Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pianist launches anti-Israel bias campaign

From the JC:

The Russian-born pianist Evgeny Kissin, who became a British citizen in 2002, has accused the BBC of “slander and bias” against Israel, broadcasting material he describes as “painfully reminiscent of the old Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda”.

Espoo mall shootings

Aamulehti has some background on the gunman who carried out the shootings at the shopping mall in Espoo, Finland, today:

The suspect, Ibrahim Shkupolli (born 1966) is a Kosovo Albanian who according to Aamulehti's information came to Finland via Norway in 1990. He was placed in the reception center at Mikkeli [Eastern Finland], which he later left to live in Espoo, Finland.

In the early 1990s he already had a Finnish girlfriend who is one of the victims of the Sello tragedy. Aamulehti understands that Shkupolli later separated from this girlfriend and married an Albanian woman. He also had children in common with her. The whole family lives in Finland.

The suspect's wife and child as well as his parents and brother live in Finland.

So far, unconfirmed reports suggest a triangle as the background to the shootings. Shkupolli may have been driven by jealousy of his former, Finnish girlfriend's new life.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Caucasus asylum seekers returning to Poland

RFE/RL reports that most of the 200 asylum seekers from Chechnya, Georgia and Ingushetia who attempted to travel to Strasbourg by train but were detained at the Polish-German border yesterday are now returning to Poland, where they are being temporarily held at a refugee centre in Warsaw:

The protesters -- who boarded the train without tickets -- told RFE/RL they wanted to go to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to highlight their poor living conditions in Polish refugee centers and police abuse they said they have experienced.

The refugees have reportedly been refused political asylum in Poland.

Meanwhile, the pro-Moscow Chechen President Ramazan Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny today that the refugee protest in Poland is an "act of desperation."

He said, "If these people return home, their rights will be protected better."

Polish journalist Krystyna Kurczab-Redlich, who writes about human rights in Chechnya, told RFE/RL that it is hard to obtain political asylum in Poland in general but the European Union law known as the Dublin Regulation does not allow refugees to leave Poland for another EU country if an asylum request is refused in Poland.
She said that creates difficulties for Polish officials, who do not know what to do with the refugees, and leaves the asylum-seekers with few options.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Israel reprimands UK ambassador

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a statement condemning the arrest warrant issued against Israel's former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Ynet News reports.  The statement reprimands British Ambassador Tom Phillips and tells him that Israel expects the UK to act against this "unethical" phenomenon, which is aimed at "violating Israel's right to defend itself."

Ambassador Phillips was summoned to the Foreign Ministry Tuesday, where Naor Gilon, deputy director for the Foreign Ministry's Western Europe desk, told him that Israeli officials will not be able to visit the UK until the threat of lawsuits and arrest warrants is removed.

Update: Britain's foreign secretary David Milliband has denounced the arrest warrant as "insufferable".

Monday, December 14, 2009

From an interview - 5

Yuri Felshtinsky: I’m simply not going to discuss the moral qualities of Chechnya’s political leader, Kadyrov, right now. Because from the standpoint of Russia’s interests Kadyrov is the worst option. I think that in a situation where after two Chechen wars the Federation had failed to resolve its internal problems, Dudayev and Maskhadov would have made far more acceptable presidents for Russia. The Chechens really became extremists almost by chance. It could have worked out differently, Russia could have chosen some other territory on which to resolve its electoral issues. Unfortunately for the Chechens, the territory chosen was Chechnya.


Mikhail Sokolov: Chechnya was unlucky.


Yuri Felshtinsky: Unlucky is not the right word, if you consider that Chechnya is scorched earth. The fact that Russians will never be able to live there again is one aspect of it. And another, more important, is that neither will the Chechens ever be able to live a normal peaceful life there, a life that merits the name. Because what is happening there now has no relation to life at all.

http://felshtinsky.livejournal.com/2009/10/23/

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

African-Americans in Cuba race protest

Via CNN:

A group of prominent African-Americans has challenged Cuba's race record, accusing the island nation of harassing its black citizens and cracking down on civil rights activists.

Sixty intellectuals and artists, including Princeton University professor Cornel West, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and actress Ruby Dee, have signed a declaration of protest.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum, on how a problem with her car in Warsaw was transformed by Polish, Estonian and British media into an international incident.

Hat tip: Marius

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Hammarberg in the Caucasus

Jamestown Eurasia Blog's Giorgi Kvelashvili writes about the four Georgian schoolboys who were kidnapped by Russian occupation forces in Georgia's Tskhinvali region on November 4, and are still being held in custody:

On November 27, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg arrived in Tbilisi and his meetings with various Georgian officials as well as those with the authorities in Tskhinvali will continue until December 4.

Georgian parliamentarians both from the ruling party and the opposition had severely criticized him for not doing enough for the release of the kidnapped schoolboys in particular and not issuing a special statement for almost one month after their kidnapping.

Both Georgia and Russia are members of the Council of Europe and despite the fact that this organization has already several times acknowledged that the Russian Federation is in breach of the August 2008 Russo-Georgian ceasefire agreement, mediated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, little, if any, action has been taken to punish Russia for violating Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The first attempt by Hammarberg to enter Tskhinvali on November 29 failed after he was stopped on the “border” by Russian forces and, according to the Georgian media, several shots were fired from the city.

The next day Hammarberg was more fortunate and managed to hold talks in Tskhinvali, but nonetheless came back to Tbilisi empty-handed. 

For more on Hammarberg's apparent difficulty in tackling Russian and Moscow-backed authorities in the Caucasus, this time in Chechnya, see Prague Watchdog.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Lukyanov in Stockholm

Tobias Ljungvall took notes during a recent speech given at a Stockholm seminar by Russian political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov. As Tobias observes, Lukyanov more or less reproduces the Kremlin's current view of world affairs and of Russia's role in them [my tr.]:

1. Russian foreign policy under President Medvedev has not undergone any fundamental change compared to the foreign policy that prevailed under Putin. The differences in nuance can be partly explained by the fact that Medvedev is a different sort of person.

2. Russia is not like the Soviet Union, partly because it lacks an ideology.The loss of empire in1991 was worse than other countries’ similar experiences (e.g, Britain's loss of its colonies) as the lost areas were extensions of the country and some were a part of the national identity. The building of the Russian state began many centuries ago in Kiev, and therefore Russia finds hard to accept that Ukraine should join NATO.

3. A key concept is the so-called multi-polar world. The United States' attempt at hegemony has failed but has made the world more unstable because it cannot rely on international law any more. Relations between emerging new poles will shape the present century.

4. While in the West the Kosovo war of 1999 was perceived positively as proof that it was possible to defend human rights by force, Russia's interpretation of the Kosovo events was that national sovereignty no longer applies in the world. Russian public opinion turned its back on integration with the West and Western ideas of morality.

5. Instead, Russia was forced to strengthen its own capability. The only real guarantee of sovereignty for Russia is its nuclear weapons. In the absence of the former capabilities of the Soviet Union, Russia has also politicized gas and oil, in a way that Lukyanov thinks ultimately does most harm to Gazprom itself. The Soviet Union never mixed business and politics in the way that is now happening.

6. So now Russia is trying to avoid new gas conflicts with Ukraine. Today it is only Ukraine’s President Yushchenko who tries to provoke them. But hopefully after the elections which are due to take place in two months’ time Yushchenko will go into political retirement. 

There is more.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Reichstags

"Well then, guys: is it to be fascists, the Caucasus or a man-made disaster?" ...

"I don't know, boss ... The Caucasus won't cut it right now - it'll look as though we've got no stability down there again. People will ask what we've been doing for the past ten years. And Ramzan will get upset .... "

"I'm totally against a man-made disaster. Wasn't the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant enough for you? Actually. at the time I came out for a terrorist attack ... they should have listened to me  ... We might have been able to turn the screws a bit ... But this way it just harms the government's image."

"Or maybe it's the machinations of western intelligence services? To stop us getting up from our knees ... "

"Don't be silly - for God's sake, it's a serious story ... "

"Well, so what is it to be?"

"They've decided it's fascists."

"If it's fascists it's fascists... Listen, but what really happened?"

"Hell if I know... Isn't it all the same to you?"

