Pavel Chikov: A Managed Thaw

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Is a new thaw on the way?

A Managed Thaw: What the Reversal of Verdicts in the Dadin and Chudnovets Cases Means
Pavel Chikov
RBC
March 6, 2017

The Kurgan Regional Court quashed the verdict against Yevgenia Chudnovets and released her from a penal colony, where she had served four months of a five-month sentence for, allegedly, disseminating child pornography on the web. The Russian Deputy Prosecutor General almost literally copied the arguments made in the appeal by Chudnovets’s attoreny. Previously, during its consideration of the appeal, the selfsame Kurgan Regional Court had refused to release Chudnovets at the request of both the prosecutor and defense attorneys. The same court then denied the appeal against the verdict. The verdict was reversed only after the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Supreme Court intervened. Now Chudnovets will have the right to compensation for the harm caused her by illegal criminal prosecution.

The Chudnovets story unfolded at the same time as the even more high-profile case of Ildar Dadin. Dadin’s case was the first criminal case filed under the newly minted law on violating the law on public rallies, the first guilty verdict handed down under the new law. Dadin was taken into custody in the courtroom. Then came the shocking sentence of three years in a medium-security penal colony for a first offense, a moderately severe offense whose underlying cause was purely political, in a case tried in Moscow under the glare of all the media. During the appeals phase, the verdict was altered slightly, and the sentence reduced a bit. But then there was the drama of Dadin’s transfer to the penal colony, his arrival in a Karelian prison camp infamous for its severe conditions, the immense scandal that erupted after he claimed he had been tortured, and the harsh reaction to these revelations by the Federal Penitentiary Service. Then Dadin was secretly transferred to a remote penal colony in Altai over a demonstratively long period, after which the Constitutional Court, in open session, ruled that the relevant article of the Criminal Code had been wrongly interpreted in Dadin’s case. After this, the Supreme Court jumped quickly into the fray, granting a writ of certiorari, aquitting Dadin, and freeing him from the penal colony.

Politically Motivated Releases
The judicial system acted with phenomenal alacrity in both the Chudnovets and Dadin cases. Chudnovets’s criminal case was literally flown round trip from Kurgan to Moscow and back. Given current realities, this could only have been possible under the so-called manual mode of governance and with authorization at the highest level.

It calls to mind the instantaneous release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky from the same Karelian prison colony in December 2013, and the same sudden early releases, under amnesty, of the Greenpeace activists, convicted in the Arctic Sunrise case, and Masha Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, two months before their sentences were up. Of course, the record holder in this sense is the Kirov Regional Court, which in the summer of 2013 quashed Alexei Navalny’s five-year sentence in the Kirovles case.

In all these previous cases, the causes of the system’s sudden softness were self-explanatory. The thaw of December 2013 was due to the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Navalny’s pardon was clearly connected with his being able to run in the Moscow mayoral elections. It was hard not to doubt the narrowly political, tactical objectives of these targeted releases.

The latest indulgences—the sudden releases of Dadin and Chudnovets, the transfer of the last defendant in the Bolotnaya Square case, Dmitry Buchenkov, and the Yekaterinburg Pokémon catcher, Ruslan Sokolovsky, from custody in pretrial detention facilities to house arrest—have been greeted with a roar of approval from the progressive public. The liberal genie would have burst out of its bottle altogether were it not for the eleven-hour police search of the home of human rights activist Zoya Svetova in connection with the ancient Yukos case. The search was as sudden and hard to explain as the releases described above.

Federal officials have not tried to dampen the talk of a thaw. On the contrary, they have encouraged it. The president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, Supreme Court Chief Justice Vyacheslav Lebedev, federal human right’s ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova, and Justice Ministry spokespeople have publicly supported decriminalizing the Criminal Code article under which Dadin was convicted.

Putting the Brakes On
Even earlier we had noticed that the number of politically motivated criminal cases had stopped increasing. Twelve years of defending grassroots activists, human rights activists, journalists, and heads of local NGOs mean we are sensitive to changes in which way the wind blows. It would be wrong to speak of an improvement. Rather, the brakes have been put on the slide into deterioration. There are still dozens of political prisoners doing time in Russia’s prisons.

Political scientists have spoken of an unloosening of the screws; lawyers, of necessary legal reforms. One way or another, it is clear these events did not began in February, and the changes have been implemented from the top, quite deliberately, but without any explanation.

