Stubborn Deniers of Reality, Thy Name is Western Journalism

Uncle Volodya says, "Journalists say a thing that they know isn't true, in the hope that if they keep on saying it long enough, it will be true."

Uncle Volodya says, “Journalists say a thing that they know isn’t true, in the hope that if they keep on saying it long enough, it will be true.”

Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted at Voice Of Russia UK. Most of these issues have been discussed here before, but they keep coming up and consequently are always current.

Red Herrings for sale!! Fresh Red Herrings for sale!!

From McGraw-Hill: “Red Herring – A piece of information or suggestion introduced to draw attention away from the real facts of a situation. A red herring is a type of strong-smelling smoked fish that was once drawn across the trail of a scent to mislead hunting dogs and put them off the scent”.

Actually, most of these are not even that fresh, but are merely recycled assaults on common sense that have achieved the status of conventional wisdom through relentless repetition. Vladimir Putin owns somewhere between 50% and 75% of privately-owned energy company Gunvor. The cost of Vladimir Putin’s wristwatches adds up to more than his annual salary, which proves he is pilfering from state coffers to keep himself in timeless timepieces. Russia’s economy is weak because it is too dependent on energy exports. Russia has the world’s highest rates of alcoholism and divorce. Putin controls Russian TV. Russia has no press freedom. Western-sponsored Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) are involved purely in non-political altruistic activities of a charitable nature, and are therefore being persecuted in accordance with a cruel political agenda by being made to register as Foreign Agents.

But some are fairly contemporary, and so I’d like to look first at the enduring myth that Vladimir Putin’s inauguration as President of the Russian Federation for a third term, around the same time as regular elections to the Duma, was met with “unprecedented protests” which brought the Russian people into the streets in such numbers that the Kremlin was rocked to its foundations.

It’s still the subject of intense debate whether the protest rally at Bolotnaya or the one three weeks later – at Sakharov Avenue – was the bigger turnout, but the opposition and its supporters are comfortable that it was one of those. “Massive” protest, crowed Voice of America. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) agreed the protests were “massive”, and reported the police said about 20,000 demonstrators showed up, while organizers insisted there were at least 100,000 (that was the Bolotnaya event). This was to become an ongoing phenomenon, as organizers regularly claimed numbers at least double those provided by the police in subsequent demonstrations, and often triple or even more. Western news agencies were often happy to go with the largest number, while the western regime-changers were giddy with excitement. At least one American television network (FOX News, unsurprisingly, Rupert Murdoch’s conservative smoke machine) was so transported by excitement that it aired video footage of rioting in Athens and passed it off as conditions on the ground in Moscow.

Here’s the now-famous “fishbowl” panoramic shot of the protest demonstration at Bolotnaya, December 10th, 2011. Organizers said at least 100,000 people were there. This site was careful to describe it as “the largest post-Soviet anti-government protests”, while others tout the event – and the later one at Sakharov Avenue – as the biggest protest actions in recent Russian history.

Well, let’s look. Here’s the shot of the protest crowd at Sakharov Avenue (photo 2 of 2), for comparison purposes, just to be sure we’re not being unfair. The police said about 30,000 people were there. The organizers claimed there were 120,000, four times as many. Geodesic engineer Nikolai Pomeshchenko, specially commissioned for his expertise and equipment by RiaNovosti to provide an impartial count, said there were 56,000.

Now, some perspective. Here’s the protest at Manezh Square (photo 15), in the shadow of the Kremlin, on March 10th, 1991. These people are protesting against Mikhail Gorbachev, much-admired (in the west) architect of Perestroika, Glasnost and the dismantling of the Soviet Union.

Funny story about that photo. When it was featured – in much the same way I’m using it now, to shut up the moonbats who keep yapping about “massive protests” – some observers noticed a section of the crowd appeared to have been cut and pasted. This was enthusiastically and joyfully embraced as the complete discrediting of the photo by those who have an interest in a growing wave of modern protest in Russia. “Oh, everyone knows”, they sneer, “that picture was Photoshopped”.

Well, that’s technically possible – Photoshop was invented in the late 80′s and released in 1990 – but it’s unlikely anyone would have had an interest at that time in making the crowd appear larger. And according to The Atlantic, the retouching was done by the photographer to remove a touch of “lens flare” in the lower right-hand corner. The section involved includes maybe – maybe – 100 people, and what was underneath the area which was removed was approximately the same number of people. Judging from the shape of the crowd, there are probably 10 times that number outside the borders of the photo. This crowd is estimated at 500,000. Does it look only about 5 times the size of the crowd at Sakharovsky Prospekt? Ha, ha. Smell that? Red herring.

There were 109,610,812 registered voters in the 2012 Russian electorate. Assuming the probably inflated figure of 120,000 for the Sakharovsky Prospekt protests, that would comprise less than 2/10 of 1% of the Russian electorate. And that’s supposed to be a massive protest, the ringing voice of a wronged people. It also assumes everyone at the Sakharovsky protest was of voting age.

All right, let’s move on. Vladimir Putin does not own 50% of Gunvor, or 75%, and probably not any of Gunvor. Gunvor is controlled by Gennady Timchenko and Swede Tobjorn Tornqvist. A major western news outfit, The Economist – known for its wretched and falsehood-riddled coverage of Russia – penned a story called “Grease My Palm”, in which it suggested Vladimir Putin owned a major stake in Gunvor, which rubbish it got from addle-headed doughboy lookalike Stanislav Belkovsky, pet dissident. Belkovsky appears to have pulled that story from someplace on his body where the sun never shines, because there is as much truth in it as there are feathers on a trout. When Gunvor had had enough, and threatened to sue The Economist, the latter backed down and printed a humiliating retraction.

There is no end of silly stories on the Internet claiming Putin has a million-dollar collection of wristwatches (“millions” in the headline, “$700,000.00 in the body of the article), and how can he afford them on his tiny official salary, thereby implying he is either lying about how much he gets paid, or stealing the money to keep himself in watches. In fact, his watches are probably purchased by the state, his salary is considerably higher than many sources claim, and he regularly gives them away to ordinary people he meets, or athletes who bring recognition to the Russian Federation. Vladimir Putin earns $115,282.53 USD in salary by today’s exchange rates; I suspect he could afford some pretty nice watches just on his salary, provided he only bought one a year – it’s not like he has to pay much for rent or food, is it? The west was gaga over Nicolas Sarkozy, and some of his watches cost twice as much as the average person’s car – yet you’d be as likely to see him cut off his arm as give one away. Nicolas Sarkozy made better than 3 times more in salary in 2011 than Putin, and although already a multi-millionaire upon assuming the office of president, he immediately doubled the salary, while he is also entitled to a generous pension as the former mayor of Neuilly-sur Seine – the richest district in France.

Ahhh…one of my favourites, and a red herring if ever there was one – Russia’s economy is shaky because it is too dependent on oil and gas. First of all, the notion is idiotic just on its face; Russia is the world’s largest energy producer, and cries that they must diversify away from it or face economic extinction – in favour of what? Poultry? Cucumbers? HB pencils? – is like saying Saudi Arabia should get out of the oil business and start retailing sand for cement. Do you want to know why the west keeps waving that red herring? Because if the Russian economy relied on any other product, the west could – and would – embargo or boycott it. But it cannot, because the west, too, is dependent on petroleum for the bulk of its energy needs, and it is an internationally-traded commodity. But let’s look at it another way – when the shale gas industry bamboozled the western public into believing that Poland was going to supply all of Europe’s energy needs and cut Russia out of the picture, did you hear any howls that Poland was setting itself up for a big fall by depending on energy revenues, and that they should immediately start growing more potatoes as a backup plan? Show me. You know you didn’t. Instead, reliance on Russia was “a problem” that Poland was going to solve, you better believe. Well, that dream is all but dead now, and it looks like Potato-Plan B might have been the way to go. But the point is that while the dream was alive, not one western analyst or policy-maker suggested energy would be a vulnerability for Poland, and that they shouldn’t get too excited about it – Christ, if you could eat excitement, there would have been enough to erase world hunger, and there was no shortage of western political and industry figures begging for the privilege of holding Poland’s coat while it kicked Russia’s ass. Let me be clear here that I bear the Poles no ill-will, and I understand and sympathize with their disappointment. But I consider the point made. Energy is a windfall that calls for celebration, in any place but Russia, where it is just another liability on the road to perdition.

Of the USA’s top 10 industries, nearly half are energy companies. Of Europe’s top 10 industries, half are energy companies, one of which is GAZPROM – 6 of 10 if you count E.ON, but it’s nuclear.

In 2010, half the top 10 Russian companies were energy companies. Forgive me if I do not see a huge difference.

The country with the highest rate of divorce is the United States. While Russia has a definite alcohol problem, measured by the death rate due to alcoholism it is only a medium, and Norway, Austria, Germany, France and Poland all have significantly higher death rates attributed to that cause. More red herrings.

It seems of terrible importance to the west that Russia admit to savagery, incompetence and failure, promise to atone and beg for help to lift it out of its desperate plight. Only then will the west, reassured of its moral superiority and rightness, extend the pitying hand of friendship. Because, you see, it must pity Russia in order for the proper order of its world to be established. Therefore, situations and conditions which would inspire pity – a plummeting population, out-of-control alcoholism, rampaging corruption and a collapsing economy – if they do not prevail to the necessary degree, must be invented.

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897 Responses to Stubborn Deniers of Reality, Thy Name is Western Journalism

  1. yalensis says:

    More Navalniana:
    This is a very interesting expose about Navalny’s use of cyberbots in his blog.

    This arose as a spat between Navalny and Vasily Brovko, who did the analysis and wrote the expose about Navalny’s bots. Brovko is the General Director of a company called “Apostol” which is called a “Strategic Communciations Center”, whatever that is. (I am not 100% sure but I ibelieve that Apostol is part of a state-owned mega-company, and this fits Navalny’s pattern, because, like a good little Randite, he almost always feuds with state-owned entities, not with private ones.)

    ‘Our company, Apostol, operates the processes concerning transparency, such as brand, communication strategy, website and advertising’, – says Mr Brovko, -‘We’ve already took up the communications and the journalists now get an up-to-date information. Besides, the corporation centre functions are also to be changed. For example, the corporation will keep controlling the Defence procurement, federal target programmes, GR, marketing and working with strategic partners and investors. The management itself will be conducted by the holdings.’ In the meantime the state corporation worked out the system of holding performance evaluation based on market share growth, income and shareholder dividend volume. This must attract new investors.

    Anyhow, that is just background. In March (a month ago), Navalny went on the attack against Apostol. Using documents that he had access to as because of his position on the Board of Aeroflot, Navalny in his blog leaked information about a contract between Aeroflot and Apostol.
    Brovko, along with his company partner Tina Kandelaki shot back with this piece.
    Then everybody jumped into the feud, both pro- and anti-Navalny.
    Apostol media specialists used the back and forth as a convenient way to analyze Navalny’s blog. They analyzed 3995 comments in 6 blog posts and came to the conclusion that Navalny had hired a bunch of bots
    Of the 3995 comments, there were 1338 distinct accounts, of which 539 accounts were bots. In other words, a full 39% of the commentary participating in the discussion were just a bunch a self-plagiarizing bots!

    (Article goes on to describe the methodology of statistical analysis proving who is or is not a bot.)

    Now, everybody has known forever that Navalny uses bots to beef up his fanboy comments. His enemies even make fun of this by sending in their own bots. For example, in this blogpost from a couple of days ago, Navalny ended his post with the phrase <В общем, Вучик крутой, Кац и "Городские проекты" молодцы, те, кто финансировали исследование потратили деньги с пользой для всех нас", and if you read the comments, a whole series of playful and variegated anti-Navalny bots proceed to repeat that phrase endless. As if saying to him: "We can make bots too!"

    • yalensis says:

      My apologies for all the typos in above comment. I was too hasty and forgot to proofread. Still very interesting though. For those who might not know what a “bot” is, it is an internet account/I.P. address/maybe an avatar set up for the purpose of automatically relaying a comment written by somebody else. For example, one guy sitting in an office somewhere (or in his basement) can peck out a comment, and it would instantaneously post to 100 different blogs, each supposedly a completely different avatar.
      Navalny owns a small army of loyal bots who cheer on everything he does with generic comments like “Good job, Alexei, keep up the good work!”

    • kirill says:

      I guess Navalny’s western patrons need to have bots participate in the elections that Navalny is going to run for. They will not find real people who would want to vote for this pathetic loser.

      But I think they probably know this. They are boosting this grifter since his function is not to take over, of which he has basically zero chance, but to be another propaganda talking point about some alleged political opponent jailed like Khodorkovsky as if he had a chance of winning.

  2. Robert says:

    Latest from Nick Cohen in full neocon mode. Apparently the Syrian situation is all Russia’s fault
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/09/william-hague-syria-policy

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Yes, according to Coen, the bad guys are Assad and his evil supporters Russia and Iran.

      I wonder where China is positioned in his hall of infamy?

    • kirill says:

      If the FSA had 70% of Syria’s population on its side then it would have toppled Assad already. But it has to resort to murdering moderate Sunni clerics so clearly it does not have full support from Syria’s Sunni population.

      I will repeat two important points:

      1) The 30% of Syria’s population that is not Sunni does not support the FSA and the FSA can never be its legitimate government. Simple plurality only applies to homogenous populations and not fragmented-along-ethnic/religious lines states like Syria.

      2) For the FSA to have majority support out all of Syria’s population it needs over 71% support from the Sunni group. Maybe it has this amongst the men but I doubt Sunni women relish the prospect of having some sharia toilet imposed on them like in Afghanistan after the jihadis take over.

      The west spews lots of BS about human rights and women’s rights. But it supports Al Qaeda associated Salafist extremists. Actions speak louder than words.

    • marknesop says:

      Yes, La Russophobe is in full slobber on the Moscow Times as well, yelling about it being all right for America to arm Russia’s enemies, considering Russia arms America’s enemies. Featured is a comical slip where she raves about the great victory of the Egyptian rebels, when there were no rebels involved in the “Egyptian Spring”.

  3. Moscow Exile says:

    Cohan!

    Freudian slip if ever there were one: Mr. Coan (and not Coen either) was my school games master who delighted in inflicting pain in the fulfillment of his belief that there ain’t no gain if there ain’t no pain.

    He was right, of course.

    • I noticed that yet again it took many hours after Nick Cohen’s article was published before a comments thread appeared. This is not the first time this has happened with articles by Nick Cohen. I suspect that he has become so unpopular with so many people that the Guardian/Observer is trying to control the flow of comments he gets. Having said that, there’s no doubt he also has lots of fans.

