Someone is afraid. In a case where the supposed defrauded doesn’t know that they were defrauded, Navalny was still found guilty. Hi brother Oleg will spend 3.5 years in a prison colony. However, Alexei received a 3.5 year suspended sentence.
Our translation: Someone is afraid to stir the public, but still sent the message that “see what I can do to your family. Learn this lesson and law low, or else we’ll be back with more trumped up charges and your brother will spend a lot longer in prison than 3.5 years.”
The government is warning that tonight’s protest march will be suppressed. A very large police presence has been on the scene all day in anticipation of the rally. After the verdict was read, Navalny attempted to join protestors who were gathering at Manezhnaya Square, near the Kremlin. He was detained and not allowed to attend the rally.
Now, at night time, there is a large protest in the centre of Moscow and police are periodically arresting participants, although the protest (allowed by the Constitution, but prohibited by the government) is peaceful. Those who would like to watch how such things work in a police state can watch live streaming here: http://openrussia.org/
In Russian culture there is supposed to be lull regarding news during the holiday period. In fact, some publications even go on “holiday” during the season between the end of the year and just past Christmas on 07 January. Somebody forgot to remind the news-makers it would seem.
The funny: there is always an aspect of news in Russia that lends itself to hilarity. The country just cannot help itself apparently. So, it was not that big of a surprise when last week the interior ministry declared that miniskirts were no longer appropriate for female police officers. It is true that miniskirts have never been part of the officially approved uniform, however there is something about seeing a young female officer in a very short skirt, while wearing high heels, that just makes you want to be chased–and caught.
Interior Ministry officials have watched, literally we can only assume, as hemlines have become shorter and shorter on the skirts of female officers. Heels have inched higher, too. Having seen enough, officials have decided to lower those hemlines and heels, back to something more representative of a respectable police force. Commanders across Russia have been issued guidelines on daily uniform inspections. To keep it equal, male officers will no longer be allowed to wear sleeveless shirts in summer–something that had become somewhat of a trend in more recent years.
The odd: Tourism from the West is not exactly on the upswing as of late, due to sanctions and political spats between Russia and the West. However, the folk in Moscow are eternal optimists and just in time for the extended holiday period, the city has introduced a couple hundred “tourist police” on the streets. Think of them as bi-lingual tour guides with a map of the city in one hand and a pair of handcuffs in the other.
They can speak English (at least to a degree), help tourists navigate around the city, and then lock them up at night if the tourists misbehave. What a country!
The vanishing: the brain and talent appears to continue unabated. The latest high profile person to flee the country is Pavel Durov, the founder of Vkontake (known as “vk”), Russia’s answer to Facebook. Durov says that VK had been under pressure to reveal personal information to the Kremlin regarding VK users from Ukraine. That came not long after President Putin had declared that the Internet had been invented as a tool for the CIA. We should note that Mr. Putin makes only scant use of the Internet.
Last week Durov as fired as CEO of the company he had founded and the Kremlin-friendly Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian oil giant Rosneft, was handed the reins. Perhaps Sechin was getting bored at his current job, oil sales are not exactly on the upswing as of late. The Kremlin has made no secret of its mistrust of the evil Internet.
Durov told technology newsite Techcrunch that he planned to launch another mobile social network. Outside of Russia, naturally. He told the publication that, “I am out of Russia and have no plans to go back.”
The continuing crackdown on a free press: Last week the Kremlin moved to install new directors at the single remaining opposition radio network, Echo Radio, headquartered in Moscow. The station has been a thorn in the side of the Kremlin, and apparently a private summons for Chief editor Alexei Venediktov to meet personally with President Putin did little to bring the journalists of Radio Echo into “compliance.” So, Gazprom Media, as in the state controlled Gazprom Oil (one of the largest oil companies in the world), still retains a majority interest in the stock of the station, has moved to tighten control. Gazprom owns 66% and the 89 journalists of Radio Echo own the remaining 34%.
To make sure that RadioEcho tones down the independent rhetoric, the government media watchdog Roskomnadzor slapped the station with a warning after Echo interviewed journalists who detailed direct Russian involvement in the war in Eastern Ukraine. After the broadcast, Roskomnadzor notified the station of the warning, saying that Radio Echo had broadcast “information justifying war crimes.”
Roskomnadzor warnings carry weight–two warnings allows the government to shut down a broadcast facility.
Even more on the continuing crackdown on a free press: Yevgenia Albats, editor-in-chief of The New Times, one of the few remaining print publications independent of the Kremlin, has been accused of disobeying traffic police. Although authorities could not come up with specifics of her disobedience, the editor has been charged. She claims to have been pulled over in a routine traffic stop and handed over the proper paperwork when asked. The officers then charged Albats with disobeying police orders. If convicted she faces up to 15 days in jail.
