and Baltic State Russophobic contributors to CiF, as well as US citizens who feel themselves at home in a nest of Commie bashers.

        I have also noticed in the past 12 months or so how other CiF contributors who have tried to counter the opinions of Harding and the Guardian editorship concerning the Evil Empire have gradually fallen by the wayside. Several of these counter-Russophobe contributors, not all of them British, appear to be people who have lived and worked for several years in Russia and whose Russian experience differs quite substantially to that which Harding regularly regurgitates.

        I should think that the main reason for this falling off of counter arguments against the Guardian Russophobic line has been the ever increasing censorship in that newspaper of comments criticizing that paper’s opinion concerning Russia and especially any comments that criticize Harding’s integrity: as the counter-Russophobic comments have waned, so have those of the Russsophobes waxed – so much so that even that infamously vile and almost psychopathic Russophobe Zigfield has now chosen to grace the comments to Harding’s diatribes withh unctious praise. As I mentioned in a posting above, Harding has now chosen to answer comments with increasing frequency because the comments to his articles are now so regulary purged of criticism.

        However, the main reason why I finally quit reading the Guardian – and I have been doing so since almost when that newspaper was still known as “The Manchester Guardian” – is because I had become so increasingly irritated by the fact that that newspaper has never once shown any inkling to castigate its “Man in Moscow” for proven plagiarism – furthermore, for proven repeated plagiarism.

        Any newspaper with an ounce of decency would have shown Harding the door long ago. That the Guardian hasn’t done so reflects very badly upon the integrity of that nespaper, if it ever had any at all.

        • marknesop says:

          Exactly why I stared this blog. My comments at La Rubbophobe were regularly expunged and eventually I couldn’t comment at all, which was extremely frustrating. Now I can say whatever I like, and nobody can stop me Hahahahahahahah.

          I’m delighted to do the same for Harding. If you see a particularly loathsome piece of Harding nonsense, link it and we’ll stitch him up together. I’m happy to collaborate; Kovane used to contribute fairly regularly here, but he seems to have disappeared. His were some of our best Russian articles, because he lived there (Moscow also) and knew what was really happening. Far, far too many people are perfectly willing to accept that you know Moscow like the back of your hand because you had a postcard from there once.

  10. Well I have now had an opportunity to listen (not watch) Assange’s interview with Sheikh Nasrallah.

    I thought it was a very good interview. He asked Nasrallah tough questions including especially on Syria and even challenged Nasrallah’s religious ideas. Unlike certain western journalists he did not interrupt or hector Nasrallah or try to impose his own views on Nasrallah or set out to prove Nasrallah wrong or seek to humiliate or ridicule Nasrallah with sarcastic or trick questions or try to provide us with a running commentary on Nasrallah’s answers in order to persuade us that they are wrong, with the result that we got a good opportunity to hear what Nasrallah actually had to say, which was often interesting and informative and which does not happen very often. For the record I did not find Assange either stilted or robotic.

    By the way RT says that Assange does intend to interview Russian opposition leaders at some point. Whether they will want to incur the wrath of their US paymasters by being interviewed by him is of course another matter.

    • I should quickly add that I did not find Assange’s attitude to Nasrallah “softball” or “fawning” in any way. Assange was not rude, but that is wholly welcome. I could say more about how Luke Harding in my opinion misrepresents Assange’s interview with Nasrallah but frankly why bother? All I will say is that I do not recognise the interview I have just heard in Luke Harding’s description of it.

      • kirill says:

        Luke Harding, serial plagiarist and liar. Such people find jobs because those that hire them don’t like the reality based community. What useful function could this clown serve other than entertainment as a paid clown? I am not sure why smearing Russia in the west is a full time activity. Is there some sort of spring pulling the brainwashed public away from the hate they were taught since birth? Seriously, the same media that writes Russia off as a has-been, second rate power seems to be overly obsessed with its badness. Saudi Arabia does not get this sort of daily attention. I would have thought them being the world’s largest exporter of oil would put them on the list of important countries to the west above Russia.

        • marknesop says:

          Oh, there is criticism of Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International gave them a pretty thorough going-over. It’s just that the criticism is never echoed by the movers and shakers in western policymaking, most of whom often seem only marginally less ignorant than the electorates they serve.

          • kirill says:

            But I have not seen any media coverage of this AI report and I was referring to the western media’s lack of attention to Saudi Arabia. Are there even OP-ED pieces on Saudi Arabia? What happened to the Arab “spring”? Why no coverage of the repression of democracy?

  11. yalensis says:

    I found the Assange-Nasrallah interview on youtube:

    • yalensis says:

      My opinion: This interview is really good. It covers a lot of ground. After listening to it, one comes away with more knowledge and insight, especially of this particular individual (=Nasrallah). Julian is obviously not a professional TV personality (for example, he rests his chin on his hand, plus he is just funny looking with that mop of white hair), but nonetheless he is a great interviewer, because he is relaxed and respectful, while still asking tough questions. He is able to draw authentic responses from his target. His “robotic” delivery that Luke Harding mocks is actually him trying to enunciate as slowly and clearly as possible for the benefit of the simultaneous English-Arabic interpretor. (Simuletanous translation is a really tough gig, by the way.)
      In summary, I think RT has a winner with this new show.

      • marknesop says:

        Attention is all that matters for it to be a success, and there’s no such thing as bad attention. If Rubbophobes run around like their hair is on fire about it, the show will simply acquire notoriety. Notorious is just as good as celebrated – look at Ksenya Sobchak. It’s not like she’s a great public speaker, but westerners can’t get enough, and a lot of people can’t stand her. However, if she didn’t take such a liberal lapdog stance, most of the people who despise her would never have heard of her. It just translates to twice the attention. Rubbophobes should know that panning the show is not going to decrease its viewership and might actually increase it.

  12. Evgeny says:

    A small announcement.

    Many of you guys are looking up some news, interesting articles, etc. May be you would entertain the following client-side news-searching engine:

    A brief description of its options (in Russian) is here:

    To access that page you need to register an account at our forum (if you do not have it already). Yalensis knows how to get it. 🙂

    Good luck, everyone!

  13. PvMikhail says:

    This article appears in a PUBLIC Russian GOVERNMENT FUNDED new’s agency. No comment.


    • Just for the record, the ever so impartial and independent BBC operates under a broadcasting licence given it by the Home Secretary who is a senior Minister of the British Government. The BBC is funded by a special tax all British households who use televisions must pay, which is also set by the British government and which must be agreed by the British parliament. The BBC is administered by a Trustee Board, whose members are appointed by the Queen “on advice from Ministers” ie. they are in fact appointed by the British government, and the BBC’s present Chairman, who heads the Trustee Board, is Lord Patten, who is a prominent Conservative politician and who was a former senior Minister in the previous Thatcher and Major Conservative governments as well as (disastrously) the last British Governor of Hong Kong when it was still a British colony.

      • PvMikhail says:

        OK, that’s BBC. But

        A, They are barking about state influence and absence of critical journalism on the new channel, which is not even formed yet.

        B., they do it on a state funded media channel, which proves, that Russian state can be really, I mean REALLY flexible and ready to compromise.

        So liberals on an existing state channel are saying that they will have no voice on a hypothetical state channel, which doesn’t exist yet.

        This is not even irony, but a joke.

        PS I want to see a documentary on BBC about the Falkland War or the Irish insurgency, which is not from the viewpoint of Great Britain. Because that is what they are asking for.
        I like whataboutism. It makes sense.

        • Dear PvMikhail,

          I agree. The fact is as I repeatedly say, Russian liberals take no prisoners. Their definition of objective journalism is journalism that repeats their views. The fact that a state funded news agency like RIA Novosti publishes articles that reflect their views is not taken by them as a sign of flexibility by the state but as proof that their opinions are the right ones. They do not see such actions as grounds for reason or compromise. Rather they see it as proof that their arguments are unarguable and that the state is getting weaker.

          As for the new broadcaster, my point about the BBC was that there is nowhere on earth a public broadcaster who is totally impartial and totally disconnected from the government of the country in which it broadcasts. The reality is that from the perspective of the liberals the new broadcaster will not be objective unless it expresses their opinions (and only their opinions) and will not be independent unless they control it.

          • PvMikhail says:

            Yeah, new station, like Ekho Moskvy, should have Venediktov and Vartolomeyev kind of people in the leadership, i guess…
            Why not Novodvorskaya? It wants democracy… It even claimed, that Russia would be better of with a brief war with US an then occupation, because americans would bring real democracy to this primitive country… I believe, that even after this happening, it would defend her position, even after it is the last surviving citizen of Russian Federation. As you said, they don’t take prisoners…

            It has only one quote which makes any sense:
            “Once ago we, the CIA, and the United States used that idea as a battering ram to destroy the Communist regime and make the USSR collapse. That idea is outdated and let’s stop lying about human rights and human rights defenders”

            • kirill says:

              These people take no prisoners since they feel that Russians are too weak and soft. What is needed is a Poltikovskaya blowback every week then they would be afraid to open their traps. I think that in the good old USA anyone who acted as a 5th columnist in an open and brazen manner would be offed eventually by some patriotic nut.

              Anyone really believe the current US regime, a de facto one party one with two branches who are the only ones on the ballot in most places (see what happened to Nader during the 2008 vote), is some sort of role model for the rest of the world? To think that Putin’s Russia is supposedly some fascist dicatorship when Putin has to actually compete with real opponents. During the 2004 vote he faced 12 contenders. So why can’t I find an equivalent of the Russian liberasts. All the kooks scramble to prove they are more patriotic than the next kook and worship the constitution. By contrast the liberasts piss on Russia. If only the nashi were brownshirts and not some talking point for the liberasts.

              The lack of real brownshirts and the extreme tolerance shown by Russians to these liberast scumbags is proof that all the vile insults hurled at Russia are utterly vacuous. I am sure if the liberasts took over in some coup (their only chance, never at the ballot box) then they would start sending Russians to gulags all over again. They are the totalitarian filth and should be the ones who are purged from Russia. May they find some island and establish their utopia there, but they don’t want “freedom” they want to rule over Russians.

              • marknesop says:

                For me, the moment that the liberals abandoned their last shred of pretense to populism and simply making sense was when Medvedev announced the dramatic simplification of getting a political party registered and the threshold reductions in signatures to levels pretty much everyone could achieve. There was a moment of shocked silence, then all the liberals started quacking about it being a Kremlin plot to make it easier for the ruling party to split the vote. I just shook my head in amazement – there is no pleasing these people short of rigging the vote so that a liberal must win. Then, they would claim that the people have spoken. You just have to laugh.

                And it’s not that I have no sympathy for liberalism: as I’ve said before, I believe, I am very liberal in my own politics and generally (well, almost always) vote liberal, although liberal means different things here than it does in Russia. I was prepared to hate Stephen Harper because I perceived him as a suck-up to Bush when he was President and that he generally leaned toward Republican values, but I have to say he has not governed that way and he has provided pretty good national leadership, whether it be luck or skill. But I live in a very liberal province and am generally comfortable with a generous social safety net and policies that ensure fairness for all; I don’t mind paying taxes as long as the money is mostly spent sensibly. I’m afraid I don’t see any of that social conscience in Russia’s liberals, but only a lot of narcissistic busybodies pissing on everything the government does while offering no plan beyond “the government does it all wrong. We would do it all right”. I haven’t seen, in any of them, the promise of a strong leader who could unite Russians in common cause, but rather the politics of division and the promotion of unrest and dissatisfaction.

                A liberal leader would come under immediate pressure to introduce western-friendly reforms, to privatize most or all state industries in the interests of “fairness in competition” and to trust Russia’s fortunes to market forces. He or she would also come under intense pressure to allow a great deal of western NGO interaction and to accept a good deal of western advice. This is not a matter of speculation, but a projection based on what has already been demonstrated when Russia elected a liberalizing President, and the clamoring of western agencies to be allowed to pick up where they left off before that interfering Putin ruined everything by proving the country could prosper without making a whore of itself. I don’t see the slightest tendency to resistance against such tactics in today’s liberal slate – every one would embrace western guidance and de facto governance; are, in fact, eager for it.

          • marknesop says:

            An excellent and sensible analysis, as usual, Alex.

  14. yalensis says:

    Kasparov has written a hagiography of Navalny. We know from leaks that Nemtsov despises Navalny. Does this mean Navalny and Kasparov are forming an alliance? The plot thickens…,28804,2111975_2111976_2112167,00.html

    • marknesop says:

      Wow. I see no evidence that he is joking. And of course it includes the mandatory mention of “the party of crooks and thieves”, as I imagine the playbook says, “settle on a demeaning phrase that describes the government, and use it at every opportunity until it becomes part of the lexicon”. Except it never has, and the only ones who use it are the opposition figures and sympathetic press sources in the west. It just never caught on in Russia, where it needs to in order to achieve the desired effect. Can you imagine what a Russia run by Alexei Navalny would be like? It’d be a wet dream for the west, because he would lose control of it in about five seconds. Not that that would matter much to him, because governing was never the part of the plan that appealed to him; he’s an anarchist, and his interest in government begins and ends with overthrowing it, just to prove it can be done. What happens afterward is of no interest to him, and he gets impatient in interviews when asked about what a post-Putin Russia would be like. He could care less; the moment when “the people” burst in and seized Putin by the scruff of his neck and dragged him out into the street would be the endgame for him; after that, he could go live in the west and one of the ego eggheads like Nemtsov or Kasparov could take over.

      Navalny is already a spent force, and anyone who hitches their wagon to his star is not going skyward, but in the opposite direction. Barring his actually discovering something major – like Putin’s “hidden billions in stolen money” – he is never going to reach the level he did at Sakharov Prospekt. Garry Kasparov just cannot seem to absorb the lesson that chess was what he was meant to be good at.

  15. kirill says:

    “I regret that Russia sticks to a policy that isolates it from both the Arab world and the international community,” Juppe told journalists in Paris.

    This is thick and rich coming from the country that created a big chunk of the middle eastern mess with its territorial carvings. The borders of Syria and Lebanon are the result of colonialism of the variety that created the mess in Africa (e.g. Rwanda vs. Burundi). So now we have the French acting as the voice of Arabs. At least Russia does not want to bomb them back into colonial submission like the precious west.

    • marknesop says:

      As I commented at that site, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights posted an open letter reporting their site had been hijacked by a former volunteer, and that Rami Abdulrahim is an alias that was shared among administrators. The individual posing as the Chairman and sole member of the Syrian Observatory for Human rights is Osama Suleiman, and he is a satellite dish salesman who operates out of his home in Coventry and gets his casualty figures over the phone from activists.

    • marknesop says:

      I’ll say – Sidney Crosby is as Canadian as maple syrup, born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where I lived for 10 years. Before you unload all your personal pique, Kasparaitis, you should make sure you know the nationality of the players you’re crying about.

      This is just a second-rate player making excuses for not getting the recognition he feels he is due. Maybe he has observed a few isolated cases of bias against non-North-Americans, but in my personal experience the Russians have always been the ones to beat. If you can get past them, you’re good. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that, in my household, if the contest gets down to Canada vs. Russia, I don’t care who wins. If either is eliminated early, I cheer for the remaining one to beat the Americans.

      I could name a handful of Russian players who were elevated to the status of visiting princes, starting with Pasha Bure. Just because he played for the Rangers doesn’t make him an American, and he got his start with Red Army. Boys in their early teens when the Russian Rocket was tearing up the ice couldn’t have cared less if he came from Jupiter; they wanted to be him and thought he was the greatest human being alive. True greatness transcends nationality. When Alexander Ovechkin was here (in Vancouver, not Victoria; I’ve never seen him in person) for the 2010 Olympics, you would have thought The Pope had condescended to visit. Except everybody thought he was evil, of course, let’s make that The Pope of Evil, but respected? There probably wasn’t a more respected man in the city.

      According to Wikipedia, Kasparaitis chose to play as a Russian in official events because the Lithuanian hockey team was relatively weak and had not ever played in major competitions.

      • yalensis says:

        Since we are on the topic of sports which take place on a sheet of ice, I give you rising figure skating star Julia Liptnitskaya of the Russian Federation. Here is her gold-medal short program from Junior Worlds. (I repeat, JUNIOR Worlds!) Although this talented child is only 13, she will be age-eligible (just barely!) in time for 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

      • Misha says:

        I find myself somewhere in the middle. See:

        I find myself somewhere in the middle. See:

        I’m not certain this kind of article wouldn’t likely be so readily accepted if written about baseball players from anyone of the Latin American countries. The collective tone of the above linked article would be considered by some as racist if applied towards Black athletes.


