The election circus in Sochi has some new developments.
The alleged polonium murderer Andrei Lugovoi won’t be running. The LDPR announced that it will go with a different candidate. According to the NY Times, the reason for the move is because Lugovoi “would have been at a disadvantage because he was not from the Sochi region, though it also seemed that his candidacy would have been awkward for the government.” I guess that awkwardness doesn’t extend to having him in the Duma. Oh well . . .
But the big news concerns this week’s piss ammonia chloride attack on “Kremlin critic” Boris Nemtsov. As I said in a post on the incident, Nemtsov immediately charged Nashi with the assault. Nashi has not only emphatically denied the charge, they have also decided sue Nemtsov for court for the “slander.” “The “Nashi” Movement is scandalized by the accusation,” reads a Nashi press release, “and demands from Nemtsov a public apology and compensation for damage to out honor and business reputation in the amount of 1 million rubles.”
This isn’t the first time Nashi has been involved in a lawsuit over “honor.” Last February, “Kremlin critic” and Western media darling Garry Kasparov sued Nashi for insulting his “honor.” Nashi won. Kasparov remains dishonored.
Was the attack really carried out by Nashi? Like I said, the incident corresponds with their MO though splashing chemicals on their enemies is a new tactic. There is speculation that the she-male who distracted Nemtsov was in fact a Nashi activist from Ryazan named Konstantin Markov. According to Novaya gazeta, Sergei Ezhov, a Natsbol from Ryazan, recognized Markov despite his feminine disguise. Novaya presented a photo of the attacker alongside a pic of Markov for comparison.
The two figures do look similar. Both have the same square jaw and triangular nose. But so do many Russian men, and particularly the ultra-Slavic specimens Nashi seems to attract. Unfortunately, the key evidence, Markov’s bulging Adam’s apple, is hidden in the attacker’s photo. Where’s Scooby and the gang when you really need them.
Sometimes you gotta love the idiocy of Russian politics.
Photos: Novaya gazeta
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By Sean — 7 years ago
Remember Joaquim Crima, the so-called “Volgograd Obama“? The last we heard from the simple watermelon seller turned political candidate was back in 2009 when he ran for office on the United Russia ticket in Srednaya Akhtuba. The novelty an Afro-Russian candidate bequeathed Crima fifteen minutes on the world stage. He was featured in both the Russian and international media. His fame even spawned a “virtual” challenger, Fillip Kondratevto, to his moniker as Russia’s Obama. His fame even got him an audience with Vladimir Putin last summer. It was assumed, or at least I assumed, that that was the last we’d ever hear from him since I had a sneaking suspicion that Volgograd’s Obama was nothing more than a flash in the pan publicity stunt.
I guess I assumed too soon.
The “Volgograd Obama” is back and and just as his political aspirations thrust him into the news, so has his latest move: dumping United Russia. “I request to cease my membership in the party United Russia,” reads a hand scrawled note, littered with spelling mistakes. It didn’t take long for Crima to find a new political home as a member of Just Russia. “The admission of Vasilii Crima into the ranks of Just Russia is surely a significant event,” says Sergei Klimenkov, a Just Russia secretary. And why did Crima, who had been a member of United Russia since 2007 and once said that “I think that if the country had a hundred of such people like Putin, Russia would be the first in the world,” suddenly switch sides, and no less on the eve of United Russia’s regional party congress?
The answer lies in Crima’s open letter to Putin. Obviously composed by Just Russia spin doctors, it might might go down as an archetypal expression of “loyal opposition.” Criticize the locals for excessive bureaucratism and indifference to the masses (an old Soviet trope by the way), but show deference and, as Crima puts it, staunch support for the course laid out by, and the order of names are key here, Putin and President Medvedev.
Also, are we really to believe that Crima amassed 20 tons of watermelons to send to fire stricken Moscow!? You gotta be kiddin’ me. What did he expect villagers were going to do with 20 tons of melons? Throw them on the fires?
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich!
Joaquim Rit Cabi Crima is addressing you. Less than a year ago you extended to me, a simple village entrepreneur from the Sredne Akhtubinsk district in Volgograd province, the great honor by inviting me to a meeting which you held in Volgograd. There you asked me if it was better to work in Africa or in Volgograd? Today I would like to answer that question as I did then: it is not important where one works, whether in Africa or Russia, what’s important is what one works for, and here everything depends on the person. If a person actively wants to live better, he must always yearn for something greater.
