Well, well, well. It looks like Grigory Grabovoi might get his due. The cult leader who has seduced mothers of Beslan and others with promises to resurrect their children, claims to finding a cure for AIDS, immortality, and predictions of the future has been detained for “fraudulently obtaining money from parents of the [Beslan] victims,” reports the St. Petersburg Times. For Russian readers, you can read all about it in Kommersant, complete with photos of his arrest. Prsecutors opened a criminal investigation of Grabovoi after several Beslan residents filed complaints that he swindled them.
According to Moscow prosecutors, police detained Grabovoi during a s?ance at the Komos Hotel in Moscow. He will probably be charged with fraud in the coming days. I hope they send this charlatan up the river.
You Might also like
By Sean — 12 years ago
The Moscow City Duma elections are finished. Their lead up was filled with trepidation, controversy, and speculation. All proved to be sound and predictable concerns. But there was no need took look up one of the many soothsayers and warlocks that are advertised in Moscow tabloids to predict the outcome. No palms needed to be read. No chicken bones interpreted. If Moscow gypsies earned their keep solely on giving political advice, they would have been put out of business. Indeed, nobody doubted that United Russia was going to come out more politically secure in the nation’s capital. Rather the question was where the losers stand, if anywhere, after the electoral smoke cleared.
United Russia swept all but 7 seats, dominating 28 of the 35 seats up for grab on the ballot. Out of the 34.8% (2.4 million) of registered voters who bothered to vote, they received 47.3%, the Communist Party got 16.8% or 4 seats, whole Yabloko 11.1% or 3 seats.
Moscow is the heart of Russia and pumps vital juices to the rest of the nation. Given its importance as an economic and political center, there is no doubt that the City Duma results are a preview of the 2007 Parliamentary and 2008 Presidential elections. The fact that United Russia came out so handedly, also reveals that Russian politics remains a contest between them and the Communist Party. The liberal forces and extreme right and left parties are thoroughly marginalized. With this election, Yabloko and its new ally the Union of Right Forces barely escaped shrinking into obscurity. Many felt that if Yabloko couldn’t garner 10% of the vote, there was no political future for the party. They survived by 1.1%.
However, the Western media has yet to come to terms with the utter insignificance of Yabloko. One need only turn to today’s reporting on the elections to get a full frontal of lament for Yabloko’s political collapse. It seems that everything but the truth is being used to explain why United Russia won so handedly, while Yabloko barely made a showing. Take Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for example. Yabloko’s poor showing was “because so many voters chose to stay at home” rather than because they have no constituency. If they had so much support wouldn’t they have come out to vote? Or are the Yabloko supporters voting with silence? Also predictably are charges of voter falsification and malfeasance. At least that is the analysis of Yabloko deputy chairman, Sergei Mitrokhin,
“We have come to the conclusion that the level of falsification in today’s Moscow election exceeds anything that has ever been observed in the city before. What’s more, this has been done openly, shamelessly and, I would say, insolently. A well-targeted campaign was run against Yabloko and the United Democrats of Russia throughout the election campaign, which was, in fact, run from within the Kremlin and this gives us grounds to suggest that this will now continue in the electoral constituencies by other means.”
Now granted there is no doubt in my mind that such falsification occurred. Nor do I doubt that the Kremlin has liberal parties in its sights. According to Kommersant, Mitrokhin went on to charge that the tactics for voter fraud resembled that used in Ukraine by Viktor Yanukovich’s camp:
[At one polling station] at 9:25 a.m. 107 people arrived at the same time in one of the voting places and all of them had absentee ballots. If these statements are true — the same technology, which was used by Viktor Yanukovich supporters during Ukrainian elections, was applied in Moscow. In Ukraine there were buses full of voters driving around the country and people were voting outside of their registered locations.”
Among other cited incidents, one member of local electoral commission No. 2409 was removed for “re-arranging the furniture, which was creating a fire hazard and groundless conversations with chairman and members of the commission.” In another incident, a Yabloko observer named Vitaly Reznikov tore off Vladimir Putin’s portrait from the wall at voting booth No. 2658. Reznikov considered the portrait “hidden propaganda of United Russia.” He was subsequently fined 1500 ($50) rubles for violating the Criminal Article “Petty Hooliganism.” But what is an election without a little hooliganism?