        – Malkin carried his team this year when Crosby was out. The former did that in one prior season as well. Malkin wasn’t the only reason why the pens failed in the first round of this year’s playoffs.

        – Colorado’s Varlamov had a pretty good year in goal for a Colorado Avalanche team in transition.

        – Ovechkin’s game is physically demanding. It’s possible that he has gone down for good from a superstar to all star. Perhaps he can adjust his game to a very effective superstar finesse style.

        – As the above article notes (albeit in a suggestively downplayed kind of way), Russia has had recent success at the junior level, suggesting that its ice hockey prowess isn’t noticeably going down.

        – The relative success of the KHL only serves to boost the future of Russian ice hockey.

        – Kasparaitis and Russian ice hockey, as well as Russia at large show a good relationship between Russians and non-Russians, in a country regularly put under a hypocritically inaccurate standards.

        Less time on LR and more emphasis on intelligent former USSR insight will lead to a better understanding of the involved subject matters. Political biases and cronyism continue to downgrade the coverage/commentary.

        • Misha says:

          Go Rangers and Devils. I correctly predicated their first round successes. The Flyers won some sloppily played games in their series with the Pens. I won’t be surprised if the Devils advance past the Flyers. I’m sticking with the Rangers.

          The NHL West is wild.

  16. yalensis says:

    So, take THAT, Julian Assange! According to this piece from vzgliad, Ksenia Sobchak is getting her own talk show on Saakashvili’s Russian-language propaganda channel “First Kavkaz”. The channel was set up so that Saak could transmit the “Truth” to Russians languishing in Putin’s Evil Empire with no word from the outside (civilized) world.
    Sobchak will be transmitting her show from her comfortable Moscow studio, starting tomorrow. One can speculate that most of her guests will be podpindosniki types who worship Saakashvili as the ultimate anti-Putin.

    • marknesop says:

      Oh, me!! Pick me!! Me!! I know how this one ends!!

      Assange is perceived as a dirty traitor who betrayed all the values he learned at his mother’s knee in order to truckle to tyranny. Sobchak, on the other hand, is a patriot!! Am I right?

      I can’t believe Sobchak isn’t getting enough attention already. The only thing left is to install a bathroom camera so the world can watch her shower. Hey – that might not be a bad idea.

      • Ksenia Sobchak on Georgian TV! I am sure the Kremlin is shaking to its foundations!

        Actually if he were that way inclined (which despite his sense of humour I rather doubt) this news ought to make Putin crack open a bottle of champagne. There is simply no comparison between the reception of RT in the US and the reception in Russia of a TV station controlled by Saakashvili. RT is funded by a government with which many (but by no means all) Americans have issues. Any channel controlled by Saakashvili is funded by a government with which Russia has been at war. Appearing on it will simply confirm to many people that Ksenia Sobchak is unpatriotic and disloyal to her country (which of course she is) making her even more unpopular than she is already.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Sobchak’s decision to host a TV show in Gruzia either shows how detached “celebrities” such as she and her “elite” nouveaux riches bourgoise ilk are from the opinions of the ordinary “Ivan in the street”, who, in my experience, holds Saakashvili in the utmost contempt for the warmongering US-lick-spittle that he is, and I daresay the same goes for most of the million or so Gruzians who live in the Russian Federation; or she is clearly demonstrating the utter contempt that she and her “liberal” class on their part have for the “bydlo” – the “cattle”, as Chirikova once described the vast majority of her fellow countrymen that disagree with her and her podpindosniki associates.

          In fact, I should think that Sobchak’s decision to appear on a Gruzian TV channel was founded on both her detachment from “the mob” and her contempt for it, together with the no doubt sizeable fee that she will receive from Saakashvili’s government for what it must see as a major coup in its propaganda war against the uncivilzed Tatar hordes of the Evil Empire.

          Sobchak is typical of a “liberal fascist” who believes that the opinion of the minority to which she belongs is the only “right” one and that all those that hold differing points of view are retards who, far from receiving her and her “enlightened” associates’ pity because of the error of their ways, are treated with contempt.

          That is why she and her associates firmly believe that no matter how often a tiny percentage of the electorate votes for the ” liberal opposition”, the majority decision is always wrong and “undemocratic”.

          Her detachment from what the “mob” thinks of the former “reality show” hostess was well illustrated when she chose to speak from the stage in Sakharov Street, Moscow, on 24th December 2011: she left the stage in tears as a large number of the crowd, mostly from the Nationalist contingent, started chanting at her “шлюха” (“shlyookha” – “slag”).

          There’ll be many more calling her much worse from now on.

          • On the subject of the (enormous) Georgian diaspora in Russia, my impression is that it supported Saakashvili when he came to power but has now turned against him.

            One of the most unremarked aspects of the 2008 South Ossetia war is the absence of violence or harassment towards Georgians in Russia. Neither they nor their businesses have been threatened, no one so far as I know has had his business seized and there have been no expulsions or persecutions. The Russian government has conspicuously not treated Georgians in Russia as a fifth column or an “enemy within”, has not attempted to lock down the teaching of Georgian or limit the spread of Georgian culture, there is no anti Georgian paranoia or spy mania and importantly no sign of any such hysteria catching on amongst the Russian people in general. Last time I was there Georgian restaurants in Moscow were open and doing a thriving trade. Contrast this with the way Saakashvili behaves towards Russians or the various anti Muslim campaigns we have had in western Europe and the United States.

            Given the fact that Georgia and Russia have fought a war and the relentless and over the top anti Russian propaganda Saakashvili and his media organisations have been pumping out this is really quite exceptionally impressive. It just goes to show that contrary to the western stereotype Russians so far from being ultra nationalist xenophobes are actually a generous and friendly people.

            • Ksenia Sobchak really isn’t worth the attention she is getting. She is one of those mysterious people who manages to be famous simply by being famous. I truly have no idea what she does. She has appeared in various magazines in various states of undress (which is fine by the way) but apparently she is not a professional model, she has appeared in a film but is not an actress and she has designed various clothes and shoes (including of all things rubber boots) but is apparently not a fashion designer. Her academic career seems similarly to have been a migration from one prestigious institution to another without anything very much to show for it. Quite why the opinions of such a nebulous person should be of interest to anybody I have no idea.

              • yalensis says:

                At one time there were actually mysterious rumors that Ksenia was Putin’s illegitimate daughter by his old friend and ally in Petersburg elite, Anatoly Sobchak. Dubious if this rumor is true, but maybe a DNA test is in order?
                For her own protection, Ksenia will be broadcasting her show out of Moscow studio. She will NOT have to travel to Tbilisi and meet with her new godfather, Saakashvili, he would probably rape her and put her in his harem, as the price for signing her paychecks..

              • Moscow Exile says:

                “How come in just a few weeks people I have known for years, who never went to meetings, suddenly joined a crowd of strangers – and let’s be honest not even always pleasant people – in really bad weather?” wrote the former reality show presenter Sobchak in a column for the Russian “Tatler”.

                Somehow, I don’t think many of my neighbours in the block where I live subscribe to “Tatler”; nor, should I think, did many of my neighbours, Muscovites all, vote for Prokhorov in last month’s presidential election.

                I tell you, Ksusha, how come you and your “elite” bourgeois chums came to join the White Ribbon crowd: it’s because folk like you are always on the lookout for something new to do in your humdrum lives, so it’s now the done thing for you and your “beautiful people” pals to go to a “demo” – even even if it means rubbing shoulders with some not so beautiful, unpleasant folk.

                You know the ones I mean: the ones who, after having been greeted by you on December 24th, 2011, in Sakharova Street with: “My name is Ksenia Sobchak and I have something to lose, but nevertheless I am here”, began to shout out at you repeatedly “Fuck off, whore!”

                And if that’s what many of your fellow “oppositionists” thiought of you then, I shudder to imagine in what low esteem you are held by them now, to say nothing about your political oponenent’s opinion of you.

            • marknesop says:

              Contrast it with how Muslims were treated in the USA after 9-11; mandatory registration, infiltration of public events by security services and labeling of all men between 18 and 55 as “military-age males”. That’s fine; a nation is entitled to do what it thinks it needs to do to keep itself safe, and there’s no denying there was a real threat, although arguably those security services should have seen it coming, but fumbled it. But you’d think it would preclude getting all preachy and calling other nations “authoritarian”, not to mention bankrolling the opposition in other countries and trying to get the elected government overthrown.

              • Exactly my point Mark, though I would add that if any actions had been taken against Georgians in Russia we would never hear the end of it.

                • cartman says:

                  I think about 160 were deported (or maybe that was before the war). The problem is that there are 1 million+ Georgian citizens in Russia mostly illegally, making the RF a relief valve for internal pressure and the primary source of remittances. But you do not want people in the country involved in illegal activities, where Georgians account for more than their share. Ever notice that whenever there is a bust in western Europe of the “Russian” mafia, the identities and citizenship of those arrested are all Georgian? The media still calls them the Russian mafia.

  17. Moscow Exile says:

    Взгляд на блядь?

  18. To anyone still interested here is the text of the latest UN Resolution on Syria extending the monitoring mission. The Resolution was drafted by Russia and co sponsored by China. Syria supported it. All the members of the Security Council voted for it including the US, the UK and France.

    Notice that the Resolution is careful to balance calls upon the Syrian government with calls to the Syrian opposition. With this Russian drafted Resolution I think one can say that Russia and China have decisely won the diplomatic battle over Syria in the Security Council. Though the western media will never admit the fact, it is Russia which with China’s support has wrested the initiative on Syria from the US, the UK and France and which is dictating the terms of the diplomatic process. This is a triumph for Russian diplomacy and shows once again that playing tough and refusing to be pushed around pays off and that the US, UK and France like typical bullies turn round and run when they have a real fight on their hands. Needless to say this is not how the western media will report the latest developments.

    The Syrian crisis however is not over. Notice Susan Rice’s comments in which she clearly says that unless the situation “improves” in 90 days the US will not support a further extension of the UN monitoring mission ie. will seek to pull the rug from underneath Annan and his peace plan. This despite the fact that all the latest information suggests that the situation in Syria is stabilising and that last Friday (the day when the opposition tries to organise its biggest rallies after Friday prayers) passed off relatively quietly.

    • yalensis says:

      @alexander: I think you are right that the crisis is far from over. The schoolyard bullies (US, UK, France) have backed off for now, but they will be back. The politicial compromise worked out by Kofi Annan will probably satisfy a large majority even of Syrian oppositionists, whom it bends over backwards to please. However, Western/Saudi policy has been to concentrate their support on that tiny irreconcilable minority within the opposition which seeks full-out civil war in order to bring Salafist/Al Qaeda types to power there. Hence, these types will seek to break the ceasefire and stir things up again. According to RT analysis,

      Despite the agreement being reached, the US still is not ruling out “other means” in dealing with the crisis. Political analyst Dan Glazebrook believes this is a coded, veiled threat of extreme violence. “They are still keen to promote this idea that they may conduct some kind of aerial bombardment, a kind of mass slaughter to help their proxies on the ground in order to keep the civil war going,” he told RT.

      Meanwhile, today Russia and China began a series joint naval war games to show off to the world they determination to protect Iran from foreign invasion.

      • marknesop says:

        Ha ha!! I hope Anatoly sees that (about the joint naval exercises): it makes me look psychic. That’s two out of three of my “verifiable predictions” from my interview with him accounted for (the other was Russia joining the WTO). The only remaining one was something about Japan, but I don’t remember and I would have to look it up. Probably recognition of the Kuriles, something like that.

  19. kievite says:

    A pretty interesting interview of the implementor and co-architect of Russian privatization

  20. Moscow Exile says:

    Latynina is once again in fine fettle, judging by her latest contribution to the “Moscow Times”, with an article entitled “Ignoring Shein, Putin Is Playing With Fire”.

    In her article about the now on hunger strike and failed candidate for the Astrakhan mayoralty Oleg Shein, Latynina claims that “Astrakhan has suddenly become the political epicenter of Russia”.

    And who should be the first (and, so far, the only) person in the comments section of the article to ridicule Latynina’s preposterous claim as regards Astrakhan than that epicentre of Russophobia herself, Zigfeld.

    I find it rather strange finding myself in agreement with Zigfeld on this point, but to give benefit where benifit is due – she is absolutely right.

    She is also correct in stating that protests in Moscow “have dissolved into nothing, which is why Latynina has to talk about the provinces”.

    However, I find it rather interesting to note that Zigfeld begins her comment thus: “Nobody is a bigger fan of Latynina than we are, but calling Astrakhan the political epicenter of Russia is like calling Des Moines the ballet epidenter [SIC] [of Iowa”.

    Who are “we”?

    Does Zigfeld now consider herself to be one of God’s annointed?


    • PvMikhail says:

      Astrakhan is a very important city, but calling it an epicenter is ridiculous… I bet that not even Astakhan residents consider it such, or they don’t even care about what happened or not happened. When there is a mayoral election in Hungary, which takes place not in the time of nationwide municipal elections, the turnout is usually very low. People don’t want to sacrifice time from their Sundays if the life of the city is not jeopardized with an extremely idiotic policy…

      • Dear Moscow Exile and PVMikhail,

        Do Latynina & Co have any idea who Oleg Shein actually is?

        Oleg Shein was one of the original group that supported the Russian Congress of People’s Deputies in its standoff with Boris Yeltsin in 1993. I understand that he was at one time a member of the KPRF before joining various Leftist parties and groups. He has consistently described himself as a Socialist and I understand still does. At one point he was visiting the UK as the guest of Tommy Sheridan, a Scottish politician who for a time and with some success headed a Far Left Party in Scotland that was well to the Left and opposed to the Labour Party, which it (rightly) felt had sold out to the capitalists. Over the course of these visits Tommy Sheridan and Oleg Shein shared platforms and gave speeches together in which they both talked about the repression of the workers’ movements in their respective countries.

        Everything I have heard about Oleg Shein suggests that he is a man of genuine integrity and courage and a resolute political oppositionist with a strongly Leftist stance. In other words his political ideas are almost the diametric opposite of those of Latynina, Navalny and the rest of the liberal Moscow crowd who have so enthusiastically embraced him.

        I would add that though I have some respect for Oleg Shein’s apparent political consistency and integrity, I consider his hunger strike an act of ridiculous exhibitionism betraying gross political immaturity. If he really was defrauded of his victory (which given the margin of his defeat I strongly doubt) then what he needs to do is to capitalise on the resentment in Astrakhan this must have caused so that he can better prepare for the next battle. Engaging in a hunger strike because he has not become the city’s Mayor is absurd posturing and is frankly spoilt and childish behaviour. The fact that he is the sort of person who engages in this sort of self promoting and juvenile activity probably goes far to explain why the good people of Astrakhan (who are the people who know him best) did not in the want him for their Mayor and, since he began his hunger strike, are failing to rally to him in large numbers.

        • Giuseppe Flavio says:

          Do Latynina & Co have any idea who Oleg Shein actually is?
          Yes, sort of. Latynina is perfectly aware that Shein isn’t a liberal of her lot, in fact she wrote “Second, Shein is a nationalist who never tires of criticizing the United States”. It’s different from your description of Shein, but not incompatible.
          The problem for Latynina & Co is that they have redefined victory as “anything but Putin in power” instead of the usual victory of their party. Even so it’s not working, and moving to the provinces doesn’t seem to help.

          • Dear Giuseppe,

            “The problem for Latynina & Co is that they have redefined victory as “anythin but Putin in power” instead of the usual victory of their party. Even so it’s not working, and moving to the provinces doesn’t seem to help”.

            Exactly. Of course Latynina & Co know who Oleg Shein is. He has after all been involved in Russian politics longer even than Putin. That they should be supporting such a person exposes their political weakness not their strength. For what it’s worth I rather suspect that there has always been quite a lot of flux in Russian provincial politics and that the only thing that was unusual about the mayoral elections in Yaroslavl and Togliatti is that they received the attention that they did. If such elections had happened a year ago I suspect that they would have gone by largely unreported and unnoticed.

            PS: I have not forgotten about finding for you some good backs about Japan but my Japanese lawyer friend is in Japan at the moment and therefore difficult to get hold of.

            • Zigfeld in her comment makes an observation that is so outrageous that it really cannot go unanswered. She implies that Putin is guilty of the murders of Starovoitova, Politkovskaya and Markelov.

              Markelov’s murderers have been identified as a young couple called Tikhonov and Khasis. Both have been tried and convicted for the crime and are now in prison. No one with any knowledge of the case seriously doubts their guilt. In fact it seems that Tikhonov murdered Markelov (and shot and killed a young reporter from Novaya Gazeta who was on the scene) in order to impress Khasis. The last I heard they were going to marry. There is absolutely nothing to link Putin or the Russian government to this crime.