      What to say about this latest article? Briefly, that it sets reality on its head. It says that the protests against Assad were at the outset peaceful when there is evidence (admittedly disputed evidence but nonetheless plausible evidence – eg. the personal details of Syrian policemen and officials allegedly killed by protesters) that the protests were violent from the start. It complains about the failure to arm the rebels when open sources confirm that the rebels have been massively armed by the Saudis, the Qataris, the Jordanians and the Turks with US assistance. Most grotesquely it accuses Russia (citing British government sources) of delaying the start of the negotiations. In reality Russia has been pushing for negotiations since the start of the protests in the spring of 2011. It has been the rebels backed by the US and its allies that have consistently obstructed negotiations by their intransigent refusal to negotiate with Assad. What is holding back the start of negotiations now is not the Russians but the fact that the rebels seem to be irreconcilably split and unable to agree on a negotiating team. Also they still largely insist on Assad’s resignation as a precondition for their participation in the negotiations, which to the extent that they are prepared to engage in them at all, they basically still see as simply a mechanism to transfer power to them.

      Whilst I was on a trip to Oxford a few years ago I found in the library of the College guest room in which I was staying a copy of Nick Cohen’s book “What’s Left?” It was all of a piece with his newspaper articles. Long on indignation and ferocious attacks on those he disagrees with but almost entirely indifferent to facts.

      Anyway I suspect what has really got Nick Cohen angry is that Assad now appears to be winning. The same of course is true of Charles Krauthammer but at least he’s honest about it.

      • yalensis says:

        John McCain is also bitterly complaining that “Assad is winning”. Sometimes phrased as “Hezbollah is winning.” These types are trying to convince Obama to send in the Marines before it’s too late to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat.

        Unfortunately, Obama’s appointment of Samantha Powers and Susan Rice could be read as a signal that he is planning to do precisely that.

        • Dear Yalensis,

          This is the fundamental problem with Obama. I don’t know what his real opinions about the Syrian crisis or indeed about any other international crisis actually are. Does he even know himself? Does he actually have any opinions on any foreign policy question?

          A rational man would now recognise that the attempt to topple the Syrian government has failed and that since the risks of pressing on far exceed any conceivable benefits the time has come to pull back. There are times when Obama behaves as if that is what he thinks. Thus he sent Kerry to Moscow where he negotiated a deal with Lavrov to start a peace conference in Geneva without preconditions. Since then there has been no follow up, the British and French allegedly with US support vetoed the extension of the EU arms embargo and now notable hardliners like Susan Rice and Samantha Powers get promoted. Susan Rice let’s not forget was Obama’s first choice for Secretary of State. It’s almost as if Obama was out to sabotage his own foreign policy. Certainly there is nothing of the firm stamp of authority. At best Obama looks weak. At worst he looks duplicitous. I doubt by now that the Russians much trust him. I doubt the Chinese do either.

        • kirill says:

          McCain is living in the good old days of the 1970s when the CIA installed death squad junta regimes in Latin America. This dinosaur freak needs to be sedated and not in the position of making US policy. I thought Obama won a majority. He does not need to abide by McCain or any other Republican. As for Congress and Senate and their role in US foreign policy, it has been a consistent pattern in the US that the Executive branch has the final say and overrules them whenever it pleases.

  4. Misha says:

    Kirill,

    You made mention of this chap:

    http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vladimir-shlapentokh/sticks-and-stones

    ————————

    More neocon spin on Syria c/o Charles Krauthammer:

    http://www.unionleader.com/article/20130608/OPINION02/130609351/1004/opinion

    • kirill says:

      Shlapentokh is a piece of work. He claims that Magnitsky was murdered. Put up or shut up, tukhes. One has to love the appeal to western public opinion as some Godly arbiter of truth. Khodorkovsky, the gangster oligarch with a cemetery full of bodies to his name, is perceived as a goody two shoes in the west thanks to western media BS, so Russia needs to treat him as a saint. There is not enough time in a day to wade through this intellectual excrement.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Shlapentokh writes in the above linked article that kindly drunkard Yeltsin invited the former Soviet dissident (read: “good guy”) Levada to run an opinion poll organization in Russia, which action, I presume, the writer believes was a sure sign of freedom and democracy and human rights appearing for the first time in Russian history, for he continues:

      “But the fairytale started to unravel when Putin came to power.”

      Yes folks, the golden age ended in 2000 and the fairy tale land of a free post-Soviet Russia proved only to be short-lived time of hope for the oppressed masses there.

      He must be talking about another Russia and not the one in which I lived throughout most of the the ’90s.

      I wonder what Shlapentok thought of the bombardment of the White House in ’92 and, more importantly, what the Levada organization revealed as regards Yeltsin’s role in this matter?

      Shlapentokh also refers to Navalny as being “charismatic”.

      Nice word that!

      What the f*ck does it mean?

    • Misha says:

      It’s nice ot know that there’re some Russian academics in the US who take a different view from the likes of Shlapentokh.

      *****

      Along the lines of Krauthammer:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/08/opinion/global/russias-success-the-wests-failure.html?_r=1&

      Instad of acknowledging on the ground realities, the emphasis is put on the notion of Russia having a greater resolve than the US.

      • marknesop says:

        Yeah, I don’t like that one, either. It acknowledges Russia’s success, but with a good deal of bitterness that it prevented the west from “shaping events”. It also credits Russia with a great deal more aggressive assistance than it actually provided – in my view, so as to be able to build a narrative that the west would surely have been successful, were it not foiled by a giant military power. In fact, Russia has provide no direct military assistance of which I am aware, its routine and low-key deployment of warships to the region was ridiculed widely as just Russia’s “rustbucket navy” – so, obviously, the west did not feel in any way threatened – and most of the credit goes to the Syrian government forces, which made steady and determined inroads against the west’s proxy irregulars. I saw on TV news (which I almost never watch) today that an assault is being readied against Aleppo, and I believe that is the last major population centre in which the “rebels” have a significant presence. Once they are rooted out of there, they might as well just keep heading for the border.

        It’s a hell of a time to start worrying now that some of NATO’s pet snakes might turn on it, since they already did so in Benghazi. They must have always known that was a risk, but chose to play the regime-change game anyway.

        Also, the tone of the entire article implies Russia interfered with western plans for the region just because it relishes playing spoiler of American plans. Nothing about it actually being the right thing to do. Also, lastly, the same old song about the hundreds of thousands killed and “Assad’s genocide”. Nobody really knows how many Syrians died, but given the activists’ penchant for exaggeration and the eager willingness of the western media to accept whatever figures it was fed, I’m betting it will turn out to be a lot like the “massive Russian protests”.

  5. kirill says:

    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20130609/181587808.html

    Once again Russia’s laws are shown to be lacking. How can someone in the process of being tried in a court of law even stand for election. The electoral laws should be changed to prevent such individuals from participating. It does not matter if they are guilty or not, there is enough doubt about their character. It’s not like there is a shortage of liberast replacements for Navalny.

    • marknesop says:

      I’m afraid I disagree with that, and support the law firmly as it currently stands. Simply being arrested or charged but not yet arraigned as a prohibition against standing for public office would truly open the door for having opponents arrested simply to get them off the playing field. As it is now, if you do it and your opponent is found innocent of the charges, some bad press accrues to you for inventing circumstances to take him/her off the board. In Russia’s case this is less applicable because the western press yells that the convicted was not guilty of anything anyway, but it is still best for Russia not to dangle a temptation like that in front of the politically unscrupulous. At least now if they accuse someone, the court has to find there was substantiation for it.

      • kirill says:

        On the face of it I agree with your assessment. But I don’t recall any politicians in Canada or the USA standing for office when they were in the middle of a criminal trial. Usually one waits until the case is resolved to run for office upon exoneration. So the west is foisting a type of political culture on Russia which it does not subject itself to.

        Russia also needs to remove the immunity from prosecution for elected officials. This is a Yeltsin era relic that attracted all sorts of crooks to public office.

        • marknesop says:

          Yes, it’s true that Russia – like a woman, they say – needs to do everything twice as well to be thought half as good. But deciding against legislation that would be a gift to those seeking to blacken Russia’s reputation further, while its implementation would offer Russia no particular advantage, is just smart policy. There’s no need to write a law just for Navalny, who is not a likely prospect to win anything anyway, while writing that law would offer him a graceful semi-victory rather than a crushing, contemptuous loss. Passing a law to make things more difficult for Navalny and others like him merely lends weight to their silly claims that they are feared and hated.

          This situation has not so far happened in Canada or the USA because it is entirely artificial – Navalny is not really interested in the presidency, at least not the work aspect of it, and knows he has no realistic chance of winning it. He merely glommed on to the idea of the last-minute announcement – which was probably fed to him by his advisers – as a means to claim his prosecution is politically motivated. Had he said that under previous circumstances, reporters could have added that Navalny had never expressed serious interest in high office – had, in fact, declined to go any higher on the silly Coordinating Council although others plainly wanted him to do so – and is in all of his behaviors a lazy, entitled layabout who does not even have a political party. He hastily amended both, just in time for his trial. It is a performance entirely for a western audience.

          I agree immunity from prosecution should be excluded for most public officials, but in some cases it is necessary to prevent the office-holder from being burdened with ceaseless nuisance lawsuits injected by political opponents. If Putin was not immune from prosecution, somebody would be suing him every day just to keep him tied up in court.

          • yalensis says:

            I don’t get it. Navalny is with PARNAS now? Isn’t that Nemtsov’s party?
            But… but… how does Boris feel about that? After all, he and Navalny can’t stand each other….

            • Indeed so! I suspect there has been a great deal of behind the scenes pressure on Boris Nemtsov and his chums to bite the bitter pill and nominate the Great Leader. However it’s difficult to see what other electoral vehicle there is for Navalny given that he has yet to form a party himself.

              Interfax already reports some analyst as pointing out that Muscovites do not see Navalny as a serious candidate. That has to be right. At the end of the day the person Muscovites will vote for is the one they think will make the best mayor for their city. Even if the evidence from the KirovLes case did not confirm Navalny’s complete lack of competence for that post, what person in Russia seriously supposes that Navalny wants to be mayor of Moscow for its own sake so that he can improve conditions in Moscow for the people of Moscow? As everyone knows if by some horrible mischance Navalny wins his aim will be to use Moscow as a launch pad for his attack on the government. Does anyone seriously believe Navalny is interested or is going to devote his time if elected to house building, traffic control, policing, planning controls, the state of the drains or the myriad other concerns of a great city? Why would Muscovites want to elect a mayor like that who plans to use their city so that he can run a permanent anti government election campaign?

              • Dear Kirill,

                I have to agree with Mark on this one. Preventing people who are charged with a criminal offence from standing for election would violate the presumption of innocence. It would also be a standing invitation to bring malicious charges against controversial candidates. As Mark also says, it is never a good idea to make a law to deal with one individual. Whenever this is done the results have almost always been bad.

                Having said that, I do have sympathy with your indignation at Navalny’s conduct. Any political leader who is under a cloud ought to be devoting his time and energy to clearing himself of the charges that have been brought against him. To stand for election instead is arrogant in the extreme. Back in 1979 here in Britain the former Liberal leader and MP Jeremy Thorpe did precisely that. He stood for re election to parliament whilst facing murder charges. The electors in his constituency were disgusted and to his amazement voted him out. I am sure people in Moscow will react in the same way.

              • yalensis says:

                Dear Alexander:
                Boris Nemtsov has had to swallow that bitter pill before. By all rights, HE should be the leader of the pro-American Opposition. When Americans decided that the so-called “Coordinating Committee” would be the Transitional Government of Russia, and then Navalny elected himself head of the CC — at that time Nemtsov was forced to make a statement on his Facebook accepting Navalny as the Leader and declaring fealty to him. Remember, that was the time when sly old Boris managed to slip in a zinger, to the effect of “all those charges that have been brought against Navalny, who is 100% fabricated….” and so on.

                I keep hoping that Boris has something up his sleeve again, another crafty “Eppur si muove”… Eager minds want to parse…

            • marknesop says:

              That’s news to me; on the very eve of his trial, Navalny announced he was forming his own political party (doubtless after some adviser warned him that simply announcing wistfully that he would like to be president someday was probably not enough). I forget what it was called; The Super Freedom For Everybody Lone Ranger Silver Bullet Party For Truth, something like that.

        • cartman says:

          James Traficant ran for his seat in the House of Representatives from his prison cell.

        • Jen says:

          @ Kirill: I think that stunt was tried by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore in the past against his main political opponent Jeyaretnam in the 1980s and beyond. Lee became quite notorious for using the Singaporean legal system to hound Jeyaretnam. Eventually the British government had to intervene to help free Jeyaretnam from jail.

          Even if a law were passed to prevent Navalny from campaigning for public office while on trial, he could circumvent it by using his wife to stand in his stead. The election campaign could then be spun to highlight Russian mistreatment of Navalny and that particular law.

          • kirill says:

            Thanks for the examples. I have not been attentive enough. But with or without a law Navalny will be painted as a martyr denied due democratic process.

  6. cartman says:

    Susan Rice and now this. It is strange to see these police state tactics endorsed by so-called “progressives.” You know what side the Atlantic is on – pointing out that Edward Snowden is a high school dropout and US Army reject, now working for the same management consultant company that Adomanis works for (and all the scary neocons and CIA spooks).

  7. Misha says:

    WaPo Pussy Riot propaganda:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/pussy-riot-generates-outrage-in-russia-acclaim-in-the-west/2013/06/09/c287c842-d127-11e2-a73e-826d299ff459_story.html

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/tv/pussy-riot-a-punk-prayer-striking-nerves-by-striking-a-chord/2013/06/09/843d9286-cedb-11e2-9f1a-1a7cdee20287_story.html

    Note how the photos don’t show the size of the crowd. Pussy Riot aren’t widely sought after artists, thereby explaining the publicity stunt they attempted at a high profile church, which had a prior history of being suppressed by anti-religious action.

    ———————–

    Anti-Russian propaganda from Saudi Arabia, a country with a far worse human rights record than Russia:

    http://saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20130610169253

    • kirill says:

      No woman would be able to enter a Saudi mosque and weave her ass at Mecca. The Pussy Riot twerps waved their asses at the iconostasis. This point is not even mentioned but is quite clear from the videos of their “performance”.

  8. Moscow Exile says:

    From today’s Guardian, a condemnation of the labelling of those working for NGOs as “foreign agents”.

    However, the NGO in this case is in Egypt, not Russia. The alleged foreign agent, though having been brought up in the UK, is “half-Egyptian”, having an Egyptian father and a mother whose antecedents hail from Iraq, and is “fiercly patriotic” (to Egypt, I presume) and was employed as an Egyptian by an Egyptian NGO.

    She, the “foreign agent”, got 12 months for her NGO efforts.

    The Guardian journalist seems to suggest that British citizens should not be answerable to foreign jurisdiction if found guilty of breach of law on foreign soil – shades of Palmerston’s Don Pacifico CIVIS ROMANUS SUM speech in the mid-19th century British parliament.,

    Though about events in Egypt, I should imagine that the article, entitled “Meet the woman who risked jail in Egypt to fight against NGOs crackdown” (there’s that buzzword “crackdown” again!), is very probably intended as a side swipe at the nefarious goings on as regards NGO legislation in the Evil Empire that is Russia, which Russian legislation is nothing like US legislation – oh no, not at all – and must be ceased and terminated forthwith if not earlier!!!

