Friday, May 29, 2009

Russian journalist seeks political asylum in Finland [FinRosForum]

Yelena Maglevannaya, Russian journalist working for the Volgograd-based newspaper Svobodnoe Slovo (Free Speech), has applied for political asylum in Finland. Ms Maglevannaya has collaborated with several human rights organisations in Russia. She has focused on cases of persecution against Chechens in particular.

Ms Maglevannaya has become the target of persecution herself after revealing facts about torture in Russian prisons. On 12 May 2009, she was found guilty of defamation and fined RUR 200,000 (EUR 4,600) after she released information about torture in a local prison. Ms Maglevannaya considers the sentence unjust, and has no intention to retract her articles.

Yelena Maglevannaya, 27, took part in the third annual conference of the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, FINROSFORUM 2009, in Helsinki on 25-26 May 2009. Speaking on the second day of the conference, Ms Maglevannaya recounted the fate of Chechens held in Russian prisons, particularly that of Zubair Zubairaev, whose case she has championed.

Yelena Maglevannaya @ LiveJournal

Svobodnoe Slovo

See also in this blog: "Institutionalized lawlessness": Russian journalist fined for prison reports

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Separate nations

At Prague Watchdog, Usam Baysayev discusses Putin's separatists, and German Sadulayev takes a tongue-in-cheek view of Scandinavian history.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The missing graves

Meditating from Ukraine on the new draft law that Russia plans to introduce, which will criminalize "denial of the Soviet victory in World War II" -- i.e. criticism of the idea that in postwar Europe Soviet troops had a right to occupy Germany, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the Baltic States after the hostilities were ended, because hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers and officers sacrificed their lives to liberate those countries -- Halya Coynash points to one of the glaring lacunae that after 70 years still characterize the landscape of what was once Soviet and Soviet-occupied territory:  the absence of graves.

...there is so little humour in the situation that we should be shouting to the world. Anniversaries are approaching which will be commemorated by the leaders of all democratic countries. Seventy years ago, on 1 September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland with this directly leading to World War II. They will also be remembering 17 September when the USSR, as Hitler’s ally, invaded what was then part of Poland. Historians can provide a huge number of dates and details which did not get into the arsenal of Soviet propaganda about the War.

Do they really hope in the Kremlin that such a law will force everybody to tremble and avoid “indelicate” facts? As if anyone in their right mind would deny the crucial role placed by the USSR in the victory, however if you read the draft law carefully, it is clear that its scope is much broader.

I recently came upon the following phrase: “Memory about millions of victims is a key element in State creation.” Winced, I can’t deny, and the mere thought of substituting for the first part either Holodomor or the Holocaust makes me feel very sick. There was similar squeamish disgust at how the Soviet regime plugged its propaganda version of the “Great Patriotic War”, trying to conceal its ideological nakedness and bankruptcy. It is galling that the Kremlin has decided to drag Russia along this lie-ridden path.

If we are speaking of those in Russia for whom Soviet has long meant Russian, and both are inimitably positive, then all is clear. However when some political forces in Ukraine, instead of offering specific measures to put the country out of permanent crisis try to win votes by playing on old bitterness, and using monuments to the dead for their games, then it is worth considering precisely what their motives are.

If such politicians wish to serve their long-tormented country, let them spend less time trumpeting about the transfer of monuments to the fallen, and instead look for the graves their Soviet counterparts lied about. 70 years after the Terror we still have no graves on which to lay flowers and light candles of remembrance.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dangerous driving

In the Moscow Times, Yulia Latynina dissects the failed Georgian coup. Excerpt:

Before the recent events in Georgia unfolded, we heard warnings all across the Internet that Georgian opposition would take to the streets and that Saakashvili's regime would fall on April 9. Meanwhile, Russia once again mobilized its forces along the South Ossetian border, as it had done in the weeks before the August war. Russian sent its tanks to Tskhinvali and dispatched its ships to patrol the Black Sea waters near Georgia.

In short, everything was pointing to an imminent coup. That is what happened in 1978, when Babrak Karmal and the Moscow-backed People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan overthrew the Kabul government. Moscow later installed Karmal as president of Afghanistan. But that scenario seemed unlikely for Georgia. After all, where would the Kremlin find a Georgian version of Karmal? But it did find one -- and not just one but three: Kobaladze, Karkarashvili and Gvaladze.

