Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mexico from inside

Rodolfo at México desde fuera is back in his home country again after more than seven years spent in New York City and New England, and has some sardonic and thought-provoking analysis of the present situation of political deadlock in Mexico.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chechnya bibliography

Prague Watchdog has published a bibliography (which I compiled from several already existing sources, adding some new ones) of English-language publications on the subject of Chechnya.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Grand Deception

An interesting piece by JR Nyquist on the notion, beloved of US conservatives, that "the Soviet Union fell because Ronald Reagan pushed it over."

Not so, says Nyquist,pointing to the new work of exiled Czech director Robert Buchar, who is currently making a film on the true origins of Eastern Europe's "People power":
Former chief of CIA Soviet Bloc Counterintelligence, Tennant H. "Pete" Bagley told Buchar that an unknown hand was behind the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. "There was a different truth in this respect," Bagley said. "and that’s a truth that was so well hidden that I don’t know if it ever will come out…." According to Ludvik Zivcak, a Communist secret police official tasked with organizing the demonstration that triggered the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia,“Many people think or believe that in 1989 there was a mass uprising of the nation. From what I did, or where I worked, I am convinced that there was no uprising at all. It’s hard to find out today who wrote the script but it wasn’t written in America. America just jumped on the bandwagon at the end. So the script was most probably written in the East.”

Hat tip: Mark Pettifor

Giving the green light

The Washington Post's editorial makes it clear:
The problem is that the "whole world" is not yet prepared to prevent a massacre of monks. Several countries that like to think of themselves as strategic partners of the West -- in particular, Russia and China -- are blocking concerted international action against the regime. China, which has taken advantage of Burma's pariah status to turn it into a virtual economic colony, came out against U.N. sanctions yesterday. Russia's foreign ministry issued a statement rejecting "interference in the domestic affairs" of Burma and predicting that "the situation will be back to normal soon" -- chilling words considering what the troops in Rangoon would have to do to return the situation to "normal."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Return of the wolves

At Prague Watchdog, Ruslan Isayev discusses the apparent return of wildlife to Chechnya [my tr.]:
The residents of some villages in Chechnya’s Nadterechny district have already spent several nights lying in ambush for the grey predator. In the village of Goragorsk a pack of wolves attacked a private farm, savaging and killing 24 sheep. Only one of the flock survived. After an earlier attack the owners had put a guard on their livestock, but after three days lifted their precautions in the belief that the wolves sensed an ambush and would not return. The very next night a pack of wolves carried out an attack on the farm, during which this damage occurred.

Experienced hunters say that the wolves are behaving this way because it is now the time of year when the wolf cubs have to be taught how to hunt, and the raid on the sheep was one of the lessons.

Until recently it was believed that large numbers of wild animals and birds had left Chechnya and crossed into the neighbouring republics.This was mainly due to the ongoing military operations, particularly the bombing and shelling of mountainous areas. Now ecologists believe that much of Chechnya’s lost wildlife population may be gradually re-establishing itself.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

State of the Union

The Telegraph reports that more than one-fifth of crime in London is committed by foreigners:
Poles, who have entered Britain in record numbers since they joined the European Union in 2004, committed 2,310 crimes in the first six months of this year to become the most prolific offenders.

Romanians, whose country became part of the EU in January, committed more than 1,000 offences — an eightfold rise on the same period in 2006, according to Metropolitan Police figures for solved crimes.


A reader sent me one of those "I've added you as a friend on Facebook" emails, so I went to have a look at Facebook, but decided against opening an account there. Maintaining this blog in its two parallel versions is all the "online social networking" I'm going to need, thanks. Sorry if you got an email, too, while I was deciding.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The violence in Ingushetia - IV

RFE/RL's Liz Fuller asks: Who is behind the spiraling violence in Ingushetia? Excerpt:
A second category of killings targets civilians from several different ethnic groups. This category includes the two Russian families referred to above; a Korean father and son found shot dead on September 6; a Russian woman doctor killed on September 7; and a father and two sons, identified as gypsies (tsygane), killed on September 11. Galina Gubina, a Russian woman involved in coordinating the return to Ingushetia of Slavs who left the republic during the fighting in Chechnya, was similarly shot dead in June 2006.