              Starovoitova was murdered in November 1998 before Yeltsin appointed Putin Prime Minister and when Putin had only recently become head of the FSB. Her actual killers were caught and convicted long ago. In October 2011 the case was reopened when evidence came to light that the murder was ordered by a former LPDR politician and businessman who already has a criminal record. There is again absolutely nothing to link Putin or the Russian government to this murder.

              The Politkovskaya case is slowly approaching its climax after a painstaking investigation. The actual suspected killer has recently been arrested in Chechnya whilst the corrupt police official who has confessed to organising the murder has named Berezovsky and Zakayev as the people who ordered it. It is premature to reach any definite conclusions before the case goes to Court but again there is absolutely nothing in the evidence that has been unearthed so far that links either Putin or the Russian government to Politkovskaya’s murder.

              These outrageous allegations of Zigfeld’s have appeared on the website of a Russian newspaper that is published in Russia. I simply cannot imagine any other country that would tolerate such grossly defamatory and false allegations about the country’s head of government and prospective head of state being published in a national newspaper published and read inside the country. If anybody were to write a comment or article in a British newspaper making such obviously false and reckless allegations of serial murder against the Queen and/or the Prime Minister there would be uproar and legal action against the newspaper would undoubtedly follow probably in the form of a case of criminal libel. The only possible exception I can think of was Mohammed Al Fayed’s similarly wild allegations that Prince Philip ordered the murder of Diana Spencer, where he was permitted a certain measure of indulgence because Dodi Fayed, who died with Diana Spencer, was his son. Even then the British press had to be very careful in the way it reported these allegations. Eventually even Mohammed Al Fayed had to stop making these allegations when a Coroner’s Inquest conclusively established that Diana Spencer’s death was an accident.

              Bluntly when I read comments like these of Zigfeld’s in Moscow Times or similarly wild comments in Novaya Gazeta and Moscow News it seems to me that the problem with the Russian press is that it is controlled far too little instead of too much.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              I searched for past mayoral elections in Russia where a non-UR candidate won, and I’ve found two cases:
              1) Roman Grebennikov, Volgograd, May 21, 2007, that switched to UR later.
              2) Ilya Potapov , Berdsk, April 7, 2011.
              Note that my search was limited to English language sources.

              Thanks again for your help about Japanese culture.

            • Giuseppe Flavio says:

              Back to Shein, he announced that the hunger strike will end tomorrow. Shein claims that the hunger strike is going to stop because “We have achieved the goals which prove that we were right,” i.e. his supporters were released (besides a few that will be released tomorrow). These supporters were arrested on Friday and sentenced to 3 days, so they did their time and weren’t released earlier.
              In other words, Shein is backing down but can’t admit it.

              • marknesop says:

                I also read Shein and Churov reviewed the camera feeds from the polling stations together, and that half of them showed fraud. But the rules say if fraud is indicated at more than 25% of polling stations, the election can be re-run. There are no intentions to re-run the election, so somebody is full of shit. The usual accusations of ballot-stuffing are flying.

                This more or less defines how elections in Russia will be run for at least the next couple of years – if an opposition candidate wins, it will be hailed as a breakthrough and there will be no critical examination of the voting procedures. If a United Russia candidate wins, there will be a bitter fight to have the results annulled on the basis of massive voting fraud. In a case such as this one, in which the opposition candidate was soundly trounced (60% to 30%), I would not put it past his supporters to commit broadly fraudulent acts in order to taint the vote, knowing they will be observed and the fraud will be blamed on United Russia. This would allow Shein and others like him to claim they were robbed, since he had no chance of winning anyway. But expect a grim fight over every election, at every level, that is won by United Russia.

                It also signals that the liberal noise machine will throw its support behind any candidate in opposition to a United Russia candidate, because Shein is hardly a poster-boy for liberal values; as you pointed out, he has acquired a reputation for nationalism and anti-American rhetoric. So, in summary – opposition wins, God smiles. United Russia wins, they cheated.

              • yalensis says:

                Hunger strikes are ALWAYS stupid. I cannot think of any exceptions to that rule.

    • yalensis says:

      Yes, Kimmie is of aristocratic blood, that is why she uses the royal “We”.
      Also, there IS ballet in Des Moines, Iowa. Never knock regional culture, Kimmie, you’d be surprised how much talent you find in the provinces!

      • cartman says:

        Is there a larger city than Des Moines that only LR knows about? It makes sense that Kim is multiple people since she has a very schizophrenic profile. I was surprised to see her trolling German-language message boards.

    • marknesop says:

      Wherever any kind of anti-government activity – or any activity that can be spun that way – is going on is de facto the most important place in Russia for Latynina; I continue to be amazed that she insists on living in a place she hates so much. Why doesn’t she just move to Los Angeles and be another pet dissident? Her usual audiences would not hold it against her that she was not actually in Russia, and just because she did once would be a continuing badge of authenticity.

      Kimmie likes to pretend there are phalanxes of clever and intuitive people working her blog rather than just one unstable sociopath, that’s why she always says “We”. She has indeed been right far more often than wrong on the issue of the “waves of protest” sweeping Russia – notice that everyone else just changes the subject and moves on, just as if they were never cataclysmically wrong – but her scratchiness on the issue is not impatience with the press for being wrong. Instead, it’s disappointment that there was not a bloody revolution with cities burning and windrows of dead in the streets. On other sites her raging against Russia and myopic visions of it “falling once again into a death spiral of ruin and collapse” continue relatively unabated.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, a low deficit is certainly bad news. I wonder if someone will try to pretend they mean they’ve lowered the growth forecast instead, and hope the ignorant don’t notice the difference. That’d be hard to do considering the accompanying related articles are, “Russia to reach balanced budget by 2015”, “Russian state debt lowest among G8 countries” (a fact I have harped on over and over), and “Russia to return to saving oil revenues in funds”.

  21. yalensis says:

    Okay, this one puts me in in a quandry. I dislike Udaltsov and disrespect Ziuganov. However, on this issue, how can one even find words to oppose them, since they are out there in Ulyanovsk fighting the good fight, protesting against the establishment of a NATO military base in Lenin’s home town of Simbirsk?
    What are Putin/Rogozin even thinking of, allowing NATO to set up a military base on this highly strategic location on the Volga River? If this isn’t treason, I don’t know what is.
    Uldatsov, Kasparov, and the others are American agents, true, so they should be FOR the NATO base, but they are pretending to be ANTI so they can look like patriots and score some points against Putin.
    Here is the Russian translation in INOSMI:
    I count 43 comments so far, Except for one commenter (Pressman) who is known as a pro-NATO troll (who wants Russia to join NATO), and one other commenter who doesn’t think is such a big deal, they are all PROTIV to one degree or another. My views are closest to this commenter named “gorodok”:

    gorodok:В отношении доверия словам лидеров страны.
    22/04/2012, 13:37
    Заявления Путина ,Лаврова, Рагозина Сердюкова в отношении опорного пункта ( площадки подскока) НАТО на Волге в центре европейской части России противоречат друг другу и явно служат целью снизить как военное значение так и знаковость этого шага.
    Все помнят недавние заявления Рогозина по поводу перевалочного пункта туалетной бумаги в Ульяновске.
    А западная пресса говорит о базе. Вот и сейчас речь о бронемашинах(очевидно, что будет полный набор бронетехники , включая танки ).
    Трудно не согласится с Фертаром , что аргументы защитников этого шага напоминают позицию власовцев.
    Идя на прямое предательство, они ведь тоже находили моральное обоснование своей позиции.
    Смешно читать аргументы защитников этого действа. Если мы хотим привязать к себе НАТО, то самое надёжнее сразу пустить их в Кремль. Тем более ,что если против протестуют только националисты и коммунисты , собирающие всего тысячу человек на митинг протеста.
    Большой путь прошла нынешняя власть за 20 лет.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      I totally agree with you about this. I am afraid that some sort of backstairs deal was done to provide a transit stop for NATO possibly as part of the WTO negotiations. However even allowing for that picking Ulyanovsk of all places is unbelievably insensitive. For the record I should make it clear that I do not think Russia should be involved in providing transit facilities to NATO at all in relation to the Afghan or any other war given that NATO is an alliance whose primary function is to oppose Russia.

      Notice by the way that though the western media and the Latynina crowd report every liberal anti government protest in Russia however microscopic they have completely ignored the protests in Ulyanovsk and elsewhere about the NATO facilities there.

    • PvMikhail says:

      Rogozin is a great man, I guess he has the answers for your questions. He has no problems with his ideological background. As a true patriot, he is supposed to make order in Russia’s corruption stricken MIC and I think he will do the job. Not forget his years-long work against NATO interests in the NATO-Russia Council, he defended every inch. I can’t understand what’s going on, but I trust him and Putin more, than those public figures, who oppose the base or transit hub or whatever, even if I oppose it too, because Vladimir Vladimirovich and Dmitriy Olegovich have already proved themselves.

      Or maybe he traded this

      for this?

      jokes aside

      he even sings:

      I would like to see him as the replacement after Putin retires… 🙂

      • Dear PvMikhail,

        I defer judgement on Rogozin. He says lots of things but is he really up to the colossal challenge of reorganising the country’s defence industries? Certainly he can talk the talk but can he walk the walk?

      • yalensis says:

        Hi, @Mikhail, like you I have always been a big fan of Rogozin and hoped he would be Putin successor, this is why his sudden act of treason takes me by surprise! I do hope he has some trick up his sleeve. Like, maybe Russian stevedores are loading rolls of toilet paper for the American troops in Afghanistan, and they “accidentally” spray them with some toxin that causes Americans’ bums to break out in a rash?
        Joking aside, the really sad thing is that Russia does not have a respectable left-wing opposition any more. All the lefties, including KPRF, disgraced themselves to such a degree (especially parading to American embassy to see McFaul) that now nobody will listen to them even when they are RIGHT, and blatant treason taking place under everybody’s nose. Is like the boy who cried wolf.

  22. cartman says:

    120,000 protest in Prague. That is larger than any of the Moscow rallies, but – unlike the Moscow protests – this story is buried.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, I saw that and had much the same reaction as you. Bear in mind the 120,000 figure is according to organizers, who are no more likely credible just because you agree with them. Still, it’s a pretty big protest, and normally would be an invitation to explore the issues being demonstrated against in meticulous detail. Sorry; only in non-aligned governments.

      • Oleg says:

        Yuliya Chernova is a Special Writer at Dow Jones VentureWire and contributing writer to the Wall Street Journal.

        Russia is about to put a dead man on trial, the whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky who died in the custody of the police officials he’d earlier accused of taking part in what Magnitsky said was a huge 2007 Russian tax fraud. The $230 million swindle involved stealing the corporate identity of Hermitage Capital, a Western-run hedge fund and a legal client of Magnitsky’s firm (see “Crime and Punishment in Putin’s Russia,” April 16, 2011). When Magnitsky told Russian authorities in 2008 that corrupt tax and police officials seemed to have victimized Hermitage, it was him they arrested. Several weeks ago, Russian prosecutors set in motion a case that will blame Hermitage and Magnitsky for the frauds he alleged.

        The prosecution may have trouble reconciling its theory of Magnitsky as mastermind with a newly-published investigation in Russia’s Novaya Gazeta. The newspaper reports that the same tax offices Magnitsky had fingered were the loci of apparent tax fraud even after the lawyer’s arrest and 2009 death in prison. Barron’s has reviewed prosecution documents that show the involvement of the FSB – successor to the KGB – in the activities that victimized Magnitsky and Hermitage, including the 2007 confiscation of Hermitage records and the 2008 arrest of Magnitsky.

        Sergei Magnitsky

        “My investigation shows that after [Magnitsky’s] death, the very same tax office workers were continuing to steal from the people in the same exact way,” said Roman Anin, the reporter who wrote the Novaya Gazeta piece, in an interview with Barron’s. “This has to do with every single Russian citizen. If you add up the fraud from 2007 to 2010 committed by these tax officers, you would see that they stole the equivalent amount to the pensions of 20 million Russian citizens.” Barron’s tried, without success, to reach Russian tax officials responsible for what’s now alleged to have been a total of more than $700 million in fraudulent refunds.

        • marknesop says:

          I guess we will see. The prosecution’s position is indeed that Magnitsky was involved in the scheme, although whether or not he “masterminded it” remains to be seen. So far as I know, the death of the accused does not mean the legal action is automatically dropped so long as the case remains unresolved, in any country, so the “putting a dead man on trial” thing is not raising any eyebrows here. In fact, I submit that Magnitsky’s death was very inconvenient for the state, since he was their star witness and their best chance of fingering Browder, whom I suspect to have been the “mastermind” everyone is looking for. If he really is innocent of any wrongdoing, why will he not return to Russia to clear Magnitsky’s name and show his proof that the state murdered him to silence him? Oh, yes, I forgot: Putin wants to kill him, too. How convenient.

          I’d be a lot more comfortable with Browder’s side of the story if he would stop referring to Magnitsky as a lawyer, which he wasn’t, and an employee of Hermitage Capital Management, which he also wasn’t – not directly. He worked for Firestone Duncan, HCM’s tax accountants, and was himself an accountant according to his workbook. Since other schemes such as the hiring of disabled persons solely to claim a tax break, since they didn’t do anything, were apparently Magnitsky’s idea – the signatures in their workbooks are his – it seems reasonable to assume he was not above fraud.

          No verdict from a Russian court is going to be accepted in the west anyway, unless it confirms what western audiences want to believe, so the verdict is actually unimportant. Any irrefutable evidence offered will be shouted down as having been planted by the FSB, so the only explanation I can offer is that the court genuinely wants to get to the bottom of it. If they were just going to go with a fabricated Magnitsky-did-it whitewash, wouldn’t you think they’d have done it by now? Would the west have taken the extraordinary step of dismissing top-rank medical staff without even a trial to establish their guilt? I’ve certainly seen otherwise.

          Novaya Gazeta regularly publishes the wildest accusations against Putin and other government figures, and is nothing more than The Weekly World News of Russia – it’s a tabloid, and keeps its sickly circulation alive with sizzling sensation unsupported by anything. If the most solid support for your apparent contention that the Russian government framed Magnitsky to cover their own illegal activities is that Novaya Gazeta said that’s what happened, I’d be a little nervous about taking that to court.

          • kirill says:

            Magnitsky is a lawyer and Putin’s regime murdered him. With “facts” like these who needs fiction? This whole meme of killing to cover up corruption is a total joke. If Russia is some 3rd world corruption infested hole then the regime would not need to bother to cover up anything. Since when was Putin’s “fascist” regime worried about popular perceptions about corruption or the voice of the people? In a supposedly rotten to the core Russia the population is used to paying bribes to do anything so why would they be concerned about some rinky dink case like the one Magnitsky was involved with?

            Clearly this fairy tale is for western consumption and also a case of wanting to have your cake and to eat too. The only way the whole smear could fly is if Russia was not corrupt like it is made out to be and Russian politicians were afraid of being exposed as corrupt. But aside from the fickle electorate that tolerates brazen corruption the courts would hardly be a threat since they are corrupt too. So we are back to all of the screaming liberasts and their western patrons being utterly full of it.

            Sorry, you self-designated masters of the universe, but people’s memories are still fresh of the gangster paradise that was Yeltsin’s Russia. The west and various self-described crusaders like Navalny were nowhere to be seen during the 1990s. They only discovered corruption in Russia when it was brought under control by Putin and the gravy train of billions of dollars per year to the west stopped.

            • marknesop says:

              I’m reminded of a lesson learned in the great American author Richard Russo’s, “Bridge of Sighs”: there’s nothing says you can’t reinvent yourself – but there’s also nothing says people have to like the reinvented you any more than they did the you you used to be. The liberals regularly shed their skin and emerge as new crusaders for a chicken in every pot, but as much as the chuckleheaded western press loves to point out that the winter’s demonstrators are now too young to remember Yeltsin’s escapades and how liberal reforms – assisted and encouraged by a gleeful west – brought Russia to the brink of lifetime indentured servitude, the people still remember whenever it’s election time. I’d almost venture to suggest it is a genetic stamp that will outlast Putin by a good many decades.

              We’ll see if Oleg actually does want to argue the point, or simply repost stories from the outfit he works for (Barron’s). This is the same guy who pulled the same trick on Anatoly’s blog, putting in a teaser line at the beginning and then posting huge blocks of text that are just regurgitation from some Barron’s author. If that’s the way it’s going to be, it’s not going to last long; I could argue the Magnitsky case all night, but I’m not going to be just a billboard for Barron’s.

              • The best account of the Magnitsky affair is the one by Kovane on this blog. It is essential reading to anyone who wants to understand it.

