Monday, April 30, 2007

Mart Laar

The blog of Estonian MP Mart Laar is here.
(hat tip: Leopoldo)

Russian Duma delegation visits Tallinn

From the Estonian foreign ministry:

30 April 2007

Foreign Ministry shocked by the behaviour of the Russian Duma delegation

The Foreign Ministry expresses surprise over the behaviour of the Russian Duma delegation. The Estonian side put together a comprehensive programme, which allowed the visiting delegation to thoroughly familiarise itself with topics of interest to them. The Russian delegation refused to participate in the programme that was approved by the head of the delegation, Leonid Slutski, the Vice-President of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs committee. The members of the Duma did not participate in planned meetings at the Foreign Ministry, where the planned discussion was to cover questions related to the negotiations on the Estonia-Russia war graves agreement.

Upon arrival, the members of the Duma began making unrealistic demands, such as demanding a meeting with arrested Estonian citizen Dmitri Linter.

In addition, the State Duma delegation refused to participate in a joint press conference with Riigikogu Vice-Chairman Kristiina Ojuland and Chairman of the Riigikogu’s Foreign Affairs Committee Sven Mikser, where members of the diplomatic corps were invited to attend. The refusal to participate was explained by a demand to organise a press conference for the press behind closed doors in the Russian Embassy. This demand was based on the absurd assertion that all journalists would not have access to the press conference that was to be held in the Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry apologises for any inconveniences created by the Russian delegation for those journalists and representatives of the diplomatic corps who had come to attend the press conference.

The Foreign Ministry affirms that Estonia is always prepared and open to all contacts. However, it cannot agree with absurd statements and unreasonable demands.

6 377 654
50 94 645

The Unknown Soldier

The stone that will mark the new Bronze Soldier war memorial in Tallinn’s military cemetery from May 8 onwards. The inscription reads, in Estonian and Russian: “To the Unknown Soldier 1941-1945.” (via Postimees).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Statue - IV

From the Estonian foreign ministry website:

29 April 2007

Foreign Ministry website once again accessible to all

The Foreign Ministry apologises for any inconveniences caused by the lack of accessibility to the Foreign Ministry website from abroad. The website problems were caused by malevolent attacks from the East (artificially high number of inquiries sent in an organised manner). To protect the site, the Foreign Ministry was forced to block access to the website from abroad. Now the problem is under control and the website is once again accessible to all.

The Statue - III

Estonian defence minister Jaak Aaviksoo and Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet have announced at a press conference that the Bronze Soldier statue will be moved from its present site at Tõnismägi to Tallinn’s military cemetery tomorrow, and will be open to the public on May 8.

Reuters has a report here.

The Statue - II

From the Estonian government press office:

29 April 2007

Bronze Soldier will be relocated to the Military Cemetary in central Tallinn

The Estonian Government will begin preparatory works today, Sunday, 29 April, at the military cemetary in central Tallinn to relocate the grave marker (Bronze Soldier).

Dear editors and journalists!

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Minister of Defence Jaak Aaviksoo will give a joint press conference on Sunday, 29 April at 11:00 in the Press Centre of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


All journalists, photographers and TV cameramen should apply for accreditation from the MFA Press Centre by e-mail: (first and surname, news organization, number of passport/ID-card) . The final deadline for accreditation is Sunday, 29 April, 1000.

Please arrive no later than 1045 at the Visitor’s Entrance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Lauteri 2). Please have passports or personal identification cards with you.

+ 372 6377 654
+ 372 50 94 645

Estonia: the Sudetenland comparison

In a well-researched and thoughtful comparative study (pdf) of the issues surrounding the Russian minority in Estonia and Czech-Sudeten German relations between the two world wars, Tartu historian Reigo Lokk has drawn attention to disturbing similarities between the Sudeten crisis which developed when Hitler became German Chancellor in 1933 and the present situation in Estonia, which has developed to a critical point since Putin became Russia’s President in 2000. Although it was written before the current unrest over the relocation of the Bronze Soldier statue, the essay contains many perceptions that may help towards an understanding of what is now taking place:
For Russophones living in Estonia, the new situation signified an identity crisis identification difficulties or fragmented identities) which spelled out the need to redefine their personal and collective identities. Primarily, it brought great difficulties in trying to unite two realities – Russian cultural identity and Estonian political identity. The results of surveys indicate that at least one-third of the Russians have adopted a different understanding of their ethnic or cultural belonging and homeland in connection with the collapse of the Soviet Union. As Czech Germans once were, the present Russian-speaking community in Estonia is, in fact, already highly differentiated by their ethnic origin, citizenship status,future aims, social capital, and cultural and political allegiances. For example, Melvin writes that Russian speakers “still face fundamental questions about whether their identity is primarily Baltic, Slavic, Russian or Russian-speaking”. The degree to which the post-Soviet Russian minority will be integrated into their new homeland is intimately linked to the question of what kind of collective identity it will develop. Different researchers have pointed out the weakening of a formerly widespread sense of Soviet identity, and the strengthening of a regional identity which is bound to the territory of Estonia. The level of identification with the country of Estonia and its culture is still relatively low. Instead, the majority of Russians identify themselves culturally and emotionally with Russia. A very vivid example of this is the fact that about 100,000 permanent inhabitants of Estonia of Russian origin have taken Russian citizenship; in addition, the number of people with no citizenship in Estonia is still over 165,000. Therefore, it can be said that the Russian minority seems to display a postmodern identity policy of multiple loyalties but one which lacks a clear
Lokk points to four critical factors that are likely to influence the outcome of the crisis on the domestic situation in Estonia and the other Baltic states, and their national security:

the activity and attitude of the state authorities and titular nations
the foreign policy of the Russian Federation
the behaviour of the Russian minority itself
the international climate

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Statue

For the past few days, the BBC has been hosting an open public discussion of the Bronze Soldier issue. It’s heartening to see the support for Estonians, who currently face a threat to their country of a kind that few in the West can even begin to imagine.

Meanwhile, the Estonian government has released the following press statements:

28 April 2007

Groundless accusations by Russian Foreign Ministry are directed at escalating tensions in Estonia

The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs decisively refutes the statement made today by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and considers it unfortunate that the groundless accusations are directed at escalating tensions in Estonia.

The Estonian Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed that the death of a Russian citizen was in no way related to the actions of the police officers maintaining public order on 27 April in Tallinn.

According to the Estonian Prosecutor’s Office an investigation has been launched to establish Dmitry’s (born 1987) cause of death. The evidence collected so far indicates that the death was a result of injuries obtained from a conflict between two private individuals during the riots. The investigation is progressing in order to establish all circumstances of the incident and to find all offenders.