So yes strange things happened during this election but as Kommersant soberly adds, “It is highly doubtful that such technology would be effective in Moscow. Even if the Yabloko statements about the issue of 70,000 absentee ballots are true, they would not make much difference among over 2 million voters who participated in the elections.”
If the election’s end signaled the beginning of the end for Yabloko, the pre-election period showed that the nationalist party Rodina might have a firm finger on the pulse of many Muscovites. Rodina was banned from participating in the election on November26 for its advertisement (which you can watch here) that depicted some dark-skinned fellows throwing watermelon rinds on the ground as a blond Russian woman walks past them. Then two Rodina leaders, one which is chairman Dmitrii Rogozin, walk up and ask if the men “understand Russian” and to pick up the rinds. The ad ends with the Rodina banner with “Let’s clean up the garbage from our city.” The racism in the ad was lost on no one.
But Rodina didn’t stop there. According to an excellent piece by LA Times’ Moscow correspondent Kim Murphy, when the Paris race riots exploded, Rodina re-dubbed the ad in French and changed the slogan to read “France, One Year Ago.” The Moscow City Court ruled that the ad incited racial hatred and banned Rodina from participating in the elections. Most people saw right through the fact Rodina was banned for “inciting racial hatred” and correctly recognized that the move was entirely political. But the more interesting aspect of this story is the reactions from the public about the ad. Today’s LA Times story on the elections quotes a pensioner named Zoya Danilova, 63, would have voted for Rodina because “they had this ad that was very good. . . It had very good ideas in it, but someone upstairs didn’t like it so they were struck from the ballot. It’s a joy to me,” she added, “that I was born in Russia, and there’s no place I’d rather live. I love my homeland.”
Her “I was born in Russia” statement is what complicates the issue of citizenship. Most people were born not in Russia but the Soviet Union, and whether you were born in Russia, Uzbekistan, or Tajikistan it didn’t matter, you were a citizen then and many non-Russians think so should you be now. Mekhti, a 40 year old native of Baku, who Murphy interviewed agrees,
“What are you talking about? “I’m not a foreigner. I was born in this country, in the Soviet Union. I served in the Soviet army in East Germany for this country. And now Rogozin is saying that I am garbage? We are working hard, selling fruit and vegetables to people in this city, and if they could do without us, we would not be here, believe me.”
As Murphy’s article points out many Russians view blame many of society’s ills on immigrants. Tensions have risen sharply as more people from Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Tajikistan immigrate to Russia as cheap labor. In recent months, there have been several incidents of racial violence perpetrated by skinheads in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Voronezh, to name a few. The question now becomes if Rodina’s ad could curry favor among voters now, what will role will race play in the 2007 and 2008 elections?Post Views: 116
By Sean — 11 years ago
The political culture of blogging is almost as interesting as the blogs themselves. All one has to do to get a glimpse of this is to glance at a blog’s comments section. There the reader will be exposed to a rhetorical world of augmentative maneuvers that range from the thoughtful to the mundane; from the engaging to the slanderous. There is something about internet discourse that is far less restricted than face to face discussions. The internet provides a measure of anonymity that seems to grease the tongue. Denunciations and insults are common. Charges of ignorance and idiocy abound. Most people wouldn’t say half the things they do online if a real person was standing in front of them. For some this makes the internet a bastion of free speech; for others a cesspool of incivility that undercuts any notion of democratic political discourse.
The world of English language Russoblogosphere is no different. With political lines so firmly etched in the sand, Russia bloggers and their adherents have no problem launching into verbal diatribes against each other. It’s a fractured community where a verbal slip could be returned with a rhetorical slice to the jugular. Positions are often so polarized that one can often simply change a few words and the opposite opinion will be illuminated. Retrieving kernels of truth, knowledge, and insight often takes the steady hand of a sculptor of marble.