 

from Alexander Ryklin, "The Reichstags go on burning" (ej.ru)

Zakayev interview

Prague Watchdog has published a recent interview with Akhmed Zakayev.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mistral: a cold French wind blows east

epl Originally published in Estonian as Mistral: külm Prantsuse tuul puhub itta

http://www.epl.ee/artikkel/483208

David J. Smith*

The French Navy amphibious assault ship Mistral—named for a cold French wind—visits Saint Petersburg today. This is not just a port call; it is a sales call—with ominous geopolitical implications.

"We plan to buy one Mistral class ship in France and with technical support from the French to build four helicopter carriers of this class under license," said Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev, First Deputy Chief of the Russian Navy Staff. It would be the biggest ever NATO country military supply to Russia.

The Mistral class of ships is designed to attack the shore from the sea, an ideal weapon for Russia to intimidate its neighbors. Mistrals can carry 16 heavy or 35 light helicopters, 4 landing craft, 900 soldiers and up to 70 military vehicles, including up to 40 tanks.

At about $800 million apiece, France’s motivation to sell Mistrals is understandable. Besides, sale proponents argue, a few modern ships to Russia’s barnacle-ridden navy will hardly threaten American dominance at sea.

However, is Paris prepared to reward Russian aggression against Georgia, ignore shredding of the ceasefire agreement negotiated and signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy, accept the help of Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan but enforce an unacknowledged arms embargo on Georgia, and meanwhile sell advanced arms to Russia? Does France really want Russia to have this littoral combat capability?

Ignoring these questions may evoke pleasant noises in Moscow for a time, but Russia will not reciprocate in any concrete way. Indeed, it will demand ever more to be appeased. And eventually Russia will employ the Mistrals in another act of aggression, thereby making France complicit.

Regrettably, the potential sale of Mistral class ships to Russia appears to spring from worse than unprincipled economics. France’s partnership with Russia, Prime Minister Francois Fillon recently said, “can take several forms in the defense sphere, from military cooperation to close industrial partnership.” Recall that Fillon a day before the April 2008 NATO Bucharest Summit, told France-Inter radio, "We are opposed to the entry of Georgia and Ukraine because we think it is not the right response to the balance of power in Europe and between Europe and Russia.”

It is difficult to imagine what power Fillon imagines France will balance with the sale of Mistrals to Russia. However, one can readily discern Russia’s motivation for the purchase.
Moscow will not soon challenge US Navy dominance of the oceans. The Russian Navy for the foreseeable future will be a green water navy, operating close to home, largely as a complement to Russian land forces. And those forces undergird Russia’s intent to halt NATO’s eastward enlargement, particularly to Georgia and Ukraine; to retain its Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol beyond the 2017 expiration of its leasehold; to discourage NATO from planning and exercising the defense of the post Cold War NATO allies; to challenge American cooperation with those allies; and eventually to roll back what it characterizes as encroachment from the west.

“All that we consider ours will remain ours,” said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, toasting the 80th birthday of well known Soviet and Russian foreign policy specialist Yevgeny Primakov. The Baltic Sea, once a Soviet lake, is no doubt one of the places that Putin had in mind. When the Mistral navigated Skagerrak and Kattegat, the straits that lead from the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea into the Baltic Sea, it steamed by the shores of united Germany; by Gdansk, catalyst to the upheavals that toppled the communist world that Putin so reveres; by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, now NATO members, once occupied but never cowed by the Soviet Union.

On Baltic shores, apart from Saint Petersburg, only Kaliningrad—headquarters of the Baltic Fleet founded by Peter the Great—remains of the world for which Putin yearns. And it was no coincidence, therefore, that in Kaliningrad on September 28, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Russian troops who had participated in the exercise Zapad 2009, “I am convinced that we will be able to reestablish our navy in the next decade…We need a strong navy.”

And the Mistrals are part of the plan. On inland seas such as the Baltic or the Black Sea, Mistral class ships would make a big difference—and the Russians know it. Referring to Russia’s August 2008 invasion of Georgia, Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy recently remarked, “A ship like that would have allowed the Black Sea Fleet to accomplish its mission in 40 minutes, not 26 hours, which is how long it took us.”

Consequently, the Mistral’s call in Saint Petersburg must capture the attention of every NATO ally. The French sale of Mistral class ships to Russia would be a major adverse geopolitical development and a potential alliance buster—it must be stopped.

*David J. Smith is Director, Georgian Security Analysis Center, Tbilisi, and Senior Fellow, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, Washington.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From an interview - 4

Yuri Felshtinsky: Where I see the main problem, of course, is that the government hoodwinks the people and the people go along with it. In other words, the people have no objection in principle to such an approach. I personally don’t like it, but on the other hand I find myself imagining someone who fell asleep in 1988, say, during perestroika, waking up in 2001 or 2008, under Putin, anyway. And this person had slept through the whole of the Yeltsin era, slept and didn’t even know that the Yeltsin era had ever existed. Imagine newsreels where someone just took a pair of scissors and cut out all the Yeltsin-era material from 1990 to 2000. And actually, let's be honest, the picture we see today is absolutely wonderful, if we compare it with the Soviet era, or the period  of 1988-89-90. There's no Communist Party, or at least, the CP exists only as one of numerous political parties. There's no ideology. There’s a market economy, there’s freedom to travel abroad. The elections can’t really be called elections, of course, but that’s only if we compare them with elections in France, or America, or Britain. And if we compare them with the elections there were in the Soviet Union, the elections in Russia nowadays are simply beyond one’s wildest dreams. Both at a local and at a national level.

There is absolutely no freedom of speech, of course, let's be frank about that. Nevertheless, there is a sort of opposition press, there’s Novaya Gazeta, there are some journalists, there's Latynina. Yes, journalist are killed from time to time. But even so, we're not talking about the millions of people who lost their lives in the purges of the Stalin era – we can speak, we can have different opinions, these statistics are always sad, and some of the people who’ve been killed were my very close friends, Anya Politkovskaya, for example (that was a personal loss) but we are nevertheless talking about 200-300 journalists being killed,  not about total political control.

And while there is absolutely no question that some politicians have been murdered, there is no global political terror of the kind there was in the former Soviet Union.

So you know, it all depends on how we compare those different eras. And perhaps we really need to agree that yes, Russia is not capable – at this point in history, at least. and we’re not talking about 10-30 or even 50 years – Russia is not capable of becoming some European, civilized, democratic country, it's not ready to become that yet.

Russia is still trying to find its place in history and its path in history. Another thing is that, as history shows, Russians must constantly pay for this quest. Russia’s search for its path in history is an expensive venture in the world of today. Of course, I would prefer it if Russia and the Russian people, or the Russians, would calm down and realize that they don’t have a path of their own in history.

Mikhail Sokolov: A special one.

Yuri Felshtinsky: They have no special path.

http://felshtinsky.livejournal.com/2434.html

Monday, November 23, 2009

From an interview - 3

Mikhail Sokolov: So is Russia continuing to travel along the path laid out by Putin – anti-Westernism, “soft” dictatorship, and so on, or not?

Yuri Felshtinsky: You know, I can’t really call what’s happening in Russia today anti-Westernism, or even soft dictatorship. The people in the government are mostly those who worked for the KGB all their lives, or sometimes for other law enforcement agencies. In addition to the fact that all these people were born and lived in the Soviet era and were trained in the Soviet system, these people have passed through the school of the law enforcement agencies.

I don’t mean to offend the former or current leaders of the KGB, but you and I both know how the selection process for this organization, especially the KGB, worked. In other words, let’s put it this way: there are no good people there. I can’t emphasize this enough. A good person did not go to work for the KGB. I know it from Sasha Litvinenko. I always said to Sasha Litvinenko: "Sasha, you know, there are two people in your organization. One needs to be rewarded, and the other needs to be punished.” He would say: "Who are they?" "The person who should be rewarded is whoever chose you to work in the FSB and the KGB. Because it’s incredible, I mean, you’re a typical KGB officer. And the person who ought to be punished is whoever let slip the moment when you decided to defect from the KGB, because it’s extremely dangerous for the KGB to have you as an enemy." And as an enemy of the FSB Litvinenko was indeed very dangerous, and so they killed him. They couldn’t find any other way of fighting him, they had to kill him.

