Putin is pardoning Mikahil Khodorkovsky.
“In regard to Khodorkovsky, I’ve already said that Mikhail Borisovich must submit the corresponding papers [for a pardon] in accordance with the law. He didn’t do this, but just recently, he wrote such a document to me with a request for a pardon. He’s been in prison for ten years and that is a serious term. He referenced humanitarian grounds. His mother is sick. And I think that a decision can be made and the decree on the pardon will be signed in the nearest time.”
The comments were made off stage just after Putin’s marathon presser. But he did hint at something in his comments on the unlikelihood of a third Yukos case during the conference. “As to ‘the third case,’ I do not want to go into details but honestly speaking I, as a person watching this from the outside, I do not see considerable prospects in this regard.”
Still, Joshua Yaffa tweeted it best:
This is how the Putin cult works: joke and banter for hours, then break hugest news of all in faux offhand way and make everyone scramble.
— Joshua Yaffa (@yaffaesque) December 19, 2013
Khodorkovsky’s people, however, say their client wrote no such pardon document to Putin.
“He never filed [an appeal for pardon], and we haven’t had any recent information about anyone appealing on his behalf. We don’t have this information, although we’ve received a number of pardon appeals on his behalf of other people over the years,” said Vadim Klyuvgant, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky to RIA Novosti.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, reiterated that Khodorkovsky wrote his boss. “Putin recently received a letter written by Khodorkovsky not long ago.”
This is big news regardless the source of Putin’s decision.
And coming on the heels of the amnesty for some of the Bolotnaya participants, the Greenpeace activists, and Pussy Riot, it points to 2014 beginning with a political thaw.
Just in time for Sochi.
More will certainly be revealed in the coming hours and days.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
Sergei Mironov, the leader of Just Russia, calls it “Socialism 3.0”. An interesting choice of words considering that this year marks the 90th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Anniversaries tend to function as both remembrance and rebirth, and the talk of “socialism” at Just Russia’s party congress might certainly be a rebirth of sorts. Even if the revival of “socialism” in Russia might simply be political verbiage rather than possessing any real material content.
Be that as it may, what is clear is that talk of “socialism” is a way for Just Russia to position themselves politically as Russia’s left wing alternative to the Communist Party. To see this all one has to do is peek into Mironov’s historical positioning of Just Russia in the “history” of socialism. In his 30 minute speech to congress delegates he spoke of how the Russian Revolution ushered in Socialism 1.0. This version was something called “war socialism”. This was later countered with Socialism 2.0, a western intervention, presumably to quell the attractiveness of version 1.0 among its populations, that was more “humanitarian.” Both of these, however, “proved to be unsustainable and inviable.” Now Mironov and his party are going top all those with “Socialism 3.0”. Not only will this socialism be the most humanitarian to date, it will do so by recognizing that the “socialist idea is supported by not only economics, but also cultural endeavors of our people. We are for a dignified and secure life for Russians.” Judging from this rhetoric, I fail to see what the upgrade features 3.0 portend to offer.
It doesn’t take a keen observer to notice how all of this sounds familiar. So much that Svetlana Goriacheva, former Communist Party member and now State Duma deputy for Just Russia, made a point to emphasize that Just Russia’s platform is different from the Communist Party’s.
But Just Russia can split hairs over this “socialism” and that “socialism” all it wants. The truth of the matter is that the party, which is nothing more than a Kremlin creation, is there to gradually whittle away at the Communist Party’s electorate. After all, Kremlin doesn’t call it “managed democracy” for nothing, and while many seek to dismiss the notion as simply ideological hot air, there is something very real in the concept.
What is “managed democracy”? Its meaning is right there in its name. It means that in the eyes of Team Putin, the Russian State will erect the building blocks for a stable democratic system that many Western states enjoy, but took decades to develop. As a great power swimming in a sea of “democratic states” Russia can’t afford to waste time taming the groundswell of democracy from below, as say the United States did to its many labor and civil rights struggles of the 20th century, by subsuming little “d” democracy back into the hegemonic machine of big “D” democracy. Such efforts require tolerating the chaotic and sometimes unpredictable nature of social movements long enough for them to fizzle out and reside themselves to work within the system rather than against it. The Russian elite is clearly not ready, or at least confident enough in their power, to give a little in the short run for grander riches in both power and money in the long run. Since the democratic lie can’t be formed organically, it must be manufactured from above.
In this sense, then, the architects of Russian democracy are working from a political position akin to Alexander Gershenkron’s ideas about the benefits of economic backwardness. Here the Russian state is privy to all the bells and whistles that most “mature” democratic states possess and use so effectively to keep their populations gleefully bathing in their own repression. Mass media, the internet, political PR firms, consultants, advertising, pundits, spokespeople are all available in Russia to package and repackage democracy as a slick, smooth, and shiny object, all consumable in one bite, or at least in one sound bite. If postmodern life is a characterized by a litany of single servings, then there is nothing to suggest that “single serving democracy” can’t be one of the choices available at the smörgåsbord of affective chimeras that constitute the modern political subject. With this in mind, if “democratic backwardness” is truly an advantage, then the Russian elite’s ability manipulate democracy’s most advanced technologies to overcome that backwardness might prove to be nothing less than revolutionary.
This is where the Just Russia’s “Socialism 3.0,” Nashi’s DMD militias, the fiction of the “specter of colored revolution,” Zubkov’s nomination, “Operation Successor,” the demonization of Berezovsky, Litvinenko, Other Russia (as if they have any power), the curtailment of NGOs, the Public Chamber, and many, many other forms of “democratic management” all enter the picture. All of these little pawns are put into motion with the hope that democracy will function in Russia like it does elsewhere else–a predictable, well oiled machine where the people are made to believe that they do the choosing, when in reality the range of choices is no more diverse than one between Coke and Pepsi.