The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has informed the Russian Embassy in Tallinn of the Russian citizen and Estonian resident’s death.

According to the Estonian Health Care Board, the majority of injuries from the riots were head and minor hand injuries, most likely caused by glass shards from broken shop windows.

6 377 654
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28 April 2007

Estonian Foreign Minister expressed indignation at the lack of actions by Russian authorities

Foreign Minister Urmas Paet on Saturday voiced indignation at the lack of actions by Russian authorities in ensuring the security of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow.

“During yesterday’s telephone conversation, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov assured me that Russia would fulfil all of its obligations in ensuring the safety of all Estonian representations in Russia,” emphasised Paet. “A day later and the wall of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow has been desecrated,” minister said.

Paet added that Estonia demands explanations with regards to this incident from the Russian Foreign Ministry.

These conditions will not allow the Consular Section of the Embassy in Moscow to operate to its full capacity on Monday 30 April. Irrespective of the situation, Estonia will continue to provide its citizens with consular assistance. The Consulate will return to normal business once the security of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow has been ensured.

6 377 654
50 94 645

Death Prayer Held and Identification Proceedings Started at Tõnismäe War Grave

Today, on April 28 Orthodox priest Aivar Sarapik and Lutheran ministerTaavi Laanepere held a Death Prayer at the Tõnismäe war grave before the surveying works are started. Aivar Sarapik held the Death Prayer according to Orthodox traditions.

Ecumenic Death Prayer was held at the Tõnismäe war grave, containing Death Prayers of both Lutheran and Orthodox churches. The essence of the Death Prayer is to pray for departed souls. To pray for departed souls is a traditional Christian and Orthodox custom. The procedure can be carried out independently from the time and place, especially if it is not known who have been killed and where their graves are located.

Photos of the saying of Death Prayer will be published at <> and at <> . Upon using the photos please refer to the Ministry of Defence as the author. The Death Prayer service was recorded by Estonian Radio and Estonian Television, the recorded material is available to everyone interested. The contact person is Andres Kuusk, e-Mail address <> .

The identification proceedings will be carried out according to international regulations, customs and agreements. These include: Disaster Victims Identification Instructions (DVI), general rules and methods of forensic and anthropological practice and recommendations to archeological and anthropoligical investigation.

The identification of persons buried in the war graves is carried out by state forensic institutions the Estonian Bureau of Forensic Expertise and the Estonian Forensic Centre. A coroner will be present at the excavation works, at whose instruction the discovery, excavation and assembly of the remains will take place. The found remains will be documented and packaged by the forensic experts. The research will be carried out as quickly as possible and the results will be forwarded to the Ministry of Defence.

The conclusion of the results of research will be disclosed by the Ministry of Defence.

Madis Mikko
Director of Public Relations
MoD of Estonia
+ 372 51 88 281

Friday, April 27, 2007

Putin's CFE threat and the North Caucasus

Writing in RFE/RL’s North Caucasus/Chechnya section, analyst Liz Fuller suggests that President Putin’s threat to suspend compliance with the amended 1999 CFE Treaty - an ominous move which is causing consternation in Europe - may be aimed at the North Caucasus region: given the increased deployment of Russian armour and artillery in Chechnya and neighbouring republics since 1999, a further military buildup there could pose a threat to Georgia.

Rostropovich dies

Helsingin Sanomat reports that the great Russian cellist, conductor and human rights defender Mstislav Rostropovich has died in Moscow, aged 80.

Soviet grave marker removed

From the Estonian government’s press office:

27 April 2007

Estonian Government has removed the grave marker

Originating from the situation in Tallinn and acting based on the “Protection of War Graves act” §8 article 2, the Estonian government has decided to immediately remove the Tõnismäe grave marker (Bronze soldier).

The objective of the government’s decision is to avert further brutal acts of public violence, which are realistic threats to the health and property of citizens. The decision to immediately remove the Bronze Soldier was made to ensure that it cannot be used in the future as a reason or cause for extensive and dangerous rioting.

Yesterday’s rioters found the police presence and the assembly of people to be a good reason to act destructively.

The rioters showed clearly that their real goal was to riot, destroy, break and loot.

These actions confirm that they have nothing to do with respecting and protecting the memories of those who fell during World War II.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Reporter seeks asylum in Britain

Via MosNews:

Yelena Tregubova, a former Kremlin pool reporter and author of several books about the Russian political elite, has applied for political asylum in Great Britain, the Ekho Moskvy radio reported on Tuesday quoting Tregubova’s own statement.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Reitschuster's Russia

At the blog of Boris Reitschuster, the author of a biography and portrait of Vladimir Putin which has upset the Kremlin in no small degree, some interesting details of events surrounding the death of Boris Yeltsin, an interview on the current state of Russia, an analysis of Kremlin propaganda techniques, and much, much more. In German, but a very good read.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


The Babel Caucase Caravan has now reached Turkey, on its way to Chechnya.

Commentary in the French press has been largely supportive of the venture, which aims this month and next to bring a motley group of artistes, musicians and performers to Grozny and other cities in Chechnya. Attacks on the project continue to come from Chechen sources, however. In an article published a few days before the Caravan left Paris last week, one observer wrote that

Alas, this simple gesture of friendship is upsetting some people. Just a few days away from the departure, the Internet is spreading dirty rumours. The most sickening ones imply that these “clowns” have been invited by Kadyrov, the despot in the pay of Moscow who has had himself elected president, to perform in his honour. Others insinuate that these “pseudo-artistes” are being manipulated by the French government in collaboration with Moscow, which is trying to use them in order to say that everything in Chechnya is normal. False propaganda (intox), in other words. All the more so as these diatribes emanate from Russian-language sites which are clearly Islamist… (my tr.)

See also in this blog: Caucasian Babel

Monday, April 23, 2007

KGB men to face murder charges

Via the Mail on Sunday:

Scotland Yard detectives are to issue arrest warrants against three former KGB officers suspected of poisoning ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Police have told sources close to Mr Litvinenko’s widow Marina that they intend to lay charges of murder and poisoning against the men, who met the victim three weeks before his death in London.

The move will damage the already strained relationship between Downing Street and the Kremlin, which is almost certain to block any request for the men’s arrest and extradition.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Kremlin Boycotts Eventica

Each year, London's Russian expat business community holds a large and elaborate conference organized by Eventica, the company which also arranges the annual Russian Winter Festival in Trafalgar Square. The conference, which is often addressed by senior British government figures - this year Alistair Darling is due to speak - is one of the main pillars of Russian-British relations, and its upbeat, business-oriented flavour is often contrasted with the state of relations during the Cold War. This year, however, a dozen influential executives with links to the Kremlin have pulled out, according to a report in the London Times:

The move prompted speculation that President Putin had ordered the event to be boycotted in light of Britain’s continued refusal to extradite Boris Berezovsky, the billionaire businessman and outspoken opponent of the Russian leader.