But, and rather unfortunately, as Heribert Schindler, who blogs at Российская Федерация, argues in his post “Whack the Blogs,” blogs can be more than mere rhetorics. There is a whole panoply of strategies, phrases, and techniques that go into public relations, lobbying, and the manipulation of public opinion. He contends that blogs on Russia are also no strangers to these methods. In fact, this is exactly what inspired Schindler to explore this issue:
My entry “Whack the Blogs” is admittedly inspired by a most rabid and fascinating phenomenon of blogosphere, by a persuasively US based group of spin doctors who vehemently try to convince me of them being one single hateful female and not some public relation agency or NGO.
“Whack the Blogs” intends to address the fascinating world of public relations, of lobbying and the manipulation of public opinion by discussing techniques and methods, not real life individuals or groups of people.
Of course, all characters and blogs appearing in this work are purely fictitious and I am certainly not intending to make a pun in the general direction of a living individual or any successful blog. Therefore any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is (of course) purely coincidental.
I recommend reading the whole thing. As I told him in his comments’ section, I encourage him to keep whacking away.Post Views: 437
By Sean — 12 years ago
—Newsru.com is reporting that an anti-fascist rally in front of the Moscow city hall was broken up by OMON on Sunday. About two hundred protesters gathered in response to the rise in nationalism and racism. Shortly after they gathered, buses carrying OMON officers arrived. The officers charged the crowd arresting participants. One woman was taken to the hospital with injuries after an officer hit her over the head. Sunday’s protest was in response to the nationalist rallies held on the first celebration of “Unity Day” on November 4. The holiday, which celebrates the liberation of Moscow from Poland in the 16th century, was commemorated by the ultranationalist Eurasian Youth League with a rally 1000 strong to denounce the influx of immigrants into Russia.
—The Moscow Times reports that the office of the National Bolshevik Party was raided by police on Thursday. Last week the Russian Supreme Court liquidated the NBP, overturning its own earlier ruling upholding their right to operate. NBP spokesperson, Alexander Averin told Ekho Moskvy that ten NBP members chained themselves to a radiator to protest the eviction. This made them easy targets for police to beat them.
—One year later Ukraine’s Orange Revolution continues to ripple through Russian politics. The latest ripple is the State Duma’s passing a law that restricts the operation of some 450,000 NGOs and other civil society groups operating in Russia. The law, passed 370-18 vote, with 48 abstentions by mostly Communist deputies, requires NGOs to reregister with the Justice Ministry’s Federal Registration Service under rules that give the government more oversight over NGOs’ tax flow, sources of funding, and involvement in Russian politics. The bill comes as a response to two goals of the Putin Administration. First, the Administration seeks to place tighter controls on the ability of NGOs to operate and foster Russian civil society and democracy. NGOs like Human Rights Watch, which released a briefing paper on the issue, has been increasingly critical of Russian human rights violations in Chechnya, the treatment of soldiers in the military, government censorship and control over the media, and the general whittling away of democratic checks and balances. Second, it address a concern that foreign NGOs were instrumental in funding Ukraine’s Orange Revolution; a claim that is not entirely false, but not completely true either. Moscow believes to this day that the election of Yushchenko was the result of a CIA plot and they will be damned if something like that happens in Russia. When asked about this specter of Orange Revolution in an interview on Ekho Moskvy, Alexander Petrov, the head of Human Rights Watch in Moscow downplayed the possibility and added his own thoughts on the need for a strong and influential civil society in Russia:
“I would like not to talk about Orange Revolution as a real danger which the Russian Administration, state, and state institutions are looking out for. It’s simply because Russia is a completely different state. First, it is not divided into two parts like the Ukraine, nor in three like Georgia. Opposition parties do not have enough influence in Russia. Therefore, it seems to me, that the situation is different and all these ideas about the possibility of Orange Revolution are simply a cover for something else. That is, I ask myself the question, for what reason does the government need to not only strengthen the law of registration, but also the life, activities, accounting, everything that is necessary [for them]. I cannot find an answer for this because despite all the maniacal desires to describe this one vector, the vector of civil society alongside the vectors that are already built—the vector of executive power, the vector of representative power, I call them wax figures, which appear to be representative power, but they aren’t. Because there must be debate in representative organs to check all legislation, but apparently they simply conduct all other discussions without hesitation. A similar process exists in the mass media. We see television channels look more and more like each other, and the tone of commentators, even their rhythm and tempo looks remarkably alike; you often don’t know what you are watching the first channel or the fourth. The theory is to create a third vector. But the rational, logic, and reasons for this are not recognized.”