An You, Vladimir Vladimirovich, agreed with me then, and literally said the following, “If we want to live better, then we need to work better–that’s the whole point. But in order to work better, we need to understand what’s going on.”
I thought of your words several times as I was deciding to leave United Russia and join Just Russia. It was this decision that promoted me to write you this letter to explain why I made such an important decision.
Over the last year the support for United Russia has significantly dropped in Volgograd. This isn’t just my opinion, our governor recently said this himself. I think that to understand why this has happened we need to look at United Russia’s regional office and the situation that has developed in Volgograd province. Volgograd residents have lost faith in the government, in the party of power, and they don’t see positive changes in their lives.
For example, among United Russia’s campaign program in the last elections for Volgograd’s provincial Duma was a promise to increase the pay of state employees, control the prices of essential goods, and prevent the increase in utility costs. None of these promises were fulfilled.
But the money for the increase of state employee salaries exists in the meager provincial budget. Along with this, several of the budget’s social clauses were put under the knife. The introduction of the institution of city manager in Volgograd has not added to the authority of United Russia’s regional office–the population of a metropolis has lost its right to elect its city leaders.
I became convinced by personal experience that United Russia is more and more becoming a party of bureaucrats. I will give you just one example. Last summer when the horrible fires raged, I came up with an idea to give humanitarian aid to two villages in Moscow province that had severely suffered from the fires. This was a simple, normal desire to help people. I managed to collect 20 tons of watermelons. All that remained was sending them to Moscow. I requested help from United Russia’s regional leadership several times, but it was all in vain–just blank walls of incomprehension and indifference to a stranger’s misfortune. The watermelons simply rotted.
United Russia has talked a lot about needing concrete action in the interests of society. Unfortunately, in my opinion, United Russia has recently moved farther and father from its principles. Concrete political work had been exchanged for well known administrative resources, people have lost their right to vote, and there is an eternal struggle for power between members. United Russia’s political monopoly has not only become a hindrance on path to democratizing our country, but also the source for making decisions that are contrary to the interests of society. This is especially clear in Volgograd province.
That’s why I have decided to leave United Russia. My humble desire to be useful to the party remains unclaimed. And to just possess a party card is not for me.
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich! Though I am no longer a member of United Russia, I remain a staunch supporter of the course of Russia’s modernization that you and President Dimitry Medvedev have taken. This course, I am sure is also shared by Just Russia. Hopefully, I will not be superfluous in its ranks.
May 4, 2011Post Views: 59
By Sean — 6 years ago
Just like that Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is gone after a 24 hour imbroglio that put him tet-a-tet with outgoing President and soon to be Prime Minister Medvedev. During a shocking announcement in Washington on Saturday, Kudrin responded to Putin’s return to the Presidency with “I do not see myself in a new government. The point is not that nobody has offered me the job; I think that the disagreements I have will not allow me to join this government.” That is the government soon to be headed by Medvedev. The differences between the two power players are well known, particularly around issues of budget austerity, which Kudrin is a staunch advocate of.
Nevertheless, Kudrin was expected to continue on as Finance Minister well on into 2012. Just two weeks ago said he was prepared to stay on. Apparently, Saturday’s big announcement blindsided him. Some are suggesting that Kudrin’s gunning for the Premiership himself, and being released as Finance Minister allows him to gun harder.
All that said, what is most surprising about all this is its publicity. Russian elite political tussles are rarely aired in open. I believe it is for this reason that Kudrin had to go. He basically violated Russian political ethics dating back at least a century.
Of which, he made three mistakes:
1) He undermined Medvedev’s authority precisely at a time when it is so shaky.
2) He broke “democratic centralism” by making public statements that diverged from agreed policy.
3) He made these statements outside of Russia, and worse, from the United States.
And this is why, Medvedev decided to undress Kudrin for all eyes to see. Medvedev’s comments weren’t for just for him. They were for everyone in the government.