Mr Berezovsky sparked an outcry in Moscow last week by claiming that he was financing an anti-Kremlin “revolution”.

Kremlin sources said that the conference boycott was the result of “an order from above”.

The Russian Economic Forum, organised by London-based firm Eventica, is the world’s biggest international networking event for Russian companies. This year’s event, the tenth, begins tomorrow and was due to attract more than 2,000 delegates.

Read it all.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tallinn Memorial

The Estonian foreign ministry has released the following fact sheet about the Tallinn war memorial:

The Memorial in Tallinn to the Fallen of World War Two

20 April 2007

The Republic of Estonia, like the other EU member states, honours the memory of all the victims and the fallen of World War Two. As well as greatly values the contribution of those nations that fought in the name of destroying fascism in Europe and in the whole world. At the same time, the Estonian government condemns the activities of those individuals – be they Estonian citizens or the representatives of a foreign power – who, on the territory of the Republic of Estonia, committed crimes against humanity, and carried out mass repressions. By dealing with crimes against humanity as international crimes without a statute of limitations, we sincerely hope that they can be prevented in the future.

In Estonia, the graves of 217 Soviet soldiers and nearly ten German military cemeteries have been declared to be national heritage landmarks. The exact number of military graves has been constantly changing due to both new finds and re-interments. The burial sites of Soviet soldiers have been taken care of by local administrations.

World War Two was a tragic page in Estonia’s history. In 1940, Estonia was occupied and illegally annexed by the Soviet Union for more than 50 years. Forcibly drafted Estonians were forced to fight in the ranks of foreign armies on both sides of the front, since the male residents of Estonia were forcibly mobilised into the armed forces of the occupying regimes – into the active units of both the Red Army and the Waffen-SS. This was a serious breach of a generally accepted principle — that a military draft may not be enforced on occupied territory. During the course of World War Two, as a result of occupations and massive deportations, Estonia’s human losses were immense. Alongside tens of thousands of Estonians, the Russian, and other minority cultures, that had developed in Estonia before the War were practically wiped out. As a result, the celebration of all kinds of victories and liberations is a very controversial subject for the Estonian people.

The memorial for those who had fallen in World War Two was erected in central Tallinn, in Tõnismäe Park, on 22 September 1947. As an obligatory component of Soviet city planning, a Red Army monument had to be placed in the centre of the city in a public place, and be surrounded by a spacious square where it would be possible to carry out large-scale events on Soviet and Red Army anniversaries. Later, Tõnismäe, as a burial site for those who had fallen in the Second World War, was declared to be a cultural landmark.

This memorial has a dual meaning for the people living in Estonia – on the one hand, it is a painful reminder of Estonia being occupied by a foreign army. On the other hand, it recalls the fallen who gave their lives fighting against Nazi Germany. The praising of the first meaning and its demonstrative celebrating is, of course, unacceptable for Estonia. The second meaning is the only possible one, and similar in content to that of memorials elsewhere in Europe.

On the basis of an historical query compiled by the Estonian International Commission for the Investigation of Crimes Against Humanity, “The Red Army Troops’ Common Grave and Memorial in Tallinn’s Tõnismäe”, it can be stated that on 14 April 1945, 12 coffins were buried in Tõnismäe for propagandistic purposes. But existing documents do not indicate the exact burial spots, and archives and other sources of information do not give a clear picture of who, and why, are buried in Tõnismäe. Meanwhile, not all archive materials, primarily those in Russia, are accessible, and the various existing sources provide somewhat contradictory information. Thus, the need has arisen to clarify, in greater detail, the circumstances surrounding the supposed burial spots in Tõnismäe Park.

It is the moral and international obligation of the Estonian state to ensure the security and the peace of the grave of military graves and their adjoining monuments. On the basis of this, on 10 January 2007, the Military Graves Protection Act was passed, that observes international principles (the corresponding Geneva Convention) and practices. In accordance with this legislation, a Military Graves Committee was established at the Ministry of Defence, that presents proposals to the defence minister on matters concerning the security of the burial spots of the victims of war as well as the possible re-interment of remains.

On the basis of the aforementioned conventions and common humane practices, it is not acceptable that people are buried in unmarked graves in a park in central Tallinn, and that public events are held on these unnamed graves. Just as the present utilisation of Tõnismäe Park does not ensure the peace of the grave, since unhindered pedestrian traffic crosses the supposed burial spot. This means that, in Tallinn, we are dealing with what, according to generally recognised humane practices and value judgements, can be regarded as an abnormal situation.

In addition to the problem with ensuring the peace of the grave, there is also the factor that in this central Tallinn, Tõnismäe burial spot for the fallen of World War II, there have occurred several events that have been hostile towards the Estonian state and have quite clearly disturbed the peace of the grave, which, in turn, has brought forth the general community’s counter-reaction. These supposed military graves, together with their monument, no longer symbolise a memorial spot for the fallen, but have turned into a location where various political groups gather to demonstrate and incite hostility, where laws are broken and the criminal Communist regime is praised. This all has, unfortunately, proven to be true in the course of the last 15 years. The moving of the monument, as well as the re-interment of the remains, from central Tallinn to an appropriately suitable location – a cemetery – would dispel this ideological nightmare, and would provide the interred with the peace of the grave. The monument would then acquire the only contemporarily suitable meaning – the function of memorialising those having fallen in war.

Thus, on 9 March 2007, the Military Graves Committee recommended to the defence minister that the remains located in Tõnismäe be re-interred, since, in the present location, the peace of the grave cannot be ensured. To ensure the peace of the grave, the remains in the vicinity of the monument should be reburied in the Tallinn Inner City Cemetery. In the committee’s opinion, this is an honourable location, where the peace of the grave and the respect due to a military grave can be ensured. Estonian, British, and Soviet soldiers, who have fallen in various wars, are already interred at the Inner City Cemetery. The Tõnismäe monument, as a cultural landmark, will also find a new location in the the Inner City Cemetery, and will definitely not be demolished.

All the steps that are to be taken in this matter will be in accordance with Estonian and international laws as well as European principles. Plus, the National Heritage Board, as well as other appropriate experts, will be involved in the re-interment process. In connection with the re-interment, representatives of the Lutheran, Orthodox, and Catholic churches, as well as the Jewish community, have expressed their approval.

