Memorial goes back to the Dzerzhinskii District Court on Monday to get a decision on whether the police raid on its St. Petersburg headquarters was lawful. This is the organization’s third hearing. The last one was postponed because the head investigator did not prepare his case materials. I’ll be sure to report on the hearing after it happens.
In the meantime, there is one piece of new information. According to Fontanka.ru, the raid’s head investigator Mikhail Kalganov told the judge that the raid was the result of “outside surveillance of an unknown male of slender built, who after leaving Memorial made his way to the apartment of Aleksei Andreev, the editor in chief of Novyi Peterburg. Detective Kalganov concluded that this man was Andreev himself, though he did not have any direct proof.” Readers will recall that police argue that Memorial is connected to the paper, which is under investigation for extremism.
While there has been a lot of international condemnation of the Memorial raid, Russian academics were silent for the most part. Until now. A group of 24 scholars affiliated with the Russian Academy of Sciences have sent a letter to President Medvedev, General Proscutor Chaika and St. Petersburg Prosecutor Zaitsev asking for the immediate return of Memorial’s archival materials. There was some indication that the materials were to be returned last month. That still hasn’t happened.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
Western leaders have been hoping and praying that Dmitri Medvedev will be more “liberal” in foreign and domestic policy. According to a LexisNexis search the new President elect’s name is often followed with words like “liberal,” “liberal instincts,” “liberal inclinations,” and the like. It’s not that Medvedev hasn’t given Westerners any reason to hope. Take this exchange from Medvedev’s 18 February interview with Itogi for example:
But now we will soon have a new holiday, the Day of the Lawyer. If only it could help create the rule of law.
I agree. To overcome the legal nihilism preventing the country from developing harmoniously is a long and difficult job. As it turned out, to establish a workable model of a market economy is much easier than laying the foundations of a state in which people respect the letter of the law. This is another demonstration of the thesis that democracy cannot occur in any given place after two or three years. It requires painstaking, persistent work to improve the legal and political system. Of course, one can not forget the distinctive characteristics of the Russian situation. You know, justice has always relied on a mechanism for enforcing its implementation, some kind of public stick. But if it is not based on a set of moral imperatives, on internal convictions and moral principles, if it simply aspires to the crude power of a punitive machine, then the structure it creates will be flawed and ineffective. In the nineteenth century, the Russian government was far from perfect but it was a developed system based on a set of moral and religious values. In the twentieth century, the second part of this disappeared: people were deprived of their faith in God and the state came to demonstrate either naked coercion, which at times was extremely cruel indeed, or weakness and complete failure. These are both equally bad. We all remember what the well known doctrines of the thirties and forties led to, when the talk was of class dictatorship and the presumption of guilt in criminal trials. This helped resolve some tactical problems, but in the long-term planted a time-bomb that ended the very existence of the Soviet state. You have to feel what justice is, accept it voluntarily, not obey it in some insanely prostrate way. The explosion was inevitable, it would have happened sooner or later. People rushed to the other extreme and took to systematically breaking laws. This is what happened in the nineties.
Do you think that the current system of justice is better?
Though based on quite good, solid regulatory framework, our judicial system continues to function, getting its bearings from old traditions. Disregard for the law in various sectors of society remains widespread. Until we change people’s attitudes, until we convince them there is only one law and no one is above it, there will be no change for the better. The strength of the rule of law consists in the fact that no one can influence it. Neither pressure from various authorities, including the most powerful, nor pressure from business nor social forces. Justice should be in harmony with all the participants in this process, and refuse to cave in to anyone.
These are fine words, Dmitry Anatolyevich, but how can they be put into practice?
You can start small. For example, recommend that judges at all levels keep to a minimum all contact with businessmen and even representatives of public services. To retain maximum independence and objectivity.
You can’t put people in a cage.
You don’t have to. It’s enough if you can completely eliminate the personal factor. The more faceless the legal machinery becomes, the stronger it is. I am absolutely convinced of this.
