Life During Wartime

DSCN5429.jpgRussians at war

 1.
“There’s really no place for self-righteousness in war.”
—Lord Richards, BBC Radio 4, Today, 14 April 2018

Lord Richards said this by way of arguing everyone should give up, permit the butcher Assad to win his genocidal war, and “let the Syrian people [?] get down to the business of rebuilding their country.”

He was immediately followed on the air by a bloke named Frank Gardner, who made the ludicrous claim it was the Russian “intervention” “that prevented Islamic State and the other jihadists from taking Damascus.”

Mr. Gardner was immediately followed on the air by yet another bloke, an MP of some sort, who was just as defeatist, but somehow, unaccountably, thought the “people responsible” for war crimes in Syria “would be held to account.”

Mr. Gardner and the MP was followed by an American teenage girl, apparently a  former member of the Obama administration, who absolved the second coming of MLK, Jr., of all responsibility for the bloodbath.

As if this were not bad enough, the teenage American girl was immediately followed on the air by Sebastian Gorka. Oddly enough, his comments were the most reasonable.

They were immediately followed on the air by the ridiculously ubiquitous Anne Applebaum and another bloke with a posh accent (David Stevenson), who didn’t “want to see an all-out war.”

This entire clown circus was preceded by a nice little chat with a “former” Russian general, whose only purpose was to tell the radio audience, “If you so much as scratch one of our buys, you’ll have all-out war.” (I am paraphrasing.)

All of this was camouflaged by an alleged concern for the “people of Syria,” and yet not a single actual Syrian voice was heard all morning.

What disgusting white freaks.

DSCN5424Russians at war

2.
Predictably, various so-called leftists on my Facebook news feed are in high dudgeon today over the milquetoast missile strikes on a few Syrian military facilities carried out overnight by France, Britain, and the US.

These very same people, some of whom are Russian nationals, have had absolutely nothing to say about Russia’s critical intervention in Syria on the side of the country’s war criminal dictator Bashar Assad for the last two and a half years.

How does that work? Russia gets a free pass because it is . . . what? Building socialism in Syria? On the right side of the conflict? Has been suffering so much since the collapse of the Soviet Union that it has the right to bomb whole cities into rubble and occupy neighboring countries without provocation?

No, Russia gets a free pass, especially from Russian leftists, because 99.9999% of the Russian populace knows quite well that their own homegrown dictator, Vladimir Putin, has certain pet projects that are off limits to criticism and protest.

Destroying Syria is one of those pet projects.

So, they are simply too scared to criticize Russia’s absolutely criminal actions against Syrian citizens in Syria, i.e., against people who have never, so far as I know, harmed any Russians at all, especially not in Russia itself.

Hence, when the so-called west makes a feeble, almost laughable gesture to oppose the Assadist-Putinist-Iranian-Hezbollah massacre in Syria, these Russian and Russophile leftists awake from their usual slumber, happily quoting Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn and other great advocates of “peace in our time.”

It never occurs to any of them, apparently, that this is an absolutely demoralizing, pointless, and impossible stance on the matter. They are leftists who unconditionally support fascists and imperialists, and who support other, world-famous leftists who unconditionally support fascists and imperialists. They are thus leading the international leftist movement down the garden path either to utter destruction or utter irrelevance.

Sanders and Corbyn are dangerous clowns. If you don’t get that, you might not be as politically savvy or as leftist as you imagined you were.

At least, if you feel strongly about the issue, make your own arguments as to why it is okay for Putin, Assad, Iran, and the Hezbollah to slaughter Syrians at will, while it is a crime against humanity to toss a few missiles once a year at a few Syrian military bases and chemical warfare production facilities that were given a week’s notice and thus had happily been evacuated long before the missiles actually struck them.

But, no, amazingly enough, pro-Assadist and pro-Putinist leftists almost never make their own arguments, instead cowering behind the drivel spouted by the likes of Corbyn, Sanders, and Tariq Ali.

DSCN5422.jpgRussians at war

3.
Why would any “progressive” or “anti-authoritarian” leftist in their right mind refuse solidarity to the nine Penza and Petersburg antifacists caught up in an insane frame-up, engineered by the folks at Vladimir Putin’s old stomping grounds, the Russian Federal Security Service (the FSB, formerly known as the KGB), who have accused them of being members of a wholly fictional “terrorist community,” codenamed The Network, and charged them accordingly?

I ask this seemingly nonsensical question because, as I was thinking about the kneejerk reaction of various “anti-imperialists,” Russian leftists, and Russophile leftists to last night’s missile strikes in Syria, it suddenly occurred to me this same mob of righteous Marxists has been as nearly as quiet about the so-called Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case as it has been about the Kremlin’s war against Syrian civilians and anti-Assad forces in Syria.

Why should that be? What is the connection between these seemingly unrelated events?

The answer is simple. If you pay too much attention to the Penza-Petersburg case and its gory details, you will realize all too quickly that Russia is ruled by a fascist clique of power-hungry ex-KGB lunatics who have somehow persuaded themselves that their greed, corruption, and ultraviolence are a supreme form of patriotism, not an utter degradation of any reasonable notion of governance, justice, and balanced international relations.