Given the tactial objectives pursued in previous reversals of high-profile cases, there are serious grounds for assuming recent events are due to next year’s main political event, the presidential election.

Preparations for the election began last spring with a shakeup of the law enforcement agencies. The superfluous Migration Service and Gosnarkokontrol (Federal Agency for Drug Trafficking Control) were eliminated. A new political special forces unit, the National Guard of Russia, was established. The influence of the Investigative Committee has been sharply reduced, although from 2012 to 2016 it had been the Investigative Committee that served as the main vehicle for domestic political crackdowns.

The old framework has gradually ceased functioning. The effectiveness of show trials has waned. Leading opposition figures have grown accustomed to working with the permanent risk of criminal prosecution hanging over them. Some have left the country and thus are beyond the reach of the security forces, but they have exited politics as well. Protest rallies have not attracted big numbers for a long time, and NGOs have been demoralized by the law on “foreign agents.” The stats for cases of “extremism” are mainly padded by the online statements of web users in the provinces and “non-traditional” Muslims.

In recent years, the state has delegated its function of intimidation and targeted crackdowns to pro-regime para-public organizations. Navalny is no longer pursued by Alexander Bastrykin, but by organizations like NOD (National Liberation Movement) and Anti-Maidan.

Under a Watchful Eye
The foreground is no longer occcupied by the need to intimidate and crack down on dissidents, but by information gathering and protest prevention, and that is the competence of different government bodies altogether. It is the FSB that has recently concentrated the main function of monitoring domestic politics in its hands. FSB officers have been arresting governors, generals, and heavyweight businesmen, destroying the reputations of companies and government agencies, and defending the internet from the west’s baleful influence.

Nothing adds to the work of the FSB’s units like a managed thaw. Bold public statements, new leaders and pressure groups, and planned and envisioned protest rallies immediately attract attention. The upcoming presidential election, the rollout of the campaign, and good news from the courts as spring arrives cannot help but awaken dormant civic protest. Its gradual rise will continue until its apogee in March of next year [when the presidential election is scheduled]. Information will be collected, analyzed, and sent to the relevant decision makers by the summer of 2018. And by the autumn of 2018 lawyers will again have more work than they can handle. This scenario needs to be taken into account.

There is, of course, another option: the Kremlin’s liberal signals may be addressed not to the domestic audience, but to a foreign one. Foreign policy, which has remained the president’s focus, is in a state of turbulence. Vladimir Putin is viewed by the western liberal public as a dark force threatening the world order. Sudden moves toward democratization can only add to the uncertainty and, consequently, the Kremlin can gain a tactical advantage in the game of diplomacy. Considering the fact there are lots of politicians in the world who are happy to be fooled, the ranks of the Russian president’s supporters will only swell.

Pavel Chikov is head of Agora, an international human rights group. Thanks to Comrade AK for the heads-up. Translation and photograph by the Russian Reader

Loyalties

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Dmitry Yegorchenkov and Nikita Danyuk (right), assistant heads of the Institute of Strategic Studies and Forecasting (ISIP) at the Russian People’s Friendship University, after lecturing at the Russian Congress of University Vice Chancellors for Morale and Discipline, Moscow, October 21, 2016. Photo courtesy of the institute’s Vkontakte page

Ideological Underachievement
Russian universities to examine the loyalty of students and lecturers
Alexander Chernykh
Kommersant
October 24, 2016

Kommersant has learned that volunteers at Russian universities have been working to assess the “protest potential” of students and professors. The results will be “compiled as memorandums for official use by state authorities.” Attendees of the Russian Congress of University Vice Chancellors for Morale and Discipline, which took place this past weekend, discussed the assessment. The authors of the study have discovered that the “destructive promotion of anti-state ideas has been occurring” among the student bodies and faculties of the capital’s universities. On the eve of the presidential election, they intend to shift their focus to regional universities.

It was the sixth time the Russian Congress of University Vice Chancellors for Morale and Discipline had taken place in Moscow. Representatives of 642 educational organizations from eighty-one regions attended the congress. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sent his greetings to the congress, and  guests of honor included Stanislav Sulakov, acting head of the Moscow Center for Extremism Prevention (Center “E”), Metropolitan Merkurii, chair of the Synodal Department for Religious Education and Catechesis, and Ernestas Mackevičius, presenter of the news program Vesti.

