Ivan Davydov: A Poor Excuse for a Belarus

800px-Europe-Belarus.svgHow many Belaruses would fit into Mother Russia? Eighty-three! And yet, as Ivan Davydov argues, the current Russian regime is a “failed police state,” unlike the Belarusian regime. Neither fish nor fowl (although most certainly foul), Putin and his vassals have tanked their country’s economy while also signally failing to save people’s lives, nor have they been able to conjure away the coronavirus pandemic (rhetorically, if not in reality) as successfully as their frenemy the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

A Poor Excuse for a Belarus: The Collapse of Vladimir Putin’s Police State
Ivan Davydov
Republic
May 14, 2020

My apartment looks onto the Yauza River and the park on the shore. In peacetime, there are crowds of people strolling there when the weather is good. And lots of shishkebabers, who are famously to blame for all our troubles.

For more than a month now, I have been locked up like all law–abiding Russians, making only occasional trips out of the house on urgent business. I watch the world mostly from my balcony, and my world has narrowed to the size of this selfsame park.

Going to parks has been prohibited in Moscow by a special decree of the city’s all-powerful mayor. In parks, the coronavirus is particularly brutal, tracking down rare passersby, lonely morning jogging enthusiasts, and mothers with children, attacking and devouring them. On construction sites, on the contrary, the virus is weak and cowardly: it is afraid of construction workers, whom it does not touch.

Parks are a different matter.

The irresponsible residents of my neighborhood would still go to the park. Not in droves, as was the case before, no. They would go in small groups, as families, apparently. Joggers occasionally popped up, and bicyclists flashed by. Children made their way to the playgrounds (which were also closed, of course). In other words, they violated the mayor’s wise orders.

To put a stop to this unbridled lawlessness, police patrols would come to the park. The guardians of law and order would park their car on a hillock and stand around smoking and watching people walking. Once, when it was particularly cold, wet snow was pouring down, and only a lone madman was sitting on a bench, they went up to the madman and forced him to sign some papers.

And once they went down to the park and fed the ducks, pointedly ignoring the people walking around, before returning to their car. Oh yes, and a couple of times they shouted into a megaphone about the fact that going to parks was temporarily prohibited, and that citizens should look out for themselves and their loved ones.

I will explain later what this pastoral sketch was all about, but in the meantime let us look through the window at our neighbor to the west. It is a fascinating story.

A Wonderful Neighbor
While the rest of the world has been in quarantine, Alexander Lukashenko has gained fame as a maestro of fiery speeches and colorful aphorisms. He has suggested treating the coronavirus with vodka, a bath, and field work. He has advised Belarusians who have lost their jobs to find a job and get to work. (It’s brilliant, really, and simple, like all brilliant solutions.) He advised overly light-minded men to be patient and not to mix with other men’s women for a while. Lukashenko is a president with real gusto, not a president who talks about ancient battles with the Polovtsy from his bunker.

To the frenzied delight of Russian jingoists, Lukashenko held a parade on May 9 [Victory Day], attracting crowds of people, including the elderly. And the very elderly—veterans, in fact. But that was only half the trouble. He also said that after the parade, the statistics on the incidence of pneumonia had gone down. He confessed (he’s an honest man) that he had feared an increase in the incidence of pneumonia, but it didn’t happen. “Well, what did we end up with? There has been a significant reduction in pneumonia in Minsk: it dropped by half yesterday. And I made the sign of the cross yesterday: God grant that we will continue giving hell to pneumonia like this.” Fresh air, he said, helps a lot.

And if Lukashenko had wanted, he could have said that people who died from the coronavirus had begun resurrecting after the parade. (As of May 12, according to the official statistics, 142 people in Belarus had died from the coronavirus.) Why? Because he can, that’s why. He can stamp out any protest. He can ignore the reports from the doctors.

