GAZPROM is Not Dead, and Anders Aslund is Officially as Thick as a Wharf Piling

Uncle Volodya says, "Police chasing Anders Aslund on his bike lost him when he abruptly dismounted, ran into a field of cabbages and removed his helmet."

Uncle Volodya says, “Police chasing Anders Aslund on his bike lost him when he abruptly dismounted, ran into a field of cabbages and removed his helmet.”

Everybody’s favourite Psycho-Pswede is jiggling with excitement like a child that needs to pee over news that GAZPROM’s profits fell by 10% since 2012, and wants us to understand – from interpretive dance, as best I can make out – that its displacement as the world’s most-profitable company is the bellwether of GAZPROM’s iminent collapse (thanks, Kirill, for the link). And, like the strawberry in your champagne, the whipped cream atop your chocolate pie, the added sweetener is that GAZPROM’s demise will likely also rid the world of that horrible Putin, since he personally runs GAZPROM, and will not be able to cope with this disaster. I don’t know whether to laugh, or laugh harder. Aslund, famous – if that’s the right word – for defending blockheaded strategies like the “shock therapy” which accompanied Russia to the brink of collapse, and angrily spluttering that Russia should be kicked out of the G-8 (leaving its remaining debt-ridden membership to flounder in a sea of red ink) appears to be slowly turning into a tree, and when he eventually expires it will be possible to gauge his years on this good earth by sawing the top off his head, and counting the rings. If he were as wise as he apparently thinks he is, he would keep his Filmjölk-hole shut and concentrate on maturing to a lovely golden brown, like well-aged pine, rather than blatting his latest tea-leaf readings to the world. But sometimes you just can’t keep a crazy economist down.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that Aslund has a big-league hate on for Russia and everything it does because he personally despises Putin. Therefore, any downward movement in GAZPROM’s fortunes is a good excuse for a stream of bilious invective from him, since he maintains Putin is GAZPROM’s “real chairman”, and therefore personally responsible for the catastrophic mismanagement which has led to GAZPROM’s ignominious dethroning.

According to Aslund, GAZPROM was doomed to fall from its lofty perch, owing to “reluctance to absorb new information, corruption and outlandish arrogance.” But his spit-flecked accusations are based on rankings in three different lists, none of which feature the same Number 1 – Most Profitable Company (Exxon Mobil), Biggest Company (ICBC Bank, China) and Most Valuable Company (Apple).

So, don’t colour me a believer just yet. Because the company that sits atop the list of America’s most profitable companies and currently world’s most profitable, is Exxon-Mobil. Why am I not convinced by Aslund’s raving about corruption and malfeasance? Why, because in 2004, Exxon-Mobil was one of four major oil companies investigated for bribing the president of Equatorial Guinea with some $700 Million for favourable consideration of oil rights, considering the country was in an oil boom. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago, a dictator reviled for corruption and human rights violations, was alleged to have bought nearly $4 Million worth of stately homes in Washington, DC and Rockville, Maryland while Walter International was paying the college bills to send the president’s son to Pepperdine University. Obviously, corruption not only pays, it is just part of the way big companies get bigger. To say nothing of “more profitable”. So far as I can make out, the investigation came to nothing, and Exxon-Mobil got off scot-free except for a puny $50,000.00 fine it paid in 2003 for trading illegally with Sudan, although former Mobil executive J. Bryan Williams was indicted for bribing the president of Kazakhstan for a lucrative piece of the Tengiz oilfield as well as for evading taxes on more than $7 Million in unreported income, which included $2 Million in kickbacks.

This is not meant to be a ringing denunciation of Exxon-Mobil; however, I think it’s just a little hypocritical for GAZPROM to be singled out for corrupt practices when Exxon-Mobil is obviously as corrupt or even more so, and is rewarded with laurels and approbation for being in the top spot just vacated by GAZPROM. So, apparently, what twists Anders’ testiklar is not so much that GAZPROM is corrupt as it is that they failed to maximize their profits, through inefficiency and mismanagement, since he has voiced no criticism of Exxon-Mobil.

His disapproval evidently does not extend to RosNeft, either, as he periodically reminds his readers that RosNeft is panting down GAZPROM’s neck and ready to step into its boots as Russian petrogiant. Know why that is? Because BP International retains shareholder status in RosNeft, and RosNeft partners with…Exxon Mobil. In Aslund’s mind, GAZPROM is too stuck-up to let the big multinationals buy in, and that translates to inefficiency and mismanagement in his view.

Aslund is also bullish on upstart Novatek, citing them approvingly as a company that is beating up GAZPROM for its lunch money. The owners of Novatek are Gennady Timchenko – supposedly Vladimir Putin’s good buddy who lets him secretly own as much as 70% of GUNVOR – and…GAZPROM. GAZPROM owns 19.4% of Novatek.

But my favourite Aslund Senior Moment – predictably, because you know my views on the subject – is his har-de-har mockery of Putin for suggesting (implausibly, says Aslund) that shale gas is more expensive than conventional gas, while Europe is swimming in cheap LNG and a monstrous gas glut has GAZPROM’s back to the wall.

Unfortunately, only time will tell, and – as the popular saying goes – experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn at no other. You simply cannot shake the unshakeable belief of some people in shale gas and its devastating impact on Russia’s future as an energy provider. Similarly, the belief in a gas glut and limitless supplies actually is driving prices down. For how long? We’ll see. What can you tell us about it, Dmitry Orlov?