                Though I ought by now to be beyond illusions it still shocks how people are preparing to bandy about allegations as facts when they have not been proved. Let me expand on some points Kovane has made by saying the following:

                1. It has not been proved that Magnitsky was a whistleblower or that he exposed a fraud. None of Magnitsky’s allegations have been proved true in any court of law. A leading investigator in the case from the Procurator General’s Office has recently said that Magnitsky exposed no fraud at all and that the allegations he made were untrue.

                2. Magnitsky made the allegations at a time when he, Browder and Hermitage Capital were being investigated on very serious charges of tax fraud. Some of the people he made allegations against were the same police officials who were involved in investigating him.

                3. Magnitsky’s forthcoming trial is intended to establish the truth or otherwise both of the allegations that have been made against Magnitsky, Hermitage Capital and Browder and the allegations that Magnitsky has himself made. Given the nature of these allegations it is overwhelmingly in the public interest that they should be investigated and that the truth should be established at a proper trial.

                4. Though this may be the first case where a dead person has been put on trial in Russia, there are precedents for this practice in other jurisdictions. In essence it is no different from trying a defendant in absentia, for which there is precedent in Russia as well as in other jurisdictions. Given the nature of the allegations that have been made the trial is the logical way to establish the truth in the case and the decision to hold one should be welcomed not ridiculed or criticised.

                I would say that the one point where I disagree with Kovane is that he discounts the possibility that Magnitsky was actually himself engaging in the fraud he claimed to expose. Kovane appears to think this is too complicated and self incriminating and therefore unlikely.

                Here I have an advantage over Kovane. In my twelve years of work in the British Royal Courts of Justice I had the dubious pleasure of coming across numerous fraudsters. On the basis of that experience I can say unequivocally that claiming to be the whistleblower who exposes a fraud is a classic fraudster’s response as the net starts to close in. It is also a classic fraudster’s response to claim that the prosecution against him or her has been brought not because he or she is a fraudster but because he or she is a whistleblower. It is also a commonplace for a fraudster to accuse those who have accused him or her of the fraud, or who are investigating the fraud, of being the persons who originally perpetrated it. That these allegations can sometimes appear incredibly convoluted and complicated is simply a reflection of the complicated nature of fraud and of the sort of people who engage in it just as the fact that this sort of behaviour may appear self incriminating reflects the habitual over confidence and weak sense of reality that is also typical of fraudsters.

                A good example of a fraudster behaving in exactly this way is Khodorkovsky’s famous television confrontation with Putin in 2003 in which he accused Rosneft and by implication Igor Sechin of using corrupt methods to acquire oil assets – exactly the sort of illegal practices we now know Khodorkovsky at the time was himself engaged in.

                Let me make it clear that in making these last points I am making general statements based on experience. I make no claims for or against Magnitsky. I do not know the truth about the Magnitsky case. The point of the trial is to find the truth out.

                • marknesop says:

                  I could not agree more that the purpose of the trial is to find out the truth, and I believe the western press is trying to discredit the results in advance with maudlin accounts of Magnitsky’s poor mother being forced to endure her dead son’s being dragged through the muck. I honestly do not believe the prosecutors would let the case go forward if they knew they had nothing, simply on the horrible optics it generates. I personally believe they have something and they believe there is a good chance they can prove it. It’s a shame it will never be accepted by the western press, who will howl that it was all a setup and decry the sick morals of anyone who would frame the good soul Magnitsky to cover their own guilt. However, that caterwauling can be foreseen, and it’s only important that it convince Russians of its accuracy and fairness. If the west wants to go through with its silly charade of banning a few Russians and their generations to follow from western countries until their line dies out, as a symbolic gesture, bring it on: I daresay they will live without tasting the pleasures of those countries willing to go along with the ban.

                  Indeed, in submarine warfare, doctrine of yesteryear suggested a submarine detecting a torpedo launch should immediately fire a torpedo of her own down the bearing the first torpedo came from. It would give the shooter a problem to think about, and if you were lucky it might make him cut the guidance wire to his own weapon so that he could take evasive action. This is allegorical to Magnitsky’s accusing the officers investigating him of being complicit in fraud. It has the effect of imputing a sinister motive to the investigation, and Browder for one has leaned heavily on this technique: of course they’re investigating poor whistleblower Sergey – they’re desperate to cover up their own crimes, and they know he is on to them, they have to silence him. In that scenario, Magnitsky’s death is a Godsend.

                  A misunderstood, or perhaps misappreciated aspect to what became known as “The Hermitage Effect” was Browder’s manipulation of the Proportionality Principle, which I briefly discussed in my own post on Browder. Simplified, Browder bought some shares in undervalued companies. Although his whisper and greenmail campaigns against those companies was well known, what is less understood is his activism on behalf of minority shareholders in those companies. It had the beauty of simplicity, because while he was actively lobbying to gain more power over the company for his own ends, he could portray himself as arguing for the rights of the little guy, and trying to increase that little guy’s voice in company management.

                • Dear Mark,

                  Your torpedo analogy is exactly right and describes fraudsters’ thinking exactly.

                  Browder comes across to me as a pretty ruthless operator. He is also brilliant at public relations though here he can capitalise on the fact that in any dispute between the Russian government and a western businessman western governments and the western media will always and invariably prefer the account of the businessman to that of the Russian government. Whether or not Browder is also guilty of fraud is another matter and is something we should hopefully find out from the trial.

                  Obviously whatever the outcome of the trial and however fairly it is conducted the western response will be outspokenly and blindly critical just as it has been in the Khodorkovsky case. However as in the Khodorkovsky case the Magnitsky case is certain sooner or later to end up in the European Court of Human Rights. The Russian authorities must know this so the fact that they are proceeding with the trial must mean that they think that they have a strong case and that they intend to conduct the trial fairly and properly.

  23. yalensis says:

    Continuing above thread about Gruzian citizens being forced to leave Russia. I do personally know of one case (Elene Gedevanishvili, elite freestyle figure skater), but this happened in 2006, as relations between Russia and Gruzia were deteriorating rapidly (in the lead-up to the 2008 war). At the time Elene was only 16, she was living with her mother in Moscow in order to train with Tatiana Tarasova at the CSKA Moscow rink. During a blanket revoking of Gruzian visas (Russian retaliation against something Saakashvili had done, I don’t remember what), Elene and her mother were forced to leave Moscow and return to Gruzia. Despite Saak trying to latch onto her and turn her into propaganda cause celebre, whatever he patriotic feelings it was impossible for Elene to continue her training in Gruzia, as they do not have any skating rinks up to her level, hence she was welcomed to the United States, where they have many great rinks and trainers. Elena found a new team of (mostly Russian) coaches in Hackensack, New Jersey, which a big center for elite skating in American Northeast. I have met Elene, she is a talented athlete and a really sweet kid, but she a bit of a gypsy, like many elite skaters she does not stay very long in one place and she keeps firing her coaches and trying another one, I see in her biography that she has since moved to Canada to train. My point is that it was unfortunate for Russia to let her go, they should have offered her and her mom citizenship at the time. Russia needs more of this type of Gruzian and less of the “mafia” type that we read about.

  24. yalensis says:

    Rogozin’s new military doctrine: Russia will be Wolf chasing Rabbit:

    “У нас теперь будет другая стратегия, о ней Путин намекал, она теперь будет реализовываться новым президентом, — это стратегия научно-технического волка, который не бежит по следу, а который видит точку, куда бежит его зайчик, и самым кратчайшим путем, в один прыжок он настигает зайца”, — пояснил Рогозин.

    “We will have a different strategy, about which Putin has hinted, and it will be realized by our new president. This is the strategy of the scientific-technological wolf who does not follow the track [of his prey], but rather sees the [end] point to which the hare is running, and, by the shortest route, in one leap he reaches the rabbit,” Rogozin explained.

    • marknesop says:

      I’m sure this will bring a shriek of derision from the west, where it is imagined a technological advantage is present that could never be eroded. Or it will be mistranslated in a variety of amusing ways, like Ahmedinijad’s supposed threat to “wipe Israel off the map”. But military advantage is all about exploiting vulnerabilities, and even weak nations can do that if they put their minds to it.

      It always seemed curious to me that the Russians were a bunch of bumbling fools with clumsy equipment that had been put together by draftee farm boys – until budget season. Then suddenly, they were fiendishly clever – not to mention bloodthirsty – with squadrons of aircraft carriers and forests of soldiers. If they didn’t actually have them available at the moment, then they were planned and paid for, just a matter of time. This magic transformation occurred every year until it became impossible to maintain; then, other enemies filled in.

      I hope they didn’t throw all those old charts and projections away. It will save them having to produce new ones. Although it will be a shame if there is a new arms race, because a great deal of effort was expended in dialing things back until we could only kill each other four times over instead of ten. Arms races are expensive, and the money would almost always be better spent elsewhere. This drawdown might have worked had it not been so one-sided.

      • kirill says:

        The western elites are hoping for a repeat of the fairy tale that Reagan’s arms expenditures bankrupt the USSR. Sorry you clowns, this time around the arms race is going to boost Russia’s GDP like it did the US one during the 1980s. Russian breadlines are not going to reappear and start getting longer. But the US and some of its NATO buddies may want to worry about their enormous debt bubbles. The real questions is whether they can afford a new arms race and not Russia.

  25. yalensis says:

    Sorry, video didn’t work. Would have been funny. Old Soviet cartoon “Nu Pogodi” (“Just you wait, I’ll catch you!”) Shows silly Wolf trying to race various animals.

    • I only very recently came across Nu Pogodi. You can find several episodes on You Tube. I thought them quite brilliant. Better in some ways than Tom and Jerry. Certainly they are far less violent.

      • yalensis says:

        I picked this particular episode as good illustration of Rogozin’s new military doctrine: Russian military = Wolf pouncing on Hare. This episode shows Wolf crashing Olympic games, engaging in races and other feats against other animals, including a hare. Wolf cheats, of course, but he always wins. So, I would name Rogozin doctrine “Nu Pogodi, NATO!”
        Joking aside, I think what Rogozin is trying to say is that Russia does not intend to repeat every expensive technological innovation of NATO, but will find a cheaper, more efficient way to cut through it all. Like maybe Alexander the Great cutting through complicated Gordian Knot? Maybe some new awesome secret weapon, aka The Doomsday Machine (allude to Dr. Strangelove)?
        Still, Rogozin has yet to prove to me that he has a reason for introducing a NATO tank army into Lenin’s home town of Simbirsk on the Volga, the gateway to all of Central Asia. I suspect Putin decided to do this out of anti-Communist motives, or simply to irritate Ziuganov. But this is a dangerous game. Like the camel’s nose poking into the merchant’s tent, as we discussed in a previous blog.

  26. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    I also read Shein and Churov reviewed the camera feeds from the polling stations together, and that half of them showed fraud.
    This looks like a stretching of another version I read, i.e. that little more than half of the camera feeds showed irregularities, but not so heavy to amount to fraud. Perhaps that is one reason Shein stopped his hunger strike, he may have realised that his claims couldn’t be backed by enough evidence.

    • marknesop says:

      This is a powerful election weapon, and I’m sure everyone realizes it. Supporters of a particular candidate need only allow themselves to be viewed – presumably in a manner that will make them difficult to identify, and thus far all the attention has focused on the act rather than the identity of the perpetrator – stuffing what appears to be more than one ballot into the box, and presto! The results of that polling station will be annulled. If you pick areas where your candidate is weak and unlikely to win, it becomes a real force multiplier, as the press will do the rest and the falsification will be blamed on United Russia whether they had anything to do with it or not.

      I’m not suggesting there is not and has never been any vote falsification in Russia, or that United Russia has never been the beneficiary. But this ballot-stuffing foolishness occurs now with metronomic regularity in every election at every level, regardless of situations in which the United Russia candidate is favoured to win easily. Come on; how likely is it to be actually occurring, and how likely is it to be an attempt to taint the victory with scandal and maybe whip up a protest calling for re-elections? In Shein’s case, he would be most unlikely to win a re-run, so I guess the idea is to force elections to be run over and over until the liberal candidate – or any candidate who is not United Russia – is finally voted in through a combination of impatience and campaign weariness. Then there will be a great shout of triumph, and rafts of articles about the march of democracy and how honesty and integrity won out by standing firm. But it would just be selective thievery, based on the premise that it was being done for the people’s good and you can justify a little sleight-of-hand in situations where the public good is the goal.

      Either that, or the aim is to force the government to adopt such onerous voting regulations to satisfy its western critics, with each voter recorded and photographed from multiple angles in the act of voting, that it can be spun to look like government acknowledgement of an insurmountable problem, or voter suppression. In either case, response to all the drum-beating and shouting by the western press can only work to the west’s advantage.

  27. Foppe says:

    Just ran across this link. Aljazeera: In search of Putin’s money: People & Power investigates claims that Russia’s political supremo has amassed a secret multi-billion dollar fortune.

    It sounds to me as though they haven’t found much, though.. The description contains way too many weasel words.

    • I do not at the moment have the time to follow this feature but the summary suggests that it simply trots out the same stale saga of allegations about Putin’s wealth that I have repeatedly come across. I have looked into these stories in detail and I can conclusively say that there is no substance to any of them. That the same stories get endlessly repeated and recycled even after they are repeatedly proved to be untrue shows that the spreading of these stories is being deliberately orchestrated as part of a smear campaign.

    • kirill says:

      Let’s suppose Putin did actually gather up billions. How would the average Russian respond? Would they run screaming through the streets driven mad by the betrayal or would they look back at the last 13 years and think that perhaps Putin is worth a few billion for his having saved Russia and all. Putin is the best Russian leader since Alexander Nevsky. If another Yeltsin turd had taken over, Russia would have been carved up into pieces as envisioned by Bzezinsky and the western elites. Instead of making 10 times in dollar terms per month what they made in 1999, Russians would be lucky to be making the same. All that bitter screeching about Russian oil dependence, in contrast to the Saudi total dependence which is never discussed, is because the profits are going to grow Russia’s GDP instead of going, as with Saudi Arabia, into western banks and investments.

      The whole Putin “The Corrupt” shtick is more of the same propaganda angle that western elites feel will somehow destroy Russia. We have Magnistsky’s case and corruption crusader Navalny. Soon we will have some high profile murder of an “investigative” journalist to “cover up Putin’s corruption”. Russians aren’t buying into this crap.

      • marknesop says:

        Your attention is directed to American presidential contender Mitt Romney, who, in a recent speech, trumpeted his wealth and standing thus; “If people think there’s something wrong with being successful in America, then they’d better vote for the other guy. Because I’ve been extraordinarily successful, and I want to use that success and that know-how to help the American people.” Mitt Romney constantly tells the American people it’s pretty freaking great to be super-rich, and they better not forget it.

        Ahhh, some will say; but Putin stole all that money from the Russian people – Romney earned his honestly. To which I would reply incredulously, “Oh, really??” Romney made his fortune at Bain Capital, which specialized in buying up companies – American companies, where the salt-of-the-earth American worker relied on his or her job – breaking them up and selling off the pieces, at a handsome profit for himself and his shareholders. That’s how he became a multimillionaire. And that’s how a lot of workers became interested in a second career, or sometimes just fell back into the arms of welfare.

        Let me be clear – I’m not buying into the Putin-the-Billionaire myth. As Alex already demonstrated, at least one major pillar of Stanislav “Lying Sack of Shit” Belkovsky’s argument was already conclusively kicked out from under The Economist, when they used his nonsense about Putin being the shadow majority shareholder in Gunvor. Whether or not Putin is theoretically worth Billions is irrelevant to me, because he doesn’t have Billions. If he had, the connections would have been discovered and shouted to the world by now. There are people who make it their business to track down hidden money and expose it, and the best of the best have searched for evidence of “Putin’s Billions” and been unable to find it. They like to make a big deal about Putin having so many rich friends, and imply that Putin made them rich so he could cash in later. What makes Putin valuable to such people, entirely excluding the possibility they might actually like him as a friend, is his power and influence. So, the theory goes, when he’s no longer in government (and has no power and influence any more), he’s going to come knocking on the door and say, “I’ll take those Billions now”. If that doesn’t smell just like horseshit to you, your nose is on upside down.

        The originator of the Putin-is-a-secret-Billionaire meme is Stanislav Belkovsky, and he provides absolutely no evidence to substantiate his claim – we’re just supposed to take his word for it, and the western media, barring those who have been threatened with a lawsuit and backed down because they have bubkes in the way of proof, is happy to do that. Proof is inconsequential to the western press when it is tooling up on someone it hates. The kind of belief that lets children accept the existence of fairies is sufficient.