The meeting of the vice chancellors kicked off with a discussion of a sensitive issue.

“For twenty years, we have had to prove that the country needs discipline and morale in the universities,” complained Zinaida Kalinina, a vice chancellor at Tula Pedagogical University.  Even Pushkin said, ‘The university completes the soul’s education.’ Let them argue with Alexander Sergeyevich [Pushkin]!”

Alexander Stradze, former head of the Department of State Policy on the Education of Children and Youth, one of the first officials to be dismissed by Olga Vasilyeva, the new Minister of Education and Science, tried to define the vector of the discussion. He introduced himself as assistant head of Rossotrudnichestvo, but from force of habit he attempted to preach to the vice chancellors.

“The state’s educational ideology has moved away from paternalism,” he explained. “Yes, it’s easier, probably, to work with loyal subjects, with subordinates. But the country and the conditions are no longer the same today. Nowadays, we bring up children in terms of humanism, free choice, and support for individuality. This path is justified in any democratic society.”

Alexander Balitsky, vice chancellor at Izhevsk Technical University and a former lecturer in the department of scientific socialism, tore the ex-official’s speech to shreds.

“Everything we do has often been canceled out by sociocultural circumstances,” Balitsky began in a roundabout way. “And these circumstances even often originate  in our ministry.”

Mr. Balitsky casually, as it were, mentioned that the Ministry of Education and Science has been implementing a nationwide project entitled “Time to Act,” and read aloud a message from [ministry] officials to university students.

“Twelve of the country’s best entrepreneurs will share their know-how and teach you think in new ways. On September 22, entrepreneur Oskar Hartmann—” the vice chancellor underscored the entrepreneur’s [non-ethnic Russian] given name and surname,* while the audience applauded and laughed in support “—will talk about how you need to think to become a dollar millionaire by the age of thirty.”

“Nifty, eh? There’s an ideal for you. I have nothing against entrepreneurs, but these are not the core values we need. With all due respect to the Ministry of Education and Science.”

“But now there have  been changes in the ministry,” an audience member reminded him.

“Thank God,” the speaker replied.

“Yeah, and there won’t be anymore Soroses,” someone joyfully shouted from the crowd.

“I think the expert community understands the country is in a state of undeclared war,” said Nikita Danyuk, assistant head of the Institute for Strategic Studies and Forecasting (ISIP) at the Russian People’s Friendship University. “It is hybrid in nature, and there are many fronts.  One of them runs inside our country: it is the mental front.”

Complaining that “western planners” use the “practice of inspiring coups,” he acknowledged university students were one of the main “destructors.” To keep the country from “plunging into chaos and anarchy,” Mr. Danyuk’s team had drafted a special educational program, entitled “Scenarios of Russia’s Future,” a series of lectures on “combating politically destructive forces.” Over the past two years, Mr. Danyuk and his colleagues had visited over forty universities in Moscow and a dozen regional universities, where they had encouraged the students to openly express their own views on political issues “and even join in the discussion.” Surrounded by his colleagues, however, Danyuk admitted the real purpose of the trip had been to assess the “protest potential” of students and lecturers.

“The outcomes of the project were compiled as memorandums for official use, including by government officials and officers of certain specialized organizations,” Mr. Danyuk announced proudly. “Unfortunately, the destructive promotion of anti-state ideas has been occurring among professors and lecturers—not openly,  but without being shy about it.”

Danyuk said that society was “most exposed to destructive spin doctoring during the electoral  cycle.”

“Fortunately, our country negotiated the milestone of the parliamentary elections nearly without losses, but our project will be relevant until 2018, when the presidential election will be held. And from the viewpoint of prevention, it will be relevant beyond then.”

The Institute of Strategic Studies and Forecasting at the Russian People’s Friendship University is headed by Georgy Filimonov, a professor in the department of the theory and history of international relations. The university’s website relates that, from 2005 to 2009, Prof. Filimonov worked in the presidential administration as a foreign policy advisor. According to Mr. Danyuk, the “Scenarios of Russia’s Future” lecture series has been implemented with the involvement of the Anti-Maidan Movement, political scientist Nikolai Starikov, and “other media figures.”  The project has already been the source of controversy. In May 2015, students and lecturers at the Russian State University for the Humanities attempted to disrupt a lecture by Nikolai Starikov at their university. Mr. Danyuk confirmed to  Kommersant that he had been at the event. In his opinion, the protest had been organized not by students, but by lecturers at the university.

