Lilia Shevtsova, a fellow at Moscow’s Carnegie Center, called it a “bomb, which anywhere but in Russia would cause the country to collapse.” Writing in the New York Review of Books, Amy Knight called it “a devastating picture of Putin’s eight years in the Kremlin.” In the Daily Mail, Jonathan Dimbleby declared that if such information was released about Britain, it “would certainly have provoked mass outrage, urgent official inquiries and a major police investigation – if not the downfall of the government.”
What, pray tell, is this devastating toppler of governments? Why, it’s Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov’s Putin -The Results: An Independent Expert Report (2008).
Russia watchers might have already heard about the liberal dynamic duo’s breakdown of Russia after eight years of Putin. If you’ve never heard of them, Boris Nemtsov is the one-time “young reformer” deputy prime minister who used to make Western journalists and IMF officials swoon, while Milov is a former deputy oil and gas minister during Putin’s first term; both Nemtsov and Milov served Putin early on, and both eventually fell out of favor.
Their book’s back story involved political infighting, intrigue, and apparently produced a “hysterical reaction” in the Kremlin. Nemtsov and Milov’s account was said to be such a political bomb that Nemtsov was compelled to suspend his membership in the liberal Union of Right Forces party. “I didn’t want people who are in our party to suffer in any way from what is written in it,” Nemtsov recently told Ivanovo Novosti. The authors even claim that we are lucky that Putin – The Results ever saw the light. “Strong pressure from the Kremlin” made finding a distributor difficult and dashed their hopes to shower the masses with 100,000 copies. When all was said and done, only 5,000 were printed and the only place willing to sell it was the publisher, Novaya Gazeta, at its kiosk in Moscow. (Thanks to the internet a copy can be downloaded at nemtsov.ru and a rather rushed and poorly edited English translation is available on the anti-Putin windbag blog La Russophobe.)
With all the radiant praise, political intrigue, and apparent efforts to squash its publication, I was really expecting this book to blow me away. I was prepared for a complete conversion to Nemtsovism. After all, here are two Russian political insiders who probably have enough dirt to really tar and feather Putin for good. Indeed, Putin – the Results tries to be that kind of brutal screed, but sadly, it falls way short. Though Nemtsov and Milov promise that the information they divulge is shocking, what you get instead is just a well-worn flip-flop of the official Putin line. All of the information they provide is an inversion of the Russian state’s propaganda.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
Kommersant has published more about the incident involving SPS candidate Nukha Nukhov in Dagestan. Here are some additional details from the story. As a result of the fight between Nukhov and Mohammed Aliev on 11 March, 1700 SPS votes were annulled from the election without a quorum of regional election officials but by United Russia fiat.
Fast forward to now. Four of Aliev’s brothers–Bahamed, Nabrihulla, Ali, and Mukhtar–are all standing trial for the deaths of two of Nukhov’s comrades. Mohammed Aliev was not included in the indictment. The trial of the four is what prompted Nukhov to come out of hiding and return to Dagestan. But, unfortunately for him, he was arrested on his way. According to a representative from SPS, Nukhov was arrested in a search which was prompted by a complaint by one of Aliev’s security guards. The latter claims that Nukhov wounded him in the March brawl. That was what reason prosecutors gave for slapping him with charges of “hooliganism, causing bodily injury, and possession of weapons.” Soon there after hundreds of Nukhov’s comrades rallied for his immediate release in the town square.
The local MVD denied that Nukhov arrest was politically motivated, and even local SPS leader, Iurii Gladkov was “careful in his comments.” He too denied that the arrest was connected with Nukhov’s political activities.
Other local parties disagree. For example, there’s the mysterious murder of local Yabloko leader Farid Babev. LDPR candidate Hadzhimurad Omarov says that he’s received “pressure” to drop out the elections. Just Russia candidate Abdulhamid Emirhamzaev also claims that his comrades and family members have been threatened by “security forces.” Only the local KPRF leader, Murzadin Avezov, says not a single member of his has been touched. But he added, “The Party of Power has administrative resources which render a competitive fight null and void.”
