Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ban on Display of Nazi and Soviet Symbols

Via Ynet

The Estonian government on Thursday approved a change to the penal code that would ban the display of Soviet and Nazi symbols and flags, saying the hammer and sickle and swastika both incite hatred.

Both the Nazi and Soviet regimes occupied Estonia at various times from 1941 to 1991, leaving bitter memories behind.

When Extremes Collide

In the Spectator (free reg. required), David Selbourne looks at the disturbing ascendancy of unreason in the blogosphere, both right and left, and considers that some sobering up may be required:

The feeling of world-endingness, of apocalypse, is rife on the sites of the ‘right’. For some, it is ‘the West’ which is done for. ‘We have allowed Islam in. We have sentenced ourselves to death’ is its voice. For others, it is Islam which faces Armageddon. ‘The final day of Islam will arrive very soon’ and it ‘will be vanquished utterly’, a blog prophet promises in biblical tones. Or another American civil war is foreseen. ‘If it breaks out,’ declares a would-be recruit, ‘my only comfort is that the left will be killed first, since most of them don’t carry guns.’

Moreover, just as the Islamist can assert that ‘we will not rest from our jihad until we have blown up the White House’, so non-Muslim terminators look to the day of a nuclear exchange. ‘I just hope the nuke attack comes soon. Let it be on the East Coast where it belongs,’ prays one; ‘I hope I wake up to Washington a glowing hole in the morning,’ prays another, almost in the same terms as the most violent of jihadists. ‘We would be able to fight back even with millions dead in our cities,’ predicts a third, ‘then we’d go get the oil fields.’

In this war of words as well as of worlds, reason is under pressure on all sides. The true complexity of things is being given short shrift by ‘experts’ and by vox pop alike: after all, London is no more ‘Londonistan’ than Israel is a ‘cancer’ and America the ‘Great Satan’. In particular, frustration at America’s reverses is driving many round the bend, if the torrent of opinion in the blogosphere is a guide. Or, as one poster demanded to know, ‘What the hell is our oil doing under their sand?’

Litvinenko, Russia, and the West

Mark Pettifor has sent the text of the following open letter:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

National Review more or less has asked the question recently “What has happened to the conservative movement?” American Spectator has yet to mention (to my knowledge) anything of the Litvinenko murder, which could play out to be a far-reaching event regarding our policy toward Russia. I mention these two magazines because they are probably viewed by most as central publications of the modern conservative movement. (I am sending this to many who work at each of those magazines.)

While domestic policy and politics is covered in these magazines with the same degree of detail as can be seen on the latest HDTV screen, discussions of foreign policy and geopolitical analysis of what is going on in places other than the Middle East is somewhat lacking. Arguably, events in Russia and China and other “non-Western” regions will have more profound effects on America and the West in the near future than anything coming from Islam, Al Qaeda, or even Iran (who would not have legs to stand on were it not for Russia). These effects will not be good ones.

One reason why the conservative movement ignores such things is that it has its own “utopian vision” of the world, which does not make it conservative in the sense that Russell Kirk and others like him defined it. It has become an ideology - one of spreading democracy and free market capitalism everywhere, in the hopes that peace and security will follow, and that all future wars will be won or lost on the battlefield of ideas, and not on real battlefields of blood and guns and sacrifice.

Almost all conservatives believe that Communism has already lost on the battlefield of ideas, and that freedom and capitalism have won. While that is obviously not true (just look at Central and South America for starters), even worse is the assumption that because of this supposed victory, a real war on a real battlefield with those who still cling to such “outdated” and “discredited” ideas will never again happen. This is starting to become an indefensible position, as not only are countries still dropping like dominoes to Communism and Marxism, but ones thought “immunized” from such ideas are seemingly rising from the dead and going back to their old ways (Russia).

To see the trouble ahead (which conservatives are obligated to do, if trouble does indeed exist), we must admit some errors of judgment. I am hoping that the following two articles will help you ponder what those errors of judgment may be.

Here are the links:

Why Poisoned Kremlin Can’t Be Trusted - by Caspar Weinberger

A New Methodology For Wet Affairs - by J. R. Nyquist

It’s time for conservatives to take a hard look at their presumptions regarding the Cold War and the “End of History.” If we keep going on as if the only enemy is Islamism, and that past enemies are dead and gone, we will be ill-prepared to defend the West against what may possibly be the greatest onslaught it has ever faced.

With highest regards,

Mark Pettifor

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bush-Ilves Press Conference


National Bank of Estonia
Tallinn, Estonia

November 28, 2006

11:00 A.M. (Local)

PRESIDENT ILVES: (As translated.) Again, I’m very happy to greet the President of the United States, George W. Bush, in our fall weather here in Tallinn. Unfortunately, the weather isn’t better than it is, but that’s how it happens. This visit and these very open meetings that we have had, President Bush has had with me, as well as with the Prime Minister, Andrus Ansip, truly prove that Estonia and the United States are close allies.

One of the main messages today was the message of freedom to those states who, like us, have chosen the way to democracy and freedom and will not bow to pressure from any of their neighbors, and by these countries we mean Georgia, Ukraine, the Balkan States. We should not hesitate to support these states. And we should not falter when any of our allies are losing hope or faith, and we will help them in every way we can.

We will also not falter in making Afghanistan more secure, where Estonia soldiers are helping to protect the welfare of Afghan citizens, again, together, hand in hand with the United States. NATO’s greatest foreign operation in the post-Cold War period, it is the greatest challenge of the postwar period. It is a challenge not only for the neighbors of these countries, but also for the whole world, as was proved by September the 11th.

We are hoping to strengthen the ties between European countries and the United States. Conflicts between us are minor or nonexistent, and any issues will be easy to resolve. President Bush’s visit to Tallinn is taking place at a time immediately before the summit of NATO in Riga. This summit shows how far the Baltic States have developed and how strong the support of our allies is for us. We want to give a strong message at the summit, and that is that the doors to NATO are not closed and this is becoming a very mature, good organization.

And I want to tell Mr. Bush, welcome to Estonia.

PRESIDENT BUSH: I’m proud to be the first sitting American President to visit Estonia. I’m really glad I came. Yours is a beautiful country and a strong friend and ally of the United States. I appreciate the warm welcome I’ve received. My only regret is that Laura is not with me. She’s receiving the Christmas tree at the White House. She sends her very best, Mr. President.

We had a lot — we had a really good discussion. The President and I spent a lot of time talking about the issue of freedom and liberty and peace. I appreciate very much the leadership Estonia is providing inside NATO.

We talked about how our nations can cooperate to achieve common objectives and promote common values, values such as human dignity and human rights and the freedom to speak and worship the way one sees fit.

Estonia is a strong ally in this war on terror. I appreciate so very much the President’s understanding of the need to resist tyranny. Of all the people in the world who understand what tyranny can do it’s the Estonian people. I appreciate very much the fact that Estonia is helping others resist tyranny and realize their dreams of living in a free society. In Afghanistan, Estonians are serving as a part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in a dangerous province that the extremists, the Taliban, seeks to control. I appreciate the fact that your forces are serving bravely, Mr. President. The people of Estonia need to be proud of their military. It’s a fine military. And the commitment of your people is important to helping secure the peace.

I appreciate the troops that you have sent to Iraq. I also understand Estonian soldiers have been wounded and two soldiers have given their lives. We hold their families in our hearts. We lift them up in prayer. And Americans are grateful to be serving alongside such brave allies.

Estonia is sharing its democratic experience with other nations. You have made a very successful transition to democracy, and you’re helping other nations do the same, and that is a vital contribution to world peace. I appreciate the fact that you’re training leaders from Georgia to Moldova to the Ukraine. I appreciate the assistance programs you’re providing to the Afghan people. I also appreciate the fact that you work with your neighbors and through the European Union to promote freedom in this region and around the globe.

This morning the Prime Minister and I had a chance to meet, as well, and he introduced me to some of your citizens who are helping to build democracies, and I thanked them for their work.

We also discussed how Estonia has built a strong economy and raised the standard of living for the people. I appreciate the fact that you got a flat tax, you got a tax system that’s transparent and simple. I also am amazed by the e-governance you have here in your country. You really are on the leading edge of change, and you’re setting a really strong example.

We talked about the fact that Estonians want to be able to travel to America visa-free. Both the President and the Prime Minister made this a important part of our discussions. They made it clear to me that if we’re an ally in NATO, people ought to be able to come to our country in a much easier fashion. It is clear to me that this is an important issue for the Estonian people, as well. I appreciate their leaders being straightforward and very frank. There’s no question where they stand.

I am pleased to announce that I’m going to work with our Congress and our international partners to modify our visa waiver program. It’s a way to make sure that nations like Estonia qualify more quickly for the program and, at the same time, strengthen the program’s security components.

The new security component of the visa waiver program would use modern technology to improve the security regime for international travelers to and from the United States. In other words, we need to know who is coming, and when they’re leaving. And the more we share — can share information, the easier it will be for me to get Congress to make it easier for Estonians to travel to the United States.