To return to our topic: a good person did not go to work for the KGB, so by definition absolutely all the people who served in the KGB were bad people. That may be a naive thing to say.

Mikhail Sokolov: Not very scientific.

Yuri Felshtinsky: No, but it’s true. In everyday terms, you and I and all of us know that all those people are bad people. So what can one expect of the political system of our country, whether present or future, when it’s overwhelmingly led by these same bad people? Of course, nothing good can be expected of it. The fact that from time to time we encounter some anti-Western statements, for example, or some minor wars such as the one in Georgia –it's all the result of the fact that these people run Russia today. They can’t act any differently, it’s just the way they’re made.

http://felshtinsky.livejournal.com/4745.html

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New moves in the North Caucasus

At Prague Watchdog, Andrei Babitsky and German Sadulayev comment on President Medvedev's new North Caucasus policy, announced in his recent address to the Federal Assembly, and his appointment of an "overseer" for the region, which is now for the first time being perceived by the Kremlin as a political entity. Also, a new Reuters report quotes ChRI leader Akhmed Zakayev as saying that Russia intends to significantly increase the numbers of its troops in the North Caucasus, as part of a planned surge.

Monday, November 16, 2009

From an interview - 2

Mikhail Sokolov: So you mean that in the coming decade Russia is doomed to give the world yet another negative lesson of the kind it gave in the past: we've had Communism and Stalinism, and now Russia is to be run by the secret police, or corporations composed of Putin's managers?

Yuri Felshtinsky: In your question I hear a note of sad reproach, but in fact one can take a slightly different view of the way the world sees Russia. It’s really a matter of comparisons. The West and the whole of the rest of the world have to compare Russia’s present leadership with, for example, Stalin and Khrushchev. Of Stalin, of course, the less said the better.. Khrushchev beat his shoe on the podium. Brezhnev – also the less said the better. Now and then Yeltsin was drunk in public. Listen, against that background, Medvedev is quite simply the flower of the Russian intelligentsia. And against that background even Putin, on the whole, is a young progressive politician who knows how to smile, talk, behave himself more or less, not always, not everywhere, we know about all the blunders he committed as leader of the country: like when he joked about the sinking of the "Kursk" submarine, or when he told a journalist to go and get circumcised, and when he talked about flushing the Chechens down the toilet. We know about all that, the list is too long to enumerate. But even so, if we compare this with Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, then sorry, it’s not surprising that the Western community thought Putin was the best Russian president it had ever had to deal with.
On this level Medvedev is even better, because they don’t even have to deal with him, because they know that he doesn’t decide important policy matters in the country. So in that sense what awaits the West is not such a bad option.

The West takes a cautiously sceptical view of Russia. Russia is like the classroom bully. Between ourselves, no one ever expects anything good of Russia. Everyone expects something bad. When bad things happen, like the war in Chechnya or the war in Georgia, everyone says: “Yes, well, of course, what else can you expect of them? And when bad things don’t happen, they put a tick in the checkbox: “Listen, it could have happened and it didn’t.” In other words, Russia is treated like this naughty boy who is a member of the family but whom no one can do anything with, he’s just there.

And (this is a serious point, by the way) they all understand that that Russia is there, that it was there in the past and that it will go on being there in the future. Russia will be there both as a participant in all the political dialogues [with the West] and as a very important economic partner, especially for Europe. So we all have to live with Russia. And it is absolutely the task of everyone to make life easier for ourselves, to make this life together with Russia as easy and painless as possible.

http://felshtinsky.livejournal.com/4745.html

Saturday, November 14, 2009

From an interview

Mikhail Sokolov: Have you noticed that they’re still trying to work out some kind of [national] ideology? There’s this "Shoigu Law", which really threatens anyone engaged in research relating to the Second World War that doesn’t fit in with their view of it – that’s a form of ideological activity.

Yuri Felshtinsky: Yes. Though I don’t think it’s dangerous, because I think it's all rather absurd. For example, I never believed – and this goes back to the discussions there have always been among the émigré community, at least since the years when I first came over here in 1978, that there would be fascism in the Soviet Union or Russia. I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now. I never believed that there would be nationalism in the Soviet Union, or now in Russia. Because Russia really is a multi-ethnic state. And the numbers of Russians, who have never been counted, and especially of pure ethnic Russians, whom it is absolutely certain that no one has ever counted, are not critical enough for Russia to have a hard-line national government.

And Russians themselves probably see one another as people who are soft rather than hard-line, more disorganized than organized, more slovenly than focused on certain ideas and rules.

Russia is an enormous state. For all the attempts to remake it and build a centralized "vertical of power", you and I know that the power ends at the Ring Road. And in fact there are many who would seriously assert that it ends at the walls of the Kremlin. Beyond the walls of the Kremlin, none of that centralization and "vertical of power" works any more.

http://felshtinsky.livejournal.com/4745.html

Second thoughts

The board of directors of Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (NTNU) in Trondheim have unanimously decided to reject the proposal for an academic boycott of Israel, Haaretz reports:

The vote resulted in total victory," said Professor Bjorn Alsberg, a member of the board of the Trondheim-based Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Alsberg, a chemistry professor, led a campaign at the Norwegian city against the boycott.
He said that the vote to boycott Israel - which drew condemnations from Jewish organizations in Israel and elsewhere - was rejected after none of the 11 board members objected when NTNU Dean Torbjorn Digernes suggested scrapping the motion from the board meeting's agenda.
Meanwhile the Jerusalem Post writes that Swedish journalist Donald Boström has "reevaluated his position" on the matter of claims that the IDF harvested organs from dead Palestinians:
According to the report, Bostrom recently canceled his participation in a Beirut conference, the goal of which was to slander Israel.
Sources close to the journalist related that Bostrom's recent visit to Israel and the fair dialogue he held at a Dimona conference caused him to think twice about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Russia "testing reactions"

Georgia's President Saakashvili has pointed to the irony of the presence of Russia's President Medvedev at the recent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall:
“What does it mean – welcoming the Russian President in Berlin as if he were a big democrat to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall, while Erich Honecker [the last leader of German Democratic Republic] was not doing even one tenth of what [Russia] is doing now; Honecker was eventually apprehended by the Europeans… And now they [the Europeans] have him [Medvedev] sitting smiling next to them; it won’t work – shaking one hand with them [Europeans] and capturing children with the other.”
By "capturing children", Saakashvili was referring to the recent detention of four Georgian teenagers by South Ossetian forces. Saakashvili appealed to leaders of the countries of the EU to react more decisively to Russia's provocative actions:
"The Russians are testing the reactions of others, what others will do in response to Russia’s provocations. What happens next will depend on cases like this."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ukraine flu panic "created for political motives"

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko has said in a public statement that although the statistical incidence in Ukraine of influenza and SARS (acute respiratory virus infection) was higher three years ago and one year ago, this year speculation and panic have been artificially created for political motives. Ukraine's next presidential election is scheduled to be held on January 17, 2010.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Officials and dissidents - 2

The Soviet past is indivisible from the Communist past. If you repudiate Anti-Sovietism, then declare a Restoration, announce the nationalization of large private property, freeze the accounts in the Cayman Islands, confiscate the mansions outside Moscow and resettle demobilized officers in them, put up for sale the countless villas, castles and estates that were bought by Russian billionaires (after all, they are officials and politicians, too) around the world, and so on. But if you are not ready for such a turn of events, then do not play with fire.

Igor G. Yakovenko, addressing Russia's present government elite and its persecution of Alexander Podrabinek, who wrote that the Soviet past was "bloody, false and shameful" and that "The Soviet Union was not that country you portrayed in school textbooks and your lying media".

Sunday, November 08, 2009

State violence in Cuba

Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez describes a gangland-style kidnapping by Cuban government agents, in which she and some of her colleagues were severely beaten:

The curious crowded around and I shouted, “Help, these men want to kidnap us,” but they stopped those who wanted to intervene with a shout that revealed the whole ideological background of the operation, “Don’t mess with it, these are counterrevolutionaries.” In the face of our verbal resistance they made a phone call and said to someone who must have been the boss, “What do we do? They don’t want to get in the car.” I imagine the answer from the other side was unequivocal, because then came a flurry of punches and pushes, they got me with my head down and tried to push me into the car. I held onto the door… blows to my knuckles… I managed to take a paper one of them had in his pocket and put it in my mouth. Another flurry of punches so I would return the document to them.

