Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Suborned

From yesterday's RFE/RL Newsline:
The website chechenews.com posted on October 28 a statement it received by e-mail, signed by Chechen President and resistance commander Doku Umarov, in which Umarov confirms that he has proclaimed himself amir of a North Caucasus Islamic state, the precise extent of which he declines to specify. London-based ChRI Foreign Minister Akhmed Zakayev expressed concern one week earlier that Umarov would issue such a proclamation under pressure from radical elements within the resistance who, Zakayev claimed, have been suborned by the FSB, which intends to retaliate with harsh reprisals across the North Caucasus (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 22, 23, 25 and 26, 2007). The prospect that Umarov would declare a North Caucasus emirate has elicited concern among representatives of the ChRI government in exile, who warned that doing so would violate the constitution and undermine the legal status of the ChRI. Two prominent Chechen field commanders, Isa Munayev and Sultan Arsayev, have issued statements publicly siding with Zakayev, thereby implicitly distancing themselves from Umarov.

Benign Neglect

From yesterday's RFE/RL Newsline:
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves recently called on Western countries to adopt a policy of "benign neglect" toward Russia. He argued that it is a waste of time to complain about human rights violations there because the Kremlin ignores such entreaties. Ilves also said that the West should ignore Russia's belligerent rhetoric and not respond to aggressive comments by President Putin and his officials.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Under Pressure

The UK government has admitted that it underestimated the number of foreign nationals who have come to work in Britain by 300,000.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Jussi



Buster is now called Jussi - after the Finnish-Swedish opera tenor Jussi Björling. Being called "Buster" seemed to rankle with him a bit - while he responded to it, he obviously associated the name with some rough times in the past. He responds to "Jussi" better somehow - and this name reflects his undoubted singing powers, when he decides to meow.

He hasn't been outside the house yet - perhaps next week I'll try taking him into the garden in his Cat Walking Jacket Harness and leash.

In fact, here in the UK it's fairly normal for cats to go outside unattended. In the States, however, things are rather different.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Cyber attack on HRO site

From Maidan (excerpt):
As already reported, since 21 October 2007, the website Human Rights in Russia at www.hro.org, the largest Russian-language Internet resource on human rights in the Russian Federation) has been subjected to a relentless and concentrated computer attack (a new form of DidoS attack***) with access to the site blocked.

It would seem that HRO.org has become the first public resource in Russia to be confronted with an attack of such ferocity and persistence. The human rights resource has effectively become in the frontline of the newest stage of “cybernetic warfare”.

It should be noted that this attack does not only involve a consistent flow of tens of thousands of requests. The perpetrators have also managed to penetrate the website’s extremely serious security system and insert virus infecting modules into the file system.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Belonging

The more one reflects on it, the more one is convinced, I believe, that the passage from constraint to freedom is accomplished in belonging. This, however, opens up a vast field for meditation. How indeed shall we judge the modern anarchical notion of freedom which implies precisely the fact of not belonging to anybody or anything? Analysis discloses that what is here presented as a plenitude may be after all only a void. We should closely examine, however, the historical relation between this anarchical individualism and a socialism which at first sight seems to be opposed to it in every respect, since they have not only developed concurrently, but have even at times encroached on one another; as though, by a clearly marked dialectic, the unity without content of a self which belongs to nobody gave birth to the false plenitude of a social idolatry to fill or absorb it.

Gabriel Marcel (1940)

Dubrovka 5 Years Later

At Prague Watchdog, Oleg Lukin considers The Dubrovka Theatre Siege - 5 Years On.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Delaying the Deal

In EDM, Vladimir Socor examines the candidacy of Kremlin-oriented politician Mikhail Margelov to the presidency of PACE (the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe), an appointment which as Socor says is "not yet a done deal":

Three factors account for the slowdown in the momentum behind Margelov’s candidacy. One is the hesitation and scruples felt by a growing number of PACE members about electing a representative of the Kremlin’s “managed democracy” to the presidency of Europe’s leading democracy-promoting institution. The doubters realize that such an election would accelerate the ongoing erosion of PACE’s credibility.