Thus, leftists who only get exercised over Syria when the so-called west makes a tiny, milquetoast, one-off gesture of resistance to the Putinist-Assadist-Iranian-Hezbollah killing machine are reluctant to talk too much about the horrifying Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and many other similar cases that never make the headlines around the world, since they would reveal too palpably and obviously the natural affinities between Assad and Putin, two dyed-in-the-wool fascists who believe all resistance and opposition to their perpetual regimes is illegitimate, “extremist,” “terrorism,” etc.

If you are an “anti-authoritarian” or “progressive” leftist, however, it will not do to admit you stand for the same things as Putin and Assad cherish, so you just gloss over their crimes before and during the Syrian revolution, and hope no one will notice what violent criminal thugs they have been from day one, and how their violence and thuggery have only been spreading like wildfireacross their own countries and all around the world ever since they came to power.

DSCN5326.jpgRussians at war

4.
God forbid the Russian people should rise up against their own dictator, Vladimir Putin, and the Chinese, Iranians and Hezbollah, say, rushed to help the Russian dictator put down the uprising. Not only would it be extremely humiliating were Chinese warplanes to bomb ancient Russian cities such as Pskov and Vladimir, were terrorists from Hezbollah and Iranian fundamentalists to murder innocent Russian children, women and men, but the whole world would remember how once upon a time not so long ago the Russians themselves helped the bloody dictator Bashar Assad gut and slaughter a grassroots revolution in Syria. Everyone would thus turn their backs—unfairly—on the Russians fighting to the death for their freedom and remain silent until their dictator, ably assisted by the Chinese, Iranian and Hezbollah killers, would force one half of the Russian populace to take flight to other countries, while killing and enslaving the other half. // TRR

Photos by the Russian Reader

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A New Face in Hell: Yuli Boyarshinov

“We Made It Worse for You, So Speak”: A New Defendant Emerges in The Network Case
OVD Info
April 11, 2018

30173702_10213690256883419_2044878347_1Yuli Boyarshinov, 2015. Photo by Maria Shuter. Courtesy of OVD Info

A new defendant has been added to the case of the so-called Network, Petersburger Yuli Boyarshinov. In the following article, OVD Info reports what it knows about how Mr. Boyarshinov was charged in the case, and about the pressure put on him in the remand prison where he is currently jailed.

Mr. Boyarshinov’s defense attorney Olga Krivonos told OVD Info that he was charged with involvement in The Network on April 11. Ms. Krivonos cannot discuss the particulars of the case, since she was made to sign a nondisclosure agreement concerning the preliminary investigation. Mr. Boyarshinov has been charged with involvement in a terrorist community (Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 205.4 Part 2) and illegal possession of explosives (Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 222.1 Part 1).

27-year-old Yuli Boyarshinov has worked the last several years as an industrial climber. From 2010 to 2015, he was a co-organizer of the Free Fair in Petersburg, events where people donated and took home all kinds of things free of charge. He played drums in the samba band Rhythms of Resistance and volunteered at animal shelters.

yulik.jpgYuli Boyarshinov. Photo courtesy of Mr. Boyarshinov’s friends and OVD Info

Arrest
Mr. Boyarshinov was detained on the evening of January 21, 2018, in Petersburg’s Primorsky District, most likely accidentally. Several local residents told OVD Info that anti-drugs raids occured there frequently and police regularly stopped passersby.

Mr. Boyarshinov recounted that police from the 53rd Precinct struck him in the face and stomach several times: they did not like the fact the young man had refused to talk with him, citing Article 51 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees an individual’s right not to incriminate himself. The beating ended when another policeman entered the room, was outraged by what was happening, and asked his fellow officers not to “cause mayhem.”

Police found 400 grams of smoke powder, a relatively weak explosive obtained by mixing saltpeter, charcoal, and sulfur, on Mr. Boyarshinov’s person. Smoke powder is now most often employed in the manufacture of fireworks, as well as by hunters and sport shooters who pack their shells manually. Mr. Boyarshinov has a hunting license, but not a firearms permit. Ms. Krivonos could not say why Mr. Boyarshinov needed the smoke powder, since it fell under her nondisclosure agreement.

On January 22, police searched the home the young man shares with his parents. Law enforcement officers confiscated equipment, books, and the anarchist magazine Avtonom.  He was then taken in a police cruiser to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. Hospital staff did not ask him for either his internal passport or insurance policy. The detainee was given an MRI scan of the brain, and his blood was drawn. Mr. Boyarshinov told his lawyer the physician who administered the MRI scan was quite worried about his condition. After the examination, the young man was transported to the Temporary Detention Center. In conversation with his lawyer, Mr. Boyarshinov suggested he was taken to the hospital first so that it would be impossible to say he had been injured in the Temporary Detention Center. The doctors noted bruises on his face.

On January 23, Primorsky District Court Judge Yelena Tsibizova ordered Mr. Boyarshinov remanded in custody for thirty days. His relatives were not informed of the court hearing. Ms. Krivonos had not yet taken the case, and so Mr. Boyarshinov was represented by a state-appointed attorney. At that point, he had only been charged with illegal possession of explosive substances.