We want people to come to our country. We understand a lot of Estonians have relatives in America. It’s in our nation’s interest that people be able to come and visit, and it’s important, at the same time, to make sure that those who want to continue to kill Americans aren’t able to exploit the system.

I’m going to go to Riga right after our lunch. We have an ambitious agenda there. More than 50,000 NATO soldiers are providing security in six missions on three continents. These deployments have shown that our alliance remains as relevant today as it was during the height of the Cold War. Our alliance defends freedom, and so doing helps make us all more secure. We will discuss NATO’s largest deployment, and that is Afghanistan. We’re partnering with Afghan security forces to defeat the Taliban and strengthen that young democracy. To succeed in Afghanistan, NATO allies must provide the forces NATO military commanders require. I appreciate Estonia’s commitment. Like Estonia, member nations must accept difficult assignments if we expect to be successful.

In Riga, we’ll discuss how our alliance must build on what we have learned in Afghanistan. We will continue to transform NATO forces and improve NATO capabilities so that our alliance can complete 21st century missions successfully. The threat has changed. Our capabilities must change with the threats if NATO is to remain relevant. The President understands that, and I appreciate our discussion along those lines today.

We’re also going to discuss NATO’s further enlargement. By inviting qualifying democracies to join our alliance at the next NATO summit in 2008, we’ll continue to build a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.

I want to thank you for your hospitality again. I know the people of this country are proud of their accomplishments. The American people would be amazed at what your country has done, and I’m proud for you. And I’m proud to call you friend. Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT ILVES: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Any questions?

Q I have a question for both Presidents. Mr. Bush, you said that you really appreciate everything that Estonia has done, and that the U.S. is very interested in seeing Estonians visit your country. But you, as President, when will you be proposing to Congress this change in the visa laws to give us visa-free travel? And the second part of the question is, what should Estonia do in order to help you resolve this issue more quickly?

PRESIDENT BUSH: — to work on our 3 percent requirement, and, at the same time, assure members of Congress that in loosening the visa waiver issue, or changing the visa waiver issue, that we’ll still be able to protect our country form people who would exploit the visa waiver program to come to our country to do harm. And that process is beginning shortly.

PRESIDENT ILVES: And I may add that Estonia is constantly — has been raising this question. I had a very long discussion, even back when I was a delegate in the European parliament. I would say that we have come quite a long way from the time we started these discussions two years ago with Nick Burns, and we are prepared when the security requirements have been clarified, have been explained, then we will be able to implement them in our passports. And that is simply a technical problem, but it is resolvable.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Are you going to call on anybody?

Q First, my respect to both of you, Mr. Bush, Mr. Ilves. A question for Mr. Bush. You said that you discussed with Mr. Ilves the situation in Georgia. Estonia and the United States have helped in the development of this country of Georgia, and we are hoping to see some progress in this country. But the conflict between Russia and Georgia is putting a stop to this. What do you think we should do to help resolve this conflict between Russia and Georgia?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Precisely what we ought to do is help resolve the conflict and use our diplomats to convince people there is a better way forward than through violence. We haven’t seen violence yet. The idea is to head it off in the first place. I spoke to Vladimir Putin about this very subject when I saw him in the Far East last week. I know that the President has spoken with President Saakashvili, as well. The tenor of the conversation appears to be improving to me, that people understand that the best way to resolve their differences is to sit down at the table and solve them diplomatically. And so we’ll continue to work along those lines.

I don’t know if you want to add anything to that.

PRESIDENT ILVES: Briefly, just that we sincerely hope that Russia will understand that a democratic state on its borders is not a danger to Russian security. And we hope Russia will understand that authoritarian states at its borders will not guarantee its own stability.


Q Mr. President, thank you, sir. What is the difference between what we’re seeing now in Iraq and civil war? And do you worry that calling it a civil war would make it difficult to argue that we’re fighting the central front of the war on terror there?

PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, the plans of Mr. Zarqawi was to foment sectarian violence. That’s what he said he wanted to do. The Samarra bombing that took place last winter was intended to create sectarian violence, and it has. The recent bombings were to perpetuate the sectarian violence. In other words, we’ve been in this phase for a while. And the fundamental objective is to work with the Iraqis to create conditions so that the vast majority of the people will be able to see that there’s a peaceful way forward.

The bombings that took place recently was a part of a pattern that has been going on for about nine months. I’m going to bring this subject up, of course, with Prime Minister Maliki when I visit with him in Jordan on Thursday. My questions to him will be: What do we need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence? I will assure him that we will continue to pursue al Qaeda to make sure that they do not establish a safe haven in Iraq.

I will ask him: What is required and what is your strategy to be a country which can govern itself and sustain itself? And it’s going to be an important meeting, and I’m looking forward to it.

Q — are saying that we’re moving forward to full –

PRESIDENT BUSH: Deb, there’s all kinds of speculation about what may be or not happening. What you’re seeing on TV has started last February. It was an attempt by people to foment sectarian violence, and no — no question it’s dangerous there, and violent. And the Maliki government is going to have to deal with that violence, and we want to help them do so. It’s in our interest that we succeed. A democracy in the heart of the Middle East is an important part of defeating the radicals and totalitarians that can’t stand the emergence of a democracy.

One of the interesting things that’s taking place — and people have got to understand what’s happening — is when you see a young democracy beginning to emerge in the Middle East, the extremists try to defeat its emergence.

That’s why you see violence in Lebanon. There’s a young democracy in Lebanon, run by Prime Minister Siniora. And that government is being undermined, in my opinion, by extremist forces encouraged out of Syria and Iran. Why? Because a democracy will be a major defeat for those who articulate extremist points of view.

We’re trying to help get a democracy started in the Palestinian Territory. Prime Minister Olmert has reached out at one point to Prime Minister Abbas — President Abbas. And you know what happens as soon as he does that? Extremists attack, because they can’t stand the thought of a democracy. And the same thing is happening in Iraq. And it’s in our mutual interest that we help this government succeed.

And no question it’s tough, Deb. No question about it. There’s a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented, in my opinion, because of these attacks by al Qaeda, causing people to seek reprisal. And we will work with the Maliki government to defeat these elements.

By far, the vast majority of the people want to live in peace. Twelve million people voted. They said, we want to live under a constitution which we approved. And our objective must be to help them realize their dreams. This is the — this is an important part of an ideological struggle that is taking place here in the beginning of the 21st century. And the interesting contribution that a country like Estonia is making is that, people shouldn’t have to live under tyranny. We just did that; we don’t like it. They understand that democracies yield peace. This President is a strong advocate for democracies, because he understands. He understands what it means to live under subjugation, and he understands the hope that democracy brings to regions of the world. And I appreciate your steadfast leadership.

Toby. Last question? I’ll follow your instructions.

Q Mr. President, would direct talks between the United States and Iran and Syria help stem the violence in Iraq? And would you agree to such a step?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I think that, first of all, Iraq is a sovereign nation which is conducting its own foreign policy. They’re having talks with their neighbors. And if that’s what they think they ought to do, that’s fine. I hope their talks yield results. One result that Iraq would like to see is for the Iranians to leave them alone. If Iran is going to be involved in their country, they ought to be involved in a constructive way, encouraging peace. That is the message that the Iranians — that the Iraqis have delivered to the Iranians. That’s the message that Prime Minister Maliki has made clear, that he expects the neighbors to encourage peaceful development of the country.

As far as the United States goes, Iran knows how to get to the table with us, and that is to do that which they said they would do, which is verifiably suspend their enrichment programs. One of the concerns that I have about the Iranian regime is their desire to develop a nuclear weapon, and you ought to be concerned about it, too. The idea of this regime having a nuclear weapon by which they could blackmail the world is unacceptable to free nations. And that’s why we’re working through the United Nations to send a clear message that the EU3 and the United States, Russia and China do not accept their desires to have a nuclear weapon.

There is a better way forward for the Iranian people, and if they would like to be at the table discussing this issue with the United States, I have made it abundantly clear how they can do so, and that is verifiably suspend the enrichment program. And then we’ll be happy to have a dialogue with them.

But as far as Iraq goes, the Iraqi government is a sovereign government that is capable of handling its own foreign policies, and is in the process of doing so. And they have made it abundantly clear, and I agree with them, that the Iranians and the Syrians should help, not destabilize this young democracy.

Thank you.

PRESIDENT ILVES: Thank you very much.