        • kirill says:

          Thanks for the background. But I wouldn’t place this turd at the feet of its original creator alone. Looks like the mainstream media is starting to run with it. The editors and hence their employers must be giving approval. There is no stochastic internet style information medium in the main stream media. It is all heavily controlled. Consider Rupert Murdoch and the papers he owns. None of them are anti-Murdoch and they all spout his line. As you point out there is not a shred of evidence to back up this tin foil hat nonsense.

          • marknesop says:

            Perhaps a distraction closer to home will draw the attention of the western press soon enough. Here’s an interesting item, detailing Sarkozy’s attempts to win over French National Front voters and somehow hold on to his destructive, shambling wreck of a presidency. But Sarkozy, and even Merkel, are bit players in this story; the real main character is the austerity budgets signed on to by European leaders. Plainly, the people do not like it. For the first time I’ve seen, the root cause of the massive rallies in Prague is correctly identified as discomfort and anger over a pro-austerity budget that slashes spending and cuts services. Why, people wonder, should we suffer now to compensate for our leaders’ crazy spending of money they didn’t have over the last decade? A pro-austerity government in The Netherlands fell to fiery anti-immigration crusader – The Netherlands for the Dutch, if you like sloganeering – Geert Wilders; seen here in an appearance with Clown of Hate Glenn Beck and claiming he has come to America to “learn from him” as they offer dueling rants on how intolerant the UK has become. Why, they won’t let you say Islam is like Naziism there – can you imagine? And they’re AGAINST CHRISTMAS!!! Rather than subsiding, the unrest is swelling and gaining momentum, and markets reflect the jitters.

            The west might well have its own troubles to worry about this summer.

        • yalensis says:

          According to American law, “Corporations are People.” Which, as many have pointed out, makes Mitt Romney a serial killer:

  28. cartman says:

    This is the third such post from Ruchir Sharma who runs an investment fund for Merrill Lynch, and the third where his conclusion contains such a glaring error. You can view part of the chapter on Russia in his book, in which he constantly characterizes Russians as decadent and irresponsible. If he is advising people to invest based on Russia’s “growing indebtedness” (and I believe the deficit was unexpectedly revised down – maybe to surplus – recently), while praising Poland’s economic performance, he should have his license checked. Poland’s deficit was far higher during the crisis (7.9% in 2010), and its GDP growth is expected to be much lower than Russia’s this year.

    Sharma also claims that Russia’s GDP fell 10% during the crisis, but economists at the time were saying it was 9%. Later that figure was revised down to 7.8%. (Ironically, US GDP initially fell 7.8% during the crisis, but was later revised to 9%.)

    • Dear Cartman,

      My own view is almost the diametric opposite of Sharma’s. Poland had a good run in no small measure because of the very generous way it was treated after 1989 with its foreign debt written off, the opening of the European market to Polish goods, a flood of investment, remittances flooding in from Polish workers working abroad and last but not least very substantial help from EU agricultural subsidies and the structural funds. Unemployment however has been high resulting in substantial emigration and economic governance has been poor being certainly worse than it was in the Jaruzelski era, with weak budget discipline and runaway spending growth and with a political class that is corrupt and incompetent and which is fundamentally uninterested in economic matters the success of which it takes for granted. Whilst Russia is in a better financial position than it was in 2008 the same cannot be said of Poland where the overall position is deteriorating, a fact recognised even by such normally sympathetic news providers as the Financial Times and the Economist. I am not saying that Poland is on the brink of a crisis but I for one would not be surprised if the gloss soon comes off.

    • kirill says:

      This sort of analyst species does not need to have a track record of worthwhile advice. As long as they can say what people want to hear then they keep making money from the lemmings. An example of one such clown is Daniel Yergin of CERA. His claim to fame is a Pulitzer prize winning book on the history of the oil industry, The Prize. But his systematically wrong forecasts on the oil price during the last 20 years are something to behold. This clown did not just get some random set of wrong and right forecasts, he has been 100% wrong always forecasting a major price fall. This reflects his ideology that oil is plentiful even though no data supports this.

    • cartman says:

      His predictions being off is the result of him ignoring basic facts and pulling the rest from his behind. Is Yergin also such a consistent liar? Here is another interesting comparison for Poland:

      Polish unemployment drops to 13.3%
      Russia’s unemployment is less than half, at 6.3%.

      Oh, and it wasn’t Merrill Lynch he works at, but Morgan Stanley. My mistake.

  29. kirill says:

    RIA English service is looking like some liberast rag. Let’s not forget that Putin became head of UR long after it was formed in 2008 after he became prime minister instead of president. It was not his creation. Well, golly gosh gee willikers, what a shock that Putin is leaving now that he is going to be president again.

    Now which liberast party is set to take over?

  30. Moscow Exile says:

    So why do the majority of Russians dislike the “liberal opposition” and their supporters?

    Could it be that this distrust of “the liberals” is founded on the suspicion that the only thing the liberals have to offer is more of the same, “the same” being a reversion to the “laiissez-faire” economics of the 1990s, which were so wonderfully successful?

    I much prefer the German expression “Raubkapitalismus” (robbery capitalism) to describe the economic madhouse that existed in the Yeltsin years.

    Anyone who believes that such fears of a reversion to the economic madhouse policies of the 1990s are unfounded should take a look at what that resolute suppporter of Russian “liberal” policies, Anders Aslund, has to say in today’s Moscow Times, where he writes:

    “The most remarkable change in Russia after the December protests is that people have started speaking freely again, as in the good old 1990s. Gradually, a new economic policy is being formed. Although much remains uncertain, Russia is likely to pursue a much better economic policy than in the last eight years”.

    People have started speaking freely again?

    The “good old 1990s”?

    Is this man serious?

    Was he here in the “good old 1990s”?

    Aslund writes that he looks forward to the liklihood of the Russian government pursuing “a much better economic policy than in the last eight years”.

    Remember, Russia is the country, Aslund’s criticism of its economic policies notwithstanding, which has just offered the IMF $10billion in order to bail out failing EU economies.

    Then only four paragraphs after criticisizing Russian economic policiy of the past eight years, Aslund writes:

    “Russia’s macroeconomic data remain excellent. Russia’s gross domestic product grew 4.3 percent in each of the last two years and will probably grow almost as fast this year, despite the recession in the euro zone. Because of high oil prices, Russia had an unexpected budget surplus last year, and no significant deficit is on the horizon until 2020, unless the oil price falls precipitously. Last year’s current account surplus was $101 billion, more than 5 percent of GDP, and international reserves have recovered to $514 billion. Moreover, annualized inflation has fallen to 4 percent and is likely to stay reasonably low. Unemployment stands at 6 percent. These are wonderful results during a period of global slowdown, and they are likely to hold”.

    Short memory span?

    Or did Aslund mean in his opening paragraph that Russian economic policy of the past eight years, though not bad, could be improved upon during the next presidential term of office?

    Who pays people to write such tripe?

    Who pays for such nonesense to be published?


    • Foppe says:

      Who pays people to write such tripe?
      Who pays for such nonesense to be published?

      Either Pete Peterson, the Kochs, or some variant on that lot. Anyway, this isn’t ‘tripe’. It’s propaganda, put forward by the people who profited from being able to buy up privatized state companies in the 1990s, and their shills (like Aslund).

      • Dear Moscow Exile,

        One essential point to understand is that the liberals have NEVER been popular in Russia, Their best ever result in a Russian election was in the Duma elections of (wait for it) April 1906 (!), in which the Constitutional Democrats or Kadets (the biggest pre revolutionary liberal party) emerged as the largest party. That only happened because the two big parties of the revolutionary Socialist Left, the Social Democrats (at that time not yet fully divided into Bolshevik and Menshevik wings) and the Socialist Revolutionaries, were not yet properly organised to fight those elections so that Russian voters who might have supported these parties voted for the Kadets instead as the only notionally left wing and republican party available that could be counted upon to oppose the tsar.

        Subsequent pre revolutionary Duma elections have to be ignored because following the Stolypin coup of 1907 the electoral franchise was severely restricted so as to give conservative pro government parties a majority. In the 1917 elections to local Soviets and to the Constituent Assembly the Kadets and the other liberal parties however only won a very small fraction of the votes, which went instead overwhelmingly to the two big Socialist Parties, who were by then the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks.

        Liberal candidates won only a tiny fraction of the votes in the elections to the USSR Congress of People’s Deputies in 1989 and to the Russian Congress of People’s Deputies in 1990, though these elections were also unrepresentative since parties had not formed properly when they were held. However contrary to all expectations the various liberal parties spectacularly failed to win the 1993 Duma elections, which everybody (including me) had assumed they would win. As I remember the universal expectation before that election was that Gaidar’s Russia’s Choice would come first and that Yavlinsky’s Yabloko would come second. Instead Russia’s Choice came second behind the LDPR and Yabloko came fourth behind the KPRF. Even those results were almost certainly massaged to make the result for Russia’s Choice’s appear better than it was. I remember the shock when the results came in. The Guardian wrote a ludicrous editorial lamenting what it called “the most disappointing news in recent times”, which at the time I thought grotesque given that the elections had taken placed in the immediate aftermath of Yeltsin’s violent suppression of Russia’s previous parliament, in which the constitution had been overthrown and during which people were killed.

        Since then the share of the vote going to the liberal parties has dwindled in election after election. People who talk about a “liberal revolution” on the strength of the winter protests and the growth of Russia’s middle class are seemingly oblivious to the fact that the liberal vote has been steadily contracting and is now much smaller than it was in the two Duma elections of 1993 and 1995, which were the post Soviet liberal peak.

        Since the liberals have never been popular or won an election in Russia it follows that they have never gained power in Russia by democratic methods or through the ballot box. When the tsar abdicated in March 1917 they briefly formed a government to which they appointed themselves but contrary to the widespread myth that government (the so called Provisonal Government) was neither democratically elected nor was it appointed by the Duma, which had been dissolved by the tsar’s government before he abdicated, and nor was it appointed or supported by the Petrograd Soviet, which had only just come into existence and which had the support of the Petrograd workers and soldiers whose demonstrations had brought down the monarchy. The tsar offered to appoint this government as part of his final act of abdication but the liberals rejected his offer. The only reason the Provisional Government the liberals formed was able to bluff the world for a few months into accepting it as the government of Russia was because the liberals were able to secure the support of and recognition for the Provisional Government of the senior army commanders on the grounds that they had the support of the western powers who were at that time Russia’s allies in the First World War. Within a few weeks however after Lenin’s arrival the bluff was called and the rest as they say is history.

        Similarly the liberals were not elected to power in the 1990s and the Russian people never voted for the radical free market privatisation programme that the liberals implemented after 1991. Had such a programme ever been put to the vote it would certainly have been overwhelmingly rejected. Indeed as everybody who reads this blog knows, in March 1991 the Russian people voted overwhelmingly to preserve the USSR, whereas the liberals in 1991 and ever since wanted to dissolve it. Indeed the liberals continue to oppose all steps towards the reunification of the former Soviet space in the form of the Eurasian Union to this day. The only reason why the liberals were able to gain power in 1991 was because just as they were able to exploit the chaotic conditions caused by the revolutionary situation in 1917 to gain power then, so they were able to exploit the similarly chaotic conditions in 1991 to persuade Yeltsin, who was himself no liberal, to put them in power on the basis that they would be able to solve the economic crisis because of their supposedly superior knowledge of economics and because they had the supposedly vital support of the west.

        In other words on both occasions that the liberals have come to power in Russia, in 1917 and 1991, they have done so without popular support but through backstairs manipulation and intrigue and with the support of the west. On both occasions their period of power has been nothing short of calamitous. That in the light of this appallling record the great majority of the Russian people utterly loathe them is hardly surprising. What is surprising and is indeed little short of astonishing is that in the light of their profoundly anti democratic record they should be allowed to call themselves “democrats” when their record shows that they are the diametric opposite.

        • Am I not right in thinking that on the subject of the Russian economy Alsund is suddenly singing a rather different tune? He now praises the country’s “excellent” economic performance, which he rightly points out is particularly impressive in light of the general economic slowdown. Is this not however the same Alsund who has been regularly predicting Russia’s economic disaster for at least the last decade? Have the scales (finally) fallen from his eyes or, since he has been consistently wrong about everything, should we now that he is predicting a rosy future start to become concerned? (PS: the answer to the last question is no).

        • yalensis says:

          Thanks, @alexander, that is a brilliant historical summary and makes one look at these events from a completely different angle!

  31. kievite says:

    Interesting video

  32. PvMikhail says:

    Another western claim bites the dust…

  33. Moscow Exile says:

    Uk Lie Test Ltd consists of Kremlin stooges funded by the FSB!


    • PvMikhail says:

      I expected this answer…

      However they wrote “The test was carried out by leading British experts”, I mean, I hate this “leading” thing, only people with liberast views usually get this adjective. BTW WTF is “leading”? Leading journalists, leading economists, leading right activists. The other one is “respected”.

  34. Moscow Exile says:

    Quite! How does one qualify an expert? If there are “leading” experts, then, logically, there must be experts who are not the best in their field, but is that not an oxymoron?

    Can one talk about “shite” experts?

    Suely an expert is an expert is an expert?

    This use of the term “leading/respected expert” reminds of news stories in which journalists talk about “high-class prostitutes”. Whenever I read or hear that phrase, I want to ask what the difference is between a “high class” and a “low class” prostitute.

    I should think that the answer to that question is “$100”.

    • Sorry to pour cold water on this particular parade but in Britain lie detector tests are simply not treated seriously as evidence. With good reason too since I myself know of cases of people who have “beaten” lie detector machines. The fact that Lugovoi is a KGB veteran who would be expected to know how to cope with an interrogation would make the British courts even more mistrustful of such evidence.

      In my opinion Lugovoi does have a case to answer though the case is purely circumstantial and far from strong. The trouble is that the British authorities have already all but declared Lugovoi guilty with editorials in the Times, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph straightforwardly saying that Litvinenko was murdered by the FSB, with a book by Martin Sixsmith that says the same thing and with any number of television and radio programmes that do so as well. There isn’t a ghost of a chance that Lugovoi would get a fair trial in London and he is therefore wise to remain in Moscow.

      • yalensis says:

        Lie detector tests may not be admissible in court, but everyone knows they are accurate (when administered properly) and damned hard to beat! American agencies like CIA and FBI swear by them. For the record, I used to believe that Lugovoi had something to do with Litvinenko death, but, after reading so many sources, I don’t believe so any more. Lugovoi is obviously a Russian spy, he was probably meeting with Litvinenko to acquire intelligence. The idea that he was handling polonium is ludicrous. If his mission had been to terminate Litvinenko, he would have found a less obtrusive manner. But Lugovoi is not an assassin, he is just a regular mundane spy. Yes, best for him to remain in Russia, if Brits got their hands on him they would probably torture him and try to turn him .

        • marknesop says:

          Everyone does not know they are accurate when administered properly, because they are not. There is no way for a polygraph technician to know if a response that shows anxiety does so because you are lying or because something about the question makes you nervous. I have taken the polygraph test, and it made me look guilty as hell although I had not done anything; the technician continued to press for a confession but I could not give it to him because I had not done anything. John Walker (U.S. Navy Communications Specialist), Robert Hanssen (FBI) and Aldrich Ames all beat polygraph tests administered by experts, and all were spies for Russia, the shortest-term of them for nearly a decade.

          • yalensis says:

            @mark: “Everybody knows” that Canadian polygraph tests are not reliable. British ones on the other hand … very reliable. 🙂

            • yalensis says:

              P.S. Walker, Hanssen, Ames who spied for Russia, they were able to beat polygraph test because of Russian secret method. I could tell you what it is, but then then I would have to kill you. P.P.S. it’s a shot of vodka to calm nerves. Try it next time.

              • marknesop says:

                I seem to recall Ames wrote it was simply a matter of creating a distraction your mind could focus on, like a tack kept in your shoe that hurt when you pressed your foot on it, something like that. I know he had nothing but contempt for the polygraph, and he beat it over and over, obviously. So did Robert Hanssen, who might have gone on forever except his wife turned him in, again if I remember correctly. Ames was obvious, like he wanted to get caught, living well above the standard he would be able to afford on his salary, and he still went on for 9 years. The country you’re betraying, when they catch on, usually let you go on for a little while to try and get a feel for who your contacts are, how much damage you’ve done, maybe the possibility of using you to pass disinformation and maybe reverse some of it. But Ames was acknowledged to have done the most damage ever to American interests until Robert Hanssen came along a few years later.