    The Grauniad hath spoken!

    • marknesop says:

      Check out the hairdo on the author – Yike!! He’s a dead ringer for Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters.

    • kirill says:

      There is clearly no coherent dialogue when details such as the fact that no foreign-backed NGO in Russia is faced with closure and only has to register (I have to register for many things, maybe I should just give government the finger). And any potential jail time could result only from not registering (deliberately such as with Golos) and then refusing to pay any fines. This is, BTW, standard procedure in the precious west.

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    Suspended sentence, by the way, for a British NGO operative working as an Egyptian for an NGO funded by – you’ve guessed! – the NED.

    But she wasn’t a foreign agent, mind, just a British citizen (I think), “fiercely patriotic” to Egypt.

    Interestingly, so far most of the comments to this article criticize the article, as this extract from one of the earliest comments shows:

    ” … To describe the NDI [the Egyptian NGO in question] as an NGO that promotes the democratic process is a little naive.

    Would Britain or indeed the US allow Iran or Russia to fund NGO’s in Britain that campaign on political issues ( or even human rights)? I doubt this. There is a lot of hypocrisy and naivety here. We need to support the democratic process in the Middle East in a more open and transparent way.”

  10. yalensis says:

    On KirovLes:
    Trial resumed earlier today, this is officially Day #12 of the trial. Russian RAPSI has the coverage as usual, and takes us up through the lunch break.

    SUMMARY

    Court started a few minutes late, because defense attorneys were 6 minutes late. [yalensis: Photos show that it is “casual dress Monday” in court today.]

    RAPSI notes that the courtroom is almost empty of observers. There are the spouses of the accused, a handful of reporters, and a couple of Navalny supporters. [yalensis: I notice that same guy is there with the “Putin is a thief” T-shirt that the UK Telegraph refused to allow my comment on, to prove that there is free speech in Russia.]

    Defense starts with a motion, sounds that they have actually been doing their homework for once, during the break they have been studying the prosecution documentation and found a couple of non-existent addresses alluded to.

    Defense requests Judge Blinov to recuse himself, they accuse him of violating federal law. Davydova brings up the testimony of Opalev as an example of Judge Blinov’s wrongdoings.

    Reading of Davydova’s motion goes on for over half an hour. She accuses the Judge of being partial to the prosecution.

    9:45 Judge Sergei Vladimirovich Blinov decided to retire into his chambers to mull over Davydova’s motion for a couple of hours.

    11:30 Here come da Judge. Everybody rise.
    Judge Blinov summarizes Davydova’s motion, and issues his ruling.
    He will not recuse himself.

    Judge Blinov partially concedes that defense has a point about Opalev’s testimony. That Opalev was not properly read his rights. However, he reminds that Opalev has actually been convicted in this same case, therefore his materials have been separated out.

    Blinov goes on to explain his reasoning in the other points made by the denfese. Then there is another morning break.

    11:50 Session resumes after break. Prosecutors get back to reading Volume 16 of the 30-volume indictment.

    Prosecutors read through some more hacked emails between Navalny and Ofitserov.
    12:38 prosecutors start to read Volume 17, which contains testimony of bookkeeping expertise.

    It was bookkeeping experts who studied the material and came up with the sum of 16,165,000 rubles. This was the amount of product handled by VLK and the amount received by VLK from the end customers. Of which, in increments, VLK paid 14,785 to KirovLes, keeping a profit of 1.2 million rubles.

    13:07 lunch break

    END OF SUMMARY

    • Moscow Exile says:

      You do know that Wednesday, June 12, Russia Day (День России), celebrating the decleration of independence from the USSR, is a state holiday here, don’t you?

      That means the court might be adjourned early tomorrow and will only grunt back into action again on Thursday.

      Navalny’s counsel seems to be up to the same tricks as the feminist punk-rock freedom fighting musicians were, namely spending a lot of time trying to get the judge dismissed.

      Not a sound tactic, I should imagine.

    • peter says:

      … keeping a profit of 1.2 million rubles.

      That’s markup, not profit.

      • Dear Peter,

        “That’s markup, not profit”.

        If Navalny and Ofitserov were ever to say that then they would go very far to proving the prosecution’s case against them and to being convicted. Navalny’s and Ofitserov’s defence is and has to be that it was profit and that that profit was a legitimate product of bona fide commercial transactions carried out by Ofitserov’s shell company at arm’s length both with KirovLes and with the customers. Saying it was a mark up would come dangerously close to admitting that the shell company knowingly bought the timber from KirovLes at a lower price than it should have done, which is of course exactly the point the prosecution is trying to make. As it happens I understand that Navalny and Ofitserov have not called it a mark up and do say that it was legitimate profit because the shell company supposedly provided actual value to KirovLes which justified the lower price it paid for the timber.

        • Dear Moscow Exile,

          I completely agree with you. This tactic is constantly calling on the Judge to recuse himself is thoroughly misconceived. One cannot say that a Judge is biased or not until after he has delivered his Judgment. Calling him biased during the trial is not only grossly discourteous to the Judge but enables him to respond in detail to what otherwise might be a good appeal point.

          Here we have a classic example. The defence found what seem to have been problems with Opalev’s evidence. Instead of simply inviting the Judge to rule the evidence inadmissible or to discount its value and claiming in the subsequent appeal that he was wrong when he did not they launch this personal attack on the Judge by introducing the issue of bias, which they can never win. That way the Judge is not only able to deal with the question of the evidence’s inadmissibility but do so in such a way (as he has done here) that effectively rules out the possibility of bias, making it much less likely that the appeal court will overrule his decision on the evidence in the appeal.

          I am not familiar with Russian rules of evidence but the problems Yalensis mentions would certainly not render evidence inadmissible in an English court. They might affect the value placed on that evidence but I suspect only to a slight degree.

          Of course I say all of this. I can’t help but feel that what we really have here is simply grandstanding to show to Navalny’s supporters that the trial is rigged. If the Judge thinks that then the Judge will almost certainly think this is because Navalny expects to be convicted because he senses that the drift of the trial is flowing against him. For obvious reasons that is not a good idea to plant in the mind of the Judge especially at this point in the trial when as I said before the prosecution has failed to land any killer blows and there is everything still to play for and it is still not conclusively established that Navalny’s behaviour was dishonest.

        • peter says:

          markup noun 1 the amount added to the cost price of goods to cover overheads and profit…

          • Dear Peter,

            Again you are not reading my comment properly and again (forgive me for saying it) you do not really understand the meaning of cost price, which I hope I do not need to say is not the same as market price. Anyway your words were, “mark up, not profit”. I said “…saying it was a mark up would come dangerously close to admitting that the shell company bought the timber from KirovLes at a lower price than it should have done…”

            There is no controversy in this case about the price the shell company was paid by the customers, which was decided via a price formula previously agreed between the customers and KirovLes. The entire controversy is about the price the shell company paid KirovLes. Saying that the price paid by the customers to the shell company was a “mark up” all but admits that the price paid by the shell company to KirovLes was artificially low when the defence in this case turns on the claim that it was a market price agreed in a bona fide commercial transaction made at arm’s length. For that reason those words should be avoided. By contrast seeking a profit is a legitimate activity for a business.

            • peter says:

              You missed my point by a mile — the key word here is “overheads”.

              If your timber cost you 14 million rubles and you sell it on for 15 million (that is, at a markup of 1 million, or in relative terms 7%), not all of this million is your profit, is it?

              • yalensis says:

                And if “your” timber never belonged to you in the first place, then you be a whoring thief, my friend.

              • Dear Peter,

                I have said my piece. Read my explanation carefully and read also and carefully the definition of “mark up” you have provided. Think also about the price the shell company paid KirovLes for the timber and the price the shell company charged the customers for the timber and how both of those prices were calculated. If you do you will see why the words “mark up” should be avoided in this case and why the overheads are a red herring.

                • peter says:

                  I have said my piece.

                  Okay, so here’s a little exit test for you.

                  Your company bought a total of 10000 cubic meters of timber for 14 million rubles and sold it on for 15 million. This took a year to accomplish. How much was the profit?

                  a) 1 million rubles

                  b) a lot less, maybe even none.

                • peter says:

                  Hey Alexander, what’s taking so long? I forgot the “no clue” option — is that what your problem is?

                  The answer is (b) of course, both in theory and reality.

                • yalensis says:

                  You arrive in town, at the invitation of your shady ex-BFF, with a shiny brand new shell company, 8 fake employees, and everything going for you: the Governator and his Posse all rooting for you and exerting ever possible political and administrative pressure to make this happen for you.

                  You bully, bribe, kiss up, kick down, you do everything that you have to do to succeed and become a timber baron.

                  In spite of all this, you fail miserably and don’t make a single kopeck of profit in this doomed endeavor. This is because

                  (a) You and your friends are morons,
                  (b) The local marks fought back,
                  (c) You don’t actually know how to run a real business, or
                  (d) All of the above

                  Please do not fail to answer this simple mutlple-choice quiz. If you refuse to answer, then BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN… mwa ha hahahahahah!

                • Dear Peter

                  Apologies again but when I checked in to this blog this morning your question had slipped below the cursor and I overlooked it.

                  I cannot answer your question in the way you have asked it because it is impossible to answer on the information provided. In fact the question as set out is meaningless. I have previously advised you against setting questions you do not know the right answer to and here I am afraid is a further example. On the basis of the information provided the correct answer could be either of your two answers or neither of them. By way of example, an equally plausible answer to your question on the limited information provided would be that I’d made a loss. Certainly it would be wrong to say that the correct answer must be (b).

                  Since I appreciate that you will not be satisfied with this answer let me try instead to deal with your question by describing a possible hypothetical situation that would address some of the points you are trying to make.

                  I am a timber merchant based in Canada. There is a supply of hard wood in Brazil for which there is a demand in Canada. I decide to buy the hard wood in Brazil to satisfy the demand in Canada. I do not of course pay the cost price for the hard wood in Brazil but the local Brazilian market price for the hard wood. The cost price is the cost of producing the hard wood to the Brazilian producer of the hard wood. The mark up is the difference between that price and the price he needs to be paid to enable him to make a profit on the hard wood he produces. It will partly determine the market price in Brazil at which he sells the hard wood to me. The market price of the hard wood in Brazil will however be decided by free operation of supply and demand. The cost price and the mark up are part of the supply side part of the equation.

                  I transport the hard wood to Canada and sell it there. The price at which I sell the hard wood in Canada is the local Canadian market price for the hard wood. I cannot dictate or fix the market price for the hard wood in Canada which is determined through free operation of supply and demand. Were I in a position to fix or dictate the price in Canada eg. because I had a monopoly on imported hard wood and could force my customers to buy my hard wood at whatever price I dictated, I would be abusing my market position and I would be committing a criminal offence. However the fact that the hard wood has to be imported from Brazil is again a factor in determining its Canadian market price as part of the supply side of the equation.

                  It is from the difference between the two prices, the market price I paid for the hard wood in Brazil and the market price I was paid for the hard wood in Canada, where I would seek to make my profit. Obviously I would only make a profit if the market price for the hard wood in Brazil was lower than the market price in Canada. As I have said already, the higher market price in Canada is partly determined by the cost of importing the hard wood from places like Brazil. Whether I actually did make a profit on the transaction would however depend on the extent to which I was able to keep the cost of the actual transaction I was involved sufficiently below the Canadian market price of the hard wood I was selling in Canada to enable me to profit from it. The costs include the market price I paid for the hard wood in Brazil, the cost of local transportation and storage, the shipping costs, the cost of insuring the hard wood whilst in transit, the cost of any credit I had to take out in order to buy the hard wood from the Brazilian producer, the legal costs that always arise in a transaction of this sort, the customs and harbour dues and a host of other items.

                  In order to be sure in advance that I would be able to profit from the transaction I would obviously need to be fully informed about the state of the market in both Canada and Brazil and to know in advance the full extent of my costs. In doing so I would know that the market price of the hard wood in Canada is partly determined by the cost of importing the hard wood to Canada. Even then there is always an element of risk as there is and must be in any true commercial transaction. Beyond that, even if I were to make a profit on the specific transaction it does not follow that my business is profitable. It is perfectly possible for a business to make a profit on every transaction it undertakes and still go bankrupt if the profit it is making is insufficient to cover its running costs. As you will appreciate this is not a game for an amateur or for the inexperienced or the faint hearted or for the poorly informed.

                  Now let’s look at the position in Navalny’s case. It’s become increasingly clear over the course of the trial that Navalny’s defence is the one I previously touched on, which is that he helped to set up Ofitserov’s company so that it could take over the sales and marketing function from KirovLes allowing KirovLes to concentrate on the production side.

                  There is only one way this could have been lawfully done. Since the sales and marketing function was previously a part of KirovLes’s business KirovLes would have to transfer this function to Ofitserov’s company. Since this is a transfer of an undertaking it would require a sale of that part of the business by KirovLes to the company.

                  There are various ways such a sale could be arranged but in every case there would have to be some payment to KirovLes by Ofitserov’s company for the value of the part of KirovLes’s business that was being transferred to it. If there is no payment, there is no sale and no transfer.

                  The most usual way would be for KirovLes to be given shares in the new company. KirovLes could then supply the timber to the company at or close to the cost price in return for a share of the profits from the timber’s subsequent sale at a market price to the customers. Since the company would have acquired the timber from KirovLes at or close to the cost price it would be appropriate in that case to speak of a mark up. That mark up would be a factor in deciding the market price. KirovLes would of course be entitled to a share of the profits from the sale of the timber at the market price since it would be a part owner of the company. It could either have its share paid over to it in the form of a dividend on its shares in the company or it could choose to reinvest its share of the profit in the company by leaving it in the company of which it was part owner.

                  There are other ways in which the transfer of the undertaking from KirovLes to the company could have been arranged eg. by issue of the company of a debenture, but the above is the obvious and typical one and the effect anyway would always be the same.

                  What actually happened was that Ofitserov set up a company that was entirely independent of KirovLes. Navalny and Opalev arranged for KirovLes to sell its timber to it. There was no transfer of undertaking from KirovLes to the company. The company’s relationship to KirovLes was strictly that of a customer. The company did not however pay KirovLes the same market price paid for the timber by KirovLes’s other customers. Instead it was granted by KirovLes a preferential discount on the market price, which was a price 7% below the market price. Since we are talking about a discount provided to the company by KirovLes the market price which was paid to the company by its customers is not a mark up and should not be called one.

                  For the rest as you know I don’t speak Russian what is the point of quoting documents in Russian to me? If the point of the document you have provided is to show that Ofitserov failed to make much of a profit even despite the discount he was given how does that change the position in any substantive way? It would still not be a mark up. Rather it would be further evidence that despite operating in a market which through the discount had been rigged in his favour he was an incompetent businessman.

