As Shamil Basayev’s death moves off the news radar, Kommersant continues to give updates to the story. According to ? correspondent Nikolai Sergeev,
The process of identifying the remains of Basaev has come to a standstill. Visual identification is impossible. Pathologists were able to take the fingerprints of the five fingers that survived the blast and to take biological samples. But they have nothing to compare them with. Basaev’s fingerprints are not on file anywhere and no usable prints were found at the site of the blast. Investigators are looking for a parent, sibling or child of the terrorist, but they have been unsuccessful in their search so far.
The reigning theory now is that the FSB has taken Basayev’s 24 year old brother-in-law, Ibragim Tsakaev, into custody as a way to pressure the remaining members of the slain terrorist’s family to help identify his remains. There is no other reason, argues Sergeev, because Tsakaev is no longer in active combat and his activities consist of difficult to prove allegations of raising money for the movement. “Representatives of the Ichkerian regime living abroad say that Tsakaev is practically a hostage and only Basaev’s close relatives can free him only by meeting their demands. They want biomaterial: blood samples, hair samples or nail clippings,” explains Sergeev.
Nothing could be more downright embarrassing for the FSB and Putin. Not only does their difficulties in identifying the body further prove that they did not have a hand in his demise, it shows their utter desperation. Putin’s prize is quickly revealing the FSB’s incompetence. What is more disturbing is that the arrest of relatives is a standard FSB strategy.
A similar strategy was used last year when the relatives of former Ichkerian president Aslan Maskhadov. Several of his relatives were rounded up in an effort to discover his location. Authorities did not succeed in that goal, but held them until close relatives agreed to give biological samples. The genetic material received from them was used in the eventual identification of Maskhadov’s body.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
In a reversal of its own decision, the Russian Supreme Court upheld the Moscow Regional court’s ban of the National Bolshevik Party. The Supreme Court’s ruling further reveals the farce of Russian democracy. Forget about what you think about the NBP, the fact that the Supreme Court contradicted itself so quickly, shows that either larger forces were at work behind the scenes or that the Court itself wields arbitrary power. In a statement to reporters after the verdict, NBP leader Eduard Limonov had this to say: “This was a historic humiliation for the Supreme Court. Big players such as the Prosecutor General’s Office intervened and pressed the judges to discard their previous verdict.” Could this be any closer to the truth? Hardly.
The ban is in response to the fact that the NBP uses the word “party” in its name even though it’s registered as a social organization. But as Limonov tells Kommersant, the NBP repeatedly tried to reregister to comply with the law but were denied. What’s next for the Natsbols? According to Limonov, “We will collect 50 thousand applications as the law demands. This is the only thing left for us, to demand legal recognition. This is a struggle. But we also exist as a large organization. Needless to say, the drama continues.Post Views: 103
By Sean — 12 years ago
The votes are counted. The winners declared. Now comes the fun part: the analysis. There isn’t much to say about the Kazakh Presidential election which isn’t already evident. There was no colored revolution. There wasn’t even an attempt at protest. The ballots were certainly stuffed. As “Presedatel’ Mike” pointed out in his post, President Nursultan Nazarbaev is truly loved but this didn’t prevent making sure he received 91 percent of the vote. Hence, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) statement that “Despite some improvements in the administration of this election in the pre-election period, the presidential election did not meet a number of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections.” We all know democracy in the CIS states is a sham, but the question, as posed by RFE/RL reporter Daniel Kimmage, is about the long term viability of “managed democracy.” On this, Kimmage writes,
“Political upheaval in
Georgia, Ukraine, and in 2003-05 highlighted the risk of catastrophic failure that comes with “managed democracy,” in which ruling elites accept elections as necessary for legitimacy but do everything in their power to predetermine the outcome. But what happens when the system avoids catastrophic failure? Does it tend toward gradual reform? Or does it degenerate, ensuring ever more splendid victories for the status quo even as it undermines competitiveness and thus retains the risk of an eventual catastrophic failure?” Kyrgyzstan
All important questions and their outcome remains to be seen. Now as before reforms to the Kazakh system lie in Nazarbaev’s will to push them forward. And despite his assurances that reforms will proceed, there is no telling when they, even if remotely genuine, will eventually contradict the personality cult of Nazarbaev himself has created.