The failed coup certainly looked like something from the "Keystone Cops." The whole affair was rife with incompetence, if not idiocy, but this is no excuse. When plotting a coup, idiocy is an aggravating circumstance and not a mitigating one -- like when an intoxicated driver is guilty of causing a severe accident.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mukhrovani mutiny - details []

Senior MP Says 33 Held over Mukhrovani Mutiny

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 23 May.'09 / 01:16

A senior lawmaker from the ruling party, Givi Targamadze, said that total of 33 persons were arrested in connection to the Mukhrovani mutiny.

MP Targamadze, who chairs parliamentary committee for defense and security, said in Rustavi 2 TV’s weekly program, Position, late on May 22, that 32 persons remained in pre-trial detention and one was released on bail.

Twelve out of 32 persons remaining in the police custody are civilians and twenty – military officers, MP Givi Targamadze said.

He also said that relatives of one of key suspects, Koba Otanadze, who according to the Interior Ministry was injured and arrested in a police shootout late on May 20, were held briefly by the police for interrogation. He said that information obtained as a result of those interrogations helped the police to arrest Otanadze. Another suspect, Levan Amiridze, was also injured and arrested and the third one – Gia Krialashvili was killed in the shootout with the police, according to the Interior Ministry.

Otanadze’s brother, Jimsher Otanadze, the latter’s wife and their son were detained by the police at about 3am on May 20. But their detention was not formally registered by the police and defense lawyer and representatives of the Public Defender’s Office were not able to find detainees’ whereabouts. They were released about 21 hours later after the arrest of Koba Otanadze. After their release it emerged that at least 11 other relatives of Otanadze were also detained in the same period. Otanadze’s defense lawyer, Onise Mebonia, said that this type of detention amounted to kidnapping.

The Interior Ministry made the first official statement on the matter on May 22 in which it confirmed detention of “some of the family members of Koba Otanadze” citing that some of them were held with status of “suspects” and others with status of “witnesses.” It also said that information obtained from their questioning helped the police to arrest Otanadze.

Another brother of Koba Otanadze, Nugzar Otanadze, was also arrested a week after the Mukhrovani incident. He was charged with resisting police and sent to a two-month pre-trial detention. The defense lawyer said Nugzar Otanadze was beaten and “tortured” by the police after the arrest; the Interior Ministry denied that and said Nugzar Otanadze sustained injured while resisting the police arrest.


Senior MP Claims Russian Link to Mukhrovani Mutiny

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 23 May.'09 / 02:41

Givi Targamadze, an influential lawmaker from the ruling party, claimed that the failed Mukhrovani mutiny was sponsored by a Russia-based tycoon with links to Russian PM, Vladimir Putin.

MP Givi Targamadze, who chairs the parliamentary committee for defense and security, said while speaking at the Rustavi 2 TV’s weekly program, Position, late on May 22 that the goal of the plot was “to at least trigger disorders” in Georgia or “at maximum to pave the way for entry of the Russian occupation forces in Tbilisi.”

“I have been refraining from naming a person who has organized everything, unless this person himself announced that after this failed mutiny he could no longer wait and would run for presidency in the next elections – this is Mr. Ebralidze; and if there is someone who may think that in Today’s Russia it is possible to be a billionaire oligarch in St. Petersburg uncontrolled by the most famous St. Petersburgian, i.e. [Russia’s PM Vladimir] Putin, is very wrong,” MP Givi Targamadze said.

Alexander Ebralidze is a St. Petersburg-based tycoon, an ethnic Georgian originally from Batumi, who has been living in Russia for over thirty years already. This month he announced having ambition to become a president of Georgia. He made the announcement at an “assembly of peoples of Georgia” in Sochi. The announcement triggered protest of some of those participants of the event, who arrived in Sochi from Tbilisi; outspoken critics of the Georgian authorities were among those participants who walked out from the meeting hall after Ebralidze’s announcement. After announcing about his presidential ambitions, Ebralidze said: “I have been waiting for 20 years, but now I am giving up my modesty.”

He also said that starting from January, 2009 several meetings were held in “one of the CIS-member states”, which he did not specify, with participation of “some of the mutineers” with a purpose of plotting the mutiny.

“These meetings were held under the leadership of Tariel Oniani [Russia-based criminal authority] and Bondo Shalikiani,” MP Givi Targamadze said.

On May 18 President Saakashvili said that Bondo Shalikiani was among “active sponsors” of the ongoing protests in Georgia. Shalikiani, a former lawmaker and once a tycoon with assets in western Georgian region of Imereti, was arrested in early 2004 for alleged embezzlement, but was released after agreeing to hand over some of his assets to the authorities. He then left for Russia and resides there. On May 18, the Georgian weekly, Kviris Palitra, published an interview with Shalikiani in which he says: “I will spare no efforts to make him [Saakashvili] held responsible for everything he has done.”