Orlando was already inside, immobilized by a karate hold that kept his head pushed to the floor. One put his knee in my chest and the other, from the front seat, hit me in my kidneys and punched me in the head so I would open my mouth and spit out the paper. At one point I felt I would never leave that car. “This is as far as you’re going, Yoani,” “I’ve had enough of your antics,” said the one sitting beside the driver who was pulling my hair. In the back seat a rare spectacle was taking place: my legs were pointing up, my face reddened by the pressure and my aching body, on the other side Orlando brought down by a professional at beating people up. I just managed to grab, through his trousers, one’s testicles, in an act of desperation. I dug my nails in, thinking he was going to crush my chest until the last breath. “Kill me now,” I screamed, with the last inhalation I had left in me, and the one in front warned the younger one, “Let her breathe.”

Hat tip: Harry's Place

Friday, November 06, 2009

Officials and dissidents

...in our social system there are no "politicians of the governing majority", in their place are officials, performers, whether outside the Duma or inside the Duma. There are no opposition politicians - instead of them there is a procession of clowns. Finally there are no politicians outside the system -- the only activity possible is that of the dissident or near-dissident.

To sum it up baldly:  there are officials and dissidents. As in Soviet times, as under the tsars. As in Russia.

Leonid Radzikhovsky, in ej.ru [my tr.]

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"Nationalists" blamed for killings of Markelov and Baburova

Investigators in Moscow have pinned the blame for the January murders of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova on Russian nationalists, the New York Times reports.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Destroying Chechnya's middle ground

RFE/RL's Caucasus Report examines the abrupt change of tack on the part of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who had earlier said he would welcome the return to the republic of ChRI head Akhmed Zakayev, now exiled in London. But last week Kadyrov branded Zakayev a "liar", and accused him of misrepresenting the situation in Chechnya. Now Chechen parliamentary speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov has joined the anti-Zakayev campaign, calling him a "traitor". RFE/RL notes that

If Zakayev's hypothesis that the "hawks" in Moscow were behind Kadyrov's criticism of him last week is indeed correct, then Abdurakhmanov's November 2 interview leaves no doubt that, for whatever reason, they are out to destroy Zakayev's reputation and influence both within the diaspora community and in Chechnya.

At Prague Watchdog, German Sadulayev has some further reflections [in my tr.] on the subject.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fighting back

On November 12 the board of directors of Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (NTNU) in Trondheim will vote on whether or not to declare an academic boycott against Israel. The chairwoman of the board says that while she opposes the move, she will not move to cancel the vote.

The university's rector, Torbjørn Digernes, has already drawn strong criticism for his decision to hold a series of seminars at which only one viewpoint - hostile to Israel - will be heard. Comments on this, and on the boycott project, can be read on the rector's webpage, where he calls the seminar series "a praiseworthy enterprise".

Professor Yossi Ben-Artzii of the University of Haifa has written to Rector Digernes protesting the boycott, Ynet reports, and

stressed that Israel is an enlightened state, and that any attempt to impose an academic boycott on it can only stem from lack of knowledge or a wrong perception of the Jewish State. An academic boycott will only hurt academic freedom, while curbing intellectual progress and undermining universal values.

Meanwhile, YNet also reports that the Swedish journalist responsible for the Aftonbladet article

accusing the Israel Defense Forces of stealing and trafficking in Palestinians' organs, was received Monday with boos and shouts during a panel he took part in at a media conference held in Dimona.

The Swedish reporter said that he understands the anger and explained that his infamous article only claimed that the Palestinian families' allegations need to be investigated. He also said that there was much misunderstanding surrounding the article. "The fact is that the families said what they said. That's a normal article," he said.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Then and now

Commenting on Russia's continuing stream of political murders, the Washington Post notes that

Not since the time of Joseph Stalin, however, have the political killings been so blatant -- or so chillingly common.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From defence to aggression

At Prague Watchdog, Memorial worker Usam Baysayev writes about the Chechen human rights defenders who became supporters of Ramzan Kadyrov.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Who controls Ingushetia?

"The strategy of the new president [Yevkurov] was extremely tough: to pardon all those who could be pardoned, and kill all those who needed to be killed. And no corruption.

"That strategy split the opposition, the insurgents and the security forces. Ironically, the two latter groups of irreconcilable opponents had one common interest: they were both for the continuation of uncontrolled violence. The insurgents - because it creates a base for the Islamic Revolution, and the law enforcement agencies - because it is easier to get stars on one's uniform that way. Both needed the butcher's axe, and not the surgeon's knife, to operate in the republic. Force of the targeted kind that was necessary was not in the interests of either group."

- Yulia Latynina, writing about the killing of Maksharip Aushev [my tr.]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Opposition activist assassinated in Russia

Earlier today, the Ingush rights activist Maksharip Aushev was killed by automatic gunfire near Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkariya. The New York Times has a report.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Baramidze on Ukraine

Window on Eurasia looks at Russia's future strategy for Ukraine, and quotes the views of Georgia's deputy prime minister, Georgy Baramidze, who foresees not an invasion but a campaign to destabilize Ukraine from within:

Moscow, he said, will try to “create controlled chaos and an atmosphere of hatred,” to play off one group of Ukrainians against another in order to “inflame” the situation. Indeed, Baramidze said, “Russia will support everyone who supports the escalation of the situation and all who pour grease into the fire.”

The Russian authorities can do this in many ways: distributing Russian passports as they did in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and are now doing in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, playing up ethnic and language differences, promoting now one and now another political leader, and putting money in various media projects, all steps designed to exacerbate the situation.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nothing in return

Eurasia Daily Monitor, on an unlikely project:  

The U.S.-Russia joint working group on civil society issues is widely seen as representing a U.S. unilateral concession, rather than a classical trade-off. The United States is receiving nothing in return for accepting the deputy chief of Russia’s presidential administration, Vladislav Surkov, and other Kremlin “political technologists” to predominate on the Russian side of this “civil society group.” Surkov, a godfather of Nashi, will be co-chairing the civil society working group alongside Michael McFaul, the U.S. White House senior adviser on Russia. In Moscow, Clinton said that she expects the Russia expert McFaul to manage this group effectively (Ekho Moskvy, October 14).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Compromising positions

In a post which among other things assesses Obama's Russia, Middle East and China policy in the light of historical precedents, Ted Lipien looks back at another U.S. president who, in all good faith, tried to "reset" East-West relations. He also  has some words of advice for Hillary Clinton, after her Moscow visit:

Appeasing the Kremlin and the Chinese communists in the hope of winning concessions makes such concessions far less likely, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton found out during her humilating visit to Moscow last week.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Medvedev couldn’t be more brutal in telling her that putting pressure on Iran to end its nuclear programs was not in Russia’s national interest, when in fact they meant their own interest. Prime Minister Putin went to China and was not around to receive her.

In fact any Russian scholar with a good sense of realism could have told President Obama that the current leaders in Russia want the U.S. out of Eastern Europe but don’t believe that they owe America anything if the Americans leave. They will also continue to rely on anti-Americanism to consolidate their power internally. They want oil prices to be as high as possible, and therefore want tensions to be high in the Middle East. For that reason, they want the United States to be bogged down both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. The only thing that the Obama Administration should expect from the Kremlin are Russian concessions that would allow the U.S. to continue and expand military operations in these two Muslim nations.

Charles Krauthammer has more.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Equal shares

Prague Watchdog's Andrei Babitsky, writing under a pseudonym, takes issue with Andrei Soldatov's recent claim that the Kremlin has ceded control of Chechnya to Ramzan Kadyrov [my tr.]:

What causes anxiety to the Russian government’s voluntary helpers is apparently the fact that Kadyrov is killing people not in order to increase the might of the Russian state, but to strengthen his own personal power. The man in the street, however, is bound to feel absolutely indifferent – after all, murders that are “needed” or “unneeded” by Russia, “useful" or "harmful" to it, will be committed in Chechnya no matter who is in charge. Kadyrov's power is no better and no worse than the power of the  FSB or any other Russian agency, since they are all reinforced by the same conveyor belt of death. And the protection of the public interest, the interest of the state, will not help the lawyers of the  future to obtain a mitigation of the indictment. What matter are not the goals but the methods, and it’s the shedding of blood that counts, not good intentions. Seen with the eyes of the victims, the Russian state struggling for its territorial integrity and Kadyrov’s provincial dictatorship are no different from each other. In both cases the people end up equally dead, and their injuries look the same. And it does not matter at all how the power is divided up, or which of the criminals cherishes a dream of freedom and independence. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The new Soviet Russia - 2

Via Marko Mihkelson:

An interesting discussion on Russia Today about Russia's post- (or perhaps neo-) Soviet aspirations in Central Asia and elsewhere around its borders. The contributions by the British speaker are particularly noteworthy, and rather disturbing.