Such is the context that Duma elections will take place in Dagestan.Post Views: 50
By Sean — 12 years ago
The deputy head of Putin’s administration, Vladislav Surkov gave a rare press conference this week. His comments touched on energy geopolitics and Russian democracy. The latter topic has generated the most press as critics have tried to ascertain the meaning of Surkov’s use of “sovereign democracy” versus “managed democracy”. For the latter he gave this definition: “By managed democracy we understand political and economic regimes imposed by centres of global influence – and I am not going to mention specific countries – by force and deception.” Of course Russia doesn’t try to install “managed democracies” on its borders. Yeah, right. In this sense, Russia does what every power currently does. It uses the rhetoric of democracy as a tool of geopolitical maneuvering.
Take Surkov’s democratic rhetoric as an example. His definition of “managed democracy” is a direct reference to America’s view that the only democracy is American democracy or at least the only viable democracy is one that conforms to American interests. Surkov made these comments in the context Dick Cheney’s hypocrisy in labeling authoritarian states “democracies.” “When [Cheney] was in Kazakhstan after criticizing our democracy, he gave the highest rating to Kazakhstan’s democracy. The Kazakh people are our brothers. But I will never agree that Kazakhstan has gone further in building democracy than we have.” I’d have to score one to Surkov here. For Cheney to suggest that Nazarbayev’s regime approaches anything close to a democracy should evoke rancorous laughter. The point however is Russia is itself playing the “democracy” game by measuring others and itself against imagined, and self-referential idealism about its own democracy.
In contrast, western critics use the term “managed democracy” to describe Russia as “backsliding” into authoritarianism. Surkov essentially turned the Western usage on its head. According to Surkov, “managed democracy” is given to states that are under the American neo-imperial umbrella. So Karzai’s Afghanistan, Musharaf’s Pakistan, Mubark’s Egypt, and Iraq are democracies, while Russia is not. “They [the West],” charged Surkov in specific reference to American attempts to dominate the globes energy resources, “talk about democracy but they’re thinking about our natural resources.”
Instead, Russia is what Surkov calls a “sovereign democracy”—a democracy which acts in its own national interest and, (this got the goat of many Western reporters) is no different than democracy in Europe. “It [sovereign democracy] means we are building an open society, that we do not forget we are a free society, and that we do not want to be directed from outside,” said Surkov. In his view, Russia is moving away from the “managed democracy” of the 1990s, when Russia was racked by American influenced “shock therapy” and rule by oligarchs. “What are we backsliding from?” he asked rhetorically. “We are moving further and further away from this non-democracy.”
This semantic game was not lost on Sergei Roy, who had this to say in a recent commentary on the “managed” versus “sovereign” democracy:
Consider the controversy concerning “managed democracy” vs. “sovereign democracy.” Certain “purists” insist that either you have democracy or you don’t, that real democracy comes without any adjectives, that any additions to the concept make it less of a democracy or no democracy at all. Well, those purists should pay attention to the frequency with which the phrase “effective democracy” is used in the US ideological environment and, still more, to the practice of imposing this “effective democracy” throughout the world — most notably in Iraq, of course. Surkov’s, and quite a few other people’s, insistence on sovereign democracy means, quite simply, that to have a democracy in Russia, there must first be a Russia, recognizable to its people as their birthplace with a thousand-year history and a certain future as a single, indivisible country. A sovereign country. No wonder this term, sovereign democracy, is so virulently attacked by the said purists, for whom there can be only one kind of democracy the world over — American democracy. We see only too clearly, however, that American democracy abroad is democracy for Americans abroad and at home, not for the peoples of that “abroad.” Countries like Georgia and Ukraine are too close to Russia for us to miss the effect of the loss of sovereignty on democracy. To the US, these lands may appear to be beacons of freedom and democracy. At closer range, they look more like what the irreverent French call bordel de Dieu, the brothel of Our Lord. They are not even managed democracies, as Surkov calls them. They are mismanaged pseudo-democracies.
And I should not be too contemptuous of Georgia, Ukraine or the like. Just a few years ago, Russia was no better, with “democrats” like Gusinsky, Berezovsky, Nevzlin, Khdorkovsky, not forgetting the Family or Mr. Chernomyrdin (aka Schwarzmordekhai), ruling the land in collusion with the IMF, tearing the country apart, snarling at each other over the more succulent chunks of its assets, and stashing away the proceeds of plunder in foreign securities. That was the type of democracy in Russia that suited the West to a T. Like Surkov said, “If cannibals came to power in Russia and gave away certain things to certain people at once, they would be recognized as a democratic government.” Recall how fervent Mr. Cheney was in praise of Kazakhstani democracy on his recent visit there. Kazakhs are no cannibals, thank God, but they have given away their oil fields to Chevron — and were elevated to the status of arch-democrats by the US vice president. One might have asked what the Kazakh opposition had to say on this score — if there was any opposition worth the name to be found, for love or money.