I guess we will have to see which Medvedev Russia and the world will get. Instead of getting to carried away with liberal fantasies, perhaps we should take heed of what Putin told reporters in regard to how his protege might approach foreign policy:
“I have the feeling that some of our partners cannot wait for me to stop exercising my powers so that they can deal with another person. I am long accustomed to the label by which it is difficult to work with a former KGB agent. Dmitry Medvedev will be free from having to prove his liberal views. But he is no less of a Russian nationalist than me, in the good sense of the word, and I do not think our partners will have it easier with him.”
Oh yeah that. Nationalism. No matter how liberal Medvedev may seem, if anyone thinks he’s going to go against Russia’s short and long term national interests, or more importantly, against the interests of Russia’s elite class, then keep dreaming.
Plus Medvedev has more pressing issues at hand. First and foremost is to establish his own power base in the Kremlin and in Russia’s regions. That process is already starting. Medvedev doesn’t official become president until early May, yet yesterday Putin ordered that the presidential administration to begin working for Medvedev, along with giving him a presidential level security detail. The Moscow Times is speculating that one of Medvedev’s first moves will be to fire the current cabinet and put his own guys in power. Potential members of Medvedev’s “clan” are his former law school chums from Leningrad State University. They include Anton Ivanov, chairman of the Supreme Arbitration Court; Ilya Yeliseyev, deputy chairman of Gazprombank; Konstantin Chuichenko, head of Gazprom’s legal department; and Nikolai Vinnichenko, head of the Court Marshals Service. This group is already being dubbed as the “civiliki.” All of these guys have come up on Medvedev’s tail. For example, between March 2001and March 2005, Chuichenko went from heading Gazprom’s legal department to being elected to the supervisory board of Sibneft. The others on this list shot up to important positions in media, energy, and the legal system. And the ride on Medvedev’s tail brought others riding on the civiliki tails. Such is the nature of Russian “networkism,” as Alena Ledeneva told Graham Stack in December. The question now becomes whether there will be a clash between Medvedev’s clan of civiliki and the siloviki.
If establishing a base in the Kremlin was difficult enough, it appears that he will have to do the same in Russia’s regions. Andrei Serenko’s recent article in Nezavisimaya gazeta, “Revenge from the Underground,” is a good example of what Medvedev might face. Serenko notes that the Presidential elections produced cleavages between provincial political elites. In Volgograd, for example, elites split into a “high turnout party” and a “low turn out party.” The former, mostly comprising of governors and mayors, saw the election as a test of their “professional aptitude and administrative effectiveness.” Translated, regional leaders saw high turnouts as a way to demonstrate their loyalty to the center, and specifically Putin’s choice, Medvedev. The latter are those elites’ local rivals. The “low turnout party” were those who recently lost power to the local political bosses and now seek to exact “administrative revenge.” The hope was that lower numbers for Medvedev would give the “low turnout party” a way to discredit their rivals in Moscow’s eyes.
As Dmitri Savelev, the director of the Institute for Effective Government, told Serenko, an “administrative partisan movement” has arisen in Russia’s Central and Souther provinces bent on returning ousted “old elites” to power. One way to do this was by messing with Medvedev’s local returns. The “Yarolsav opposition,” for example, tried to discredit their rivals by “intentionally discrediting the numbers of [Yaroslav] Governor Bakhukov and lowering the electoral returns for Dmitri Medvedev in the region to 30 percent, and at the same time increasing the returns for Liberal Democratic Party to 20 percent and more.” It doesn’t seem like the Yaroslav “low turn out party” was very successful. Returns show that Medvedev got 63 percent compared to Zhirinovsky’s 13 percent. In the Duma elections (also held on March 2), United Russia got 49 percent compared to LDPR’s 13 percent.
This doesn’t mean that Medvedev isn’t going to have to reestablish central control. As Serenko concludes, while regional leaders formed a united front for December’s Duma elections, the presidential election has “intensified competition among various groups of regional elites, thereby shaking the stability of the regional political system which was formed during the rule of Vladimir Putin. It’s obvious that the task of restoring this stability will be one of the priorities for Dmitri Medvedev’s administration.”
Taming the center and the periphery. Sounds like Dima already has a lot on his plate even before he actually gets to sit at the table. And people wonder why Putin is sticking around as Prime Minister.Post Views: 536
By Sean — 12 years ago
Diederik Lohman, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch and former director of its Moscow office (1997-2002) has an editorial in the Moscow Times on the issue of dedovshchina and conscript abuse in the Russian military. Lohman is the author of HRW’s October 2004 report on hazing, “The Wrongs of Passage.” This report is a must read for anyone concerned about the issue. I wrote about it months ago and you can find it here. What is good about Lohman’s editorial is that it does more than just condemn the prevalence of hazing in the Russian forces and its negligence by the government. He actually offers some solutions. They include:
- The Defense Ministry should implement zero tolerance for officers who fail to carefully monitor their troops for evidence of abuses and address abuses. Officers who fail to do so should be consistently punished, including through demotion or dismissal. The Defense Ministry and other ministries should mobilize resources to monitor the conduct of officers in this respect.
- The vast majority of soldiers who flee their units do so to escape abuses, but the military responds by returning these men to their units or punishing them for going absent without leave. No effort is made to document and address the abuse that drove them to flee. The joint working groups of the Defense Ministry and Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office should monitor not only problem units but should also investigate all cases of absence-without-leave to determine the reasons for flight. Officers in cases where soldiers fled to escape abuses should be properly punished.
- The government should establish civilian oversight mechanisms that allow representatives from ombudsman’s offices, nongovernmental groups and the Public Chamber to monitor military bases. Information collected by these civilian monitors should be used in assessing whether officers are appropriately enforcing discipline in their ranks.
- Professional noncommissioned officers should receive thorough training on preventing abuses. Their efforts to stop abuses should be closely monitored, and punitive measures should be imposed whenever they fail in this duty.
Lohman, like many, are doubtful that these changes will be made as long as the Ministry of Defense denies the fact that the root of the problem exists in the military itself. The most recent evidence of this denial is Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov’s speech on February 15.
Here is some of what Ivanov said:
Now on the causes of so-called “dedovshchina” and the measures the Ministry of Defense proposes for the eradication of this negative phenomena.
I purposefully turn your attention to the crimes (prestupleninie) which are connected to prohibited relationships (neustavnie vzamootnosheniia). As a general rule, they do precise damage to the prestige of the Military forces and provike outside social resonance.
Naturally, incidents of “dedovshchina” appear as objective and also subjective factors.
Here within there is no doubt that in its foundation as well as any other sort of military crime, rests, if I could apply such a definition, in the moral pathology of our society.
How is it expressed in it?
First, [it is expressed] in the crisis of objective ethical guidelines of a sizeable part of out population in a number of our servicemen.
Second, in legal nihilism which is institutionalized owing to the still considerable gap between the laws of the State and the real relations of our citizens to law and order.
Third, in the devaluation of traditional worth of the ideas of national culture in the mass social consciousness.
For evidence of the last thesis it is enough to simply look at the programs shown on many television channels.
Ivanov then described this culture of “catastrophe and blood” and its effects on the generation of soldiers who joined the military. While I have to agree with Ivanov that the culture of the Russian military exists within and feeds off of a wider culture, the relationship is not a simple one way street. The institution of the military and military culture plays a substantial role in Russia. Some, like historian Joshua Sanborn in his Drafting the Russian Nation, argue that the Russian nation was forged in partly through the beginning of mass military conscription in the 19th century and the experience and consequences of WWI and the Civil War. One need not also be reminded of the cult of the military and war that has developed since WWII.
Some might reject this idea of the military’s negative influence on Russian society with the argument that the military instills discipline and pride in the nation. That is true, but to a certain extent. This tends to work better in volunteer armies and in armies that don’t thoroughly exploit their soldiers. And I would argue that dedovshchina is not contradictory to the military’s overarching goals of instilling patriotism and discipline. In fact, I think that it helps foster them.
But still another thing is missing from all analyses I’ve read on the problem of dedovshchina—the culture of masculinity that all military cultures and predominately male institutions foster. It seems that the cult of masculinity needs commentary. One of dedovshchina’s “functions” is that it creates a right of passage where new recruits are transformed into soldiers. Put simply, it makes men out of boys. All one needs to do is look at the categories new and older soldiers are placed in. In addition, it reproduces the hierarchy that the military is predicated on.
So while Ivanov is correct to place the military in the context of a wider culture, the military’s culture has elements that are wholly separate from wider society. It acts, to follow someone like Foucault, as a technology of discipline at a micropolitical level. The problem is that this discipline is not always one which leaders like Ivanov desire.
Post Views: 443
By Sean — 11 years ago
They say it’s ten but no names were given in the interest of the investigation of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. The ten comprise of a Chechen native who’s a specialist in contract killings, two security officers, one from the MVD and the other FSB, and three former police officers. The other four have yet to be identified in any way, but according to the Prosecutor General Iurii Chaika, the ten are “the direct organizers, accomplices, and implementors of the crime.”
The investigation, about which information has been scant for months, revealed that the conspiracy to assassinate Politkovskaya was composed of enemies from without determined to discredit the Kremlin. “As to the motives for the murder, the results of the investigation have led us to the conclusion that only people outside the territory of the Russian Federation could have an interest in eliminating Politkovskaya.” Chaika told the media. “It first and foremost benefits people and structures which aim to destabilize the situation in the country, change its constitutional order, create a crisis in Russia, return to the former system of governance where money and oligarchs decided everything, discredit the leaders of the Russian state and a desire to provoke internal pressure on the leadership of our country.” That’s quite a mouthful. All roads, it seems, lead to Berezovsky.
One can’t describe how neatly this fits into the Kremlin’s own narrative of not only the motives for Politkovskaya’s murder, but also the high profile murders of Alexandr Litvinenko, Paul Klebnikov, and Central Bank head Andrei Kozlov.
The convergence of the Kremlin’s line with the investigation’s own findings will undoubtedly raise suspicions as to whether those arrested are really the perpetrators. And though Politkovskaya’s colleagues at Novaya gazeta, which the Prosecutor’s office informed beforehand, feel that the arrests are based in real evidence, they can’t help be concerned that they will be used for political purposes. Sergei Sokolov, the deputy chief editor of Novaya gazeta says that the staff fears that the Kremlin would attempt “to steer the case in the direction of London.” By Chaika’s statements, that already appears to be the case. In addition, Solokov told the Associated Press, “Of course we are concerned that in an election year, this crime may be used by different groups for their own aims.” In the game of politics, they would be stupid not to. Such opportunism is no more a “Russian illness,” in Sokolov’s words, than the meat and potatoes of politics itself. No matter who, where, or how they are practiced.
But while I think suspicions of who Russian authorities connect to the crime are certainly valid, one should hesitate to fall lock step with the march of conspiracy theories that are surely on the horizon. There is no doubt that the Kremlin’s will strive to rationalize Politkovskaya’s murder within it its own paradigm of paranoia. That’s a given. But to use that as impetus to search for the real conspiracy behind the conspiracy doesn’t guarantee the revelation of any deeper truths. Such a search, I’m afraid, will only fuel a paranoia opposite of the Kremlin’s. That all roads lead to an omnipresent Putin.
One things is clear, Politkovskaya as “political football” has been dusted off and re-inflated just in time for a new season.Post Views: 427