Another factor is information about outgoing PACE president Rene van der Linden’s involvement in business in Russia in 2006-2007. A dossier of Russian media reports -- that were available all along -- on that topic has now been compiled in Estonia and is circulating among members of the Strasbourg-based PACE. Van der Linden had previously disclaimed repeatedly any business activity in Russia. Faced with the Russian media reports, he no longer denies involvement but disclaims having earned profits from it. Van der Linden played a key role in the deal to put Margelov in PACE’s presidential chair for the next three-year term. Thus, van der Linden’s overall political judgment comes into sharp question at the end of his presidential term.

Baltic parliamentarians in the three capitals and in Strasbourg were taken aback when van der Linden suddenly began replaying Russia’s propaganda themes against their countries in August and September. The Estonian parliament’s European Affairs Commission chairman, Marko Mihkelson -- until recently the head of Estonia’s delegation to PACE -- made public the Russian media compilation, commenting that it is up to van der Linden himself to judge whether he finds himself in a conflict-of-interest situation (Baltic Times, October 17).

Yet another factor in the debate is Russia’s failure to fulfill a host of commitments it had made to the Council of Europe in 1996 as a pre-condition to Russian membership. Quite apart from the overall assault on democracy in Russia in recent years, the non-fulfillment of Russia’s commitments to PACE involves specific, clearly worded, incontrovertible obligations. PACE’s itemized list of those issues when Russia was admitted as a member (Opinion No. 193, January 1996), now circulating among members, helps flag Russia’s unfulfilled membership conditions and commitments.

As Socor notes, there is also a Chechen connection. Read the whole thing.

Historical Excuses

In the Washington Times, columnist and political scientist Arnold Beichman takes issue with a recent book by New York Times reporter Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes, which purports to be a history of the CIA, but contains among other things the assertion that
the CIA used Radio Free Europe (RFE) to spark the October 1956 Hungarian uprising against Soviet occupation and satellization. In other words as instigators and cheerleaders, the CIA and RFE, says Mr. Weiner, were responsible for the bloody events.

"If Mr. Weiner had done any homework," Beichman notes, "he would have realized how misplaced is his accusation."

Meanwhile, Estonian politician Mari-Ann Kelam recalls that arguments of the kind presented by Weiner were common currency during the years that marked the end of Communism in Eastern Europe:
One of George Bush’s excuses in 1990 for not being pro-active on the Soviet-occupied Baltic nations was this same nonsense about the “radios encouraging the Hungarians” and not wanting to repeat that fiasco…He told us this at a meeting in the White House with American Baltic leaders.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Beslan link

On her blog, the journalist Yulia Yuzik, who herself has done much to research the background to the two Chechen wars, and the Nord-Ost and Beslan hostage crises, has posted an interesting link to an article which suggests that Ingushetia's current president may have been implicated in the Beslan attack, whose perpetrators still have not been brought to justice.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Singing Revolution

Mari-Ann Kelam writes from Tallinn, Estonia:

Especially in light of articles such as “The Horrors of Red T-shirt” below, I appeal to you again to help ensure that the film “SINGING REVOLUTION” gets the widest possible audience and recognition. The film is about Estonia’s recent history primarily as Estonians living in Estonia experienced it – invasions, occupation by foreign totalitarian regimes and how the small Baltic nation peacefully restored its democracy and independence. The film is exceptionally well done and will help “set the record straight” for all three Baltic nations as well as helping to prevent something like this happening again. Let’s use the internet to do some good.

If you saw my earlier mailings on this topic and said, “I’ll do it later” – then today is the day – do it NOW, before you log off. It is easy and fast and secure. Just go to www.singingrevolution.com At the risk of sounding like one of those email chain letters we all used to get J (“Send this to everyone you know!”) I do ask you to sign up yourselves and to encourage your families and friends to do the same. A number of you have your own lists to whom you send items, please inform the members of those lists – it is a great movie! And, my dear international contacts, surely you know people living in North America – do take a minute to inform them and ask them to sign up to view the film.

While you are visiting the Singing Revolution website, do take a few minutes to browse through the various sections on history, etc., to read updates on the blog, to view the trailer…. Thank you! MAK


The Times, Oct. 18, 2007


The Horrors Of A Red T-shirt



Robert Crampton

It’s become an early 21st-century commonplace that the Right has won the economic argument, the liberal Left the cultural one. And, I would add, the revolutionary Left has, almost posthumously, won the argument over T-shirts, to the extent that their favourite hard men have entered mainstream iconography.