The new Soviet Russia

"Moscow and other Russian cities are still full of Soviet symbolism — streets named after Lenin, Marx, Engels and socialism, as well as public squares named in honor of notorious Soviet secret police chiefs Felix Dzerzhinsky, Moisei Uritsky and Vyacheslav Menzhinsky. The word “Anti-Soviet” — until recently the name of a small Moscow restaurant — can no longer affect them. But criticism of the Soviet Union has suddenly become tantamount to criticism of Russia. Now Russian officials, bankers and oligarchs have pulled on their gray Chekist overcoats, donned Soviet soldier caps with red stars, and hung chains bearing Russian Orthodox crosses around their necks. And Nashi activists have told anti-Soviet dissidents to 'get out of our country',"

- Vladimir Ryzhkov in the Moscow Times, on the revival of the Soviet-era war on dissidents

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Clinton supports Russian rights activists

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at a meeting with Russian rights activists in Moscow today: 

"Those of you here today understand the risks. You have seen friends and colleagues harassed, intimidated and even killed. And yet you go on working and writing, refusing to be silenced."

Yulia Latynina, on the non-invitation of opposition politicians to the meeting with Clinton:

"I don't think it would have been a good idea because the political opposition in Russia is really marginal, not because they're stupid people and not because they have no audience, but because in a society which is not democratic, there is basically no opposition."

Finland as a question, Russia as reply

Next March the Finnish publisher WSOY will release an unfinished work by the poet, author and publisher Paavo Haavikko, who died last year at the age of 77. The book bears the slightly odd title Suomi kysymyksessä, vastauksena Venäjä (literally "Finland in question, Russia in reply"), and is an attempt to trace and analyse the historical relations between Finland and Russia throughout the centuries, concentrating on the genetic myths and memories, and the hatred and hostility that developed in the conversation between the two countries, influenced by official propaganda on both sides.
(cross-posted from Nordic Voices)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Vanhanen: Finland needs "deeper ties" with Russia

Via Bloomberg (October 9):

The conclusion in Finland was that we have to deepen our relations to Russia and that we have to try in all ways to bind Russia better and better to Europe,” [Finland's Prime Minister] Vanhanen said today in an interview at his office in Helsinki. “So, more cooperation with Russia; that was the conclusion we made after the Georgia war.”

Hat tip: Mari-Ann Kelam

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dream and reality

Marko Mihkelson, on Obama's prizewinning intentions [my tr.]:

A world free of nuclear weapons is certainly a beautiful goal, but is very difficult to imagine its achievement. Moreover, it is quite debatable whether a world entirely free of nuclear weapons would necessarily be less dangerous or more secure.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bildt on Goldstone

In a statement containing remarks that are bound to be interpreted as overtly hostile to Israel, Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt has expressed his support for the Goldstone Commission's report into Operation Cast Lead, the Jerusalem Post says

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Murder mystery

In the Moscow Times, Yulia Latynina discusses a murder with no killer:

Imagine Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot gathering the relatives of a murder victim together to reveal the identity of the killer and saying, “You know, all of you are such complex people, and you’ve all committed so many misdeeds, that the person simply died as a result of your collective wrongdoing.” If a murder has been committed, there must be a killer.

How can a commission come to the unbelievable conclusion that a person was murdered as a result of collective responsibility? Here is how:

According to the report, Georgia claimed that it gave notice of a large-scale concentration of Russian forces on Georgian territory prior to Aug. 7, when the five-day war began. Russia denies Georgia’s allegation, and the Kremlin asserts that Russian forces entered South Ossetia well after Georgia started military operations in the breakaway republic.

Who is correct? It might strike you as funny, but the commission doesn’t know. It couldn’t confirm that Georgia’s assertions “are well-founded,” despite the significant number of “witnesses, including Russian” witnesses who confirmed it.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Two options

Stratfor's George Friedman writes that

Sanctions or war remain the two options, and which one is chosen depends on Moscow’s actions. The leaks this weekend have made clear that the United States and Israel have positioned themselves such that not much time remains. We have now moved from a view of Iran as a long-term threat to Iran as a much more immediate threat thanks to the Russians.

Hat tip: Mari-Ann Kelam

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Iran, Russia, Israel, the U.S. and the West

According to the Sunday Times, the purpose of  Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Moscow last month was to hand the Kremlin a list of Russian scientists Israel believes is helping Iran to build a nuclear warhead.

Another report, from opinia.us, suggests there are signs that the US State Department and the White House may have been duped by Russian propaganda experts into making the announcement of the cancellation of the Bush plan to build missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic on September 17. September 17 was the date of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland at the beginning of WWII.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Alexander Podrabinek: "As One Anti-Soviet to Others..."

Kerkko Paananen of Finrosforum has made a complete translation of  the Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal article "Как антисоветчик антисоветчикам..."  (As One Anti-Soviet to Others...) by Alexander Podrabinek:

It is a great pity that the owners of the “Anti-Soviet” Kebab House [in Moscow] caved in to pressure from the head of the municipal council [Vladimir] Shtukaturov and prefect [Oleg] Mitvol, and took down the café’s sign.

It is a pity because the demand of the authorities was against the law. It is a pity because this was an attack on the freedom of enterprise — specifically, blackmail on the part of the fire department and the health inspectorate. It is a pity because the complaints of the veterans are idiotic, base, and stupid. It is a pity because a name like “Anti-Soviet” calls for standing firm, not for caving in.

One does not need to blame the owners of the café; their actions are understandable, given that they surely want to hold on to their business. The actions of the authorities in Moscow, who are dizzy with praise to Stalin, do not warrant any comment. I would, however, like to say a few words to the veterans who wrote the complaint [against the café sign].

You are mistaken when you think that you have monopolised patriotism, love for Russia, and concern for her future. You are mistaken when you think that you have earned a well-deserved and honourable rest. You are mistaken when you think that you are held in high public esteem.

This belief is something that you were instilled with a long time ago. Your time has passed, however. Your fatherland is not Russia; your fatherland is the Soviet Union. You are Soviet veterans, and your country, thank God, ceased to exist 18 years ago.

Yet not even the Soviet Union was such a country as you depict in schoolbooks and your false press. The Soviet Union was not just the party faithful, shock workers, heroes of communist labour, and cosmonauts. The Soviet Union was also peasant revolts, victims of collectivisation and the Great Famine, hundreds of thousands of innocent people shot in secret police cellars, and millions of people who suffered in labour camps to the tune of the hideous Soviet national anthem.

The Soviet Union was indefinite incarceration in psychiatric hospitals, people killed for the sake of extracting more coal, and the countless cemeteries in prison labour camps filled the anonymous graves of my friends, political prisoners who did not live to see the freedoms we now have.

You were so resentful of the “anti-Soviet” name because you were the ones who served as whipmasters in labour camps and prisons, political commissars of anti-retreat units, and executioners at firing grounds. You, Soviet veterans, defended the Soviet regime, which then treated you nicely. Now you fear the truth and cling to your Soviet past.

Vladimir Dolgikh, chairman of the Moscow Council of Veterans, who submitted the complaint, was a political commissar during the war, then went on to make a career in the Communist Party, reaching the post of Secretary of the Central Committee. People of older generations should remember his name. A veteran of totalitarianism!

During his time in power, people were jailed for anti-Soviet activities; not suprising, then, that he would react so sharply against the sign above the café. You, Vladimir Ivanovich, are a member of the group of communist criminals who tried to ruin our country and who then happily escaped justice. Now you have come out again to defend your past; the Soviet past which is soaked in blood, full of lies, and an infamy to us all.