Here’s a transcript of the undressing:
I want to say a few words about discipline in the Russian government. Everyone knows that we entered into an electoral campaign, that this is difficult test for the governmental system and for individual people. I believe that this affects the nerves. Apparently connected to this is a whole host of statements that have reverberated recently in our country from abroad, specifically from the United States. We generally have a entire class of citizens who make departing declarations from the other side of the ocean. There’s Alexei Kudrin, who is present here, announcing the happy news that he doesn’t plan to work in the new government and has serious differences with the active President, in particular over questions of expenditures, including military expenditures. In this context, I would like to note several things. First, there is no new government whatsoever, and no one has made any kind of invitations to anyone. But there is an old government which I formed as President and is accountable to me and will proceed within the framework of my constitutional authority. This government will carryout the course of the President and under all key decisions made under government’s leadership, including, of course, those under the Minister of Finance on issues of budgetary finance policy and generally to widest class of problems, including, of course, those having to do with expenditure on armaments.
I understand that Alexei Leonidovich has previously had the possibility to state his position and has accepted his decision on his political future. To the purpose of joining with the Right Forces, as they call it. But Alexei Leonidovich apparently refused this for some reason. Nevertheless, I would like to say that a statement like this, made in the US, appears to be offensive and cannot be excused. Second, no one can abrogate the discipline and subordination to the government. If, Alexei Leonidovich, you don’t agree with the President’s course, and the government is taking the President’s course, then you have only one option–submit your resignation. Therefore I turn directly to you here with such a suggestion–if you think that you have another viewpoint on the economic order of the day from the President, that is from me, you can write a corresponding letter of resignation. Naturally you can answer directly here and now. Would you write such a letter?
Dmitry Antolevich, I have real disagreements with you, but I have to talk with the Prime Minister before I arrive at a decision to your suggestion.
You know that you can consult with anyone you want including the Prime Minister. But I am President at the moment and I make such decisions myself.
Now you have offered me to make the decision for me, I can decide for myself . . .
I repeat again — You need to make up your mind very quickly and give me an answer today.
Or you proceed that a disagreement, as you call it, doesn’t exist and then it’s necessary for you to explain your comments. If these disagreements exist, about which you recently spoken about, I don’t see any other conclusion, although to me, of course, it would be unpleasant to do what I have said.
Lastly, I would like to say a few words about this context. If there is anyone who doubts the course of the President or the government, or if there is anyone who has their own plans, you have the right to give me your resignation. But if it must be done out in the open, I will need to put an end to any irresponsible chatter. I will accept all necessary decisions up until 7 May of next year. I hope everything is understood?Post Views: 52
By Sean — 10 years ago
The Russian news is still at a trickle at least until next week. Still there are a few articles that have caught my eye.
The first is an editorial from Nezavisimaya Gazeta published before the New Year. The big news of 2007, NG says is that “Putin is staying . . . everything else derives from this.” But as NG I think rightly points out, Putin’s continued grip on Russian politics is no so much out of a personal desire for power. It is a result of the contradiction internal to the very system he’s presided over.
“Putin was unable to quit because of the impossibility of leaving behind — without himself — strong and strong-arm elite groupings competing strongly with each other. A struggle among influential clans, getting out of control, could very quickly become a factor in the degradation of what had been achieved. He probably knows better than anyone that his entourage does not contain a successor figure comparable with himself and capable of effectively controlling the elites.” (translation, JRL #3, 2008)
I couldn’t agree more.
The real question then is how will Russia’s new “dual power” with Medvedev as President and Putin as Prime Minister balance itself out. One option would be that it won’t. It’s possible that after Medvedev is firmly planted in his new role, Putin would gradually recede or be forced into the background. Another option is that the Medvedev-Putin dyad would set the tone for future Russian administrations. Many have suggested that Putin becoming the PM will undoubtedly strengthen that otherwise weak office. Whether this strengthening will be accomplished solely on Putin’s personal power or through the law remains to be seen. United Russia deputies have already hinted that the latter is a possibility and could be completed in 2008. As it stands, United Russia couldn’t do this alone. They currently have 315 of the 360 votes needed to amend the Constitution. I doubt however they would have any trouble mustering the final 45 from the Duma “opposition.”