Last weekend, at my local farmers’ market, I saw a T-shirt for sale bearing the faces of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Castro. (Strange for a farmers’ market, admittedly. You can buy the usual humorously overpriced tomatoes and bottles of olive oil, too.) Paint the Town Red said the legend. And under the faces, in smaller text, Tough Dictator Finish. A bargain at £25.

But why, I thought, mentally totting up the misery these men have caused, stop at just the image? Why not feature a precis of each dictator’s personal death toll? Or maybe you could print an individual rollcall of repression and mass murder on the back of the shirt, as bands do with their tour dates? Obviously, it’d have to be a very large T-shirt.

Stalin: caused the Ukrainian famine, forcibly displaced entire peoples, including the Chechens, conducted the Great Purge, sent hundreds of thousands to the Gulag camps, ordered the Katyn massacre, signed an alliance with Hitler, weakened the Red Army by killing its officer corps, had thousands of returning Soviet PoWs executed for treason, antiSemitic, laughed at son’s suicide attempt, had most of own family murdered.

Mao: brought in killing quotas during land reform in the early Fifties, one landlord shot per village, starved millions during the so-called Great Leap Forward, unleashed the Red Guards to torture city-dwellers, spectacle-wearers etc during the Cultural Revolution, said “China is such a populous nation it is not as if we cannot do without a few people”.

Lenin: set up the Cheka, instigated the Red Terror, and thus the deaths of perhaps a quarter of a million opponents, signed off mass executions of former tsarist ministers and officials, issued the infamous hanging order for the exemplary execution of kulaks during the civil war, possibly syphilitic, no sense of humour, ghastly prose style.

Castro: political executions since the revolution running at somewhere between 5,000 and 12,000, not counting the thousands drowned trying to flee, including children swept into the sea with powerhoses by the Cuban Navy, country held down by the normal paraphernalia of a police state, rigged elections, lies, torture, toe-curling personality cult (Fidel, El Comandante etc).

If someone wore a T-shirt celebrating Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and, say, Somoza, or Pinochet, they would, one hopes and trusts, before long receive a firm instruction to desist or face the consequences. I can see no reason why anyone parading this equally gruesome quartet should be treated any less robustly, and at least with all that detail on the shirt, they might realise why.

Silver Lining?

At Russia Profile, Dr Dmitry Shlapentokh has an interesting article on The Jihadization of the North Caucasus. Excerpt:
The North Caucasus resistance has become increasingly radical since the beginning of the Second Chechen War in 1999. For the jihadists who oppose Chechen nationalists, the Taliban has become the example. But as the radicalization of the North Caucasian resistance increases, even the Taliban, which according to some radical jihadists is possibly the only government that followed the dicta of the Koran, started to lose its luster.

A contributor to one Internet site appeals to the authority of Sheikh Al Islam Ibn Taymia, who, together with Qutb, is one of the most quoted authorities for present-day Islamists. The contributor argued that the Taliban has become tainted by compromise with the non-Islamic world and has tried to create a peculiar, but still democratic, state. This was a crucial mistake. To start with, democracy is an outmoded political system; even leaders who are not inspired by Islam understand this. Hitler abandoned democracy and made Germany a strong state. Chinese leaders have followed the same path, forsaking democracy and pitilessly crushing those who challenged the regime, which has made China strong despite much screaming from Western critics. Democracy is an unworkable institution by its very nature; furthermore, organized states of any type are not part of Islam. The Taliban forgot this. It attempted to play according to international rules. It wanted to be recognized by the international community and indeed was recognized by some states. The Taliban also tried to integrate themselves in the global order of the non-Islamic world, hobnobbing with regimes that, while claiming to be Muslim, were actually quite foreign to Islam, such as the Persian Gulf states.

All these blunders would have been avoided by those who follow the Islamic path. They would have rejected any political arrangement that does not stem directly from the Koran. The Koran implies that one-man rule rather than democracy should be the organizing principle of government. This principle should go along with resolute struggle against any regime that is a traitor to Islam despite external Muslim trappings. Such regimes are to be treated with the most decisive actions, for they are more dangerous than openly anti-Islamic regimes to the cause of Islam.

And the same holds for the Russian regime. Muslims who serve Russians and those such as Ramzan Kadyrov, Russia's viceroy in Chechnya who combines Islam and nationalism should be decimated without pity. The Internet sites make a special point of describing the gruesome death of such people. Other Muslims are warned not to help wounded pseudo-Muslims, at the risk of being subject to attack themselves.