In Estonia’s case, there is nothing exceptional about such a development. Throughout Eastern Europe, the remains of those having fallen in war have been re-buried in cemeteries so as to ensure their peace of the grave. This was done on an especially massive scale, for instance, in Hungary, at the beginning of the 90s. In regards to monuments erected to the Red Army, an example can be presented from the Czech Republic – in Prague, no such monument can be found, although smaller memorials do exist, but only in cemeteries.

In connection with the Tõnismäe monument, a widespread debate has developed in Estonian society over the meaning of the memorial and its present location in Tallinn’s metropolitan space. The Estonian Public Understanding Foundation, which combines over 60 organisations, has initiated an extensive debate concerning tolerance. Upon the initiative of the Tallinn City Council, round table meetings are taking place that are dealing with the theme of the Tõnismäe memorial. Over 30 organisations and political alliances, including war veterans’ groups, are participating. At the last session, on 6 March 2007, the participants found that one possibility would be to find the monument another, more suitable, location. This is a step towards a more mature society, that shares democratic values, in which attempts are made to solve the problems confronting society at a common conference table, where the multiplicity of opinions are taken into consideration.

Stopping at Nothing

In the latest issue of the Spectator, Anne Applebaum considers that Vladimir Putin will stop at nothing to suppress the new wave of Russian dissidents. Britain is becoming the principal target of the Kremlin’s new assertive anti-Western policy. In the aftermath of last Saturday’s violent break-up by Moscow riot police of a peaceful march and rally, a disturbing event that was widely publicised in the world’s media, she concludes that
The new aggression might […] be evidence that the Kremlin is now so self-confident that it no longer needs to make any gestures to Western public sensibilities at all.

There are many reasons why this might be so. That 80 per cent public support — backed up by a television monopoly which gives no time to potential opponents — is part of it. High oil prices are even more important. Soviet dissidents at least knew that even in the darkest times, they could get some attention paid to their cause in the West: in 1980 a group of Russian women political prisoners sent a message to President Ronald Reagan, congratulating him on his election. It arrived within three days, to the President’s delight, infuriating the KGB. But nowadays, the West is so anxious to please President Putin, and so keen to buy his gas and oil, that Kasparov and Kasyanov can’t count on much press coverage. Reagan is not in the White House; it is hard to imagine a letter from a Russian prison raising many eyebrows today.

In the end, though, some of that self-confidence surely comes from a sense of vindication. For a brief period, in the early 1990s, it looked like the KGB was finished. Now it is back, and more important than ever. If nothing else, the past decade has proven to Putin and his colleagues that the values they imbibed during their years in the Soviet secret services were the right ones. They no longer care if others disagree.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Baltic Demand

Via CNN:
LUXEMBOURG (AP) — The three Baltic nations on Thursday demanded that major Stalinist atrocities should be included in plans for a European Union law to make incitement of racist violence and Holocaust denial a crime.

Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia demanded that a meeting of EU justice and interior ministers agree to make it illegal for people to publicly condone, deny or trivialize crimes against humanity committed under the Soviet regime led by Joseph Stalin.

“Stalinism and Nazism should be treated equally,” said Jurgita Apanaviciute, a spokeswoman for Lithuania’s delegation to the EU.

The EU ministers were close to agreeing on the contentious anti-racist package after six years of negotiations on how to combat racism and hate crimes. But other EU nations were loathe to agree to the demand by the Baltic states because they do not legally recognize crimes committed under Stalin as hate crimes or equate them with the genocide perpetrated under the Nazis in Germany during World War II.

Kasparov Summoned to FSB

Garri Kasparov, who was briefly detained at the “Dissenters’ March” in Moscow last Saturday, has received two summons to appear for questioning on Friday (not today, as Kommersant states) by the Moscow FSB. The summons relate to two public utterances: an interview Kasparov gave to Echo of Moscow radio on April 8, and a newspaper article he wrote for the United Civil Front newspaper.

A report published on the website quotes Marina Litvinovich as saying that Kasparov has asked for the summons to be deferred, and that he does not plan to appear for questioning tomorrow.

Update (April 20): Kasparov is now being questioned by FSB officials, according to Marina Litvinovich in a Moscow Echo report.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sarkozy on Chechnya

Via RIA Novosti:
The candidate most likely to become the next French president said Wednesday that he would prefer forging closer relations with the United States rather than Russia.

Nikolas Sarkozy is the leader of the ruling right-of-center party UMP and the former interior minister who stepped down in March to focus on his presidential bid in the upcoming election.

“If you want to know which one is closer to me - the U.S. or Russia, which we saw in action in Chechnya - I will say the U.S.,” the candidate said.

Passing the Ball

In Insight, Andrei Piontkovsky has an interesting article comparing Boris Berezovsky and Leon Trotsky - both when in exile claimed undemonstrably wide support inside Russia. But there the similarity ends. Piontkovsky has always characterized Berezovsky as “acting as an extremely valuable foreign agent for Putin by trying to ‘head,’ and thereby discrediting, any opposition to Putin’s regime.”

From the article’s conclusion:

Once he was in emigration, Berezovsky began claiming, and clearly knew what he was talking about, that these explosions were the work not of Chechens but of the Russian authorities. In the process, he omitted to mention who was effectively ruling Russia in the autumn of 1999. The highest authority in the land was the team in charge of “Operation Successor,” (Berezovsky, Voloshin, Yumashev, Diachenko) who were acting on behalf of an incapable President Boris Yeltsin. By means of the incursion of Basaev and Hattab in Dagestan, the blowing up of apartments in Russian cities, and the destructive war in Chechnya, they and their television hit men ushered into the presidency a certain Vladimir Putin. At the time, Putin was totally unknown and unable to take any independent decisions. Their aim was to avert a takeover of the Kremlin by the rival clan of Luzhkov and Primakov, which threatened their business interests.

The shameful secret of how the Putin regime was conceived binds Putin and Berezovsky together with a single chain. It seems strange that they fail to understand this. Or perhaps they know it full well, and that is why they pass the ball to each other so deftly.

The Same Rules for All

Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Yulia Tymoshenko considers ways in which the countries of Europe can deal with a Russia that is increasingly relying on energy politics to achieve its geopolitical and strategic aims. An excerpt:

What can the West do to dissuade the Kremlin from pursuing its expansionist designs?

Today, Russia needs Western markets, not Western aid. Yet it exhibits the worst of monopolistic behavior.

One path of engagement is for the European Union to work with Russia on energy in much the same way the EU engages other perceived monopolistic entities, Microsoft being a landmark example. European competition policy, which has successfully engaged companies both inside and outside the EU, could also help turn Gazprom into a reasonable competitor. One must ask how it is that Apple’s iPod and iTunes are challenged by EU regulators yet Gazprom is not?