1523224346412_1Yuli Boyarshinov. Photo courtesy of Mr. Boyarshinov’s friends and OVD Info

Pressure in the Remand Prison
After the hearing, Mr. Boyarshinov was incarcerated in Remand Prison No. 1 aka The Crosses Two, where doctors noted his injuries: blows to the stomach and head, and a black eye.

As the young man told his lawyer, his cellmates immediately tried to chat him up.

“I’m also in for Article 222.1. I’ll tell you what’s what,” one cellmate said to him.

The anarchist symbol had been traced on the dusty glass in the cell’s window.

On January 31, Mr. Boyarshinov was visited by two men who gave only their first names, Kostya and Dima. Kostya had been present during the search at Mr. Boyarshinov’s home. When he asked where they were from, Kostya and Dima gave him their work number at the Petersburg office of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). The supposed FSB officers listed the names of defendants in the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case and many other names, promising Mr. Boyarshinov that if he did not talk to them, “things would get worse” for him. The young man refused to speak with the FSB officers, again invoking his rights under Article 51 of the Russian Constitution.

“You’re making things worse for yourself, and you’ll go to prison,” the security service officers told him.

On February 12, Mr. Boyarshinov was transferred to Remand Prison No. 6 in the village of Gorelovo, Leningrad Region, on the orders of an investigator in the Primorsky District office of the Interior Ministry, allegedly, “for the purpose of conducting investigative procedures.” Ms. Krivonos said that then, after she filed an appeal against the extension of Mr. Boyarshinov’s remand in custody, staff at the Primorsky District Court telephoned her and asked her client’s whereabouts. They were looking for him to fill out papers. Ms. Krinovos argues the transfer to another remand prisoner violated her client’s rights. The Gorelovo Remand Prison is a former medium security correctional labor colony, and the conditions there are considerably worse than in The Crosses Two Remand Prison, which was built to satisfy the requirements of current legislation.

Mr. Boyarshinov told his lawyer he was placed in a cell where there were forty inmates, although it was designed for thirty-five. When he moved into the cell, his cellmates beat him up for no reason. They forced him to clean the cell, and because of this he was not let out for walks outside in the yard.

On February 13, FSB officers again came to talk with Mr. Boyarshinov.

“We made things worse for you. Now talk, or conditions will get even worse.”

Mr. Boyarshinov again refused to speak with them.

photo_2018-02-19_19-27-57.jpgYuli Boyarshinov and defense attorney Olga Krivonos at a custody extension hearing on February 19 in Primorsky District Court. Photo courtesy of Ms. Krivonos and OVD Info

On March 2, the remand prison was inspected by members of the Leningrad Region Public Monitoring Commission (PMC). Mr. Boyarshinov told his lawyer the Leningrad PMC members summoned the inmates one by one to chat with them in the office of a warden, who was present during their conversations.

FSB officers visited Mr. Boyarshinov again immediately after the PMC’s inspection. The very same day, he and another inmate (who had not spoken to the PMC) were transferred to a cell that held approximately 150 inmates: the number of inmates constantly changed. There were only 116 bunks in the cell, which was reserved for men charged with murder, rape, and robbery, and who had served time before. However, the inmates who smoked were not segregated from the nonsmokers. At first, Mr. Boyarshinov had to sleep on the floor.

“During the nearly two months of his incarceration in Gorelovo, no investigative procedures involving Yuli have been carried out. Due to the fact the conditions of my client’s imprisonment in terms of cell assignment and personal safety have been violated, his state of mind has deteriorated considerably,” said Ms. Krivonos.

On March 16, Sergei Shabanov, human rights ombudsman for Leningrad Region, and his staff member Sergei Gavrilovich visited the Gorelovo Remand Prison.

“There were no complaints and statements from the persons held in custody,” reads a report of the visit, posted on the remand prison’s website.

“He has not been tasered, but the conditions in which my client is being held are tantamount to torture,” argued Ms. Krivonos.

She also said that Mr. Boyarshinov has chronic tonsillitis, which has been aggravated by his living conditions.

9ac654e24a7baa41f22dbfeb5e102410Visit by Leningrad Region Human Rights Ombudsman Sergei Shabanov to Gorelovo Remand Prison. Yuli Boyarshinov sits with his back turned to the camera. Photo courtesy of Remand Prison No. 6 website and OVD Info

Petersburg industrial climber Ilya Kapustin was a witness in The Network case. He claimed FSB agents tasered him, after which he left Russia, requesting political asylum in Finland. Kapustin told OVD Info that, during his interrogation, investigators had asked him whether he knew Boyarshinov, when they had last met, and why he had telephoned him on the day he was detained.

“We had a professional relationship. I telephoned him around the time of his arrest to ask him whether he wanted a job shoveling snow off rooftops,” Kapustin explained.