                • yalensis says:

                  Dear Alexander: That was a good answer to peter’s bullshit question.
                  You previously made a point that there might have been a grain of reality in Navalny’s plan to split the sales/marketing functions of KirovLes off from its non-profit governmental functions, such as forest management and fire-fighting.
                  I agree with that, but if such sales/marketing functions WERE to be split off or, god forbid, even privatized, then the proper way to do it would be via broad consensus and maximum transparency. For example, employees, instead of being bullied and threatened with lay-offs, could have been offered shares in the new entity. Similarly, like you say, KirovLes itself would have owned shares in the new entity.
                  In any case, in NO way for this to be legitimate would this have been done the way it was done, which is a couple of adolescent insiders who think they’re back in the ’90’s plotting to seize national assets and screw everybody else over.
                  The fact that “peter” continues to pretend that this was just some normal, valid business transaction in which the parties had any kind of right to take what they took — is simply more evidence that he is the hopeless troll that he always was. And proves my contention that this guy lives in a loony bin and barks at the moon.

                • marknesop says:

                  You are making our trip to the Burgess Shale sound like it could be tense between you two. Maybe one better sit in the front and one in the back. After a couple of choruses of “The Wheels On The Bus”, I better see an improvement.

                  On another note, the “Kremlin Stooge” mugs have finally arrived. Well, I say, “finally arrived”, but what I really mean is I finally got around to ordering them, the company that did them actually had them ready in a week. I was going to get some T-shirts, too, but I am limited by the size of my, ha, ha, operation; the budget is restricted to what I can slide past the wife on the credit-card statement. So winners of the 10,000th comment prize get a mug, or a mug. I already owe them to Moscow Exile, who won 10,000 and Alex, who won 20,000. I will be contacting you both by separate correspondence to get mailing addresses. And we are at somewhere around 29,000 comments or so, so there will be another winner soon. I must say, they did a good job on them – mugs made in China, of course, like everything is, but the workmanship on the transfer looks first-rate, I think. The design looks just like the header of the blog, except it is missing the black page navigator under the panoramic shot of the Kremlin; for some reason I couldn’t copy that. Maybe on future designs I will try and build it with a text box under the photo.

                  I agree that the biggest single factor arguing against the whole KirovLes deal being a genuinely altruistic effort to drag Russian business kicking and screaming into the competitive market is Navalny’s manner, like the whole thing is a game of cops and robbers, with all the hamfisted attempts at secrecy. He might argue that he worried rival companies would steal his crafty business model, but that would only be possible if they were capable of intercepting cellphone transmissions, and few rural timber companies are set up for that. It seems plain he was trying to keep something from the authorities, and it is unlikely to have been because he feared they would want to go into the timber business themselves.

                • peter says:

                  … it is impossible to answer on the information provided.

                  Wrong. If your company’s gross margin for a year of work is a pathetic twenty thousand pounds, you are not going to see a lot of profit, are you?

                  … an equally plausible answer to your question on the limited information provided would be that I’d made a loss.

                  You’re not paying attention. Option (b) obviously includes loss, and that’s of course what happened in reality.

                  … what is the point of quoting documents in Russian to me?

                  That’s VLK’s income statement, they are the same in any language: the bottom line = total revenue — cost of goods sold — expenses — taxes. You really don’t have a clue, do you?

                • peter says:

                  bump

              • peter says:

                bump bump

  11. yalensis says:

    In the Moscow mayoral race, we have some more announced candidates. To date we have the following announced candidates:

    Vladimir Ovs’annikov from the LDPR (I believe that is Zhirinovsky’s party??)
    Ivan Mel’nikov from the Communist Party
    Sergei MItrokhin from Yabloko
    Alexei Navalny from Parnas

    As for the Acting Mayor, Sergei Sob’anin, he has not actually announced yet whether or not he is running.

    • If Mitrokhin is indeed going to stand then Navalny’s chances diminish even more since they appeal to the same constituency.

      Realistically Mitrokhin has a much better chance of winning than Navalny does. He is a far better established politician and he is the leader or co leader of a long established party that has a presence throughout Russia and which traditionally has commanded a significant degree of support in Moscow. Instead of trying to compete against Mitrokhin, Navalny ought to be supporting him. Obviously that is not the way the Great Leader of the Revolution works.

      The LDPR is indeed Zhirinovsky’s party. For what it’s worth my prediction is that Sobyanin will win by a landslide and that Melnikov (an important figure in the KPRF and a possible successor to Zyuganov) will come second. If Prokhorov stands that might change the electoral arithmetic though only in the sense that it would then be a question of whether it is Prokhorov or Melnikov who comes second. My guess is that it would still be Melnikov since I expect turnout to be lower than in the Presidential election last year and I rather think that Prokhorov has lost some of his shine and that he will lose votes to Mitrokhin and especially to Sobyanin. The KPRF vote by contrast looks solid. However that is only a guess and the resources Prokhorov could throw into the battle might tilt the balance in his favour.

    • marknesop says:

      Again, I don’t believe Navalny actually is a member of PARNAS in any real context, in the sense he is listed among the membership, pays dues and attends meetings. I suppose it is technically possible PARNAS has accommodated him (been ordered to accommodate him, more likely) with some kind of guest membership at the last minute, solely so he can put his name forward and then claim he is being persecuted because his victory would otherwise have been a dead certainty. But he was not among the founders of PARNAS, who were Nemtsov, the incredibly embittered Vladimir Ryzhkov, Milov and Kasyanov.

      • Dear Mark,

        I am sure Navalny is not a member of PARNAS and that he never has been. However in fairness to him it’s worth pointing out that neither Putin nor Medvedev were members of United Russia when they were Presidents but both were supported by United Russia. I find this an odd situation and it is not one I like.

        Having said that, no one in United Russia has ever in any sense been a rival of Putin’s or Medvedev’s whilst a good case can be made that that is exactly what Nemtsov, Ryzhkov, Milov and the rest are. Being forced to support a rival who is not even a member of their party and who has been in politics for a much shorter time than they have been must be a bitter pill to swallow indeed. I cannot help but think that enormous pressure must have been put on them to do it. If the gamble fails (as it will) the resentment will be all the greater.

        • kirill says:

          This just highlights the illegitimacy of the so-called opposition (the liberasts). They are forced to contort to the whims of their western patrons, the same ones that give them their idiotic comprador political platform that marginalizes them from the electorate. Once again, the west talks much about “human rights” and “democracy” but pushes the exact opposite to advance its interests.

        • yalensis says:

          That’s a good point, that recent Russian history is driven by individual leaders rather than political parties. That can’t be a good thing for democracy.

  12. yalensis says:

    CULTURAL HERESY! I am so angry I can barely contain myself.
    Bolshoi Opera took my favorite Russian opera Prince Igor, and chopped it up to shorten it to 1.5 hours!

    What? They think people no longer have the stamina to sit through a proper performance? Why not just go all the way and reduce it to a Twitter post?

    In order to accomplish this feat of butchery, Director Yuri L’ubimov (may his name be cursed forever) cut out the following bits: Most of the Overture, all of the Prologue, part of the finale, the love duets between Konchakovna and Volodimir Igorevich; and EVEN Yaroslavna’s plaint!

    (L’ubimov next project: He will stage an abbreviated “Hamlet” that saves precious time by cutting out all of Hamlet’s soliloquies…?)

    Fortunately for the world, the New York Metropolitan Opera will be staging a PROPER version of Prince Igor during its 2014 season.

    Alas, as Prince Igor himself might say, “Rus has fallen very far that its cultural legacy is forced to relocate to midtown Manhattan…”


    Тоска разліяся по Руской земли, печаль жирна тече средь земли Рускыи.

    • Misha says:

      Surprised at the number of wise guy types who frequent Lincoln Center on a fairly regular basis.

      Somewhat taken aback by the populariy of Twitter with a good number of global media elites.

    • Misha says:

      [audio src="http://m.ruvr.ru/download/2013/05/23/1331389830/Vasili_Fulbright%20Awards_PKG_AFT_052313.mp3" /]

    • Dear Yalensis,

      I totally agree. Despite the recent ructions (I gather Tsiskaridze has now been sacked) I think the ballet part of the Bolshoi is in pretty good shape with lots of brilliant young dancers and fine performances and productions. By contrast the opera part is a mess. The Bolshoi’s management does not seem to understand that one does not go to the Bolshoi to see a “modernist” production of an established classic. There are plenty of other opera houses in Russia and elsewhere that can do that. One goes to the Bolshoi as much as anything else for a grand spectacle and above all for a musical performance of an exceptional standard. Butchering an opera like Prince Igor is totally the wrong thing to do. Here Gergiev and the Mariinsky are miles ahead This is a shame because the quality of singers in the Bolshoi is as high as ever and as good as the Mariinsky’s. It’s just that they are not given a good chance to show what they can do, which is why they don’t get the attention they deserve.

      Incidentally it is a puzzle to me why the drift in the Bolshoi is to stage ballets as close as possible to the way they were staged in the nineteenth century (eg. think of the “new” productions of Esmeralda, the Sleeping Beauty, Le Corsaire, La Fille du Pharaon and Don Quixote) whilst going for modernism in its opera productions. I am no hidebound reactionary and sometimes a modernist production of a classic can work but basically if the Bolshoi wants to experiment with modernism then there are plenty of modernist operas (including several good Russian ones by Prokofiev and Stravinsky) it could chose from. Or it could try its hand at modernist productions of modernist operas written in other Slav languages eg. those of Janacek, Martinu, Schulhof and Szymanovski. It could mount those brilliantly and given its resources it would be able to sweep away all other interpretations.

      • yalensis says:

        Dear Alexander: Yes, alas, all this is simple cultural degeneracy at work.
        I am hoping that the Metropolitan Opera does a better job with Prince Igor. Granted, they have an annoying tendency to modernize things as well (for example, in their last season they set Rigoletto in Las Vegas circa 1960. But at least they didn’t shorten it: they left the music intact.

        As far as L’ubimov is concerned (may his name be cursed forever), his greatest act of butchery was to cut out Yaroslavna’s plaint. Yaroslavna’s leitmotif is one of the most beautiful melody lines in all of opera.
        The other awful thing about this butchery is that it cheapens Borodin’s epic vision. Borodin opera needs a lot of time to play out because it tells the story of TWO peoples. Not just the Russians, or just the Polovtsi, but both peoples, and each given their respect and due. I would say that the opera is a plea for cultural tolerance, even in wartime. L’ubimov even cut out the whole love story between Volodimir (Igor’s son) and Konchakovna (the Khan’s daughter), which is actually a historical fact and led to inter-marraige between the two peoples.

  13. My brother is currently in Tbilisi on a business trip and I thought I might share his impressions. Most of the descriptions we get from Georgia are from tourists or journalists or academics so I thought it might be of interest to give an account from a business traveller.

    Much of what my brother tells me is what we already know. The city is very beautiful and the classical architecture of its old buildings, the surrounding mountains and the castle on the hill remind him a little of Edinburgh. He says it’s very clean but there are obvious signs of neglect with many of the old buildings in a state of decay. There’s been a lot of flashy new construction including a glitzy airport but his impression is that many of the new buildings are empty. That of course is the typical symptom of a construction boom or bubble built on speculation and foreign currency flows. I suspect that many of the good figures we have been seeing coming out of Georgia are simply the result of this boom.

    However one point my brother made which I have never heard anyone make before is that the economy is completely dollarized. ATMs actually dispense dollars alongside the local currency the Gel, something my brother has never seen in any other country, and the currency used for all commercial and business transactions is the dollar not the Gel or even the euro.

    This is the clearest possible sign I know that the Georgian economic boom we have heard so much about is a product of foreign currency flows into Georgia, which of course happen in dollars even when they originate from within the European Union. In such a system the principal beneficiaries are those people who are able to get possession of dollars and who own dollar accounts.

    In other words Georgia has essentially two economies, one that continues to operate in the local currency and which is most likely stagnant or even declining and a second economy based entirely on the dollar which has been dynamic and growing but which is highly speculative, which betrays the symptoms of a bubble, the benefits of which have been restricted to a small, privileged group of people and which is depends to a dangerous degree on money continuing to flow into the country from abroad. It is the fast growth of this second economy which explains the good economic numbers and which also explains the otherwise bizarre paradox of a country that simultaneously claims a 5% annual growth rate and which has a 50% rate of unemployment.

    Obviously it is this second group of people who are the beneficiaries of the boom who form Saakashvili’s core constituency and who are committed to his course of “Euro Atlantic integration” upon which their fortunes ultimately depend. This group is (by Georgian standards) extremely wealthy and extremely vocal but by definition it can only constitute a small minority of the total population.

    • kirill says:

      So Gruzia is now an economic colony of the USA. This is good for the USA since it sterilizes their Pancho Villa style printing of dollars and it creates a bubble reality in Gruzia which buys off the public and the politicians.

      I suspect the failure of Saaki is due to the growing failure of the dollar bubble economy. Maybe the dollar part was vibrant, but I don’t see the shift in politics resulting from some whims. It is must be driven by the realization by the business elite in Gruzia that they are out on a limb that is about to break.

      • Dear Kirill,

        I did not say that the dollar part of the Georgian economy is “vibrant”. What I said is that it was dynamic and had been growing rapidly. That was not intended as a compliment. Think of it rather as a cancer within the Georgian economy that is growing fast but which is ultimately fatal to the whole.

        Remember the part of the Georgian’s government’s budget that is its discretionary income is the part that comes from taxes paid in Gel. Foreign currency infusions from foreign donors invariably come with strings attached. They must be used for specific purposes eg. infrastructure building – where there is often specific instructions about who the contractors must be – or arms purchases – which must also come from assigned suppliers. One reason why Saakashviili’s government cut back on education and health care (quite apart from his Randroid beliefs) is that the tax paying part of the economy may be withering away.

        • Jen says:

          Dear Alex,

          Lots of countries in Africa would say: Been there, done that. The end result will be a huge debt that will be dumped on Georgians to pay off forever and whatever crumbs they get now will be even fewer thanks to an “austerity package” the government will unload on them.

          Instead of “dynamic”, I would say inflationary as this is exactly what Georgia’s “official” economy is. I assume the real economy based on the local currency will become, if it hasn’t already, Georgia’s “black market” with all that term implies. From what you say about the tax-paying part of the economy shrinking, that must be happening already: people resorting to barter and relying on informal exchange networks which could be taken over or initiated by gangs.