                At the bottom of it, the polygraph is just not very scientific. It’s more a piece of medical equipment, really; it detects the presence of a condition with a high degree of accuracy. But we are no closer to knowing what inspires that condition – a lie, or nervousness for another reason. And sociopaths should be able to beat it without even trying, because it relies on people having an emotional and detectable reaction to lying.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            Ha! Ha! You were busted and exposed as a Kremlin Stooge 🙂

      • marknesop says:

        I agree. The polygraph has been scientifically proven to be no more accurate than flipping a coin, and while it has never caught a real spy, it has contributed to the ruin of careers because of its “false positive” rate. The only people who swear by the polygraph and its brother – the voice stress analyzer – are polygraph technicians and polygraph manufacturers. Perhaps the best bottom-line statement that summarizes the polygraph is that it is useful in obtaining a confession from someone who is guilty of something, and knows it. Since it measures anxiety, behavior or expressed attitudes of the polygraph technician are easily capable of inspiring anxiety in the subject. Technicians are fond of saying the polygraph technician is capable of telling the difference between nervousness and an untrue response; I have actually seen it in writing in a handout given to read by persons about to take the polygraph test, ostensibly to calm the nervous. It is nonsense. Anxiety is anxiety, and there is nothing that makes a polygraph technician a mind-reader; he or she cannot tell if you are nervous because you are guilty, or nervous because you fear being taken for guilty when you are not. No less an authority than Aldrich Ames, CIA Agent and Russian spy for nearly 10 years, wrote from prison that the polygraph was a huge fraud that could no more catch spies than it could play show tunes. He should know – he beat it over and over again, and it was not the polygraph that caught him, but his spending sometimes 30,000.00 per month and driving a new Jaguar on a declared income of $60,000.00 a year.

        I don’t believe Lugovoi killed Litvinenko; I believe Boris Berzovsky did it, or had it done. But not because Lugovoi passed a polygraph.

        • I think I have previously set out my views of the Litvinenko case. Basically the whole case against Lugovoi and Kovtun is the so called “polonium trail”, ie. traces of polonium which were left in places that Lugovoi and Kovtun are known to have been. As I think I have previously pointed out, this proves that Lugovoi and Kovtun have come into contact with polonium, something which neither man denies, but it does not prove that Lugovoi and Kovtun used polonium to poison Litvinenko. As evidence it is equally consistent with Lugovoi and Kovtun having been contaminated by coming into contact with Litvinenko as it with Lugovoi and Kovtun having used polonium to poison Litvinenko. The German authorities looked into the case against Kovtun, which is identical in all respects to the case against Lugovoi, and came to precisely this conclusion and decided for precisely that reason that Kovtun had no case to answer.

          I ought to add that this is based on the assumption that Litvinenko was killed by polonium poisoning. This is the story that the British authorities have been putting about but since they have so far failed to produced the report of Litvinenko’s autopsy (even though asked to do so by the Russians) at the moment we only have their word for it. The British authorities have been busy claiming in off the record briefings that they have more evidence of a more conclusive and incriminating sort against Lugovoi and Kovtun but since they have failed to disclose it or even hint at what it is we are none the wiser about it. A US journalist who has been shown by the staff at the Procurator General’s Office in Moscow the papers relating to the British extradition request says that they contain no original evidence at all but only two short statements, one from the British police describing the polonium trail and making general comments about a Russian motive for murdering Litvinenko based on the stories he circulated about Putin and others, and the other from an official of the Crown Prosecution Service saying that there is enough evidence to prosecute Lugovoi and requesting his extradition. It seems that all Russian requests for details of the original evidence (the autopsy reports, the witness statements, the forensic tests etc) have been refused as have Russian requests for direct contact with the alleged witnesses. In relation to the latter and in the light of Mark’s comment that he believes that Berezovsky was responsible for Litvinenko’s death, it may be of interest to say that the reason the British have given in off the record briefings for their refusal to allow the Russian authorities to interview British witnesses is that the Russian authorities would use the opportunity provided to interview Berezovsky “about other matters”. In other words the British have informally admitted that the reason they are refusing to cooperate with the Russians is because they are protecting Berezovsky and want to deny the Russians access to him.

          The Russian authorities have said that though the Russian Constitution prevents Russia from extraditing Lugovoi to Britain, if the British were to give them evidence showing that Lugovoi murdered Litvinenko they would be prepared to look into the possibility of prosecuting Lugovoi in Russia. They have even floated the idea of a trial in Russia held in accordance with British law and presided over by a British judge (there are precedents for this). These proposals were made before Lugovoi was elected to the Duma and acquired a deputy’s immunity but presumably a way could still be found for example if the Duma voted to withdraw his immunity as it apparently has the power to do. Anyway the British have flatly turned down these proposals and in view of the lack of evidence so far provided the Russian authorities have in my opinion quite reasonably said that they have so far seen no evidence that Litvinenko was poisoned by polonium or was even murdered much less that Lugovoi was the person who murdered him.

          There is supposed to be a Coroner’s Inquest underway in the Litvinenko’s case. This is a judicial process that has to happen under British law wherever there is an unexplained or unnatural death. Over the course of this Inquest and at the request of both Lugovoi’s British lawyers and the lawyers of Litvinenko’s widow the Coroner ordered the British authorities to produce the actual evidence they have concerning the circumstances of Litvinenko’s death and upon which they base their case against Lugovoi. That order was made months ago but so far there is no sign of it being carried out. I find this bizarre given that the evidence cannot be very extensive and given that proceedings before Coroners are anyway not supposed to last for more than a few days.

          There have been hints that the delay is because some of the evidence was obtained through covert intelligence and that the British are unwilling to make the evidence public because this would allegedly compromise their intelligence sources. If so then this is deeply worrying since it implies that the British intend to try Lugovoi in secret and do not intend to show him the evidence they have against him, which would be a gross violation of his rights as a defendant. Unfortunately the anti terrorist laws we have in Britain make such a secret trial quite possible.

          The alternative possibility is of course that the reason the British authorities have not produced the further evidence they say they have against Lugovoi is because the evidence doesn’t exist or doesn’t amount to very much. If so then the worry must be that the whole case against Lugovoi and the demand for his extradition is nothing more than a cynical charade to distract attention away from the real facts concerning Litvinenko’s death. Either way this Inquest so far seems to be going nowhere.

          • kievite says:


            There are very interesting analogies between Litvinenko case and Yushchenko “poisoning”. For example, in both cases while nothing was definitely proved (and in case of Yushchenko, the fakeness of the whole “poisoning” story now is proved beyond reasonable doubt) the propaganda war unleashed by Western media was really ferocious. And it did bring the expected results.

            We probably know the real sequence of events in each case in 30 years or so.

            • Dear Kievite,

              I completely agree with you. The parallel between the Litvinenko and Yushchenko “poisonings” is remarkable. As you absolutely rightly say the evidence in both cases is inconclusive to say the least and in the Yushchenko case is actually bogus notwithstanding which the western media went into overdrive on both occasions with the political and propaganda consequences we all know.

              On the Yushchenko case I have a shameful confession to make. I was not following Russian and Ukrainian news then as closely as I do today and when the Austrian laboratory appeared to confirm the poisoning allegations I thought they were probably true. More fool I. I would not make that mistake today.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                They’ve been banging this line for a long time now in the West, namely that poisoning, a “brutal and medieval” method of assassination, is the favoured modus operandi of the Evil Empire and its Orcs.

                As regards to what is described in this article below, for example, concerning the alleged poisoning attempt on Yushchenko:


                the allegation that an attempt had been made to poison the former Ukraine president has already been called into question several times. As recently as April 5, 2012 the following was reported:


                Then there are the claims of the UK Independent proprietor, “former KGB-spy” Alexander Lebedev to consider:


                And there, are of course, the allegations made by Politkovskaya that attempts to poison her had taken place, as reported in “former KGB-spy” Alexander Lebedev’s Independent:


                Having previously attempted to take upon herself the role of an “independent negotiator” with terrorists at the 2002 Nord-Ost theatre siege in Moscow, the American-Russian journalist then later decided to become a negotiator at the Beslan siege, something that the Russian government was clearly not too keen on her doing; I should think that most other governments finding themselves in a similar position as did the Russian government at the Beslan siege would have also objected to a journalist taking it upon himself to negotiate with the terrorists.

                As regards her attempt to enter into negotiations with the Beslan siege terrorists and the murderer Aslan Maskhadov, Politkovskaya told the Independent about her intended mission to the Caucasus:

                ” ‘I got on the plane. I suppose I did more than a journalist normally does. I then got on the plane and drank some tea and then … nothing.’

                Politkovskaya had been poisoned, she said: ‘I don’t remember anything else. I don’t know but can surmise what happened. ‘They’ had decided that I needed to ‘be dealt with’ though not killed. A decision was taken and a middle-ranking (FSB) officer fulfilled it. ‘ ”

                So there you have it! Politkovskaya surmises that a clear case of an attempt at poisoning her had been undertaken by the FSB.

                Case proven – I don’t think!

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  All this poisoning malarkey reminds me of this:


                • yalensis says:

                  That must be what happened! Litvinenko was poisoned by the vessel with the pestle; whereas Yuschenko was poisoned by the chalice from the palace.

                • Dear Moscow Exile and yalensis,


                  Actually claims of sinister poisons used to murder or try to murder famous dissidents go back a long, long way. As I well remember there were claims that the KGB unsuccessfully tried to poison Solzhenitsyn way back in the early 1970s.

                  The point about poison allegations is that they are almost impossible to disprove so if somebody wants to destroy someone’s reputation by spreading smear stories that they are a poisoner it is very easy to do. By way of example recent historical reinvestigations of two of history’s most famous poisoners, Lucrezia Borgia and the Dowager Empress Cixi, have concluded that neither poisoned anyone and that the claims that they were poisoners were simply smears spread by their enemies.

                • marknesop says:

                  You know, I’m really pulled two ways on this Politkovskaya thing. I’m not surprised the western press makes a martyr of her, because they try to build a Trojan Horse of every Russian anti-government journalist. But I would have been prepared to believe she was just a well-meaning human-rights activist not deliberately courting the spotlight, simply in it because western sources wanted to make a star of her. But the more I hear, the more it looks like she was an attention junkie like Latynina, always trying to insert herself in every situation and make it all about Politkovskaya. She certainly seems to have an inflated opinion of her global importance considering the paper’s anemic circulation.

                  Her lack of success in resolving hostage crises involving Caucasian terrorist elements speaks volumes about the difference in her perception of her influence over them and the actual level of respect accorded her by the people she was supposedly trying to help (“Hey, look guys; it’s Anna. Put the guns down, and let’s all just walk out together, she says nobody will hurt us”). In fact, pretending to have been drugged or poisoned in order to have her removed as a negotiator would be a great cover for her ineffectiveness in that role (the government took me out of the picture just as the martyrs were starting to respond to me).

                  The one thing that stands out is that the government and the FSB had absolutely no motive to murder her. It’s not like she was leading a huge rising wave of anger or discontent, and I imagine she had quite a few detractors for appearing to pander to terrorists. But overall, like Latynina, her performance was enough to ensure she would never have more than a small cult following plus the adulation of the west, and the latter would serve to brand her a western toady so that she would serve as an example of the breed. Dead, she would become a martyr, just like Litvinenko, who was worth much, much more dead than alive. If the FSB truly wanted to take her off the board, why would they poison her? Does the west really think the FSB is comprised of heavy-browed, slow-thinking pugilists? They could have simply shot her from the direction of the Beslan school or the Moscow theatre, and it would have been blamed on the terrorists inside, thereby achieving two objectives. Is the FSB really that stupid? I’m afraid not.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  In reply to Mark’s comments concerning Politkovskaya, namely “I imagine she had quite a few detractors for appearing to pander to terrorists”, I should say that the majority of Russian citizens who knew anything of her (not many in that category) or the content of her articles (again, not a lot of Russian citizens read what she wrote) would have considered her, rightly or wrongly, as a traitor.

                  That was certainly the impression I used to get from Russian colleagues. She constantly and almost invariably criticized the crimes and iniquities perpertrated by Russian armed forces in the North Caucasus. I am sure that that was what she was paid to do, if not by her immediate employer. She also occassionally criticized the horrendous actions of some Chechyen “freedom fighters”, but in the main her criticism was focused on the actions of the Russian military and security forces.

                  That such crimes as she described did occur, I do not doubt; however, at the same time as these “crimes against humanity” were being committed by agents of the Russian state, equally horrendous crimes were being committed against Russian troops and citizens in the North Caucasus.

                  Imagine if you will, that during “The Troubles” in Ireland a British journalist had constantly reported brutal attrocities committed by British troops and the Royal Ulster Constabulary against members of the Irish Republican Army and its supporters whilst at the same time “our boys”, as the British press likes to describe British soldiery, was being attacked, murdered and mutilated by IRA terrorists. Such a journalist would have uneqivocally been deemed a traitor and would not have lasted very long in his profession.

                  Several years ago I worked with a Russian who not only read what Politkovskaya wrote, but also knew her personally. He was a journalist with Reuters. He told me that many journalists of his acquaintance disliked Politkovskaya because she often put people’s lives, including those of her fellow journalists, at risk in order to get “good copy”.

                  I have long held the opinion that Poltkovskaya was murdered not because of what she wrote about Russian North Caucasus operations, but because of the occassional damning criticism that she made concerning some Chechen “warlord” actions.

                  What, in my opinion, would have rubbed salt into the Chechen Wahabee wound caused by such criticism would have been the fact that a woman – a Russian non-believer to boot – had had the temerity to question their “honour” and their noble undertaking of a “Jihad” against Russian unbelievers.

                  According to the “faithful” she had insulted Islam.

                  That means death.


                • I have to make an admission, which is that I am one of those people who had not even heard of Politkovskaya until she was murdered. I did not follow Russian politics as closely then as I do now.

                  Shortly after Politkovskaya was killed I borrowed her book (which was based on what was surely a heavily re written and edited version of her diary) from a local library to see what the fuss about her was all about. It was my first exposure to Russian liberal journalism. Glancing through the book it did not take me long to realise that Politkovskaya was not in any true sense a journalist.

                  Rather than report facts what her book consisted of was a tissue of ugly and malicious and almost always unsubstantiated rumours dressed up as fact written up by a very angry and emotional person who combined a very shaky grasp for the truth with a very fertile imagination. An example I remember concerned a candidate for I think the 2004 Presidential election who in what I gather was at the time a minor scandal found his way to I think Kiev in some inexplicable way during the election campaign. Politkovskaya first speculated that this person had been drugged by the FSB with some mysterious psychotropic drug. A few pages further on she was saying that “everybody knew” this person had been drugged by the FSB with this mysterious psychotropic drug. A few pages further on still that this person had been drugged by the FSB with a mysterious psychotropic drug was being written about as a fact.

                  The one thing that came across in the book was Politkovskaya’s intense loathing of Putin and her invariable habit of always believing the worst of the Russian government and of the Russian army. This is of course entirely typical of Russian liberals but it was glancing through Politkovskaya’s book that first introduced me to it. I remember being baffled that a person who could write in this way could be taken seriously as a journalist. Today of course I know better.

          • Giuseppe Flavio says:

            One thing I remember about the Litvinenko case, is that after polonium was established to be the poison used for the killing, most media reported that it was possible to determine where the polonium was made. By “where” the media (and the experts interviewed) meant not just the country but the reactor. The identification was based on the quantity and quality of contaminants. But after a short time, one or two weeks if my memory serves me well, this “polonium’s makers” story was quietly dropped. I did a quick search, but I’ve found only allegations about the origin of the polonium used in this affair, not an official statement by British prosecutors.

            • Dear Giuseppe,

              That claim was indeed very widely made in the immediate aftermath of Litvinenko’s death together with another claim that the great bulk of polonium was produced in Russia. There were even hints that the source of the polonium that had killed Litvinenko had been traced to a facility in the Russian town of Dubna.

              These allegations have indeed been dropped. It seems that it is not possible to trace the source of polonium with anything like the sort of accuracy that was being alleged and that Russia is not in fact the major producer of polonium. Indeed I have even heard Russian spokesman say that Russia actually no longer produces polonium. In any event as several people have pointed out, even if the polonium did originate in Russia that does not prove that it was Lugovoi or the FSB who murdered Litvinenko. It could just as easily have come into Litvinenko’s possession (or the possession of whoever else poisoned him) from the considerable stocks of polonium produced and exported by Russia that have found their way to the west.

              Generally speaking the Litvinenko case is one of the strangest cases I have ever come across. It is one of those very rare cases where I can say with confidence that the more I know the less I know. So many claims have been made and so many clues have been alleged that have turned out to be false that I find it impossible any longer to know what is true and what is not. Even the fact that Litvinenko’s death was caused by polonium poisoning turns out on careful examination to be far from incontrovertible though given the way the British insist on it I continue to presume it. Like many people (including by the way Litvinenko’s widow) I was hoping that the Coroner’s Inquest would shed some light on all the mystery and I still have some hopes for this but they have not been fulfilled so far. In the meantime the confusion and mystery that surrounds this case makes me think that there are people who most definitely do know the truth about it but who have no intention of sharing it with us.