  • Novaya Gazeta writes that the Gorelovo Remand Prison is considered a torture chamber. According to the newspaper, inmates are tortured and raped by order of the wardens. This was the reason Vladimir Malenchuk, former head of the local office of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service was dismissed, and his deputy, Vyacheslav Tippel, who was involved in the torture, was sentenced to seven years in prison. However, the beatings and abuse of inmates at the remand prison have not stopped.
  • On March 16, antifascist Viktor Filinkov was transferred to Remand Prison No. 6. Mr. Filinkov has been charged with involvement in the terrorist organization The Network (Criminal Code 205.4 Part 2). The FSB claims members of The Network were preparing for the outbreak of unrest in Russia. Mr. Filinkov confessed his guilt, but later claimed he had done so under torture. Members of the Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission noted numerous taser burns on the antifascist’s body. Businessman Igor Shiskin was charged in the same case. He did not complain of torture, but the Petersburg PMC likewise noted injuries on his body. The criminal investigation and arrests in St. Petersburg were sanctioned by a district court in Penza.
  • In October 2017, five young men were arrested in Penza. A sixth man was arrested in Petersburg, transferred to Penza, and also remanded to custody there. All of them have been charged with involvement in a terrorist community. The FSB claims the young men were also involved in The Network, which, allegedly, has cells in Moscow, Petersburg, Penza, and Belarus. The defendants in the terrorism case in Penza have spoken of psychological pressure, torture by electrical shock, being hung upside down, and having weapons planted by FSB officers in their cars and flats.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade NN for correcting a typo.

Read more about the insane FSB frame-up of the wholly fictional Network aka the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” and related current cases involving torture and framing on the part of the security service once chaired by President Vladimir Putin and in which he proudly served as an officer for many years. It is their increasing dominance of politics and the economy that has pushed the world’s largest country to the brink of toxic governance and administrative insanity.

Fyodor Krasheninnikov: Russian History According to the Crimean Calendar

brickwall faceThe writing is on the wall.

Russian History According to the Crimean Calendar
A New Period of Russian History Kicked Off in 2014, But There Is No Proof It Will Last for Centuries
Fyodor Krasheninnikov
Vedomosti
April 11, 2018

In a recently published article, Vladislav Surkov argues we should regard 2014 as the first year of a new calendar, the beginning of a centuries-long era of “political solitude” that emerged after a long period of ambivalence on Russia’s part. Although the thoughts outlined in the article are primarily Mr. Surkov’s personal convictions, they do in some way describe the outlook of Russia’s supreme political elite, to which Mr. Surkov certainly belongs, and they are interesting only in this sense. Among other things, his take suggests that, after 2014, nothing comparable in importance to the events in Crimea has happened nor will happen, meaning Russia seemingly experienced the “end of history” in 2014.

2014 will undoubtedly go down in history as the year of Vladimir Putin’s most memorable achievement. Russia’s annexation of Crimea led to many changes both at home and abroad, but what mattered most was that it was accomplished easily, quickly, and bloodlessly, and led to an incredible surge in the president’s popularity due to the fact that a large segment of society rallied around him. The more alarming the circumstances of spring 2018, the dearer to the president and his entourage are the memories of the happy spring of 2014. Surkov’s article can read as a belated reiteration of Faust’s “Stay a while, you are so beautiful,” as a reluctance to accept the inevitability of change and the ephemerality of all “forevers.”

The flip side of the myth of a new era’s beginning is the fear 2014 was actually the culmination of modern Russian history and things will only get worse in the future. The tendencies of recent years have fully confirmed this fear. Only four years have passed, but the spring of 2018 is nothing like the spring of 2014 in terms of feeling and mood. Russia is not on the offensive; instead, it is on the defensive. The west’s pressure on it has been multiplying and causing palpable problems for the economy. For the first time in four years, the country’s leaders have been forced to acknowledge the dangers posed by US sanctions and give up repeating the argument that all sanctions are a boon to the economy. It is no wonder. In 2014, the sanctions were much weaker, and given the euphoria in the air, they went almost unnoticed. Besides, in 2014, it was still possible to believe the sanctions were temporary. They would be lifted in the very near future, the west would swallow what had occurred, and everything would go back to what it had been. In 2018, the euphoria has long vanished, and if there is still talk the sanctions will soon be lifted, it should be put down more to inertia and confusion than anything else. Although it was intentionally timed to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the Crimean triumph, the presidential election did not produce anything comparable to the inspiring impression generated in the wake of Crimea’s annexation. The celebration of Putin’s electoral victory lasted only ten days, cut short by the disastrous shopping mall fire in Kemerovo and the official day of mourning announced in its aftermath.

Russia cannot look forward to proud “political solitude” in the coming years or at any other time. The modern world is too small for anyone to isolate themselves, especially on their own terms and inside borders of their own choosing. At home, especially among the elite, one can still live in the past for a time and pretend this is still the triumphant year of 2014. One call still pretend Russia is threatening everyone, denouncing everyone, and demanding a reaction from everyone, and that it has centuries and millennia ahead of it. In fact, however, it is Russia that is threatened, Russia that is denounced, and Russia from whom everyone demands a reaction. There are no grounds for supposing this onslaught will wane in the foreseeable future instead of intensifying. Russia’s main trump card in 2014 was its willingness to engage in confrontation and brinksmanship, which the west was not willing to do. That card has now been trumped in turn. After a long period of wavering, the leaders of the Nato countries have also proven capable of engaging in deliberate escalation and frightening their opponents with determination. This seems to have been a major surprise to the current regime in Russia.