I, as a representative of our country’s anti-Soviet past, would like to tell you something. Besides you, there were other veterans in the Soviet Union, people of whom you would rather know nothing about: veterans of the struggle against the Soviet regime. Against your regime.

They, like some of you, fought against Nazism, and then went on to fight against communism in the forests of Lithuania and Western Ukraine, in the mountains of Chechnya, and in the desert of Central Asia. They stood up in revolt in the prison labour camp in Kengir in 1954 and marched to their death during the demonstrations in Novocherkassk in 1962.

Almost all of them died, almost no one retains their memory, and no squares or streets have been named in their honour. The few of them who are still alive do not receive any support or individual pension from the state; they live in poverty and obscurity. They, not you — guardians and admirers of the Soviet regime, — are the real heroes of our country.

Our somnolent society has not yet realised this. It is still incapable of either appreciating the importance of the anti-communist resistance or honouring the memory of those who were killed in the struggle against the Soviet regime. Our society is still under the hypnosis of Soviet propaganda, or, at best, is indifferent towards its own past, unable to fathom the importance of the past to its own future.

Why all this fuss about Soviet veterans, “Stalin’s falcons,” Brezhnev’s sycophants, the stranglers of freedom from Vladimir Dolgikh’s party? People are leading a humble existence without quarrel in a world full of Soviet symbols and names. They are reading Komsomolskaya Pravda, working at Moskovsky Komsomolets, playing at the Leninsky Komsomol Theatre, living on Leninsky Prospekt, and do not even ask for it to be renamed. What does it matter how it is called, they ask.

That is right, what difference does it make whether one is living in a clean place or in filth?! What startled these people was when war veterans were offended in defence of the Soviet regime. How difficult it must be to combine both the need for democracy and the need not to offend the veterans; after all, we do have to respect them.

Yes, one has to have respect for those who fought against Nazism. But not for those who defended the Soviet regime. One has to respect the memory of those who opposed communism in the Soviet Union. They defended freedom in a country that was not free. Does their memory carry any significance in a Russia which calls itself democratic?

It is time to stop the self-righteous wailing about the feelings of the veterans who are offended by attacks against the Soviet regime. Evil has to be punished, and those who serve it as well. The scorn of their descendants is the least that those who built and defended the Soviet regime deserve.

Alexander Podrabinek, 21.09.2009

[Translation: Kerkko Paananen]

See also: Dissidents sign letter supporting Alexander Podrabinek

Friday, October 02, 2009

Calling a spade a spade

Svante E. Cornell, writing in the WSJ about "what would be necessary for a spade to be called a spade" in the IIFFMCG report on the 2008 August war:

...the report is far more devastating in its dismissal of Russia's justification for its invasion—in fact surprisingly so for an EU product. As will be recalled, Russia variously claimed it was protecting its citizens; engaging in a humanitarian intervention; responding to a Georgian "genocide" of Ossetians; or responding to an attack on its peacekeepers. The EU report finds that because Russia's distribution of passports to Abkhazians and Ossetians in the years prior to the war was illegal, its rationale of rescuing its "citizens" is invalid as they were not legally Russian. It also concludes that Moscow's claim of humanitarian intervention cannot be recognized "at all," in particular given the Kremlin's past opposition to the entire concept of humanitarian intervention.

The list goes on. The report finds Russian allegations of genocide founded in neither law nor evidence. In other words, they're not true. And whereas the report does acknowledge a Russian right to protect its peacekeepers, it finds that Moscow's response "cannot be regarded as even remotely commensurate with the threat to Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia." On the other hand, it faults Russia for failing to intervene against the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from South Ossetia and Abkhazia that took place during and after the war. Finally, it castigates Russia's recognition of the independence of the two breakaway territories as illegal, and as a dangerous erosion of the principles of international law.

Read it all.

Saakashvili: Russia's aggression has now been proved

Remarks from an address by Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili on October 2 [Civil Georgia, my stylistic editing]:
“I want to return to this topic again and again, because this is a very important issue.

This report has confirmed that everything we said about last year’s events was true.

We  said that Russia entered and was arming separatists and engaging in provocation– and it turned out to be true. We  said that the distribution of passports [by Russia to the residents of the breakaway regions] was ongoing and it has been confirmed. We said that [Russia] had no citizens in Georgia to protect and it has been confirmed. We said, and I have said – staking my reputation on it – that Russian regular forces entered Georgia before August 7 – hence a military aggression took place, and this has also been confirmed by the [EU-funded fact-finding] commission. The most difficult thing was to confirm it, because it [the introduction of Russian regular forces] was done covertly, but our teams and our friends did good work, and it was confirmed.

Of course, once these things were confirmed, the mission prepared an accusatory conclusion:  for the first time in history a permanent member of the UN Security Council has been directly accused of war crimes; it has been directly accused of ethnic cleansing – hence crimes against humanity – and of aggression.

It was a fact-finding mission; the commission’s task was not to make conclusions. But the mission made conclusions anyway and eventually said: yes,this is what happened, and although the Russian forces were already present in Georgia,  it was Georgia that fired the first shot, and that was a violation of certain norms.

I have law professors who may possibly be better versed in international law than some of the European experts who made this conclusion. But no professors are required, or even much knowledge – any first-grade student can tell you that when a foreign country’s army – the army of a country which has been openly threatening you with war for many years, and is in fact waging war – and the commission said that this conflict did not start yesterday, but when units of [Russian] paratroopers entered Georgia – it is called a direct military aggression by a foreign country.

But if that is so, it means that Europe ought to handcuff and arrest [the Russian leadership]; but they are unable to do that.

Some of our compatriots do not have the self-respect to acknowledge that this is so.

Our truth has been proved and we should be happy about it and struggle to rid our country of foreign occupation. The truth will find its road.
The aggression by Russia is now actually proved; ‘actually’ - because to give a full explanation of that would mean that the whole of Europe should stand up, but we are under no illusion that this will happen any day soon, because they have lot of bitter experience in this regard.
I want to say again with full responsibility – it was a sacred duty for myself and for all of us to respond with all possible resistance when a foreign country’s army entered our land.

We did it and I do not regret it a bit.

I am proud and it was proved that not a single woman and child were killed as a result of our operation - so much for the talk of "genocide".

Our peaceful struggle rid our country of foreign occupation will continue until this struggle is finally over.

I want to ask those people who do not want to face reality – how would France have acted in this situation? how would Germany have acted?
As we know from history, the Spanish Armada invaded the British coast and the British were the first to fire at the Armada; so was it Britain that started the war or was it Spain? Is what is permissible for Europe not permissible for Georgia?

I think that everything that is done by civilized nations is exactly applicable to our country as well. So what if we are a small country? We are a small country but we have a history and a civilization, as well as a bravery that is greater than that of many other countries.

The fate of all freedom-loving nations... is being decided in Georgia today. We have no illusions that they [Russia] will leave us alone, but we will not go back on our progress in creating a free and democratic state.”
On a separate occasion today, the President also said:
“We do not need to be taught by anyone. We are grateful to Europe for telling the truth… But we acted as England, Germany or France would have acted.”

“[In history] those who did not fire a shot have vanished from the map… Finland fired a shot and preserved its independence” [a reference to the Soviet attack on Finland in 1939]. “Our historic experience tells us that when an enemy invades your territory you should resist it, as Finland did.”

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Saakashvili: IIFFMCG report a diplomatic victory for Georgia

From Civil Georgia:
"When in 1921 Russia attacked us and occupied us no international commission was set up then. When they imposed a civil war on us in 1992 and 1993 here no international commission was set up. When acts of sabotage were carried out in 2004, no international commission was set up. We achieved, first of all, setting up an international commission even on their conditions, as they composed the commission with the experts, which were acceptable for them, who had already blamed Georgia in advance. We closed eyes on it and agreed because we believed that they were Europeans and they would not lie.

They said even more truth than I could ever imagine. It is a great diplomatic victory for Georgia.

Some may say what is a conclusion – they say that Georgia did not observe everything and violated something. But it does not matter, because these are conclusions - this commission should have ascertained the facts, which would have been written in history.

Hundreds of thousands of our citizens were expelled from Abkhazia in 1992, and the European Union or more serious organizations have never said that it was ethnic cleansing. Now it is written [in the report] that there was ethnic cleansing.