              • marknesop says:

                “There were even hints that the source of the polonium that had killed Litvinenko had been traced to a facility in the Russian town of Dubna.”

                That would certainly narrow the focus of suspicion. According to Wikipedia, the nuclear facility in Dubna belongs to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, which incorporates a neutron fast-pulse reactor. The facility has 5,500 staff and 1,200 researchers, 1000 of whom are PHD’s from 18 member states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, as well as “some eminent scientists from UNESCO, CERN, CLAF, France, Germany, Italy and the United States”.

                Yup. Had to have been the Russians, the duplicitous dogs.

              • Giuseppe Flavio says:

                The claim about polonium’s traceability were surely exaggerated, in order to say that a sample comes from a particular reactor at a minimum you need to have another sample from that same reactor for comparison. Since polonium samples produced in Russia are available a comparison could have two outcomes:
                a) the samples match, the “Russian lead” becomes stronger;
                b) the samples don’t match, the “Russian lead” takes a serious blow.
                The silence on this issue makes me think that the samples didn’t match.

                • marknesop says:

                  Polonium is named for Poland – let’s blame it on them. Makes about as much sense.

                • kirill says:

                  Indeed. But the chatter about the source also died down because, as mentioned here I believe, you can get Polonium out of photographic equipment. The whole purpose of this exotic murder weapon was to make it look like only a state could do it and not an individual. This simply falls flat on its face aside from the obvious nonsense as to why would anyone use a flashy murder weapon at all. Organized crime likes to dispose of its murder weapons in rivers and elsewhere. Having a trail conveniently guide the Keystone Cops back to you is beyond retarded.

                  This is the typical racist BS that comes out of the western media. One day its untermensch Russians who are too dumb to notice the obvious and the next day they are a real threat like some evil mastermind from 007 movies.

  35. Hunter says:

    And now Sarkozy comes out openly with the possibility of the use of force in Syria:

    Any chance that Hollande would be less inclined to send in the Air Force? I know he has publicly stated he would back joining an intervention as long as it is UN sanctioned, but with Sarkozy you get the feeling he might just say, to hell with UN approval and go in anyway. I do wonder if Hollande would be less gung-ho about the whole situation, leaving the West without a figure leading the charge so to speak.

    Also in the same article where Hollande backed joining an intervention by the UN (, Hillary Clinton is reported to have said that Turkey could react to shelling on its border by invoking a NATO clause. Just what did Syria ever do to Mrs. Clinton? She seems to be basically looking for any way possible to send USAF planes into Syria.

    It seems like May 16, 2012 (the date when Hollande will assume office unless Sarkozy pulls off a miracle) can’t come soon enough for Syria

    • marknesop says:

      There’s an instructive article on the position of all the French presidential candidates on Russia here, at Anatoly’s blog; Hollande is little different from Sarkozy, disappointingly. The most reasonable seems to be Marine le Pen of the right-wing Nationalist Front, and she might well be a nut on other issues.

      • Hunter says:


        • marknesop says:

          Well, I don’t really know much about her except what I read. I saw she wants to dump the Euro and go back to a uniquely French currency, and I always thought the Euro was a stupid idea. Well, almost. It seemed to take off at first, so there was a little period there where I thought it just might work in spite of my nostalgia for the old currencies and the separate economies. But it soon fizzled out, and now it’s just a liability.

          Le Pen also wants to reserve French jobs for French nationals. Nothing wrong with that on the face of it, but France has a lot of immigrant traffic who already complain there’s no work. Normally laid-back Holland’s sympathy for rightie Geert Wilders’ nationalist message suggests this kind of talk is beginning to resonate with Europeans. Personally, I do not see how the European Union will survive. If it falls apart, le Pen will look like a visionary.

    • yalensis says:

      Not just France that is eager for war against Syria. This article quotes European Parliament (PACE) saying Kofi Annan plan has failed, time is running out, according to Italian Parliamentarian (and head of Syria Committee in PACE) Pietro Marchinaro. In other words, Sarkozy or no Sarkozy, Europeans are pulling together the same coalition they used against Libya: France, Italy, UK, USA, NATO, Qatar, etc. Sounds like they are determined to go in with or without UN resolution figleaf. They are treating Annan mission as “Well, we gave peace a chance, but it didn’t work, so now we try war.” And, by the way, these folks will make sure Kofi Annan mission will fail, because they continue to arm and egg on the violent jihadist terrorists. Those jihadists work for the West, and it is their job to keep the pot boiling. Only solution: Russia/China must continue to buy time for Assad, but it is up to Assad and his army to wipe out this infestation of Al Qaeda rats. It is tough job, but I think he can do it, provided no NATO bombs falling down on his head.

      • kievite says:

        “Eager” is one thing. To have money and resources is another. They also need a couple of preconditions:

        1. A large part of military establishment should be bought. Key command structures need to be infiltrated.
        2. They need to completly destroy air defence system with minimal hassle and losses.

        Only then liberation “Blitzkrieg ” became possible. We will see if this is the case this time for two countries in question…

        • Kievite is absolutely right. By all accounts the Syrian air defence system is a far more sophisticated affair than the far smaller and more primitive system of Gaddafi’s. If there is a military intervention in Syria we are looking at a ferocious bombing campaign on a Yugoslav or Iraqi scale that could last weeks if not months. The probability is that the casualties would run into thousands. This would be true even if the western powers and their Arab allies claimed that all they were doing was enforcing a no fly zone.

          All the information that has coming out of Syria points to a stabilisation of the situation there. However as has been the consistent pattern in the Syrian crisis, whenever the situation appears to be stabilising those people who want the situation destabilised redouble their efforts. Their target is now Annan’s peace plan, whose success would be fatal to their plans for regime change. That is why though the peace process sponsored by Annan has only been in existence for a few weeks the French and the British and powerful voices in the US and amongst the Gulf Arabs are already declaring his plan a failure. Not only are the French now actively campaigning against Annan’s peace plan by unilaterally imposing an impossible and wholly unreasonable deadline of 5th May 2012 for its “success” but far more dangerously so are Hillary Clinton and the State Department. Already there are threats to put more anti Syrian Resolutions before the Security Council, possibly as soon as next week, even though with the Annan peace plan in existence there is no conceivable rationale for these Resolutions and there is no doubt that Russia and China would therefore veto them. The real target of these Resolutions is not of course Syria but Annan and his peace. Even if they are vetoed (as they will be) the international atmosphere will become poisoned and the success of peace plan will be made harder.

          To my mind the one thing that is holding back military intervention in Syria is the strong opposition of the Pentagon, which has made its hostility to such further adventures absolutely clear and which has made known its categorical opposition to any such intervention that is not specifically authorised by the Security Council. Whether that suffices to overcome the demands for intervention from the supporters of regime change remains to be seen.

        • marknesop says:

          Most of what holds them back is that they have been wrong-footed by Russia and China’s assumption of the diplomacy approach. Although western countries see no dichotomy at all between assuming the mantle of nobility and reason when they elect to negotiate, but condemning the same approach as “just stalling” when partners they don’t like do it, that line is not getting much play this time around. It’s too soon after Libya, and that horrible example is still fresh – all that guff about freeing the Libyan people from the cruel tyrant, and Libya dropped out of the news overnight just as soon as the objective of killing Gaddafi was achieved. While the western powers remain hot for military intervention, they have not achieved that critical mass of convinced people who buy that diplomatic avenues have been exhausted. The “diplomatic avenues” thus far have mostly consisted of giving Assad an ultimatum, and a few weeks to comply in full or be attacked. Observer missions who do not report conditions favourable to western intervention and continued arming of the “rebels” – many of whom are not even Syrian – are promptly terminated. The west has overstepped, and knows it.

    • PvMikhail says:

      Yes, she is beaten… and this fairy tale is NOT a story for covering this:

      *** yawn ***

      • PvMikhail says:

        maybe it is fake, but who cares… this whole Timoshenko story is a joke. I expect her to hit herself to several objects, just to inflict injuries. However I doubt she has more than a scratch…

        • marknesop says:

          Tymoshenko has to behave outrageously to attract attention, because without attention she will be quickly forgotten. Refusal to act like a prisoner, but to behave like an upset celebrity guest, is pretty much the only avenue open to her – what else is she going to do that will make people pay attention: a one-woman dance marathon?

          Maybe they should put her under 24-hour video (no sound, or she’d be using the opportunity for ranting against the government) surveillance on a public channel, to prove to the world she is not being mistreated. See how she likes that.

          • I hate to say so because I truly do not know the facts but I simply cannot help but be cynical both about Tymoshenko’s hunger strike and her illness. It reminds of a case many years ago of a British businessman called Ernest Saunders who was convicted and sent to prison after being convicted of a gigantic fraud. On entering prison his family and supporters campaigned for his release on the grounds that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease (ie was going senile). Shortly after he was released on compassionate grounds he experienced a remarkable and miraculous cure.

  36. yalensis says:

    @MoscowExile: This one is for you: More scenes of poison and palace intrigue:

  37. Any ideas from anyone about who might be responsible for the Dnepropetrovsk bomb blasts? Could this be linked in any way to Tymoshenko and her hunger strike?

    • yalensis says:

      @alexander: I have been trying to follow the Dnepropetrovsk explosions, but there is little news, mostly because there are no leads yet. Everybody seems to agree it was an act of terrorism of some type, but nobody knows who dunnit or what the motive. Yanukovich has offered 2 million grivens as reward for info leading to arrest of the perps:

      Current status is: nobody dead, but there are 30 wounded, including some youngsters who are healing at a children’s hospital. 22 people in hospital, of which 4 in “serious” condition, the others more or less okay.
      Meanwhile, the only person who has come up with a semi-plausible theory is Polish Prez Bronislav Komorovski. His theory is that the terrorist act was directed against the football match Euro-2012. The football match is a huge status symbol for both Poland and Ukraine. Games are supposed to begin on June 8 and various games will take place in Poland and also in Ukraine (Kiev, Kharkhiv, Donetsk and Lviv). Komorovski’s reasoning is that someone is trying to spoil the games by bringing their safety/security into question. Sounds plausible to me, but nobody really knows for sure; besides, none of the matches are supposed to take place in Dnetropetrovsk, so why explode bombs there? In any case, my hunch is that this is something criminal or hooligan in nature, and dubious it has anything to do with Putin, Tymoshenko, NATO, Al Qaeda, Muslims, Chechens, Tatars, or any of the usual suspects.

      • kievite says:

        One possibility (

        Теракты происходят после убийства Геннадия Аксельрода, известнейшего днепропетровского бизнесмена.

        Не исключено, что речь идет об очередном шаге в переделе собственности и экономического влияния в городе. Тем более что в информационном пространстве ходят неопределенные намеки на некий масштабный конфликт, возникший между “татарской” и “еврейской” группировками в украинском бизнесе. А о том, что грядет “раскулачивание” группы “Приват”, чье руководство “неправильно” сыграло в некоторые политические игры, говорят уже несколько лет.

        Напомню, что теракты с применением взрывчатки в Днепропетровске уже происходили.

        В сентябре 2010 года взрывом были испуганы Геннадий Корбан и покойный Аксельрод. В октябре 2009 года взрывом был убит Вячеслав Брагинский, партнер Корбана, а в ноябре 2011 года в центре города был убит бизнесмен по точно такому же, как нынешний, сценарию – взорвалась урна.

        • kirill says:

          A “gangster” conflict is in my view the most likely explanation. There has been at least one other incident in the ex-USSR where a bomb was detonated in a public place by organized crime and not jihadis or some other true fanatics. This one seems to be more flowery but none of the devices were up to terrorist standards.

          • Dear Yalensis,

            Thanks for this. I think that your views and those of Kievite and Kirill look like being the right ones. This does not seem to be a politically motivated attack and a straightforward criminal motive looks like the most plausible.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            That other incident that you refer to, Kirill, may possibly be the firebomb explosion that took place in the long Pushkin Square, Moscow, underpass, along the length of which, as is usually the case, there are are dozens of kiosks. It happened in 2000 and was immediately blamed on Chechen terrorists.


            There is still a plaque on the underpasss wall commemorating this atrocity, stating that it was a terrorist act.

            An act of terrror it clearly was. However, it seems now to have been an action undertaken by gangsters during a “turf war”.

    • cartman says:

      European officials are considering a boycott of Ukraine for the Euro 2012.

      I wonder if any of these countries would consider pulling their acts from Eurovision, which is coming up. Nope, Azerbaijan has too much oil they would not want to offend, even though the human rights and democracy situation is much worse there.

      • marknesop says:

        I hope this reminds Ukraine who its real friends are. Hopefully Putin will notice how Ukraine is being treated by Europe and take advantage of it, and I hope this threat is given wide coverage in the Ukrainian press so everyone will know that, once again, the west is trying to pressure Ukraine into releasing the criminal oligarch Tymoshenko. Hans-Peter Friedrich – what a hypocrite. He couldn’t possibly “imagine being jubilant in a stadium in Ukraine while knowing that a few kilometers (miles) away Tymoshenko “is not being treated according to the rules of a civilized state”. Spare me the sanctimony, H-P, what do you say? If you can’t be jubilant in Ukraine, how the fuck can you be jubilant in Germany? Why aren’t you picketing outside the prison every day, if Tymoshenko’s plight affects you so deeply? Ever since Tymoshenko was allegedly “beaten up” by prison guards (she was supposed to be transported to a hospital but, as usual, refused to go), Germany has been inveigling for her to be permitted to go to Germany “for treatment”. As if; you know as soon as she was inside Germany they would refuse to return her and she’d be gone, baby, gone. Maybe it would be worth it – she’d be another celebrity dissident with a big mouth, but she could hardly return in triumph to Ukraine to run for public office, as a fugitive criminal.

        The EU has plenty of problems of its own (behind a paywall, but reachable), and if it would mind its own business for 5 minutes it might be closer to resolving them. As it is, I give the EU another year, two tops, and it’ll fall apart. Coincidentally, Hans-Peter Friedrich was the first politician to argue that Greece should leave the EU. In that instance, I agree with him.

    • Dear Cartman,

      A most interesting article.

      It is striking that the article is written not by economists but by sociologists. Sociology is an authentic science. Much of economics as it has evolved since the 1950s is not. The proof of this is how consistently events prove economists wrong and how this never seems to change or effect their fundamental assumptions. We see this again in Russia today where despite the catastrophe of previous privatisations the touchstone for economists of what they like to call “reform” continues to be further privatisation. If economics was a genuine science its repeated failure would result in economists revisiting their assumptions. That they don’t is a sign that they are not scientists but mystics.

      • cartman says:

        Privatization is not all bad if you remember the most important thing is to sell high. How much is the firm expected to raise in the future? Liberals have to become contortionists in order to defend vulture capitalists like Khodorkovsky.

      • rkka says:

        “That they don’t is a sign that they are not scientists but mystics.”

        No. They are paid propagandists for plutocracy.

        Know your enemy.

    • kieivite says:

      See also

      1. Anne Williamson’s testimony before the Committee on Banking and Financial Services of the U.S. House of Representatives, presented Sept. 21, 1999.

      2. Harvard Mafia, Andrei Shleifer and the Economic Rape of Russia

  38. Evgeny says:

    Hello, everyone.

    Not that I care that much, but I have just found that I cannot conveniently refer to this blog as “Mark Chapman’s blog”. There are some other guys with that same name, incl. some politician. So, just googling for “Mark Chapman’s blog” would not lead a stranger here. The good news, though, is that “Mark Chapman’s blog about Russia” is a proper phrase to find this blog in Google.

    • marknesop says:

      I get a fair number of hits from people googling for “the Kremlin Stooge”. In fact, that’s what I wanted to name it, but when I was initially building the blog I had to use my email address, and if you wanted a free blog (which this is) you had to accept limitations on features. I could put “The Kremlin Stooge” in the header, but I couldn’t identify the blog that way without “upgrading to pro” or one of those euphemisms for paying a regular fee for the service. It’s not much, something like $17.00 per year, but it seems less to me in the realm of pure opinion and the beginning of being a kind of journalist or something if you’re paying for to put your information out there. Stupid, I know, and you’d be 1000 times more susceptible to the accusation of corporate whore if somebody were paying you to write it; but this way, it just makes me laugh if someone accuses me of being a tool of the FSB or the Kremlin and that they must be paying me to excuse their horrid behavior, because I’m not excusing anything and there’s no money involved at all.