Oh, dear. “The best-developed shale gas basin is Barnett in Texas, responsible for 70% of all shale gas produced to date. By “developed” I mean drilled and drilled and drilled, and then drilled some more: just in 2006 there were about as many wells drilled into Barnett shale as are currently producing in all of Russia. This is because the average Barnett well yields only around 6.35 million m3 of gas, over its entire lifetime, which corresponds to the average monthly yield of a typical Russian well that continues to produce over a 15-20 year period, meaning that the yield of a typical shale gas well is at least 200 times smaller.”

Well, yes, I have heard that the Energy Returned On Energy Invested (EROEI) for shale gas was much lower than that for conventional gas, which suggests it is indeed more expensive because all the big returns are up front, right after you drill, after which the well quickly plays out. But what about Poland – wasn’t there some rumor that there were enough reserves to supply all of Europe, and that the Russians were going to be left watching its taillights, or something?

“The composition of shale gas is something of a state secret in the US, but information about the gas produced from the nine Polish shale gas test projects did leak out, and it’s not pretty: Polish shale gas turned out to be so high in nitrogen that it does not even burn. Technology exists to clean up gas that is, say, 6% nitrogen, but Polish shale gas is closer to 50% nitrogen, and, given high production costs, low yields, rapid depletion and low wellhead pressure, cleaning it up to bring it up to spec (which is 1% nitrogen) would most likely result in a net waste of energy.”

I imagine some will be tempted to call Orlov just a shill for the Kremlin, telling Russophiles what they want to hear. And that’s possible, I suppose. I’d be disingenuous, though, if I did not point out that he called it exactly right on the embarrassing faceplant of Facebook, before the issue of its IPO, and that it is a consensus view among financial analysts that what is keeping the U.S. economy breathing – and the Dow at record highs – is quantitative easing and the continued injection of another $85 Billion per month as the U.S. government buys more of its own bonds and mortgage-backed securities in order to keep the supply of cheap money flowing. According to the International Business Times, in an analysis of Exxon-Mobil stock, “Looking ahead, Exxon Mobil has more natural gas exposure than its competitors. If natural gas prices increase, as they are expected to, then it could negatively impact the company. That said, this still wouldn’t be a major blow. The biggest threat would be a reversal in loose monetary policy by the Federal Reserve. If this happens, then the entire industry will suffer, but it will still hold up better than most industries due to the sheer size of the companies and their ability to manage challenges thanks to large cash flows.”

There should be two takeaways from that; one, natural gas prices are expected to start coming back up, and the illusion of a gas glut cannot keep them suppressed for much longer. Two, the biggest engines of the American economy are going to suffer a shock which only their huge cash flows and liquidity will see them through if the Fed stops printing money and wheelbarrowing it into circulation. How long can it keep that up? Your guess is as good as mine, but it’s not forever. At this stage of the game, although it publicly toys with the idea of cooling off the money printing-press for a while, it dare not stop. But I don’t need to tell you, I’m sure, that if a serious challenge to the dollar were mounted now and it lost its status as the world’s reserve currency, the debacle which followed would be of epic proportions. The USA is way, way overextended on debt, all the while it is trying to print its way to dollar happiness.

Maybe Orlov has it all wrong, at least with his analysis, although it’s hard to dispute his numbers. But I don’t think so. Neither does The Automatic Earth, which has some truly alarming statistics, especially if you threw everything you had into shale gas. The number of drill rigs for dry natural gas in the USA – far from exploding, as you would expect from the Next Big Thing – has plummeted from a high of 1,606 in 2008 to a dismal 562 last year, the lowest number since 1999. That’s bad enough on its own, but overall production across the USA began to decline in March of 2012. When the drop in output overlaps the drop in number of producing rigs – especially in an industry that must keep constantly drilling in order to keep at least solvent enough to be able to borrow more – the arc of descent will steepen into a power dive. Shale gas is cruising on fumes, while the industry is producing at a loss in order to keep prices in the basement with the impression that supplies are so abundant that they don’t know what to do with it all. When the fog is blown away and the awful truth can no longer be hidden, people will have nowhere to go but to reliable suppliers of natural gas. The alternative-energy industry is just not ready to pick up the slack, although it should undergo a renaissance in interest.