It’s not even the Swedish model. The Swedish model, whose success is a matter of debate (a debate we will have later) stipulates that big public events not be held, and citizens behave responsibly. The Belarusian model assumes that there are no citizens. There is a populace that absolutely obeys the decisions of the supreme leader. Happily for us, the new virus is not the medieval black death: clearly, the country will not die off if you purposely avoid imposing a quarantine in order to save the economy. The Belarusian president made his choice by deliberately deciding to sacrifice a certain (non-essential) number of inhabitants, who cannot be saved by vodka or field work.

And after Vladimir Putin announced a “phased exit” from the semi-imposed non-quarantine, Lukashenko condescendingly praised his junior comrade, saying that Russia had followed the Belarusian path.

The Russian Miracle
But in fact, Russia has its own special path. The “non-working weeks” battered the economy considerably, but it is questionable whether they were able to protect residents. When the quarantine was imposed, there were very few cases. When the government started lifting the quarantine, Russia shot up to second place worldwide in the number of infected people.

Discussing the reliability of Russian statistics is a risky business: nowadays, the prosecutor’s office does not see much difference between well-founded criticism and “spreading fake news” about the coronavirus. But we will not make any arguments, we will just note what respected officials and politicians have been saying.

On May 12, Anna Popova, the head of [Russian federal consumer watchdog] Rospotrebnadzor, said that 28.4% of people identified in Russia as infected with the coronavirus were hospitalized. At the time, the total number of people identified as infected was around 230,000; a simple mathematical calculation gives us approximately 65,000 people in hospitals. (In fact, the real figure is another ten thousand less, since we are not taking into account the people who have recovered). But the next day, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said at a cabinet meeting that there were more than 100,000 Russians hospitalized with the coronavirus. You would agree that all this makes it seem that our government is surprisingly footless and fancy-free with statistics, even with their own official statistics, with statistics intended for the public.

On May 13, the Moscow Health Department reported that 60% of those who died with a diagnosed coronavirus had not been included in the coronavirus fatality statistics for capital, because they had died from “obvious alternative causes.” The governor of Petersburg also reported that there had been a spike in the incidence of pneumonia in the city: the indicators were “five and a half times higher than the average.” Since the first of March, 694 residents of Petersburg have died from pneumonia, and 63 from the coronavirus.

Perhaps this is the reason for the Russian miracle of rather low mortality rates from the coronavirus infection. Especially if you remember that Russia is not only made up of capital districts and metropolitan areas, that in the regions, as a rule, all or almost all media outlets are controlled by the local administrations, and it is even easier for them to turn statistics from an enemy into an ally.

And why did the head honcho announce the end of the “non-working weeks”? Well, it’s not so hard to turn a terrible virus into a non-scary one. It’s like with elections: what matters is not what really happened, but who counts the votes and how they count them.

Amulets for MPs
But what’s really going on? In fact, our high officials are afraid, and they are trying to protect themselves by turning the nightmare into a joke and not standing on ceremony with the public. Saving your own life is more important than standing on ceremony.

On May 13, Igor Molyakov, an MP from A Just Russia, asked State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin why some of their colleagues were coming to sessions of parliament not wearing their MP pins, as required by law, but wearing quite different pins featuring a white cross on a black background. Molyakov added that he was a dog breeder himself and would like to know whether it would be possible for him to wear the pin of his kennel club instead of the Russian tricolor on his lapel.

Volodin’s answer, I hope, will go down in the annals: “Let’s ask the people who are wearing these pins, but as far as my colleagues have told me, they are special devices for repelling the virus.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if, one day soon, MPs ran naked around the State Duma building on Okhotny Ryad banging on pots: this method of fighting pestilence has been described by anthropologists. And we can only pray that no one tells them that fresh human flesh, for example, staves off the virus. They would believe them.

Dmitry Peskov, the president’s press Secretary, has fallen ill. And now he remembers regretfully the “virus blocker” that he wore and then stopped wearing after he was mocked in the press.

Here it is important to understand that the people wearing the miracle badges and warding off the virus with life-giving white crosses are the same people who explain why “phasing out restrictions” at the peak of the epidemic is justified, and make decisions that affect our lives.