          • yalensis says:

            It is an interesting question whether a small nation like Gruzia could make it at all without being part of a larger group and bigger currency. As a member of the Soviet Union, Gruzia contributed quite a lot to the larger group, but financially was a subsidized republic, whose prosperity depended on government subsidies to agricultural products and so on.
            Not being able to make it alone, Gruzia currently depends on subsidies from the U.S.
            If questioned, the majority of ethnic Gruzians would probably still prefer to join the EU rather than go back to Russia, and Ivanishvili represents this majority opinion. However, since EU membership is not really an option, then Gruzia will probably eventually have to return to Russian sphere of influence and the ruble as currency. However, current capitalist Russia is not generous like the Soviet Union was, and may not be willng to subsidize it.
            In summary, I don’t see many good options for Gruzia right now as an independent nation.
            One possibility: Some kind of big geo-strategic peace-making process, in which NATO is dissolved, but EU itself is allowed to expand and take in new members like Gruzia, provided they declare their neutrality. I don’t think Russia would object to that, it would be the “Finlandization” solution.

  14. kirill says:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-09/gazprom-s-demise-could-topple-putin.html

    Another GEM of wishful thinking in the form of intellectual masturbation from Anders Aslund. Does anyone in the western MSM have any rationality, or are they all 5 year old children who can’t tell the difference from fantasy and reality. Putting up such childish pieces discredits the publisher.

    1). Market capitalization is a BS metric for anything. It represents the perceptions of investors and not reality. So black PR, such as this piece, is enough to lower it and thus we have a circularity. This reminds me of the TI Corruption Perceptions Index, yet another circular “metric”. Also, the western MSM is feeding everyone the BS that there is an endless supply of natural gas thanks to shale fracking. This ridiculous propaganda does not pass even a cursory research into the subject. The US has barely enough spare capacity to supply itself for the next 20 years and cannot supply the world.

    2) The only way Putin would be “toppled” by the totally ridiculous scenario of Gazprom’s failure (again in what metric) is if Russian government revenues failed and there was a 1990s style impoverishment of the population. Given that Russia’s GDP growth is driven by internal demand (like China’s) and not oil and natural gas sales (under 14% of nominal GDP and rapidly shrinking) this scenario has basically nothing to do with Gazprom. US shale gas will not make EU gas demand shift over to US exports. There is simply not enough US shale gas production to replace Russia and shipping LNG puts a 43% premium on the gas (it takes 30% of the natural gas to liquify it and there are no nuclear liquifaction plants on this planet). Qatar cannot satisfy EU demand (http://www.theedge.me/qatar-lngs-looming-revenue-test-3/), only Iran can. BTW, Qatar has only shipped to the UK when it comes to the EU. So Russia will still have a market for its natural gas (and oil) regardless of how badly Gazprom is managed. Given that the revenues from Gazprom are actually going into government coffers (contributing to the government’s ability to spend $720 billion on defense upgrades) the alleged mismanagement is simply in the Aslund’s demented imagination.

    3) This nitwit thinks South Stream and Nord Stream are superfluous. That is merely his BS opinion. The extortion on transit of Russian gas through Ukraine, the Baltics and Poland has taught Russia that alternative pathways are essential. Of course, the nitwit accuses Russia of cutting off gas supplies via Ukraine when it was established by an independent third party that it was the Yuschenko regime that closed the valves. Gazprom can afford both bypass pipelines and Nord Stream is already built and set for a doubling of capacity. There are long term contracts with Germany and Germany will not be buying Qatari gas, which is more expensive as it is LNG shipped, and is in the process of closing all of its nuclear power plants (it actually opened coal power plants to help replace the power generation capacity).

    4) Gazprom is actually making a profit (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323528404578454162188593882.html). In 2012 it made $38 billion in profit. Clearly this is not enough for Aslund. But it is enough to establish the credibility of Gazprom as a properly run company. Its profits fell 9.5% compared to 2011. Well, golly gosh gee willikers, imagine profits fluctuating from year to year by 10%. Perhaps Aslund should wait until Gazprom’s profits go to deficits of $38 billion before bleating his anti-Russian BS.

    • Dear Kirill,

      I just wanted to say that I agree with everything you say. After the debacle of the 1990s in which he was so heavily involved it astonishes me that anyone takes Aslund seriously. Anyone reading him can anyway see that what now drives his economic commentary on Russia is simply his loathing of Putin. The result is that for him the wish is always the father to the thought so that his commentary is effectively worthless.

      Anyway you’ve demolished his argument, which by the way he previously made in a long article in the Financial Times.

      • marknesop says:

        It might be worth doing a post on it, anyway. I really, really dislike Aslund, and this notion that GAZPROM is about to collapse is such a popular meme that it might be fun to take it apart a little.

    • cartman says:

      They seem to be trying to split the gas business with Rosneft, and perhaps other Russian companies – probably in response to some of the EU’s new rules targeting the company. The Troika is forcing Greece to sell off its natural gas company, but under Washington pressure and a Brussels veto, Gazprom will not be able to buy it. So the next bidder offered about 1/6 of what Gazprom would offer. Obviously these are very spiteful morons who would see every Greek reduced to penury to get at Russia.

      The same thing is happening in Bulgaria with Belene, where the new government is being forced from the outside to unlearn what ultimately brought down the last government – an electricity shortage.

  15. kirill says:

    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20130610/181603889/Russian-NGO-Law-Could-Halt-Key-Research-Warns-Eurasian-Study.html

    Well now, the use FARA can have the same effect. Yet I hear no warnings and alarm expressed over it. None of the Chicken Littles have shown how being identified as recipient of foreign cash suppresses such NGOs. It’s not the government that they are afraid of it is the Russian public. All along they were claiming Russians love the west so such labels would give these NGOs extra status. Clearly not.

    • kirill says:

      Typing too fast: “the US FARA”.

      The discussion about the Russian FARA is yet more evidence of how detached from reality coverage of Russia is. The pro-western liberast chorus in Russia naturally overlooks how it is NGOs like Golos who are willfully refusing to register and are racking up fines. Eventually these fines will prompt jail time for the people who make the decision to ignore the laws. So the ultimate of objective of these NGOs is not to do what they claim but to act like a species of terrorist. Make a stink and go to jail. Then their western patrons will have ammunition to bleat about “repression”. Thereby we have a circularity, the people claiming that they are repressed willfully provoke the wrath of the law by flaunting it.

      This brings up a broader issue. How is Russia to deal with this information terrorist infiltration. I think that due process is not sufficient. There needs to be a non-state irregular element that can mete out some justice. I suggest that these scumbags at Golos and elsewhere get the treatment from the population they would get in the USA. It would consist of threats and physical attacks. They can scream Putin all day long but it will not save them.

      • Dear Kirill,

        These arguments about the NGO law are becoming more and more farfetched.

        As you absolutely rightly said, all the NGO law does is require transparency. If the label “foreign agent” was so objectionable what prevented the NGOs before the law came into effect from telling the Duma that they agreed with the new law and its objectives but were concerned about the effect of the label and proposed something else? Of course they did nothing of the sort but objected to the entire law and campaigned hysterically against it, as of course they are still doing.

        As it happens I can see nothing remotely objectionable to the term “foreign agent”, which as we know was borrowed from US legislation. The claim one often comes across that it has some special sinister meaning in Russia because it somehow evokes the Stalin era strikes me as simply wrong. Anyone familiar with Stalinist history and language would know that the favoured terms used at that time were not “foreign agent” but “spy”, “traitor”, “wrecker” and “saboteur” and sometimes even worse things. To relate the term “foreign agent” to the Stalinist period (which let us not forget ended 60 years ago) and to think that it has any specially ominous or sinister meaning today is beyond farfetched. If it is possibly beginning to acquire such a meaning now that is entirely because of the ridiculous campaign being waged against it. Inevitably all that is doing is make people in Russia think that the NGOs have something to hide, which as it happens they probably do.

        As for the suggestion that use of this label is going to damage academic exchanges or prevent legitimate information gathering for scientific or research purposes, that is just too ridiculous.

        I have a simple suggestion to make to the NGOs. Why don’t they register as “foreign agents” and see what happens? If registering as “foreign agents” causes them real problems then they can tell us what they are and invite the Duma to amend the law. We will then have some actual evidence of problems to work with and it ought to be possible in that case to do something to help them either through administrative action or by amending the law. If the authorities and the Duma in that case do nothing then the NGOs have legal recourse to the Constitutional Court and ultimately to the European Court of Human Rights that their rights under Article 10(1) of the European Convention of Human Rights are being infringed. If on the other hand nothing bad happens (as I expect) then the NGOs can get on with their work and save us all and themselves all the trouble.

        • marknesop says:

          After reading that peck of nonsense, I have just this to say. If Levada really is studying the results of polling for purposes of scholarly research, then there is no reason they cannot study and publish the results of elections after they have been run. That way, they can be certain they have the real story. But we all know that’s not the way Levada works. It attempts to influence public opinion leading up to the elections and in a variety of other matters. That is not in any way scholarly research, unless it is research into how to influence and direct human behavior, in which case they can go to the USA and practice there.

          There is a simple way they could carry on doing just as they are doing now – stop taking foreign cash, which the director has suggested is not a huge part of his budget anyway. Or get some rich Russian oligarch like Prokhorov to run it. Maybe he would even want to buy it.

          What is more likely is that the ominous threat that it might limit academic exchanges and scholarly research is a warning that western countries are going to start backing out of such exchanges, in order to provide the opposition with a bargaining chip. Also, so much for the inference that it is not a big deal, and that attempts to meddle in the Russian government go on apace. Obviously, it is a very big deal, and a valuable tool for interference has been compromised. It is quite apparent that it has hurt regime-change efforts.

          • Dear Mark,

            Here is an example of what Levada does, which illustrates your point.

            http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c142/767595.html

            Levada produces an opinion poll for a newspaper showing the unpopularity of the slogans under which the White Ribbon Opposition will demonstrate tomorrow. Fair enough and the figures themselves seem reliable. What it then does however is provide the figures with a completely mendacious commentary.

            First of all it commits a major sin of omission by implying that the 20-30% who do support the slogans support the White Ribbon Opposition. It is far more likely that most of them (in fact the vast majority of them) are KPRF supporters. It was the KPRF after all not the White Ribbon Opposition, which won almost 20% of the vote in the recent parliamentary election. That most Russians’ sympathies are not with the White Ribbon Opposition and are well to the Left of it is shown by the fact that the one opposition slogan that carries traction is the “socialistic” one of “Russia for millions and not millionaires”.

            Putting that aside there is an even more grotesque misrepresentation. The “expert” from Levada explains the unpopularity of the White Ribbon Opposition’s slogans by (1) media manipulation by the authorities (2) the “passivity” of Russians and (3) the lack of alternative to the authorities.

            First of all, what is Levada doing providing such a commentary in the first place? That is not what one expects from a polling agency. Why not leave us to look at the figures and form our own view?

            Secondly the commentary, which is obviously and even absurdly biased in the White Ribbon Opposition’s favour, is wrong and even absurd. Claiming that Russians’ opinions are the result of media manipulation is directly contradicted by the study’s own data, which shows that most Russians are familiar with the opposition slogans. In others words far from being “deceived” about the White Ribbon Opposition Russians are informed about it.

            Why anyway suppose that the Russians’ opinions are formed by media manipulation? That assumes that without such media manipulation Russians’ opinions would be different for which there is no evidence in the study at all. Besides the assumption that Russians’ opinions are caused by media manipulation anyway begs the question, which is whether media manipulation of the kind supposed is actually taking place? There is nothing in the study to suggest that it is since it is a study of Russians’ opinions not of the bias or otherwise of the Russian media. As it happens we know that there is far more diversity in the Russian media than the “expert” appears to assume and that since a majority of Russians now have access to the internet they anyway don’t need to rely on the media for their information if they don’t want to.

            As for the expert’s other two “explanations”, the first suggesting “passivity” is frankly offensive and is in keeping with the elitist arrogance oppositionists routinely show towards the Russian people who they claim to want to lead. Besides it implies that the only sort of Russian who is “active” and “engaged” or at least “not passive” is one who supports the White Ribbon Opposition and who opposes the authorities, which is both wrong and absurd. As for the second of the remaining two “explanations”, “the lack of alternatives to the authorities”, who is to blame for that: the authorities or the opposition who have failed to provide a credible alternative to the authorities?

            I continue to think that overall Levada is a reliable polling agency but it does itself no favours when it gives commentary like this. On the contrary it exposes itself to exactly the sort of charges of opinion manipulation that you are making and which have led to it being prosecuted under the NGO law. I would add that it does the White Ribbon Opposition no favours either. Instead of confronting the White Ribbon Opposition with the truth of its own unpopularity, which might force it to confront the reality of the failure of its policies and tactics, it makes excuses for it. The result is that the White Ribbon Opposition has no incentive to rethink the policies and tactics that make it unpopular.

    • marknesop says:

      Without even reading it (yet, although I will), I will point out once again the two components of the NGO law that come together in a directive to register as an agent of a foreign power. One, the NGO must be in receipt of foreign funds. Two, the activities of the NGO must be political in nature. Both must be present. An NGO that is not in receipt of foreign funds can be as political as its heart desires. An NGO whose activities are not political, but are dedicated to…oh, I don’t know..research, let’s say, can be awash in foreign cash. I find it hard to imagine that criticism of the Russian government and broadcasting lies about Putin’s palaces, expensive watches and personal ownership in state oil companies constitutes priceless research that it would be a great blow to humankind to see shut down.

  16. Misha says:

    A somewhat diplomatically cute move:

    http://english.ruvr.ru/news/2013_06_11/Russia-to-consider-political-asylum-for-Edward-Snowden-if-he-files-request-4977/

    A relatively safe bet is that the offer will not be made.

  17. yalensis says:

    Hashtag KirovLes, this is Day #13 of Navalny’s trial.
    I didn’t bother finishing off yesterday’s summary, because the after-lunch session only consisted of the prosecutors reading out loud several volumes of the prosecution indictment. Personally I don’t know why they have to read out all this stuff aloud to the judge. Why can’t the judge just read it to himself?

    Anyhow, the only thing that happened yesterday afternoon was that Defense put a motion to exclude reading of testimony concerning Opalev’s conviction from the current case. Prosecution requested some time to reply to this motion.

    When trial started this morning, Judge ruled against Defense motion.
    However, he mentioned that Opalev’s conviction does not constitute a “prejudice” against Navalny. [yalensis: this is news to me. I thought Opalev’s conviction WAS a prejudice, and I mean “prejudice” in the legal sense, not as a negative emotion…]

    RAPSI reminds that Opalev on 24 December 2012 was convicted of “embezzlement in a quite large amount”.

    Now that they are allowed to read aloud all about Opalev, Prosecution gets going on Volume 26 of the Indictment, which is mostly Opalev’s story.

    KirovLes concluded contracts to rent forests, and that the fruits of those rented forests are its (KirovLes) property.
    Opalev, the curator of that property, concluded with Navalny a conspiracy to embezzle that property. (But Navalny was the ringleader, Opalev just a patsy.) Navalny brought in Ofitserov and VLK as the instrument to carry out his clever scheme, etc etc. (and the story as we have heard it so many times…)

    Later, Opalev repented of his crimes and made a deal with the prosecution. He was convicted of Article 160. Judge took into account all the mitigating circumstances (like, he didn’t have a criminal record, he is not violent or a risk to society), all the pressures that were put on Opalev, and so on, and he received a suspended sentence. Opalev did not go to a colony, but he can’t travel and he has to report regularly to his parole officer.

