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.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
Another domino falls. Another symbol, if not the representative of Russian independent media, has been scooped up by a Kremlin ally. The business daily, Kommsersant was sold this week for $300 million to Alisher Usmanov. Usmanov is the owner of Owner of Oskol Steel Mill, the Ural Steel industrial complex, the Lebedinsky Iron Ore Mining and Processing Facility, and Mikhailovsky GOK (he and his partner Vasiliy Anisimov acquired the latter in the beginner of 2005. Ranked the 25th richest man in Russia and the 278th in the world by Forbes with a net worth of $2.6 billion, the 52 year old oligarch of metals and mining is now moving some of his investment into media. “This is my personal deal, my personal investments,” Usmanov told Kommersant. “The media business has always interested me and I decided to try to do it.” He then stated that he didn’t have any intention to influence the paper editorial policy. But venturing into the saturated world of media is all fine and dandy. Every good billionaire needs the press on his side. The problem however is that Kommersant is arguably Russia best newspaper. Well known and respected for its economic and political analysis, the paper has no problem launching salvos over the Kremlin’s bow. With proceeds expected to reach $70.4 million, with $15 million in net profit, Kommersant serves as both a sound economic and political investment.
This is why there is legitimate concern that Usmanov’s business ties means that the paper’s independent and bold editorial office will become yet another media outlet controlled, directly or by proxy, by the Kremlin. Under his tenor, the Russian television stations RTR, NTV, and Media-Most have fallen Putin’s grip.
One many try to assuage concerns over Kommersant editorial policy with the fact that the paper has already been owned by two billionaires. However, such an attempt can be quickly disgarded. Russia’s oligarch-in-exile Boris Berezovsky was the paper’s first owner. He sold it in February to business partner and Georgian entrepreneur Badri Patarkatsishvili. Both of these, however, are no Kremlin ally. The former had to flee to France to avoid the fate of ex-Yukos owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The latter is even considered an oppositionist in Rose revolutionary Georgia. Neither proved detrimental to the daily’s content.
For his part, Usmanov is securely set in the Kremlin business allies. He runs a metal subsidiary of Gazprom, the state owned global natural gas giant. It is for this reason that many media watchdogs have suggested that the purchase was at the Kremlin’s behest. Usmanov denies this even though he freely admits that, “No one asked me to buy the publisher, although I should say that my purchase of it was not against the wishes of the authorities. Demyan Kudryavtsev, the general director of Kommersant Publishing House assured readers that Usmanov “doesn’t intend to interfere in editorial policy.” The paper’s editor, Vladislav Borodulin, struck a more cautious note. “Before speculating on this, I must meet with the new owner[Alisher Usmanov.] The meeting is likely to take place after September15. Only afterwards could we speculate on what they want and what they expect of the staff,”
I don’t buy such assurances. Especially given the irony that the sale came a few days after the paper published a commentary by former Prime Minister, presidential hopeful, leader of the People’s Democratic Union, and Kremlin foe, Mikhail Kasyanov. The commentary was a blistering critique of Russian democracy, freedom of speech, corruption, the centralized economy and its reliance on energy exports. His words hit at the heart of Putin and the Russian State’s direction and political legitimacy. Kasyanov wrote:
“Strong authority should be legitimate – legally elected in free and just elections. Will authority be legitimate if elected in conditions of total political monopoly, gutted election laws and repeated irregularities? Will the so-called technical successor that they are promising to appoint for us be legitimate? The answer is unambiguous. No. But illegitimate authority will unavoidably continue to lose its position within the country and abroad as it vainly tries to buy legitimate authority. Authority of that kind cannot make Russia strong or free. It will conclusively set Russia’s place among the countries of the Third World. That is the unavoidable atonement for pursuing a course as a resources superpower.”
Such a critique is not without historical legacy. It is part of a long controversy in Russia between Westernizers and Slavophiles. One can say that Russia’s intellectual and political elite continue to follow this intellectual binary. The former calls for Russia to emulate the West, and learn from Enlightenment thought and humanism. The latter claims that Russia has it own particular path to follow. Russia must continue to embody Russian culture, tradition, and religion whatever kind of society it becomes. Myraids of famous Russian historical figures can be classified along these lines. Peter the Great as a Westernizer. Nicholas I was a Slavophile. Stalin was both, a Westerner who became a Slavophile when he Russified Marxism. Russian intellectual giants Alexander Herzen, Pitor Chaadev and Vissarion Belinsky were philosophically opposed to Aleksei Khomiakov, Ivan Kireevski, and Nikolai Gogol. It seems as if every Russian intellectual has to have an opinion on Chaadaev’s introductory paragraph of his infamous “Apology of a Madman” (1831). He wrote,
“One of the most deplorable things in our strange civilization is that we still have to discover the truths often very trivial ones, which other, even less advanced people discovered long ago. We have never moved in concert with other peoples; we do not belong tp any of the great families of mankind. We are not part of the Occident, nor are we part of the Orient; and we don’t have the traditions of the one or of the other. Since we are placed somewhat outside of the times, the universal education of mankind has not reached us . . .”
Looking at Kasyanov’s “Empire of Freedom” and Vladislav Surkov’s “sovereign democracy,” one hears echoes of the Occident-Orient debate in the politics of present day Russia.
The sale of Kommersant could be yet another hit against the Westernizers. With a new cold war with the United States at a chill, the scent of “colored revolutions” still in the air and, more importantly, Duma elections in 2007 and a Presidential election in 2008, such a move will further smooth Putin and United Russian consolidation of power even though a serious challenge to their hegemony is absent. Whatever Kommersant’s fate, I think we can already score another for Putin’s Slavophiles.Post Views: 482
By Sean — 12 years ago
The G-8 Summit begins next weekend in St. Petersburg. While the leaders from the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Britain meet to discuss international security, energy, education, and infectious diseases, anti-globalization activists will stage protests and gather at social forums to discuss the adverse effects of the global economic order.
St. Petersburg won’t be Genoa. For the simple reason that the anti-globalist movement has seen better days. While many in the global South are still active in resisting the neo-liberal economics of supranational organizations like the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the subsequent declaration of the Global War on Terror had altered the agenda of many activists in the United States and Europe. The mass protests and violent police repression during the 2001 G-8 Genoa, Italy now seem like distant memories associated with another time and another world. Anti-globalization protests seem pass?. So late 1990s.
There is little indication that the activities scheduled in St. Petersburg will result in a sudden revitalization or nostalgia. Activists’ attendance looks to be small, mostly because the difficulties and costs of obtaining a visa to enter the country. Russian activists will be present, but the costs of getting to the former Tsarist capital will dilute an already small movement.
Another issue that concerns protesters is the wrath of the Petersburg authorities. How convenient that the Duma recently passed and Putin signed a new anti-terrorism law. The Duma is also considering changes to the anti-extremism law that will expand the definition of “extremist,” according to Kommersant, include “impeding the legal activities of federal authorities” together with “violence or threat to use it”, and “public slander of individuals acting for a public office of Russia or its constituent subject, connected to accusing this individual of capital offense and felony.”
Still events will be held, however modest they will be. Some activists are not discouraged and enter the protests with optimism. Information on the scheduled activities can be found here and here. However, the Russian authorities will be ready for whatever happens. They even bought a water canon. Even the skinheads are being targeted as St. Petersburg tries to dispel its image as a city of racial hated.
If the stakes are low for the anti-globalists, they are certainly high for Putin. Russia is back on the geopolitical scene as it exerts its energy hegemony over Europe, is asked by Israel to put pressure on Hamas, and positions itself as an indispensable negotiator in the Iran crisis. The real test is whether Putin can use the G-8 negotiations to get American approval for Russia’s admittance into the World Trade Organization. The U.S. remains the only country opposing Russia’s membership. As of Tuesday, it seems that Putin is attempting some brinkmanship. In a press conference on the subject, he made this warning: “If we for some reason do not succeed in reaching a final agreement we will relieve ourselves of the commitments on some agreements which we have not only taken but that we are fulfilling while not even being a member of the organization.” Translation: Without membership, Russia will renege on the WTO agreements it has already signed. And why the hell not? Why should Russia commit to WTO agreements without membership? After all, it signed them as a precondition to join the organization, a move than has yet to bare fruit.
