I have no idea what to make of this report. That is except that this whole affair is getting stranger and stranger . . . and if true, scarier and scarier.
By Cahal Milmo, Peter Popham and Jason Bennetto
Published: 29 November 2006
Alexander Litvinenko, the poisoned former Russian agent, told the Italian academic he met on the day he fell ill that he had organised the smuggling of nuclear material out of Russia for his security service employers.
Mario Scaramella, who flew into London yesterday to be interviewed by Scotland Yard officers investigating Mr Litvinenko’s death, said Mr Litvinenko told him about the operation for the FSB security service, the successor to the KGB.
Police said that Mr Scaramella, who met Mr Litvinenko at a sushi bar in London on 1 November to discuss a death threat aimed at both of them, was a potential witness. He was being interviewed at a “secure location” in London but was not in custody.
The Health Protection Agency said that eight people had been referred to a clinic in London for tests for exposure to polonium-210, the radioactive substance that killed Mr Litvinenko. It declined to say whether Mr Scaramella was among them.
A post-mortem examination will be carried out on Mr Litvinenko on Friday.
In an interview with The Independent shortly after the poisoning became public, Mr Scaramella said that Mr Litvinenko, a friend and professional contact since 2001, told him he had masterminded the smuggling of radioactive material to Zurich in 2000. There have long been concerns that turmoil in Russia and other former Soviet states after the fall of Communism created an international black market in radioactive substances.
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By Sean — 12 years ago
Two weeks ago, Suzi Weissman, who has a weekly program called Beneath the Surface on the local Pacifica station (KPFK) here in Los Angeles, interviewed Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine on his outstanding book, The Jewish Century. I wrote a review of it months ago. You can read it here. I recommend the interview for more insight into this amazing and path breaking work.
By Sean — 13 years ago
What the hell is happening in the
? All week it has been racked by political crises. First, Georgia Special Forces were sent into Tbilisi Prison No. 5 to suppress a prison riot. It seems that the riot was a well organized attempted prison break by criminal oligarchs. Seven inmates were killed along with 17 injured. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Republicof Georgia Europehas called for an independent probe into the riot. According to Kommersant, the violence has sparked calls for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s resignation and fear from the Opposition that the accusations could be used as justification to repress them. Perhaps this is already happening as Parliament MP Valery Gelashvili of opposition Republican Party was stripped of his credentials. The ruling majority claims that Gelashvili is running his construction business while a serving as a member of Parliament, which is a violation of the Georgian Constitution. The opposition is claiming that the move is a form of “repression against political opponents.” In response, the opposition is boycotting Parliament. Allegations of repression have also come from other political parties. So writes Kommersant:
“We initiated the protest action,” leader of the Labor Party Shalva Natelashvili, who has been accused of involvement in the prison uprising by several politicians, told Kommersant, “because it is simply impossible to live in modern Georgia. Our maximum program is the constitutional change of power. Our minimum program is freeing business from taxes and requisitions that Saakashvili and his advisers imposed illegally and a guarantee of the inviolability of the media. Since the beginning of the Rose Revolution, two television stations and nine publications have been closed and the director of the 202 television company was recently sentenced to four years in prison. Journalists are insulted and beaten, the free press in
is being destroyed. All of television is the personal holding of Saakashvili. And he says that he is building a democratic state.” Georgia
Next, there are rumors that the criminal oligarchs are plotting to assassinate Saakashvili. The government is accusing the Opposition that has connections to these criminal oligarchs.
The third crisis is based on allegations from Georgian media mogul Badri Patarkatsishvili that businessmen have been subjected to paying government officials bribes to avoid state harassment of their businesses. According to Kommersant,
Patarkatsishvili said that a conflict has arisen over the Imedi television channel, which he owns. Journalists investigated the murder in January of United Gregorian Bank manager Sandro Girgvliani, in which it turned out that high-placed officials of the Georgian Ministry of the Interior involved. (The murder took place after an argument in a restaurant.) The journalists found out that investigators were forced to arrest four members of the Interior Ministry’s department of constitutional security. Patarkatsishvili thinks that that caused displeasure in the administration. “Security and financial organs began to examine the activities of my companies so that I would pressure my journalists at Imdei television company to create a picture that was beneficial to the administration,” he said.
Patarkatsishvili practically accused the administration of running a racket. He said that entrepreneurs were forced to pay large sums of money to various funds founded by state structures whose expenses are unsupervised. The prosecutor’s fund alone gathered 160 million lari ($89 million). But contributions to those funds do not guaranteed businessmen immunity.
It seems that the Saakashvili government has taken up anti-oligarch rhetoric to denounce the opposition. A move that some suggest is a way to discredit the opposition’s legitimate criticisms.