END 11:20 A.M. (Local)

An 'Uncomfortable' Summit

From RFE/RL Newsline (November 28 2006):


Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Moscow that the upcoming NATO Riga summit is not a matter of serious concern for Russia, the German weekly “Der Spiegel” reported on November 28. Ivanov added that “the Baltic countries are sovereign nations. They have the right to decide which military and political bloc they want to be a part of. Of course, some Russians feel uneasy about the fact that a NATO summit is taking place so close to St. Petersburg. But I take a more relaxed view. If NATO had staged a major military maneuver in Latvia, with tanks and aircraft, it would certainly have triggered concern within the Russian military. But that is not the case.” He nonetheless added that “the Baltic states…are small countries in a region that is especially free of conflict and tension, militarily speaking. We do not understand why NATO needs its own military infrastructure in this region. Does it intend to wage war against terrorism or influence operations in Afghanistan from there?” Ivanov also said that the closure of a U.S. military base in Khanabad was Uzbekistan’s own decision “because it suspected the government of the United States of trying to destabilize the situation in the country.” Ivanov argued that some people call “the forces active there fighters for human rights, while the Uzbek people themselves call them terrorists who are killing people. I am aware of the real state of affairs…not propaganda. I have read reports describing how these so-called fighters for human rights received instructions from abroad to kill people.” Asked about Russian sanctions against Georgia, Ivanov replied that “these are not sanctions. We no longer operate direct flights to Tbilisi because Georgian airlines owe us money. You were the ones who introduced us to the market economy in the 1990s. Now we are sticking to it and you come to us with accusations. We cannot accept the fact that Georgia continues to insult us. It is clear to us that the Georgian leadership is dragging NATO and the EU into its efforts to solve its internal problems.” On November 28, Britain’s “The Times” wrote to mark the opening of the Riga summit that “much of the corridor talk during this first NATO summit on former Soviet soil will be of the renewed threat from Russia. Moscow’s aggressive use of energy as a political weapon is the most obvious cause for concern…. NATO leaders will be asked to look at possible action to avert potential threats to energy sources by patrolling key shipping lines, or resupplying a victim of an energy suspension.” PM

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Yelena Bonner on Litvinenko's Murder

From The Times (UK):

Yelena Bonner, one of the most famous dissidents from the Soviet era, said yesterday that modern Russia had returned to the practices used by the former
Soviet KGB.

“I think the KGB, or the FSB as it is known, killed him,” said Mrs Bonner, the widow of Andrei Sakharov the most famous Soviet dissident of his time.

“The present Russian power structure draws on the experiences it learned from Soviet operations in the past,” she told The Times.

She said that she had met Litvinenko in London two years and was planning to meet his widow Marina.

Defending Putin

Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam has written a defence of Vladimir Putin in the Litvinenko poisoning case:
All those suspected for responsibility behind this attack in London will face the full onslaught of a Scotland Yard investigation. Hasty assertions about Vladimir Putin’s guilt are not only inappropriate, but may well backfire. These statements give great play to the arguments of Kremlin hardliners who have been telling Vladimir Putin that he cannot trust his European neighbors; that Europeans are deeply Russophobic; that he must stand apart as an independent center of power in the world. Mr. Putin may well be convinced that he has nothing left to lose in terms of his reputation in the West – and then matters will certainly take a turn for the worse.
See also: Nevzlin: Yukos Connection in Litvinenko's Murder

Blair: Full Probe of Litvinenko's Death

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised a full probe of the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Reuters reports Blair as saying that "no diplomatic or political barrier" would be allowed to hinder the investigation, and that he will raise the matter with Vladimir Putin if necessary.

Monday, November 27, 2006

President Bush in Tallinn

President Bush has arrived in Tallinn, Estonia, on Air Force One, at the start of an official visit in preparation for the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, which begins tomorrow, Tuesday. He is accompanied by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a large delegation of White House officials, who arrived on a separate flight.

The guests were greeted by Estonia’s foreign minister, Urmas Paet, and by Estonia’s ambassador to the USA, Jüri Luik.

Tomorrow, President Bush will meet with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Prime Minister Andrus Ansipp, and will fly on to Riga after dinner.

Russia's Real Game

At Counterterrorism Blog, Douglas Farah asks: What is Russia’s Real Game (Again, with Viktor Bout?):

What is Russia’s real role in the efforts to combat terrorism? While the Bush administration seems to cling to the notion that Russia is an ally, there are several developments that point in the opposite direction.

The first, of course, is the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, where the foul play of the Russian security apparatus, closely tied to Mr. Putin, is the prime suspect. The fact that the murder was committed in London and dismissed out of hand as unimportant by Mr. Putin show both a new boldness and the lack of any pretense
of accountability by the Russians.

There is also the arming of Iran and help with the Iranian nuclear program, and the close intelligence ties to Hezbollah.

But there is another, barely noticed development in the United States that should be extremely worrisome.

Read the rest, here. And, for the LA Times material by Stephen Braun - here.

Moscow Melodies

At Marginalia, Peteris Cedrins has two excellent and informative posts - here and here - about the Kremlin’s latest propaganda assault on the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania - an assault which turns out not to be a new development at all, but to have a history stretching all the way back to the 1920s…

Questions on British Security

Neil Mackay in the Sunday Herald writes that MI5 has been warning the Blair government that Russian intelligence has been operating at high levels in Britain for at least three years now, but that the warnings seem to have fallen on deaf ears:
The apparent murder of Litvinenko - which has been blamed by many on the Kremlin - has also raised serious concerns about British national security. Tomorrow, the Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis is to demand answers about how polonium-210, the substance believed to have killed Litvinenko, was brought into Britain.

Friends of Litvinenko last night told the Sunday Herald that if the UK and US did not act against Russia they should be considered culpable in the deaths of dissidents.

Oleg Gordievsky, the most famous KGB defector to Britain and friend of Litvinenko, said: "Blair and Bush were happy to kiss and embrace Putin while he was killing in Chechnya, killing in Russia and now killing abroad."

The New Cold War

In the Times (UK), Edward Lucas asks: How was Alexander Litvinenko murdered?
We don’t know yet; we may never find out, but what is clear is his death marks the start of a new Cold War. The question is how to win it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hain Attacks Kremlin

Reuters reports that Britain’s Northern Ireland Minister, Peter Hain, has attacked the Kremlin and President Putin in the aftermath of Alexander Litvinenko’s murder:

“The promise that President Putin brought to Russia when he came to power has been clouded by what has happened since, including some extremely murky murders,” he told BBC television.

“His success in binding a disintegrating nation together … must be balanced against the fact that there have been huge attacks on individual liberty and on democracy and it’s important that he retakes the democratic view,” he added.

Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells has hinted that the Litvinenko poisoning may have serious diplomatic consequences for relations between Britain and Russia, while Hain also characterized the present state of relations between the two countries as “very difficult”.

Nekrasov on Anti-Democracy

In the international edition of the Finnish daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Alexander Litvinenko’s friend, the documentary film director Andrei Nekrasov, has published a Letter from Russia, written from Litvinenko’s bedside as he lay dying of nuclear poisoning.

Two excerpts:
The communist paradox of servility in the name of freedom has been replaced by materialistic freedom in the name of servility; a profoundly misunderstood freedom, that is.

A lot of it may be ascribed to the general condition of modern man, but it takes one attentive look to see behind the thin mesh of international brand names and well-groomed appearances of the “New Russian” women and men an amazingly outdated bigotry, boorishness, and xenophobia in the contemporary mainstream Russian culture.

“Foreigners from the South are coming here for the easy gains and with criminal intentions”. That is not a political slogan of a right-wing party, but a tagline of a prime time “information” programme, and you can bet with reasonable safety that none of those slick young people filling that fancy overpriced café would find such televised prejudice in any way questionable.

It’s cool, it’s fashionable to be nationalistic, to be anti-Asian, anti-Orange” (Ukrainian revolution), and it is, actually, even more fashionable to be anti-West.

The West is the past, we are the future.

Never mind that the brand names are Western, never mind that the statistics say that the Russian population is on course to a demographic crunch. We have rediscovered faith in ourselves, in our state and our president, and our faith is stronger than your logic.

Logic says that the rediscovery of faith coincided with or followed the surge in oil prices and the war crimes in Chechnya; logic also says that the monstrous corruption (clearly on the increase under Putin) and persisting gangster rule is wrecking the country as a whole, its prospects, its strategy, even that somewhat cryptic mission we Russians believe our country has in history.

But for the visible minority cultivated by the present regime such logic has no validity. Logic in general is not in vogue here at the moment, just as human rights are not recognized as a value by some humans who are very protective of their own rights.


… the far right wants more than merely being tolerated, it wants Russia for itself.

Its only weapon is murder. Political murder.

Not murder to prevent an information leak or to get rid of an awkward witness. Murder to shock, to provoke, to frighten, to denigrate. Both in Russia and the West.

With murder’s help the West shall be shown its place – that of impotence in the face of new Russian power and old Russian values. The more universally respected the victim the better.

International recognition used to be a protection for Soviet dissenters; it has since become a liability for Russian defenders of human rights.

And while Putin’s very own balancing act - which some call “stability” - goes on, while humanist democracy has no following, support and the passion that nationalism seems to have, one thing is certain: innocent people, courageous and honest people will continue to be murdered.

People like Anna Politkovskaya. Because she was murdered in a tug of love between Putin and the far right. Fascists vying for power kill to claim - with the spectacular impunity of their crimes - Putin as their ally.