A new phase in modern Russian history undoubtedly began in 2014, but there is no proof it will last for centuries and be a time of endless rapture over the annexation of Crimea. For the time being, everything points to the fact it will end much more quickly than many of us would imagine and in such a way that we shall not want to remember 2014 at all.

Fyodor Krasheninnikov is a political scientist who lives in Yekaterinburg. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader

The FSB’s Tall Tales

FSB Head Talks of Terrorist Attacks Prevented on Election Day
Russian Security Services Have Prevented Six Terrorist Attacks So Far This Year, Including at Polling Stations on Election Day and a Mall in Saratov
Yeveniya Malyarenko
RBC
April 10, 2018

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FSB Director Alexander Bortnikov. Photo by Sergei Guneyev. Courtesy of RIA Novosti and RBC

During the first quarter of 2018, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) prevented six terrorist attacks. FSB director Alexander Bortnikov made this claim during a meeting of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAC), reports TASS.

According to Bortnikov, all the attacks were stopped in the planning stage. However, Bortnikov intimated that insurgents had hoped to carry out some of the attacks at polling stations in Ingushetia and Bashkortostan during the March 18 Russian presidential election. Thus, in February, as part of a counter-terrorist operation in Ingushetia’s Nazran District “that encountered armed resistance,” Bortnikov said, “two bandits who were supporters of Islamic State” (an organization banned in Russia) were killed while planning an attack.

In March, FSB officers detained two members of a “radical right-wing group” in Bashkortostan. As Bortnikov stressed, both individuals were planning to carry out terrorist attacks at polling stations in Ufa. Subsequently, two “high-powered” homemade  explosive devices were seized in the homes of the detained individuals.

In addtion, as Bortnikov reported, FSB officers eliminated several members of another IS cell while trying to detain them.

“They were planning to carry out a terrorist attack at a shopping mall in Saratov,” Bortnikov explained, stressing the security services had discovered weapons and a homemade explosive device containing the equivalent of nearly three kilos of TNT in the possession of the alleged terrorists.

Translated by the Russian Reader

NB. When reading this account of the FSB’s alleged successes in preventing terrorist attacks, it is hard not wonder whether its stats for the first quarter of 2018 included the yeoman’s work the agency has done in unmasking the would-be terrorists of the so-called Network and the New Greatness movement, two organizations that were, allegedly, planning nothing less than armed insurrection nationwide.

The only problem is all the real evidence points to the FSB’s having fabricated these terrorist organizations from whole cloth, in the first case, torturing eight utterly harmless antifascists in Penza and Petersburg into confessing their nonexistent guilt and, in the second case, embedding undercover agents in a tiny, loosely aquainted group of people, who were just as harmless, and actively encouraging them to establish an equally fictitious “militant group.”

When you know the gory details of these stories, you find it is plausible that Director Bortnikov’s tales of the FSB’s derring-do in Ingushetia and Bashkortostan are convenient fictions, too.

Judge for yourself. Or, if you don’t believe me or the two dozen translated articles listed below, read about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case in NewsweekTRR

Russia’s Trash Flashpoint

Landfills Become a Problem for the Kremlin
Environmental Protests Move from Local to Federal Level
Yelena Mukhametshina and Yekaterina Bryzgalova
Vedomosti
April 1, 2018

guseva“Volokolamsk right now. Protest rally against the Yadrovo Landfill.” Screenshot of Olya Guseva’s Twitter page. Courtesy of Meduza

According to various estimates, 6,500 to 7,000 people attended this past Sunday’s protest rally in Volokololamsk against the Yadrovo Landfill. This was more than the number of people who attended the rallies on March 3 (approx. 5,000) and March 29 (6,000). (Volokolamsk’s official population is less than 21,000.)

Among the demands made at Sunday’s rally were the closure of the Yadrovo Landfill, the declaration of an emergency, the resignations of Moscow Region Governor Andrei Vorobyov and Andrei Vikharev, acting head of Volokolamsk District, and the release of activist Artyom Lyubimov, who was detained by police a day before the rally.

Protesters at the rally held up placards addressed to President Putin, including ones  bearing the message, “Putin, Help!”

On March 21, a strong release of landfill gas took place in Volokolamsk, causing schoolchildren to say they felt sick. Fifty-seven children were hospitalized in the Volokolamsk Central Hospital. Subsequently, Governor Vorobyov fired the head of Volokolamsk District.

Volokolamsk has not been the only town in Moscow Region protesting landfills. During the past year, people have taken to the streets in such towns as Balashikha (after the local Kupchino Landfill was closed there on direct orders from the president, the garbage that used to be transported to the landfill was redirected to Yadrovo), Kolomna, Klin, Sergiev Posad, Tuchkov, and Serpukhov.

