I’ve had no internet connection for the last two days, hence my silence. I promise it is not part of some plot organized by Putin. It seems from the comments list that people are making up for the slack. So continue to talk amongst yourselves. I’m also going to Ryazan this weekend so I hope things will be back to normal on Monday. Gotta go my battery is running out. You know, if Russian coffee shops want to offer Wi-Fi they should at least have plugs so you can plug in your computer.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
Here is a summary of interesting news stories coming out of Russia this week.
—The U.S. military will abandon its airbases in Uzbekistan. Uzbek President Islam Karimov’s administration asked the U.S. to leave after it suggested an international probe into the massacre of over 800 people in town of Andijan. I’m surprised. Given the Bush Administration’s “commitment” to human rights, I figured that they would make the standard public condemnations, while assuring Karimov behind the scenes that their call for a probe was far from serious. Perhaps Karimov accidentally took them seriously. This news comes as the Andijan 15 are being tried in Uzbek courts for orchestrating an uprising. It seems that the EU is taking some “harsher” measures by placing an arms embargo on Uzbekistan.
—The drama around the Beslan Mothers and cult leader Grigorii Grabovoi heats up. Several of the mothers have filed a request to the Russian General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov to investigate Grabovoi’s dealings. The appeal stated: “This cultist’s cynical promise to resurrect those killed in the terrorist act is blasphemous to all those who suffered in this dreadful tragedy. We … ask you to investigate the legality of Grigory Grabovoi’s actions and to bring him to justice under Russian law.”
—Amnesty International released a report this week condemning abductions, secret detentions, and torture carried out by Russian authorities in Ingushetia and Chechnya. The report charges that “Russia’s “war on terror” is being used as an excuse for systematic human rights abuses.” Unfortunately, Russia is not alone it the use of Bush’s “war on terror” to commit such acts without concern for national or international law, not to mention, human rights. According to the press release, Amnesty International
“detected a new trend in the human rights abuses in the North Caucasus. People are reportedly being arbitrarily detained and held in incommunicado detention, where they are subjected to torture and ill-treatment, in order to force them to confess to crimes that they have not committed. Once they have signed a “confession” they are reportedly transferred to another detention facility where they have access to a lawyer of their choice and relatives; but the confession seems to be enough “evidence” to secure their conviction.”
Such measures are a disturbing reminder of Soviet practices. Then it was “enemies of the people.” Now its “terrorists.”
—In a sign of some progress and recognition of the problem of HIV/AIDS in the military, Russian soldiers will now be given condoms before they go on leave. Official statistics put detected HIV/AIDS cases in the Russian military since 1989 has number 2000. One can assume that this number is very, very low.
—Already in anticipation to the 2008 elections, the Federal Registration Service is going to begin a “proverka,” or check, of registered Russian political parties. According to legislation passed last December, registered electoral parties must have a national membership of 100,000, and at least 500 members in each of the county’s 89 regions.
—Kommersant is reporting that the bones of General Anton Denikin, the commander of the White Army during the Russian Civil War (1918-1920, are being flown from New York for burial in the Donskoi cemetery in Moscow. The transfer comes with a special Presidential envoy.
—In another sign of progress, a St. Petersburg Court ruled that Oktyabrskaya Railroad broke the law when it rejected a man’s application because he was a homosexual. In addition, a Yaroslav court upheld the rights of a lesbian woman who was fired from teaching because of “health problems,” i.e. she’s gay. Many Russians still believe in the Soviet view that homosexuality is a mental disease.
—I don’t think that I need to dwell to long on the biggest story coming out of Russia this week: Gazprom’s $13 billion purchase of SibNeft. The purchase further consolidates Gazprom’s dominance of Russian energy and oil markets as well as shows its intention to become a global player in oil and natural gas.
—And finally, Vitaly Matyukhin, a resident of Archangelsk has spent the last 15 years in a living his summer days in a refrigerator. Matyukhin apparently suffers from a rare heat exchange disorder where he can’t be in temperatures over 5 C. So during the warm weather of September he spends most of his time in a self built refrigerator, only to come out at night. Born in Krasnodar, he moved to Archangelsk to escape the southern heat. Only in Russia . . .Post Views: 555
By Sean — 12 years ago
Though den’ Revoliutsii (November 7) is no longer an official holiday (it was replaced by People’s Unity Day which is on November 4), Russian pollsters continue take an account of how Russians view the Revolution of 1917. Mosnews has provided some interesting percentages of opinion. According to a poll taken by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center (VTsIOM) 70 percent of elderly and 54 percent of younger Russians view the Revolution positively. Only 8 percent of Russians sympathize with Nicholas II, while 21 percent support the Bolsheviks. 32 percent said that both had equal mistakes and truths. The majority of respondents felt that poverty was the main cause of the Revolution.
These polls on how Russians view their past are interesting for a number of reasons. They chart the ebbs and flows of memory; memories that seem to differ by generation, social class, and political position. Communists, who are mostly elderly, are uncompromising in their support for the Bolsheviks and the Soviet project. However, the opinions of the younger generations are perhaps more interesting. The fact that 54 percent of younger Russians, though exactly what age group this means isn’t stated, shows that the Revolution continues to hold a vital place in how Russians view their history. It also suggests that to many Russians the Revolution signifies how it made Russia a modern industrial nation and superpower. Because of this, I doubt that any question about the Revolution is simply viewed in terms of the Bolshevik seizure on November 7, 1917, but how it symbolizes and influenced Russia’s historical development in the 20th century.
As a side note, Georgy Bovt of the Moscow Times gives his views on the People’s Unity Day and Revolution Day controversy.Post Views: 143
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: 161