They kill to watch him go through the exercise of refusing to feel shame. They kill to test a comrade before taking the field in earnest.

All signs are that Putin has passed that test.

Litvinenko on Beslan

On September 8 2004, shortly after the Beslan hostage tragedy, Alexander Litvinenko gave a long interview to the Chechenpress news agency. I published part of it in this blog five days later, in an English translation, and I want to republish it now, as I think it gives some idea of why Litvinenko was so dangerous to Russia’s security services, and why he posed such a threat to them.

Representatives of the Russian FSB (KGB) are currently making assertions to the Western press and media that Litvinenko was “small fry” and “not worth killing”. On the contrary, he possessed much knowledge, even a small part of which would have been enough to cause severe damage to the international reputation of the Russian federal government.

In connection with the extremely intricate and incomprehensible situation with the personalities of the people who participated in the hostage-taking in Beslan, the correspondent of the “Chechenpress” agency turned to a specialist for an explanation. The questions are answered by former Lieutenant Colonel of the FSB, Aleksandr Litvinenko.

Question: Aleksandr, could you please explain to our readers how it could happen that the persons who seized the hostages had previously been in the hands of the FSB, and how all of them managed to be freed simultaneously and to organize and conduct such an action?

Answer: According to the internal orders which regulate the operational secret service activity of the organs of the FSB of the Russian Federation, for persons who have been arrested on suspicion of their participation in illegal armed units, organized criminal associations which repeatedly used dangerous forms of violence and terrorism, a file of operative work progress is opened (a so-called file of operational control or development, and if more than two people are suspected of criminal activity, a file is opened for the group). During the work on the mentioned case, measures are taken for the operational tracking of the criminal cases, and secret measures are taken with regard to the prisoners. I.e., they are being followed, and in this connection they are constantly under the control of the special services.

If the persons involved in these cases are sentenced, the cases are transferred to be dealt with by the subdivisions of the FSB in whose area the object is serving his sentence in the form of prison. The operational files are continued during his stay in the prison colony, and after he has finished the prison period and is released, they are sent to the FSB organs at his place of residence. When the object is released and reliable, and checked information has been acquired that he has completely stopped carrying out criminal activity, the operational file is reassessed into a file of operational observation, and continued for about five years, as a rule.

If the criminal case is abandoned because there is no criminal issue, or it cannot be proved, as well as on other rehabilitation grounds (though this is extremely rare), the operative subdivision, as a rule, continues for some time with the control or observation of the object while he is free, and it isn’t stopped until confirmation is obtained that he has completely ended his criminal activity.

Additionally, there are frequent cases when people who are arrested for insignificant crimes are controlled or dealt with like persons suspected of more serious crimes. The operational measures of the FSB with respect to the objects are stopped in the following cases: no confirmation that the person has been engaged in criminal activity; the person foregoes criminal activity; death; reaching the age of 70 for men and 65 for women, and also in connection with their recruiting into the secret service apparatus of the RF FSB (then agency files are opened on them).

If we examine the case of those who have been tracked down in the hostage-taking in Beslan town, and the fact that they proved to have been free after their arrest by FSB organs and that they committed the hostage-taking after that, then I am absolutely sure that they couldn’t have left their prisons under any circumstances, without having come into the view of the FSB. Especially if we consider the fact that they were categorized in their criminal cases as active participants in bandit formations, persons who were close to the leaders of the Resistance, terrorists. I don’t have any doubts that after their detention and arrest, in the places where they were kept under guard by the FSB organs, active operational measures were conducted with regard to them, and first of all, measures directed at turning them to secret collaboration with the FSB. And only after they had been recruited, after all the operational information known to them about people the FSB is interested in had been obtained, and an additional check as newly recruited FSB agents, they were released in order to fulfill assignments for the special services.

This is the only possible way to explain the fact that these people who had previously been sitting in prisons under active surveillance by the FSB, suddenly all together turned out to be free and then under one command planned and carried out this action. Moreover, none of them allegedly reported the planned hostage-taking to the FSB. It is possible that some of them might have kept the FSB “in the dark”, and when it became known, they were already in the school building. But it’s 100% sure that Chechens who are arrested for terrorism and participation in bandit formations don’t have other ways to freedom than to flee or to be recruited. And most likely, Khodov, who was wanted for terrorism, wasn’t arrested by the militia organs at his homeplace, because he was a secret agent of the FSB, and he wasn’t removed from the arrest warrant in order not to reveal him to his operational environment, just as they did back in the old days at the Moscow UFSB with their known agent, the terrorist Maksim Lozovsky, nicknamed “The Colonel”.
(translation by N.S., with my minor editing)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Blowing Up Russia

At chechnya-sl, Jeremy Putley has posted a link to the complete English text (.doc file) of the book by Alexander Litvinenko and Yuri Felshtinsky

BLOWING UP RUSSIA: Terror from Within

Acts of terror, abductions, and contract killings organized by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation

Litvinenko's Murder: "Foreign State" Suspected

The Times (UK) is reporting that British intelligence now suspects “a foreign state” of being implicated in Litvinenko’s murder:

A senior Whitehall official told The Times that confirmation that the former Russian spy, who had become a British citizen, had been poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 and other evidence so far not released pointed to the murder being carried out by foreign agents.

Last night the Foreign Office said that officials had met with the Russian ambassador in London and had asked the Kremlin to hand over any information that it had which could help the Scotland Yard investigation.

The Remains of Communism

…although mortally wounded, communism has not been eradicated from the face of the Earth. Its remains persist in several major forms:

- as a barely breathing but still ruling political system in China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba;

- as political structures left by communism such as the KGB and party apparatus in Russia and many other former Soviet countries which either control or share power;

- as power structures propped up or created by the Soviet Union in its extended empire in places such as Palestine, Iraq, Angola, etc.;

- as the world terrorist network created mainly by the KGB in its fight against democracy;

- and finally, as an ideology not completely disavowed which still spoils cultural academic and political life in our country and the entire Western world.

Yuri Yarim-Agaev (2006)

Nevzlin: Yukos Connection in Litvinenko's Murder

From Ha’aretz:
Russian-born businessman Leonid Nevzlin, former CEO of the Yukos oil company and current chairman of the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, said Friday that he had met in Israel with former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died Thursday in London from poisoning.

During the meeting, Litvinenko allegedly passed Nevzlin documents containing classified information possibly damaging to the current leadership in Russia.

In Nevzlin’s estimation, Litvinenko’s murder was tied to the information relating to Yukos contained in the documents. Nevzlin has turned the documents over to the London Metropolitan Police, who are investigating the murder.

Falling Dominoes

Yesterday, as Mr Putin sat in Helsinki with EU top officials, the Russian government announced that it has begun delivery of Tor-M1 air defence missile systems to Iran.

Examining the implications of Alexander Litvinenko’s poisoning for the rest of the world in an article written before Litvinenko’s death, J.R. Nyquist expresses little surprise about Russia’s global strategy, which be believes has altered little since Cold War days [hat tip: Marko]:

A man brave enough to risk his life to warn others, to lay an accusation against the most dangerous criminals in the world, deserves to be taken seriously. But the fact that his message has been systematically ignored, that no newspaper or politician will discuss his testimony concerning Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a sociological artifact of great significance. The Kremlin’s grand deception strategy has been effective, and there is no danger that the West will figure it out, because the truth is economically inconvenient for politicians and businessmen alike. Things have advanced so far that the Kremlin sees no danger in murdering people outright, as in the days of Stalin. In this way a message is sent to all writers, and all those with bits and pieces of the great puzzle.

The Russian strategy should be obvious by now. We know that China and Iran are being armed with Russian weapons – including Russian nuclear technology. Such moves deserve an explanation, but nobody wants an honest discussion of the problem. Given the economic logic of U.S. statesmanship, a confrontation with Russia is to be avoided. The Left/Right political divide paralyzes any and all realistic analysis because one side of this political divide is incapable of acknowledging a Russian threat while the other has attached itself to claims of victory and the prospect of “open” markets in “former” communist lands. We know that Russia is working to form various alliances with countries like Brazil, India, Venezuela, etc. We know that Russia and China have formed an intimate partnership, that they have conducted joint military exercises, and that China has been cultivating Mexico as a strategic partner. The balance of power is shifting, perhaps decisively, and the results of that shift may soon become apparent to everyone. The Iranian nuclear crisis serves to dramatize this shift. Three years ago President Bush would have bombed Iran. Today he is timid, hesitant and beleaguered. Many of the president’s supporters have turned against him. Perhaps President Bush realizes that a preemptive attack on Iran will divide the United States politically, with further consequences to the Republican Party.