These killings, too, are generally reported to be the work of unidentified gunmen traveling in unmarked cars. Russian media declined to publicize the fact that the two men arrested on suspicion of killing the first Russian family (in mid-July) were a Russian and an Ossetian contract serviceman. Isa Merzhoyev, the Ingush Interior Ministry official who went public with that information, was himself shot dead on August 11. And although the Ingush police swiftly announced the arrest of several suspects with Ingush names, Russian pedagogue Vera Draganchuk, who escaped when her husband and two sons were shot dead during the night of August 30-31, was quoted by "Novaya gazeta" on September 6 as saying the gunmen responsible spoke Russian with no trace of an accent. The Ingush suspects were subsequently released, according to on September 15.

Friday, September 21, 2007

No to Nord Stream - II

Via the Estonian daily Postimees, two interesting and important documents from FOI, the Swedish Defence Research Agency, on the Nord Stream project, which clearly demonstrate that the Russia-devised project is a political, not an economic venture. The links are here (pdf) and here (pdf). The reports are in English.

From the FOI's "Statement to the Ministry of Defence concerning Nord Stream and the gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea":
The fact that the pipeline cannot be seen as a joint EU project is also highlighted by the fact that it divides the EU into two camps. Germany, France and the Netherlands, and to some extent the United Kingdom, are supporters of the project because they will be able to share in the imported gas. Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Sweden have been sceptical or downright negative. The project thus drives a wedge between the Baltic states and the rest of the EU and makes it much more difficult to achieve a unified, common energy policy in the EU. If the project brings with it great benefits for the whole EU, the analysis upon which such a conclusion is based remains unknown to the research community.

When Russian power increases and energy policy is arranged between Russia and the larger EU member states, it becomes more and more difficult for the new EU member states to become net contributors to regional stability, something Sweden has worked hard to support. The Baltic states’ opportunities for integration into European structures are also restricted by this development, and the situation of being dependent on Russia limits their scope for international manoeuvring. As a direct result of this, Poland is opening itself to the possibility of building nuclear power stations and Estonia is considering exploiting its resources of environmentally-damaging oil shale. This is one case in which security policy and environmental consequences are related in a way which is not considered in Nord Stream’s notifications. There are also obvious risks inherent in a policy of appeasement towards Russia pari passu with the increasing dependency on imports of Russian energy.

No to Nord Stream

Bloomberg reports that the Estonian government has turned down a request by the Nord Stream/Gazprom project to survey the seabed off the Estonian coast, threatening to delay plans to ship Russian gas directly to Germany:
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's government rejected the request by Nord Stream AG based on Estonia's "sovereignty" and "national interests", the Estonian government said in an emailed statement today. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov vowed the project would be completed anyway.

The 1,200-kilometer (720-mile) pipeline, overseen by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, would run across the Baltic seabed, which is littered with World War II-era munitions. Poland and the three Baltic countries --Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- oppose it, citing environmental concerns. Denmark, Finland and Sweden have voiced similar concerns.

"Our main position has always been that this pipeline in the Baltic Sea is not advisable at all," Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said on Estonian public television today. "There have never been any disagreements about that. We will not allow the building of this pipeline in our economic zone."

Nord Stream requested permission to survey the seabed after Finland proposed moving the pipeline route southward into Estonia's economic zone.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The violence in Ingushetia - III

Prague Watchdog's Umalt Chadayev has some background - including interviews with residents - on the continuing violence in Ingushetia, where in the past two weeks alone there have been no fewer than ten attacks on policemen, military convoys, checkpoints and Russian federal bases. Excerpt [my tr.]:
"I think our republic has been chosen as the next ‘hot spot’ in the North Caucasus,” says Bekkhan, a 40-year-old Ingushetian resident. “Chechnya had its turn, then there was Dagestan in 1999, and now it’s us. There’s a lot of talk and argument about who is doing all this and who benefits, but I think it’s wrong to put all the blame for the worsening situation on semi-mythical guerrillas. There are other forces that want to launch a bloodbath here,“ he thinks. "I’m more inclined to believe that what’s going on is related to the upcoming elections in Russia. Someone is very eager to have a stable source of tension here in the Caucasus."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Plans for the future

From VOA (September 18):
Appearing with Lugovoi at the news conference was party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who launched into a lengthy anti-British tirade when he was asked a question by VOA.

"Get out of here," shouted Zhirinovsky. "You Brits are spilling blood the world over! The whole world will hate you! Your country creates more provocations than any other. Terror? You create terror!"