A former federal official explained why garbage has recently become a hot-button issue.

“New laws were passed obliging the regions to adopt local waste handling schemes and select regional contractors. A market is emerging. There are different disposal strategies: incineration versus separate collection of recyclables. Different strategies require building different processing facilities, and the stakeholders backing the different strategies are also different, from the federal to the municipal level,” he said.

The stakeholders are in conflict with each other and with the regions. This is especially true of Moscow and Russia’s other major cities, he claimed.

Last week, it transpired that Tver Region Governor Igor Rudenya had warned all heads of municipalities in his region that if the regional authorities found garbage from other regions in local landfills, the municipal heads responsible for this would have problems with law enforcement and Governor Rudenya’s administration.

“You will not import garbage from other Russian regions for any amount of money at all,” said Governor Rudenya, as quoted by Tverigrad.ru.

The president’s retinue is to blame for the flare-up in Volokolamsk. When they were getting ready for his annual Direct Line program, they insisted on underscoring the subject of landfills by way of speeding up the construction of processing facilities. It was then the president ordered the closure of the landfill in Balashikha, argues a source close to the Kremlin.

“The landfill was closed. The garbage from there was shipped to nearby landfills, and the flow of garbage to these landfills increased manifold. First it was necessary to put the infrastructure in place, and then close the landfills,” he said.

Environmental protests by people concerned with specific issues are a considerable risk to the system’s stability, and the regime is very concerned about them, saif another source close to the Kremlin.

“The president pays great attention to the environment. Last year, he personally telephoned activists in Chelyabinsk to show he supported them. This is quite important, especially in circumstances when environmental measures are given short shrift to save money.”

Last year was officially the Year of the Environment in Russia. During the presidential campaign, Putin held meetings in Krasnoyarsk on improving the ecological situation and  reducing the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere.

Political scientist Andrei Kolyadin argues the issue of landfills cannot be solved quickly. Several years would be needed to do that.

“This abscess has long been ripening, and now it threatens people’s lives. As the risks to people’s live increase, the risks to the regime increase as well.”

A final decision on the future of Governor Vorobyov, who faces elections in the autumn, has not yet been made, said Kolyadin.

“If the protests balloon, he could be made their scapegoat. He has been doing his best to wiggle his way out of the subject politically, but he has not been able to do this economically. If the elections are handled by the authorities, he will not have complications, but if they are run more or less honestly, the districts in which anti-landfill protests have been taking place will not turn out to vote for him.”

Political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov argues such protests ordinarily wane quickly. In this case, however, the boiling point has not yet been reached. Various grievances, such as Governor Vorobyov’s less-than-happy appointment of a new head of Volokolamsk District, have been building up.

“I get the feeling there will be a new wave [of protests] that will help solve the problems that have accumulated. People feel they are in the right, and it gives them a strong impetus to protest,” he said.

Given current conditions, in which protests have been de facto banned, any socio-economic protest takes on political overtones, Vinogradov concludes.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Putin’s Alleged Popularity

FE9FD947-5946-4532-AB21-04C649F35EC1_w1023_r1_s.jpgIf you’re a sucker for rigged elections and skewed opinion polls, like most western journalists, you would have to admit that Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov is Russia’s most popular politician, not Vladimir Putin. Photo courtesy of RFE/RL

Putin’s Unique Popularity (Spoiler: It Doesn’t Exist)
Alexei Navalny
April 5, 2018

This special video is for you, dear whingers. I find it impossible to read, three weeks running, articles discussing the unique way Putin picked up 76% of the total vote at the March 18 presidential election and see the mobs of people agonizing in the commentaries to these articles.

“Lord, how terrible! 76%. What horrible people Russians are! 76% voted for their own poverty and slavery. The only way out is emigration. It’s time to make a run for it,” etc.

Here is what I have to say about Putin’s alleged “largest percentage of votes ever” and his status as the “most popular politician.”

We simply have to get one thing through our heads. At this stage in our authoritarian country’s evolution, any moron who stands for election on behalf of the regime gets 80% of the vote. Literally. But this percentage means nothing at all.

Are you horrified by Putin’s huge vote total? Then why aren’t you groaning and moaning about the vote totals the regional governors have won in elections? Did you know you would have to try very hard to find a governor who got a smaller percentage of the vote the last time he was elected than Putin did this time round?

You don’t believe me? Here is a chart showing the percentage of votes the country’s regional leaders got the last time each of them stood for election. See whether you can find our so-called national leader, allegedly, the country’s champion when it comes to popular support.