However, while Roy agrees that Russia needs a Putin (which he refers to as “Putin A”) to move Russia away from domination by outsiders, Russia also needs a “Putin B” to act as counterweight, “otherwise the whole structure is a bit out of kilter and prone to dangerous instability.” This dangerous instability is seen in United Russia’s one party dominance over Russian politics.
What or who does Roy wish this until now non-existent counterweight to be? “A leader of the currently totally disorganized and apathetic masses, a leader who would unite these masses around a trade unions platform somewhat along the British trades union lines of the pre-Blair era. That is what the country needs — a “labor party” and a strong labor party leader, to kick the excreta out of the rotten, currently all-powerful yet incompetent bureaucratic machine and the grasping capitalists who are now exploiting and generally manhandling the proles any damn way they please.”
Roy’s comment echoes the hopes of Boris Kagarlitsky. Kagarlistky also muses on the fact that something is missing in Russian politics. And that “something” is none other than social democracy. Though much of Europe is in the hands of social democratic parties, social democracy as it was known in the early and middle part of the 20th century has all but collapsed. Social Democrats have further reconciled themselves to the Thatcherite slogan, “There is no alternative” to neo-liberal capitalism.
For Russia, however, social democracy has been bankrupt much longer. The ineffectiveness and political stupidity of the Menshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1917 along with its branding as the ideology of “enemies of the people” in the Soviet period, has relegated any social democratic hopes thoroughly in the hands of the equally moribund Communist Party. These folks, in Kagarlitsky’s eyes, are much worse than the Third Wayers in Western Europe. At least the Blairites and Schroederites bare some resemblance to a social democracy now past. Gennady Zyuganov’s “Communists” are nothing more than conservative nationalists wrapped in the red flag of working class emancipation.
It is because of this that Kagarlitsky’s (and Roys’ for that matter) hopes for the development of a Western style social democratic alternative to United Russia are only that, hopes. A substitute will come along to challenge United Russia in the political duel for Russia’s “sovereign democracy”. It just won’t be a force with a social democratic face.
So what does this all have to do with Surkov’s concept of Russia’s “sovereign democracy”? It seems that it has strange bedfellows. Roy’s doesn’t reject the notion. I doubt Kagarlitsky would either. Russian democracy should be a contest that has Russian interests in mind. It should be a sort of nationalist democracy. (And here I use nationalist to mean that it should be conducted without outside influence.) The differences are that Surkov’s democracy looks fine without an opposition to Putin/United Russia. Democracy under the helm of these two powerful forces, though not without problems, is sailing along just fine. For Roy and Kagarlitsky, this smooth sailing is only a dream vacation cruise that is steeped in ideological smoke and political grift. The real journey will undoubtedly hit some rough and choppy waters that will inevitably veer Russia’s “sovereign democracy” into the oncoming rocks.Post Views: 115
By Sean — 10 years ago
More information is coming out about the individuals arrested for Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. Moskovskii komsomolets gives a run down of the suspects. The most high profile suspect is Pavel Riaguzov, 37, a former FSB lieutenant-colonel at the Moscow City Directorate. Riaguzov has been under FSB suspicion for some time for his alleged involvement in organized crime. Riaguzov’s specialty is surveillance. Investigators claim that he tapped Politkovskaya’s phone.
Four others under detention are former police officers Dmitri Lebedev, Dmitri Grachev, Oleg Alimov, and Alexei Berkin. None of them currently work for the police. Their specialties were, according to the Moscow daily, “external surveillance”. I take this to mean that they specialized in tails and monitoring Politkovskaya’s activities outside her home.
There is also Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, 40. Four years ago, Khadzhikurbanov led a police sting against business man Frank Alcapone (aka Fizuli Mamedov). The latter was arrested for possession of a kilo of heroin, which Alcapone ‘s bodyguards claimed police planted on him. He was eventually acquitted for lack of evidence.