What else you got, Anders? Oh, that’s right, I remember – GAZPROM’s incompetence in Turkmenistan cost it its access to China. Well, sorry, but that’s wrong. GAZPROM just wrapped up a deal in March to deliver gas by pipeline to China which is expected to amount to 38 bcm annually. According to Fitch Ratings, “The agreement with CNPC is the latest in a string of investments by Gazprom that will dramatically improve its position in Asian gas markets, which is currently represented only by a 50% share in the 9.6 million tons per annum (mtpa) Sakhalin-2 project. Earlier this year, Gazprom approved a decision to construct a three-train, 15mtpa LNG plant in the Russian Far East near Vladivostok, with the first train to be commissioned in 2018, and plans to supply LNG from there to Asian markets.” Also, the Energy Information Administration has an entirely different view of the pipeline deal with Turkmenistan: “As a result of a pipeline explosion on the Central Asian Center export pipeline to Russia in April 2009, Turkmen gas production was shut in and suffered serious declines. Gas production fell almost 50 percent from a high of 2.5 Tcf/y in 2008 to 1.3 Tcf/y in 2009. Following the pipeline repair and a new pricing agreement signed with Russia in January 2010, Turkmenistan raised production to 1.6 Tcf/y in 2010 from 1.3 Tcf/y in 2009. However, Russia agreed to accept about 400 Bcf/y or only one-third of the volumes it imported prior to the explosion and at a lower import price, resulting from its declining exports to Europe.” Gee, that sounds to me like it was Russia’s decision to import less gas from Turkmenistan, owing to declining demand from Europe. And you can spin that decline in demand any way you like, but the collapse of Europe would certainly not be good news for anyone, and if Europe manages to recover, gas demand will return to or surpass previous levels. See how it works? Meanwhile, customers are not as eager as Aslund makes out to buy from a country which has a single all-powerful autocratic dictator as leader who can do anything he likes – they tend to be…whimsical.

And don’t even start with Nabucco. The EU’s Nabucco pipeline, which would – in EU fantasy-land – cut Russia out of gas shipments to Europe to whatever degree was possible by routing a gas pipeline independent of Russia to carry Caspian and Middle-Eastern gas direct to Europe. This is supposed to compete with GAZPROM’s South Stream pipeline, so let’s see how they stack up against one another. The South Stream project started construction in December 2012. Construction of Nabucco has not started yet although the preparations began in 2002, and it is not expected to be operational – if it is ever built – before 2018. If that great day ever arrives, at its rated capacity of 31 bcm annually it will supply at best 6% of Europe’s needs. South Stream, partnered with Italy’s Eni, is expected to double that volume, and even in that case there will be room for expansion – if Europe recovers. As an example of GAZPROM’s unbridled arrogance, the company agreed to a 50-50 partnership with the Hungarian Development Bank for the Hungarian leg of South Stream, as well as joint construction and operation of a gas storage facility with Hungary’s MOL. Roman Kazmin’s “Future of Gas” takes a very pragmatic view: “The argument is that the more routes we have available to deliver gas to the European markets, the better it is for the European consumers. In an ideal world, these extra volumes should come from sources other than Russia. If this is not possible, the availability of secure gas volumes is what matters at the end of the day rather than the source of this gas.”

Spiegel is less equivocal about who has not only a commanding lead, but a solid reputation for delivering on its commitments. “The Nabucco pipeline is intended to transport gas from the Caspian Sea region, along a 3,900-kilometer southern route to Baumgarten in Austria, bypassing Russia in the process. But not a single meter of the pipeline has yet been laid, and that will likely remain the case. The Nabucco project will not be implemented as planned…Three weeks ago, Hungary’s MOL Group voiced significant doubts about the project, and now another consortium member is thinking of pulling out. RWE executives have already prepared politicians in Brussels and Berlin for the worst case in recent weeks. They haven’t made a final decision yet, but the chances that the company will remain committed to Nabucco are not good…So far, Moscow has consistently proven to be a reliable supplier. Officials at Gazprom say that a pipeline “is a delivery promise cast in steel,” and they insist that no company is going to invest billions in a pipeline and then choose not to use it.”

It’s not even that Anders Aslund hates all Russian business; well, I’ll let him tell you himself, from a 2011 interview with Steve Weisman.

Steve Weisman: The deal was announced on August 30. I don’t know if there has been any adverse political reaction in the United States. Is there any reason for Americans to be concerned that the Russians have access to American resources?

Anders Åslund: I don’t think so. And you can also see the previous reactions about there being very little reaction against Russian business in the United States, unlike as you mentioned the Chinese business activities here. Say, for example, Lukoil, which owns perhaps 2000 gas stations.

Steve Weisman: What about Western confidence in the reliability of doing business with Russia?

Anders Åslund: You can say that there had to be a deal between some big Western company and one of the big Russian companies. It’s amazing that it has taken this long for a deal to take place.

Mind you, he does go on to blame, yes, Vladimir Putin for the collapse of the BP-RosNeft deal, saying that he can’t make up his mind. But you get the point – he has nothing against RosNeft making nice with Exxon-Mobil and getting rich – he just hates GAZPROM, because it’s a state company and Aslund is a free-market capitalist who starts to twitch when he hears the words “state company”.

Regular readers will notice an amazing degree of compatibility between what Anders Aslund wishes would happen and what Anders Aslund announces is happening. But neither Vladimir Putin or GAZPROM is going anywhere in the immediate future.

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1,666 Responses to GAZPROM is Not Dead, and Anders Aslund is Officially as Thick as a Wharf Piling

  1. Misha says:

    ESPN anti-Russian bigotry:

    Some of the very same people seeing race as a factor in the Zimmerman verdict likely saw little if any wrong with this bit.

    Part of a status quo which includes RT formally drop “Russia Today” from its name.

    • Misha says:

      For whatever reason, the last part of this skit gets cutoff. The last part includes the depicted Putin saying that:

      – Russia won the Cold War
      – will win the upcoming winter Olympics, with the introduction of such events as cross country drinking and standing in line for toilet paper – the last thought pertaining to the arrogantly ignorant image of a post-Soviet Russia lacking such basics
      – a wink of the eye after saying that Maria Sharapova isn’t a spy.