This is by no means to suggest that Russia is any less democratic than their Western counterparts. It’s that the mechanisms for realizing democracy in Russia are much more visible, harder, and violent. With that in mind, as Mironov announces “Socialism 3.0” as part of global history of socialism, one can’t help wonder what political upgrades “managed democracy” looks to bequeath upon the world.Post Views: 41
By Sean — 5 years ago
The Kremlin seems capable of creating two types of figures: heroes and martyrs. The production of heroes is crystal clear and requires no elaboration. Martyrs, however, are a different story because they provide adrenaline to political movements to galvanize their adherents, sanctify their positions, and strengthen their solidarity. Moreover, martyrs are so needlessly created, and the Kremlin, out of either ineffectiveness or incompetence, can’t seem to stop providing even its most retrograde political foes the fertile soil for their germination into impeccable flora. And that’s the thing; the path to martyrdom is always one of transformation, a cleansing ritual that turns the corrupted into the incorruptible, the self-interested into the selfless, the vulgar into the prosaic, and the invisible into the visible. Don’t believe me? Just ask the three young women of Pussy Riot.
Sure, some will note that a vast propaganda machine, mostly emanating from the West, plays an enormous role in the elevation of the Russian opposition to sainthood. This is true. But even still, the buck stops at the Kremlin, because it is Russia’s leaders who provide the initial baptismal waters with their often unnecessary heavy handedness.
It’s too soon to say if the latest defamation, search, interrogation, and possible criminal indictment of Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov will result in his martyrdom. But the placid surface of the baptismal pools is once again rippling. And be sure the steely pens of the international martyr machine are pulsating with ink waiting to shower Udaltsov with words of benediction.
As reported yesterday, the Russian authorities prompted by their own propaganda “documentary,” Anatomy of a Protest-2, searched the apartment of and interrogated Sergei Udaltsov, arrested his aide Konstantin Lebedev, and scoured the resident of Leonid Razvozzhaev, an aide of the State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomarev. The Left Front leader has since been released on recognizance, but an indictment is expected in the coming days. Today, a court foreshadowed this inevitability by lengthening Lebedev’s original 48 hour detention to two months. As for Razvozzhaev, he’s has gone underground to whereabouts unknown.
According to the latest, prospectors have opened a criminal case claiming that Udaltsov et al. were planning their own little coup of the Russian government funded with Georgian cum American money. Originally, this coup was to take place in Kaliningrad. But according to documents filed with the Basmmanyi Court, the plot was far more ambitious. “[The trio] and other undetermined persons have planned mass violent disorder, riots and arson with the use of firearms and explosive devices in the territories of Moscow, Kaliningrad, Vladivostok and other cities.” That’s not all. The court files also state that for Udaltsov, Lebedev and Razvozzhaev to carry out their scheme, “they planned to recruit 35,000 people to carry out mass disorder by means of SMS-messages.” Given the conspiracy’s expanding breath one might think that Udaltsov, Lebedev and Razvozzhaev were really Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev readying the Military Revolutionary Committee to seize the bridges, railways and telegraphic stations before carrying out their own October Revolution. What will the Russian authorities think up next? Implicate the trio in a plot to kill Putin, Medvedev, and other Soviet, err, Russian leaders?
All of this sounds ridiculous because, well, it is. Yet, the question that consistently boggles my mind is: Why? Why does the Kremlin persist in turning virtual political nobodies with little public stature into fodder for martyrdom? One easy answer is because Russian politics is a zero-sum game, and this all or nothing contest breeds authoritarian responses. Now while access to politics is circumscribed in liberal democratic states, and repression is freely used to squash dissent (i.e. the Occupy movement), these states still maintain the illusion of political inclusion. Not in Russia. Since he’s formally returned to the driver seat, Vladimir Putin has abandoned the political chimeras people like Vladislav Surkov understood were a vital technology of rule. In its place is a strategy, if one can even call it that, that is far blunter and forceful.
Another answer, which is not wholly disconnected from the first, is that Putin et al are really, really scared. They are scared partly because Russian politics is a zero-sum game, and partly because they know deep down they sit atop a weak state that makes their ability to manage Russian society tenuous. In this scenario putting out fires replaces governance and the stick supplants the carrot. Thus, I expect this siege mentality to keep on intensifying, and the fate of Udaltsov is just another indication of that trend. The only problem is that while siege mentality is good for extinguishing fires, the ashy remains makes fertile terrain for sprouting more and more martyrs.Post Views: 71
By Sean — 5 years ago
In reference to the succession struggle after Stalin’s death, Winston Churchill famously compared the opaqueness of Kremlin politics to a “bulldog fight under a rug” where “an outsider only hears the growling and when he sees the bones fly out from beneath it is obvious who has won.” Churchill’s poignant witticism has been Kremlinologists’ seer stone since. And for good reason. Kremlinology resembles alchemy of old—one part science, one part magic, and two parts faith. Given this concoction, it’s no wonder the interpretation of Kremlin politics rests on deciphering growls, barks, and snarls.
There’s a lot of growling coming out of Moscow of late, and the bones are steadily piling on the living room floor. The grandees in Putin’s inner circle are once again entwined in a dance macabre, and as they spin, their movements unleash centrifugal forces that reverberate throughout the power elite. The endgame may be as nebulous as the politics that march to it, but the bulldogs’ muffled snarls are getting louder, generating questions whether Putin can keep a firm grip their leashes.
Image: Forbes.ruPost Views: 53