The Ukraine’s Orange “Revolution” continues to hover over Russian politics. In a speech given at Stanford University, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed concern about the growing number of Western NGOs in Russia. Given the influx of Soros money and the other financial backing of Ukrainian groups, especially the youth organization Pora, the Putin government has much to be concerned. For a while now, Administration officials have accused Western governments of funding Russian opposition forces. His comments, however, particularly targeted American NGO interference in Russia politics. As Lavrov told his Stanford audience:
“We appreciate that the USA has legitimate interests in the post-Soviet space, both in the field of combating terrorism and in accessing energy resources. These are entirely legitimate interests, which we do acknowledge, but we would want the methods by which they are realized to be understandable and transparent.”
“The number of non-governmental organizations in Russia is going up. The only thing we will not tolerate is for these organizations to be used to finance political activities, particularly from abroad. This would distort the national political process, thereby undermining the country’s development in the future.”
I can’t help relish the fact that Lavrov said this at Stanford, the traditional center of rabid anti-communism and to some extent, anti-Russianism. I also like Lavrov’s swipe at Stanford alumnus and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “I suggest she read extracts from Russian publications with criticism of the Russian Federation authorities.” This isn’t Lavrov simply posturing. If you read Russian, and Condi does, you will find a lot of criticism of the Putin Administration in Russian print media. Far more that you’ll find of the Bush Administration in the United States. You won’t, however, find that same criticism on Russian television. Most of the major networks are either under the control of or are voluntarily sympathetic to Putin.
In other news, Putin will answer callers’ questions on a live television broadcast next Tuesday. He has conducted these live question and answers shows since 2001. He used his December 2003 live show to announce his running for a second term. There is also speculation he will address whether he will seek a third term as Russian President. Such a move would require changes to the Russian constitution.
The London Guardian has a story of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Dagestan. The article is just another example of the rapidity the Chechen War is spilling over into neighboring provinces. Many have been pointing out that the increased bombings in Dagestan and the rise of militancy threatens to engulf the region.
The show trial of the Andijan15 is underway in Uzbekistan. The fifteen are accused of attempting to overthrow the Uzbek government in May 2005. The Uzbek government blames the uprising on Muslim extremists. According to independent investigations, Uzbek security forces massacred up to 700 people. The government claims only 187 people died in the uprising. Since May, Uzbekistan has prevented the return of Andijan refugees who are in UNrefugee campsin Romania and arrested and tortured scores of alleged “conspirators,” according to a recently released report by Human Rights Watch.
In an what I think is an unprecedented story, Boris Kostruba, a Russian metro officer has been sentenced to 9 years in prison for shooting a 20-year-old migrant worker from Tajikistan, Rustam Baibekov, as he tried to enter the Moscow Metro without paying. According to Mosnews, “Kostruba detained Baibekov, found he had no Moscow registration, started demanding money from him and after a refusal shot him in the mouth.” All I can say is: What the fuck!? Moscow Metro militsia are known as rather violent and corrupt bunch. The list of their activities include: bribery, hassling and beating non-Russians and tourists, and even raping young women as they travel home late at night. Usually nothing ever happens to them. So the surprise for this story is not the fact that Kostruba shot Baibekov in the mouth for skipping the metro fare. It’s that he was actually sent to prison for doing it.