Of course, they themselves get sick and get infected, but let’s not forget that we will be treated in slightly different hospitals, if push comes to shove.

It’s hard to stop. For dessert we have another intellectual delicacy, this time from Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov. He has explained why masks cannot be distributed for free in the city during the mandatory mask regime: “Yesterday, we adopted a resolution not to give out free masks, but to hand out money. There are a lot of people in our city, both visitors and non-visitors, and people from other regions. How should we should distribute these masks? We should make you show your passport and ask where you are registered.”

The virus, you understand, asks to see people’s residence permits and attacks only native Petersburgers. It presents no danger to out-of-towners and migrant workers, nor can they themselves infect anyone. Governor Beglov is in charge of Russia’s second largest city, the home to millions of people and a “pneumonia outbreak” that, of course, has nothing to do with the coronavirus.

By the way, Beglov’s “money” amounts to 800 rubles [approx. 10 euros] for pensioners and members of large families to buy masks.

A Failed Police State
But let’s go back to my park. I started with it to illustrate the fact that the police state in Russia has failed. There has been a lot of overkill, and people all over Russia have been pretty annoyed, but the police have been unable to ensure compliance with the imposed restrictions. They are good at breaking up peaceful protest rallies, but bad at everything else.

The government had a choice. It could have engaged the citizenry in dialogue, rejected intimidation in favor of education, sought compromises where possible, and, of course, provided direct financial assistance to those forced to stay at home. It could have made Russia’s citizens its allies instead of making them the targets of an incoherent police dragnet. To do this, however, it would have had to see the populace as citizens, but we have a big problem with this sort of thing in Russia.

The government could have done it, but it was impossible—forbidden—for the government to do it.

It would have been possible to issue endless prohibitions of varying degrees of savagery and to force the population to comply with them using an old and proven argument—the police billy club. But that didn’t work out either. It turns out that there is no police state in these parts. There is a useless system of governance that starts to crumble at the first serious test. Ensconced in his bunker, the head honcho denounces the immorality of the Spartans, while his subordinates are decked out in life-saving amulets, expecting that by summer everything will have somehow worked itself out.

The reason they terminated the “non-working weeks” is that they simply could not enforce the lockdown measures. And they decided to rescue the economy since they had been unable to save people. But there was a tiny twist: they did this only after after the economy had been dealt a serious blow.

The Russian state makes war on Russian citizens as if they were the main threat when, in fact, there are no real threats to it, but it simply vanishes when there is a real threat. This is exactly what Putin has built over the last twenty years. This is the whole “Russian federal system”—terrifying, unsinkable, tending to totalitarianism. It’s a poor excuse for a Belarus. It’s a slightly rotten Belarus.

Take care of yourselves and help each other. No one else is going to help us.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Russia’s Most Dangerous Shaman

shamanAlexander Gabyshev. Photo by Andrei Zatirko. Courtesy of RFE/RL

Riot Police Storm House of Alexander Gabyshev, Yakut Shaman Who Promised to Exorcise Putin
Radio Svoboda
May 12, 2020

Riot police have detained Alexander Gabyshev, the Yakut shaman who last year promised to exorcise Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin, and taken him to a mental hospital, according to MBKh Media, citing Alexei Pryanishnikov, the coordinator of Pravozashchita Otkrytki [Open Russia’s human rights program].

According to the human rights activist, at least twenty special forces officers had stormed the shaman’s house in Yakutsk. The reason for his arrest is unknown. Earlier in the day, Gabyshev had been visited several times by people who presented themselves as medical professionals, and asked to test him for the coronavirus. Two of Gabyshev’s supporters were detained along with him for violating self-isolation rules.

Gabyshev gained notoriety in the spring of 2019, when he set off on foot to Moscow to perform an exorcism ritual to force Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Kremlin.