This uncompromising extremist view, apparently shared by increasing numbers of Islamists underground, including the North Caucasian segment, is troubling. But it has a silver lining. The absolutist nature of the movement could well create a basis for cooperation for practically all members of the international community, regardless of the tensions among the major players.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Creative Fidelity

"On the threshold of the catacombs which may soon swallow us up, it should be remembered that it is basically the same power of creative fidelity concentrated in more favourable times in architecture, music and poetry, which tomorrow will strengthen the fierce resolution of those who reject the consummation by themselves or others of man's denial of man, or to formulate this in a more profound way, the denial of the more than human by the less than human."

Gabriel Marcel (1940)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Touch of Reality

The Wall Street Journal has a sensible editorial on The Putin Touch. Excerpt:
In Iran, Mr. Putin pledged that he would not "renounce our obligations" regarding a nuclear power plant Russia is building in the Iranian port city of Bushehr. He insisted that Iran's "main objectives" in seeking nuclear technology "are peaceful." And he underscored Russia's burgeoning economic ties with the Islamic Republic, which "has already reached $2 billion."

Anyone harboring illusions that Russia can be brought aboard for a tougher round of U.N. sanctions against Iran might want to read these statements twice. Similarly, anyone who thought Russia could be won over to the deployment of a limited U.S. missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic should have paid closer attention to Mr. Putin's message to Condoleezza Rice and Bob Gates: "Of course, we can some time in the future decide that some antimissile defense should be established somewhere on the moon," said Mr. Putin, with more sarcasm than wit. He offered this observation after keeping his American guests cooling their heels for 40 minutes, a tactic that recalls the habits of the late Syrian strongman Hafez Assad.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Question of PC

Doris Lessing, writing in 1992, in a back-to-the-future involuntary riposte to Harold Bloom, who questioned her recent award of the Nobel Prize for Literature (this excerpt via the New York Times):
The phrase “political correctness” was born as Communism was collapsing. I do not think this was chance. I am not suggesting that the torch of Communism has been handed on to the political correctors. I am suggesting that habits of mind have been absorbed, often without knowing it.

There is obviously something very attractive about telling other people what to do: I am putting it in this nursery way rather than in more intellectual language because I see it as nursery behavior. Art — the arts generally — are always unpredictable, maverick, and tend to be, at their best, uncomfortable. Literature, in particular, has always inspired the House committees, the Zhdanovs, the fits of moralizing, but, at worst, persecution. It troubles me that political correctness does not seem to know what its exemplars and predecessors are; it troubles me more that it may know and does not care.
Read the whole thing.

(Hat tip: Leopoldo)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Buster



Apologies for the hiatus in posting - Buster has been moving in, and it has taken quite a lot of time and energy away from other things. However, he seems to be settling, so hopefully I can get back to posting soon, and stop thinking about scratchposts and litter trays for a while.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

The violence in Ingushetia - VII

When Russia's FSB wants to score a more-than-routine propaganda point or two, it generally tries to arrange a "Baltic" connection to some negative event on Russian territory. The latest example of this can be seen in yesterday's carefully orchestrated attack in downtown Nazran, Ingushetia, which none the less killed two police officers, and probably scared the large crowds of shoppers at the city's market. A car with what appeared to be Lithuanian numberplates was conveniently parked at the site of the shooting, beside an armoured police vehicle. Then the car sped off, removing the shooters to safety.

For years, Russia's security forces have attempted to create a link not only in the Russian public's mind, but also in that of the international community, between the the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (detested by the "law enforcers") and the events that take place in the North Caucasus - the most memorable being the tales about the "White Pantyhose Brigade", "supplemented by jokes and the recollections of eye-witnesses, even more funny than jokes. In these recollections, legends and myths, the slender blondes from Lithuanian villages had come to Chechnya to avenge themselves for the misdeeds of Molotov and Ribbentrop hitting our soldiers and imagination from sniper rifles," as Ilya Milstein wrote in the New Times a few years ago.