Looking back at the long row of fallen dominoes, from South Africa and the Congo to Venezuela and Germany, the fall of the Israeli domino stands in prospect. The Israelis believe the neutralization of Iran’s nuclear project is essential to Israel’s security. Israeli analysts are already warning that Iran could destroy Israel without launching a single nuclear weapon, because many Israelis will leave Israel if Iran becomes a nuclear power. The morale of the Jewish state would suffer a crippling blow. But the plight of Israel does not move the American public. Just as the American consumer abandoned Vietnam to the Communists, some believe that Israel will be abandoned to the Islamists. Many observers expect that the Americans will not remain loyal to their allies, choosing instead to “cut and run” when things become difficult. After all, it was the Americans who abandoned Southeast Asia. It was the Americans who pushed for the Communist takeover of Rhodesia, and the Communist-ANC takeover of South Africa; and who allowed the Communist victories in Angola and Congo. The African Communists have won the long war for the mineral rich sub-Saharan region. And the Americans don’t care in the least. In fact, we are about to watch the United States Congress cut the legs out from under the government of Colombia as it struggles to contain a growing Communist insurgency.

Litvinenko's Final Statement

I would like to thank many people. My doctors, nurses and hospital staff who are doing all they can for me; the British Police who are pursuing my case with vigor and professionalism and are watching over me and my family.

I would like to thank the British Government for taking me under their care. I am honored to be a British citizen. I would like to thank the British public for their messages of support and for the interest they have shown in my plight.

I thank my wife, Marina, who has stood by me. My love for her and our son knows no bounds.

But as I lie here I can distinctly hear the beating of wings of the angel of death. I may be able to give him the slip but I have to say my legs do not run as fast as I would like.

I think, therefore, that this may be the time to say one or two things to the person responsible for my present condition.

You may succeed in silencing me but that silence comes at a price. You have shown yourself to be as barbaric and ruthless as your most hostile critics have claimed.

You have shown yourself to have no respect for life, liberty or any civilized value. You have shown yourself to be unworthy of your office, to be unworthy of the trust of civilized men and women.

You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life.

May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.

Friday, November 24, 2006


A poster has commented:

The cause of the poisoning is Po-210, see

Russian ex-spy murdered with alpha radiation with Po-210 in food in London

Incompetent medics failed to diagnose acute radiation poisoning from internal exposure to the heavy element polonium-210, the most deadly radioactive material on earth due to its short half-life of 140 days (plutonium-239 has a 24,400 years half life so each atom of that emits only one alpha particle per 35,100 years, which is a comparatively low dose rate - the average life is always 1.44 times the half-life with simply one-stage decay chain exponentially decaying radionuclides).

Notice Po-210 has a half-life of 140 days, and is a high-energy alpha emitter. Plutonium-239 for contrast has a half-life of 24,400 years so the specific activity of Po-210 (decays per second or Becquerels, per gram) is way higher. The shorter the half life, the more decays per second!Po-210 was used with beryllium as the neutron source (initiator) in the early 1945 nuclear weapons. Alpha particles hitting beryllium fission it, releasing neutrons. This was responsible for most of the deaths after the Windscale nuclear reactor fire in England in 1957. The pile was producing Po-210 for British nuclear bomb tests in Maralinga, but the government kept that secret, claiming that only iodine-131 had been released. (They didn’t want the Americans to know Britain was still using obsolete 1945 nuclear initiator technology!)


I'd like to remind readers of this blog that comments here are moderated, and should be confined to the subject of the post concerned. Requests for information won't usually be answered.

A Small Nuclear Bomb

What killed Alexander Litvinenko was, as his father has stated, a very small nuclear bomb.

The implications of this fact are disturbing. If a radioactive substance such as Polonium can be brought into the UK - by diplomatic mail, for example, or by air courier - there is a likelihood that more of it may be around in the country. For some time now, the government and police authorities in Britain have been warning about the possibility of a terrorist attack with a so-called “dirty bomb”. It looks as though Russia has become the first state to use such a weapon in such an attack - and there is a significant risk that it may use it again, in Britain or elsewhere, on a larger scale.

It will indeed be interesting to observe how Russian state propaganda deals with the discovery of the nuclear material in Litvinenko’s body, and in the restaurant where he ate.

Litvinenko: Health Protection Agency Statement

The UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) has released a statement in which it confirms that Alexander Litvinenko “had a significant quantity of the radioactive isotope Polonium-210 (Po-210) in his body.”

Additionally, Reuters reports that police have found levels of radiation in the London sushi bar where he ate just before he became sick.

Radiation Found in Litvinenko's Body

Via Sky News:

A large quantity of radiation, probably from a substance called Polonium 210, has been found in the body of dead ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

The “major dose” of alpha radiation was detected in his urine, said Government experts, who added that Polonium 210 is only dangerous if ingested.

EU-Russia Meeting Fails

Via BBC:
[..] Poland has vetoed the partnership talks and is refusing to lift its objections unless Russia ends a ban on Polish meat and vegetables.

Most EU members have tried to get Poland to change its mind, to no avail.

The BBC’s Jonny Dymond in Helsinki said the summit appeared to be doomed to failure before it had even begun.

Corruption in Chechnya

From Prague Watchdog (my tr.):

Compensation payments to Chechen citizens: problems still not solved

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA – On November 14, Sultan Isakov, a high-ranking official of the Chechen government’s Compensation Committee, was detained on suspicion of extorting a large bribe, law enforcement representatives said.

Two days after this, in an interview for the Interfax news agency, Yuri Rosinsky, head of the FSB’s press service in the Chechen Republic, announced that FSB officials and the Chechen prosecutor’s office had implemented “a package of measures for the struggle against corruption in the institutions of authority and control.”

“Within the framework of these measures we have detained an organized criminal group which was extorting money that had been paid to Chechen residents as compensation for lost housing and property,” he said. “One of the group’s members, Emidin Khamatkhanov, was arrested while receiving 175,000 rubles from a resident of the city of Urus-Martan.”

According to Rosinsky, the evidence given by Khamatkhanov was used to detain Sultan Isakov, head of the secretariat of the Compensation Committee. The high-ranking official was accused of fulfilling the role of mediator and extortionist in the group. He allegedly dealt with the blocking of the bank accounts of uncooperative citizens who refused to pay a bribe, which could amount to as much as 50 per cent of the compensation sum (Chechen citizens are entitled to compensation payments of 350,000 rubles for housing and property lost in the course of military operations).

Names of other members of the criminal group were mentioned, in particular those of Ruslan Magomadov and Luiza Azimova, head of Rosselkhozbank’s operational department. This case of corruption among high-ranking officials threatened to become something of a national scandal. But only a few days after his detention, Sultan Isakov, who was one of the main suspects in the bribery and extortion racket, was set free. The Grozny district law court refused to issue a warrant for his arrest.

In addition, Isakov received the support of his immediate superior, Chechen prime minister Ramzan Kadyrov, who has personally headed the Committee in recent years. In Kadyrov’s opinion, Isakov was detained “without a proper basis of evidence.”

“An impression is being created that this arrest was a political act intended to discredit the republic’s authorities,” Kadyrov said in a statement distributed by his press service on November 17. “The detention of Isakov without any substantiating evidence is meant to create a negative opinion in the media and among the public about the situation in the country, and these actions are directed against the executive authority of the Chechen Republic.”

Isakov himself also claimed that his arrest had political implications. In his opinion, the main target of the action was Ramzan Kadyrov. “Kadyrov authorized an active operation to expose unlawful compensation deals. The ‘black hole’ that had come into being in the republic thereby disappeared, and now this is not to someone’s liking. My arrest was an attempt to discredit the executive branch in the Chechen Republic. What’s more, I’m certain that they wanted directly to blacken the name of the Compensation Committee’s chairman and present him in a negative light,” the official said at a press conference that was held in the building of the Grozny-Inform agency in the Chechen capital on November 20.

Nevertheless, the prosecutor’s office has announced that it intends to launch an appeal in the Chechen Supreme Court against Isakov’s release. Chechnya’s public prosecutor Valery Kuznetsov has stressed that the investigation of this matter will continue.

But many observers in the republic believe that the corruption case has little likelihood of success. “The Committee’s chairman is Ramzan Kadyrov. Isakov is his subordinate. It looks as though the prosecutor’s office is using the extortion case in order to get at the head of the government. But no one will allow that to happen,” a Chechen law enforcement officer believes.

“It’s no secret in the republic that ever since the payouts of compensation began in 2003 there has been corruption and open extortion. Officials have been taking 15,000 rubles as payment for preparing the necessary package of documents from people who weren’t actually eligible for compensation. After they got their compensation money from the bank those people also had to part with half of it, to the tune of 175,000 rubles. That’s the system that’s been in operation all these years, and it continues to operate. No official will turn down a ‘feeding trough’ of that kind,” he is convinced.

According to the officer, “big guys” and “big money” are involved. “Remember the arrest and trial of Baybatyrov (the former chairman of the Compensation Committee, who headed it in 2003-2004). He was accused of misappropriating more than 18 million rubles. But in the end he only got one-and-a-half years! That tells you something.”

Abubakir Baybatyrov was indeed arrested in November 2005 on charges of fraud and the misappropriation of a large sum of money. In June this year he was sentenced to
one-and-a-half years of imprisonment – not for embezzlement, however, but for exceeding his official authority.