___________________________________

 

A Shaman for Putin: What Siberians Are Telling Gabyshev on His Way to Moscow, Radio Svoboda, September 12, 2019. Yakut shaman Alexander Gabyshev believes that Vladimir Putin is the “spawn of dark forces,” so he set off on foot to Moscow to “exorcise” him. The shaman began the journey alone, but soon followers began to join him. In Chita, he spoke to a large rally. Buryatia was the next region on Gabyshev’s journey: mass protests started in Ulan-Ude after his supporters were arrested. Gabyshev planned to take two years to get to Moscow so he could unhurriedly converse with the people along the way. The shaman and his followers moved along the roads, covering an average of twenty kilometers a day, stopping for the night in tents, sometimes at roadside motels. Local residents and passing people went to talk to Gabyshev, taking pictures, and helping with food and money.

___________________________________

On September 19 of last year, Gabyshev was detained at the border between Buryatia and Irkutsk Region during an operation involving special forces. He was identified as a suspect in a criminal investigation into alleged instances of “incitement to extremism” and released on his own recognizance. A psychological and psychiatric examination ordered by police investigators found that Gabyshev was mentally incompetent.

Gabyshev subsequently tried to resume his campaign, promising to make another march on Moscow in June.

The criminal case against Gabyshev was suspended for the duration of the epidemic. International human rights organization Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience.

“‘What sounds like a tale from Russian folklore has become, in today’s Russia, just another act of brutal suppression of human rights,” the organization noted.

Translated by the Russian Reader

BBC Russian Service, From Yakutia to Moscow: A Shaman’s Journey Against Putin, September 24, 2019

A New Low

our swimmers

In Oryol, Rescue Divers Rise from the Depths Holding Portraits of WW2 Heroes
Ivan Suverin
GTRK Oryol
May 6, 2020

Rescuers in Oryol hit upon an original way of paying tribute to war heroes and taking part in the Immortal Regiment procession while rising from the depths.

To make a spectacular entrance from beneath the waters of the Oka River holding photographs of WW2 heroes, the divers from the search and maneuver group had to laminate the photos. However, there were no bystanders at this magnificent spectacle. On shore, only a few volunteer rescuers formed an honor guard to greet the watermen [sic]. The event was specially timed to occur between Diver Day [May 5] and Victory Day [May 9].

This time, professional and volunteer rescuers paid special tribute to those who fought and died for the Motherland far from dry land. This group includes not only sailors and military divers, but also marines, as well as infantrymen who were involved in river crossings under heavy enemy fire. One such hero was pictured on one of the photos.

“One of my ancestors, Dmitry Nikitovich Adoniev, was born on May 9, 1921. The day of the great victory was the same day as his birthday, meaning you could not have thought up a better gift. He is [sic] a Hero of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Hero’s star for crossing the Dnieper,” explained Andrei Nekrasov, head of the Oryol branch of the Russia Student Rescue Corps.

Flowers were laid on the water in honor of those who fell in battle before reaching the shore. The volunteers finished their tribute at the Monument to the Liberators of Oryol. The Emergencies Ministry reported that, despite the restrictions associated with the pandemic, rescuers have several more ways to pay tribute to the memory of heroes and veterans.

Thanks to Andrey Churakov for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

A Death Sentence for Yuri Dmitriev?

dmitriev
Yuri Dmitriev. Archive photo courtesy of 7X7

Karelian Supreme Court Refuses to Release Historian Yuri Dmitriev from Remand Prison Where Coronavirus Has Been Discovered
Denis Strelkov and Sergei Markelov
7X7
May 7, 2020

The Supreme Court of Karelia has turned down an appeal by the defense to not extend local historian and head of the Karelian branch of Memorial Yuri Dmitriev’s arrest in police custody, 7X7 has been informed by Dmitriev’s lawyer Viktor Anunfriev.

The defense had asked the court to change the pretrial restraints imposed on the 64-year-old Dmitriev because the local historian was at risk for the coronavirus infection since a couple of months ago he had suffered a severe cold. On April 30, Artur Parfenchikov, head of the Republic of Karelia, wrote on his social media page that two prisoners in Petrozavodsk Remand Prison No. 1 had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

More than 150 people, including famous actors and musicians, scientists and teachers, had signed an open letter expressing concern for the health and well-being of Dmitriev, who in the late 1990s uncovered at Sandarmokh and Krasny Bor the mass graves of Soviet citizens executed during the Great Terror of the 1930s.