At first, the obviously manufactured, artificial nature of the violent events in Ingushetia this year made some observers wonder just who the forces behind these actions were. On the basis of the foregoing, it's becoming increasingly evident who they are.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Taking over

From WIRED magazine, an interesting article on last spring's cyber-attacks on Estonia. The article's author travelled to Moscow, where he interviewed a Russian hacker with knowledge of the background to the events, which have implications for European and Western security as a whole. Excerpt:
We move to a coffee shop so Azizov can plug in his Alienware laptop. It connects to the Internet via cellular card, and he navigates to R2.ee, an Estonian radio station. After a few keystrokes, he smiles and tilts the screen toward me. There is an error message. He has performed what is known as an SQL injection attack. With one more keystroke, he says, he could take over the site entirely.

"Why are you showing me this?" I ask.

He tells me that he has just started a new company that will help system administrators assess the vulnerability of their sites. He will identify weaknesses, as he just has with R2.ee, and offer to fix them — for a price.

"Did you offer to help fix R2.ee?" I ask.

He smiles awkwardly and says that he hasn't. I ask him why anyone would trust him. After all, he seems to have a suspiciously intimate knowledge of the Estonian attacks. "Russian IT specialists are knowledgeable and experienced enough to destroy the key servers of whole states," he says. "They're the best in the world."

The implication: Clearly you want them on your side, so why not hire them? Maybe Estonia was simply an advertising campaign.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

The evidence against

On his blog, Estonian MP Marko Mikhkelson has published some materials relating to remarks made by PACE chairman Rene van der Linden during his recent visits to Russia and Estonia. The materials do not show Mr van der Linden in a favourable light.

See also: When enough is enough

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Playing with power

On October 2, the Financial Times published an editorial entitled Putin's power play with democracy, on the subject of Vladimir Putin's recent announcement that he may become Russia's prime minister. Among other things, it contained these paragraphs:
President Putin commands the support of a good 70 per cent of Russians and he could probably lift the numbers of United Russia to the two-thirds majority in the Duma needed to change the constitution and redistribute power. Under that scenario, United Russia, hitherto an ideas-free Putin vehicle, would transmute into a ruling party with long-term tenure – not so much a Communist-style one-party set-up as like an Institutional Revolutionary party, which ruled Mexico for most of the last century.

If Mr Putin intends to run things – and clearly, he does – then it is arguably better that he rules through institutions than from behind the scenes as, say, head of an arm of the state such as Gazprom. Yet even for someone so clearly in control, it is not easy to rejig the sources of real power. This transition is not over yet.
Jeremy Putley has sent me the text of a letter, so far unpublished by the FT, which has recently acquired a new editor:

3 October 2007

The Editor
Financial Times
London

Sir

Putin’s power play with democracy, editorial, today


Parliamentary democracy is generally found to be preferable to the alternative democratic model of government based on an elected, all-powerful president. There are very few instances of good presidential working models, and the Russian system is not one of them. It might, therefore, appear to be a step in the right direction if power were to transfer, in the person of Mr Putin, from the office of president to that of prime minister.

But this is to ignore the merits of the individual concerned, and it was a significant omission from your editorial today that you have made no comment on the prospective candidate’s suitability for office. Mr Putin’s record disqualifies him.

In the years since 2000 Mr Putin has presided over a state whose salient aspects have included the conduct of a war in Chechnya characterised by massive civilian deaths, savage destruction, and wide-scale crimes against humanity; the imposition, in Chechnya, of a fake political settlement while repressions continued unabated; the abuse of the judicial system to lock up persons who are perceived as opponents, following dubious judicial proceedings which are frequently in camera; widespread torture of suspects, documented with impeccable credibility by the late Anna Politkovskaya; the creation of a domestic terrorist threat as a consequence of repressive policies; ineffectual leadership at times of crisis; and, not least, the suppression of democratic freedoms.

The secrecy in which the Chechnya war was conducted was deliberate Kremlin policy, intended to hide the lawless anarchy created in Chechnya, the war crimes committed by the Russian military, and the mass murder of the civilian population. It would be a pity, I suggest, if that policy were to be rewarded. Crimes should not go unnoticed and unremarked; all the more so if “a good 70 per cent of Russians” support the incumbent president.

A hero for our time

Jeremy Putley has sent the following article:

Russia is a country without many heroes. It had a good many, once. But under Vladimir Putin, president since 2000, most of the heroes are in prison, exiled or dead. The bravest and best of them was Anna Politkovskaya, assassinated a year ago today.