Then there are the three brothers Makhmudov–Tamerlan, 36, Dzhabrail, 49, and Ibrahim, 25. All three are Chechen natives. Tamerlan and Ibrahim are Moscow residents, while Dzhabrail resides in Zaraisk, Moscow oblast. Authorities claim that the three had no particular grievance against the outspoken journalist and only participated in the caper for a large sum of money. Murad Musayev, the lawyer for one of the brothers, dismissed the charges as “scare-mongering,” telling the RFE/RL’s North Caucasus Service that Russian Prosecutor General Chaika’s press conference “resembled a certain collage of populist cliches — sort of an essay that combined all the demons of Russia. Individuals from Chechnya, corrupt law-enforcement people, someone vicious and scary who is sitting abroad and contemplating a revolution in Russia, and so on.” He claimed that there was no evidence against his client and that he “did not even know who Politkovskaya was before his arrest,” adding that it appears that only two people are actually connected to the crime. Musayev also claims that his client has been repeatedly abused by Russian police during interrogation, “including being hit over the head with a bottle.”
Then there is the alleged driver (there is always a driver) Akhmed Isayev. Isayev drove the three brothers to the scene. Isayev, a former fish monger and father of one year old triplets, is said to have aided the brothers in obtaining documentation to purchase the car used in the crime.
So far only the Chechens have been officially charged with the murder. It also appears that the Russian authorities aren’t the only ones interested in the perpetrators. Ivars Godmanis, Latvia’s Interior Minister, is planning to ask Russian authorities if they have any information on whether their suspects operated in Latvia. Godmanis thinks that the group might be connected to two unsolved homicides.
Russian Prosecutors are clearly looking to get as much political mileage out of the arrests as the can. Chaika is also claiming that the 10 suspects (or 11, it’s unclear) might also have committed the murders of Forbes journalist Paul Klebnikov and Russia Central Bank head Andrei Kozlov! From the sound of it, these guys are a killing machine that is usually only found on celluloid.
And while the Russian media is focusing on the identities and backgrounds of those arrested, the foreign press, and its Russian representatives, remain focused on the allegation that Berezovsky is behind the murders. The Moscow Times ran an editorial saying that prosecutors will eventually have to provide proof that the hit was commissioned from abroad. If not “questions will linger over whether they carried out an objective investigation or simply built their case around the notion that any action besmirching the Kremlin’s reputation must have been ordered by foes-in-exile.”
Fred Weir of the Christian Science Monitor also devoted his column inches to the Berezovsky connection. Quick to point out the obvious, that Chaika’s assertion that the real criminals hail from abroad was a “political statement”, Weir proceeded to devote the bulk of the article to dismissing the notion of Berezovsky’s involvement.
Sadly, Weir is not alone in beating up on the outrageous claim that Berezovsky was involved. The San Francisco Chronicle filled their report on the arrests with a slew of experts to refute Chaika’s “enemies from abroad” claim. Several papers dealt with the same topic ad nauseum: The New Zealand Herald, Reuters, The Telegraph, and The LA Times. There are more, but you get the picture.
But it seems that the Berezovsky connection is being taken seriously in some quarters. It is no surprise that some Russian politicians are pimping Berezovsky as the devil. Russian Lower Duma rep Gennady Gudkov told Vesti that Politkovskaya’s murder falls into a slew of recent attempts “to compromise the Russian state.” In blog post on the subject, AJ Strata thinks that the idea holds some water. Bucking the supposed conventional wisdom, Strata claims that Berezovsky could certainly be behind the murder, and it could be part of a wider attempt to foment a coup against Putin.
I for one don’t buy the Berezovsky claim and think that it should be quickly dismissed as political theater. One shouldn’t make much of the fact that Russian authorities take any opportunity to bash BAB. As they should. The guy is a bastard and I have no doubt in my mind that he’s criminal that should be extradited to Russia and prosecuted. I also think that if there is one murder that sticks to Berezovsky it is Paul Klebnikov’s. Klebnikov rightly vilified BAB in his Godfather in the Kremlin, exposing the robber baron for numerous crimes. If the British had any sense of justice, they would toss him to Putin’s salivating prosecutors.
But to focus on Berezovsky’s involvement in Politkovskaya’s murder is only fit for the tabloids. It is clear that much of the Russian media understands politics when they see it and instead have moved on to more substantive issues in the story. Ironically, through their constant denial, the very people who reject Chaika’s claim are inadvertently championing its possibility. The constant mention of Berezovsky’s name, even though Chaika himself never once mentioned it, can result in one walking away with some suspicion that maybe he is involved. After all, if the claim is that ridiculous, then why all the effort to dismiss it so forcefully?Post Views: 55