A month before the launch of ongoing protests, Vano Merabishvili, the interior minister, said on March 6 that Tariel Oniani and some other former Georgian officials who fled the country after the Rose Revolution would be among sponsors of the Georgian opposition to help them organize protests.

“But at the same time I want to tell you that these people are not key figures who will finance the Georgian opposition or other provocations that may take place in Georgia; such sponsors will be more serious figures,” Merabishvili said on March 6.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Russia undertakes military action in North-East Caucasus

Joint military and police operations by Russian FSB and defence ministry forces are currently underway in the North Caucasus republics of Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia. Jamestown's Mairbek Vatchagaev writes that "the current year will be no exception to the general trend of increasing rebel fighter activity in the spring and the summer." In Chechnya, all law enforcement agencies are on heightened alert and all military units have been placed on standby for an unspecified period of time.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Institutionalized lawlessness" - 2

OMCT (Organisation mondiale contre la torture) has released a follow-up appeal on the case of the torture and harassment in a Russian prison of the Chechen national Zubayr Zubayrayev, which has attracted attention worldwide. See also this post.

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

Russian Federation: Follow-up of case RUS 190209_Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev to be transferred to a high security prison_Fear for safety

Case RUS 190209.3
Follow-up to cases RUS 190209, RUS 190209.1 and RUS 190209.2

Transfer to a high security prison/ Lack of adequate medical care/ Fear for safety
20 May 2009

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has received new information and requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

New information

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network, that on 17 May 2009, Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev, a 30-year-old man from Chechnya, was taken from penitentiary colony ßÐ-154/15 (also known as LIU-125 prison hospital) in Volgograd, Southern Russia, to be transferred to a high security prison following a court ruling on 12 May 2009. However, his current whereabouts remain unclear. His lawyer believes that he is being moved to Krasnojarsk (about 4000km from Volgograd) but he has been provided with no precise information on Mr. Zubajraev's new place of detention.

According to the same information, Mr. Zubajraev's lawyer unsuccessfully brought an appeal to the Regional Court against the ruling of the lower Court. Mr. Zubajraev is reportedly due to serve his three years remaining prison term in a high security prison. OMCT recalls that the prison administration had justified the request of transfer on the basis of two claims: firstly, Mr. Zubajraev was accused of having kept "banned" pain-killers, which is contested by Mr. Zubajraev's lawyer, and secondly, he would have quarrelled with another inmate, although the latter did not file any report or complaint about the alleged quarrel.

The OMCT International Secretariat is seriously concerned about the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev. OMCT condemns his transfer to a high security prison as it seems exclusively motivated by a wish to punish him following the allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment (see background information)[1]. OMCT fears that Mr. Zubajraev will be further isolated as it will be become very difficult for his family and lawyer to visit him. Furthermore, OMCT has received information that his health condition is very poor, requiring immediate appropriate medical care.

OMCT therefore repeats its calls on the competent Russian authorities to guarantee his safety at all times, to refrain from transferring him to a high security prison, and to carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law. OMCT recalls the absolute prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment and recalls article 11 of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment stipulating that, "Each State Party shall keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture".

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Deals and deterrents

Jamestown's Eurasia blog has the condensed summary of a recent interview with Jamestown senior analyst Pavel Felgenhauer on topics that include U.S.-Russian relations under the Obama administration, the controversy surrounding the pending sale of S-300 advanced air defence systems to Iran by Russia, and the role played in it by the UAV deal with Israel, the pace and content of the military reforms undertaken by Russia's Defence Minister Serdyukov, and the possibilty of a resumption of hostilities in Georgia.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Diplomats say military threat to Georgia growing

Security talks between Georgia and Russia have resumed in Geneva, RFE/RL reports. There had been a delay caused by Russia's withdrawal from the talks after the Abkhazian authorities refused to send a delegation.

Meanwhile the New York Times has published an op-ed article by three former diplomats, Denis Carboy, William Courtney and Kenneth Yalowitz, expressing apprehension about the current situation in Georgia, which they say is still under a growing military threat from Russia. They call on the United States government to head fresh efforts to prevent a "new tragedy" in Georgia. Denis Carboy is interviewed by RFE/RL.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bridging the gap

I don't usually cross-post between different blogs, but this post from Nordic Voices in Translation is one that I want to publish here as well, as it fits into the general subject-area of A Step At A Time. The post is called Bridging the Gap: History and the Nordic World, and it forms part of an ongoing debate I've been having with Nordic translators Eric Dickens and Harry D. Watson:

I thought I'd continue out here in the open the discussion that started in the comments to Harry's Bredsdorff post. Eric wrote:

While nowadays I am more on the right in economic and social-cohesion terms, I still read the former Communist weekly Ny Tid, partly out of nostalgia, partly because of its good cultural coverage, and partly because it is always useful to read opposite views. When I was at UEA and in Åbo, the Communists I knew were almost painfully middle-class offspring. They'd never been within an armsbreath of a worker. But I admired their idealism. And I hope that we people that kick against the cultural pricks of bestsellerdom and xeno-ignorance in the UK can adopt an even-handed approach in political terms.