If all this wasn’t bad enough, now the Saakashvili government is claiming that it has unmasked a Russian spy. Yesterday, a low level government official named Simon Kiladze was arrested for spying for an unnamed government. Many suspect the government was
since relations between the two countries have soured since the “Rose Revolution.” As a result, Saakashvili has called for a wider campaign to “root out” spies. Russia
This all came to a head yesterday as 5000-7000 opposition supporters rallied in front of the Georgian Parliament to call for Saakashvili’s resignation.
By Sean — 12 years ago
Yesterday I suggested that Sunday’s regional elections in
suggests that there is a move to create a two party system comprising of United Russia and Just Russia. This issue was first presented in an experts’ panel on Russia Profile shortly after Rodina and the Party of Life united in August. To characterize what is possibly going on in Russian electoral politics, Jim Jatras made this comparison between Russian and Russia under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI): Mexico
The key to the success of this operation [of creating a two party system] is the extent to which the Kremlin sees the second party either as a clever bit of window dressing (hopefully not) or as a serious contender for power (almost certainly not – at least not for a while). In between those two extremes the new party can still play an important role in generating new ideas and legislative initiatives and, perhaps more valuably, serving as a mechanism for monitoring and discouraging the kind of corruption that otherwise would discredit a ruling monopoly.
A good comparison can be drawn here with
, in which the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) played a transparent political game with the Catholic-oriented National Action Party (PAN). The fundamental understanding was that PAN conceded every national race with the compensation of occasional victories on the state and local level, plus minority representation in national institutions. Six years ago, however, after PRI had been in power for 70 years and had become thoroughly corrupt and ineffective, the party’s leaders saw that allowing PAN win presented less danger to themselves, both politically and physically, than continuing to hang on to power. Such a protracted timetable in Mexico would not be realistic, but in 2007, the second party should be under no illusions that it can, or should, expect more than a respectable second-place showing, a la PAN in its classic role as a designated loser. Russia
On Tuesday, the Financial Times pointed out the possibility of PAN Russian style. Despite its tokenness, Just Russia may at some point become a real opposition party “at least in the regions, where personality clashes dictate political divisions, as much as any ideology.” Further,
’s lingering remaining parties can certainly continue to participate, with probably increasing electoral restrictions (here they might take a cue from American ballot access laws), as long as they reach the 7 percent electoral threshold. But how long will that last as more people see their lot better spent on a party that might actually affect power? Will Russian voters soon hear rhetoric about “wasting votes” on smaller parties? Currently it is too soon to tell. However, as it stands now a two party system would certainly sit well with the citizenry. According to a recent poll, their political desires appear to fall somewhere in-between Putin’s “managed democracy” and the old Soviet system. Russia
A recent opinion poll commissioned by the EU-Russia Centre suggested that only 16 per cent believe in “democracy based on a western model”. Some 26 per cent are happy with the current “managed” system, and a further 35 per cent actually believe that “the Soviet system we had before the 1990s” remains the most appropriate for
Such a poll seems to deflate FT’s point that “managed democracy” “provides no safety valve for social discontent.” It doesn’t. But is social discontent really at a level where one can talk about safety valves? To some it does.
Take for example, Boris Kagarlitsky. I tend to agree with much of Kagarlitsky’s analysis. He is one of the few that do solid analysis of
from a leftwing perspective. He makes some interesting observations in his most recent column, “March 2007 vs. March 1917. Historical parallels.” Kagarlitsky believes that the lacks a safety valve for popular movements in the system is its potential contradiction. “As long as the authorities don’t change the social policy,” he writes, “the union of the liberals and different social movements will only grow stronger. The growing social discontent will lead to further politicization of the society.” His historical basis for this is February 1917, when the Russia population seethed with discontent. Similarly lacking a mechanism for relieving social discontent, the Tsarist system imploded in matter of days under the pressure of popular protest. Russia
In fact a reenactment of the February Revolution (minus October, of course) appears to be the desire of the Other Russia movement. But alas as Kagarlitsky correctly notes, “The 1917 February’s political activists were much more serious and dependable than the leaders of the United Civil Front, left alone “The Other Russia”. The civil society, at least in the cities, was incomparably better structured. The labor movement was better organized. All in all, the negative aspects are similar, while positive are not so far.” Thus contradiction of this movement, and thus the saving grace for Putin’s managed democracy might be their unwillingness to consider “radical measures.” Or to put it algebraically, a negative plus a negative equals a positive. At least it’s a positive for the emerging two party system of United Russia and Just Russia. As for
left-liberal forces? Well, the ball is not in their court. Nor are they even in the game. As Kagarlitsky concludes, “The authorities will continue ignoring protest actions as long they are united. As we know, revolutions start with the crisis of the elites.” It appears that one goal of a two party system is to prevent just that. RussiaTags: Putin|Russia|democracy|two party system|liberal democracy|capitalism|Russian elections|United Russia|Just Russia|Other Russia|Kagarlitsky