    9:28 prosecutors start reading Volume 27.
    It is revealed that police wanted prototypes of Ofitserov’s voice (for voice comparisons of the wiretapped phone calls), but he refused to give them up. (RAPSI sarcastically asks if he refused via hand gestures.) Ofitserov alluded to Article 51 of the Russian Constitution, which protects a person from self-incrimination.
    And yet somehow the prosecution still managed to obtain samples of Ofitserov’s voice.
    Prosecutors reveals that Ofitserov is a good family man. He has a wife (Lydia) and 5 kids. He drives an Opel. He has no criminal record and has never been in a psych ward or drug rehab center.

    Next they move on to Navalny and describe how they got sampes of his handwriting. Navalny also has never been in a psych ward or rehab, however, he has been in prison on some minor infractions (like Bolotnaya meetings and so on).

    10:03 Prosecution says they are just about finished with their case. There is just some housekeeping left. They need to respond to defense points from yesterday, that some of the street addresses of witnesses mentioned in the physical inventory do not actually exist. For example, one witness gave his address as a dormitory at the military academy, and this is not an actual street address.

    Defense is not buying this.

    10:25 Judge Blinov will study the disputed documents in his chambers, as well as mull over some other motions.

    13:00 court resumes. Judge rules against Defense motion to exclude evidence. Judge’s reasoning: There can be no dispute about the authenticity of the discs and audio files. Therefore some tiny discrepancy in the street address of the chain of custody, or some other minor technical error or typo – is irrelevant. Especially since Judge took the time to verify the actual existence of these witnesses. This is a huge victory for the Prosecution.

    (Note in the photo accompanying this time frame how Navalny came to court wearing a checkered shirt and raggedy blue jeans. In other sartorial news, the “Putin is a Thief” crowd have switched to white T-shirts, but these anarchsts still stand respectfully when the Judge enters the courtroom.)

    Judge declares another short break.
    13:30 Judge returns to bench.
    Against Defense objection, Prosecution reads out the conviction of Opalev.
    Mikhailova makes an interesting motion: Opalev’s sentence and conviction could be read out without using the last names of Navalny/Ofitserov. She reminds judge how he said Opalev’s conviction would not constitute a “prejudice” against Navalny/Ofitserov.
    Prosecution parries that they only referred to Opalev’s co-conspirators by their initials N. and O.

    Once again Judge Blinov retreats into chambers to mull this over.

    That’s as far as got so far today.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      Thanks for this. Can I just clarify the point about “prejudice”?

      What the Judge means is that he will decide the case on the basis of the evidence Opalev gives in the witness box and not on the fact that Opalev has been convicted of embezzlement. That is absolutely right. If the Judge were to decide the case on the basis of Opalev’s conviction for embezzlement then he would be deciding the guilt of one person on the basis of the guilt of another. That is certainly wrong and would reduce the whole trial to a travesty. A defendant can only be found guilty on the basis of the evidence against him, not on the basis of the conviction of some other person in a different case.

      As for why the prosecution reads out the indictment, the procedure differs from country to country but I suspect the reason is that in Russia it is a legal requirement as it is in some other countries. Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights requires trials to be conducted openly and this is often interpreted as meaning that the whole case and evidence must be read out in the court room so that it is known by everyone present.

      Lastly, there was no possibility of the defence getting the evidence excluded because of minor and unimportant discrepancies. Possibly the defence is collecting appeal points but these seem to me too weak to make the exercise worthwhile. In every case there is some legal sparring between the advocates and I would put this down to a case of that. The defence’s purpose when that happens is to show that there is disagreement on the value and reliability of the prosecution’s case and evidence. Regardless the Judge appears to be handling the case well.

      • marknesop says:

        It also prevents the accusation later that Navalny was convicted – if in fact that is the outcome – on “secret evidence”, such as is gaining popularity of late in the UK. Not that this is that sort of trial, with implications for national security. However, it serves to drive home the point that those who squall constantly for “greater transparency” seldom realize what they are letting themselves in for; they imagine they will have only the juicy bits filtered out for their consumption, rather than a numbing recitation of the mundane, ordinary, excruciatingly boring things the subject did while unaware he was under surveillance.

        “Greater transparency” is one of those hot-button phrases white-ribbon sympathizers love to repeat but don’t fully grasp, much like “the rule of law”.

      • yalensis says:

        Dear Alexander: Thank you for the clarification. I had thought that “prejudice” would be okay in this case, since Opalev’s case is essentially the same one: All 3 men (Opalev, Navalny, Ofitserov) are being charged in the same 3-man “conspiracy” to embezzle timber from KirovLes. Opalev pleaded guilty, the other 2 not guilty.

        In any case, what Judge Blinov apparently decided was that prosecution could read out Opalev’s testimony, which includes his confession, but that the names “Navalny” and “Ofitserov” would be replaced with the initials “N” and “O”.

        As far as the other major Defense motion:
        From what I can tell without actually sitting and listening through the video transmission (which maybe I should, but I don’t really have the time), the issue is that in that part of the indictment concerning the audio tapes and which files were written to which disk, and so on, some “witnesses” (for example, audio specialists?) were listed along with their home addresses. Some of these witnesses, no doubt, are lower-ranking FSB officials in Moscow. For once, the Defense attorneys did some laudatory research, they let their fingers do the walking, and discovered that a couple of the street addresses listed in the Indictment do not actually exist in the Moscow equivalent of the YellowBook (Phone book). Prosecution had to scramble to figure out that these non-existent street addresses referred to a military barracks.

        Judge went into seclusion, made some phone calls, verified to his own satisfaction that these “witnesses” do actually exist, even though their addresses might have been listed incorrectly.

        In any case, this all relates to the wiretaps and those famous cellphone conversations in which Navalny is heard to be swearing like a sailor. Defense does not dispute the authenticity of the tapes themselves, so they are grasping at straws trying to get them excluded for purely technical reasons.

        This gets filed in the “Nice try” category.

        As far as the rest of the trial today, after Judge Blinov had overruled most of the major Defense motions, the Prosecution wanted to call Navalny to the stand as a witness.
        Defense goes apeshit: Navalny WILL testify, it goes without saying, but only later, as a Defense witness.

        Emotional battle between Davydova and Blinov. (This I MUST watch on tape, later…)
        Prosecution willing to compromise: Okay, let the Defense start calling their witnesses.
        Both defendants invoke their right to refuse to testify. Ofitserov announces that he is eager to testify, but not just yet.

        The conflict is so great that Judge Blinov has to call another recess.
        15:20 Blinov returns and rules against Prosecution, who wants to read out defendants statements.
        At this point the prosecution has nothing left, so they rest their case.
        Now it is Defense turn, but they would like a little time to prepare their case.
        In the end, after much cat-herding, it is decided to resume court in 2 days (=Thursday) at 10:30 AM Moscow time.

        • Dear Yalensis,

          I presume that Navalny and Ofitserov will give evidence. If they don’t they will surely be convicted. They were however right to refuse to give evidence as prosecution witnesses. However I am sure that any written statements they gave to the police will be read to the Judge eventually.

          Do you happen to know by the way whether the emails in which Navalny told Ofitserov to buy a mobile phone and to encrypt his emails and in which Navalny discusses his flight from the Kirov Region to Moscow were included in the evidence presented to the Judge?

          • yalensis says:

            Dear Alexander: Navalny and Ofitserov are both eager to testify on their own behalf. They just refused to do it on the behest of the prosecution. They want to testify as part of the Defense case. Then the prosecution will have the right to cross-examine them.
            I agree with that, and I don’t know what the prosecutors were even thinking, trying to drag them up to witness against themselves, since that contradicts the Russian constitution.

            To answer your second question, the very interesting hacked emails about buying a throw-away phone and encrypting emails has already been read and introduced into the record some days ago. So, Judge Blinov has already had the pleasure of familiarizing himself with this evidence.

            I hope he will draw the appropriate conclusions!
            🙂

  18. marknesop says:

    Hey, kovane – if you’re out there somewhere, your post on Hermitage Capital Management and Wondrous Metamorphoses made it into Ed Lucas’s bibliography pages, for “Deception”;

    http://www.edwardlucas.com/deception-endnotes/

    See Chapter One, note one. According to Lucas, your piece was “A much more critical account…Mr. Browder rebuts this criticism, to my mind convincingly”. Really? How? By shouting, “Did not!!! Did not!!!”?

    Of course, Mr. Browder would only have had to smile enigmatically; that would be enough of a “rebuttal” to more than satisfy Ed Lucas. But well done, in any case.

  19. Moscow Exile says:

    Miriam “crackdown” Elder reports in today’s Guardian the passing of a law in the Duma that bans “gay propaganda”. She writes of “liberal and human rights communities” in Russia.

    Where do these “communities” live, I wonder? Are they separated from Russian society as a whole? Do they live on special reservations?

    • Moscow Exile says:

      It’s just that it strikes me odd that Moscow Miriam views those possessing liberal views or who are concerned with human rights issues as belonging “communities” within society; as though they were somehow apart from other members of society, different both socially and culturally to the -dare I say it – the bydlo?

      • marknesop says:

        It plays to a treasured liberal fantasy, in which the intelligentsia are a breed apart – a finer strain that waits, nostrils distended with eagerness, to lead Russia out of its dark night and into the dazzling light of liberal white-ribbon happiness. Much like the lavish praise for Pussy Riot’s cat-squeezing screeches, the western enablers would love to carry out more social experimenting in Russia, where if things went disastrously wrong as they did before, it wouldn’t matter very much. In liberal imagination, the homosexuals will walk hand-in-hand with alert young businesspeople who will ride the market economy for all it’s worth, and everything will sort of just come together and gel. They have no problem with homosexuals demanding to exercise their rights over the rights of everyone else, because the only group in Russia that ever matters to the west is the group that is complaining the loudest and making trouble for the government. We’ve already dealt with what constitutes “homosexual propaganda”, and it consists of pitching the homosexual lifestyle to minors. It is not in any way a crackdown, although Moscow Miriam’s name has become synonymous with crackdowns, as you suggest.

        • yalensis says:

          The law bothers me a lot, because it IS repressive, it seeks to turn homosexuals into pariahs, and is bound to lead to violence. Plus, enshrining Russian Orthodox Church as the official ideology of the state is also a scummy move, especially since majority of Russians are non-believers. This will also create conflict between ethnic Russians and other ethnicities that are traditionally Muslim. In a multi-denominational state, is better if government remains religiously neutral or secular.

          Granted, Western meddlers are responsible for a lot of this backlash, since they stirred things up and lumped worthy causes (like gay rights) along with unworthy ones (like Khodorkovsky) into an Oppositionist mush. And Pussy Riot itself is a clearly a CIA project. But still, Russians should not take the bait, they should retain their traditional tolerance against this government move to promote intolerance against a particular minority.

          • peter says:

            … majority of Russians are non-believers.

            Sadly, not anymore.

          • apc27 says:

            Come on yalensis, you know full well that when it comes to promoting intolerance on that issue, government’s actions are not of major influence.

            What REALLY makes people intolerant is the fact that among the current well-known gay people in Russia VERY few are not freaks in general, tainting the rest of the gay community by association.

            • Sam says:

              What’s more, the government is in fact promoting tolerance, not intolerance. “I think indeed that we should all be more tolerant of each other and less aggressive towards each other, no matter whether we’re talking about heterosexuals or homosexuals. Less aggression and less song and dance about these issues would be the best thing for everybody.” Putin during the news conference following the Russia-EU summit (June 4th).

              • marknesop says:

                I completely agree. The law focuses on promotion of the gay lifestyle to minors, which in Russia is 16 and under. There is no reason kids under 16 need to be taught anything much about sex as a recreational sport, as they are too young to assume responsibility for any consequences of it. Also, I think if you investigate who has the most interest in promoting the homosexual lifestyle to minors, you will uncover very few who advocate simply for the purpose of broadening understanding.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  The “repression of sexual contact between adults and children” was one of Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s most outrageous theories, which opinion he now denies having.

                  I well remember “Danny the Red” when he was a “revolutionary”.

                  He’s a nice, cuddly German bourgeois “Green” now and very much a kleinbürgerlich “liberal”.

                • yalensis says:

                  By the age of 16 a lot of kids are already experimenting with sex! Maybe it’s different in Canada…

                • marknesop says:

                  Yes, of course, and they seem to get started younger every year. But my point is the people who are agitating for the freedom to pitch homosexual material to those aged 16 and under are seldom doing it because they just want to see children make healthy choices. In the main they are purveyors of children for pornography, or pedophiles. I think homosexuals can be contented with the entire population 17 and over to work on, and that is perfectly legal and unregulated except for cases of violence. Kids can at least wait until they’re out of school to make a homosexual commitment, I would think.

              • cartman says:

                I think this campaign is now tethered to the more aggressive anti-Russian campaigns waged by the Obama administration (specifically by Hillary Clinton). Even during her husband’s presidency, she was a strong advocate of building more pipelines (and rail and other things) to cut Russia out of the European market completely. The Clinton administration was also behind the rise of the sometimes hostile Aliyev dictatorship, and possibly others in Central Asia. During the Obama administration she declared herself the guardian of LGBT rights because she inexplicably has a big following from the gay community in the United States. The aggressive gay rights campaign was rejected because she was also running an aggressive anti-Russian campaign. That may explain why the opinion towards gays has gone down in the last five years.

                • yalensis says:

                  We should all stipulate that Hillary Clinton is totally evil.

                • Jen says:

                  Apparently there is a rumour that in her tell-all autobiography, the Klintonator will reveal that she is bisexual.

                • marknesop says:

                  Do tell. I would never have figured that, although the press – in that ugly way it has of sniffing around the children of political figures and printing the most disgusting drivel about them – hinted at that in Chelsea, or that she was outright gay altogether. Which she may well be, I can’t say I followed her personal life. But I’ll tell you what – if Hillary Clinton is bisexual, it was either unrequited or she is beyond careful, and if she ever managed to squeeze in a quickie with another woman, it would make me allow it’s possible for Putin to have had an affair with Kabaeva. Because for now I am saying that couldn’t have happened – some intrepid photographer would have captured him leaving her place, or the two coming out of a hotel, or something. Both Clinton and Putin were watched every minute of every day that they were not at home with their families, for the same reason – both are hated by a significant sector of the American political community.

                • Misha says:

                  Possibly explaining why she stood by her man during Monicagate.

                  She wants to advance herself in what she sees as the best way possible, while perhaps recognizing that Bill isn’t the only one who likes to roam.

            • yalensis says:

              I know, but I do think government actions have a major influence on people, because they help to set the tone.