Ranking Name Region Total Votes (%)
1 Ramzan Kadyrov Chechnya 97.9
2 Aman Tuleyev Kemerovo 96.7
3 Rustam Minnikhanov Tatarstan 94.4
4 Nikolai Merkushkin Samara 91.4
5 Vladimir Volkov Mordovia 89.2
6 Vadim Potomsky Oryol 89.2
7 Alexei Gordeyev Voronezh 88.8
8 Andrei Bocharov Volgograd 88.5
9 Alexander Yevstifeyev Mari El 88.3
10 Alexander Tsydenkov Buryatia 87.4
11 Valery Shantsev Nizhny Novgorod 86.9
12 Vladimur Yakushev Tyumen 86.6
13 Boris Dubrovsky Chelyabinsk 86.4
14 Ivan Belozertsev Penza 86
15 Sholban Kara-ool Tyva (Tuva) 85.7
16 Alexander Nikitin Tambov 85.5
17 Alexander Kokorin Kurgan 84.9
18 Vladimir Vladimirov Stavropol 84.2
19 Alexei Dyumin Tula 84.2
20 Veniamin Kondratiev Krasnodar 83.6
21 Alexei Orlov Kalmykia 82.9
22 Alexander Drozdenko Leningrad Region 82.1
23 Maxim Reshetnikov Perm 82.1
24 Oleg Korolyov Lipetsk 81.8
25 Rustem Khamitov Bashkortostan 81.7
26 Anton Alikhanov Kaliningrad 81.1
27 Pavel Konkov Ivanovo 80.3
28 Yuri Berg Orenburg 80.3
29 Nikolai Lyubimov Ryazan 80.2
30 Roman Kopin Chukotka 79.8
31 Georgy Poltavchenko St. Petersburg 79.3
32 Dmitry Mironov Yaroslavl 79.3
33 Andrei Vorobyov Moscow Region 78.9
34 Andrei Turchak Pskov 78.4
35 Alexander Brechalov Udmurtia 78.2
36 Vasily Golubev Rostov 78.2
37 Alexander Bogomaz Bryansk 78
38 Vladimir Miklushevsky Maritime Territory 77.4
39 Vladimir Putin Russian Federation 76.7
40 Igor Koshin Nenetsk 76.7
41 Vladimir Ilyukhin Kamchatka 75.5
42 Alexander Levintal Jewish Autonomous Region 75.4
43 Alexander Zhilkin Astrakhan 75.3
44 Valery Radayev Saratov 74.6
45 Svetlana Orlova Vladimir 74.3
46 Vladimir Pechony Magadan 73.1
47 Alexander Karlin Altai 72.9
48 Igor Rudenya Tver 72.1
49 Anatoly Artamonov Kaluga 71.3
50 Dmitry Ovsyannikov Sevastopol 71.1

If I asked you what the 89% vote tally for Vadim Potomsky, ex-governor of Oryol Region (who claimed Ivan the Terrible had visited St. Petersburg), meant, you would replay without hesitating, “Nothing. It doesn’t mean a thing.”

“He had no support,” you would say, laughing.

Then why does the alleged support for Putin scare you? Do you think that, in his case, the powers that be have employed other methods for generating support?

Of course, they haven’t. They have used the very same methods. Real rivals are not allowed to stand for elections. The public is smothered with lies and propaganda. Officials rig the vote, stuff the ballot boxes, and falsify the final tallies.

These are the three factors for turning political bosses in Russia into wildly popular politicians. Remove any of them from office and they will end up in the same place where all the former champions of the ballot boxes have now ended up, whether we are talking about Shantsev, Merkushkin or Tuleyev. As soon as they are removed from office, a wave of the magic wand turns their popularity into a pumpkin.

Tuleyev had almost unanimous “support” the last time he was elected: nearly 97% of all votes cast. How many of those people took to the streets to support him when he resigned? No one did.

The new governor of Kemerovo Region, Sergei Tsivilyov, is the new proprietor of that 97%.

Under this system, if Putin were placed tomorrow with his most unpopular underling—say, Dmitry Medevedev or Dmitry Rogozin—his replacement would get the same “record-breaking” 76% of the vote if an election were called.

So, there is no reason to worry and snivel.

Dig in your heels. Get involved in political debates. Expose official lies. Tell and disseminate the truth. Fight for your country and your future.

Translated by the Russian Reader

 

Vladislav Inozemtsev: Russia Has Stopped Making Sense

DSCN5158The west would do as well to try and engage these inebriated young Russians in meaningful dialogue as their erratic, spiteful government.

Vladislav Inozemtsev
Sanctions Forever
Snob
March 30, 2018

The recent simultaneous expulsion of 139 Russian diplomats from 24 countries is an extraordinary event, especially if you consider it was undertaken not in response to provocations against these countries themselves, but as a token of solidarity with Great Britain, which has accused Russia of attempting to murder the former intelligence agent Sergei Skripal on English soil with a chemical weapon.

The current fad is to describe what is happening as a new cold war. I noted long ago that Russia’s changed attitude to the world fit this definition well. However, events might have gone even farther or, to be more precise, in a different direction.

The west was extremely concerned about what happened in Ukraine in 2014–2015. Along with Putin’s speeches in Munich and Bucharest in 2007 and 2008, the five-day war in Georgia, Moscow’s attempts to strengthen its authority in the former Soviet Union and cultivate friendships with certain Central European leaders, Russia’s aggressive actions jibed well with previous views. The responses proposed seemed clear as well: containment, aid to allies, competition and rivalry on the global periphery. Putin was routinely described as someone who understood only zero-sum games. One side’s loss was always a win for the other side.