  2. Moscow Exile says:

    McFaul has Tweeted Navalny that he is watching the case. (privet. smotru – Hi! I’m watching) Surely that’s out of order? Tweeting by a defendant whilst a judge is summing up must surely be contempt of court. And since when does a foreign ambassador communicate during criminal proceedings with a defendant in the dock?

    • yalensis says:

      A member of American consulate also came to Kirov trial today, to show his support for Navalny. His name is Kevin Covert.

      Best name ever for an American spy!

      • yalensis says:

        Khodorkovsky’s mom (Marina Filippovna Khodorkovskaya) also attended the sentencing in Kirov. Aleksei Navalny is like a second son to her…. Now she has lost him too…. it’s like the sad ending to a Dickens novel… please pass the kleenex….

        • kirill says:

          Too bad her new sonny boy didn’t get to slaughter a few dozen people on his rise to wealth and power like her real son, eh. One needs industrial cleaner to get rid of the stench.

      • yalensis says:

        Evgenia Albats also there, tweeing hysterically that “this verdict means the death of capitalism” in Russia. Well (being a socialist myself), I wish she was right. But unfortunately, probably not…
        What Albats is getting at is that under “real” capitalism (like, for example, the Yeltsin-Khodorkovsky variety), there are no rules or regulations, sellers can set whatever price they want, even if they don’t actually own the product they are selling!

  3. AK says:

    Apologies for this, but this is rather timesensitive, so:

    @Mark, please check you email.

    • marknesop says:

      Hi, Anatoly; I was out all day at meetings, so I did not see the earlier comments because I didn’t have time to read more than a few. Could you please forward the message to my Hotmail address? I don’t have access to my Outlook profile here.

  4. Moscow Exile says:

    Here’s McFaul’s Tweet to Navalny.

    I think he should keep his nose out of the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

    Can you imagine the Russian ambassador to the USA Tweeting a defendant during a criminal trial in a US criminal court?

  5. Moscow Exile says:

    12:23 – Навально признать виновным и приговорить 5 лет лишения свободы и штраф 5090 тыс рублей.

    12:23 – Navalny sentenced to of 5 years imprisonment and a fine of 5090 thousand rubles.

    12:23 – Офицерову 4 года и 500 тыс штрафа

    2:23 – Ofitserov 4 years and 500 thousand fine

    • yalensis says:

      They still have 10 days to appeal the sentence. I think they will spend that time in the holding cell in Kirov (?), pending appeal. Not sure, though.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Of course, some of the Western media that I’ve just briefly checked out are banging the drum about Navalny’s conviction coming just one day following the acceptance of his nomination as a candidate in the coming mayoral election – an example of the “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy that is often used by hacks, notwithstanding the fact that Navalny’s trial began long before yesterday’s acceptance of his mayoral candidature. But the conviction is persistently being described as the consequence of Putin’s morbid fear of any political opponent wresting power from his clammy grip.

        It’s my ring, my precious! Nobody shall take you away from me!

        • marknesop says:

          Let them comfort themselves with the notion that Navalny could have won if only he were allowed to run; it will doubtless lead to spontaneous sobbing and emotional outbursts, but grief is the catharsis that leads us to acceptance, which will eventually – just in time for the just-as-irrational exuberance at the time of his release, I should think – let them move on with their lives. I realize that all food and drink for some time to follow will be as ashes in their mouths, but that will be good for their waistlines. They’ll thank us one day.

          • Dear Mark,

            It’s exactly what you predicted. The whole point of Navalny being nominated for Mayor was precisely to allege that his expected conviction was intended to prevent him standing for Mayor.

            Notice that it is Navalny’s campaign which is rushing to say he is withdrawing from the race whilst it is his opponent who seems anxious for him to stand. Only yesterday Sobyanin was saying that he wanted to find a way for Navalny to stand even if he was convicted. Perhaps that is impossible but who knows perhaps if Navalny had really intended to run some way could have been found?

            • marknesop says:

              In that case, the narrative would be that many potential Navalny voters elected not to cast a ballot or voted for another candidate because they knew there would be no way he could serve if he were victorious.

        • yalensis says:

          “It’s my ring, my precious!”
          Are you talking about that blasted football ring?

          • Moscow Exile says:

            “Football ring”?

            Which ring might that be?

            I’m talking about the ring that gives power to that one holds it, power to control the destiny of the biggest kingdom the world has known, a kingdom full of untold bounty, the kingdom of Eurasia, the one, true, central kingdom that shall be the envy of the world.

            Best wishes from Gandalfsky

            PS Have you ever visited the “Diamond Fund” in the Kremlin? There are raw diamonds there as big as goose eggs and huge gold nuggets – all from Siberia.

  6. Moscow Exile says:

    2:26 – Навальный просит проститься с родителями. офицеров обнимается с матерью. На Навального надели наручники. Его уводят.

    12:25 – Некоторые в зале плачут, хватаются за голову.

    12:26 – Navalny asks to say goodbye to his parents. Ofitserov hugs his mother. Navalny is handcuffed. He is led away.

    12:25 – Some in the audience are crying and clutching their heads.

  7. Moscow Exile says:

    All the above bulletins from here. Times Moscow time, of course.

    Right! Any money won? Any money lost?

    AK predicted 5 years suspended. Mark, I think, got it right.

    Did you win or lose anything?