  20. Moscow Exile says:

    And from today’s Independent, here’s an article from Lebedev’s man-in-Moscow, Shaun Walker, entitled “Fawning interviewers give President Vladimir Putin easy ride on Kremlin TV chat show appearance”.

    One of the arguments that Walker uses in his proposition that the Russian journalists were “fawning” runs thus:

    “None of the questions touched on controversial issues such as the ongoing trial of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny, or the trials of more than two dozen protesters who are accused of public order offences over a protest in central Moscow the day before Mr Putin returned to the Kremlin last year.”

    Firstly, it is debatable whether the trial of the Chosen One or those arrested for public order offences at Blotnaya Square in May of last year are, indeed, “controversial”.

    Walker lives and works in Moscow. So do I. None of my Russian neighbours or work associates view these trials as “controversial”: nobody I know is glued to his TV screen watching live reports of Navalny’s mind-numbingly boring court room performance or considers the Bolotnaya arrested as anything other than hooligans.

    Clearly Walker associates with a different class of person than I do.

    But it is Walker’s criticism that the “fawning” journalists were too timorous to question the Russian president about two ongoing criminal trials taking place in Russian courts at the moment that I find most intriguing.

    Does Walker really believe that the legal concept of sub judice does not apply to the Russian legal system?

    Does Walker really believe that the Evil One dictates to Russian judges and juries the verdicts of all cases at hand and that, therefore, it is only right and proper that he be questioned by journalists about the outcome of any case at hand?

    I’ve seen it argued by supporters of St. Mikhail of the Gulag that Putin did, in fact, make a sub judice statement during the second trial of Khodorkovsky, in that when questioned about the case, Putin replied that thieves should go to gaol. But was that not just a general statement? Putin did not add “…and Khodorkovsky is a thief”, thereby referring to a particular case concerning a particular defendant.

    And another thing: are not people accused of public order offences put on trial in the UK? And even if the alleged offences took place during a political demonstration, are those trials still not political ones, but public order ones?

    Western journalists seem to think that public order charges made in Russia as a result of actions that have taken part during a political demonstration immediately take on a political significance and that those charged consequently face a political trial.

    Charlie Gilmour, an English student, got 16-months for swinging off a Cenotaph flag during a demonstration in London against government education austerity measures. Did journalists ask the British PM during Gilmours’s trial his opinion concerning that student’s actions?

    Was Charlie Gilmour’s trial a political one?

    • kirill says:

      Glmour is a good counter-example to all the Pussy Riot drivel. But your point applies to the FARA hysterics as well. The same law in Russia as in the USA is deemed repressive and evil. Basically, western journalists are spews North Korean style propaganda at Russia. It is cheezy, inane, and ultimately totally irrelevant to Russian society. The liberast sycophants and their utter contempt for the Russian people (the 90% who do not vote for their candidates) is reflect the same sentiment in their western backers. The western MSM owners actually think they can shape events in Russia with this BS. I really doubt that this tripe is intended for western media consumers, who are already totally brainwashed about Russia’s badness.

    • marknesop says:

      As you suggest, these “events” are plainly not much on the minds of the Russian people – you have only to look at the courtroom attendance of the Navalny trial to see that, although I suppose the Independent line there is that they deliberately held it in the back of beyond so nobody who loves Navalny could attend – but they are a big deal in minds of western supporters of the Russian liberal “opposition”. I often think the biggest single reason the Russian liberals cannot take off is that their support base in the west manages to convince them they are already doing everything right and have the broad support of their countrymen, and that issues spoon-fed to them by western coaches are really, really important to Russia.

      If Shaun wanted to see fawning interviews, he should have paid closer attention during the Bush reign, when those partnering in interviews with the then-president were told in advance everything they would be asked, and backup procedures put in place in case anything was asked for which they had not prepared – or the simpleton interviews conducted with Sarah Palin, when all the interviewer remembered afterward was how sparkly her eyes were or some shit like that.

      According to Gawker, “fawning interviews have ruined American politics”. I did not see “Russian” in there anywhere, although the British are no better and I would pay money to watch an interview such as the one described with Jeremy Paxman, in which he asked a senior government figure a question 14 times because he was plainly evading it.

      • R.C. says:

        “If Shaun wanted to see fawning interviews, he should have paid closer attention during the Bush reign, when those partnering in interviews with the then-president were told in advance everything they would be asked, and backup procedures put in place in case anything was asked for which they had not prepared – or the simpleton interviews conducted with Sarah Palin, when all the interviewer remembered afterward was how sparkly her eyes were or some shit like that.”

        …And simply pointing this out to most Americans is enough to get you accused of “whataboutism” – a term coined by those who would like to rest easy in their hypocrisy & see it go unchallenged. You see, because no matter how bad we may be, it is ALWAYS worse “over there” – wherever it might be. I touched on this a bit in my post below. It’s this bullshit exceptionalism & Manichean philosophy that’s fed to them from crib to coffin which prevents them from thinking otherwise.

      • RT has given surprisingly little attention to the interview. Here however is a long extract from Putin’s own website.

        http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/5571

        People can judge for themselves but I don’t find the interview “fawning”. Putin has to field difficult questions about the economy, Georgia, immigration and Russia’s Syria policy. There is a dialogue with one journalist who is Serbian and who complains about how difficult it is for her to obtain Russian citizenship and a mortgage. It’s interest to see by the way how he tried to defuse the discussion by calling the journalist “a beautiful woman”. That of course would be impossible in Britain or the US and would provoke uproar if it were done here.

        Putin dealt with the Navalny case in his recent television marathon, He dealt with the adoption law in his mid year press conference. As Moscow Exile correctly says, it would be inappropriate for him to discuss either that case or the Bolotnaya case now when they are actually underway.

        Overall I think this was a good interview. I found Putin’s comments on economic policy and on Syria especially interesting.

  21. yalensis says:

    For the record, here is the video of yesterday’s KirovLes trial, known as Day #13.
    Technical note: There is something a bit wrong with this video but you can get it to work, after you skip the ad you have to click on the little button at the bottom and rewind it back to the beginning,then it works okay.
    Other technical note: Watching on youtube is usually better than original RAPSI videos, because the RAPSI ones you can’t fast forward or rewind, that function doesn’t seem to work.
    Procedural note: There is no trial today, it will resume tomorrow (Thursday). However, it is looking to be a blockbuster, because Defense will start its case and start to call witnesses. So everybody tune in!

    • yalensis says:

      Interesting bits to watch:
      Around 4:00 hours in, this is when Judge Blinov is reading out his ruling on the Defense motion to suppress evidence of the tapped phone calls. Earlier, Defense was all excited because they felt like they had shattered the entire prosecution case with their startling discovery that some of the addresses on the envelopes (containing the audio discs) were non-existent. (Or at least did not exist in the phone book.)
      Then, as Judge Blinov is rattling off his reasons for turning down their motion, there is an odd behavior and body language among the defendants and their attorneys. They start grinning smugly and smirking at each other, as if they had won instead of just experienced a crushing loss.
      Not sure how to read this body language. If it were me, I would be agonizing with my disappointment. Instead, they seem to be celebrating it.
      Maybe they are saying, “See, I told you that Blinov was in the pocket of the prosecutors.” Or maybe they are looking forward to appealing the guilty verdict. In any case, as Mercouris has remarked, it is the job of the Defense to rack up a lot of technical and procedural points for the eventual appeal (in case of a guilty verdict), and surely this will be one of them.

      • Dear Yalensis,

        That may be right but frankly I don’t think there is a valid appeal point here. The Judge seems to have dealt with the point thoroughly and so far as I can see correctly. It’s not as if there seems to be any actual doubt about the authenticity or the relevance of this evidence. Of course it may be that there is some procedural issue in the Russian procedural code I don’t know about which makes his decision wrong but realistically is that likely? In Britain certainly this would be an entirely valid exercise of judicial discretion by the Judge.

        Generally speaking the only body language that really matters in a case is that of the witness in the witness box. Odd displays of bravado and shared jokes often take place and little weight should be put on them. In Britain we call it “gallows’ humour” – the gallows being the scaffold on which criminals were hanged.

        • yalensis says:

          Dear Alexander: Tomorrow’s session should be interesting. The Defense will start to present its case, and Navalny may be called as the first witness. Navalny has sworn that he can explain away all those suspicious phone calls and emails.

          Sure, we know he is glib, but he is going to have to be a storyteller of the likes of Victor Hugo to make his yarn convincing. This should be good!.

  22. R.C. says:

    Sometimes I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.

    When you are dealing with people whose hate of Putin has taken on a religious dimension, they become impervious to facts. They don’t care that not much of a middle-class existed before Putin or that the GDP increased by $200 billion to $2 trillion USD, or the enormous increase in wages and social spending, Russia’s return to being one of the world’s largest economies, not to mention pensions & Russia’s return as a military power – which is partly why we haven’t seen a NATO escalation in Syria. Ten years ago, NATO/US wouldn’t given a squat what Russia thought of Syria and Assad would’ve been toast by now. It is relatively simple to find out why Putin is supported, but somehow, all of the Americans I’ve run into know more about his “repression” and “Pussy-riot” than they know about these irrefutable facts which can easily be found at Wikipedia. Even when you point out to them the inconsistencies in the narratives about Putin “killing journalists” and how absurd it would be to poison someone with Polonium that leaves a radioactive trail from Moscow to London, they still don’t want to hear it. Now, thanks to Greenwald & Snowden, we now know for a fact that the US has a surveillance state which rivals the Stasi, yet nonetheless, I was told today by a clueless Manichean prick that Putin was FAR more evil than Obama. Really? The last time I checked, wire-taps in Russia still required a court warrant…unlike some other places we now know. The last time I checked, one was ordering the wanton murder of alleged “Al-Qaeda suspects” (mostly civilians though) in drone attacks over sovereign countries with no judicial oversight or trial – could we even begin to imagine the outcry if Putin had been doing this?

    I’ve been doing some reading on this Kabaeva business the past few days and noticed that much ink has been spilled on this “scandal” going back a few years. My take: There may be elements that have some truth, but like everything with Putin, it’s been taken to extremes & exaggerated. IF he was somehow partly responsible for her getting her job in the Duma, would this be any different than say, Barack Obama pulling strings to get gymnast McKayla “is not impressed” Malroney a job in government somewhere? Would we here claims that he was sleeping with her because of this?

    As far as Putin/Kabaeva go – I don’t know the answer, as none of us can know for certain, but even IF Putin did partake, well he’s a lonely head of state who’s been estranged from his wife for some time and Kabaeva’s an EXTREMELY beautiful young lady who happens to be a Russian Olympic hero who probably shares some things in common with Putin (the most obvious being that she’s an athlete). He’s denied any wrong-doing, but they usually always do (remember Bill Clinton) for reasons that may not be morally acceptable, but understandable given the circumstances. I’ve been thinking how the west would respond if Russia ended up with someone like Kabaeva as a first lady? No doubt, they’d claim that she was ‘forced” to marry him and would be kept locked away. She would be the next Ann Boleyn. A friend told me today that having a hot young first lady would take some of the heat off of Putin, but I’m pretty sure that much would not change much of anything. They would simply take this new development and weave it into something sinister along with the rest of everything else we’ve heard about the mythical Putin the western press has created. She would be coined the “iron empress” or the “Tsaritsa.”

    • kirill says:

      Russia should be properly compared to France and not the USA. Even if Putin had a mistress that would be totally irrelevant for his political standing in Russia. Russians don’t have America’s Puritan hangups. I think Italy is also quiet liberal and a better point of reference. But of course, the liberast sycophants and the western media will act as if the whole world was just like the USA with the same BS “values”.

      The response on Putin you describe is a major cultural difference between Russia and a large part of the west. People in the USA and elsewhere believe all the tripe they are being fed by their transparently biased media. The badness is always abroad over there in the “dark” parts of the world. Russians do not swallow all the crud they get from the MSM and do not view the lands outside their borders as the locus of evil and the source of their problems. Here you see a perverse inversion of reality vs. perception. It is Americans who have no reason to hate the rest fo the world since it has never been a real threat to them and they never had wars on their soil because of Iran, China, Syria, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, etc. But Russians have had hordes from the west for a good millenium invading and slaughtering them (Teutonic Knights, Swedes, Napoleon, Hitler) so it would be more justified for Russians to hate the west. But they don’t and instead it is the west that hates Russia and Russians thanks to daily brainwashing by the scumbag media which clearly has an agenda. (The cold war never involved Russians slaughtering westerners so it is a poor excuse for all the hate, and once again it did not produce hate for the west in Russia).

      • Dear Kirill,

        Italy is not just “quite liberal” on this point. It would actually be thought bizarre if a political leader of Putin’s standing in Italy did not have a mistress. People would wonder what was wrong with him. Even Berlusconi’s far more extreme antics have done him little harm.

        Basically I agree with what RC says. Kabaeva is VERY beautiful and it’s possible that Putin pulled strings to get her into the parliament and it’s also possible that they had an affair. If they did have an affair it was conducted very discreetly and is their private business. What I would say is that it does seem something of a tradition in Russia for the ruling party to pick well known sportspeople and artists to fill its parliamentary ranks. The CPSU did that regularly in Soviet days and this is one entirely innocuous indeed good Soviet tradition, which is being followed. The Bolshoi’s prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova who is also very beautiful (though married and recently a mother) is also an MP. Like Kabaeva she is highly intelligent and completely competent to be an MP (one does not achieve the standard Zakharova and Kabaeva have done if one is not both hard working and highly intelligent). It seems a perfectly natural practice to me for a party that gets often criticised to try to give itself an attractive young face by filling its parliamentary ranks with people of this sort.

        • R.C. says:

          I agree Alexander.

          I would certainly would find it bizarre if Putin if was given the chance to have a go at Kabaeva and turned it down – especially if he was estranged from his wife. Berlusconi would be all over it – and proudly so. This is a girl who beat out Anna Kournikova in the most beautiful Russian athletes polls conducted by various Russian magazines over the years – and Kournikova is certainly no slouch herself in the looks department.

          I’ve seen a few photos on Bing/Yahoo of her posing with a large canvas of Putin. I guess it’s safe to assume that she probably really admires him.

        • yalensis says:

          Kabaeva is not the only Olympic athelete in the Duma. For a while, Yevgeni Plushchenko (Olympic figure skater) also had a government job. Also Khorkina (gymnast), if I am not mistaken.
          In Russia, athletes, especially at the Olympic level, have prestige and are respected by society. They are considered leaders.

        • Jen says:

          Svetlana Khorkina, a former gymnastics world champion who competed at three Olympic Games for Russia (1996 – 2004), joined the Duma as a United Russia party member in 2007 and was deputy chair for the Duma’s Youth Committee. She is currently an ambassador for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

          RT interview of Khorkina (in Russian):

      • kirill says:

        I should add the only time that Russia pursued the invaders back to their hives was during WWII. Poland is a special case in that it was occupied by the Russian Empire after a long period of Polish meddling and alignment with Russia’s enemy, so Poland can be considered more of a victim. But the French, Swedes, British, Turks, etc. never had Russia overruning their soil and dishing out revenge.