Analysis of the short and long term meaning of the Moscow City Duma elections are also coming in. I first want to comment on today’s LA Times editorial. As I’ve noted before, my home paper does some really good reporting on Russia. However, this quality doesn’t extend to the editorial pages. Today’s edition features yet another broken record plea for the Bush Administration to tackle the problem of Russian “democracy.” The problem with the Times’ editorial is not that it argues that Russian democracy is faltering. The problem is how this analysis implies that there was once a democracy to falter. The title “CPR for Russian Democracy” suggests just that. Considering past LA Times’ editorials on this subject, the implied meaning is that before Putin there was democracy, but since his arrival it needs resuscitation. Can they surely be so na?ve to think that the Yeltsin regime was more democratic to even suggest that Russian democracy is “nascent”? By that definition, democracy should be seen as flourishing in say Venezuela, but you won’t find such statements in the Times. So where does this nascent before and authoritarian after come from? From what I can gather from this and past editorials, it comes from the fact that during Yeltsin’s presidency Russia was acting in the interests of the United States and now it has the gall to act in its own interest! After all why would Bush need to put pressure on Putin to change “authoritarian” ways when Bush surely has no problem when his allies in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt are doing far worse? Yes they are right. The US government should stop referring to Russia as a democracy. Then we can finally stop beating that dead horse and see Russia for what it is and not what we want it to be.
If you want some good analysis of the Moscow elections, I suggest turning to today’s Moscow Times. Two articles stand out. The first is an analysis of what parties received Rodina’s votes. The conclusion is that Rodina’s ban from participating only benefited the Communists, whose nationalistic platform is almost indistinguishable. But this shouldn’t surprise anyone. Rodina was created by the Kremlin to siphon nationalist votes from the KPRF so it is only logical that with Rodina dropped from the ticket sympathetic voters would swing back. The question is then, if Rodina’s ban came from “above” as many suspect, what did United Russia have to gain from it? If anything it would have been better if Rodina stayed on the ticket. Instead, the KPRF, which is United Russia’s most serious political rival, surged to capture 17 percent of the vote and gain four seats.
The second article, an editorial by Nikolai Petrov, looks at the factors that gave the elections their importance, of which he names four: 1) the first election after the passage of electoral reform, 2) a test where the political parties stand, 3) a preview for the 2008 mayoral elections, and 4) establishing new campaigning models for the 2007 parliamentary elections.
The first was mired by what Petrov and others call “dirty tricks”—voter fraud on various levels, multiple voting, stuffing ballot boxes. This according to Petrov made the post-reform electoral system “far worse.” For the second, Yuri Lukhkov’s and United Russia’s political dominance was confirmed, especially for the former, who will undoubtedly be able to hand pick his successor and well be consulted in choosing a suitable presidential heir.
Perhaps what benefits United Russia in the polls is not the corruption, but the fact that it stands for nothing. Its power is based on the popularity of both Lukhkov and Putin, Russia’s perceived prosperity, and stabilization. As Petrov notes, United Russia, unlike its foes, has no ideology. And for an electorate that grew up in a society where ideology was everything, this might be its most appealing factor.
The ruling party’s anti-ideological or perhaps better, apolitical strategy won’t bode well for Russia’s future. There are serious issues that need addressing in Moscow in particular and Russia in general, and like Kazakhstan much of their mending lies on the backs of a few political personalities. And given the path that Russian politics is taking—between the fanaticism of the far right and left, to the ideology-light of the center—there is little hope that these will be addressed in the near future.Post Views: 129
By Sean — 11 years ago
Boris Kagarlitsky, the Director of the Institute of Globalization Studies, is one of my favorite commentators on Russia. He is one of the few that examines Russia from a left social democratic perspective with the hopes that a popular Russian movement against global capital would emerge. It is because of this that I frequently feature his columns in the Moscow Times and Eurasian Home.
Kagarlitsky’s new opinion, “Putin’s Corporate Utopia,” is worth giving some thought. Among many things, he argues that corporate capitalism in Russia is an agreement amongst the political and economic elite. In exchange for politically deferring to the Kremlin bureaucracy, the economic elite gets a government that exercises power in their interests. Kagarlitsky argues that this is no different that in Germany or America in the sense that “Putin lobbies interests of the Russian business just as Angela Merkel lobbies interests of the German business, which strives to own a part of the Russian lucrative energy market.” Russian corporate interests are thus intertwined with Russian political interests. As Kagarlitsky explains:
Does the Russian state try to grip control over big business? The answer is: positively it does, but only in political sphere. As for the economic policy, few Cabinets in Russia’s history depended on capitalists more than the present Cabinet depends on the interests of big business. Corporations dictate today’s agenda in Russia – they got this right in exchange for their loyalty not only to the existing political system but to the President and any high-ranking official in the Administration.