In such a policy approach, the EU should consider breaking Gazprom’s monopoly on pipeline infrastructure as well as licensing independent gas producers. Independent producers already account for 20 percent of domestic gas sales in Russia and are boosting their output.

Further gains would require market incentives. Europe can help by explicitly linking its acceptance of Russia’s WTO membership to Russia’s ratification of the Energy Charter and its attendant Transit Protocol, which would guarantee access to Russian pipelines for Gazprom’s competitors.

In this way, Europeans would shore the risks of any possible energy blockade equally among themselves, rather than allowing separate deals that leave others vulnerable to energy blackmail. Such a policy would need to incorporate a consensus that no country could reach a deal with Gazprom that undercuts EU plans to help
construct pipelines from Central Asia that bypass Russia.

The EU’s collective engagement would be a model for the developing democracies on its borders, including Ukraine, and provide constructive model for Russian commercial behavior.

Russia should be welcomed in institutions and agreements that foster cooperation. But Russia’s reform will be impeded, not helped, if the West turns a blind eye to its expansionist pretensions - be they economic or political. The independence of the republics that broke away from the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, must not be tacitly downgraded by the West’s acquiescence to Russia’s desire for hegemony.

(Via MAK)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Disinformation War

Documented at chechnya-sl, an interesting example of how federal Russian intelligence sources routinely spread disinformation about Chechnya and Chechens through the world’s media, often relying on links made with Western intelligence services during the post-Cold War era. The latest instance concerns a Reuters India report which purports to “cite” an article in Le Monde claiming that Chechens were involved in the planning of 9/11. In fact, however, the Le Monde article makes no mention of Chechens...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, April 16, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Haaretz reports that

Israelis stood silently for two minutes to remember the victims of the Holocaust, as sirens wailed throughout the country on Monday morning.

Israel marked Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day with vocal concern for the plight of aging survivors, many of whom are living in poverty in Israel.

“We must never accept a reality in which even one of the Holocaust survivors in Israel is living without dignity,” Acting President Dalia Itzik declared at the opening ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, referring to reports that a third of the Holocaust survivors living in Israel live below the poverty line.

Hundreds of people, many of them Holocaust survivors, sat in rows at the central plaza at Yad Vashem for the ceremony Sunday evening, bundled up against the cold weather. A youth choir sang, and Israeli leaders addressed the somber gathering. Itzik said at the beginning of the ceremony that "the Holocaust is not only a stain on the history of Germany, not only on the history of European peoples, but a mark of Cain on all of humanity."

Sunday, April 15, 2007


In Haaretz, Amiram Barkat discusses Martin Gilbert’s new book on Kristallnacht:

The Americans refused to increase the immigration quotas, on the grounds that this would necessitate far-reaching legislative changes. The British explained that in the expanses of their Empire, they found no place suited to mass Jewish settlement.

Why were the United States and Britain not forthcoming? Many of the quotes provide an answer. A senior British administration official, one of the people who set immigration policy, said in the summer of 1939 that the Jews were unnecessarily alarmed and did not have to leave. Many of them, added the official, were not suited to immigrate, and there would be serious problems if they were brought to Britain. And then-British prime minister Neville Chamberlain wrote in his diary: “No doubt Jews aren’t a lovable people; I don’t care about them myself.” A venomous (Gilbert called it “critical”) editorial in the British newspaper The Sunday Express stated that Kristallnacht should serve as a warning to the Jews of Britain, and added that absorbing too many foreigners would exact a price from all Britons.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Kasparov Arrested

The BBC reports that opposition leader Garry Kasparov has been arrested during preparations for the “March of the Dissenters” rally on Moscow’s Pushkin Square.

The Ekho Moskvy radio station quotes Vladimir Ryzhkov as saying that many bystanders, including pensioners and elderly women, who were not taking part in the march have been badly beaten by riot police.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Islamic Fundamentalism in Russia

Prague Watchdog has published an article by Dr. Dmitry Shlapentokh on the spead of Islamic fundamentalism in Russia.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Yugoslav War Criminals May Be Brought to Estonia

Postimees writes that Estonia has received a request from the International Tribunal at the Hague to accommodate Yugoslav war criminals in its prisons. Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet has asked the country’s ministry of justice to consider the matter. France, Finland, Norway and a number of other European countries already house Yugoslav war criminals in their penal institutions.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Maritime Concerns

Via Stratfor:

The Limitations and Necessity of Naval Power

By George Friedman

It has now been four years since the fall of Baghdad concluded the U.S. invasion of Iraq. We have said much about the Iraq war, and for the moment there is little left to say. The question is whether the United States will withdraw forces from Iraq or whether it will be able to craft some sort of political resolution to the war, both within Iraq and in the region. Military victory, in the sense of the unfettered imposition of U.S. will in Iraq, does not appear to us a possibility. Therefore, over the next few months, against the background of the U.S. offensive in Baghdad, the political equation will play out. The action continues. The analysis must pause and await results.

During this pause, we have been thinking about some of the broader questions involved in Iraq — and about the nature and limits of American military power in particular. We recently considered the purpose of U.S. wars since World War II in our discussion of U.S. warfare as strategic spoiling attack. Now we turn to another dimension of U.S. military power — the U.S. Navy — and consider what role, if any, it plays in national security at this point.

Recent events have directed our attention to the role and limits of naval power. During the detention of the 15 British sailors and marines, an idea floated by many people was that the United States should impose a blockade against Iran. The argument was driven partly by a lack of other options: Neither an invasion nor an extended air campaign seemed a viable alternative. Moreover, the United States’ experience in erecting blockades is rich with decisive examples: the Cuban missile crisis, barring Germany’s ability to trade during World War II or that of the American South during the Civil War. The one unquestionable military asset the United States has is its Navy, which can impose sea-lane control anywhere in the world. Finally, Iran — which is rich in oil (all of which is exported by sea) but lacks sufficient refinery capacity of its own — relies on imported gasoline. Therefore, the argument went, imposing a naval blockade would cripple Iran’s economy and bring the leadership to the negotiating table.

Washington never seriously considered the option. This was partly because of diplomatic discussions that indicated that the British detainees would be released under any circumstances. And it was partly because of the difficulties involved in blockading Iran at this time:

1. Iran could mount strategic counters to a blockade, either by increasing anti-U.S. operations by its Shiite allies in Iraq or by inciting Shiite communities in the Arabian Peninsula to unrest. The United States didn’t have appetite for the risk.

2. Blockades always involve the interdiction of vessels operated by third countries — countries that might not appreciate being interdicted. The potential repercussions of interdicting merchant vessels belonging to powers that did not accept the blockade was a price the United States would not pay at this time.