        Cold war adventures such as Afghanistan are in a different category.

        • Misha says:

          Historically speaking, Poland initiated a conflict with Russia and not vice versa. That initial attempt by Poland wasn’t benevolent in its occupying approach.

          Thereafter, there were the tens of thousands of Poles (a common figure on this particular numbering near 100,000) who joined Napoleon in his attack on Russia in 1812 and Pilsudski’s Russian Civil War period attempt to seize historically Rus-pro-Russian territories, in a Machiavellian way that (among other things) conflicts with the image that he saved Europe from Communism.

          http://www.russiablog.org/2009/10/russian-polish-history-averko.php

  23. Going back to the point made by Mark in his article at the top of this thread, the opposition had their rally today. There is the usual conflict over the turnout. The police put the turnout at 6,600. The opposition say it was between 20-30,000. I have so far seen no panoramic shots of the protest so it’s impossible for me to judge. Anyway it seems to have passed off peacefully, attracting little attention except from the participants. Even the foreign news media has basically stopped reporting on the protests. The contrast between this peaceful and orderly rally in Moscow and the violence and street fighting in Istanbul over the last few days is striking.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Well, today was a public holiday – Russia Day. It’s held to celebrate Russian independence from the USSR. The “non-systemic opposition” were out today demonstrating, and not a Russian flag in sight, reports KP. I presume the traitors, the liberal white ribbonists, were using the public holiday to demand not only freedom for their arrested on criminal charges colleagues, but also freedom from the “occupying”. regime

      • Moscow Exile says:

        By the way, in above linked KP article there is a good shot of Bolotnaya Square and to the left is the curved roof of the Udarnik cinema. The road in front of the cinema leads to the right towards the bridge-foot of the Great Stone Bridge. In the right distance and on the other side of the river can be seen the cupola that rises over the scene of Pussy Riot’s last and greatest gig. It was in front of the Udarnik where the traitor Ponomarev and chums had their “sit-in”, yet all the press say the confrontation of May last year took place on the bridge, which is, in fact, out of the picture in the right distance.

  24. marknesop says:

    In Syrian news today, the assault on Aleppo has begun, and results thus far are encouraging. Government forces are in the suburbs and have taken Kafar Hamra. The article reports analysts believe that if the Army retakes Aleppo – and it will, unless outside meddlers intervene – the whole situation in Syria could change. I would add that Syria will be a powerful symbol that the regime-changers can be beaten. I don’t doubt the imperative to get rid of Assad will be undiminished, and they may even resort to having him assassinated, but his achievement will stand nonetheless.

    http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/06/12/308545/syrian-army-make-advances-in-aleppo/

    • kirill says:

      Good news. I hope the “regime” can establish facts on the ground that will undermine the effort by NATO to invade. With the FSA routed there will be no point in establishing no flight zones.

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks goodness. Syrian army finally flushing out the rats. Zenga zenga.

  25. R.C. says:

    All of this means that there will be more urgency on the part of the west to “do something.”

    If the battle for Aleppo is won before the Geneva meeting next month, there’s a possibility that it may simply be cancelled since the rebels will not attend and the Assad government won’t see a point – though I would still expect the Assad government to attend strictly as a formality for Russia’s support in all of this. The rebels will probably begin to turn their anger onto the French, UK, Turkey & the US for not giving them what they asked for – more sophisticated weapons and a no-fly zone.

    If the rebels lose, the west will likely suffer some serious blow-back. It will also expose the limits of the western powers who hope to impose their will through regime-change violence.

  26. B.K. says:

    Hi love the blog and love the article. A breath of fresh air. Anyway I couldn’t find the right place but since this is about journalism & Russia I would like to posit a question. Does The Moscow Times censor comments to its opinion pieces and articles? I sometimes comment and like many people use a pseudonym but I also haven’t registered with Disqus, Anyway I commented on some comments that some complete nutball Russian nationalist had written about the WWII article, you know that type that it was all the USSR that one the war and everyone else did nothing. Anyway I pointed out some flaws in this guys arguments and left it at that. If anything I was agreeing with the original opinion piece. I go back a few hours later to see what replies I had received and noticed the whole exchange had been deleted. I’ve seen this happen to other comments too. However I have noticed that larussophobe is allowed to spit her bile left right and centre with no censure. Would be nice to know I’m not being paranoid, and if true makes a mockery of the MT’s credentials.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      I hadn’t noticed censorship at MT until recently, but it’s started. Interestingly, although LR seems to be allowed to hurl the most appalling insults at and make the most astounding claims about all Russians and Russia, I noticed the other week that even she had a comment deleted.

    • marknesop says:

      I wouldn’t say the Moscow Times censors comments, in the sense that it alters them, but they do occasionally delete entire exchanges. Sometimes it’s not what you said, but what the other person said, and the moderator just wipes out the whole exchange according to their decision on whether what was said was racist or whatever. But I have gone after Georgy Bovt in his articles, as well as Alexei Bayer (I even got a reply from him) and the comments were allowed to stand even though they were extremely frank about my opinion of the author’s state of mind. Even more remarkably, I had a fairly recent exchange with La Russophobe in which she got quite wound up, and the Moscow Times deleted her comments while leaving mine intact. I’d never seen that before.

      Anyway, that’s not an endorsement of the Moscow Times, which I find a western-centric rag that excuses a multitude of sins on the part of the west while excoriating Russia for everything, but at least you know where you stand up front. They didn’t allow comments at all unless you were a subscriber up until maybe a year ago, and the format they use now is excellent; if you make a mistake you can go back and edit your comment but only the original author has access to the edit function for their comment.

      Thanks for the kind words, and welcome!

  27. cartman says:

    Something insightful actually appeared on the Huffington Post.

    Anne Applebaum wrote:

    “For those who think that Edward Snowden deserves arrest or worse, cheer yourselves with the thought that Sheremetyevo International Airport might possibly be the most soul-destroying, most angst-inducing transport hub in the world. Low ceilings and dim lighting create a sense of impending doom, while overpriced wristwatches glitter in the murk. Sullen salesgirls peddle stale sandwiches; men in bad suits drink silently at the bars. A vague scent of diesel fuel fills the air, and a thin layer of grime covers the backless benches and sticky floor. It’s not a place you’d want to spend two hours, let alone 48.”

    The author translates it thusly:

    “With just those words, Applebaum’s op-ed, it seems to me suggests that Edward Snowden is currently in such a hell-hole that even the prisoners of Guantánamo wouldn’t want to go there.”

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Whither the much vaunted phrase “Give me liberty or give me death”?

      Liberty at Sheremetyevo does not count, I presume.

      Applebaum’s image of hell:

      I’m sick to the back teeth of these lying Western propagandists!

      • Moscow Exile says:

        And as regards Applebaum’s reference to a “vague scent of diesel fuel” that fills the air at Sheremyetevo, I think she means kerosene. I’ve never been to an airport yet where there isn’t a faint smell of aviation fuel everywhere.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Аэропорт, в котором можно жить (An airport where you can live) – the title of this promotional video for the new terminal D at that place which Applebaum considers hell on earth:

        • marknesop says:

          Applebaum would not know diesel fuel from Gloria Vanderbilt – not even the forklifts run on diesel at an airport. Maybe the occasional delivery truck.

      • yalensis says:

        A lot of Western journalists are implying that Snowden is stuck in a Capsule Hotel at Sheremetievo.
        If so, I think that actually would be hellish, especially for claustrophobiacs. I can’t even imagine being stacked in a Matrix-like hive such as that.

        I like to think that Snowden is not stuck in such a hive, and that the FSB has put him up in a decent hotel room. One with windows and a view.

        • yalensis says:

          P.S. even stuck in a capsule, it would still be better than water-boarded in Gitmo.
          You might be crowded, but at least you’re not being tortured.

        • marknesop says:

          I don’t know; Sheremetyevo looks pretty skookum to me, as airports go. In the last seconds of the video (although the lighting is terrible) you will see the capsule hotel attached to Sheremetyevo’s transit terminal, and Snowden can’t go anywhere else, if he’s even in Russia. Although the idea is probably similar, these are actual rooms rather than capsules. With the typical western talent for exaggeration, CNN called them “about the size of the average American walk-in closet”. For starters, the majority of Americans do not actually have walk-in closets at all, and for those that have only Philippine former dictators in exile have closets that size.

          For the record, I despise airports, but if I had to pick a favourite it would be Incheon, in Seoul, South Korea. Architecturally pleasing, scrupulously clean, lots of shops and restaurants and a small park of real trees in the middle of it that pierce through three levels. But according to one of Sheremetyevo’s websites, Sheremetyevo won best European airport for service quality just 4 months ago, rated by ACI, which is Airports Council International Europe.

          Every traveler feels he or she should be treated like a visiting Duke or Duchess, and their ratings are often the most brutal, and foreigners are often the most caustic as residents either don’t rate their own airports or think the service is OK, generally speaking. Although Sheremetyevo rated the lowest of the three in my unscientific survey, it was at 3.7 (all ratings out of 10) not far behind the legendary LAX at Los Angeles, which scored a 4.3. London’s Heathrow beat them both hollow at about 7.5, but listen to what some of its detractors said: “…the whole experience was not only chaotic but extremely frustrating. I will never travel through this airport ever again…Security staff are apathetic, slow and rude. I asked the time from one of them and the answer I got was “time you bought a watch mate”…The worst airport I have experienced for transfers (from an American)…As noted before, very rude inefficient staff. There is no reason the whole queue should stop because someone has been pulled over for screening, but this is what happens. I will be avoiding like the plague. I’ll transit through Gatwick in future…this is the worst we have ever experienced at Heathrow, but it is never pleasant getting through their security. Also, the agents were very rude and caustic in their comments (also an American, who gave Heathrow a 0 out of 10)”.

          LAX was likewise the target of disgust from many: “… I cannot understand how, in a country which prides itself on delivering a high standard of service, this situation – which I have experienced before – goes unnoticed by airport management. Next time I think I will fly to San Diego. Avoid LAX if you can (from a Scotsman)…Send me through Cancun any day over LAX…What a disgrace this horrible airport is as it is dirty, passenger unfriendly, and does not have enough clean inviting eating places. Staff at the bars were surly and wanted passports shown to order a lager even though we had obviously passed through security and were senior UK citizens. No shops worth looking at… The queues were the longest I’ve ever seen at any US arrival point, and, in general, the experience was comparable to those I have had in the worst of Third World terminals.”

          If Annie Applebaum ever said anything positive about Russia, which she loathes as the enslaver and subjugator of Poland – and even that is transplanted hatred because she is not Polish, her husband is – her tongue would burst into purple flames and fall out of her mouth onto the carpet. But what she says about anything should in no way be interpreted as necessarily accurate, because she was famous (in my own little personal gallery of fools) for saying – somewhere around 2003 (unfortunately her WaPo archives only go back to 2011), “…the war [in Iraq] proved, as we all knew it would, that America no longer needs allies”.

          Update; I finally found the Applebaum piece. I couldn’t find it before because the search terms were wrong; she never said “America” or “the USA”, she said “we” no longer need military allies. My memory was otherwise reasonably correct, it was from May 28th, 2003. Pour a glass of port and get a few chunks of dark bittersweet chocolate, and savour it slowly.

          • yalensis says:

            Thanks for that clip, Mark. That bit at the end showing the Sheremetievo “capsule” hotel room at the end made me feel a little better, because, even though tiny, at least a person could stand up and move about somewhat. I have been to Sheremetievo myself, but just briefly and never to that part of it. When I researched “capsule hotels”, what I got was the Japanese variant, in which the person is basically stuck in a lying-down position with a television screen just above their head. More like a human chicken coop, with humans stacked one on top of each other in a hive-like formation! (The logical next step is to hook up these humans to a giant battery….)

            Anyhow, the Sheremetievo “capsule” looks more like a tiny hotel room where you could hang out for a few hours and maybe catch some Z’s while waiting for your next flight. At least there is privacy and it’s better than sitting around the lounge for hours with your luggage sprawled around you.

            Even so, I doubt that Edward is stuck in one of these capsules. I would bet the border police officials have a few VIP hotel suites set aside for select guests.

            • yalensis says:

              P.S. I had to look up the word “skookum”.

              • marknesop says:

                It’s fairly common on the Pacific coast of Canada and even to some extent in the American Pacific Northwest, because it’s an Indian (First Nations, aboriginal, I know they’re not really “Indians”, but it suits the identification of the dialect) word and quite a few of those have survived into common usage.

            • marknesop says:

              My pet theory is that he never left Hong Kong, which probably is not the case, but it is passing odd that nobody has laid eyes on him since, and it would be a perfect dodge – nobody is looking for him now in China. The news crew made the point that they know every corner of the Transit Area by now, and it makes no sense that he could be constantly moving, dodging everyone because the place is lousy with reporters and sooner or later somebody would run into him by accident if not design.

              It’s unlikely Putin would lie to the whole world when he says Snowden is at Sheremetyevo, but he has a built-in alibi – he can always say that’s what he was told, and some subordinate will fall on his sword. There is really no proof that he is even in Russia anywhere; just a plane landing from Hong Kong, which happens every day, and a lot of assumptions. But now everyone is looking for him in Sheremetyevo, while in fact nobody was looking for him anywhere else for a good 48 hours, in which time he could have made it to any world destination provided he was fixed up with a rudimentary disguise – maybe something as simple as different hair and no glasses – some money, and paperwork that would pass muster.

      • kirill says:

        The only airport in Moscow I can think that may have issues is Domodedovo since it is being rebuilt and has construction delays:

        http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?s=48f395bf13c70b23f78826cb321c691e&t=345787&page=28

        Vnukovo has a snazzy new main terminal so it does not fit the bill:

    • marknesop says:

      Annie spends most of her daylight hours divided between two activities – denigrating Russia, and promoting Poland. To hear her tell it, when God sprinkled civilization, enlightenment and beauty upon that part of the world, Poland hip-checked Russia out of line and got the full dose. Some don’t seem to see it that way, as TripAdvisor rates Krakow, Poland as the worst airport in the world:

      http://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g274772-i961-k5141524-Krakow_Airport_the_world_s_worst-Krakow_Lesser_Poland_Province_Southern_Poland.html

      “Dreadful excuse for an airport”, reads the commentary; “the staff are obnoxious, lazy and arrogant”. Well, it’s Europe, and nothing’s really that far away in Europe – why not just take the train? Oh…wait. “Have you tried the train station? Worse yet. Not so much lines, but rude, lazy, non-existent service, dirty and smells like a latrine”.

      That sounds very negative to me, but in her latest literary collaboration – a cookbook – Annie reckons Poland is “the new Tuscany”. I’m not kidding.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/12/05/the-new-polish-food_n_2247459.html

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