And as the things stand today, they have all reasons to be loyal – authorities provide favorable conditions, profits and prices on shares grow constantly. Why would business beware of the Putin’s regime – because of the problems with the free press? But the business press covering mostly changes in securities quotations doesn’t suffer from the state’s pressure. Or is it because of the problems with human rights? Well, don’t you know that in our country people are different, and while some have no rights, the others have no problems at all? As for the problems with ethnic Chechens, any Chechen possessing several milliards of dollars can afford to buy amnesty and respect. As for bureaucratic pressure on small and medium businesses, doesn’t it serve the interests of big business? As a matter of fact, big business is even more practiced in making small enterprises bankrupt than the corrupt bureaucrats. Putin’s bureaucrats are ready and willing to do business themselves. Thanks to their business interests they better understand concerns of the Russian entrepreneurs. Thus, they have ousted foreign enterprises from lucrative oil business. But in doing so they opened way to domestic businesses.
For Kagarlitsky, this is a lesson Russia learned from the west. And it has been a good pupil.
There is more. To say that Russia’s general approach toward corporate capitalism is without particularities would be an analytical mistake. Capitalism’s particular qualities are a reflection of a nation’s history, culture, social structure, i.e. what Marxists call the superstructure. Many forget that the relationship between base and superstructure is dialectical. The former and latter are locked in a perpetual process of mutual influence. But it should be stressed that these Russian particularities never move from a position of quantity to quality because in the end the general character of global capital remains determinant in the last instance.
Still these superstructural additives to Russian capital are of great importance. This is what makes Putin’s capitalism more an outgrowth of the practices of Sergei Witte than that of England or America, let along the Soviet state. Kagarlitsky even cites the Count Witte to suggest that “as for the economic policy, I don’t think there has ever been more liberal government in Russia, except for the earl Sergey Witte’s ill-fated administration, which as you might know, let the country plunge into the 1905 Revolution. In a strange way, all the current free-market measures not only have failed to fight monopolies but strengthened them. After privatization the majority of corporations retained their status of natural monopolies, abolishment of state control being the only novelty.”
One many disagree with Kagarlitsky’s splitting of economics and politics into two distinct spheres as if one can be held without the other. I would purpose that instead of looking at them as in a static equilibrium (the political = the economic) or even a static hierarchy (the political over the economic or vice versa), it might be more fruitful to think of them as in a shifting relationship where in some instances, the economic trumps the political while in others the political subordinates the economic.
The tie that binds these two spheres is what Kagarlitsky defines as bureaucratic capital. It is this that gives Russian capital its particular character:
President Putin’s vision of the capitalism ? la Russe is quite plain: strong centralized power based on and supported by big private corporations. The two elements are linked by bureaucratic capital, which is permanently bread within the state and permanently privatized. Through this the state accumulates resources and sustains the order. New business projects are nourished by the state and when a chance occurs it is ceded to business or becomes a private corporation itself. Needless to say that bureaucrats are rewarded for their services – they take bribes, have their interest in flourishing businesses and enjoy loyalty from the part of big capitalists.
Bureaucrats want the oligarchs to respect certain rules, a kind of code of honor but the problem is that in this country it is ridiculous when a bureaucrat appeals to morality.
President Putin’s conception is based on a viable market approach similar to American or German corporatism, but with specific Russian character. It is that in systems of peripheral capitalism bureaucracy always tends to be outsized, corrupted and incompetent.
Being “the leading national force”, “the locomotive of development” bureaucracy can rule the state; at any rate it copes much better than private business would do. And it is accountable to the people unlike the foreign capital and its servants in Russia. For the Russian capitalism bureaucracy is the lesser evil.
The very thing that binds the two spheres is potentially its own undoing. Kagarlitsky positions the 2008 Presidential election as the test for how strong the “agreement” between politics and economics is. The election will open up a space for factions to renegotiate their positions within and in relation to each sphere. This is why the choice for the next President will be so tricky. He is going to have to be a good mediator to keep the system stable and beneficial to the major players in each sphere. It is out of these potentially irreparable cracks that Kagarlitsky hopes a popular opposition movement will arise.Post Views: 106