The passing of the bill comes as government officials make stronger claims that NGOs and other civil society groups are fronts for foreign spies. Alexei Ostrovsky, a member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and co-author of the bill accused NGOs of being the tool of the CIA to destabilize Russia and promote revolution. “We remember how those human rights organizations defended human rights in Yugoslavia, Ukraine and Georgia under the cover of the CIA, and we know how it ended,” he was quoted in the Moscow Times. In an interview in Rossiiskaya gazeta, FSB head Nikolai Patrushev had this to say in reference to terrorism and the control over organizations (read: NGOs) that might aid them:
“One of the priority tasks right now, as I already said, is to identify and eliminate the funding sources and to cut off the funding channels of terrorist organizations and bandit formations.
Both our own and foreign experience demonstrates that one of the key conditions for effective enforcement work in combating terrorism is that the special services and law enforcement agencies should be endowed with the relevant procedural powers with regard to monitoring of financial flows, freezing and seizing suspect accounts, and compelling financial and credit organizations to collaborate with them.
For example, in the United States the Patriot Act introduced amendments to the laws on banking and financial confidentiality that make it possible to obtain relevant information from banking and financial institutions when international terrorism is involved.
The FSB considers it necessary to increase the liability of credit organizations and their leaders for funding terrorist activity and organized crime closely associated with it, and the Bank of Russia should respond more promptly and firmly to alarm signals from the law enforcement agencies. It is not acceptable to make money from blood.”
Putin was more measured in his remarks on the bill. Though while agreeing that Russia needs such organizations he added, “The ongoing funding of political activity in Russia from abroad, I think, must be on the state’s radar screen, especially if this funding … comes through the state channels of other countries, and … organizations operating here and involved in political activity are, in essence, used as foreign policy instruments by other states.” Only time will tell on this. But the bill is sure to send a chilling effect through NGOs, especially ones like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International which heave heavy and much needed criticism of the Putin Administration’s policies.
—Chechens go to the polls today for parliamentary elections. The vote, which is expected to solidify Moscow’s political hold in the war torn region, is sure to raise questions about the legitimacy of the results. The new leader of the Chechen separatist movement Abdul-Khalim Sadulayev appeared on Al-Jazeera denouncing the election as a “farce”:
“This is not the first time Russia performs a farce of this kind on its soil. We know how this sort of democratic elections had previously been held when they appointed [Moscow appointee Ramzan] Kadyrov to be the first Chechen president as if there had been no elections or Chechen presidents before him. Although history mentions that Dzhokhar Dudayev and Maskhadov were presidents of Chechnya, yet Russians are trying to erase them from history and to rewrite Chechen history afresh. But they could not and will not be able to do that because no-one gave them the right do so.”
Sadulayev added further:
“They are trying to add some points to the Chechen constitution indicating that the Republic of Chechnya wants to voluntarily be part of the Russian Federation. Naturally, this was not enshrined in the previous constitution and is something made up by the Russians. We know that farce very well. The Russian side in the committee in charge of drafting the Chechen constitution wrote as a clause in the constitution that Chechnya does not want independence and wants to be part of the Russian Federation. But, the Chechen side in the committee rejected that and after God took away the soul of renegade Kadyrov, they held a new farcical election that resulted in appointing Alu Alkhanov, so as to be able to steer Chechens in any direction they wish, to order achieve their own personal end. They are now trying to call these elections parliamentary elections to achieve stability, but no matter what they do this will not do them any good. There attempts will always be useless.”