The stick was followed by a few carrots. In an interview on Thursday, Putin heaped glowing words on George Bush, calling him a “friend” and a “decent person”. He also gave Bush greetings on his 60th birthday. Overall, Putin wanted to warm the cooling relations between Moscow and Washington and state and the two countries are “principal partners” in many global issues and crises. He even defended kissing that damn kid’s belly.
All of this makes you wonder, who is on stage here: the G-8 or Vladimir Putin? It seems that the summit has turned into a golden opportunity for Putin to put Russia, (and himself), at the center and reap the most public relations benefit. With North Korea showing some teeth and Iran thumbing its nose at the international consensus, perhaps the master of ceremonies can spin its geopolitical resurgence into gold. For Russia’s sake, hopefully that gold won’t turn out to be that of fools.Post Views: 442
By Sean — 11 years ago
Here is a sad statistic. As reported in Kommersant,
According to INSI [International News Safety Institute] ,
Iraqleads with 138 murders and unexplained deaths of reporters occurred from 1996 to 2006, 88 reporters perished in Russiaand 72 in over the period. The global news media toll exceeded 1,000. Columbia
The alarming trend is the rising number of news media deaths. The death toll was 103 in 2001, but it widened to 117 in 2004 and to 167 in 2006.
, the problem of reporters’ safety is really grave, said INSI Director Rodney Pinder. Another incident of this kind happened in Russia one of these days, Pinder said, reminding about the unexplained death of Kommersant journalist Ivan Safronov. The INSI director also mentioned the recent murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Moscow
is not the only country that has a deplorable record when it comes to journalists. The survey, “Killing the Messenger,” demonstrates the global disregard for journalists. Some of its overall finding are Russia
- One thousand news media personnel have died trying to cover the news around the world in the past 10 years*.
- Only one in four died in war and other armed conflicts.
- The great majority died in peacetime, covering the news in their own countries.
- Most of those killed were murdered because of their jobs; eliminated by hostile authorities or criminals.
- Nine out of 10 murderers in the past decade have never been prosecuted.
- The news media death toll has increased steadily since 2000. The last full year covered by the report, 2005, was a record with 147 dead. It has since emerged that 2006 was even worse, with 167 fatalities, according to INSI’s annual tally.
- The Top 21 bloodiest countries over the past 10 years have been Iraq (138), Russia (88), Colombia (72), Philippines (55), Iran ** (54), India (45), Algeria (32), the former republic of Yugoslavia (32), Mexico (31), Pakistan (29), Brazil (27), USA (21), Bangladesh (19), Ukraine (17), Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone & Sri Lanka (16), Afghanistan, Indonesia & Thailand (13)
- Shooting was by far the greatest cause of death, accounting for almost half the total. Bombing, stabbing, beating, torture, strangulation and decapitation were also used to silence reporting. Some men and women disappeared, their fate unknown.
- In war, it was much safer to be embedded with an army than not – independent news reporters, so-called unilaterals, accounted for 92 per cent of the dead.
- Overall, armed forces – regular or irregular – police and officials accounted for 22 per cent of killings.
- The death toll was evenly split between press and broadcast. But news agencies, which are fewer in number, were relatively badly hit with six per cent of the total.
- Most of those who died were on staff — 91 per cent against 9 per cent freelance — and one-third fell near their home, office or hotel.
*INSI’s researchers counted all news media personnel — journalists as well as support workers such as drivers, translators and office personnel, whether staff or freelance — provided they died because of their work gathering or distributing the news. All causes of death were included, from murder through accidents to health-related.
‘s figures were swollen by one air accident in December, 2005. A military aircraft carrying news teams to cover exercises in the Gulf crashed in Iran , killing 48 journalists and media technicians aboard. TehranPost Views: 351