Zhirinovsky, among other things, also accused Britain of such offenses as not honoring his diplomatic passport, of murdering Litvinenko, harboring criminals, provoking the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the Chechen War, and intentionally dragging out World War II in order to allow the Nazis to kill millions of Soviet soldiers.

Zhirinovsky finished after nearly five minutes by accusing the entire British government and the Queen of England of criminality and threatening to throw this reporter out of Moscow.


Andrei Lugovoi said remarks on Monday regarding his interest in the Russian presidency were misinterpreted. He explained that any Russian citizen would like to be president, including himself, but that does not mean he has the qualifications for such high office. But Lugovoi said that Liberal Democratic Party leader Zhirinovsky is qualified.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Common language

The Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat has a report on the gradual introduction of Estonian as the principal language of instruction in the country's schools for Russian-speaking pupils:
During the current term, the change applies to the first grades of the upper secondary schools, with the Estonian-language instruction of literature.

"I guess it is good to have some practice", said Nastja Tretjak in Russian. She is starting the first grade of the Russian-language upper secondary school in Lasnamäki, Tallinn. Her classmates Julia Rabotajenko and Maksim Smarov nodded in unison.

The Russian and Estonian communities live apart from each other, and even if they live in Tallinn, people do not necessarily have any opportunity to practice the language. Moreover, some young people have started to speak English with each other. The majority of the population in the larger cities of Northeastern Estonia are Russian-speaking.

The objective of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research is to gradually increase the proportion of the Estonian-language instruction in Russian-speaking upper secondary schools, so that in four years some 60 per cent of all compulsory subjects would be taught in Estonian.

The aim is to improve the Russian-speaking pupils’ proficiency in Estonian as well as their competitiveness in the labour market.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Business as usual

Brian Moynihan, on the "old-new" Russia:
Relations with the West, particularly Britain, are at their worst in years. Moscow has suspended its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. Under CFE, adopted in 1990, Russia moved most of its tanks and other hardware east of the Urals. It no longer has to keep them there. Military spending is running at a post-Soviet record. New nuclear submarines, missiles and aircraft have been commissioned.

Amid talk of a renewed arms race, a £500m all-weather missile-defence system was sold to Iran, £1.5 billion of hardware to Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, and missiles to Syria. Bear strategic bombers are back over the North Sea for the first time in 17 years, reviving a traditional photo opportunity for RAF pilots as they see them off. A restored base in Syria will give the Russian navy a presence in the Mediterranean.

Pressure is put on neighbours, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, with threats to natural gas supplies. At home, psychiatric wards are again used to forcibly detain dissidents. Political opponents have been beaten up, journalists have been murdered. The British and Estonian ambassadors have been harassed by Kremlin-approved demonstrators

Friday, September 14, 2007


At the English-language news blog, a document said to be a declaration by an officer of the FSB directorate for Stavropol province, confessing to his involvement in the organized abduction and killing of ethnic Chechens and Ingushes by the security forces.
Onishchenko claims that he carried out special assignments for Koryakov... kidnapping and eliminating people; among the cases he was involved in was the kidnapping of the senior assistant to the public prosecutor for Ingushetiya Rashid Ozdoyev, who was greatly hindering Koryakov.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Schroeder's message

From Vladimir Socor, a detailed account of former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's almost unbelievably servile sales pitch for Gazprom and the Russian government. Money quote:
Postulating that a “democratic process” is ongoing in Russia, Schroeder urged “Germany and Europe to support this internal process without conditions or reservations.” Whether he knew it or not, Russian authorities were on that same day (Interfax, September 8) launching events to mark the 130th anniversary of the birth of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the institutional founding father of Russia’s main ruling group today.
As Socor notes:
At this stage, Schroeder looks more like a sinecure-holder than an effective asset for Russian policies in Germany or Europe. He seemed indirectly to acknowledge this fact at the Moscow event when complimenting Russia as “a country with which I am tied both politically and personally."
(via Leopoldo)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Law of Return

...According to Mr Margalit, there has been no friction between veteran residents and new Soviet immigrants.

But not everybody agreed. "The major problem is that this is organised crime, not just the work of a few boys," said Rabbi Shlomo Unsdorfer, the London-born head of the Divrei Chaim synagogue.

"They came to Petah Tikvah because they felt they had moral support because there are many goyim and non-Jewish Russians here who hate the Jewish people. Instead of sending them back, the government is bringing them here."