      • Evgeny says:

        1) Mark, I agree that avoiding the issue of money alltogether makes sense for an individual.

        It’s different for groups of people — even if it’s a small resource, somebody needs to pay for the web hosting. So, the question of finances appears very early, and choices that are made at the beginning of a project may have long-standing consequences. I have witnessed the life of one such resource.

        2) Okey, if I need to refer to your blog any time in future, I will simply say “the Kremlin Stooge”. Thank you!

      • Evgeny says:

        3) I cannot say that I have regularly received accusations of being paid by the Kremlin, but there were several such accusations by different people (OK, you know how the word “several” is defined by the Oxford dictionary? Namely, “three or more”), and I can only imagine that you receive them on a regular basis.

        As for the talks in the RuNet, accusations of being a paid agent by anyone are commonplace there.

  39. kirill says:

    I wonder what this is really about. A diversion? Or the truth?

    • marknesop says:

      At first I thought it was just a grubby political internal fight, but the more I look at it the more it actually looks like a revolt against Netanyahu from members of his government, and it must be well advanced for a western source to print it. It still continues to dangle the suggestion that Iran actually is pursuing nuclear weapons – and that attacking them might actually accelerate the pursuit – while there is no evidence to suggest this is happening at all, but at least it publicizes Iran’s denial as well.

      What this might represent – very exciting if true – is the jettisoning of Netanyahu by his government because of fears he is poisoning vital American support for Israel by agitating for the Americans to attack Iran. This course of action grows less popular by the day, and at some point it will be clear to everyone that radical elements in the Israeli government and its lobbying arm, AIPAC, are whipping up war talk in order to remove a personal enemy from the board. The American public is finally coming to the realization that war on anything other than a secret-hit-squad scale is horribly expensive, and the European Union is itself hanging by a thread; there is practically no public support for another messy Middle-Eastern war, and no money for it. Britain will support it, of course, in order to protect the “Special Relationship”, but that’s only the government and the British public were opposed even to the Iraq war, never mind a new one that’s even harder to substantiate. The boy has cried “wolf” once too often.

      Funny how easy it is to whip up public fury and fear of Iran, supposedly trying to acquire a handful of nuclear weapons, while the same public is urged to ignore and dismiss Russia’s “efforts to become a great power” and their “crumbling military” when Russia has hundreds of nukes. Truly it is fortunate that the brain is as solid as it is, otherwise those of some would run out their ear while they slept and be absorbed by their pillows.

      Bibi has been kicked off the government hay-wagon before for his radical beliefs and steamroller diplomacy, and it’s possible we’re seeing the beginning of The Dismissal, Act II. I think he was voted in because the Likudniks liked his approach to the settler problem (ignore it and continue to push ahead with more Jewish settlements in the West Bank despite half-hearted international criticism), but he has developed ambitions beyond his usefulness in that respect and is contributing to an unsavory image of Israel as an inciter of self-interested violence. We’ll see if other sources pick it up. If so, that will suggest an unwillingness to continue carrying Netanyahu unless he backs off pounding the war drum. That would impact eagerness to attack Syria as well.

      • kirill says:

        I hope Bibi takes a hike. The neocon stench everywhere is too much to bear. But this seems to be some sort of larger back-pedalling by the west on Syria and now it appears Iran. I don’t quite understand why the west is responding to Russia and China at all. I guess things have gotten really bad financially to stage a couple of more wars, as you mention.

        I think that things are not going back to normal economically. Next year we are set to be slammed by actual oil shortages (a transient effect predicted by a DOD risk assessment). The weakened US and EU economies are not in a position to absorb this shock. This year is bad enough with 2008-like high gasoline prices even before the driving season peak.

        • marknesop says:

          It’s funny you should mention that; the conservative think tank Heritage ran a series of exercises in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011 to isolate policy and economic weaknesses in American preparedness for any shock to its energy supply. The conclusion of each of these exercises was the same – the USA would be unable to respond effectively in the event of a major oil crisis.

          As they concluded at the time, “The only way for the U.S. government to reduce actual petroleum costs is to increase supply or reduce demand and to pursue policies that would moderate the negative economic impact, e.g. withdraw additional petroleum from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. As natural gas pricing mechanisms are often tied to oil, additional measures to keep energy prices in check would include reopening of nuclear facilities in Eastern Europe or increase in piped gas volumes and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) sales from Russia”.

          It’s important to keep in mind here that the twin demons are always Russia and Iran – in it’s drive to subjugate or crush the latter, U.S. planners fear having to rely on the former.

          Comical also was the assertion that “Tehran’s regime is exploiting its energy resources to fuel a military buildup, developing an extensive nuclear weapons program, and is exporting a Shia Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East, especially to Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain”. The star pupil of the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Governing Council, Ayad Allawi, who was the U.S. pick for supreme leader of Iraq, is Shia, as is Nouri al-Maliki. Saddam Hussein was Sunni. Yet the USA’s coalition overthrew Hussein in order to empower a Shi’ite majority government, while apparently American conservative who were behind the Iraq war in the first place fear a Shia Islamic revolution.

          Does anyone proofread this stuff before it goes to press?

      • R.C. says:

        One correction Mark –

        Russia actually has THOUSANDS (The Americans presently only have 200 more deployable warheads than Russia) of nukes and the means to deliver them with precision via the Topol and Bulava ICBM systems. I remember all the failures that wreaked the Bulava the past several years were widely celebrated and mocked in the American press, but as soon as Russia corrected the errors and the system became operational after a series of successful tests, the American media ignored its inclusion into the Russian navy by Medvedev in December 2011.

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, you’re right; I didn’t do a head count, but I eliminated all the ones that are pretty old technology, and there are at least a few that are just empty silos with a big, menacing-looking cover on it that routinely get counted as if there was still a weapon inside. But even eliminating all the kludgy old flying boxcars and accounting for boo-scary missiles that aren’t there, there are still hundreds of capable and lethal nuclear weapons and probably thousands. Mutual Assured Dementia.

    • yalensis says:

      Maybe a rational secular/patriotic opposition to the religious wing-nuts in charge of Israeli government? There is a historical/Biblical precedent: King Josias of Judah (reigned 639-609 BC). Josias was a religious zealot, beloved of the Jewish priesthood because he tore down heathen altars and so on. Josias faith in Yahweh (plus personal hubris) led him to challenge authority of Egyptian empire. Leading to catastrophic military defeat at the hands of Egyptian King Necho. In the valley of Megiddo no less (=Armageddon, dig it!) As a result of the pious Josias incompetence, Hebrews lost their independence and had to pay big tribute to Egypt after that. Plus Egyptians appointing their kings and governors. Compare this to the successful reigns of the more secular Omrite Kings of Judah (=Omri, Ahaz, & Jezebel), who were able to to maintain national independence and increase prosperity and wealth. Because the Omrites knew how to keep the priesthood in their place.

      • marknesop says:

        I wouldn’t put Bibi in that category – although the glimpse of history is interesting. I see him more as a power-hungry egotist who brags to his friends about how he leads the American policymakers around by the nose, and who says to them, “Remember last week, when you did something for me? Well, I’m going to give you another chance to do something for me”.

          • marknesop says:

            Looks like another of those “hold me back, boss” bluffs to try and get Iran to cave in without having to fight. It would be almost unprecedented – certainly unprecedented in the world of the sensible – to announce the attack in excruciating detail in advance, right down to which aircraft are the most tactically important. An Israel that meant to attack would likely pretend to be reluctantly backing down, and rather than announcing the intent to move the families of all its pilots out of danger, would broadcast the message that it was sending many of its pilots on leave. Only an idiot, acknowledging the possibility of serious casualties, would deliberately maximize them by alerting the enemy of an imminent attack.

            I think it’s just sabre-rattling. The Israelis, like the rest of the world, have no proof Iran is developing a nuclear weapon. A bunch of centrifuges is not proof, centrifuges are for enriching uranium, and Iran has long acknowledged enrichment of uranium. Israel must fear castigation for a trumped-up attack without proof, and that’s likely why the allusion to Iran “moving parts of its project underground at Qom”. They could go in and bomb it flat, and say the evidence was underground. The faithful and the evangelical nutjobs would buy it, but there’s too much skepticism otherwise. I say it’s just a bluff. As other articles cited here attest, Bibi’s popularity is on the wane, and he’s just talking tough to try and get a solution Israel and the west want, for free.

            That doesn’t mean Israel won’t attack – although support for it will have to be a lot better than it is today – but they’re not going to announce it in advance and then carry it out exactly as described. The element of surprise is as important now as it ever was.

            • yalensis says:

              Counter example: Falklands War (Great Britain vs. Argentina). GB announced it was sending its fleet to reconquer Falklands, and didn’t the world have to sit and wait for something like 6 months watching as the fleet made its way in painful slow-mo across the ocean?

              • marknesop says:

                That’s a little different, although valid; it was something that would be widely televised and reported, and a quick strike from out of nowhere was logistically impossible. I remember that war was the last campaign for the Hawker-Siddley Vulcan bomber, and the distance it had to fly (stopping once for fuel at Ascension Island) was fantastic. You can bet if there were a way to transport the biggest part of the Royal Navy silently and swiftly under cover of darkness to arrive off the shores of the Falklands before anyone knew they were there, they’d have done it. When that’s not possible, the best course of action is to make a big show of it in the hope the enemy will do what you want before you have to fight. That’s more like what this is – a show of chest-beating menace, so the Iranians will shiver and scream and say, “Anything you want!! Only please don’t blow our house down, Mr. Wolf!!!”

                But in terms of any attack itself, a group of F-15’s could be over the target in Iran in no time flat. Why would you sacrifice that if you didn’t have to? At the very least, if that’s what they genuinely intended, it would be ridiculous overconfidence such as that which failed them in Lebanon. It’s hard to respect people who don’t learn from their mistakes.

  40. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    The theory put forward to explain the use of polonium as the murder weapon says that Putin wanted to send a message, something like “We’ll get you, making clear that we made it”. IMO this theory has two problems:
    1) Even if Litvinenko, or anyone from the ex-USSR, had died for a car accident or a disease, the western media would have blamed it on Putin. The media did this with a Georgian oligarch that died in London from cardiovascular disease, they stopped when realised this guy was anti-Saak. Why use expensive polonium to make clear something that the western media would make clear for free?
    2) Before his death, Litvinenko was a Mr. Nobody, his anti-Putin claims were too idiotic even for the western media. So the message reads “We’ll get the irrelevant guys, making clear that we made it”. As a threatening message it is too stupid.
    A better explanation for the presence of polonium is that Litvinenko was involved in some nuclear smuggling ring.

    • kirill says:

      I agree completely. If “dictator” Putin wanted to send a message by killing somebody on UK soil he would have offed Berezovsky. Litvinenko was an indirect asset with his claims such as: Putin was responsible for the Mohamed cartoon scandal in Denmark (LOL). But he was a liability to Berezovsky who actually had a motive (and track record of being a gangster) to kill Litvinenko to remove a headache and smear Russia at the same time.

      But the source of all this nonsense is the western media, which is a mouthpiece for the elites. It allows such dirty games to proceed by using them for the anti-Russian agenda. If the media was objective it would not jump on every claim as proven fact and make claims without evidence itself.

      Regarding the death of the Georgian tycoon in the UK. It looks to me like a case of murder. I have said this many times before, there are plenty of ways to induce heart attacks that don’t leave an obvious trace of poison. One such is KCl, but that is crude. Something along the lines of super inflammatories, or engineered allergens can induce cardio-vascular shock as well. They would be composed of organic molecules that could break down into generic fragments in a short period of time. The victim in this case was a threat to Saakshvili’s power totally unlike Khodorkovsky who is alleged to have been a “threat” to Putin.

      • marknesop says:

        The last-ever interview with Litvinenko suggested he was unstable and that he might be considering blackmailing his “former associates”. Heartfield and Svetlichnaya are at great pains to make clear that they are not Putin supporters and that it is not their intention to suggest the Kremlin could not have done it, merely to report what was said and their impressions.

        Of course, this is totally at odds with the alleged “REAL last interview”, allegedly with his filmmaker friend Andrei Nekrasov. In that case, supposedly just hours before his expiration, Litvinenko is supposed to have said – to only Nekrasov – “The bastards got me. But they won’t get everybody” in true “Deadwood” style. It will not surprise you that Nekrasov is a devotee of Anna Politkovskaya and made several films suggesting the FSB was behind the Moscow apartment bombings (Disbelief and Rebellion: the Litvinenko Case). He also directed Lessons of Russian, a documentary on the 2008 Russian-Georgian War, co-produced by his wife, Olga Konskaya. For this film he was recognized as the Person of the Year 2009 by the Georgian Public Broadcasting’s online survey.

        • Here is a detailed recent discussion of the progress of the Coroner’s Inquest into Litvinenko’s death from William Dunkerley on Russia Other Points of View.

          It seems that shortly after the Coroner ordered the British intelligence services to produce their evidence about the Litvinenko he became “ill with appendicitis” and has now been removed from the case. An official has even gone so far as to say he is “persona non grata”. Though more than five years have passed since Litvinenko’s death the Coroner’s Inquest has yet to pronounce an opinion on its cause. With the Coroner himself apparently sacked the Inquest is adjourned with no indication of when it will resume.

          I am not someone who generally likes to indulge in conspiracy theories but I have to say that on this occasion I am going to make an exception. It seems to me that the Coroner’s Inquest has been deliberately sabotaged to prevent the autopsy report and the other evidence in the case from being published.

          Meanwhile on a separate front I have read an English translation of the interview Litvinenko’s father and brother have given the Russian media. They were originally signed up believers in the theory that Litvinenko was murdered by the FSB on Putin’s orders. Having seen how threadbare the case is and with what cynicism the British authorities are conducting it they have now completely changed their views. The British media needless to say claims that they have been bought though needless to say it offers no evidence to support this smear. Anyway the most interesting thing they say is that the famous last photograph of a bald and dying Litvinenko is basically a fake and that his hair did not fall out but was shaved off.

  41. yalensis says:

    Extry! Extry! Read all about it!
    Russian gangsta almost gets whacked in central London, blames …. (wait for it)…. Vladimir Putin!

    • yalensis says:

      P.S. Video footage reveals the Murderer = (a guy in a hoodie) !

      • kirill says:

        So there is no evidence Putin did not do it then! Absence of said evidence is proof of guilt.

        • marknesop says:

          I’m sure I read that a plain wallet, brand-new, with nothing in it except a City of London bus pass bearing Vladimir Putin’s picture, was found at the scene, apparently dropped by the would-be murderer as he ran. Upon later analysis, it was found to have traces of polonium on it. I think it was in Novaya Gazeta.

          I guess the press eventually reaches a point where it has lost the ability to be self-critical based on how comical it looks. Exhibit A.

          • yalensis says:

            = extremely incompetent assassin. He sprayed Gorbuntsov with bullets from automatic weapon at fairly close range, and Gangsta Gorbuntsov still alive?? And they think PUTIN did this? Puleeez! KGB assasin would have felled the guy with tiny pinprick from poisonous ballpoint pen, and everybody think he have heart attack.
            As Sherlock Holmes would say, “It is the dog that DIDN’T bark in whom we are most interested.”
            Okay, with all due modesty: I believe I have solved this horrendous crime, British bobbies please forward to me reward $$$ ASAP.
            Here is big clue, unearthed by my intrepid sleuthing: At the exact moment he was shot, Gorbuntsov was cavorting with his bodacious mistress, this lovely prostitute lady, , now add to this clue the fact that the hoodie assassin bears a remarkable resemblance to this football hooligan (the one in white shorts) , whose name just happens to be Vladislav Gorbuntsov, same as Oligarch’s prodigal son from Moldova, who just happened to be living in exile with his jilted mom who was extremely angry about hubby’s cavorting with above-mentioned blonde bimbo.
            I rest my case!

            • yalensis says:

              Addendum: Football hooligan link:


              • marknesop says:

                Wow. She is gorgeous.

                I think you have done very well, Detective Yalensis. What’s the criminal formula? Means, motive and opportunity. Supposedly Mr. Gorbuntsov’s paramour gave the police “valuable information”, but I can’t imagine what it was, since Mr. Gorbuntsov was obviously trying to hide her from his family. The only hole in your theory is – did son Gorbuntsov know of his dad’s faithlessness? His wife did not, according to the story. If you can prove the son did indeed know, and was furious about it, that covers motive nicely. If you can put him in the same city, that will take care of opportunity, and I think you’ve got a winner!

                indeed, the police should pay you, although I imagine not only the son but the wife moved straight into the suspects column. It’s just in the national interest to look elsewhere to see if a tie to the Kremlin can be established.

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