I have to admit that my political sympathies are mainly centre-right/libertarian. This, I think, is partly a result of the relatively long ime I spent during the 1970s and 80s -- after periods in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe -- trying to do something to lift the veils of wilful ignorance that surrounded the view of the Soviet Union then prevalent among Western democrats, most of whom were apparently unable to perceive the true nature of global Communism. It's also probably a result of the time I spent the United States during the same era, when the discussion of these issues had a different configuration from the one that characterized debate in the UK and Europe. Today, if I were still in the U.S. I suppose I would probably sympathize most with "right-wing Democrats" and "left-wing Republicans".

This political stance caused me some problems when I met writers and intellectuals in the Nordic countries, most of whom held views that were even more the to the left than those of their counterparts in Britain. On the other hand, I became aware that -- as Czeslaw Milosz pointed out in The Captive Mind -- totalitarian ideology has the power to enslave the minds of individuals who are otherwise decent and intelligent, and that behind the ideological enslavement and blindness often lie beauty, truth and honesty. That is particularly true of writers and poets, I think. In Finland, for example, I found some poets who, though they professed to be Communists, were writing poetry that would never be accepted in the framework of Soviet literary dogma, and was even far removed from anything could be called "left wing", or "politically committed".

It wasn't until I got to Estonia in the early 1990s that I began to meet writers and intellectuals from a Nordic cultural background who also had direct and personal experience of Soviet reality, and who because of that had managed to (even had to) bridge the gap between the personal and the public/political - much in the way that W.H. Auden had done in England and America decades earlier, though from a very different experiential base. These writers knew what Communism was and what it did to people, had felt its physically and mentally destructive force, which was similar to that of Nazi ideology and practice. Meeting these people was confirmation for me that even though in the rest of the Nordic world the influence of the Soviet threat and Soviet propaganda had put blinkers on many minds, there was a Nordic cultural reality that stood outside that limitation and beyond it.

I agree with Eric that the labels of "right" and "left" have become less meaningful since the fall of Communism - yet the old dichotomy remains, now mostly polarized around opposition to or support for the United States and its cultural and political role in spreading the values of liberty and democracy throughout the world. But also, for cultural and historical reasons, and probably because I'm British rather than European, the Nordic world has always seemed to me to stand somewhere between Europe amd America, and I guess I still see it as a kind of bridge between those two inwardly diverse but outwardly monolithic entities.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The return of prejudice

At Normblog, Eve Garrard writes about the return of anti-Semitism to the United Kingdom and Europe:

When the British left is ready to compare Israel to the Nazis, declare Gaza to be similar to the Warsaw Ghetto, and treat genocidal threats against Jews as a trivial matter; when the Guardian, the principal media organ of this sector of society, opens its columns to a constant stream of such venom; when members of the intelligentsia are ready with breezy nonchalance to dismiss Jewish concerns about anti-Semitism as overheated overstatement, and Jewish self-defence as sinister brutality; then a terrible degradation of thought and sentiment has taken place here in the UK, among an influential part of the chattering classes.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Political repression increasing in Russia

More signs that the assault on public and personal freedoms in the Russian Federation is gathering place in a truly unpleasant way., the website which monitors civil liberty in Ukraine, has a report on the case of Alexei Sokolov, a Russian civil activist in Yekaterinburg who is involved in the defence of prisoners' rights. A group led by Ludmila Alexeeva (head of the Moscow Helsinki Committee), Lev Ponomyarov and Ella Kesayeva (co-chair of Voice of Beslan) says that "imprisoning people well-known for their principled civic stand, respected civic figures, fuels disgruntlement in society and increases disillusionment in the justice system.”

Alexei Sokolov, who was appointed by the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation to a civic supervisory committee, was arrested in his own home in the morning of 13 May. The police’s version is that he is suspected of being involved in an attack in 2004 on the industrial base “UralTermoSvar” during which welding equipment and a cable were stolen.

The statement stresses that Alexei was treated roughly, beaten, pushed to the ground and handcuffs placed on him. All of this was in front of his two-year-old daughter who was wrenched from his arms. The police also tried to frisk Alexei’s wife who rushed out onto the street to her husband. 

