“What’s that? Are we getting a bus militia as well?” asks Lyudmila, a 68-year-old Moscow pensioner. Not quite yet, according to a Moscow Times article on the new trial deployment of okhraniki on Moscow buses. Mosgortrans has signed a deal with two private security companies, Fort and Vites-Vak, to “to protect passengers from fake ticket inspectors, troublemakers and shoddily dressed riffraff.” Dressed in imposing black uniforms, the two man teams carry handcuffs and teargas to handle any hooligans that attempt to disrupt the natural order of public transportation. The teargas, however, will only be used in the most dangerous of situations like when a terrorist is on the bus. Well now I feel safe! Though, I never felt afraid riding a Moscow bus. They tend to be so crowded that no one can move to disrupt the ride. But come to think of it, the only people who tended to disrupt anything were the babushki who gave you the laser beam eye, chastised you for bezkulturnost, or just bowled you over as they got on or off the bus.
In addition to nabbing fake ticket inspectors, the okhraniki will also prevent smelly and dirty people from riding the bus. “We tell off people who wear dirty clothes,” says bus okhranik Sergei Tupchenko. “Sometimes workers don’t change their clothes before taking the bus. It is unpleasant for passengers to sit next to someone like that, so we don’t allow them to take the bus.” If they do their job diligently, I expect the Moscow buses to be much emptier over the next ten days.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
It seems that we can add another body to the pile. Last Friday, Kommersant military affairs correspondent, Ivan Safronov mysteriously fell to his death from a stairway window of his apartment building. At first, Safronov’s death was ruled a suicide, but Taganka police confirmed today that a criminal investigation has been opened to probe the incident.
The incident was not without a few witnesses. According Kommersant:
Two students who live in the building across the courtyard witnessed his death. “At about [4:00], my friend and I stepped out onto the balcony to smoke,” recounted Lena, a psychology student at the Sholokhov Pedagogical Institute. “Suddenly we heard a thud, like snow falling off the rooftop. It was almost empty in the courtyard, and we immediately noticed a man lying directly in front of the canopy over the second entranceway to building No. 9. He was lying on his stomach, and it seemed to us that he tried to get up, but couldn’t.” Noticing the open window on the stairway between the fourth and fifth floors and the fact that the man’s shoes had come off and his jacket and sweater were pulled up to his armpits, the girls called an ambulance. Their call was not accepted, however. “We cannot collect all the drunks in Moscow on Friday night,” they were told, along with the advice to call back in half an hour if he was still there. He did not go away. On the contrary, he stopped moving altogether.
Lena and her friend report that they did not see anyone near Safronov, nor anyone in the windows of the stairway or leaving through that door. At least three of his neighbors on the fourth and fifth floors, an elderly lady, a young mother and a middle-aged housewife, were hole at the time. They did not hear any suspicious noises on the stairway.
Evidence of foul play has not been found, but to colleagues and friends, the idea that Safronov committed suicide seems completely implausible. True, Safronov was recently diagnosed with a stomach ulcer, but that is hardly a reason to throw yourself out a fourth story window. No suicide note was found, and according to phone records collected by Kommersant, everyone who talked with Safronov before the incident didn’t recognize anything to suggest that he was distraught, let alone on the verge of offing himself.
The question is then if Safronov didn’t commit suicide, they why was he killed? Kommersant points a recent story he was working on:
Kommersant deputy editor-in-chief Bulavinov noted that Safronov’s death may have been violent and related to his professional activities. “We cannot exclude that possibility, even though there is no direct evidence,” he said. The newspaper is aware of only one sensitive topic that Safronov was working on.
Safronov stated that he would check information that he had received on possible new deliveries of Russian weapons to the Middle East while at the IDEX 2007 arms exhibition in the United Arab Emirates. That exhibition opened February 17. Safronov was interested in the sale of Su-30 fighter jets to Syria and S-300V missiles to Iran. He had information that those deals would be concluded through Belarus, in order for Moscow to avoid accusations in the West of selling weapons to pariah states. Safronov called the editorial office from Abu Dhabi to say that he had found confirmation of his facts.
