I’m not sure how to take or what do to with yesterday’s Izvestia’s article (Mosnews has an English summary here) which reports that the slain leader of the Chechen nationalist movement, Alan Maskhadov believed Shamil Basaev was taking money from Boris Berezhovsky to wage war against Russia in the interests of the US and England. This information comes from statements from one “Maskhadovtsy” named Vakhit Murdashev and his lawyer Baiali El’murzaev. According to their statements, Maskhadov wanted reconcile with Moscow because he viewed that the US and England’s geopolitical interests in the Caucuses posed a more dangerous threat to Chechnya than the Kremlin. According to information Murdashev provided Izvestiia,
“Aslan Maskhadov feared that Shamil Basaev fell under the influence of Berezovskii, and worker for him for money, and could lose sight of the idea of independence and go under the sway of the West. If this was correct, [it could] work on tearing the Caucuses away from Russia. [Maskhadov and Basaev] had a fundemental disagreement over this, and in conversations with Murdashev, Maskhadov said that it was better to form an alliance with Russia than fall under the sway of the West.”
Potentially explosive stuff. However, some caution should be taken considering how some of the players are connected. Placing the exiled oligarch and major Kremlin critic Boris Berezhovsky as Basaev’s financier seems way to good to be true from the Kremlin’s perspective. Berezhovsky fled Russia to France to escape a fate similar to Mikhail Khordokovsky. The Berezhovsky-Basaev-US/Britian connection seems too conspiratorial and too easily explained as Russian concern about the US influence in the region. But what this story also presents is some bad news for the Kremlin. When Maskhadov was killed, many commentators quickly pointed out that Moscow now had no one to talk to on the Chechen side. According to other information released since his death, Maskhadov was trying to sue for peace with Russia. There are no such hopes with someone like Basaev. If the report in Izvestiia is true, it only shows further how Maskhadov’s death was a major and tragic mistake.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
Kommersant reports that police investigating Anna Politkovskaya’s murder have settled on a dominant theory about who killed her. Police have descended on the Siberian city of Nizhnevartovsk because they suspect that the killer is linked to former policemen there. Kommersant reporter Sergei Mashkin writes,
“Information received from Khant-Mansiiskii police was the reason why investigators from the General Prosecutor and operatives from Russian MVD Criminal Investigation Department departed [to Nizhnevartovsk]. One of the police there saw someone who looks like their former colleagues—Mayor Alexandr Prilepin and Colonel Valerii Minin. Presently there is an international search for them for crimes they committed in Chechnya.
However, the investigators have been unsuccessful in finding the mayor or the colonel. Possibly the police informant was mistaken or former colleagues warned the fugitives beforehand. As a result, the investigators had to be satisfied with interrogating Prilepin’s and Minin’s comrades and even their relatives.”
Prilepin and Minin are wanted in connection with the 2001 the kidnapping and death of a Chechen man named Zelimkhan Murdalov. Politkovskaya, working in tandem with Memorial, reported his disappearance and murder in Novaya gazeta in 2002. The articles were instrumental in Former Police Lieutenant Sergei Lapin’s conviction to eleven years in prison for the murder. People connected to Lapin are suspected because according to court documents, Lapin told Politkovskaya in a 2002 email, “You have ten days to publish a retraction. Otherwise the policemen you have hired to protect you will be powerless to help.”
There are three theories about who murdered Politkovskaya. The involvement of people close to Lapin was one theory. The others suggested that Razman Kadyrov had Politkovskaya murdered or that she was killed by opponents of the Kremlin to destabilize Russia.Post Views: 293
By Sean — 13 years ago
—Who will, if anyone, replace Putin after 2008? This is the question that has been on almost everyone’s lips for weeks, if not months. Opinions have vacillate between speculations about Putin changing the Russian Constitution so he could run again, or a candidate hand will be picked by Putin to run for President. That person would be an instant favorite. Both scenarios are possible. But it seems that the latter is the most likely. Putin himself was hand picked by Yeltsin. It appears that he is going to continue the tradition.