To follow developments I urge readers to point their mouse to Radio Free Europe’s special section “The Crisis in Chechnya.” I hope to address the elections more thoroughly in the coming days.
—It seems that this is the year of elections in the former Soviet Republics. Azerbaijan held theirs. Chechnya is voting now. On December 4 Kazakhs will go to the polls to elect a new president. There is little doubt, with all the state oppression, manipulation, and other shenanigans, that current President Nursultan Nazarbaev will win. There are signs that the Kazakh elections are trying to appear legitimate. Last week candidates participated without Nazarbaev in a televised debate. The participants included Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, from For a Just Kazakhstan; Alikhan Baimenov, from Ak Zhol (Bright Path); Erasyl Abylkasymov, from the Communist People’s Party of Kazakhstan; and lawyer and environmentalist Mels Eleusizov. Nursaltan did not participate and was on an official visit in Ukraine. Like in all the other former republics, the elections have sparked speculation of a “colored revolution.” The leader of the opposition bloc For a Just Kazakhstan, Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, stated that his bloc “have ever planned or are planning any anti-constitutional actions or measures aimed at destabilizing the situation in the country.” This follows statements by Kazakh security forces warning that they have information that the Opposition is planning such actions and promise that if they do they will be “severely dealt with.” For more information as it develops, Radio Free Europe has set up a special section “Kazakhstan Votes 2005”.
—Finally one cannot forget that this week marked the first anniversary of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and the second anniversary for Georgia’s Rose Revolution. Paul Abelsky from Russia Profile gives a good analysis of how a year later the rifts in Ukraine continue to dog how the country relates to Russia. He argues that relations between Russia and Ukraine are still wrought with tensions. Ukraine’s dependency on Russian energy and its subsidized prices gives it little wiggle room when it comes to its relationship to its big brother. Abelsky writes:
“Ukraine will have to choose between the subsidized Russian energy exports and a more independent economic and foreign policy course. Developing a degree of self-sufficiency in the energy sector will bring obvious long-term dividends, but it is bound to result in widespread hardship for the population in the foreseeable future. Ukraine’s plunging economic growth, which fell from 12 percent in 2004 to 3 percent this year, only aggravates the political intricacies of the situation.”
To make matters worse for Yushchenko, his administration was full of promise but delivered little by way of domestic reform. His administration was cobbling together of “politicians who came to power were not able to offer a satisfactory socio-political model and, instead, became preoccupied with a banal redistribution of property and influence,” says Yury Boiko, the leader of Ukraine’s Republican Party. “The team that emerged was formed on the sole basis of a disdain for the previous government and the wish to overthrow it. Their business and political interests differed, which took a toll on all the subsequent efforts and reforms.” According to Abelsky such a situation has not squelched speculation of the legitimacy of last year’s elections, and perhaps worse squandered the “vast symbolic potential of an uprising built around declarations of justice and democracy.” Thus the parliamentary elections in March will be a more effective measure of the Orange Revolution successes and failures.
On the Georgian side, Shaun Walker gives his analysis of Georgian-Russian relations two years after Mikheil Saakashvili led protesters in overthrowing Eduard Shevardnadze. While there has been some progress on governmental transparency, Georgia is far from democratic and in fact according to Oksana Antonenko of London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, “Georgia has not become more democratic. What we’ve seen is the emergence of a very strong, centralized one-party structure, in which the president decides everything and there’s no real opposition.” While relations with the West have improved, those with Russia have gotten colder; so cold Georgia has hinted at pulling out of the CIS all together. Such a move would be an economic disaster for Georgia. Especially in the price of natural gas, who like its Ukrainian counterpart, receives price subsidies from Russia. In all, the reality of the colored revolutions is structured by economics. While Ukraine and Georgia can strive for political and foreign policy independence, their economic dependency on Russia for energy and markets hampers that desire. The champions of revolution who now sit in Kiev and Tbilisi have painfully learned a hard lesson: pro-Western and anti-Russian rhetoric might win you elections, but it won’t make it easy to rule.Post Views: 358