“In the first days in Abu Dhabi, Ivan was perky and cheerful as usual,” recounted journalist Vladimir Stepanov. “But on the fourth day, he seemed to change. His mood became steadily bad. He even stopped coming to dinner, saying his stomach hurt. Once he woke up the front desk at [6:00] in the morning to ask for analgesic.” Stepanov said that Safronov had no personal conflicts with anyone there, however.
Back in Moscow, Safronov did not return to work because of his health. He did attend a press conference held by the head of the Federal Service of Military and Technical Cooperation Mikhail Dmitriev at ITAR-TASS on February 27, however. There he told colleagues that he had found information that more contracts had been signed between Russia and Syria for the sale of MiG-29 jets and Pantsir-S1 and Iskander-E missiles. He added that he would not write about those deals, however, because he had been warned that doing so would cause an international scandal and the FSB would made charges against him of revealing state secrets stick. Investigations of Safronov for revealing state secrets had been started before, but no charges had veer been filed against him. He did not say who had warned him. The same day, Safronov called Kommersant and said that he would dictate his story about arms deliveries through Belarus over the telephone. He did not do so, however.
This explanation of course fuels an already smoldering fire when it comes to journalists in Russia. If Safronov’s death turns out to be murder, he will be the 14th journalist killed since Putin became president. Not to mention the several Kremlin critics who’ve recently ended up whacked. These facts are already causing news reports to connect a variety of dots that begins with Anna Politkovskaya, runs through Alexander Litvinenko, twists around Paul Joyal, and now is looking to lasso Ivan Safronov. All of this has got to perk the suspicions of even Putin’s most ardent supporters.Post Views: 112
By Sean — 12 years ago
Nalchik has rightly dominated the news this week. But a lot of other newsworthy events have occurred. Here is the brief weekly rundown of some of things that I found interesting.
, a Peruvian student was a killed and two other foreign students were injured in an attack by skinheads. In response, 200 Voronezh students rallied this week to denounce racism and xenophobia. This is just coming over Interfax: on Friday, a group of skinheads recently attacked a group of Muslim prayer house in Sergiyev Posad in Voronezh and brutally beat up leader of the local Muslim organization Arsan Sadriyev. Moscow
—It seems that the
U.S.government is trying to save face after being thrown out of . As I reported last week, Condi Rice dropped Uzbekistan from her Central Asian trip. Now she says that the Uzbekistan U.S.doesn’t need those bases anyway and bases in Afghanistanand can pick up the slack. She also vowed to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that the Kyrgyzstan U.S.won’t seek to build more bases in Central Asia. This all may be true, but the fact of the matter is that may not need a military base, but it won’t refuse one either. Now it seems that the new Kyrgyz government is questioning the necessity of a U.S. base in its country. U.S.
—Corporate criminal Mikhail Khordokovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were sent to prison this week to serve their eight year sentences for fraud and tax evasion. The past few weeks have further revealed the State’s heavy handedness when dealing with them. Khodokovsky’s appeal was thrown out. His lawyer’s offices were raided by the
police. There is speculation that more charges will be filed against him. There are charges that prison guards mistreated Lebedev. Interfax is reporting that a source from Khodokovsky family says that he will be sent to Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region and Lebedev will be in Chita Oblast. Russian officials have denied this news, saying that both will serve their term in a prison around Moscow . Moscow
—Russian Profile has an interesting article about Russians and sex. Though
Russiahas been bombarded with images of sex since the collapse of the Soviet Union, they still remain in dark when it concerns sex education. A recent survey revealed these facts about Russians and sex:
“The 2003 Durex global sex survey, which interviewed over 150,000 people in 34 countries, reveals some startling facts about Russian sexuality. Out of all the countries surveyed, Russia had the highest percentage of respondents who said they would sleep with a new partner on the first night (39 percent) and Russians were more likely than any other nationality to have had sex with their best friend’s partner (18 percent).
was also the country with the lowest average age of first sexual contact.” Russia
So Russians are doing it and doing it a lot. However, sex education continues to be seen as too controversial to be taught in schools. This has led to many Russians to go on believing in a number of rather dangerous myths:
“A survey of over 4,000 young Russians from 10 Russian regions, undertaken by Focus-Media Foundation in February, found that only 33 percent of sexually active respondents had always used condoms for sex over the preceding six months. Twenty-two percent did not realize that unprotected oral sex carries a risk, and over a quarter agreed that “if a person is fated to contract HIV, a condom won’t help.” The survey also revealed that 95 percent of young Russians felt they would like to know more about safe sex. With as many as 1 million Russians estimated to be HIV positive, simply ignoring sex education does not really seem like an option.”