The question then becomes who? And further what kind of person will it be? The Moscow Times has an article suggesting that whoever Putin picks, it will probably be a compromise between him and the siloviki and an unnamed progressive St. Petersburg group. The siloviki are a Kremlin call of St. Petersburg intelligence officials who are the base of Putin’s power. In terms of what type of figure that will be, a report by Renaissance Capital (the report is only available to RC clients) suggests the following:
“If the siloviki are able to nominate a candidate, then the next president is likely to push to extend state control outside of the strategic sectors of the economy and into the most dynamic sectors of the Russian economy, undermining economic recovery.”
Perhaps so, but I am not convinced that increased state control will undermine economic recovery. If anything’s for sure, the lack of state control over Russia’s energy and natural resources has only lead to plunder, theft, and corruption. This is not to say that this wouldn’t happen under state control, but at least the state can direct the country’s resources in a direction that benefits the overall the interests of the country. The history of state deregulation, especially in conjunction with structural adjustment, has only led to further problems. Just look at Argentina.
The Russian government’s primary concern according to the Moscow Times is to facilitate a smooth and peaceful transfer of power. The 2008 election should not be viewed without Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan in mind. The so-called “colored revolutions” have cast a dark cloud over Russian domestic politics and there is fear that “revolution” in Russia might be next.
As for Putin himself, some are claiming that he will stay in politics perhaps as the head of United Russia or run one of Russia’s energy outfits. Only time will tell.
Komsomolskaia Pravda also ponders life after Putin but from a different perspective. The concern for the Norka Analytical Group is not who, but what will happen after Putin. Their focus is also on the question of state de/regulation. The article states:
“In the course of their economic transformations, Russia and China have dispelled the myth that private property is superior to state property. As practice shows, industrial efficiency doesn’t depend on the form of property ownership – it depends on the efficiency of the management system, which is not determined by the form of property ownership. Without going into a detailed analysis of the efficiency of China’s state economy and the inefficiency of Russia’s private sector, a number of conclusions may be drawn, the most important of which is this: the private sector in Russia is incapable of ensuring national economic development. The Russian-style capitalist will never build new enterprises that take five to seven years to provide a return on investment. He might invest in a football club, a casino, or a hotel, but he’ll never invest in innovation projects that are a method of industrial development.
The only source of funding for this development, inherited by modern Russia from the USSR, is undoubtedly the natural resources sector – which Yeltsin’s reformers hastened to transfer into private ownership. At present, even though most of the profits from energy resources are going to a group of individuals, the state is receiving substantial sums in the form of taxes and tariffs. But the economic bloc of the federal government, as represented by the so-called liberal ministers, is denying the need to develop the state sector of the real economy and doesn’t know how to use this money in private enterprise.” [Translation: Tatiana Khramtsova]
Putin’s achievement, according the Kom Prav, is that he’s put a stop to the liquidation of Russia’s state industries that began with Gorbachev and accelerated under Yeltsin.
—The Economist sets its sights on the ubiquitous problem of corruption in Russia. According to a report by Indem, “since 2001, in the number and size of bribes given by young men and their families to avoid conscription and, relatedly, in those paid to get into universities. (Fixing a court case, Indem found, has got a bit cheaper.)” Russia’s corruption index, as calculated by Transparency International, ranks Russia next to Niger, Sierra Leone and Albania.
As the Economist is quick to point out: Corruption in Russia is not simply about paying bribes to lower officials and police, it kills. The corruption of local officials has aided the blowing up to two planes and the Beslan and Nalchik attacks. Corruption makes Russia’s fight against terrorism that much more difficult.