A source in the Chechen presidential office says that from 2003 to the present day more than 46,000 of the republic’s citizens have obtained compensation for housing and property lost in the course of military operations. The Compensation Committee has received a total of 142,000 applications.

Three months ago the compensation payments were halted on the order of Ramzan Kadyrov. It was announced that this step had been taken because of the need for checks to be made on the legality of documents filed by Chechen subjects. Eli Isayev, the republic’s finance minister, recently announced that the payments will soon be resumed, and will be completed by the end of 2007.

Translated by David McDuff.

Alexander Litvinenko Dies

Announcement: Alexander Litvinenko

Press update: 11.00pm Thursday 23 November 2006


We are sorry to announce that Alexander Litvinenko died at University College Hospital at 9.21pm on 23.11.06.

He was seriously ill when he was admitted to UCH on Friday, November 17, and the medical team at the hospital did everything possible to save his life.

On Sunday evening he was transferred to the intensive care unit where he could be closely monitored and receive any critical support he needed.

Every avenue was explored to establish the cause of his condition and the matter is now an ongoing investigation being dealt with by detectives from New Scotland Yard.

Because of this we will not be commenting any further on this matter.

Our thoughts are with Mr Litvinenko’s family.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Anzor Maskhadov Interview

From Sobesednik (November 13, 2006) [my translation]

Anzor Maskhadov: I feel sorry for Kadyrov. He may be killed

Author: Rimma Akhmirova

My meeting with Anzor Maskhadov took place in one of the countries of Europe - on condition that its name should not appear in the newspaper.

“Don’t touch your phone. I’ll call you when you’re outside Russia.”

He called again from a number which, he said, “will soon change anyway”. And when I arrived for the meeting, Anzor was already waiting for me with a person who was either his friend or his bodyguard. We drove in his BMW 5-series to a café in the centre of town.


How did you end up here?

They’re trying to make out that I ran away from the war. But I left before the second war, in early 1999. I went to Malaysia, to study. Then the war began. Father tried to get me to come back, but I couldn’t. How could I go home, through all those checkpoints, with this passport which has the name Maskhadov on it?

Where did you study?

I wanted to enrol at the Islamic University. But for that one had to have a good knowledge of English, so I studied the language. But then I left Malaysia and travelled to the Emirates, Turkey, and then Baku.

Such a lot of moving about - was it because of safety considerations?

Yes. I still get strange phone calls - with threats, provocations. A strange young man called me recently, and said: “Hey, Anzor, how can I get over to our guys, I have my own weapon with me.” I said: “You’ve got the wrong number,” and hung up. But that call was from Moscow. Quite recently I had a call from Chechnya asking our family to return home. They even promised to meet us on the Daghestan border. But it was obvious what would happen next, I know those methods.

Why Europe? Wouldn’t the Arab countries and Turkey be more convenient?

No, there are more Chechens in Europe now than there are in the Arab countries. Though some European states are also making their rules stricter now. Anyway, it was in the Arab state of Qatar that Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev was assassinated with a bomb.

You are the head of the family now. Are you working?

No. For me right now the main thing is to recover my father’s body and to bury him. We have even appealed to Pariarch Aleksy II to help us - all religions say that a deceased person must be buried, after all. We shall continue to pursue legal action for the return of my father’s body to the end. Though we realize that most likely it won’t be returned. They’ve told us it’s because he’s a symbol of the resistance, and people would gather round his grave. But it’s not a custom of ours for people to gather in crowds around graves - only relatives go there. If I could bury him I wouldn’t even tell anyone where it was. I’d be afraid they would dig him up. There have been a lot of cases like that. My uncle was killed - and we’re the only people who know where he’s buried. But the Russian side are still searching for his body.

Is your family a large one?

My mother, sister, wife and children are living in Baku at present. My case is being examined there just now.

Don’t you plan to return to Chechnya? You’re not under investigation and you aren’t on any wanted lists.

When we corresponded with the Procurator General’s Office about my father’s body, Ustinov said that he personally had no complaints about me. But I’m certain that as soon I go back they’ll pin something on me. They’d make a big show trial out of it.

Did you keep in touch with your father all those years?

Always. At first by phone, and later by email. Then he began sending me video messages by courier to any country where I happened to be.

You must have assembled a large archive in all that time.

Yes. But I don’t plan to make it public for the time being. All in good time.

Many Chechens are marching under Kadyrov’s flag now.

I’ll tell you a story: Shara Tulayev is often shown on television, because they sat he went over to Kadyrov’s side. What actually happened was that Tulayev went at night to recover the body of Aslan Maskhadov’s brother, my uncle, who was killed in combat, but the body was booby-trapped with a bomb. Tulayev got blown up, and when he came to in hospital, Kadyrov’s men were sitting at his bedside. They also amputated his injured foot higher than they should have. So he wouldn’t go off and fight again.

Are you and Kadyrov personal enemies?

I don’t want to talk about it. I feel sorry for him, for having chosen this path. God is the judge of all men. He may be killed, just as Kadyrov senior was killed. Possibly even by his own people.

But it was Basayev who took responsibility for Akhmat Kadyrov’s murder. and Basayev is no longer alive.

Basayev took responsibility for a lot of things. Even for things he didn’t do. That’s the kind of man he was.

People are saying it’s all over now. All the main leaders have been killed - Maskhadov, Basayev, Sadulayev, Yandarbiyev…

There is Doku Umarov (Ichkerian President - Ed.). The man the Kremlin deserves. He is also prepared to make peace if the Kremlin wants it, but Umarov is not as soft as my father or Sadulayev, his successor.

What about Basayev?

Umarov is even bolder than Shamil. The Kremlin has earned this enemy for itself. My father was murdered precisely at the moment when he had stopped the war for a month and had then extended that cease-fire for another month. But Russia didn’t want Maskhadov as the man who ended the war. In 2004 Maskhadov had a meeting with Basayev at which Shamil swore to him that he wouldn’t wage war against innocent civilians.

But your father made unacceptable conditions.

We are ready to yield, we don’t say: “Independence and freedom for Chechnya.” The main thing is not to give Russia the chance to start another war in 50 years’ time. We want guarantees of security for our people, and that is all. For many this is a purely commercial war. People have made very good money out of it. Men like former defence minister Pavel Grachev, Kazantsev and the rest of them. One day it will all become known.

People on your side also make money.

That money they talk of doesn’t exist.

What about the arms purchases?

I remember that in the first war, which I took part in, we could get a lot of ammunition in exchange for a bottle of vodka. Sometimes we were even offered armoured personnel carriers - BTRs and BMPs.

Things like that don’t happen now.

No, things like that don’t. But where did Basayev get the ammunition he was transporting when it exploded? He probably bought it somewhere in Chechnya or Ingushetia.

Only a small number of people are fighting now, and the war is practically over.

That was also said in 2002-2003. But then came the special operation in Achkhoy-Martanovsky district, villages were surrounded, the buildings of the FSB. The operation in Ingushetia was the same. Two or three thousand active soldiers are fighting. But today’s politicians and generals are indifferent to losses on the Russian side. The guerrilla war goes on. And it’s a hard war to win.

I’ve spoken to people in Chechnya, and they say they are tired of the war.

You’re from Russia, and they won’t tell you everything. So many things have happened… Kurchaloy, Shali, Atagi. I have it all on videotape. Some people were buried alive, some were blown up after they’d been tied together.

How did Aslan Maskhadov manage to stay hidden for so long?

In 2003 my father was living in Gudermes, not far from Kadyrov’s house. I even have a photograph. When it became known, Kadyrov was furious. Father wrote me: “Anzor, if you only knew where I’m staying… the personnel carriers pass only 2 or 3 metres away.”. He also wrote: “If a situation develops, I won’t let myself be taken alive.” It’s said they found a suicide belt on him. He mined every house he came to with explosives, so as not to be taken alive.

Why didn’t he blow that place up?

It was a different situation, there was a battle. The investigation said that one of his relatives fired at him. But that’s not true. I know what happened. They wanted to make it look as though someone from the resistance killed Maskhadov.

Is it true that there are training camps for guerrillas and female suicide bombers in Afghanistan and Azerbaijan, and now also in other countries?

Why go somewhere else to train, if it can all be done in Chechnya, under actual fighting conditions? What better training could we get than the fighting we’ve been doing for dozens of years? The war has even taught our children how to handle sub-machine-guns. And that is the most terrible thing.

(Hat tip: Marius)

Prague Watchdog: Editor-Coordinator



The Czech civic association Prague Watchdog has been covering the conflict in Chechnya since 2000 via its online project, focusing on human rights, media access and coverage, and the local humanitarian and political situation.

Currently we are accepting applications for the job of Editor-Coordinator of this project.


- managing the website
- liaison with journalists, translator/proofreader, and webmaster
- contributing to the overall development of the project


- knowledge of English and Russian (excellent command of at least one of these languages plus working knowledge of the other)
- your own PC with Internet access
- interested in the developments in the Northern Caucasus and Russia.