In her four published books and her journalism Anna Politkovskaya reported and commented fearlessly on the injustices and the corruption, the crimes and the lies she found wherever she went. In so doing she wrote the history of the Putin era. The importance of her contribution to the record of what really happened at events such as the Dubrovka theatre siege lies in the efforts of Russia’s sinister regime of siloviki to falsify history. As a minor, but significant, example, the number of the hostages killed by the rescuers at the siege was officially 139, but in reality, as accurately recorded by Politkovskaya, 200.

Attempts by the Russian government at falsification of the historical record, or disguising what really happened, are a trademark of Putinism. The suppression of the truth of the Chechnya war was deliberate policy, intended to hide the lawless anarchy created in Chechnya, the war crimes committed by the Russian military, and the mass murder of the civilian population. In A Dirty War, published in 2001, and A Small Corner of Hell, in 2003, Politkovskaya wrote about what was really happening there. On the blanket of secrecy she commented: “The time of Putin is the time of silence about what’s most important in this country.”

Putin’s Russia, in 2004, is about a man who, as the book’s blurb says, had marketed himself as an open, enlightened leader eager to engage with the West. Unlike many European and American journalists and politicians, Anna distrusted Putin’s press image, and set about dismantling it, arguing that he is a product of his own history, and so is unable to prevent himself from stifling civil liberties at every turn. The following passage from the book discloses the sense of moral outrage that was the inspiration for the best of her journalism. She relates how a missile bombardment on a farmstead, in April 2004, killed everyone there - a mother and her five children - and writes:

Why do I so dislike Putin? Because the years are passing. This summer it will be five since the second Chechen War was instigated. It shows no sign of ending. At the time the babies [killed in the bombardment] were yet unborn, but all the murders of children since 1999 in bombardments and purges remain unsolved, uninvestigated by the institutions of law and order. The infanticides have never had to stand where they belong, in the dock; Putin, that great “friend of all children”, has never demanded that they should. The Army continues to rampage in Chechnya as it was allowed to at the beginning of the war, as if its operations were being conducted on a training ground empty of people.

This massacre of the innocents did not raise a storm in Russia. Not one television station in Russia broadcast images of the five little Chechens who had been slaughtered. The Minister of Defence did not resign. He is a personal friend of Putin and is even seen as a possible successor in 2008. The head of the Air Force was not sacked. The Commander-in-Chief himself made no speech of condolence…and in Russia all was quiet.

Why do I so dislike Putin? This is precisely why. I dislike him for a matter-of-factness worse than felony, for his cynicism, for his racism, for his lies, for the gas he used in the Nord-Ost siege, for the massacre of the innocents which went on throughout his first term as President.

This is how I see it.

It was passion and honesty, as well as Anna Politkovskaya’s undoubted courage, which made her Russia’s greatest journalist in her lifetime. I once so described her on an internet forum; a Russian wrote to inform me that she was not well regarded in her own country, and moreover my opinion was in bad taste. I had not intended to praise the quality of her journalism so much as the indomitable spirit which informed it, the shining courage which made her so necessary to her profession in the time in which she lived. Russian people in general are still unaware, no doubt, that they lost a truly heroic figure in October 2006. Her books remain unpublished in Russia, I believe.

Her last book, published posthumously in February this year, is entitled A Russian Diary. In the foreword the broadcaster Jon Snow writes: “For many of us who continue to aspire to the highest standards of journalism, Anna Politkovskaya will remain a beacon burning bright, a yardstick by which integrity, courage and commitment will be measured.”

Politkovskaya’s bravery was remarkable. There were many recorded instances, of which one is referred to by Matthew Evangelista, in his 2002 book, The Chechen Wars:

In February 2001 she travelled to Chechnya to investigate stories of mass detentions in underground pits, torture, and summary executions. Not only did she verify the stories, but she herself was arrested by the FSB and threatened with rape and “execution”. Unbowed, she continued to issue critical reports about the behaviour of Russian forces in Chechnya.

Evangelista continues:

In October 2001 Politkovskaya had to flee the country after receiving threats on her life. She had published more controversial articles on the Chechen War, including the interview with [the Russian war criminal, General Vladimir] Shamanov. In September she wrote about alleged summary executions and torture committed by a unit of Interior Ministry troops in Grozny. The report contained detailed accusations of torture by Sergei Lapin; an officer who allegedly shaved his nickname “Kadet” on the back of the head of Zelimkhan Murdalov, a 26-year-old Chechen man in custody before breaking his arm and thorax and cutting off his right ear. Supposedly transferred to the hospital, Murdalov was never seen again.

Anna did not remain abroad for long, and in spite of information that her life was in danger she returned to Moscow. In October 2002 she was involved in the Dubrovka theatre siege as an intermediary between the Chechen hostage-takers and the would-be liberators. And in September 2004 she was poisoned, almost certainly by the FSB, and hospitalised, en route to Beslan, to prevent her reporting on the events of the school siege and massacre.

After an unconscionably lengthy delay, a parliamentary commission reported on the Beslan tragedy. The report by the Torshin commission was a work of cynical mendacity intended to whitewash the Russian government and its agencies. It was interesting only in showing that the heirs to the Soviet Union’s praesidium, or central committee, are capable of lies intended to falsify, to the Russian people and the world, the historical record of what really happened, and to hide the crimes of the officials who ordered the assault on the school knowing that hostage deaths would be the inevitable consequence.

It was therefore with a sense of being lied to yet again that, at the end of August, I watched on the Russia Today TV channel the hour-long press conference given by the Russian prosecutor-general, Yuri Chaika, in which he announced that the investigation into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya was complete, that the guilty were under arrest, that there was a Chechen trail, and that an unnamed person living abroad was identified as having ordered the murder.

I don’t think so. The person who ordered the murder had a motive, and that person is to be found in Russia or in Chechnya. It is unlikely that he will be named by the unconvincing Mr Chaika, since he doesn’t know who it is – or, if he does, is not going to tell us for fear of a bullet or two.

The Hero of Russia title and medal replaced the Soviet equivalent in 1992, since when an unknown number of persons have received the honour. In her book, A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya, Anna Politkovskaya wrote of “Russia’s secret heroes”:

I had two very simple questions. The first was, How many soldiers have received state awards for their participation in the Second Chechen War? And the second was, How many of them earned the Hero of Russia title?

The Information Department sent me to the Putin administration’s Department of Government Awards. “That information is classified,” the assistants firmly stated, categorically refusing me any chance to talk with the bosses of their departments. “It’s not subject to disclosure.”

“But that’s absurd!” I objected. “Why are the Hero of Russia and other awards confidential?”

“For the protection of those who receive these awards,” came yet another cryptic response.


Anna Politkovskaya was not nominated to receive the Hero of Russia award. In any case she would have declined the title, which has been much dishonoured by being awarded to unworthy men.

Her lasting contribution and her title to greatness are in this ironic truth: that her record of what really happened in her country under President Putin will stand. The falsehoods and secrecy promulgated by the corrupt men who now rule in Russia will not stand. The eventual verdict of history on the Putin presidency will be as it was recorded by the courageous, lone woman journalist who died a martyr to the truth, one year ago.


October 7, 2007

Politkovskaya Sunday


Today is the first anniversary of the murder in Moscow on October 7, 2007, of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who did more than any other reporter to reveal the true extent of the excesses of violence and brutality wrought by Russian federal forces and their allies in Chechnya.

To commemorate the anniversary, events are being held in many cities around the world. They include Paris, London, New York, several Italian cities, Stockholm, Oslo, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Krakow, Vienna, Prague, Moscow, and Nazran. For an extensive list, see the Prague Watchdog calendar for October.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The violence in Ingushetia - VI

In this week's Jamestown Foundation Chechnya Weekly, Harvard University National Security and Human Rights Fellow Fatima Tlisova analyzes the origins of the current situation in Ingushetia, and concludes:
Despite the Kremlin’s claims, Russia does not face a small group of bandits financed by Arab emissaries in Ingushetia. Events suggest that the Ingush “underground” consists of almost the entire republic. The real underground, the actual guerrillas, suffered severe losses in 2005 and 2006. In 2005, Ilyes Gorchkhanov, the emir of Ingushetia, a man always in close contact with Shamil Basaev, was killed in Nalchik. In 2006, Basaev himself was killed, along with most of the Ingush insurgent leaders. The guerrillas were leaderless and confused, connections to other groups in the region were lost and no real centralization was possible. Despite these conditions, the resistance continued to fight, with disparate groups doing what they saw as their duty – blowing up military and police cars and carrying out as many attacks as they could.

It was at this time that Moscow took a step that went unnoticed by the media and the analysts. In 2006, duplicates of all governmental agencies and security services were created within the republic. Simply put, alongside the Interior Ministry, FSB, and prosecutor’s office of Ingushetia, there exist replicas of these organizations fully staffed by persons from outside the republic. The level of mistrust for Ingush institutions by the Russian government has reached an all-time high. It was this unique situation that led Ingush society to overcome its internal divisions and pushed members of the local government and the even the security apparatus to support the underground. Four separate instances of armed Ingush OMON or other comparable security organizations confronting federal forces in defense of the local population have been recorded in the past three months.

After a peaceful demonstration was fired upon last week, the Kremlin declared that the Ingush crisis has been resolved. This declaration is, given everything discussed above, completely irresponsible. War cannot be “resolved” and Russia already has experience with such a “resolution” in Chechnya. While the Kremlin claimed that the Chechen resistance had been destroyed, war spread to the entirety of the North Caucasus.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The violence in Ingushetia - V

In a continuation of attempts by Moscow-backed forces to censor and limit the news from Ingushetia, the Ingush authorities are now trying to close down the Ingushetiya.ru news and information site, the English-language Ingushetia blog reports.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

When enough is enough

Rene van der Linden, the Dutch chairman of PACE (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) has apparently been swayed by Moscow's anti-Estonian propaganda. This is disturbing for several reasons, not the least of which is that it suggests that some of those who are nominally in charge of Europe's destiny may not have Europe's best interests at heart, and may actually be working against them. In late July and early August, van der Linden caused outrage in Estonia when on a working visit to Russia he criticized Estonia's treatment of its Russian-speaking minority and also the moving of the Soviet-era war memorial from central Tallinn to a military cemetery. On a recent visit to Estonia, the PACE chairman repeated these criticisms, and made further damaging charges and allegations against the country. Now the Estonian government's patience has finally broken, the Baltic Times reports:
Speaker of the Estonian parliament Ene Ergma has sent a letter to van der Linden, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), refuting numerous assertions he made during his recent visit to Estonia, reports BNS. According to Ergma, van der Linden's comments provoked widespread controversy and forced her to answer.

"Your recent repeated misleading statements have created confusion and bewilderment both in the Estonian public and internationally," wrote Ergma, of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union.

The speaker added that the inaccuracies did not hurt Estonia alone but discredited PACE and endangered its international standing.

"This leads to our request: give up spreading erroneous information about Estonia," Ergma said.

The speaker of the Estonian parliament referred to Van der Linden’s take on the voting rights of aliens in local elections and the right of juveniles to apply for Estonian citizenship.

"You repeatedly erroneously stated that stateless persons have no possibility of voting in local elections in this country. This assertion is a lie," Ergma wrote.

She pointed out that the Constitution adopted in a referendum in 1992 did not link the right of voting in local elections with citizenship but only with permanent residence in Estonia.

"According to our Local Government Councils Election Act, an alien who has attained eighteen years of age by the day of election, who resides permanently in the territory of the respective town of rural muunicipality and and resides in Estonia on the basis of long-term or permanent residence permit is entitled to vote the election," Ergma said.

The speaker said that van der Linden's assertion that children of stateless persons born in Estonia were not granted the right to Estonian citizenship was also wrong.

"The assertion is wrong as well," she said. "A person under 15 years old born in Estonia is granted Estonian citizenship by naturalization if his or her parents apply for it."

Ergma underlined that in that case the person has to take no tests or pass any additional clauses to be granted citizenship.

The parliament speaker added that van der Linden's attention had been drawn to his mistakes even while he was still in Tallinn and expressed amazement that the PACE president had apparently not made any effort to correct his erroneous statements.
Meanwhile, as Paul Goble points out, Russia is doing its utmost to organize its compatriots abroad.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Survivor Generation

The U.S,-based Chechnya Advocacy Network (CAN) has published a new photo-essay on Chechnya and Ingushetia by aid worker, photographer and journalist Daniel J. Gerstle.

Chechnya calendar

Prague Watchdog has published its calendar of Chechnya-related events for October.

Monday, October 01, 2007

FT to expand free access

The Financial Times is expanding free access to its website. AP notes that

Beginning in mid-October, users will be allowed 30 views per month of all the content on the site, said Ien Cheng, publisher of FT.com. Beyond that, users would have to pay.