In April 2018, the Petrozavodsk City Court acquitted Dmitriev on charges of producing child pornography. The charges were made after nude photos of his foster daughter were found during a police search of his house. Dmitriev claimed that he had taken the snapshots at the request of social and health services to keep track of the girl’s health. Expert witnesses at the trial testified that they did not consider the pictures pornographic. Two months later, the acquittal was overturned by the Karelian Supreme Court, and Dmitriev was charged, in addition to making the pictures, with sexual assault.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Penalty Kick in the Teeth

Krylya Sovetov Goalkeeper to Be Punished for Unauthorized Interview in Which He Criticized Regime
OVD Info
April 27, 2020

According to MBKh Media and the club’s website, the Samara football club Krylya Sovetov will take disciplinary action against goalkeeper Yevgeny Frolov for giving an interview not authorized by the club.

In an interview with football columnist Sergei Yegorov on the YouTube channel Futbolnyi Bigi, Frolov called the Russian president’s televised addresses “empty talk.”

In particular, the footballer said, “Like it or not, we won’t be getting anything—the regime will just blow us off.”

Prompted by media coverage, the club’s management issued a statement that it and the coaching staff do not share Frolov’s opinion.

“Recently, the federal and regional authorities have done a great deal to grow football in Samara Region and Russia,” it says in the statement.

According to team management, the new Samara Arena stadium “would not have been possible without the support of the senior leadership not only of the region but also the country.”

“By giving an interview without prior agreement with the club, [Frolov] violated the terms of his contract, harming the team’s interests. The player will be punished according to the club’s regulations on disciplinary actions, ” the statement reads.

______________________

141760-27Krylya Sovetov goalkeeper Yevgeny Frolov. Photo courtesy of Sport

On April 26, Yevgeny Frolov gave an interview to the YouTube channel Futbolnyi Bigi. In particular, he said that Russian authorities have not been helping ordinary citizens during the coronavirus pandemic and [and the ensuing economic] crisis.

“Like it or not, we won’t be getting anything—the regime will just blow us off. It will blow us off and say, ‘There’s no money, but hang in there.’ They have money for themselves, but they have nothing for people. Take America and Europe: in many countries, [the authorities] have been helping their citizens, helping business. There is none of that here in Russia. What the president says on TV is all empty talk. There is no real action at all,” said Frolov.

Source: MBKh Media

Translated by the Russian Reader

The All-Russia Airsoft Conspiracy

airsoftAirsoft enthusiasts at Playland in Petaluma, California

Sakhalin Airsofters Suspected of Terrorism
Kirill Yasko
Sakhalin.Info
April 6, 2020

Sakhalin.Info has learned that today the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk City Court has remanded in custody three residents of the city. They are accused of organizing and participating in a “terrorist community,” punishable under Article 205.4 of the Criminal Code. According to reports, on April 4, their homes were searched, and at least one person was found with an object that might be an explosive device. It is currently undergoing a forensic examination. All three people were detained the same day.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) is investigating the case.

As relatives of one of the detainees told Sakhalin.Info, all three detainees were airsoft players and quite fond of the game, as well as sports, and were even involved in searches for missing people. The relatives were certain they had no criminal background and no intention of attempting to overthrow the government. The relatives insisted there could be no question of their wanting to threaten society and the state: even suspicious objects could have been planted by the authorities during the searches of their homes.

“I get the sense that things are being done in the same as in such high-profile cases as the Network Case and the New Greatness Case. People were not involved in anything of the sort, and they have no equipment except airsoft equipment, but they are being asked questions like, ‘Did you plan to storm government buildings and police stations?’ by [FSB] interrogators,” said a colleague reporting on the case.

Lawyer Yevgeny Balabas confirmed to us that a criminal case had been launched and three people remanded in custody. He declined at this stage to comment on the merits of the charges, citing the need to study the cases files and obtain the results of the forensic examination.

The Sakhalin Airsoft Federation is an officially registered non-profit organization. The organization has been accredited by the Ministry of Sports and in accordance with Federal Law 329 (“On Physical Education and Sports in the Russian Federation”). It has been developing the rules of the sport and conducting official sporting events, which are included in the Sakhalin Regional Sports Ministry’s calendar.

After the above-mentioned news was published, the federation carried out an internal review. It determined that none of its members, including athletes and airsoft players, had ever been charged with any crimes. Moreover, the arrested persons were not listed among the federation’s members or among those who had attended the federation’s events.

In addition to the Airsoft Federation, there are other associations involved in the sport in the Sakhalin Region.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Community Spread

перелеты“Flights by Influential Russians in February-March 2020.” The light blue plane (M-YOIL) belongs to Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin; the orange plane (LX-MOW), to VEB.RF CEO Igor Shuvalov; the green plane (VQ-VBQ), to Ramzan Kadyrov; the purple plane (P4-LIG), to Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov; and the yellow plane (M-SKSM), to Svetlana Medvedeva, wife of former Russian president and prime minister Sergei Medvedev. Graphic courtesy of MBKh Media

High-Flying VIPs: How Putin’s Inner Circle Flew to Europe Without Fear of the Coronavirus
Andrei Saveliev
MBKh Media
March 26, 2020

The coronavirus arrived in Europe on January 24, when the first cases were reported in France. At the time, Russian authorities were in no hurry to take any measures. Moreover, Vladimir Putin’s inner circle continued to fly abroad. MBKh Media has compiled a map of international flights taken in February and March by several people close to the Russian head of state.

The most flights of all were made by a plane belonging to Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of the former primer minister; the plane’s registration number is M-SKSM, and it used to belong to VTB Bank. Medvedeva started her month by flying from Nuremberg to Moscow on February 2. After that, she visited Innsbruck three times, Geneva twice, and Zurich, Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Dubai, Munich, Riga, and the French resort of Aix-Les-Bains once each. The last flight took place on March 9, when Medvedeva’s plane returned from Paris via Riga to Moscow.

In second place for number of flights is the plane of Rostec CEO Sergey Chemezov, registration number P4-LIG. He made his first flight in February on the seventh from Basel to Madrid. He then visited Barcelona four times, Venice and Seville twice, and Geneva, Vienna, Seattle, Wichita, and Chicago once each. Chemezov completed his travels on March 7 with a flight from Chicago to Moscow.

In third place is the plane of VEB.RF chair and former first Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, registration number LX-MOW. He made his first February flight from Moscow to London on the seventh. After that, he visited Tallinn, Riga, Dubai, Birmingham, Farnborough, Salzburg, and London again. The last flight was made on March 14, when the plane returned from Salzburg to Moscow.

Long-distance flights were also made by the plane of the head of another state-owned company, Igor Sechin. Thus, on February 4, his plane, registration number M-YOIL, made a flight from Moscow to New Delhi. The next day, the plane went straight from the Indian capital to Rome. In the following days, the aircraft visited Stavanger, London, Minsk, and Malta. The last flight is dated March 8: the plane returned from the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira, where it stayed for four days.

Also, a plane belonging to Chechnya head Ramzan Kadyrov, registration number VQ-BVQ, flew during this period. Thus, on February 14, the plane returned from Basel to Grozny. According to tracking services, the plane had been in Switzerland since January 20. On February 26, the aircraft flew to Paris and back. It was on this day that the French capital hosted a show by fashion house Firdaws, run by Kadyrov’s daughter Aishat.

The airplanes of Medvedeva, Chemezov, Shuvalov, Sechin, and Kadyrov are registered in the Isle of Man, Aruba, Luxembourg, the Isle of Man, and Barbados, respectively. Translated by the Russian Reader

Hard to Be a God

Moscow City Duma Deputy Besedina Ruled Out of Order for Proposing Putin Officially Be Called “God” and “Bright Star”
Mediazona
March 12, 2020

Darya Besedina, a deputy of the Moscow City Duma from the Yabloko faction, was ruled out of order after proposing fifty amendments to a draft resolution on amendments to the Russian Constitution. The session was broadcast on the Moscow City Duma’s YouTube channel.

 

Footage of Darya Besedina addressing the Moscow City Duma, followed by a brief interview with Besedina on Radio Svoboda’s  Current Time program.

“I believe that the text of the submitted amendments contains deliberately false information,” said Moscow City Duma Speaker Alexey Shaposhnikov, without specifying what information he had in mind.

Besedina’s fifty amendments included suggestions to insert the words “given that Putin is the apostle of national unity” and “noting that in future it will be necessary to add to the Constitution that a family is a sacred union between a man and a woman and Putin” before the phrase “the Moscow City Duma resolves.” Besedina also suggested inserting the phrases “faith in the God Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin” and “V.V. Putin is a Bright Star.”

 

Besedina posted the text of her proposed amendments on Twitter

The deputies decided to vote on the entire set of amendments rather than considering each one separately. Besedina’s proposed amendments were thus rejected since only three deputies voted for them, including Besedina herself. Soon thereafter the Moscow City Duma approved the amendments to the Russian Constitution itself.

obnulis

Besedina came to the session wearing a t-shirt embossed with the slogan “Zero Out (Fuсked in the Head)”* and harshly criticized the new amendments to the Russian Constitution. Moscow City Duma Deputy Chair Stepan Orlov said her speech was an “assault” and asked the regulations committee to analyze it for possible slander. Deputy Elena Nikolayeva called on Besedina to resign her seat.

The previous day, the Russian State Duma approved an amendment to the Constitution that would give Vladimir Putin the right to seek two more presidential terms.

* The umlauted ö on Besedina’s shirt suggests that obnulis’ (“zero out”) should also be read as ëbnulis’ (“they’re fucked in the head,” “they hit themselves hard on the head”).

Photo courtesy of Medialeaks. Translated by the Russian Reader

In the Land of Great Achievements

IMG_6258“Citizens! Given our level of indifference, this side of life is the most dangerous!”

Sergei Medvedev
Facebook
March 14, 2020

The cowardly “recommendations” of [Moscow Mayor Sergei] Sobyanin and the Defense Ministry regarding “voluntary attendance” of schools and universities instead of closing them altogether is a very bad sign. It means the authorities fear panic more than the virus itself and have chosen a cowardly hybrid strategy for evading responsibility. “Parents in this case know better,” it says in Sobyanin’s decree. Hang on a minute! This means parents will decide whether their children become potential carriers of the virus, not doctors or the federal epidemic headquarters. This is not just absurd, it is criminal. Just as you cannot be a little bit pregnant, you cannot declare a partial, optional quarantine. Either there is a quarantine or there isn’t one. Even one person who is not quarantined upsets the whole system.

It seems the authorities are torn between the growing need for a full quarantine (as the avalanche of news from abroad can no longer be hidden) and the impossibility of taking this step. The impossibility, as it seems to me, is purely technical: Russia simply does not have the level of governmental and public organization, the kind of screening, testing, equipment, discipline, and strict enforcement of the law that we have seen in China and,  in part, in Italy. Can you imagine the Moscow subway being closed? It would be a disaster not just for the city but for the country: if this megalopolis of twenty million people ground to a halt, it would be like cardiac arrest for the whole country. And secondly, for purely political reasons you cannot declare a state of emergency before April 22 [the scheduled date of a nationwide “referendum” on proposed changes to the Russian constitution] and May 9 [the 75th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory in WWII]. They must be marked in the pompous atmosphere of national holidays, not in the post-apocalyptic trappings of Wuhan, dressed in hazmat suits, getting doused with chlorhexidine.

Therefore there will be no quarantine, only cowardly half-measures like voluntary school attendance, “recommendations” for cutting down on public events (when the authorities want to ban a protest rally, they ban it, with no ifs, ands or buts), the partial restrictions on air travel (just take the ridiculous ban on flights to Europe, but not to the UK, dear to the hearts of oligarchs and members of parliament because they have children, families, and houses there), and so forth. Excuse the pun, but the regime has washed its hands of the problem and told the population that it is to up to the drowning to save themselves. You decide how to protect yourselves, and if something happens, well, we gave you “recommendations,” so we’re off the hook.

Meanwhile, the populace has been eating up tall tales about “just another flu,” reposting memes about more people dying every year from mosquito bites, shaming “alarmists” and “hysterics,” and leading a carefree life. It’s the typical infantile reaction of an unfree, patriarchal, closed society, which denies threats, displaces fear, and is ostentatiously careless.

Meanwhile, the virus has been here for a long time already, and hardly anyone believes the ridiculous figures of 59 people infected in a country of 146 million that is open on all sides. (Before the quarantine went into effect in China, the Chinese freely walked and drove back and forth over the Amur River in Russia’s Far East, while in European Russia, tens of thousands of our compatriots traveled to and from the most infected regions of Europe throughout February and March.) The longer this goes on, the more ridiculous the official figures will be, but the real figures will be ferreted away in overall mortality statistics for the elderly, among figures for “seasonal flu” and “community-acquired pneumonia,” while death certificates will contain phrases like “acute heart failure,” which is what they also write when someone is tortured to death. Just try and object: heart failure really did occur, and facts don’t lie!

I remember the terrible summer of 2010, when there was a heat wave, and the forests were on fire. Moscow swam in a scalding smog, and up to 40,000 old people died, according to unofficial estimates. Among them was my 83-year-old father. When the policeman came, wiping the sweat from his face, to a draw up the death report, he lowered his voice and told me that his precinct alone had been processing hundreds of people day, and that there were tens of thousands of such people citywide. However, there were no statistics on heatwave-induced deaths: the whole thing was disappeared into the usual causes of death for old people.

So, I’m afraid we will remain in the mode of “voluntary attendance,” of voluntary quarantines and voluntary mortality, a regime in which even getting diagnosed will be voluntary because we are the freest country in the world! The regime’s evasion of responsibility, the mighty smokescreen concealing the epidemic’s true scale, and the habitual carelessness of the populace (aggravated by the atomization of Russian society, its low levels of social capital, the absence of trust, discipline, and social solidarity, and the Gulag principle of “you die today, I die tomorrow”) will all boomerang back on us. Yes, the epidemic will reach its natural limits by summer, and maybe Merkel is right that sixty to seventy percent of the population will be infected, and many of these people will not even suspect they are sick. At the same time, however, not only will the [Russian] constitution and Putin’s [previous] terms [as president] be nullified, but so will many lives that could have been saved if not for the things mentioned above. But when did human lives ever count for anything in the land of great achievements?

Sergei Medvedev teaches at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Thanks to Elena Zaharova for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Fedor Pogorelov: “A grand charge. We’re all going to die!” Footage of Zenit fans chanting “We’re all going to die” on March 14 at Gazprom Arena Petersburg.

 

Thousands of Zenit Fans Chant “We’re All Going to Die” at Match
Radio Svoboda
March 15, 2020

More than 30,000 fans attended Saturday’s match in St. Petersburg between Zenit and Ural in the Russian football championship. It was one of the last mass events in the city before restrictions were imposed due to the coronavirus infection. The restrictive measures come into force on March 16.

Fans of the Petersburg club chanted “We’re all going to die” several times.

They also hung up a banner reading “We’re all sick with football and will die for Zenit.” It is reported that the fans had their temperature checked. Zenit won the match with a score of 7-1.

Despite the threat of the coronavirus, the Russian Football League did not cancel matches this weekend. However, the possibility of taking a pause in the championship has been discussed. All the major European leagues have already announced a break, and play in the Champions League and the Europa League has also been suspended. On March 17, UEFA will discuss whether to postpone the European championship until next years.

Translated by the Russian Reader