Deadline for applications: December 22, 2006.

Contact: or tel.: +420-602-565-074 (Tomas Vrsovsky).

Published at on November 22, 2006.

Releasing the Past

As President Putin arrives in Helsinki today, he may just be aware of the fact that a large collection of photographs relating to the Russian-Finnish wars of 1939-40 and 1941-44 has this week finally been released to public view by the Finnish Defence Forces’ picture archive.

Many of the photographs are grisly and harrowing, but that is not the main reason why they have been withheld from open scrutiny for so long - some 45 years. The ban on the photos, first instituted in 1962, was last renewed in 1981, and the validity of that decision expired on November 19, giving the FDF the opportunity to break with the political self-censorship which had branded the archive collection as “unsuitable for use”. An extensive report in the international edition of Helsingin Sanomat explores the background:

…the first photographs put on the classified-items list were of Russian prisoners of war. It was not thought overly smart to annoy the Soviet Union. The same running order is found in the 1981 decision.

Within the Finnish Defence Forces, some have speculated that the publication of images of POWs and captured spies may also have been frowned on because of the potential propaganda weapon it would have offered to pro-Soviet elements within Finnish society.

When Helsingin Sanomat wrote about the locked-up pictures in 1998, the then Head of the FDF Picture Archives Lt. Col. Juha Myyryläinen described the 1981 decision as political. He said candidly that the statute reflected the Finnlandisierung [Finlandisation] era. Even so, that decision has remained in force until today.

The paper also notes that the release of the pictures has implications for the development of Finnish society as a whole in the post-Cold War era:

The relatives have had a personal need to see the gruesome images. But they are also important to others.

The pictures are a part of the secret history of Finland and the Finns.

They contain the seeds of a special kind of trauma associated with their enforced secrecy. Speaking of the mass killings of Finnish civilians by enemy forces has been forbidden, and the subject is not easy to grasp or to deal with - neither the facts of what happened nor the cover-up that followed.

Images of murdered civilians laid out on the grass and of bodies heaped on the back of trucks bring to mind the pictures seen in the media of mass killings of civilians in trouble-spots around the world.

From these partisan pictures it is possible to see that Finland has not been immune: these things really happened here sixty years ago.

During the Vietnam War, one image in particular became famous around the globe - a screaming 9-year-old girl running burned and naked down a highway, fleeing her napalmed village.

It would feel bad to publish a similar picture of a Finnish child from which he or she could be recognised.

Pictures of courts-martial in the field and of executions also exist. Images of judgements carried out on Finnish soldiers have been transferred into the closed files in order not to cause further distress to relatives.

The sequences of pictures of the executions of Russian infiltrators, dropped into Finland to spy and cause sabotage, tell us something of the insanity of war.

One set, marked as “Hanko Sector 1941″ sees a group of Finnish soldiers having a cigarette with a captured Russian spy.

The mood looks relaxed, even cordial: the men appear to be sharing a joke. On the back of the photo is the hand-written text: Finnish officers chatting with a Russian infiltrator. He is laughing at the ‘condemned man’s last request’.

In the next image the man is standing at the side of a mown hayfield, facing a firing squad of half a dozen men with rifles, and in a third - marked Infiltrator’s death-sentence - his body is shown slumped on the ground.

(Hat tip: Marius)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Execution Squad

Pavel K. Baev, on the day the Chechen execution squad came to Moscow:

On Saturday evening, November 18, machine-gun fire erupted on Leninsky Prospect in downtown Moscow. Special police forces and a bomb squad quickly arrived at the scene and discovered one fatality. They had no problem identifying the victim, despite his multiple head wounds: Movladi Baisarov, the former commander of the “Gorets” (Highlander) special detachment.

Read the rest, here.

The Forgotten War

In its current issue, the Australia-based journal Lithuanian Papers has published a fascinating essay by the Swedish translator and journalist Jonas Öhman, who has made a special study of the Lithuanian armed resistance against the Soviet Union, and is presently visiting locations in preparation to making a documentary film on the subject.

Öhman examines the bloody Lithuanian guerrilla war of 1944-1953, a conflict which mostly took place behind the rigidly imposed Iron Curtain of those years, received almost no coverage or publicity in Western media, and is still little discussed even today:
When addressing the anti-Soviet guerilla war it must be noted that one is talking about a war that has never been officially acknowledged elsewhere. As the Soviet security forces were intensifying their manhunt in the Lithuanian forests, looking for the deeply dug-in guerillas with mine sweepers and dogs in the end of the 1940s, the resistance fighters desperately increased their efforts to get some public attention in the West.

Couriers literally shot themselves through the Iron Curtain carrying backpacks with photos, documents and even pleas written in the languages of the leaders and decision makers they were aimed at. Alas, they soon found that the risks taken were in vain. Silence, disbelief and indifference were the West's reply.
The Lithuanian conflict has its parallel today in the war in Chechnya, a war that still continues, despite the Russian government's insistence to the contrary. Öhman has some interesting reflections on this subject:
Remnants of the experience of resistance in Lithuania would be felt until independence was achieved in the beginning of the 1990s. One could mention the incident on July 31, 1990 when a number of young border guards of the newly independent state were surrounded at night in their barracks at Medininkai and seven of them were executed with shots to the head. This was probably done by the special interior forces of the Soviet Union, the so-called OMON, which still exists under the same name in Russia. One of the border guards, a certain Tomas Šernas, miraculously survived (the bullet passed between the halves of his brain) and he could tell the story. It might further be added that these kinds of tactics are among the standard measures still used by the Russian security forces in Chechnya, for instance.

When studying the counter-guerilla techniques developed in Ukraine and Lithuania it becomes clear that the tactics from the 40s and 50s are still being used to discredit and destabilize the resistance. One could mention several incidents in recent years in the Caucasus, by which several thousand of people have been abducted and/or executed by unidentified units for unclear reasons or no reasons at all; and with no one being able to tell who had actually performed the deed. In a number of cases it has been established that the abductions and killings have been performed by Russian-controlled units in order to create uncertainty and fear, and so silence anyone who considered joining the opposition. Further, every Chechen fighter has a personal FSB security officer attached to his file: a similar system previously used against the anti-Soviet resistance participants.

Sometimes, however, not even fear among one's opponents is good enough. The blowing up of a number of multistory residences in Moscow in 1999 remains to a large extent a mystery, not the least since some available evidence pointš to the Russian Secret Service (FSB) as a probable initiator of the bombings. Yet the Chechens were blamed, and this was used as a reason to initiate renewed military action on Chechen territory.

Here one could mention another circumstance connected to the theme of this essay. A part of the very same NKVD forces, the 25th NKVD regiment, used to deport literally all the Chechens in 1944 to Siberia and Central Asia - an act which in the long term paved the way for the ruthless acts of war in the last decade in the Caucasus - was soon thereafter despatched to Lithuania, where it suffered heavy casualties in 1945-46.
Lithuanian Papers:
Post Office Box 777, Sandy Bay, Tas. 7006 (Australia).
Phone (03) 6225 2505. E-mail:
Subscriptions: Australia, single issue, $7 posted.
All other countries, single issue by air mail, US$8.
Please direct subscription requests to:
Post Office Box 777, Sandy Bay, Tas. 7006 (Australia).

A Hard Sell

Ahead of Friday’s EU meeting in Helsinki, Vladimir Putin is trying to reassure the nations of Europe that they have “nothing to fear” from his government.

At the same time, he is issuing veiled warnings.

Alexander Litvinenko: the Poison of Power

Via openDemocracy

Alexander Litvinenko: the poison of power
Zygmunt Dzieciolowski
20 - 11 - 2006
A poisoned Russian defector in London is only the latest official enemy to be targeted, reports Zygmunt Dzieciolowski.

Their dream was a poison which would kill a man instantly but which could not be found in a corpse’s blood during the post-mortem examination. For years, the secret poison laboratory of the Soviet-era biologist Grigory M Mairanovski, founded on the orders of Lavrenti Beria in 1938, researched deadly substances. The moment came when Mairanovski and his team felt that, by deceiving even experienced medical experts, they had achieved their dream.

It happened when German prisoners-of war who had been killed with Mairanovski’s poison were immediately transferred to the Sklifasovskii emergency clinic in the heart of Moscow. The Sklifasovskii medics were unable to find the poison - and concluded that the German POWs had in fact died of natural causes.

The Mairanovski laboratory was closed in 1946 following the replacement of Lavrenti Beria by Vsevolod Merkulov as head of the NKVD. But poisons continued to be used intermittently throughout modern Soviet and post-Soviet history, indicating that the tradition of toxicological assassination was never completely abandoned.

The poisoned body politic

It was some times pursued via proxies. Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian writer and journalist with the BBC World Service, died in London in September 1978 after apparently being injected with poison from the tip of an umbrella.

Yuri Shchekochikhin, a Russian journalist (deputy editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta) and member of the Duma (parliament), died on the night of 2-3 June 2003 after returning from a business trip to the city of Ryazan where he had sought to investigate a furniture-store corruption scandal involving high-ranking intelligence officials.