Others, including Putin himself, argue that such changes aren’t needed to the Constitution and could be done within its existing framework. As Andrei Ryabov notes on Gazeta.ru, the past 14 years of Russian politics have seen a few cases where there “unexpectedly emerged a second decision-making center that has objectively nudged the system toward evolution in the direction of dualism of executive power.” All one need to do is remember the Prime Ministerships of Viktor Cheromyrdin, Evgenii Primakov, and to some extent Mikhail Krasyanov. Each commanded their own centers of power that at times was antagonistic toward the Presidency. The big difference now of course is that “relations between the future president and the future premier are close and friendly” and there are even suggestions that “they have already agreed how powers will be divided up in practice, irrespective of any rules or articles of the Constitution that might apply.” So I guess we can call this “dual power” not so much by law as it is by fiat.
Well enough of the sensible commentary for now. Now on to the absurd. And what a better place to turn than Edward Lucas? Lucas is clearly enraged that Time chose Putin as Person of the Year. Fine. I can accept that. I can also accept some of his criticisms of Putin and Time’s puff piece on him. What I wonder though, is it possible to air them without mentioning “Hitler” or Garry Kasparov as “the opposition leader”? Der Fuhrer makes his appearance by Lucas’ third sentence to bolster his suggestion that naming Putin Person of the Year is akin to when Time named Hitler in 1938. Kasparov canonization’s as the only oppositional force in Russia is so tired that bringing him up appears not only rote, but revealing to how little one understands Russian politics. So Time was soft on Putin? Big deal. They’re soft on everyone.
Lionel Beehner tries to convince us that Russia doesn’t matter to us Americans as much as we think. His reasons? Russia is not a “nuclear Wal-Mart.” It’s better to look at Pakistan for that. Russia maybe an energy powerhouse, but “little of its natural gas goes toward American consumers.” Russia’s economy is resurgent, but still “light years” behind Europe. It’s economy he claims “is still smaller than Portugal’s.” As for Russia’s pulling out of the CFE treaty, helping Iran with nuclear power, and forming military ties with China, don’t worry about it! Small fish in a big pond. Putin as dictator? C’mon it’s not like “dictatorship” came “out of left field”?
For Beehner, the only thing that makes Russia matter is its veto on the UN Security Council. But of course that is assuming that the UN Security Council matters. If Russia matters so little, does this mean that Beehner is going to give that grant he got in 2006 to research post-Soviet youth movements in Ukraine and Belarus back to the German Marshall Fund? Because if Russia doesn’t matter, surely the pettily youth in its “near abroad” does even less.
True, Americans should be more tuned into more pressing concerns around the world. But it shouldn’t be done at Russia’s expense. To reduce Russia’s relevance to its UN veto power is simply encouraging the dangerous myopia too many Americans are already so comfortable with.
Ahhh . . . the song remains the same. The Daily Telegraph is getting some mileage out of Andrei Illarionov’s assertion that Putin’s circle have raided Russia’s Stabilization Fund. Though as the Telegraph points out, Illarionov “gave no details of how this allegedly occurred.” If he has no details, then why is it a story? Especially when its based on Stanislav Belkovsky’s unsubstantiated claim that Putin is worth $40 billion. I liked Leonid Radzikhovsky’s response to Belkovsky’s claim. “It is difficult to understand Belkovsky. He is known as a source of confusing information and it is hard to treat it seriously. He is an adventurer.”
Still Putin’s alleged $40 billion tucked away who knows where still intrigues many. It’s also clear that if something is repeated enough it becomes true. Even if no one thinks they could ever actually prove it. Just take Yulia Latynina’s comments on Ekhko Moskvy. She said, “I certainly cannot imagine how [Belkovsky] could prove them, and I seriously doubt that anyone ever will be able to prove that the figure of $40 billion is correct.” Is correct? Perhaps we should start with identifying what Putin has rather than whether it’s $40 billion or not.
Vladimir Filin, who is Moskovskii komsomolets’ Ukrainian editor, thinks that the $40 billion story as just another Western attempt to add “some more demonic features to Vladimir Putin’s image in the West.” Maybe. Except I would think that given how much Americans are fascinated with rich people, the $40 billion might make him more likable in their eyes. If the Kremlin really wants to spin shit into gold, they should maybe book Putin on Cribs or even do a reality show called The Putins. After all, if he does have all that bling, he might as well put it to use and score of PR brownie points.Post Views: 57