The whole report can be read here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Institutionalized lawlessness": Russian journalist fined for prison reports

elena maglevannaya Zubair Zubairayev In Yezhednevnyi zhurnal, Zoya Svetova writes that the Russian journalist Yelena Maglevannaya (photo) has been fined 200,000 roubles (6,238 USD) for causing "moral damage and to refute the information provided in the articles published on various sites". The decision came from the Volgograd District Court, which found in favour of the authorities at the Volgograd prison where the Chechen national Zubair Zubairayev has been held and tortured (see photo). In her article, Svetova explains that she wrote a letter to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov outlining the fate of Zubairayev, but received a reply from  Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, Chechnya's human rights commissioner. In his letter to Svetova, Nukhazhiyev says that he knows of the problems faced by Chechen inmates in Russian prisons, but is powerless to take any action. He was in continuous contact with the federal authorities, including the Prosecutor General, about Zubairayev's case throughout 2008.

In late April this year, a delegation of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) made its eleventh visit since 2000 to the North Caucasian region of the Russian Federation. The delegation was led by  CPT president Mauro Palma, and held discussions with North Caucasus leaders, including Ramzan Kadyrov and members of his government. Zoya Svetova wonders why the subject of Zubairayev's detention and torture was not raised at any of these meetings. She characterizes as "institutionalized lawlessness" the impunity with which the prison authorities and Russia's FSIN (Federal Service for the Execution of Punishments) now act.

RFE/RL and the Khodorkovsky Centre have reports.

New national security strategy for Russia

On May 12 Dmitry Medvedev approved a new national security strategy for Russia until 2020. The document states that military force will be an important part of Russia's security, and may be used in order to solve problems related to competition in the field of energy supplies. While Russia aims to build a "strategic partnership" with the United States, and is prepared to discuss the reduction of both nuclear and conventional weapons, the eastward enlargement of NATO continues to be a thorn in the side of the Russian leadership, as the tortuous, neo-Soviet and ambiguous language makes clear:

Russia is prepared to develop relations with NATO based on equality in the interests of strengthening common security in the Euro-Atlantic region, the depth and essence of which will be determined by the Alliance's preparedness for taking into account Russia's legitimate interests in its military-political planning, respecting international law, their further transformation and exploration for new humanistic purposes and functions.

Hat tip: Marko Mihkelson

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Prague Watchdog has published a speculative analysis of current developments in Chechnya and the North Caucasus, and a prediction for the future, written by an anonymous author. I've summarized the contents of the article in English here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Georgia "sticking point"

The Moscow Times observes that

Georgia remained the sticking point for the Kremlin over the long Victory Day weekend, with President Dmitry Medvedev sternly warning about a possible repetition of last year's war.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Anti-Jihadism and the European Right

Discussion of the positions of Europe's political right and far right, and their interpretation by observers in the United States, continues at Charles Johnson's LGF blog. The focus of attention has centred on U.S. anti-jihadist blogs like Pamela Geller's Atlas Shrugs and Robert Spencer's Jihad Watch, which take a generous view of European political figures like Geert Wilders and groups such as the Vlaams Belang and the so-called Pro-Köln movement.

The approach adopted by Jihad Watch, in particular, seems at first sight puzzling-- for Spencer is a serious and committed scholar of Islam and global Islamism who has done much to document and analyze the strategies of contemporary Muslim extremism. It appears, however, that for reasons that aren't clear, he has preferred to base important parts of his view of developments in European society on sources that derive not from Western Europe, but from areas further east, like the Russian Federation. In those parts of the world, opposition to Islamism has unfortunately become caught up in the political manoeuvrings of the ruling government elites, where it is used both as a weapon to stifle political dissent, and as a means of deliberately provoking the growth of Islamist violence (as in the North Caucasus) for murky goals that remain to be clarified.There anti-jihadism is closely associated with state-sanctioned attitudes and ideologies that are manifestly in conflict with the demands of a free society. In certain respects they resemble nothing so much as the agenda of Europe's extreme right, and are sometimes aligned with it. This may account for some of the misunderstandings that are currently on display.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The History of Isolation

To coincide with the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on May 9, Sergei Shoigu, Russia's Minister of Emergency Situations and co-head of the supreme council of Putin's United Russia party, gave a speech to military veterans in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) in which he called for a new law "to criminalize the denial of the Soviet victory in World War II". The law would affect not only Russian citizens, but also anyone in the world who makes such a denial. It appears that under such legislation, if their leaders and/or citizens contest the rightness of Stalin's victory, countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which suffered Soviet occupation either during or after World War II will be considered rogue states, and diplomatic and economic relations with them will be severed.

According to a survey by the VTsIOM polling agency, 60 percent of Russians support such a law, and a recent Levada Centre poll revealed that 63 percent believe that the Soviet Union could have won the war alone, without the help of Britain and the United States.

At, Valeria Novodvorskaya has made clear her view of the matter [my tr.]:

Hitler's Germany, beyond any doubt, had to be smashed. For the sake of humanity, for the Germans' sake. The Hitlers of this world must not win. But the USSR should have lost, for the Stalins of this world, too, should not be handed victories. The Allies should have won the war: Britain and the United States. And they would have done so. No one would have left Hitler in power and at liberty, no one would have forgiven the Holocaust. Only - it should have been done wthout us. The Americans and British should have brought us liberation.

Soviet power would have fallen, and the country's agony from 1948 until 1953 would have been avoided. And there would have been no Khrushchev or Brezhnev or Afghanistan or Andropov, no Putin and no KGB. And we would not have appeared to the world like slaves. The USSR should have lost the war. The United States already had the atomic bomb, they would have finished Hitler, even if he had conquered the USSR all the way to the Urals. Leningrad should have been surrendered. Of course, it would not have been pleasant to live under the Hitlerites, but millions of Leningraders would not have died from hunger, just as the Parisians did not die, or the citizens of Lyons.


At, Halya Coynash considers the place of the Holocaust in the 20th century history of Eastern Europe and Ukraine, and shows how the almost unimaginable forces of evil that worked together to create the atrocities engendered by Hitler and Stalin are still at work in contemporary society:

It is entirely unrealistic, I believe, to hope to convince people that there was no difference at that time between Hitler and Stalin, that it was necessary to fight both simultaneously. This is not necessarily because people don’t know about Holodomor, the Terror and the camps, but because the Nazi plague was in their country, bombing their cities, and we know that the death machine was murdering ever more people by the day. I am on principle not prepared to place different manifestations of evil on any scale of importance however I also believe at that historical moment it was first of all necessary to destroy Hitler and his evil. On the other hand, I can, and believe we all must, try to understand and respect people who in view of different, no less difficult circumstances decided to fight all those whom they saw as occupiers of their country. That is assuming, of course, that they took no part in the Holocaust, punitive actions against the civilian population or other military crimes.

Unqualified evil did not end with Nazi capitulation and was not eradicated at Nuremberg. We need to fight it together and for that we have to understand one another. Some find it convenient that there should be no such understanding and would seem to have their own reasons for perpetuating rancid lies and stereotypes. We are seeing the old, painfully familiar, puppeteers, as well, it would seem, as some new figures on the scene with no less dubious motives. Let’s not help them – in memory of the victims of unqualified evil and to ensure that there are no more.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Chechen "parliamentarians" to visit Finland?

On May 5, the official website of the Moscow-backed Chechen government in Grozny published an announcement that a delegation of Chechen "parliamentarians" was to visit Helsinki in order to take part in "a seminar on the study of the European experience of local government, which will be held in Helsinki, 9-17 May." The announcement said that delegates would include administrative heads from the Kurchaloi, Nadterechny, Sunzha and Shatoi districts, as well as representatives of the mayor's office in Grozny, and the group would be led by Idris Usmanov, speaker of the Chechen National Assembly. Russia's officially-appointed Human Rights Commissioner, Vladimir Lukin, would also take part.

According to the Regnum agency (May 8), which backs the Chechen announcement, the Finnish seminar is being held under the auspices of the Council of Europe.

FiFi reports that the news of the seminar has aroused anxiety among Chechen refugees and exiles living in Finland. The recent spate of killings of ethnic Chechens in countries outside the Russian Federation is a grim reminder that the Kremlin-backed regime led by Ramzan Kadyrov is intent on eliminating opposition to his rule wherever it may exist, and not just in Chechnya. So far, attempts to obtain clarification about the seminar from the Council of Europe and the Finnish authorities have apparently met with little success.

It will not have escaped the notice of Kadyrov and the Moscow leadership that on May 25-26 the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, FinRosForum, will hold its third annual seminar in Helsinki.

The main themes of the two-day seminar will be the rights of ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities and the question of political prisoners in today's Russia. The venue of the seminar will be the Annex to the Parliament House in the city centre of Helsinki. The languages to be used will be Russian and English with simultaneous interpretation.