However, since the mid 2010s, the circumstances have changed dramatically, although it was hard to notice it immediately. Russia’s meddling in the US presidential election (no matter whether it impacted the outcome or not), its flirtation with European ultra-righwingers, its open support of war criminals like Assad, and the state terror unleashed against opponents of the regime and people whom Putin and his retinue have deemed “traitors” are all indications not only of the fact that the Kremlin has ceased to play by any rules whatsoever. More important, Moscow has seemingly ceased to take its own good into account when it makes certain moves.

What did the Kremlin gain by sullying the 2016 US presidential election? If we speak of Russia per se, nothing was gained whatsoever. Whoever had won the election without our meddling, the relations between our countries would certainly not be worse than they are now. The only consequences have been a supercharging of American politics and aggravation of internecine battles within the Washington establishment. What has Moscow gained by financing and supporting anti-European forces? Apparently, a similar destabilization. It is telltale that if this destabilization does become a reality, Russia will gain nothing from it. The EU will not crumble, but it will become less functional, and pro-European forces will only find it is easier to prove their argument that the countries of Europe must rally less for some particular purpose and more against a particular enemy. Even if pro-Putin forces achieve local victories here and there, it will not alter the overall picture. The greater part of Europe will become increasingly anti-Russian. What has Putin gained by murdering, apparently, over a dozen of his personal enemies in the UK, people who had long ago been stripped of any opportunity to harm Russia? He has turned our country into an international outcast, which no one wants.

The west’s reaction, as exemplified by the expulsion of Russian diplomats, points to a new reality, consisting primarily in the fact that Russia has finally stopped making sense to the world, nor should it surprise anyone. It really is unclear what Putin wants right now. Does he want to become dictator of his own country, wiping out even the semblance of democracy? The west would not prevent him from doing this in any way. Does he want to resurrect the Soviet Union? Go crazy, only it is far from a fact the khans and beys of Central Asia want the same thing, given that Moscow has so far not been terribly successful at achieving genuine integration with these countries. (Ukraine is a special case, but even here it would make more sense to negotiate with the Ukrainian people, not with Brussels and Washington.) Does he want to launder the money stolen in Russia in Europe and various offshore companies? I have not heard anything in the news about Russian funds and property being seized by foreign authorities. Since Russia has stopped making sense, the west has sent signals and hints Putin should settle down. They do not necessarily want him to become less anti-western, only more rational. They want him come down to earth and engage in lawlessness, if possible, only at home.

The Kremlin has feigned it cannot make sense of these signals. It prefers to act in keeping with the tactic of symmetrical response. However, what was normal during the real Cold War strikes observers as abnormal nowadays. In the 1970s, members of the Central Committee did not own villas in the south of France and did not stash their money in banks registered in Luxembourg and Delaware. Soviet enterprises were not owned by companies up to their necks in debt in the west. By hook or by crook, Soviet home industry supplied the populace with nearly all the bare necessities, and what it could not supply was obtained from the Soviet Union’s Eastern European satellities. Everything has changed since then. Russia is much more vulnerable to European economic sanctions than US nuclear missiles.

Symmetrical responses were productive when the parties were motivated by clearly defined interests. When one side is motivated by garden-variety resentment, such responses are counterproductive. Moscow assumes its bluff has been called, although the west’s signal contains a different message: there is nothing to discuss with the Kremlin. Moreover, the process no longer seems like fun to anyone. Given the circumstances, what is the point of having embassies in hostile countries that outnumber the diplomatic missions of their most trusted friends?

As for the parallels that suggest themselves when we contemplate the Kremlin’s latest steps, they do not resemble the actions of Khrushchev and Brezhnev. They are more reminiscent of the Stalin era’s experiments. The Soviet secret services eliminated the revolution’s enemies abroad, while the Kremlin categorically demanded the German communists not form a coalition with the Social Democrats in the face of the Nazi threat.  The Kremlin imagined maximum destablization of the democratic countries would cause them to collapse and help establish the universal reign of the proletariat. History, however, proved this policy was erroneous. No one suffered more from the collapse of the Weimar Republic than the Soviet Union. If European integration fails, Russia is not likely to benefit, either. Were we not thrilled about the Brexit vote not so long ago? Did we not believe a more independent Great Britain would deal a blow to the Eurocrats? The only problem is that for now it is rather more obvious the UK’s increased independence has strengthened its resolve to deal with Moscow, while Europe (and not only Europe) has been inclined to support the supposed renegade.

Summing up, I can only repeat my longstanding assumption that the sanctions against Russia are virtually permanent. Instead of contemplating events in a rational manner, weighing the pros and cons, and taking decisions aimed at reducing tension, Russia has continued to engage in provocations, lies, and dodges. (In Soviet times, the Party’s leaders had the good sense to maintain dialogue with the west on economic and other issues even at the height of the arms race.) The west finds it difficult to respond with force, nor does anyone want to respond with force, so the tokens of growing contempt will keep manifesting themselves over and over again. Russia should be ready for this. Or it should begin to change, although, apparently, it is pointless to expect this.

Thanks to Alexander Morozov for the heads-up. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader