Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Q & A

So when you had your spat with Russia ...

... We said the same thing in public and in private. What we said was we want good relations with Russia, we want to work with Russia bilaterally and multilaterally. We want Russia to be a serious and respected member of the international community but the right to be a member of the international community comes with responsibilities, co-operation on processes, especially in a very serious case. We remain committed to justice for Mr. Litvinenko. We've got a judicial system that we want to defend, whose integrity we have to defend. There's a discussion to be had with Russia about what role it's going to play in the international community. There are a range of issues — the [Conventional Forces in Europe treaty] for ballistic missiles, Kosovo, Litvinenko — where it's important that we understand Russia and Russia understands us.

(David Milliband, Britain's new foreign secretary, this week in Time)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Beslan video disproves official version

Via Reuters:
Previously unseen film proves that the bloody end to the 2004 Beslan siege was caused by security forces firing on a school crammed with hostages, not by blasts from within, a victim support group says.

The Beslan Mothers' Committee says the footage disproves the official version that the detonation of a boobytrap device planted by Chechen separatists inside the building caused the carnage at School No.1, in the southern Russian town of Beslan.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Russia against Taiwanese independence

Russia has come out openly against independence for Taiwan. From RIA Novosti:

A Russian foreign ministry official said Monday, during a meeting with the Chinese ambassador, that Russia recognized only one China and stood against Taiwanese independence.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko and Liu Guchang discussed important issues concerning bilateral strategic relations, including cooperation in the United Nations. Considering Taiwan's drive for international recognition of its independence and its right to join the UN, the Russian diplomat reiterated Moscow's position in principle fixed in the 2001 Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation.

"It was confirmed during the meeting that Russia is against any possible form of Taiwan's independence, recognizing only one China, and the government of the Chinese People's Republic as the only legitimate government representing China," the Foreign Ministry commented on the meeting.
Via CeceniaSOS

Friday, July 27, 2007

Caucasian muftis in the U.S.

On Wednesday there were federal Russian news reports that President Bush had "invited a group of Caucasian muftis to his rancho", and that the meeting had the (somewhat surprised) endorsement of top Russian political figures, including foreign minister Lavrov, but as is frequently the case with Caucasus reporting in the Russian Federation, this story turned out to be false.

What really happened was that a delegation of Caucasian muftis - from, it seems, North Ossetia, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria - arrived in the United States as part of a routine U.S. State Department international exchange and information program called Muslim Life in America. They will stay until August 13. This was confirmed by Magomed Albogachiyev, deputy director of the Co-ordinating Centre of North Caucasus Muslims (KTsMSK), speaking to RIA Novosti from Washington, D.C.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Russia found guilty in war crimes trial

Russia has been found guilty in the 6th Chechnya war crimes trial at the European Court of Human Rights this year. There remain thousands of similar cases still to be processed.

Caucasus Cuisine

Darra Goldstein's excellent treatise on Georgian cookery has been widely praised. Now the hunt is on for a similar work on Chechen cuisine. So far, the only widely available information has been the section on "Food and Drink" in the Hippocrene Chechen Dictionary and Phrasebook by Nicholas Awde and Muhammad Gelaev, which includes information of a kind that really makes one wish for more:
Starters include Yu'ah', home-made sausage, and B'ar (literally 'walnut'), which is a kind of boiled haggis served with rice and garlic sauce...

For main courses, try Zhizhig Galnash - stewed beef served up with garlic sauce and pasta...

Ch'ee Palgash are pastry pizzas filled with cottage cheese, egg and onion, baked and then served up covered with melted butter.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Putin's Nazi Inheritance

As the Putin regime currently in power in Moscow increasingly takes on the aspect of a totalitarian government, the country's leader is also losing any last inhibitions he may have had about appearing as an heir to the fascist leaders of the 1930s. Putin's recent appearance at a Hitler-Jugend-like Nashi "youth camp", where he attacked as "colonialist" Britain's response to the refusal of extradition for the KGB operative who is the primary suspect in the Litvinenko poisoning affair, made him look disturbingly akin to such figures of the past.

At chechnya-sl, Norbert Strade has commented on Putin's "high-pitched whining", the shrillness of which is reminiscent of a familiar voice from Europe's tormented past, reflecting, just as Germany did in the 1930s, "the stupid arrogance of a regime that is itself colonialist to the core and believes that this is totally normal for a Russian Empire but a crime for others. Once again, a Russian tragedy is moving into the realm of farces and burlesques. Btw., Britain would probably have extradited Zakayev, if it wasn't for two things: a) that the Russian "evidence" against him was a clown act and an insult to a hard-working British court, b) that Zakayev had no chance for a fair trial and correct treatment in Russia - which means that Britain *couldn't* extradite him because international human rights conventions overrule bilateral extradition treaties.

"Nothing of this applies to Lugovoi. The evidence against him is massive, he would get a fair trial in London, and nobody would torture him or help him fall from a window. What the KGB mob really is afraid of is the risk that their hitman might squeal while in British custody. They'd rather finish him off with a SIM-card than letting him go. Lugovoi wasn't meant to be identified in the first place, but the brilliant plan wasn't so brilliant after all, and now the little man in the big Kremlin office is very, very angry."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Rough Patch in Relations

El Païs has a new free-of-charge online edition.

Today's lead story is about a double agent who was arrested on Monday in Tenerife, Canary Islands, suspected of having sold to Russia the identities of Spanish spies and other state secrets belonging to Spain's National Intelligence Agency (CNI).
(hat tip: Leopoldo)

More from Reuters here.

A Warm Anomaly

Floods in England and China, heat and drought elsewhere -- a lot of people are talking about climate change and global warming. But over at the Weather Outlook Forum, posters have been wondering about the possible causes of an intense warm anomaly (top left of centre) in the ocean between Alaska and Russia...

Monday, July 23, 2007


Recent satellite photos of Grozny show that large areas of the Chechen capital's infrastructure are still badly damaged and in need of repair. This tends to contradict the Kadyrov government's claims that the capital is now subject to widespread "reconstruction".

Posters to the Chechnya Short List (chechnya-sl) have been pointing out that the current Google Earth image of Grozny shows the capital partially obscured by a large white cloud. However, as one poster makes clear,
you can still zoom in on e.g. Minutka "Square" and see the total destruction, as well as the Potemkin activity. They have apparently erected some kind of nice white structure in the middle of Minutka, and there's some car and truck traffic, but the image shows that the directly adjacent buildings have been destroyed down to their still visible foundations, and all the apartment buildings in the area are damaged.

You can also look at other areas and see exactly where the famous "reconstruction" has taken place - a few buildings along a road here, a single building there, in the middle of still almost total (I'd guess 90%) destruction in the urban areas. Those must be the places where friendly journalists and the CoE improvement crowd are taken on the KGB sightseeing tours.

An interesting detail is the fact that the the black smoke trails from the burning oil wells have disappeared. They used to look like the ones seen in Kuwait after the first Gulf War, and continued for years and years. Apparently the Russians or the Kadyrov gang have now managed to take full control of the oil theft, so the tit-for-tat burning of other gangs' resources stopped.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Litvinenko murder was Kremlin-sponsored terrorism

The British government puts the blame for Alexander Litvinenko's murder on the Russian government. From the Sunday Times:
The senior British official was unequivocal. The murder of the former KGB man Alexander Litvinenko was “undeniably state-sponsored terrorism on Moscow’s part. That is the view at the highest levels of the British government”.

This official had access to the latest police and intelligence findings, and he was reflecting the views of senior Home Office counter-terrorism officials, Scotland Yard detectives and others with close knowledge of the murder investigation. All confirmed last week that they believe the plot to poison Litvinenko in London last year was ordered by the Russian secret service, the FSB.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

When strength is weakness

At Transitions Online, St Petersburg Times staff writer Galina Stolyarova wonders why, when other countries can confront the legacies of their homicidal dictators, Russia apparently finds it almost impossible:
Most probably, the problem comes down to a wrong perception of the nature of national pride. One of Putin's favorite phrases is that Russia must become a strong state. Another is that "the weak are always beaten."

In his view, apology is a sign of weakness. The Soviet Union was a strong state, and it never apologized for what it did. And for that reason, like his predecessors, Putin has offered no apologies to the foreign victims of Stalin's crimes.

The president sees his political mission as restoring Russia's status as a superpower. And the model of greatness he is using seems to be the Soviet Union, whose collapse he has famously described as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century.

If the country continues in that mindset, the new Russia could suffer the same fate as the Soviet Union It will induce not respect but merely fear. And eventually will suffer inevitable collapse.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

An "adequate" response

Via the BBC:

Foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said co-operation in counter terrorism would no longer be possible.

For at least the past five years Russia has been doing all that it can to increase the threat of terrorism to Britain's shores, one of the most recent instances being the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. An "adequate" response indeed.

"We wanted to build a democratic state"

"We wanted to build a democratic, secular, pro-Western Muslim state, something along the lines of Turkey, and eventually join NATO," Zakayev explained, "but then all of a sudden, all these Wahhabi appeared, with stacks of money, and started preaching a totally foreign brand of Islam. How do you think they got there? Through Moscow - they all had Russian visas!"

From Death of a Dissident, The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB, by Alex Goldfarb with Marina Litvinenko,Simon and Schuster UK, 2007.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Finnish-Russian Civic Forum

From Helsinki, Finland, news of a recent Finnish-Russian Civic Forum that was held on Suomenlinna - also known as Sveaborg, or Viapori, the inhabited sea fortress built on six islands within the city limits - on July 3-4. Participants included the following:

Lyudmila Alexeyeva- veteran human rights activist, founder and Chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group, one of the foremost human rights organisations in Russia. Ms Alekseyeva is Cochairperson of the All-Russian Civic Congress and a Member of the Organising Committee of The Other Russia coalition.

Ivar Amundsen - Director of the Chechnya Peace Forum, based in London. He was friend to both slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko. Mr Amundsen is a long-time campaigner for human rights.

Oksana Chelysheva - Deputy Executive Director of the Nizhny Novgorod-based Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, which was refused registration in Russia. The society was then registered in Finland. The organisation is active in protecting the rights of Russia's Chechen minority and promoting interethnic dialogue.

Andrey Dmitriev - Co-coordinator of the anti-Putin opposition's The Other Russia coalition in St Petersburg. He is the former leader of the now banned National Bolshevik Party in St Petersburg. Mr Dmitriev has been active in organising the recent Dissenters' Marches in St Petersburg.

Olga Galkina - Member of the Regional Party Bureau of the liberal opposition party Yabloko's branch in St Petersburg. She is also one of the leaders of Yabloko's youth wing.

Heidi Hautala - Chairperson of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum. She is a Member of the Finnish Parliament, representing the Greens, and a former Member of the European Parliament. Ms Hautala was the Greens' candidate in the Finnish presidential elections in 2000 and 2006.

Neil Hicks - director of the Human Rights Defenders programme at New York-based Human Rights First. The programme assists human rights advocates under attack for their work. Mr Hicks is involved in campaigns including overseas missions, diplomatic advocacy, public education, and grassroots lobbying.

Mariana Katzarova - Founder and Director of the London-based peace group, RAW in WAR -"Reach All Women in War". RAW supports women human rights defenders in conflict areas. The organisation has recently launched a special Chechnya Project. Ms Katzarova is a former researcher on Russia for Amnesty International.

Andrei Kolomoysky - journalist at the Vyborg-based daily, Vyborgskie Vedomosti, specialising in political and cultural affairs, civic rights, and freedom of speech. In 2005, Mr Kolomoysky received the Danish Cultural Institute's prize, "Free Press in Russia". In Soviet times, he took an active part in St Petersburg's underground press ("samizdat").

Oleg Kozlovsky - Coordinator of the opposition youth movement, Oborona (Defence), in Moscow. Oborona is an active participant in the Dissenters' Marches. Mr Kozlovsky recently resigned from the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) in protest at the policies of the party leadership.

Olga Kurnosova - Chairperson of the St Petersburg branch of the United Civic Front, led by Mr Garry Kasparov. Ms Kurnosova is also a Cocoordinator of The Other Russia coalition and an active organiser of the Dissenters' Marches in St Petersburg.

Ruslan Kutaev - Coordinator of the All-Russian Civic Congress, an umbrella organisation of Russian opposition movements, in North Caucasus. He is a Member of the Organising Committee of The Other Russia coalition. Mr Kutaev is a former advisor to late Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov.

Dmitry Lanko - Assistant Professor at the Department of European Studies of the School of International Relations at the St Petersburg State University. His expertise in Political Science spans throughout the Baltic region.

Laura Lodenius - Executive Director of the Finnish Peace Association. The organisation is Finland's oldest peace advocacy group in operation. The association unites a dozen peace groups in Finland.

Vladimir Lysenko - Co-chairperson of the liberal Republican Party of Russia (RPR), which was closed down by the authorities. RPR is co-chaired by Mr Vladimir Ryzhkov. Mr Lysenko is a former long-time Deputy in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament. He is President of the Institute of Modern Politics.

Jukka Mallinen - poet and translator of Russian literature. His most recent translation is Russian journalist Valery Panyushkin's book, "Khodorkovsky: The Prisoner of Silence". Mr Mallinen is Chairperson of the Finnish PEN society and Deputy Chairman of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum.

Yulia Malysheva - Chairperson of the Popular-Democratic Youth League, affiliated to Mr Mikhail Kasyanov's Popular-Democratic Union of Russia. Ms Malysheva is one of the organisers of the Dissenters' Marches in Moscow.

Alexander Mnatsakanyan - journalist who has worked as a war correspondent for various newspapers in Transdnestria, Abkhazia, and Chechnya. He has covered the conflict in Chechnya since the early 1990s. Mr Mnatsakanyan is responsible for the project on murdered journalists at the Moscow-based Glasnost Defence Fund.

Andrey Nekrasov - Russian documentarist and playwright from St Petersburg, most famous for his two films, "Disbelief" and "Rebellion: The Litvinenko Case". The latter, on the fate of the former KGB officer, Alexander Litvinenko, was screened at the 60th Film Festival in Cannes in May 2007.

Alexander Nikitin - Director of the St Petersburg branch of the Norwegian environmentalist organisation, Bellona. Mr Nikitin is a former submarine officer, who was charged with treason for contributing to Bellona's report on nuclear safety within Russia's Northern Fleet. He is Deputy Chairperson of the Green Russia fraction of Yabloko.

Grigory Pasko - free-lance journalist, specialising in environmentalist issues. As Editor of the newspaper of the Russian Pacific Fleet, "Boyevaya Vakhta", Mr Pasko disclosed the dumping of nuclear waste into the sea, for which he was convicted to three years in prison.

Yevgeny (Zakhar) Prilepin - Editor-in-Chief of the Nizhny Novgorod edition of "Novaya Gazeta". He is the author of several works of literature, including the novel "Sankya", which was shortlisted for Russia's Booker Prize in 2006. Mr Prilepin is a member of the banned National Bolshevik Party.

Aaron Rhodes - Executive Director of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), based in Vienna. The IHF monitors compliance with the human rights provisions of the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and its follow-up documents.

Bart Staes - Belgian Member of the European Parliament, representing The Greens - European Free Alliance fraction. Besides environmental issues, Mr Staes has been active in promoting peace. His interests include Chechnya, Turkey, and the Balkans. He is former Chairman of the European Delegation to the EU-Russian Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.

Mikael Storsjö - Secretary of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum. He is a vocal advocate of the right of the Chechen people to decide their own fate and an ardent critic of the ruling regime in Russia.

Nils Torvalds - long-time broadcast journalist. He works with the Finnish Broadcasting Company's(YLE) Swedish-language service. He served as YLE's correspondent in Moscow in 1995-1999. Mr Torvalds was recently elected Deputy hairperson of the Swedish People's Party.

Anu Tuukkanen - Country Expert at Amnesty International's Finnish section. She coordinates Amnesty Finland's campaigning on different countries. Russia is one of Amnesty Finland's ten priority regions.

Anastasia Udaltsova - spokesperson for the left-wing youth movement, Vanguard of Red Youth (AKM). The AKM is vocal in its opposition to the
policies of Russia's present government and has been an active participant in the Dissenters' Marches.

Furugzod Usmonov - contributor to the St Petersburg-based opposition newspaper, Delo. He has focused on the problems faced by Russia's ethnic minorities, especially those from Central Asia. Mr Usmonov has extensive knowledge about politics in both Russia and Central Asia.

Ksenia Vakhrusheva - member of the Coordinating Committee of the opposition youth movement, Oborona, in St Petersburg. Oborona is a movement of people who reject the injustices,corruption, and lies of officials.

Alexey Volynets - Editor-in-Chief of "Limonka", the newspaper of the banned National Bolshevik Party. The newspaper continues to be published despite an official ban. The name of the newspaper is a play on words on NBP's leader, Eduard Limonov, and is idiomatic Russian for a grenade.

The program of events (pdf) included a discussion of freedom of expression and "dissidentism" in Russia today, an inquiry into why the work of international human rights bodies is seen by the Russian government as interference in Russia's internal affairs, a screening of Andrei Nekrasov's film about the murder of Alexander Litrvinenko. My Friend Sasha, a discussion of whether a government based on the principles of law is really possible in Russia, and an examination of the present crisis in the North Caucasus, led by the Chechnya Peace Forum's Ivar Amundsen.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Britain to expel 4 Russian diplomats



Novaya Gazeta - Nizhny Novgorod, 12 July 2007
Oksana Chelysheva
Translation from http://www.finrosforum.fi/

The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) has received from Strasbourg a Memorandum of the Russian Federation on the complaint to the European Court which deals with the sentencing of the Nizhny Novogorod-based human rights defender Stanislav Dmitrievsky. The document turned out to be quite illustrative — in all aspects.

For those who are unaware, let us recall briefly the crux of the matter.

In 2004, as editor of a small newspaper called Pravo-Zashchita ("Rights Defence"), Dmitrievsky published two statements by leaders of the Chechen separatists, Aslan Maskhadov and Akhmed Zakaev.

One was addressed to the European Parliament, the other to the Russian people. The authors called for a peaceful solution to the armed conflict in Chechnya. Of course, both expressed a very negative opionion about Putin's regime in general and its creator in particular.

In January 2006, Dmitrievsky was convicted by a District Court in Nizhny Novgorod for "inciting racial, ethnic, and social hatred" to two years under probation.

They did not, however, manage to impose real jail time, as there was too much attention from friends of Russia, including such "elite clubs" as the G8, the Council of Europe, and OSCE, to this "local" case.

Similarly, the European Court of Human Rights, which was already overwhelmed by complaints from Russia, agreed to consider the case Dmitrievsky vs. Russia as a matter of priority.

This caused a slight panic among the "satraps" of the prosecutor's office.

By 4 May 2007, Russia had to answer a series of simple questions:

1. Was the condemnation of Dmitrievsky legitimate in terms of domestic legislation and was it in line with the European Convention?

2. Did the condemnation of Dmitrievsky pursue a legitimate goal?

3. Was it necessary in a democratic society?

4. Does the trial against Dmitrievsky meet the criteria for a fair trial, as established in the Convention?

The Russian Federation, through its new representative in the European Court, Ms Milinchuk, did not fumble in the pocket for an answer. The Memorandum begins as follows:

"The authorities of the Russian Federation categorically oppose the present practice of the Secretariat of the European Court of Human Rights to present as facts various campaign materials, which have been written by a person whom the Russian Federation accusea of committing serious crimes.

The authorities of the Russian Federation do no accept the use of the Court for incitement to hatred or hostility, as well as humiliation of human dignity or group of persons on grounds of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, religion, as well as membership in a social group."

This is how the Russian authorities regard the printing by the Secretariat of the European Court of the statements by Akhmed Zakaev and Aslan Maskhadov, which were published in the newspaper, Pravo-Zaschita, edited by Dmitrievsky.

The Russian Federation insists on the deletion of the above "statements", presented by the Secretariat in paragraphs 1-2 of section A ("Facts"), from materials to be considered by the European Court of Human Rights in response to the complaint by Dmitrievsky.

It turns out that the Russian authorities have directly accused the Court of inciting "hatred", echoing verbatim section 282 of the Russian Penal Code.

Perhaps it is now Europe's turn to get its portion of the charges for the same criminal offence, which the Nizhny Novgorod court previously found Dmitrievsky guilty of.

The claims are quite extravagant for a state which stands accused in a court case. Ms Milinchuk absolutely flatly violates all principles of legal and business ethics, by showing open contempt of the Court.

The claim by the Russian authorities that the Secretariat of the European Court of Human Rights has presented "various campaign materials under the guise of facts" is untrue.

The European Court did not even consider the question of whether the facts contained in published statements were genuine or not. The Court only noted their publication. This is not disputed by either the Russian Federation or Dmitrievsky.

Moreover, it was the Russian court [in Nizhny Novgorod] that placed the statements as the basis of its sentence against Dmitrievsky.

Even assuming that the statements published by Dmitrievsky really show signs of hatred as seen in Article 282 of the Russian Penal Code, including them in the "Fact Sheet" is not the same thing as publishing them.

Documents drafted by the Secretariat of the Court are of a procedural nature. They are meant for the Court and the litigants, i.e., for a limited number of interested persons.

If one continues to follow the logic of Ms Milinchuk, the Russian Federation could have just as well been accused of publishing the said statements, given that Russian prosecutors included the statements by Maskhadov and Zakaev in the case against Dmitrievsky.

At the request of the Public Prosecutor, the statements were read out during the court hearings in the District Court of Nizhny Novgorod, in the presence of a large audience and the press.

Moreover, the public prosecutor, Ms Maslova, read the statements with such inspiration and expression that even drowned out the applause of the public.

Not less strange is the request by the authorities of the Russian Federation to exclude the statements from the "materials to be considered by the European Court of Human Rights". This can be compared to a demand to exclude the body from the evidence in a murder case.

If you remove the primary evidence in a criminal case against Dmitrievsky from the materials of the Court, considering his case in Strasbourg will become impossible.

Yet another complaint is about to be considered by the Court: the case regards the elimination of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) as an organisation registered in Russia under the pretext of "combating extremism"…

The law requires that an organisation, a member of which a court has recognised as an extremist, is obliged to declare publicly his opposition to the person's activities within five days of the court decision. Otherwise, the organisation will itself be declared as extremist and closed down.

The Nizhny Novgorod Prosecutor's Office has filed a claim for closing down the RCFS. The founders of the RCFS did not abandon their friend. As a result, they now face another court case, which threatens to declare the whole organisation as extremist.

The Nizhny Novgorod regional court did not have any doubts: RCFS was declared "extremist".

When the Supreme Court was considering a complaint against the regional court's decision to close down the organisation, there were about a dozen Western diplomats and representatives of international human rights organizations present in the court room. There was a small group of Russian journalists, as well as those who had experienced the charm of the 58th article of the Soviet Penal Code.

The public attention that the case received did not have any effect, however, on its finale. The RCFS in Russia was disbanded.

Despite all these hardships, work continued after the RCFS "immigrated" to neighbouring Finland. But this is not a final solution.

The openly hysterical character of Russia's Memorandum is evidence of the fact that the authorities are prepared to accuse of RCFS of all deadly sins without any legal basis. Of course, in terms of their tactics at exhausting the strength of the RCFS and those who supported us, the choice is not random. The arbitration process has now been going on for nearly two years.

Even though the tax authorities had to abandon some of their claims against the RCFS, the remaining amount of 500,000 rubles still falls under the jurisdiction of Article 251 of the Penal Code - "large scale evasion of tax and other special charges".

Overall, the authorities have not abandoned their attempts to initiate another criminal case against Dmitrievsky and send him to prsison, based on the "totality" of cases against him.

On 4 July 2007, prosecutors in Nizhny Novogorod began another process to "protect unspecified persons" from the influence of the newspaper, Pravo-Zashchita.

This time they are demanding that the newspaper, which printed Maskhadov's and Zakaev's statements, be closed down, despite the fact that the newspaper has not been published since the closing down of the RCFS.

The reason for the hysterical attitude of the authorities of the Russian Federation is understandable. Once the European Court recognises that the sentence imposed on Dmitrievsky was a violation of the European Convention, the Russian Federation will be forced to cancel the sentence in accordance with its Criminal Procedural Code.

After that, all other cases based on the unjust sentence against Dmitrievsky will fall like dominoes.

Oksana Chelysheva

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Single Entity

J.R. Nyquist, on the workings of what Anna Politkovskaya called the "single entity" that is composed of the Russian presidential secretariat and the FSB:

An important book has been published on all these machinations. It is titled Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, by Alex Goldfarb with Marina Litvinenko. One of the most important passages in the book, for Americans, is the passage where Akhmed Zakayev explains the origins of the Second Chechen War: “We wanted to build a secular, democratic, pro-Western Muslim state, something along the lines of Turkey,” Zakayev is quoted as saying. But Russian-speaking Arabs flooded into Chechnya with Russian visas. “They were all experienced fighters,” he said, “but they had nothing to do with … the American-trained jihadists that fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. They were all Arabs who spoke Russian, the old KGB cadre from the Middle East. And we knew that their money came not from Saudi Arabia, but from Moscow.”

That is important information coming from an exiled Chechen leader. The civil war in Chechnya was a staged provocation, organized by the FSB and the presidential administration in Moscow. Vladimir Putin, in fact, was a leading organizer who profited from this operation. The Arab terrorists in Dagestan and Chechnya caused his appointment as prime minister, triggering a war to facilitate his subsequent elevation to the Russian presidency. The political maneuvers and conspiracies involved in the elevation of Putin, as detailed by Goldfarb, are must reading. For the first time, testimony from several sources is put together to form a larger, coherent picture of FSB (KGB) strategy involving the use of controlled Islamic terrorism.

(via Mark Pettifor.
NB - J.R. Nyquist has a newly redesigned website at this link)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Russia pulls out of CFE Treaty

Via the BBC:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suspended involvement in one of the key post-Cold War arms control treaties.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Room at the top

Edward Lucas finds it
worrying that Gordon Brown's close advisers include no one with real knowledge of Russia, now the world's largest rogue state.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Britain at risk of cyber-attack

In the aftermath of Russia's cyber-attack on its neighbour, Estonia, the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner looks at the likelihood of a similar attack on the United Kingdom's wired infrastructure:
The BBC has learned that Britain, along with other western countries, has been under daily "cyber attack" from foreign intelligence agencies trying to steal secrets through the internet.
Read it all.

Litvinenko: Moscow admits its guilt

In the ongoing crisis over Moscow's refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi to the UK to be tried for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, Moscow appears to be freely admitting that it arranged the murder:
Yesterday a spokesman for Russia's foreign ministry, Mikhail Kamynin, warned that London was in danger of jeopardising its relationship with Moscow. "I don't understand the position of the British government. It is prepared to sacrifice our relations in trade and education for the sake of one man," he said, adding: "Our position is clearly in line with Russia's constitution and legislation."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Russian literature with a Baltic accent

The website of Tartu-based poet and librarian Igor Kotjuh is currently presenting items from a work-in-progress anthology of Russian-language writing (mostly poetry and short fiction) from the Baltic region. While there is an emphasis on Russian-language Estonian poetry, there is also work from other areas, including Kaliningrad and St Petersburg.

(via Eric Dickens)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Putin's Generation

From Steve Lee Myers's run-down on Nashi, in the IHT:
"Putin's Generation" is growing up with a diet of anti-European and anti-American sentiment that could deepen the social and political divides between Russia and the West for decades.

"Today the United States on one hand and international terrorism on the other strive to control Eurasia and the whole world," Nashi's manifesto says. "Their gaze is directed at Russia. The task of our generation is to defend the sovereignty of our country as our grandfathers did 60 years ago."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Beslan: new evidence

Novaya Gazeta has published live photographs of 21 people who according to the official inquiry took part in the seizure of School No. 1 in Beslan. The paper wonders why the official inquiry made no use of these photos, basing its evidence instead on pictures of the badly mutilated corpses of the individuals it claims were responsible for the atrocity.

Via Prague Watchdog

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Russia's plans for the UK

The Sunday Times's Dominic O'Connell takes a look at the recent doings of Alexander Medvedev, deputy chief executive of Gazprom, and notes that
...his plans for Britain go beyond gas. He wants to become a one-stop energy shop for commercial users, selling electricity, heating and even carbon credits.

Supplying electricity also means generating it. “We are looking at acquiring generation assets [power stations]. It will allow us to mitigate different kinds of risk, and to deliver this complete service to our clients. We are in discussion with different potential partners,” he said.

Gazprom’s immense size has provoked nervousness, not only among City watchdogs, but also among politicians, who are uneasy at the close relationship between the company and the Russian government. Gazprom’s chairman, Dmitri Medvedev – no relation to Alexander – is Russia’s first deputy prime minister, and other government representatives sit on its board. The state holds a stake of just over 50%.

European politicians’ worries were exacerbated last year when the company cut off gas supplies to Ukraine after a row over prices. The move was seen as a warning shot by the Kremlin to the country not to stray too far from its connections with Moscow. Supplies to western Europe were disrupted, provoking unrest in Germany which relies on Russia for 40% of its gas.

In March the foreign affairs parliamentary select committee began an inquiry into Britain’s relationship with Russia, with energy security at the top of its agenda. Tony Blair warned that Russian government intervention in western oil and gas projects threatened international investment in the country.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Escaping from Moscow

Estonian statesman and historian Mart Laar has an interesting blog post about the lessons that Georgia and Moldova - two nations recently freed from misrule by Russia - can learn from Estonia. Laar, who is also an economic adviser to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, has his own personal - and civic - experience of the freeing process:
Communism’s fall gave the nations of the former Soviet bloc a chance to turn towards democracy, a market economy, and the rule of law. Some countries cut ties decisively with the communist past; others were less successful; a few failed catastrophically.

Moldova and Georgia were in the last category until recently. Their economic and political failures were in large part due to secessionist movements — actively supported by Russia — that aimed at keeping both countries in the Kremlin’s “sphere of influence.” When bloody conflicts erupted in Transdnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia, Russia turned its military presence into “peacekeeping” forces as a means of maintaining control.

It has long been feared that these so-called “frozen conflicts” could suddenly turn hot. Not only has this not happened, but we can now talk of solutions, as both Georgia and Moldova have begun to achieve breakthroughs to a market economy and democracy. The European Union’s “neighborhood policy” has also helped.

The starting point for these developments was Georgia’s “Rose Revolution” three years ago. From coming perilously close to being a failed state, Georgia has turned towards the West. The success of the various “color revolutions” in former Soviet-bloc countries also ignited change in Moldova, where President Vladimir Voronin launched reforms aimed at moving closer to the EU. These changes sparked new initiatives in Georgia and in Moldova to restore, peacefully, their territorial integrity.

Estonia’s experience suggests how Georgia and Moldova should shape their policies vis-a-vis Russia.
Read the whole thing.

(via Leopoldo)

Murdering the moderates

Via Andrew Blomfield in the Telegraph:
Allegations that the Kremlin deliberately killed moderate rebels in order to prolong the war in Chechnya gained fresh impetus yesterday after the European Court of Human Rights blamed Russia for the disappearance of the republic's former parliamentary speaker.

Ruslan Alikhadzhyev was seized from his home in the Chechen town of Shali in May 2000. He was never seen again.

A critic of the extreme Islamists within the Chechen rebel movement, Mr Alikhadzhyev was widely seen as a moderate and had called for a negotiated settlement to end the brutal war in the separatist republic.

Critics of the Kremlin have long argued that Russia's armed forces deliberately targeted moderate rebels who wanted to sue for peace, while allowing extremists to escape.

They claim that President Vladimir Putin benefited politically from a popular war, while many Russian commanders profited from it - in part by selling weapons to the rebels.

"We think that one of the motives [for Alikhadzhyev's disappearance] was the elimination of a political leader who could have achieved a breakthrough in peace talks," said Oleg Orlov of the Human Rights Group Memorial which investigates abuses in Chechnya.
Read it all. (via chechnya-sl)

Rewriting history

In one of her latest newsletters, Estonian politician Mari-Ann Kelam comments on the West's failure to understand the processes that are currently taking place in Russia, and observes:

By coincidence, I have been reading another book about how Reagan brought down the Soviet Union. The way the West is going now, we seem to be helping Putin to rebuild it! Actually Putin is building something worse -this time, thanks to the clever use of modern media technology playing on nationalism and xenophobia combined with strong central control, the subjugated are supporting what he is doing. The West has been and continues to do almost all the wrong things.

One of the texts referred to by MAK in her letter is a new manual for Russia's history teachers, discussed by Andrew Osborn in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. Among other things, Osborn writes:
Backed by support from the president himself, the book, which rails against U.S. hegemony, is raising fears among some historians that the Kremlin is -- quite literally -- trying to rewrite history in a way that risks breeding ultranationalism and whitewashing the darkest chapters of Russia's past.

Mr. Putin gave the manual a presidential boost last month, inviting its author along with a number of historians and teachers to his residence totalk history. Though he said students should be allowed to draw their ownconclusions, he made clear that events should be portrayed in a way that fuels national pride.

The manual's publication comes as the Kremlin is trying to restore Russians' sense of pride after the anarchic 1990s. In recent years, celebrations marking the Red Army's victory over Nazi Germany have been cranked up, the authority of the Czarist-era Orthodox Church has been boosted and patriotic youth groups have become increasingly vocal about Russia's resurgence.

The moves have complemented an increasingly assertive Kremlin foreign policyand a flat rejection of Western criticism that Moscow is moving to undermine democratic institutions. The new teachers' manual is the clearest sign yet that the drive to inculcate the Kremlin's view of the world is reaching Russia's millions of schoolchildren. "We are forming...the worldview of a nation, of how Russians see themselves and the outside world," Leonid Polyakov, editor of the new manual, told Mr.Putin at last month's meeting, according to a transcript released by the Kremlin.

Friday, July 06, 2007


In the wake of the failed London bomb attacks, the BBC describes how al-Qaeda has been trying for more than a decade to “shame” Muslim professionals (lawyers, scientists, doctors) into becoming more involved in violent jihad.

BBC home affairs editor Mark Easton says one al-Qaeda video features doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri - number two to Osama Bin Laden - who left Cairo medical school with a master's degree in surgery.

And a suicide bomber who killed 22 US soldiers and civilians in Iraq in December 2005 was named as a student from a Saudi medical school.

(via Jihad Watch)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Veiled threat

MOSCOW, July 4, 2007 (AFP) - Russia on Wednesday issued a veiled threat to deploy rocket units in the Kaliningrad exclave near Poland if Washington does not draw back from its missile defence plans in central Europe.
"If our offers are accepted, Russia will not believe it necessary to deploy new rocket units in the European part of the country, including in Kaliningrad," Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying.

(Via Mari-Ann Kelam)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The banality of evil

Two new articles by Jeremy Putley:

Learning from Mr Wopsle

It can be a dangerous thing to say that a man is guilty of a murder before he has been tried and found guilty of that crime by a jury in a court of law – as Mr Wopsle found to his cost, in Dickens's Great Expectations. If you have read that novel you will remember that Mr Wopsle was holding forth in the Three Jolly Bargemen about the guilt of the accused in a recent murder case. Listening to Mr Wopsle's words was the great London lawyer, Mr Jaggers. In an overwhelming demolition of the unfortunate Wopsle, Jaggers pronounces one of the supreme principles of English jurisprudence. "The law of England supposes every man to be innocent until he is proved – proved – to be guilty."

That is probably why no British newspapers have pointed out that the first, obvious conclusion to be drawn from President Putin's refusal to extradite former KGB officer Andrei Lugovoi to the United Kingdom to face trial on a charge of murder is that it amounts to a tacit admission of guilt. Newspapers do not publish what they deem to be defamatory statements even if they are true.

But if the accused will never face a court of law to answer to the charges, what then? Must there be perpetual silence on the question of guilt? That would be to compound the wrong that has been done. It would not be right to the victims. It would not be right to Russia, nor to the people in London poisoned by polonium-210.

Andrei Lugovoi was employed (with others) to assassinate a Russian dissident, naturalized as a British citizen and living peaceably in London. President Putin is well aware of that. He also knows that a finding of guilty against the accused in a British court of law will involve a simultaneous finding in the court of world opinion that the murder of Alexander Litvinenko was ordered by the Russian leadership. This much is only too clear.

Possibly, during court proceedings in the UK , if Lugovoi could ever be brought to trial, his testimony would provide confirmation of one theory of why the murder was committed and at whose instigation, in relation to which a number of facts are already in the public domain. It is now known, from BBC TV, that an 8-page "due diligence" dossier prepared by Alexander Litvinenko was about Victor Ivanov, currently chairman of Aeroflot. It follows, from the hypothesis advanced in a BBC Radio Four programme by Yuri Shvets, that Victor Ivanov is the Mr X described as the "powerful, dangerous and vindictive" individual, "closely associated with President Putin", who may have ordered the murder of Litvinenko. According to the BBC radio programme, when Litvinenko gave the dossier to Lugovoi, in early October 2006, and Lugovoi delivered it (or reported its contents) soon afterwards to Mr X (Ivanov), the decision to assassinate its author was made, in revenge for the termination of a contract worth "dozens of millions of dollars". Perhaps Mr Lugovoi's evidence would shed light on the truth of this collection of allegations.

It would also be interesting if Titon International, the firm which allegedly employed Litvinenko to carry out the due diligence on Victor Ivanov, would publicly disclose the identity of the British company which commissioned the due diligence report, and subsequently pulled out of the deal.

But this is only one view of why Litvinenko was murdered. There were previous murder victims connected with the 1999 apartment building explosions, about which Litvinenko wrote in his (recently re-issued) 2002 book co-authored with Yuri Felshtinsky, "Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within". These include two State Duma deputies: the prominent liberal politician, Sergei Yushenkov, murdered by shooting in April 2003, and Yuri Shchekochikhin, a veteran investigative journalist, poisoned in July 2003, possibly with thallium. The assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, who was hated by the Russian hierarchy as a "traitor" to the organisation formerly known as the KGB, now the FSB, confirms the truth of what he wrote. The testimony of Andrei Lugovoi, supposing he could be persuaded to give it truthfully, would disclose that the FSB under its present head, General Nikolai Patrushev, is a corrupt, totally compromised, criminal organisation, so far beyond a possibility of being cleansed and reformed that it must be considered fit only to be disbanded.

There are only two commonly-held views of the 1999 apartment building explosions which killed more than 300 sleeping Russian citizens, and served as Putin's pretext for starting the second war in Chechnya: that they were carried out by the Rusian FSB at the behest of the Russian power structures; and that of the Russian authorities, that they were the work of unidentified others for no known motive. The refusal of President Putin to allow Lugovoi to come to the UK to be tried for murder stands as implicit confirmation of the FSB's guilt, in that it shows the government of the Russian Federation believes that his testimony would incriminate the guilty. And they are nervous.

When Tony Blair had a "frank discussion" with Vladimir Putin about the British government's demand for Lugovoi's extradition, earlier this month, Blair may, at last, have begun to understand the truth of the unsavoury character of his enigmatic interlocutor. (To Putin, by contrast, Blair's lack of understanding of the truth seemed merely obtuse – hence, perhaps, Putin's comment that British insistence on extradition is "stupid".) A lawyer himself, Blair may now, as he leaves office, finally and too late have learned, from the refusal to surrender a criminal to justice, one reality of today's Russia: that it is run by people who are not averse to the commission of crimes when they seem expedient, or convenient, or financially rewarding to members of the siloviki.

Putin the Banal

Evil comes in many forms. Only rarely is it in the persona of an insanely criminal monster such as those who disfigured the twentieth century. More often the perpetrators of great wrongs are comparatively insignificant men. One such is the incumbent President of Russia.

When President George W Bush greets the Russian President on Sunday, at his family home at Kennebunkport, Maine, on Sunday, they will shake hands, and perhaps embrace. The Russian President, aptly named Akaky Akakievich Putin by the late Anna Politkovskaya , is a man of insignificant personality. In consequence, it seems, it is difficult for the US leadership to understand or recognize the extent of the crimes for which he is personally responsible.

The criminal character of the Russian hierarchy, by the way, has been in evidence for many years, going back to the brutal conduct of the second Chechnya war at its commencement, and the multiple war crimes and atrocities perpetrated by the Russian armed forces against a civilian population. Russia is now again a country with political prisoners, a country where those who have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights have been murdered by the armed forces or by the FSB, and in which the rule of law is effectively in abeyance. Torture of prisoners in the custody of the authorities is endemic in the Russian Federation under President Putin – a fact of which he must be well aware. "Disappearances" in Chechnya have been condemned by Human Rights Watch as a crime against humanity. Journalists are murdered and there is suspicion that agents of the government are involved. Dissidents living abroad are murdered. Russia is a misruled country.

Putin's upbringing and experience in the KGB, an institution which often operated supra-legally in accordance with orders from the political leadership, instilled in a notoriously vindictive man an amoral belief system: operational necessity justifies all methods – the end justifies any means. That is the present misfortune of Russia under Vladimir Putin, as his second term draws to an end and he prepares to nominate his successor.

When the history of Vladimir Putin's presidency comes to be written the final judgements on him as a man and as a national leader will require a proper assessment of his character. The question which is sometimes asked is whether the evil things that Putin has done are the result of impotence, weakness or incompetence – an inability to act properly due to incomprehension, or structural weakness in the way Russian government functions – or criminality. Joseph Stalin, it is accepted by historians, was criminal by nature. There is evidence that Putin as President has displayed, from time to time, both incompetence and criminality. It is really a question of which is the preponderant feature of his makeup. To the victims, of course, it makes no difference – the consequences, just as under Stalin, have been the same.

When President Bush looked at President Putin and saw what he wanted to see, that was a worthless assessment, based as it was on nothing more than first impressions, or maybe just wishful thinking. More revealing was what happened at Beslan . That was a true test of character, and it revealed much about the character of the Russian President. In September 2004 at Beslan, in southern Russia, 330 people were killed including 317 hostages, of whom 186 were children. When the storming of the school buildings began, in an effort to bring the hostage-taking to an end, the use of flamethrowers and tanks in the assault, carried out while the hostages were still present in the gymnasium, resulted in the collapse of the roof onto the hostages below, killing 160 of them.

The most important question about this disastrous assault on the school is, who ordered it? There is no information on this. Putin himself kept a very low profile during the three days of the siege, but there can be no serious doubt that he was in close touch with the situation, and would have been consulted on the decision to carry out the storming of the building. Without his authority the decision could not have been made. But if it was his decision, or with his authority, the blame for the disastrous outcome of the storming of the school while it was still full of hostages falls squarely on Vladimir Putin.

It is useless to point out that the honourable thing to have done, in the face of such a catastrophic failure, was for Putin to resign. This is a western concept, and Russian leaders have not, historically, taken such ideas into account – it is apparently not a practical or sensible attitude to take. Similarly a western national leader would have gone to Beslan immediately the school siege began, and would have done all things possible to save the hostages. There would have been negotiations. But Putin's way is never to negotiate.

Why did the Russian President allow the assault on the school to begin? There must have been a calculation, and a conclusion that hostage deaths were acceptable. The storm was necessary because the alternatives involved a loss of face – from entering into negotiations with the hostage-takers, or acceding to their demands, or showing weakness in some other way. The decision resulted in death and disaster. Was the decision criminal, or was this incompetence? As evidence it must be recalled that after the siege Putin declared on television, "We exhibited weakness, and the weak are beaten." The hostages who died were sacrificed because the President feared to appear weak. Negotiations were possible, but were never tried. Whether the President was demonstrating a dreadful incompetence by refusing to negotiate for the hostages' lives, or ordered the assault on the school knowing that hostage deaths would be certain to result, either way this was criminally culpable.

But in the end, the question of whether President Putin is knowingly responsible for his crimes, or thinks he is doing a good job but – in Rumsfeldian language – "stuff happens", is not really important. To his victims it does not make any difference. World opinion, and the US President, remain largely indifferent to the question. There will be no real accounting any time soon, because when all is said and done the Putin presidency has been an interlude of considerable banality.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Spoiler

Some comments by Anne Applebaum, interviewed by RFE/RL:
"Russia is clearly interested in dividing up the Western alliance -- in separating and creating a bad atmosphere, for example, between Germany and Eastern Europe, as they did over the proposal to build a pipeline directly to Germany across the Baltic. Russia is interested in undermining Western policy in Iran. Russia is interested in possibly undermining Western policy in other places.

"I hope that it's not going to get any worse than that. At the moment Russia isn't militarily or even economically powerful enough to do more than that. It could be in a few years; things could get worse. Much depends on what happens in Russia in the next 18 months. Yes, of course Russia could cause a great deal of trouble for the United States. I don't see right now why it's in Russia's interest to do that. I don't see why lining up nuclear missiles again, pointing at Western Europe, benefits Russia. However, insane politics do happen and people do make decisions that don't make sense.


"Most of what Putin has done have been gestures that don't have any real significance. If Putin were actually invading Estonia, we would feel differently than about Putin teasing Estonia, or whatever it is that he does. The policy toward Estonia is shameful and terrible, but it's not an invasion. He hasn't even done anything yet that would inspire an actual Western military or even a serious economic response. And I assume that's deliberate, that what he's interested in is spoiling the mood, rather than actually causing trouble."

Monday, July 02, 2007

Strange meeting

Via Forbes:

The meeting is the only one Bush has held with a foreign leader in Kennebunkport. Zbigniew Brzezinski... criticized it as a "ridiculous" reward for Putin's harsh stance and an inappropriate setting for serious talks.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Remembering Litvinenko

From the BBC (24th November 2006):

Appearing alongside high-profile opponents of Mr Putin, Mr Litvinenko continued to make allegations about his former bosses.

Perhaps most notably, he alleged that al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri was trained by the FSB in Dagestan in the years before the 9/11 attacks.

He also denounced the war in Chechnya as a crime, called for Russian troops to be withdrawn, and said compensation should be paid to Chechens.