Howewer, given the nature of the Chechen regime and its Moscow backers, it is quite possible that the whole story of the "other" seminar - the one announced for today - is a fabrication, designed to embarrass the Finnish government and alarm the local Chechen community.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The real danger of global warming

At Project Syndicate, Czech President Vaclav Klaus looks at the strategies currently being adopted by Western governments to deal with the problem of global warming, and is puzzled:

I am amazed to see people going along with the currently fashionable political argument that policies like cap-and-trade, government mandates, and subsidies for renewable energy can actually benefit an economy. It is claimed that government, working together with business, will create “a new energy economy,” that the businesses involved will profit, and that everyone will be better off.

This is a fantasy. Cap-and-trade can only work by raising energy prices. Consumers who are forced to pay higher prices for energy will have less money to spend on other things. While the individual companies that provide the higher-priced “green” energy may do well, the net economic effect will be negative.

It is necessary to look at the bigger picture. Profits can be made when energy is rationed or subsidized, but only within an economy operating at lower, or even negative, growth rates. This means that over the longer term, everyone will be competing for a piece of a pie that is smaller than it would have been without energy rationing.

This does not augur well either for growth or for working our way out of today’s crisis.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Risk of Russian military intervention in Georgia?

Jamestown's Pavel Felgenhauer believes that there is:

With the internal military rebellion thwarted the outcome of a possible violent clash between the government and the radical opposition may be decided by Russia, which might choose to become militarily involved. Since mid-April Russian forces were poised on the ceasefire line in South Ossetia and Abkhazia as well as its marines on landing ships offshore in the Black Sea for a possible intervention (EDM, April 16). The troops and tanks are deployed for immediate action, but have been waiting, apparently for events in Georgia to unravel, provoking violence and destabilization.

Moscow has angrily denounced the NATO peacekeeping exercises in Georgia as a "provocation" (EDM, April 23). Last week Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) border guards were rushed from the North Caucasus to take up positions on the ceasefire line that Russia has unilaterally declared to be the new border (Interfax, April 30). Now any possible shooting incident on the ceasefire line will directly involve Russian soldiers, and can be used as a pretext for a new military invasion.

Georgia: EU condemns opposition attacks on journalists and calls for talks []

EU Calls for Talks to Overcome ‘Deadlock’

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 7 May.'09 / 11:29

Tbilisi-based diplomatic missions of EU member states, European Commission Delegation and EU’s Special Representative for South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, called on the authorities and the opposition to engage “into serious and constructive talks in order to overcome the current deadlock and undertake the political reforms necessary to consolidate the Georgian democracy.”

The joint statement was released before the police and protesters clashed late on May 6.

“Freedom of media issues could be a part of these talks. We confirm our readiness to support positive steps taken in order to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the country,” the statement reads.

It says that EU continues to closely follow the ongoing developments in Georgia.

“We strongly condemn all acts of humiliation, intimidation and violence. For example, scenes outside the Public Broadcaster where journalists were verbally and physically assaulted prompted our concern and are simply unacceptable,” the statement reads. 

“We recognise that the freedom of media in Georgia needs to be strengthened, that the editorial independence and journalistic freedom need to be protected. We are supporting all efforts in this regard, but we are also supporting the journalist's right to be met with respect and to carry out their work in dignity.” 

“We encourage the authorities to, in full transparency, continue the investigations into all alleged violent acts and assaults, this leading to swift conclusions, bringing the cases to be tried before the courts. We also urge all sides to show restraint and refrain from violent and inflammatory language and behavior.”

“We reaffirm that freedom of peaceful assembly is one of the key rights of the citizen in all democratic countries. With that right also follows obligations to ensure order and that manifestations are conducted causing minimal inconvenience for the normal functioning of institutions and daily life of all citizens. We once again call on all parties to strictly abide by the laws of the country and standards of peaceful public gathering,” the statement reads.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Former Georgian National Guard commander arrested


Former Commander of National Guard Arrested

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 5 May.'09 / 15:32

Koba Kobaladze, who served as commander of the national guard till February, 2004, was arrested on May 5.

Earlier on May 5 the Georgian Interior Ministry said that it had arrested Gia Gvaladze, who was commander of the Defense Ministry’s special task force in 1990s, in connection with plotting of the mutiny in the armed forces.

The Interior Ministry has released a video footage, recorded apparently with a body-worn covert camera and showing a man, purportedly Gia Gvaladze, talking to several persons – one whose face was blurred in order not to identify him and another one to whom the body-worn camera was attached.

When speaking about the planned mutiny Gvaladze mentions names of former senior military and security officials, including of Davit Tevzadze, a former defense minister; Jemal Gakhokidze, a former security minister; Koba Kobaladze, a former commander of national guard and Gia Karkarashvili, a commander of the Georgian army during the Abkhaz war in early 90s. Karkarashvili is now affiliated with Irakli Alasania’s political team, part of opposition Alliance for Georgia. Gvaladze says that these people would be supporting the planned mutiny.