—Mosnews is reporting that Kyrgystan’s Prime Minister, Felix Kulov is offering to resign after the in response to protests and a possible parliamentary inquiry into his involvement in the killing of deputy Tynychbek Akmatbayev. Akmatbayev was killed in a convict’s riot on Thursday in a Kyrgyz penal colony. According to witnesses,
“The clash in the prison colony No.31 in the village of Moldovanovka, it was Akmatbayev and one of his aides who first opened fire. One of the convicts, Aziz Batukayev, who is considered to be the ring leader among the convicts, ordered the killing of the MP. It was reported that he had hostile relations with the MP’s brother, Ryspek Akmatbayev, a well-known criminal. According to sources from the penitentiary, “the riots started after convicts demanded that their living conditions be improved”.
Protesters in Bishkek are claiming that Kulov is connected to the murder.
—Another outbreak of bird flu is being reported in Chelyabinsk region, in Russia’s South Urals. So far 33 birds from two different farms have died. According to an unnamed Russian agricultural ministry official,
“The risk of the lethal strain of avian flu rearing its head in Moscow or its surrounding area was “minimal”, despite an outbreak in Tula, 300 kilometres (188 miles) south of the capital. Veterinary services said Friday they suspected that the bird flu virus had now spread to 24 areas, of which 20 were in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia, three in the Kurgan region of Siberia and one in the southern region of Stavropol, though tests were still ongoing.”
The Moscow Oblast administration has decided to destroy all wild birds near poultry procession facilities to prevent the spread of bird flu into the area. Russia Profile claims that this aggressive stance in is reaction to the EU upholding its ban on Russian poultry exports.
—Kommersant is reporting that Russia’s Deputy General Procurator Nikolai Shepel’ is claiming that preliminary investigations show the Nalchik attacks were carried out by an underground international terrorist organization, and that there are strong connections between the Nalchik attacks and similar acts in Ingushetia and Beslan. He told Kommersant, “a serious organization resists us with an ideology that is a dangerous to the state.” He also claims that while the majority of militants in Nalchik were Kabardins, “persons of Chechen and Ingush nationality” were also present. Found among several of the “bandits” were written letters testifying that they were dying for “glory of God and belief.” Thus continues the effort by the Russian government to connect their regional conflict to the global war on terrorism.
For a more comprehensive discussion on Nalchik and its significance, I recommend Russia Profile’s very interesting weekly roundtable.Post Views: 1,342
By Sean — 12 years ago
The theft of 221 exhibits worth over $200 million from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has proven embarrassing for Russian authorities and has raised questions about museum security. Some of the stolen icons have been found and returned to the museum. A few arrests have been made of the perpetrators. The thefts appear to be an inside job.
There is no indication that the thefts are over. It was reported today that over 274 drawings by the Constructivist artist and architect Yakov Chernikhov from the Russian State Archive for Literature and Art (Rossisskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury i iskusstva, RGALI). The drawings are priced around $1.3 million. The theft was discovered when the Constructivist’s grandson, Andei Chernikhov, was asked to verify the origin of nine drawings on auction at Christie’s London. Chernikhov demanded that the sale be cancelled and returned to the archive.
Like the Hermitage thefts, those of RGALI appear to be an inside job according to the archive director Tatyana Goryayeva. “Unfortunately, I have to state that employees of the archive were involved. Because the main task of the archivist is to ensure the safety of documents,” she stated on Russian television. Now, Sergei Stephasin, head of the Audit Chamber is calling for “a complete inventory of all state museums in our country” and a tightening of control over art auctions. Such an inventory would be a nightmare for researchers.
Since their opening to foreign researchers in 1991, Russian archives have experienced a string of thefts. Harvard University professor, Patricia Kennedy Grimsted, who is an expert in Russian archives, wrote that in the summer of 1995 over 12,000 documents were stolen from the State Historical Archive in St. Petersburg. In 2000, eighteen documents, which included sketches by Repin were stolen from RGALI. The Literature and Art archive was hit again last summer. Four pages of Aleksandr Blok’s poem ‘Vozmezdie” and four files of Anna Akhmatova, Nikolai Gumilev, and Osip Mandelstam were pinched from the archive. Researchers were believed to be the culprits and after a brief closure were told that they would only get microfilmed copies of documents. The RGALI incident was followed by a theft of Nazi documents and medals from an archival exhibit at the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF). Both thefts were found to be inside jobs. Now many large Moscow State archives, which include RGALI, GARF, and the State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI), only give out microfilmed documents out of concerns for preservation, but also to prevent illegal copying and theft.
The reason for robbing archives are simply, yet numerous. Archivists are paid very little for their work and the archives themselves have few resources to keep operating. This has resulted in a number of abuses by archival workers and researchers alike. Many researchers remember the conditions of the archives in the 1990s when the institutions didn’t have funds to pay for utilities, preservation, and supplies. Economic destitution drove many archives into the commercial market, making legal and illegal deals with foreign scholars, publishers, and universities for Russia’s “paper gold.”
Russian archive “commercialization” only worsened the situation even though they have produced some interesting document collections. Many sensational tales about archival and researcher abuse that have since entered scholarly lore. In one case, a researcher was said to have bought the exclusive publishing rights for documents. Another told of how Western journalists and researchers arrived with large sums of western currency to purchase documents, and how Russian archivists were happy to respond and take advantage of their salivating buyers. One American researcher was told, “Why should I bother to talk to you, when German television will offer us $20,000 for one file?” This “archival commercial bubble” only hampered the ability for less fortunate researchers to do their work. As UCLA professor J. Arch Getty described the situation in the Slavic Review in 1993:
The economic collapse has made fertile ground for the activities of unscrupulous (or just plain desperate) people on all sides. Some western publishers waive handfuls of dollars at archives and demand that their documentary “purchases” be closed to others. Panicky of greedy officials demand bribes or ridiculous “user fees” for provision of routine services. In the second half of 1992, I personally witnessed several disturbing and even sickening manifestations of the economic disaster. One archive demanded five dollars per page for photocopying (because another American has paid it); elsewhere an archival employee wanted payment in dollars to provide documents to an American in the reading room. At another archive, a representative of a European publisher was carrying documents out of the building in his shirt, while a low-level employee in a stairwell offered to sell original archival materials for an airline ticket. (Slavic Review, 52:1, 1993, 102)
Such activities made some scholars call for the adoption of a code of ethics for dealing with Russian archives and archivists. To my knowledge it was never done. Even more sadly, despite scholars hopes that the Russian archival revolution would tell us the truth about the many horrors of the Soviet regime, archival research has only colored or corroborated what was already known. No scholar using archival materials has yet to produce an earth shattering study of Russian/Soviet history.
Much has changed since the 1990s. It is now more difficult to take advantage of the economic conditions of archives since there are now more controls and legal penalties concerning archival materials. Many formerly declassified holdings have been reclassified to control their dissemination. However, as the continued thefts suggest, this doesn’t mean that archives are out of the economic hole. Many archival buildings are in desperate need of renovation and modernization. There is little money for office supplies. Last summer, I had to personally buy the toner for the copy machine at one of the archives I worked at because of the long wait the lack of funds for supplies created. The archive compensated me with copies.
One of the main problems facing Russian archives is low pay and as a result de-professionalization. Most archive staff are well trained in their craft, but they are quite elderly. Once they are gone there will be few competent specialists to replace them since fewer young people are getting archival administration degrees. Besides the few professional archivists, most archives employ dedicated elderly women, or in some cases the mentally ill, because they are the only ones willing to work for such low wages. One could see an increase in theft and abuse as this older, Soviet generation of archivists are replaced by their less experienced and trained younger colleagues.
The only hope is that the thefts will make the Russian government take its archives more seriously. More reclassifications and restrictions on researchers is not the answer. They only mask the very real economic problems facing these institutions. More funding for security, modernization, and supplies as well as providing a competent well-paid staff is desperately needed if such thefts are to cease. Recognizing archivists with a holiday like Den’ arkhivistov is simply no longer enough.Post Views: 658