We had no illusion that Europe - which is preparing for a cold winter and which needs Russian gas – would have said that ‘yes Russia carried out ethnic cleansing, it committed war crimes and Vladimir Putin is to be blamed for it’ – what would have happened in that case? Would they have arrested Putin when he had arrived in Brussels? I think that nobody had such illusion.”

Netanyahu: UN will become irrelevant

From the Jerusalem Post:

"If the [UN Human Rights] council decides to endorse the Goldstone report it will deal a fatal blow to three major issues: Firstly, it will harm the war on terror, because it will legitimize terrorists who hide behind civilians and fire from their midst." Netanyahu stressed that in such cases, the one who ultimately takes the blame is "generally the victim, acting in legitimate self defense."

"The second devastating blow will be to the UN's status and its prestige. It will take it back to its darkest days when absurd decisions were passed within its assembly and empty it of all meaning," Netanyahu added, referring to the 1970s, when the UN adopted a resolution comparing Zionism with racism. He warned that the UN will become irrelevant if it adopts the conclusions of the report.

The Prime Minister stated that the third and most pressing issue was the Goldstone Report's potentially "devastating effect on the peace process," and warned the world that "Israel will not be willing to take risks for peace if stripped of its right to self-defense."

Dissidents sign letter supporting Alexander Podrabinek

A group of well-known Russian dissidents, including Vladimir Bukovsky, Natalya Gorbanevskaya and Irina Belogorodskaya, has signed  a letter of support for Alexander Podrabinek, who is currently facing a campaign of intimidation and persecution by adherents of a government-backed nationalist youth movement because of an article he wrote for Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal (ej.ru), in which he attacked official Russian military veterans’ groups for defending the “bloody, false and shameful” Soviet past, and insisted that “veterans of the struggle against Soviet power” were also heroes (Telegraph). Podrabinek's life is thought to be in danger.

See also: Moscow Has Crossed the Rubicon from an Authoritarian to 'an Openly Bandit Regime', Russian Commentator Says (Window on Eurasia).

U.S. on IIFFMCG report

Civil Georgia reports that the U.S. State Department has said it intends to review the IIFFMGC's 1000-page report on the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia:
"I think we recognize that all sides made mistakes and miscalculations through the conflict last year,” Philip J. Crowley, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, said on September 30. “But our focus is on the future and we hope that Georgia and Russia – we expect them both to abide by the agreements that they made under the ceasefire agreements in August and September of last year, and we expect them to live up to those commitments.”
“And in the meantime, we continue to express our strong support for Georgia’s territorial integrity,” he added.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

IIFFMCG report published

The report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia (IIFFMCG) has been published.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zapad-2009, Ladoga-2009

September 26 saw the beginning of the second phase of the large scale Russian and Belorussian combined military anti-NATO exercises code-named Zapad-2009 (West-2009). The exercises, the first phase of which began on September 9,  involve over 12,500 troops, more than 100 aircraft and helicopters, and some 4,000 pieces of military equipment including tanks, armoured personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery, tube artillery, self-propelled multi-rocket launchers, and ground-based SAM systems. According to Krasnaya Zvezda, the official organ of Russia's defence ministry (the front page has now been cleared of most of the war-game news), the second phase is focused on air defence operations, and includes the firing of S-200 air defence missiles at the Telemba Range in Chita Oblast. The newspaper said that during the exercise Russian special force units would operate in conjunction with Belorussian territorial troops against invading forces. (Jamestown, Telegraph).

The Zapad exercises, or war-games, are scheduled to end today, September 29.

There are also at present Russian military and naval manoeuvres in the Baltic, and the mock naval "Battle for the North", which is part of the Ladoga-2009 war-games, is reaching its culmination point off the Kola Peninsula.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Benjamin Netanyahu: Speech to the UN General Assembly

Seotember 24, 2009

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Nearly 62 years ago, the United Nations recognized the right of the Jews, an ancient people 3,500 years-old, to a state of their own in their ancestral homeland.

I stand here today as the Prime Minister of Israel, the Jewish state, and I speak to you on behalf of my country and my people.

The United Nations was founded after the carnage of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust. It was charged with preventing the recurrence of such horrendous events.

Nothing has undermined that central mission more than the systematic assault on the truth. Yesterday the President of Iran stood at this very podium, spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants. Just a few days earlier, he again claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.

Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee. There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people. The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments. Here is a copy of those minutes, in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews. Is this a lie?

A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Those plans are signed by Hitler’s deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself. Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered. Is this too a lie?

This June, President Obama visited the Buchenwald concentration camp. Did President Obama pay tribute to a lie?

And what of the Auschwitz survivors whose arms still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis? Are those tattoos a lie? One-third of all Jews perished in the conflagration. Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own. My wife's grandparents, her father’s two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis. Is that also a lie?

Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.

But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency?

A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state.

What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations! Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You're wrong.

History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.

This Iranian regime is fueled by an extreme fundamentalism that burst onto the world scene three decades ago after lying dormant for centuries. In the past thirty years, this fanaticism has swept the globe with a murderous violence and cold-blooded impartiality in its choice of victims. It has callously slaughtered Moslems and Christians, Jews and Hindus, and many others. Though it is comprised of different offshoots, the adherents of this unforgiving creed seek to return humanity to medieval times.

Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated. The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against faith nor civilization against civilization.

It pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century, those who sanctify life against those who glorify death.

The primitivism of the 9th century ought to be no match for the progress of the 21st century. The allure of freedom, the power of technology, the reach of communications should surely win the day. Ultimately, the past cannot triumph over the future. And the future offers all nations magnificent bounties of hope. The pace of progress is growing exponentially.

It took us centuries to get from the printing press to the telephone, decades to get from the telephone to the personal computer, and only a few years to get from the personal computer to the internet.

What seemed impossible a few years ago is already outdated, and we can scarcely fathom the changes that are yet to come. We will crack the genetic code. We will cure the incurable. We will lengthen our lives. We will find a cheap alternative to fossil fuels and clean up the planet.

I am proud that my country Israel is at the forefront of these advances – by leading innovations in science and technology, medicine and biology, agriculture and water, energy and the environment. These innovations the world over offer humanity a sunlit future of unimagined promise.

But if the most primitive fanaticism can acquire the most deadly weapons, the march of history could be reversed for a time. And like the belated victory over the Nazis, the forces of progress and freedom will prevail only after an horrific toll of blood and fortune has been exacted from mankind. That is why the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fanaticism and the weapons of mass destruction.

The most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge? Will the international community confront a despotism that terrorizes its own people as they bravely stand up for freedom?

Will it take action against the dictators who stole an election in broad daylight and gunned down Iranian protesters who died in the streets choking in their own blood? Will the international community thwart the world's most pernicious sponsors and practitioners of terrorism?

Above all, will the international community stop the terrorist regime of Iran from developing atomic weapons, thereby endangering the peace of the entire world?

The people of Iran are courageously standing up to this regime. People of goodwill around the world stand with them, as do the thousands who have been protesting outside this hall. Will the United Nations stand by their side?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging. Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims. That is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted.

For eight long years, Hamas fired from Gaza thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets on nearby Israeli cities. Year after year, as these missiles were deliberately hurled at our civilians, not a single UN resolution was passed condemning those criminal attacks. We heard nothing – absolutely nothing – from the UN Human Rights Council, a misnamed institution if there ever was one.

In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza. It dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis. We didn't get peace. Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base fifty miles from Tel Aviv. Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare. You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent.

Finally, after eight years of this unremitting assault, Israel was finally forced to respond. But how should we have responded? Well, there is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country's civilian population. It happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II. During that war, the allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties. Israel chose to respond differently. Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime of firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians – Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes against the rocket launchers.

That was no easy task because the terrorists were firing missiles from homes and schools, using mosques as weapons depots and ferreting explosives in ambulances. Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas.

We dropped countless flyers over their homes, sent thousands of text messages and called thousands of cell phones asking people to leave. Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to remove the enemy's civilian population from harm's way.

Yet faced with such a clear case of aggressor and victim, who did the UN Human Rights Council decide to condemn? Israel. A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot.

By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth. What a perversion of justice.

Delegates of the United Nations,

Will you accept this farce?

Because if you do, the United Nations would revert to its darkest days, when the worst violators of human rights sat in judgment against the law-abiding democracies, when Zionism was equated with racism and when an automatic majority could declare that the earth is flat.

If this body does not reject this report, it would send a message to terrorists everywhere: Terror pays; if you launch your attacks from densely populated areas, you will win immunity. And in condemning Israel, this body would also deal a mortal blow to peace. Here's why.

When Israel left Gaza, many hoped that the missile attacks would stop. Others believed that at the very least, Israel would have international legitimacy to exercise its right of self-defense. What legitimacy? What self-defense?

The same UN that cheered Israel as it left Gaza and promised to back our right of self-defense now accuses us –my people, my country - of war crimes? And for what? For acting responsibly in self-defense. What a travesty!

Israel justly defended itself against terror. This biased and unjust report is a clear-cut test for all governments. Will you stand with Israel or will you stand with the terrorists?

We must know the answer to that question now. Now and not later. Because if Israel is again asked to take more risks for peace, we must know today that you will stand with us tomorrow. Only if we have the confidence that we can defend ourselves can we take further risks for peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All of Israel wants peace.

Any time an Arab leader genuinely wanted peace with us, we made peace. We made peace with Egypt led by Anwar Sadat. We made peace with Jordan led by King Hussein. And if the Palestinians truly want peace, I and my government, and the people of Israel, will make peace. But we want a genuine peace, a defensible peace, a permanent peace. In 1947, this body voted to establish two states for two peoples – a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews accepted that resolution. The Arabs rejected it.

We ask the Palestinians to finally do what they have refused to do for 62 years: Say yes to a Jewish state. Just as we are asked to recognize a nation-state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians must be asked to recognize the nation state of the Jewish people. The Jewish people are not foreign conquerors in the Land of Israel. This is the land of our forefathers.

Inscribed on the walls outside this building is the great Biblical vision of peace: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. They shall learn war no more." These words were spoken by the Jewish prophet Isaiah 2,800 years ago as he walked in my country, in my city, in the hills of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem.

We are not strangers to this land. It is our homeland. As deeply connected as we are to this land, we recognize that the Palestinians also live there and want a home of their own. We want to live side by side with them, two free peoples living in peace, prosperity and dignity.

But we must have security. The Palestinians should have all the powers to govern themselves except those handful of powers that could endanger Israel.

That is why a Palestinian state must be effectively demilitarized. We don't want another Gaza, another Iranian backed terror base abutting Jerusalem and perched on the hills a few kilometers from Tel Aviv.

We want peace.

I believe such a peace can be achieved. But only if we roll back the forces of terror, led by Iran, that seek to destroy peace, eliminate Israel and overthrow the world order. The question facing the international community is whether it is prepared to confront those forces or accommodate them.

Over seventy years ago, Winston Churchill lamented what he called the "confirmed unteachability of mankind," the unfortunate habit of civilized societies to sleep until danger nearly overtakes them.

Churchill bemoaned what he called the "want of foresight, the unwillingness to act when action will be simple and effective, the lack of clear thinking, the confusion of counsel until emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong.”

I speak here today in the hope that Churchill's assessment of the "unteachability of mankind" is for once proven wrong.

I speak here today in the hope that we can learn from history -- that we can prevent danger in time.

In the spirit of the timeless words spoken to Joshua over 3,000 years ago, let us be strong and of good courage. Let us confront this peril, secure our future and, God willing, forge an enduring peace for generations to come.

The video of the speech can be watched here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ukraine and the "Medvedev Doctrine"

On September 10 a group of more than two dozen well-known Ukrainian scientists, scholars, artists, writers and parliamentarians published an open letter (Kyiv Post, September 11) appealing to the governments of the United States, Great Britain, France and China with a proposal to organize an international conference of the guarantor states regarding paragraph 6 of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum,  "with the aim of providing real guarantees of security to Ukraine, proclaimed in the Memorandum."

Jamestown's Vladimir Socor comments that while the letter has been more or less ignored by Western media, it underlines the major security implications for Europe of Russia's new willingness to use military force unilaterally beyond its borders (since the Russia-Georgia war of 2008 known as the "Medvedev Doctrine"). A "de-mothballing" of the Budapest Memorandum could also, Socor believes,

help limit the intrusion of Russia's strategic agenda into Ukraine's presidential election campaign. Such intrusion demonstrated its explosive potential in Ukraine's 2004 presidential election. The security environment around Ukraine has since deteriorated markedly, and at an accelerating rate in recent months. The OSCE's upcoming year-end meeting would be the right venue for a reaffirmation of the Budapest Memorandum, 15 years after the same organization affirmed its support for the memorandum's signing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Activists: Keep Kadyrov out of Europe

Via Finrosforum:

Several prominent human rights activists have expressed grave concern over the plan of Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov to open so-called Chechen Cultural Centres in several countries in the EU. The regime in Grozny, with Moscow’s acquiescence, intends to open such centres in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and Poland, each home to a large Chechen diaspora.

The human rights activists remind the EU states of the reason that such sizable diaspora of Chechens have come into being: the establishment of a totalitarian regime based on violence, fear, and denunciation. The activists call on the EU states not to allow the establishment of Kadyrov’s semi-embassies in their territory.

The signatories of the appeal are US human rights activist Nadezhda Banchik; Mayrbek Taramov, chairman of the Chechen Human Rights Centre in Sweden; Viktoria Pupko, president of the Boston Committee against Ethnic Cleansing; Said-Emin Ibragimov, chairman of the French-based Peace and Human Rights association; and Yelena Maglevannaya, journalist and human rights activist currently residing in Finland.

“All independent sources report that Moscow’s puppet ruler, Ramzan Kadyrov, has created a regime of totalitarian regime aimed at the devastation of yet another generation of Chechens through physical terror and moral corruption,” the signatories write. They ask whether EU states wish for such a regime to spread its influence and culture of violence on their territory.

Kadyrov’s so-called cultural centres would only serve the purpose of destabilising Chechen diasporas in Europe, killing politically active Chechen refugees, pressuring EU countries not to accept more Chechen refugees, and intimidating those who have managed to flee to return, the signatories say.

http://lena-maglev.livejournal.com/122921.html

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sweden accused of projected contact with Hamas

Via Haaretz:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has complained over Sweden's attempting to establish contact with Hamas, Haaretz has learned. His allegation could worsen Israel's already tense relationship with the Scandinavian country following the publication there of an inflammatory news article accusing Israeli soldiers of harvesting the organs of Palestinians.

Netanyahu complained about Sweden's alleged attempts to start a dialogue with Hamas 10 days ago in a meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos. Spain will replace Sweden as president of the European Union in January.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The law and the lies

Interestingly, it appears that the same Swedish legislation which justifies the legal status of the Aftonbladet article that has provoked outrage in Israel and across the world is also protecting the status of the extreme Islamist propaganda site Kavkaz Center, which is hosted on servers located in Sweden. Sweden's "freedom of speech" laws are evidently being used for some dubious purposes, with the knowledge and approval of the Swedish government.

Echoes of the Arctic Sea

Writing à propos of Thomas Berglund's recent article in Svenska Dagbladet on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Treaty of Fredrikshamn, at which Sweden had to sign away its territories east of the Gulf of Bothnia to Imperial Russia (Berglund calls it a "national trauma"), Tobias Ljungvall looks back on some of the less well-known aspects of the Finnish independence struggle. He discusses the role of a later independence activist, the writer and revolutionary Konni Zilliacus the elder (1855-1924), whose life, Tobias says, "ought to deserve a film or television series". Zilliacus, the author of such venerable but probably now little-read works as Det revolutionära Ryssland, Från ofärdstid och ofärdsår, Korruptionen i Ryssland, and Moskoviter och finnar, was actively involved in the so-called "Grafton Affair" , which involved an unsuccessful attempt to smuggle arms to the Finnish resistance by ship along the Baltic in 1905.

The comments to Tobias' post make rather sad reading: someone has posted part of Silmien Välliin, a Finnish wartime song from 1942, which talks of "shooting the Russians between the eyes", and another (Russian?) commenter has responded with what purports to be a Russian translation of the song's words, but is in fact a totally different text accusing Finns of racism and Nazi sympathies.