Further, the article notes that while
Russiaremains a very homophobia society, things are changing according to Dmitry Gubin, editor-in-chief of FHM . He points to the emergence of the Russian “metrosexual” and the opening of more gay clubs as a positive indication. As if we didn’t have enough metrosexuals here in Russia . . . Los Angeles
—Finally, Russia Profile has reprinted an interview from Novaya Gazeta with Alexei Levinson from the Levada Center Polling Agency on the issue of Russian civil society. The question of civil society is a long standing one. Many historians blame the rise of revolutionary politics and the Bolshevik revolution on the lack of a liberal civil society in late 19th century
. I personally don’t subscribe to this idea of the Russian sonderweg, but the issue persists to inform how people think about Russian political society now. Some of Levinson’s more interesting comments is the following. When asked if “civil society” is merely a phantom, he had this to say: Russia
“The civil society people dreamed of 10-15 years ago doesn’t exist in
today. We’re seeing an entirely different process: a passive society which may simply be termed “the population” is generating interest groups that bear some resemblance to civil society structures. But this process isn’t following the paths known from the history of other countries. In Russia , the first societal groups to emerge and take shape have been those known as criminal structures. They became aware of their goals and formulated them, and now they are pursuing those goals politically, sometimes even via parliamentary channels. Russia
The people believe that the big organized crime groups have their own laws and abide by them. “Look, there’s more order in organized crime than in the bureaucracy” – that’s an opinion I’ve heard hundreds of times from poll respondents.”
Not much, it seems, has changed in post-Soviet
from the mafia governance the Communist Party provided in Soviet Russia. Such a view doesn’t give much comfort to those hoping, no, praying for a liberal Russia . RussiaPost Views: 428
By Sean — 11 years ago
Here’s a kicker. Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev is visited the United States this Friday. While having his government run ads in response to the sure to be hilarious movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev is getting the royal treatment by the Bush Administration. On Friday, Bush had the audacity to say that Kazakhstan is a “free nation”. What an idiot. Even the conservative National Review called Bush’s embracing of Nazarbayev as such:
But like too many visitors to the White House these days, Nazarbayev is an autocrat. He is not democratically elected, he allows little leeway for his opponents, and he is working to keep political power centralized in the hands of his own family. For Nazarbayev, who visited the Clinton White House twice but has not met Bush in Washington, D.C. since December 2001, the invitation is a victory. He will use the Bush White House to confirm that his autocracy has substantial U.S. support. This couldn’t come at a worse time, as a predominately Muslim Kazakhstan teeters on the brink of turning into another Saudi Arabia: corrupt at the top, with ample cause for discontent at the bottom.
But I guess that according to Bush’s definition of “free”, Kazakhstan is probably a shining beacon. I also think that we can translate “free” as geopolitically vital to US interests. If you are willing to make deals with the US, like Nazarbayev is, then you are placed in the ideological clear no matter what you do to your citizens.
As a LA Times editorial put it,
[T]here are few nations more strategically important to the United States than Kazakhstan. Its mineral resources are vast; by 2015, it is expected to account for nearly as much oil production as Iran. It is a stable U.S. ally in a region marked by shaky friends, rivals and foes, such as Russia, China, Afghanistan and Iran. It is a majority-Muslim country that sent troops to Iraq and opened its airspace to U.S. flights during the invasion of Afghanistan. It is a model for nuclear disarmament, having agreed to destroy the missiles it inherited from the former Soviet Union.
. . .
Yet Kazakhstan is too important to ignore or keep at a distance — and the reasons go far beyond its oil wealth. If Bush confines himself to meeting only with leaders who have perfect democratic records, he’ll have to rule out the heads of most countries in the developing world.
True enough. The US has to deal with these countries but it can certainly do so without such silly hyperbole. Such statements are just embarrassing and further undermine the little credibility Bush has left.
Nazarbayev’s visit was of course overshadowed by Borat and the genius publicity campaign for the upcoming movie. Borat attempted to crash the White House meeting, only to be turned away by the Secret Service.
I just hope the movie is still in theaters when I get back to the States in late November.Post Views: 142