In The JC - print edition.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov won a special Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival on Saturday for his films, and especially for "12", which tells the story of a Chechen teenager charged with murdering his stepfather, an officer in the Russian army, the St Petersburg Times reports.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ingushetia blog

For those in search of an English-language source of news on recent events in Ingushetia, the blog of the website provides such a service on an ongoing basis. The blog's most recent post says that the deployment of troops has complicated the situation in Ingushetia.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The violence in Ingushetia - II

More on the troubled situation in the North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia, from Prague Watchdog's Ruslan Isayev (the translation is my own).

Thursday, September 06, 2007


The present regime in Russia represents more than just a few out-of-control thugs. It is an attempt to retaliate for all that has happened. It was entirely predictable, even though nobody saw it coming. The “Putinism” which has taken root in Russia is the old, familiar everyday Soviet fascism, if now in a less original guise. I recall Mr Anatoly Chubais gloating over the mass slaughter of Chechens in the winter of 1999-2000 and declaring that Russia’s Army was being reborn in Chechnya. He was absolutely right. The Chechens were the first to be on the receiving end of Russia’s rebirth. Later it was the turn of some of the oligarchs, of so-called democrats, human rights activists, journalists and others. It is beginning to dawn on certain groups in the West just what Mr Putin represents. Certainly, his fingerprints are all over London.
Akhmed Zakayev, in Chechenpress

The violence in Ingushetia

The Moscow Times reports on another bloody incident "in the near-daily violence gripping the North Caucasus republic and threatening to ignite a full-fledged guerrilla war there."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Under the thumb

The New York Times expresses scepticism about the arrests in the inquiry into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya:
There’s just too much of the “usual suspects” here, and Russia’s criminal justice system is too blatantly under the thumb of President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin, for us to accept at face value that due process of law is at work.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Flesh

The idealist is bound in the end to substitute himself for the Mind and then we have an individual to deal with. Let us confront him with the (as he thinks) shocking spectacle of a Christian astronomer. How can an astronomer believe in the Incarnation or go to Mass? The idealist's only hope is to put up a distinction. As an astronomer, this monster (or rather this amphibian) is a man of the twentieth century and the idealist can greet him as a contemporary. As a man who believes in the Incarnation, however, and goes to Mass, he is behaving like a mediaeval or a child; and this is a pity. When we ask the philosopher to justify his extraordinary dichotomy, he may call upon Reason and Mind till he is black in the face, but he will not convince us; especially when we see that he does not scruple to use psychological and even sociological arguments to account for these survivals in the astronomer, while he absolutely forbids us turn such arguments or analyses upon himself. He is a man of 1930 from top to toe. And yet he is still invoking an eternal Mind, but a Mind which has none the less been born; who Its next incarnation will be, Heaven only knows. Frankly, I find all this extremely incoherent. If a Marxist, for example, were to tackle the idealist and tell him plainly that his Mind was a purely bourgeois product begotten of economic leisure, the idealist would have to take refuge in the realm of completely bloodless abstractions. I think myself that idealism of this kind cannot help being cornered, with concrete religious philosophy hemming it in on one side, and historical materialism on the other. For it is in fact impotent when confronted with history any real history, even if it is just the history of a single life. It has no feeling for tragedy, and (what is worse) no feeling for flesh and blood either. Personally, I think that people who substitute the Cartesian concept of matter for the richly confused idea of the flesh which is embedded in all Christian philosophy are doing anything but progressing in their metaphysics. There is an almost untouched task here, and pure metaphysicians would do well to focus all their attention upon it, or so I think: the task of describing the evolution and progressive confusion of the notions of flesh and fleshly existence in the history of philosophical thought.

At bottom, this idealism is a purely professorial doctrine, and falls directly under Schopenhauer's partially unjust criticism of the academic philosophers of his day. (It was partially unjust, because there is a real feeling for concreteness and human drama in such writers as Schelling and Hegel.)

In point of fact, philosophical idealism would very likely have had no appreciable effect upon the development of human thought, had it not found a redoubtable ally in all forms of applied science. I believe that the spirit of applied science is really in itself the most serious obstacle, for many perfectly candid minds, to the acceptance of the notion of religious life, or rather religious truth.

(from: Gabriel Marcel: Some Remarks on the Irreligion of Today, 1930)