He also says in the footage that murder of some senior officials and President Saakashvili’s close allies were also planned, including Giga Bokeria, deputy foreign minister; Vano Merabishvili, the interior minister and Gigi Ugulava, the Tbilisi mayor. The man also says in the footage that 5,000-strong Russian troops would move in and take positions at key east-west highway close to Tbilisi.

Koba Kobaladze told Rustavi 2 TV, shortly before he was arrested on May 5, that he had nothing to do with the mutiny plot.

Davit Tevzadze, former defense minister, said allegations about his involvement in the mutiny plot “is absurd.”

“It is impossible to even comment on these myths created by ill people,” Gia Karkarashvili said.

Russia-backed military coup in Georgia averted

Georgia's President Saakashvili has given a televised address to the nation in which he announced that the mutinying servicemen at the Mukhrovani military base some 20 miles east of Tbilisi have been given a deadline to surrender. The coup plot was apparently aimed at disrupting month-long NATO military exercises that begin in Georgia tomorrow. The Georgian government has accused the organizers of the planned rebellion of receiving money and support from Russia.

Monday, May 04, 2009

May 5 - "Day of Anger"

In April, the Moscow-based SOVA Center, which works to document and counteract racism, xenophobia, hate crime and ultra-nationalism in the Russian Federation, reported the suicide in prison on March 25 of the National Socialist (Neo-Nazi) leader Maxim Bazylev, after he had been arrested and charged with several murders. A Russia-wide "Day of Anger" (also referred to as a "Day of Pogroms", a "Day of Vengeance" and a "Day of Violence") was set for May 5 and advertised on National Socialist websites (also here and here).

Via Marko Mihkelson

Zubair Zubairaev

The case of Chechen national Zubair Zubairaev continues to cause concern. During the second Chechen war, Zubairaev fled Russia with his family. They were granted asylum in Austria. But in 2007 the family decided to return to Chechnya. Soon after their return, Zubairaev was detained by local police. For some time he was officially missing, as his relatives knew nothing of his whereabouts.

In August 2007 Zubairaev was sentenced to five years in custody on the charge of assault of a police officer and illegal possession of arms. He was transferred to serve his sentence in the Volgograd penal colony. When he managed to contact his sisters, he told the that he was continuously being beaten up.

Now Amnesty International USA has circulated another report, giving further details of Zubairaev's continuing torture and mistreatment at the hands of the Volgograd authorities.

Zubair Zubairaev was again severely beaten on 10 and 12 April 2009 according to a report from his lawyer. When Zubair Zubairaev’s lawyer visited him in the prison hospital in Volgograd on 23 April, he noticed signs of beatings on his client's body. The lawyer has stated that Zubair Zubairaev had severe bruising on his shoulders and across
his chest. There were also signs of beatings on his lower back. The lawyer asked the prison hospital official to call for a doctor so that the injuries could be documented; however, the official reportedly refused to do so.

See also in this blog: Zubajraev case: torture and mistreatment

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Kadyrov and Sadat

At Prague Watchdog, Sergei Davydov writes about the Chechen shadow of Anwar Sadat.

LGF on Wilders

At LGF, Charles Johnson writes that

it’s “inconsistent” for Wilders to claim to be standing up for freedom of expression at the same time as he calls for banning books and taking away basic rights from people; but I’ll go further. It’s deeply hypocritical, and deeply un-American to call for these things. These are fascist opinions. And American citizens who applaud this kind of rabble-rousing populist garbage should be ashamed of themselves.

Friday, May 01, 2009

U.S. "seriously concerned" over Russia's border pacts in Sokhumi, Tskhinvali []

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 1 May.'09 / 11:15

The U.S. State Department expressed “serious concern” over the agreement signed between Russia and “Georgia’s separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia” on border cooperation.

Among other issues, the treaties envisage stationing of Russian border guard troops at the breakaway region’s administrative borders.

“This action contravenes Russia’s commitments under the August 12 ceasefire agreement brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy between Russia and Georgia, and violates Georgia’s territorial integrity,” the U.S. State Department said.

“We call on Russia to honor its commitments under the August 12 and September 8 ceasefire agreements. This includes removing its troops to positions held prior to the start of the conflict, allowing unfettered humanitarian access, and allowing human rights organizations to investigate allegations of ethnic cleansing in the two regions. Establishing a “border” under the control of Russian soldiers marks another step in the opposite direction,” it said.