Already the government-controlled television NTV, the channel that often conducts smear campaigns on those whom the Kremlin has labeled as enemies, has broadcast that the editor was leaving a “party at a Georgian restaurant” in Moscow. The state of relations between the Kremlin and the former Soviet republic of Georgia has remained tense since the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.
The Albats case will be heard in court this Tuesday, 30 December.
The very bad: Most Western readers probably have little to no knowledge of the oil spill in the Black Sea last week. Why? Because the Russian media is not exactly racing to cover the story. Last week a large Russian oil pipeline burst a pipeline outside the town of Tuapse. Russian oil giant Rosneft was constructing pipeline in the area for use by Transneft, Russia’s major pipeline transporter.
The local government has declared a state of emergency, and whether intended or not, the declaration has hampered efforts by independent media and world scientific experts to inspect the damage. Severe winter weather has hampered clean-up efforts.
Groups such as the World Wildlife Fund and Inhabit claim that Satellite imagery indicates between 500 to 700 tons of oil were spilled into the Black Sea. If true, that could be almost 100 times more oil than Russian government sources have estimated.
“Where the USA–there is sorrow and death.” Don’t shoot the messenger, but just as the message is disturbing, it is also accurate.
Just as unsettling is where the message originated: a prominent Ukrainian website that has long partnered with the West for democratic change in Eastern Europe. It is a turn in attitude which may well represent a sad reality settling in for Ukrainians who had hoped that the West/USA would stand with them in time of trouble.
Top line: “Where the USA–there is sorrow and death.” Sad, but as one who has been all over the world, there has never been a truer statement about my country. We used to be a beacon of hope to the world, but for at least a couple of decades we’ve been running on fumes from the past. We are not a beacon of hope today, and have not been for quite some time. Unfortunately, we still have the power to stir up trouble.
There are five columns, top to bottom, three rows. Column one is Moldova. The USA actively championed Moldova to turn West after the collapse of the USSR, and Moldova did, with a lot of encouragement from the CIA–only to be abandoned by the USA when a larger neighbor (Russia) decided to stop that progress. Those scenes in column one are real.
Column two is Chechnya. When the USSR collapsed, they wanted to be independent again, just like so many other former Soviet republics. They have oil, so of course the USA/CIA got into the mix. Two wars later, several hundred thousand civilians had died and today this Islamic republic is tightly controlled by Moscow. The USA switched sides after “9-11” as we thought that it was in our interest to partner with Putin to fight terrorists. Those scenes are real.
Column three is Dagestan. You likely know Dagestan from the Boston Marathon bombing, as that is where the Tsarnaev brothers were from. Dagestan is another Russian republic that wanted to regain independence from the Soviet demise. The USA quietly encouraged and aided, right up to the 1999 war with Russia. We then just as quietly exited, leaving the Dagestan people to fend for themselves against a vastly superior army. Those scenes are what really happened.
Column four is the country of Georgia. They did manage to leave the USSR, and the USA has been very active in Georgian politics ever since. When Russia decided to teach them a lesson in 2008, we pounded on the table and screamed from the mountaintops–and Georgia is a very mountainous country–but we did nothing when Russia invaded. Yes, those scenes are accurate.
Column five is Ukraine. The current administration, as stupid and useless as previous administrations, sent lots of “help” from the CIA to a parade of US Senators and cabinet officials. McCain and Nuland, damn you both, and please retire and stop running your mouths while pretending to know things that you really don’t. We tapped in to the desire of the Ukrainian people to be free. Apparently we thought that turning Ukraine over to the EU would be a cakewalk. Oops, epic fail.
Both the previous and current administrations pursued the so-called “domino theory” in which we could assist in triggering pro-democracy “spring” movements, and then step back to let the locals succeed in changing things. That doesn’t work too well when locals are left with little more than baseball bats to challenge tanks.
Both the previous and current administrations were/are dominated by naive and largely ignorant wonks, with no idea of what they started. The only difference between the former and the present is the increased effort to aid Islamic movements. Islam at the core is totally non-democratic, and any hope that we can pull such societies out of the 7th century and into modern life, is either grossly naive, or worse, purposeful.
Just like we abandoned the Czechs in 1956 and again in 1968, we rarely finish what we’ve started: Bay of Pigs or Vietnam, anyone? The question that many in the world ask today is: Why bother to stir up and start something that you don’t have the stomach to finish? In case we’ve ruffled a few feathers with this post, please don’t be offended when reminded that given our track record, the world has the right to question our motives…and our resolve.
A law requiring popular bloggers to register as mass media took effect Friday, tightening government control over the country’s influential online voices but leaving some uncertainty as to how strict the immediate scrutiny will become.
In accordance with the new law, any blog that receives more than 3,000 hits a day is required to register as a mass media outlet. The government has already shut down several opposition-minded websites and has the right to block any others without a court order or even a detailed explanation, so it remains unclear how much the rule changes will additionally erode Internet freedom in Russia.
The head of Russia’s media watchdog, Alexander Zharov, said that there would be no national “census of bloggers,” and that registration would be brought about voluntarily or as the result of public complaints, Vedomosti reported Friday.
The Izvestia newspaper reported it had obtained a list that the media watchdog has supposedly prepared of seven bloggers, to whom it would send letters on Friday requiring them to register their blogs as media outlets.
The roll includes novelist Boris Akunin, comedian and screenwriter Mikhail Galustyan, nationalist politician and author Eduard Limonov, stand-up comedian Mikhail Zadornov, photographer Sergei Dolya, blogger Dmitry Chernyshev — better known in Russia by his online name mi3ch — and head of NewsMedia holding Ashot Gabrelyanov, the report said.
The Russian attitude seems to be that if they can’t win the Ukrainians over, then we’ll make sure they hate us and one example of this thinking is in Russian schools as children are meeting the new “polite alphabet” meant to simultaneously engender Russian patriotism and denigrate anything Ukrainian while teaching the Russian Cyrillic letters. The Russian Cyrillic letters remain the same but the word examples for each letter now inject a healthy dose of propaganda, patriotism or both.
The new alphabet is being introduced to Russian school children in the Irkutsk region by Project Network, a pro-Kremlin group with plans to roll the new alphabet learning tools to more schools across Russia next year. They group is part of the “togetherness” project and say they are tasked to teach young Russian children that Russia, Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine are meant to be together.
For example the new alphabet primer and accompanying charts teach students that “A” stands for “Anti-Maidan,” the letter “Ya” is for “Yalta,” and as any good propagandist would hope, “P” is for “Putin.” Naturally “R” is for “Russia” and the face of Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is matched to the term for “firmness” while the letter B represents the “berkut” Ukrainian riot police who defected to Crimea. Some older alphabet charts had the golden eagle (berkut) with the letter and a photo of the golden eagle.
Some will question why the letter “D” stands for Donetsk, a Ukrainian city instead of the more common word for “dom” (home) as on existing charts. Organizers are quick to point out that Donetsk should and will be a part of Russia and thus school children should learn to think of Donetsk as Russian instead of Ukrainian. Some of the letter equivalents are a bit of a stretch.
To make the point about Ukraine, the chart assigns the letter ы for Крым, spoken as “Krem” (Crimea). No Russian words begin with the letter ы so Russian school children will meet the new polite alphabet with Крым for Crimea. To make the point that Crimea has been annexed into Russia the Ukrainian term for Crimea, Крим, has been circled with an arrow drawn through it.
Two letters within Russian Cyrillic, ь and ъ, have no sound themselves but serve to modify letters adjacent to them. The new “polite alphabet” did find patriotic words which included those letters and for example they assigned ь, the letter which serves to soften other sounds, to мягкость which is a term commonly used to express the idea of gentle or soft in relation to a mother and her baby. Some Ukrainian groups have responded on social mean with an alternate “war alphabet” that mocks the Russian attempt at indoctrination.
It is no accident that Project Network calls it the “Polite Alphabet,” as it is named for the so-called “polite” but armed forces that forced Russia’s annexation of Crimea earlier this year. The Project Network website claims that as Russian school children meet the new polite alphabet they “…will be taught to love the motherland, respect its people and culture.”
US foreign policy shares much of the blame for what is happening now in Eastern Europe. This isn’t solely the fault of the Obama administration either. When the Soviet Union began to fall, President Reagan promised Russia that NATO would not encroach on Russia’s borders. The promise was that if Mr Gorbachev would remove the Berlin Wall, then Germany is as far as NATO would go and the former Soviet republics could choose to remain independent or align themselves with a democratic Russia.
We lied. The agreement largely held through Bush I, but beginning with the Clinton administration and moving forward, we have reneged on our word time after time. The fruit of our dishonestly is more than just about NATO, the EU and free trade. We have sought to destabilize the region in order to weaken the rule of Vladimir Putin. At some point we should stop, and now would be a good time to cease our behind the scenes efforts to effect regime change in Ukraine.
If our word is to ever count for something, then we must hold our government accountable when it steps out of line. Right now we’ve not only crossed the line, we’ve stomped it in disdain as we crossed.