    Or would it be more polite to suggest 3 minutes’ silence for the unhappy pair?


    • AK says:

      Yes, I got the years right, but the suspended part wrong. Due congratulations to Mark.

      Well, what can one say? I for one am SO glad that the evil Navalny is locked up. That will rid surely rid the country of corruption. Long may boutique-shopping Vasilieva and Yakunin’s шубохранилище prosper!

      • Dear Yalensis,

        If you go back I predicted a guilty verdict and 5 years for Navalny and 3 years for Ofitserov. I got Navalny exactly right. Ofitserov I got wrong by one year. I am sorry for Ofitserov. Navalny brought it on himself by the arrogant way he conducted his defence.

        My predictions were founded on my assessment based wholly on your careful reporting of the case.

        As I also said, these sentences are wholly in line with British sentencing practice for this sort of offence.

        I have to rush off but I will be back later. I may try to write a post on this case myself though given the demands on me at the moment I cannot promise it.

        • yalensis says:

          Dear Alexander: I urge you to write a post on the case, I think it will be very good and help to put everything in perspective. I can help you with any translations you need.
          For now I have just skimmed the summary of Judge Blinov’s ruling, but later, when I have more time, I plan to watch the video and make more notes. What I have seen so far is that Blinov basically accepted the prosecution version of events. Blinov said in his summary that he was aware of the conflict between Navalny and Opalev. He stated plainly that nonetheless he believed Opalev’s testimony, the defense said nothing to convince him that Opalev was lying.

          As I noted in previous comments, Opalev’s prior confession and conviction was a huge “prejudice” (Russian “pre-juditsia”) in favor of the prosecution, since Opalev was a confessed member of the three-man alleged embezzlement ring. Blinov could not rightly discount Opalev’s testimony and take Navalny’s side against him without throwing into doubt Opalev’s own conviction. I mean to say, he could, but not without performing more contortions than Kabaeva in her gymnastics floor routine.

          • Dear Yalensis,

            Would you be able at some point to do a summary in English of Blinov’s Judgment? RAPSI has provided a brief summary, which sets out some details but there are many gaps.

            • yalensis says:

              Dear Alexander: Certainly. I will try to put something together for you, but it may not be until tomorrow. From what I heard so far, Blinov did a 3-hour non-stop patter-song (in his thick V’atka accent) when reading out his verdict. I haven’t even had a chance yet to watch the tape.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        What a ludicrous comparison, sir!

        You are comparing the activities of a Minister of State and of the mistress of a former Minister of State with those of…of… well, of a provincial upstart, a hick lawyer who was destroyed by his own hubris.

        Do you think Delta-Force will try to spring him?

        I mean the Basket Weaver.


        • Moscow Exile says:

          The above missive was addressed at Anatole Karlin Esq.

          • yalensis says:

            McFaul (aka “Super-Tweeter”) and his sidekick, agent Covert, will dispatch “Zero Dark Thirty” elite Seal Team 6 to Kirov to spring Navalny from his holding pen. There will be a movie about the rescue, called “Operation Basket Weaver”. Brad Pitt will play Navalny. Renny Harlin will direct.

      • Robert says:

        No question there’s a huge level of corruption in Russian and a need for more bloggers to confront effectively on the Runet but it’s pretty clear that Navalny is compromised. Quite apart from almost certainly being a criminal he’s a market fundamentalist. To lead a mass movement that will effectively confront the power vertical the leaders need to be seen to be committed to social justice.

    • peter says:

      AK predicted 5 years suspended. Mark, I think, got it right. 16-04-2013 (yes, that’s April):

      Адвокат на условиях анонимности утверждает, что Сергей Блинов ездил в Москву, где получил инструкцию по ведению дела. Якобы Навальный должен получить пять лет реального срока и покинуть здание суда в наручниках.

    • marknesop says:

      I didn’t wager any money on it. But that’s two lucky guesses in a row – I also correctly predicted the Pussy Riot verdict, and that was just as much a fluke.

  8. Robert says:

    No doubt The Guardian will be unable to contain its grief.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Oh don’t worry! I’ve just checked and they’ve started already. All the regular russophobes are inundating the article with comments damning the Russian state. No chance of them being deleted, of course. And their favourite heroines – you know, those that were convicted for doing a “gig” in church – get a compulsory mention, naturally.

      111 comments, mostly condemning the verdict, have already appeared as I write, and the verdict was only given 40 minutes ago.

      • kirill says:

        These turd throwing monkeys seem to think that what they want is what Russians want. Nobody elected them the rulers of Russia.

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    I wonder why he didn’t say goodbye to his “statuesque wife”? She mustn’t have been there.

    As English judges used to say in court room dramas:

    “Take that man down!”

    • yalensis says:

      I thought the English were supposed to say: “Yer nicked!”

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Nay, that’s what a cop says when he feels yer collar.

        And a true Cockney, who always follows the rules even though his game is bent, should always answer in true deferential British style: “It’s a fair cop, guv!”


  10. They made Navalny a martyr. A mistake by the Kremlin.

    • yalensis says:

      Possibly. But I wonder if the Kremlin actually wanted to see Navalny acquitted? Why else would they order United Russia party honchos to sign petitions putting up Navalny for Mayor?