His illness was first described by Moscow doctors as allergy but when he lost his hair, and the skin on his face changed its structure, it became obvious that his body was reacting to a strong, unidentifiable poison. Doctors were unable to save him; he died within a few days.

For a few years, Shchekochikhin’s Novaya Gazeta colleagues tried to discover the real reasons for his death, and sent tissue-samples to London for further investigation. In the event it was not possible to identify the poison which killed Shchekochikhin, though his editor-in-chief Dmitri Muratov has no doubts that this was the cause of death.

Another poisoning attempt affected journalist Anna Politkovskaya (later shot dead by an unknown assassin on 7 October 2006). At the first news of the Beslan school siege in September 2004 she rushed to the airport to seek a seat on flight in the direction of the north Caucasus. In the end she got a ticket for a flight to Rostov-on-Don. Aware of all possible dangers she refused to eat and drink on board. Only at the end of the flight did she request a glass of water. She fainted after the plane landed, and for days doctors struggled to save her. She had been poisoned, perhaps by two secret-service agents who had followed her onto the plane.

The most famous poisoning case involved the Ukrainian opposition leader (now president) Viktor Yushchenko. A few months before the presidential election in 2004 he was hospitalised suffering stomach pains. Soon his face began to change, and a mask of lesions and blisters disfigured the Ukrainian politician’s previously youthful looks. Numerous examinations held by laboratories in the Britain, Austria, the Netherlands and Germany confirmed that Yushchenko was poisoned purposely by a poisonous substance called dioxine.

In April 2002 the Russian secret services used a poison in order to liquidate one of the most dangerous Chechen warlords, Omar ibn-Khattab. He died within five minutes after opening a letter said to be written by his mother. It was delivered by a Chechen fighter recruited by the Russian secret services as their agent.

Events in Moscow’s Dubrovka theatre in October 2002, when 900 spectators were taken hostage by Chechen fighters, further demonstrate how much the Russian secret services are fond of employing poison-gas substances. After getting inside the building, members of the special forces used an unidentified narcotic gas to subdue the terrorists. But it affected hostages too. 129 of them died, all but two from the adverse effects of the gas.

The toxic trail

The case of Alexander Litvinenko, the former secret service (FSB) agent now in a London hospital after being poisoned in a restaurant with a dose of the metal thallium, is no different. Before and after his flight to London, the colonel had made enemies in the Russian government and intelligence services.

At first he accused his bosses of organising an attempt to kill émigré businessman Boris Berezovsky, himself a strong critic of president Putin. Litvinenko’s book on the mysterious explosions of apartment blocks in Moscow and other cities in September 1999 which killed more than 300 people angered his enemies even more. Litvinenko had no doubts that the explosions - which helped propel Russia into its second Chechen war, and were followed a year later by the election of Vladimir Putin to the presidency - were organised by the FSB to convince public opinion that war was essential to curb Chechen terrorism.

The Kremlin’s allies in Moscow deny that the FSB could be involved in an attempt to poison Litvinenko with thalium. In their view the incident helps Boris Berezovsky, who will now use it in his propaganda campaign against the Kremlin. Gennadi Gudkov, a Duma member and retired KGB colonel, acidly praised Berezovsky’s talent as a director of theatrical spectaculars.

But Kremlin critics such as Sergei Kovalev, or former Yukos executive and KGB general Alexei Kondaurov, do not exclude anothrer possibility: that former colleagues of Alexander Litvinenko had themselves had enough of his criticism and activities.

As with so many elements in the melancholy trail of Russian deaths in the last sixteen years, the truth will be hard to find. But the method, the symptoms, and the mysterious circumstances in which a poison was used in London all indicate that the tradition of Dr Mairanovski’s laboratory has not been forgotten.

This article by Zygmunt Dzieciolowski was originally published on under a Creative Commons Licence. If you enjoyed this article, visit for more.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Amsterdam Blasts Schroeder

MosNews reports that Robert Amsterdam, attorney to Mikhail Khodorkovsky,

has criticized a recent remark by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and said that it was a part of a “well funded campaign of lies and distortion aimed at undermining Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s integrity”.

“Mr. Schroeder’s attempts to introduce humor to the plight of a man who is illegally imprisoned in the Russian gulag represents the most obscene of insults,” Amsterdam was quoted as saying by PR Newswire.

According to press reports in Germany this month, Mr. Schroeder made the following comments in regards to Russia and Mr. Khodorkovsky: “We nick tax evaders as well. However, we do not have Siberia at our disposal.”

Update: The complete PR Newswire press release can be read here. The report includes an interesting statement from Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger of Germany's FDP (Free Democrat Party), who was formerly German Minister of Justice:

"I explicitly appreciate the strong criticism of the attorney of Mr. Khodorkovsky, Robert Amsterdam, concerning the behavior of former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. In the past Mr. Schroeder had closed his eyes regarding the massive lack of rule of law and human rights in contemporary Russia. Now he damages the democratic development of Russia by mocking and twitting victims of the insufficient rule of law such as Mr. Khodorkovsky."

Litvinenko Poisoning Now Officially a Terrorism Case

Via Reuters UK:

Britain’s anti-terrorism police are investigating the case, which could have far-reaching consequences for diplomatic relations at a time of mounting concern in the West over Moscow’s human rights record.

Dealing with Fundamentals

Yesterday’s Cato Institute seminar on Russia’s energy policy was an informative event, which set off the views and personalities of two contrasting discussants who none the less share a common perspective on the issues concerned. Robert Amsterdam’s contribution was an impassioned appeal to Western political and economic forces for a realistic and ethical appraisal of the processes now underway in the Russian Federation with regard to the limiting and eradication of democracy and democratic freedoms, while Andrei Illarionov presented a drier, sardonic and more analytical approach to the same issues, revealing the ways in which the Kremlin has begun to use economic and energy leverage to influence Western policy-making. One got the overall impression that while the Soviet Union may no longer formally exist, the Soviet approach to global politics is still very much alive in the thinking and practices of the Russian federal government.

One of the most interesting and compelling statements came not in the talks themselves, enlightening though those were, but in Robert Amsterdam’s reply to a questioner who wanted to know about the current state of U.S.-Russia relations. As a Canadian citizen resident in Europe, Amsterdam is able to offer a North American perspective that comprehends, but doesn’t necessarily endorse, the position in which the United States and Europe now find themselves where Russia is concerned [my transcription]:

As far as I’m concerned, of the big-picture items geopolitically between the US and Russia there is nothing actually bigger than rule of law, the WTO, the entire transnational system of international laws and treaties and for Russia and Europe and the US to obtain a common grammar in respect to those. That’s the most important thing. Because Russia cannot mobilize its resources without it. Russia cannot continue its disaggregation policy with it. And once Russia signs the Energy Charter, and Russia has to agree to transit gas, we’re going to be in an entirely different energy world, where something called competition may actually evolve in some of these markets, and that is going to help in terms of liberating people, and it is going to help in terms of, in fact, putting Russia back on a better road in terms of democratic freedoms.

I think what we’re seeing right now has been many American politicians attempting to close their eyes to the reality of Russia because they think, in respect to Iran or North Korea that Russia somehow geopolitically is on their side. And as I said when I spoke, they’re wrong - the concepts that are coming out of Moscow, and there’s a recent paper that’s just come out called The Likely Scenario of Action of the United States towards Russia - there’s a tremendous well of hostility towards the US among the siloviki who have become very powerful in Russia. And there’s a false game in terms of many of these American politicians who believe, somehow, that by the President and Mr Putin getting along, all of a sudden the world is going to be light - it’s not going to be how it’s going to happen. We’ve got to deal with fundamentals. We can’t deal with isolated issues. And we have to have a negotiating table with Russia where the hard issues or and about Russia are addressed. They can’t be obfuscated. And that’s why I’m saying the way to do that is to begin today to focus on those Western banks that are the complicit players in this geopolitical game. Because as far as I’m concerned, these banks have become political actors. And they are unsupervised, and their goals are short-term profit maximization at the expense of rule of law, and that doesn’t work in a market economy. You can’t have what I call “constitutional dumping”.

Update: It's now possible to download a podcast of the entire event from the Cato website. The video of the discussion can also be watched there.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Russian Media Silent on Litvinenko Poisoning

BBC Monitoring reports that in Russia, coverage of the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko has been confined to “a small number of outlets”.

On reasons for the silence, which has particularly affected Russia’s three main television networks, the journalist and political commentator Yulia Latynina expressed the view that “This is a fairly key milestone, which undoubtedly alters the image of Russia in the outside world."
The lack of television coverage came as no shock to Ekho Moskvy’s editor-in-chief, Alexei Venediktov.

“It’s not at all surprising that there’s silence on television, it’s understandable,” he told listeners to his phone-in programme on Sunday.

The launch of an investigation by British police had led to “confusion” in the Russian authorities, he said.

(Hat tip: LN)