A blockade was not selected because it was not needed, because Iran could retaliate in other ways and because a blockade might damage countries other than Iran that the United States didn’t want to damage. It was, therefore, not in the cards. Not imposing a blockade made sense.

The Value of Naval Power

This raises a more fundamental question: What is the value of naval power in a world in which naval battles are not fought? To frame the question more clearly, let us begin by noting that the United States has maintained global maritime hegemony since the end of World War II. Except for the failed Soviet attempt to partially challenge the United States, the most important geopolitical fact since World War II was that the world’s oceans were effectively under the control of the U.S. Navy. Prior to World War II, there were multiple contenders for maritime power, such as Britain, Japan and most major powers. No one power, not even Britain, had global maritime hegemony. The United States now does. The question is whether this hegemony has any real value at this time — a question made relevant by the issue of whether to blockade Iran.

The United States controls the blue water. To be a little more precise, the U.S. Navy can assert direct and overwhelming control over any portion of the blue water it wishes, and it can do so in multiple places. It cannot directly control all of the oceans at the same time. However, the total available naval force that can be deployed by non-U.S. powers (friendly and other) is so limited that they lack the ability, even taken together, to assert control anywhere should the United States challenge their presence. This is an unprecedented situation historically.

The current situation is, of course, invaluable to the United States. It means that a seaborne invasion of the United States by any power is completely impractical. Given the geopolitical condition of the United States, the homeland is secure from conventional military attack but vulnerable to terrorist strikes and nuclear attacks. At the same time, the United States is in a position to project forces at will to any part of the globe. Such power projection might not be wise at times, but even failure does not lead to reciprocation. For instance, no matter how badly U.S. forces fare in Iraq, the Iraqis will not invade the United States if the Americans are defeated there.

This is not a trivial fact. Control of the seas means that military or political failure in Eurasia will not result in a direct conventional threat to the United States. Nor does such failure necessarily preclude future U.S. intervention in that region. It also means that no other state can choose to invade the United States. Control of the seas allows the United States to intervene where it wants, survive the consequences of failure and be immune to occupation itself. It was the most important geopolitical consequence of World War II, and one that still defines the world.

The issue for the United States is not whether it should abandon control of the seas — that would be irrational in the extreme. Rather, the question is whether it has to exert itself at all in order to retain that control. Other powers either have abandoned attempts to challenge the United States, have fallen short of challenging the United States or have confined their efforts to building navies for extremely limited uses, or for uses aligned with the United States. No one has a shipbuilding program under way that could challenge the United States for several generations.

One argument, then, is that the United States should cut its naval forces radically — since they have, in effect, done their job. Mothballing a good portion of the fleet would free up resources for other military requirements without threatening U.S. ability to control the sea-lanes. Should other powers attempt to build fleets to challenge the United States, the lead time involved in naval construction is such that the United States would have plenty of opportunities for re-commissioning ships or building new generations of vessels to thwart the potential challenge.

The counterargument normally given is that the U.S. Navy provides a critical service in what is called littoral warfare. In other words, while the Navy might not be needed immediately to control sea-lanes, it carries out critical functions in securing access to those lanes and projecting rapid power into countries where the United States might want to intervene. Thus, U.S. aircraft carriers can bring tactical airpower to bear relatively quickly in any intervention. Moreover, the Navy’s amphibious capabilities — particularly those of deploying and supplying the U.S. Marines — make for a rapid deployment force that, when coupled with Naval airpower, can secure hostile areas of interest for the United States.

That argument is persuasive, but it poses this problem: The Navy provides a powerful option for war initiation by the United States, but it cannot by itself sustain the war. In any sustained conflict, the Army must be brought in to occupy territory — or, as in Iraq, the Marines must be diverted from the amphibious specialty to serve essentially as Army units. Naval air by itself is a powerful opening move, but greater infusions of airpower are needed for a longer conflict. Naval transport might well be critically important in the opening stages, but commercial transport sustains the operation.

If one accepts this argument, the case for a Navy of the current size and shape is not proven. How many carrier battle groups are needed and, given the threat to the carriers, is an entire battle group needed to protect them?

If we consider the Iraq war in isolation, for example, it is apparent that the Navy served a function in the defeat of Iraq’s conventional forces. It is not clear, however, that the Navy has served an important role in the attempt to occupy and pacify Iraq. And, as we have seen in the case of Iran, a blockade is such a complex politico-military matter that the option not to blockade tends to emerge as the obvious choice.

The Risk Not Taken

The argument for slashing the Navy can be tempting. But consider the counterargument. First, and most important, we must consider the crises the United States has not experienced. The presence of the U.S. Navy has shaped the ambitions of primary and secondary powers. The threshold for challenging the Navy has been so high that few have even initiated serious challenges. Those that might be trying to do so, like the Chinese, understand that it requires a substantial diversion of resources. Therefore, the mere existence of U.S. naval power has been effective in averting crises that likely would have occurred otherwise. Reducing the power of the U.S. Navy, or fine-tuning it, would not only open the door to challenges but also eliminate a useful, if not essential, element in U.S. strategy — the ability to bring relatively rapid force to bear.

There are times when the Navy’s use is tactical, and times when it is strategic. At this moment in U.S. history, the role of naval power is highly strategic. The domination of the world’s oceans represents the foundation stone of U.S. grand strategy. It allows the United States to take risks while minimizing consequences. It facilitates risk-taking. Above all, it eliminates the threat of sustained conventional attack against the homeland. U.S. grand strategy has worked so well that this risk appears to be a phantom. The dispersal of U.S. forces around the world attests to what naval power can achieve. It is illusory to believe that this situation cannot be reversed, but it is ultimately a generational threat. Just as U.S. maritime hegemony is measured in generations, the threat to that hegemony will emerge over generations. The apparent lack of utility of naval forces in secondary campaigns, like Iraq, masks the fundamentally indispensable role the Navy plays in U.S. national security.

That does not mean that the Navy as currently structured is sacrosanct — far from it. Peer powers will be able to challenge the U.S. fleet, but not by building their own fleets. Rather, the construction of effective anti-ship missile systems — which can destroy merchant ships as well as overwhelm U.S. naval anti-missile systems — represents a low-cost challenge to U.S. naval power. This is particularly true when these anti-ship missiles are tied to space-based, real-time reconnaissance systems. A major power such as China need not be able to mirror the U.S. Navy in order to challenge it.

Whatever happens in Iraq — or Iran — the centrality of naval power is unchanging. But the threat to naval power evolves. The fact that there is no threat to U.S. control of the sea-lanes at this moment does not mean one will not emerge. Whether with simple threats like mines or the most sophisticated anti-ship system, the ability to keep the U.S. Navy from an area or to close off strategic chokepoints for shipping remains the major threat to the United States — which is, first and foremost, a maritime power.

One of the dangers of wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan is that they soak up resources and intellectual bandwidth. It is said that generals always fight the last war. Another way of stating that is to say they believe the war they are fighting now will go on forever in some form. That belief leads to neglect of capabilities that appear superfluous for the current conflict. That is the true hollowing-out that extended warfare creates. It is an intellectual hollowing-out.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Heavy Fighting in Chechnya

The Chechenpress news agency, Kavkaz Center, and a number of other rebel Chechen information sources say that heavy fighting has been taking place between guerrillas and Russian-backed forces in the mountainous Nozhay-Yurtovsky district of south-eastern Chechnya, with federal losses of between 40 and 60.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Scaramella Affair - II

In the comments, pentolecoperchi writes:
Paolo Guzzanti is now reporting that Mario Scaramella is not only in Hospital for having suffered of a new heart attack but in the past weeks he had got many other illnesses such as tachycardia, collapses, high blood pressure, blackout, thyroid and prostate swell and hair loss. Nobody took him in Hospital.

His ex-girlfriend visited him two days ago and she reports that he has told her:“I will come back soon, I only have to tell them (to the Prosecutors, en) what they want and they will let me come back”.

She also says “…he told me that if he continues believing these tales (that he must trust the law. My note) they will keep him in prison as long as two years, and he cannot make out of it! Unfortunately this is the truth. I realised today that he will not came out of it. The reason and the truth don’t give him any hope. These are instead his weakness”.

Paolo Guzzanti adds that it seems now essential to clear and make known that captain Talik, the slandered, is one that has been working in former Soviet Union, in the once called IX KGB Directorate and that today has assumed the denomination of FSB, that is to say the service for presidential security. The fact is that in that same service have been working also two well known gentleman: Andrey Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, both of them investigated in Great Britain as material killers of Litivinenko. We also know that Talik, still furious for having read one year ago an interview of Litvinenko to Novosti in which he was described as a terrorist and a weapons contrabandist, told by phone to his cohabitee: “We must shut up this asshole. I want to know where he lives and exactly all the rest: I have many friends among generals in Moscow and I have sent somebody to tell them what I think” – Talik said.

Mario Scaramella, Italian citizen, with a clean record, former fellow-worker of the Italian Republic Parliament, is victim of a system and of a juridical practice we all are ashamed of, and that is even impossible to explain to all the foreign journalist colleagues who ask for information on this matter, buried in Italy under the most obscure (but not so much) manoeuvres of political back-lines.

See also: The Scaramella Affair

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Yushchenko Still Seeks Early Elections


April 8, 2007 — Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has vowed to press ahead with plans for early parliamentary elections despite protests led by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych aimed at thwarting the move.

Speaking today at St. Sophia church in Kyiv to mark the Easter holiday, Yushchenko described his decision to dissolve parliament and hold early polls on May 27 as “legitimate” and “constitutional.”

“There will be no going back,” insisted Yushchenko, who ordered the dissolution of parliament after accusing Yanukovych’s pro-Russian supporters of violating the constitution and seeking to usurp power.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Iran Acquiring Russian-made AD and AT Systems

Iran is acquiring Russian-made air defence and anti-tank systems to repel a possible US attack on Iran, Debka reports. Meanwhile, on April 3 Jerusalem Post correspondents wrote that

Iran, Syria and Hizbullah are preparing their defenses for a war in the summer, and they are more worried about an attack by the US than from Israel, OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the [Israeli] cabinet on Sunday.

It will be recalled that on April 1 the Jerusalem Post carried a report, first put out by RIA Novosti and subsequently denied by Russian officials, that Russian intelligence sources claimed US forces would be ready to strike Iran on Good Friday - in the event, however, no such strike took place.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Misconceived Meeting

Chechnya Weekly gives a detailed report on a meeting that should not have taken place:

President George W. Bush welcomed Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, the aide to Russia’s defense minister and former Ulyanovsk governor who commanded troops in Chechnya accused of committing atrocities, into the Oval Office on March 26. Shamanov visited the White House in his capacity as co-chairman of the U.S.-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs. Bush posed for pictures with Shamanov and the American co-chairman, retired Air Force Gen. Robert Foglesong, president of Mississippi State University. Interfax reported on April 2 that Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Yuri Ushakov, also participated in the meeting.
Read the rest.

Litvinenko Justice Foundation Website

The Litvinenko Justice Foundation now has its own website, in English and Russian.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Bildt Receives Thanks from Cuban Dissidents

Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt has received a letter of thanks from the Cuban dissident group Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) after his recent criticism at the United Nations of the Cuban government’s violations of human rights.

Estonian Government Sworn In

Estonia's new centre-right government has been sworn in, the IHT reports.

The official government handout:

Fact Sheet April 2007

Estonia Today

Press and Information Department, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Islandi väljak 1, Tallinn 15049, Estonia
Tel. +372 637 7600, Fax +372 637 7617, E-mail:


The current Estonian Government is a coalition of the Reform Party, the Pro Partia and Res Publica Union and the Social Democratic Party. The new Government was formed after the 4 March 2007 regular parliamentary elections. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves called Andrus Ansip, chairman of the Reform Party that won the elections, to be the next PM. Mr Ansip received the necessary majority of 62 votes from Estonia’s 101-member parliament (Riigikogu) to form a new Government.

The Reform Party (R) has 6, the Pro Partia and Res Publica Union (PPRP) 5 and the Social Democratic Party (SD) 3 ministers in the Government.

Positions on 5 April 2007, after taking the oath of office before the Riigikogu.

Prime Minister Mr Andrus Ansip R
Minister of Defence Mr Jaak Aaviksoo PPRP
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Urmas Paet R
Minister of Education and Research Mr Tõnis Lukas PPRP
Minister of Justice Mr Rein Lang R
Minister of Environment Mr Jaanus Tamkivi R
Minister of Culture Ms Laine Jänes R
Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Mr Juhan Parts PPRP
Minister of Agriculture Mr Helir-Valdor Seeder PPRP
Minister of Finance Mr Ivari Padar SD
Minister of the Interior Mr Jüri Pihl SD
Minister of Social Affairs Ms Maret Maripuu R
Minister of Regional Affairs Mr Vallo Reimaa PPRP
Minister for Population and Ethnic Affairs Ms Urve Palo SD


The executive power of the state – the Government – is responsible to the Riigikogu (Parliament). Appointment to the office of the Prime Minister and withdrawal of the Government lies within the competence of the parliament. The Government also enjoys a stabilising guarantee – the right to dismiss the Riigikogu with the consent of the President and call new elections if the Riigikogu expresses no confidence in the Government.
The Government (cabinet) consists of the Prime Minister and Ministers.
The Constitution defines the areas of responsibility of the Government as the following:
• Implementation of domestic and foreign policies;
• direction and co-ordination of the work of government institutions;
• organisation and implementation of legislation, the resolutions of the Riigikogu, and edicts of the President;
• submitting of bills and international treaties to the Riigikogu;
• preparation of drafts of the state budget;
• implementation of, and reporting on, the budget;
• management of relations with foreign states.

How the Government is appointed:

The President nominates the Prime Minister who then forms a Government. If the President’s candidate(s) fail(s) to form a Government (the Constitution permits the President two nominations), the Riigikogu will name a Prime Minister to form a government.

The Prime Minister alone nominates the ministers who are formally appointed by the President and swear an oath before the Riigikogu.

Government members do not need to be members of the Riigikogu or have any political party affiliation. However, the selection of the Prime Minister, the formation of a working Government and the success of a legislative programme depend on co-operation with Parliament.

A Government can resign due to any of three reasons: the death or resignation of the Prime Minister, a vote of no-confidence by the Riigikogu in the Government, or the election of a new parliament.

The national elections, since the re-establishment of independence, were held on 20 September 1992, on 5 March 1995, on 7 March 1999, on 2 March 2003, on 4 March 2007. The next regular elections will take place on 6 March 2011.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Caucasian Babel

For weeks now, a French organization calling itself “Association Marcho Doryila” has been advertising a forthcoming “Caravane Babel Caucase” a mobile festival of artists, performers, jugglers, musicians and others that is scheduled to travel from Paris to the Chechen capital Grozny during the months of April and May. According to the organizers, the aim of the project is “to rediscover out history and our roots and our common myths. To know one another and to share in order to respect and enrich ourselves.” Performances are planned not only in Grozny, but also elsewhere in Chechnya, and in neighbouring Daghestan and Ingushetia, with an emphasis on visits to children’s groups and youth organizations.

The well-intentioned venture has sparked a fierce debate within Chechnya and within the Chechen diaspora in Europe, with some Chechens - mostly adherents to the radical agenda of the rebel government of Dokka Umarov - vehemently opposed to the whole scheme, on the grounds that it will merely give support to Ramzan Kadyrov’s presidential regime, which receives at least nominal backing from Moscow. At the Daymohk website, the French philosopher Andre Glucksmann has been strongly criticised for lending his name to the venture, and “open letters” are addressed to him, taking him to task. His reply - in which he reminded his critics that he has been a supporter of an independent Chechnya for many years - has not met with satisfaction.

The most recent attacks on the project concern its formulation - several signatories to an article published on the Kavkazinfo website, which caters to the Chechen refugee community in Poland, have pointed out that the very spelling of the project’s name is wrong. On the French website it appears as “Marcho Dorilya”, while the correct Chechen spelling is “Marsha Dog1yila”. “Marcho” in Chechen means a “shroud” - and so the title, which should have the meaning of “Welcome, Guests” (literally "Come in Freedom") actually reads “Welcome, Shroud”. It’s also inappropriate for the greeting to be uttered by the guests - the hosts are supposed to say it. Whatever one’s views on the main issue, it does seem a pity that the designers of the French site apparently can’t at least see their way to correcting the mistake, which is now replicated in the recently-added Russian-language section.

This is an ongoing debate, and one which promises to play a part in defining Chechnya’s attitude towards the outside world

Litvinenko Case in Political Deadlock

The FT reports that

Pressure was stepped up on the government on Tuesday over murdered former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko as friends and lawyers claimed the investigation was deadlocked for political and diplomatic reasons.

The IHT said yesterday that Louise Christian, the lawyer of Litvinenko’s widow Marina, has expressed the view that Litvinenko’s murder qualifies as an act of international terrorism. She has sought an urgent meeting with the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Litvinenko Justice Foundation

Via the BBC:

The wife and friends of murdered former spy Alexander Litvinenko are launching a justice foundation in his name.

His widow Marina, close friend Alex Goldfarb and Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky hope the foundation will assist investigations into his death.

The 43-year-old Russian, a former KGB officer, died last November in London. His body contained high levels of radioactive substance polonium-210.

The Litvinenko Justice Foundation will be formally launched in London later.

AP has another report here.

A Fifth Frozen Conflict

Vladimir Socor , on the tactics Moscow is using to exploit the issue of Kosovo’s independence for its own geopolitical ends, both in order to establish a linkage that will enable it to continue freezing the resolution of the four post-Soviet secessionist conflicts, and as a way to block Serbia’s prospects of partnership and association with the European Union, and thus draw Serbia towards a closer reliance on Russia.

For its part, Russia threatens to veto any kind of solution on Kosovo’s status at this time. Instead, it aims for stalemate and lumping settlement in Kosovo with settlement of the post-Soviet conflicts. Such linkage would enable Moscow to use one negotiating process to obstruct or manipulate the other negotiating processes, either prolonging all of them indefinitely or offering concessions in one theater to obtain satisfaction in other theaters.

While the United States and the European Union reject any such linkage as baseless, Russia seeks to convert several EU and NATO member countries to the linkage thesis by exploiting variously their fears or ambitions. Discomfiting its post-Soviet secessionist clients, Moscow tilts clearly toward settlements ostensibly based on the territorial integrity of states at this stage, when its top priority is to win over Serbia as strategic ally while consolidating the gains already achieved in the post-Soviet conflicts.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Scaramella Affair

On March 10 the Italian newspaper Panorama published an article by Senator Paolo Guzzanti, who headed the so-called ‘Mitrokhin Commission’ for the investigation of the activity of the KGB in Italy. Guzzanti suggests that the death of Kommersant journalist Ivan Safronov, the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, and the murder of FSB General Anatoly Trofimov in spring 2005 are all links in a single chain, and that all three men were killed because they possessed information that compromised Italian prime minister Romano Prodi. In a interview broadcast on the same day, intelligence historian Boris Volodarsky talked about his recent meeting with Mario Scaramella, who worked closely with Guzzanti, was the last person to meet with Litvinenko, and is now being held in an Italian prison on obscure and not fully specified charges that are quite unrelated to the Litvinenko poisoning. In the interview, Volodarsky suggests that Scaramella may have fallen victim to a disinformation campaign organized by the FSB.

Update: an earlier interview by Volodarsky, in which he gives an account of a visit to Scaramella in prison, is here.

Update 2: Mario Scaramella is currently in hospital after suffering a series of heart attacks, Paolo Guzzanti reports.