      There is one school of thought that Kremlin wanted Navalny free to run for Mayor, lose badly, and fade away into obscurity. If this is the case (and I think it’s plausible), then this proves Judge Blinov’s completely independence from the Kremlin. Or, even if Blinov is the type who takes instructions, that they never bothered to phone him and tell him what they needed?
      Well, it was always known that Blinov, despite his sweet face, is a HANGIN’ JUDGE!

    • kirill says:

      A martyr only in the minds of western liberals and their fringe liberast fellow travellers in Russia. Pussy Riot were also “made into martyrs” and so on ad nauseam. It’s not up to the western political elites and their media mouthpieces to decide who can break the law and when in Russia.

    • marknesop says:

      Of course they did. I’m sure they will pay and pay for this folly.

      • That of course presumes the Kremlin was behind Navalny’s prosecution. I understand Blinov has said that there was no political agenda in this case. You can believe that or not as you please.

        At the end of the day Navalny is either guilty or he is not. If he is guilty then saying his conviction makes him a martyr is to take a false approach. Failing to prosecute someone because that might make him a martyr is what is dangerous because it puts that person above the law.

  11. Misha says:

    More repulsiveness:

    I just saw her on an Al Jazeera show which included Adranik Migranyan. She said that a true democracy doesn’t govern along the lines of polls that indicate support for a conservative POV.

    No follow-up on whether the opposite tyranny of the minority should be in place. She also babbled on about how Pussy Riot didn’t commit a flagrant enough crime to deserve jail time.

  12. Moscow Exile says:

    Here’s a titbit of news concerning the Navalny verdict that I haven’t yet seen in the English language press: from Frankfurter Rundschau:

    “Die Aktien an der russischen Börse begaben sich auf Sinkflug, wie die Agentur Interfax meldete.”

    [The press agency Interfax reports that shares on the Russian stock exchange have begun to fall.]

    As I said above, “post hoc ergo propter hoc”.

  13. reggietcs says:

    It would be nice if soon after the US State Department condemns Navalny’s sentencing, that the Russian government steals their thunder by announcing that they’ve offered Snowden asylum.

    Take that!

    But who am I kidding? the Kremlin is pretty damn lousy at PR, so we can rest certain that they won’t be seizing the moment.

    • kirill says:

      This whole PR theory is just too lame. How does on do any PR when the whole western mainstream media and most of the internet media sing exactly the same tune on Russia? PR only works if you have some degree of freedom to get the message out. Will the western media dutifully report some Kremlin pronouncements? Not bloody likely. It is too busy repeating US government pontifications.

      • marknesop says:

        I guess you’re right. And any English-language outlet that agreed to carry the Russian government line, unvarnished and unedited, would be promptly labeled a “Kremlin mouthpiece just like state TV” anyway.

        A similar dichotomy struck me the other day; if Russia keeps silent about corruption, it is seething with invisible and unreported corruption. If Russia recognizes and prosecutes corruption and the number of anti-corruption cases before the courts increases, it means that corruption is getting much worse.

      • reggietcs says:

        I hear ya Kirill.

        I’ve recognized that most of the pundits going bonkers over Navalny’s conviction do not even bother discussing the specifics of the case! It’s apparently just taken on faith that Navalny was convicted because he’s the “opposition leader challenging Putin.” One of the only places in the west where you can actually find the specifics on the actual case being discussed in any detail is on this blog!!!! Something is seriously wrong with the press when they can scream that Navalny was falsely convicted but are unable to tell you why by discussing anything of substance having to do with the case whatsoever.

  14. Moscow Exile says:

    The last Tweet off Navalny before he was handcuffed and led away (and, presumably, had his little toy confiscated) was: “Ладно. Вы тут не скучайте без меня. А главное – не бездельничайте, жаба сама себя с нефтяной трубы не скинет.”

    [Right then! You people out there don’t starting getting bored without me. The main thing is: don’t become idle. The toad won’t get off the oil pipe all by itself.]

    I saw this toad reference in the on-line minute by minute reporting in Moskovsky Komsomolets of the judge’s reading out of the verdict and sentence. I didn’t catch the meaning until I read this article in “Die Welt”, entitled: “Der Sieg der großen Kröte, die auf dem Ölhahn sitzt” [The Victory of the Big Toad that Sits on the Oil Tap]

    This is a reference back to a blog made by Navalny yesterday and in which he compared the powers-that-be to a large toad that sits on an oil valve and inflates itself out of fear [“Die russischen Machthaber verglich er mit einer großen Wabenkröte, die auf einem Ölhahn sitze und sich vor Angst aufblähe”]; in that same blog, Die Welt reports that he urged his hamsters thus: “There is no one but you. Nobody cares more than you for what happens in your country and in your city.”[“Es gibt niemanden außer euch. Niemand interessiert sich mehr als ihr dafür, was in eurem Land und in eurer Stadt passiert.”]

    So Navalny is using this line that the oil, the natural wealth of the land has been stolen from the people by the so-called occupants.

    Of course, Khodorkovsky in the Yeltsin “Golden Times”, as Navalny once described the ’90s in a blog, was taking control of Russia’s oil wealth for the good of its owners, the citizens of Russia and was doing very well until the Evil One came along and slung him in gaol and seized Yukos.

    And Navalny’s the man to seize back what rightfully belongs to you – you suckers!

  15. Moscow Exile says:

    And I’ve just had a message off Google after their not allowing me access to WordPress saying that they have detected unusual traffic from my computer. They asked me prove my ID. this was after my accessing Russian, German, British and US sites and having taken a peek at McFaul’s Twitter shite?.

    Is someone watching me?

    • Misha says:

      McFaul fronting for Navalny reminds me of how the former carried on around the time of Khodorkovsky’s arrest and trial.

      The media coverage was similar. A political persecution theme, falling short of looking into the validity of the specific charges.

      Navalny an NGO project, with Khodor having a similar relationship.

  16. Sam says:

    If anyone in Moscow right now can report to us on how things are in Manezhnaya Ploshad (mood, slogans, numbers, etc.). For now there seem to be far more journalists than protesters.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      20:31 – Журналисты считают, что в районе Манежной, на Охотном ряду, у здания Госдумы собралось около 10 тыс человек. Но еще много людей на Тверской.

      20:31 – Journalists reckon that in the area of the Manezh, Okhotny Ryad and the State Duma building about 10 thousand people had gathered, but there are still many people on Tverskaya Street.

      See: “Онлайн-трансляция: Народный сход за Навального в Москве” [Live Webcast: Popular Gathering in support of Navalny in Moscow]

      That’s an estimated 10,000 plus white ribbonist protesters out of a population of 14 million plus, namely the Moscow protest community in full force.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        They’re sticking fly stickers on car and shop windows windows in Tverskaya that read “Navalny’s Brother”.

        The demonstrators seem mostly to be bourgeois student types to me. They were kids during the Yeltsin years. I’ve met many of these types before: they all seem to think that thanks to the Evil One they’ve all missed out on making loads of money as Khodorkovsky and chums did 20 years ago.

        21:10 – 32 человека задержаны в Петербурге на акции за Навального и 58 человек в Москве – такие сведения приводит ТК “Дождь”.

        21:02 – Полиция задержала девушку, которая забралась на крышу автозака и пыталась зажечь файер. Но в целом массовых задержаний нет. Появились люди в футболках “Брат Навального”. Попытки перекрыть проезжую часть прекратились. Люди в основном обсуждают события между собой или скандируют лозунг “Свободу”.

        21:10 – 32 people arrested in St. Petersburg in a demo undertaken in support of Navalny and 58 people in Moscow – this information given by the TV company”Rain.”

        21:02 – Police have arrested a girl who climbed onto the roof of a Black Maria and tried to light a fire. But in general, no mass arrests. There are people in T-shirts with “Navalny’s Brother” on them. Attempts to block the road have been prevented. People mainly discussing with one another what’s happened or chanting: “Freedom.”

        (All from above MK live link)

        • marknesop says:

          It seems likely his hamsters also understood he would be convicted, or it is not likely they would have been able to mobilize so quickly. And if all this was planned in advance, then – like the earlier “massive demonstrations” – there are likely to be provocative efforts to draw the police into combat and/or start a riot.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            Komsomolskaya Pravda has this article which uses an Ofitserov and Navalny quote as its title: “Алексей Навальный – Петру Офицерову: «Может, поставить дебила, чтобы он непопулярные решения принимал, а ты всем командовал»” [Alexei Navalny to Peter Ofitserova: “We could set up a moron to make the unpopular decisions, but you’ll be in control of everything.”]

            The article consists of extracts from the recorded dialogues between the two convicted persons that were used in court. The article leads with the following:

            Публикуя фрагменты этих записей, мы не совершаем никаких преступлений. Они в ходе судебных заседаний были публично зачитаны в суде. И они, кстати, наголову разбивают все аргументы на тему, что «два благородных дона» хотели бороться с коррупцией. Извините, так такие вопросы не решаются.

            [By publishing fragments of these records, we are not committing any crimes. They were publicly read in court during the proceedings. And they, by the way, utterly smash all the arguments that go “the two noble Dons wanted to fight against corruption”. Sorry, but they are not addressing such issues.]

            There then follows the usual (to visitors to this site, at least, thanks to Yalensis’ hard translation work) bad mouthing off Navalny and Ofitserov (” e.g.”this fucking stupid pig-headed bookkeeping broad” etc., etc.)

            In the comments below the article the hamsters appear:

            “I’ve read it. So he got 5 years for effing and blinding, right?”

            “Where, in any particular place, is there mention of a theft of a forest for which Navalny was convicted? From these recorded dialogues there is absolutely NO evidence indicating the theft of a forest. This article just exposes the trial. Well, how can we make inferences about the theft based on this data? No way!”

            “Yeah, that’s the leader of the opposition and darling of Western intelligence agencies! Let him sit in gaol. He’s a thief.”

            • Moscow Exile says:

              And here, from a police or newspaper drone, shots of the Moscow demo: Tverskaya St. directly in front, the State Duma to the right and the Hotel National to the left. And if there’s 10,000 there I’ll eat my hat!

              The pictures show the beautiful people, the bourgoise hamsters, the elite that I reckon make up the majority. I reckon most present were under 30.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                Oh yes,and it was an unsanctioned meeting. Another example of the denial of freedom of assembly in the Evil Empire.

                • marknesop says:

                  Doesn’t the mayor have any special privileges at all?

                • Sam says:

                  Thanks ME!

                  I have followed it all on twitter and live feed for hours and all I can say is I am so disillusioned with “journalists” having any kind of objectivity. As an example, at the beginning of the protest, one of them twitted: “I’ve done this for a while, definitely around 3000 people”. Exactly 12 minutes later, he twitted:”8000 people easily”, that’s one exponential increase! An hour later, “8k-10k estimate, but they’re noisy”. Seriously, “they are noisy”?! Well then, that must be the end for Putin! another tweet commonly reproduced by various reporters: ” Cars honking in support” or as Miriam Elder reports it: “Freedom honks”. How does one exactly distinguishes supportive honks? Because, for anyone having seen the live feed and using logic, most drivers were probably honking simply because of the terribly slowed/ blocked traffic. But no, forget logical thinking, apparently the honks had a distinct freedom frequency that only reporters and dolphins can hear…

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Cars honking in support, says Moscow Miriam?

                  I remember during the UK miners’ strike we used to get a lot of cars “honking in support”, or so we thought until we saw two fingers being waved at us.

                  The “two-finger salute” is the British equivalent of the US “bird”.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  To Mark:

                  Mayoral privileges? Well Luzhkov enjoyed the privilege of handing over all lucrative Moscow city contracts to his wife’s construction company.

                • marknesop says:

                  Yes, that’s true. I meant that since Navalny is to be mayor – or at least for always in the minds of his hamsters – then how can any public event at which he appears be an unsanctioned demonstration? It’s….it’s a campaign gathering!

            • yalensis says:

              Yeah, I remember that particular quote about putting the “moron” supposedly in charge to make the unpopular decisions. That was Opalev they were talking about. He was the moron. It was the plan of Navalny-Ofitserov to bring back Opalev as a figurehead and force him to make the tough choices, like making redundancies; meanwhile, Ofitserov would be running KirovLes behind the scenes and making the real decisions. (No doubt leading to its privatization.) That was their plan, at least, as they yakked about it over the phone. But investigators were already onto them, which is why they were being wiretapped. (Legally, with actual warrants, I might add, unlike the Americans PRISM wiretap program.)

            • Jen says:

              ‘ … “Where, in any particular place, is there mention of a theft of a forest for which Navalny was convicted? From these recorded dialogues there is absolutely NO evidence indicating the theft of a forest. This article just exposes the trial. Well, how can we make inferences about the theft based on this data? No way!” …’

              A case of missing the timber for the forest?

  17. Misha says:

    Superior court might change Navalny sentence – Russian Federation Council
    MOSCOW. July 18 (Interfax) – Russian senators said they proposed waiting for a superior court ruling on the case of opposition activist Alexei Navalny, sentenced in Kirov to five years, and that if there was a political component in the trial, then only that Navalny’s violations had been checked in priority.

    “It is not a fact that superior agencies will uphold the verdict of the Kirov court,” Head of the Russian Federation Council committee on social policy Valery Ryazansky told Interfax on Thursday.

    “There is no political component in this trial and the verdict was returned,” Ryazansky said.

    As to Navalny’s intention to withdraw from the Moscow mayoral elections, “this decision is most likely related to the fact that Navalny is not certain of his legal stance which he tried to defend in court, including during the preliminary investigation,” Ryazansky said. “This means his guilt in relation to economic crimes has been proven and he apparently confirmed that he would not be able to prove his innocence even in superior courts,” he said.

    The trial on Navalny had political tendencies, said another Federation Council member Anatoly Lyskov, who is part of a committee on court and legal issues.

    “Not every argument was considered in court. I do not want to comment on the final verdict because this is up to the judge’s competence but the procedure itself shows that the constitutional principle of the competitiveness of both sides has not been fully implemented,” Lyskov said.

    This principle is stipulated in the Constitution and must be carried out, Lyskov said.

    ez mk

    • This is the correct way to handle these sort of protests. It’s much better to let these people have their say, let off steam and then go home rather than to bring out the riot police. We are not talking of crowds in their hundreds of thousands. Probably most of the people are from the usual protest community though it’s possible that a few others have joined in.

      • marknesop says:

        If you find a link later to your interview, Alex, will you post it? I’d like to see it, but I’ll likely be either sleeping or on my way to the airport.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Yes, they’re trying their damnedest to provoke the cops. Reports are coming in of attempts at lighting fires. The OMON heavies are on hold: they’re there, but they’re letting the Pussy Riot wannabes carry on with their tantrums.

        This picture has been posted on Reuters by an irate demonstrator.

        In the KP online transmission, where the picture is linked, it reads:

        “Blogger Rustem Adagamov has posted online photos to Reuters, in which can be seen inside a police Black Maria swings being taken at a detainee who is lying on the floor.”

        Bloody hell! I’ve said it time and time again, these dickheads don’t know they’re born!

        They want a taste of Spanish or Italian or French or Greek riot cops in order to get a taste of the Iron Fist, to say nothing of the Home of the Free and the Brave!

        Or they should try going to Merry England, to Manchester, for example, where last week a man was killed by the cops who had tasered him.

  18. reggietcs says:

    The Moon of Alabama blog has a new post on Navalny. I’ve posted the first post (so far) on the message board:

    Sorry Mark, but I had to steal your Psy/UN reference analogy. It was simply too hilarious for me not to mention it. LOL!

  19. Pingback: RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 25 July 2013 – Russia Observer

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