A series of books recommended for reading by Nikolai Starikov, on sale at a newstand in Pulkovo Airport, Petersburg, October 23, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader
A series of books recommended for reading by Nikolai Starikov, on sale at a news stand in Pulkovo Airport, Petersburg, October 23, 2016. Photo by the Russian Reader

“The strategy of our foreign so-called colleagues has changed. The protest potential has now shifted to the regions, and we are really interested in making contact with people from regional universities and organizing events there,” he said.

At the end of the event, the vice chancellors queued up to talk with Mr. Danyuk, vying with each other to invite him to their universities and assess the “protest potential” of their colleagues.

* According to an article, dated March 15, 2016, in the magazine Sekret firmy, businessman Oskar Hartmann was born in Kazakhstan to a family of Russian Germans.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Dear Neighbors, Please Don’t Start a Revolution

torfyanka sign“Dear Neighbors, On July 9 at 7:00 p.m., you are invited to the BEGINNING OF A REVOLUTION. Postpone all your holidays and forget about prosperity. You will be called upon to disobey the authorities and the courts, and take to the barricades, and this appeal will be funded by the Americans. Ask the Ukrainians how their MAIDAN ended.” Photo courtesy of arthur-msk.livejournal.com.

This is a counter-invitation to a rally, held yesterday in Torfyanka Park, in Moscow’s Losinoostrovsky District, to protest the building of a Russian Orthodox church in the park.

You can see Anatrrra’s photo reportage of the rally here.

And read a blow-by-blow account (in Russian) of the conflict and the rally, written by a local activist and generously illustrated with photographs, here.

Hipster news website The Village also has a short account of the rally and the conflict (again, in Russian).

I posted this, in part, because of how remarkably easy it has become, in Russia, to attribute “pro-American,” “fascist,” “pro-Maidan,” etc., motives to literally anyone who opposes anything proposed by the powers that be, no matter how petty, stupid or wrongheaded. Judging by the reports and photos from Torfyanka, not everyone is buying what they’re selling, however.

Thanks to Comrade MT for the heads-up.

“Return to Home Port”

KRYMFASH
Ayder Muzhdabaev
March 12, 2015

The other day, colleagues from several foreign media asked me to help them find ordinary people in Crimea willing to talk on camera about what their lives were like a year after Krymnash [Russia’s annexation of the peninsula].

Just about their lives, not about politics.

With Muscovite ease, I promised to help them out. And…

…it was not just that none of my many relatives and friends (except journalists) were willing to appear on TV, NO ONE even wanted to meet off the record with foreigners.

Their first argument was that foreigners would be followed, and at best a person who met with them would be dragged into the FSB for questioning, and at worst … You never know what.

Given that, over the past year, nine Crimean Tatars have disappeared without a trace, one was brutally murdered after being abducted, several people have been deported, several have been placed under arrest, and hundreds have been sentenced to hefty fines, I did not even bother trying to change their minds.

Such is the brownness that Russia has installed in Crimea.

Be proud if you like.

Source: Facebook

Ayder Muzhdabaev is deputy chief editor at Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.

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natalya kokorinJournalist Natalya Kokorin

Dmytro Gnap
March 13, 2015

Two hours ago, the FSB detained our colleague Natalya Kokorin, a journalist for Slіdstvo.Іnfo and the Center for Journalistic Investigations. Intelligent and beautiful, Natasha has written many investigative reports about the redistribution of Crimean property, corruption, gangsters in power, and the Russian occupation. She and her colleagues have had to do many of their articles almost clandestinely. Today, the authorities began a search at her parents’ house when Natalya arrived there, and four FSB officers took her to their headquarters. The “Russian World” has quickly achieved victory in Crimea. A journalist who exposes the regime is a real threat to the federal and local ghouls. We are waiting for news from her lawyer and ask that you repost this.

Source: Facebook

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Anti-Maidan presents the exhibition Crimea: Return to Home Port

crimea-putinOn March 16 at 1:00 p.m. in Moscow, an exhibition of graphic art, Crimea: Return to Home Part, will open with support from the Anti-Maidan Movement and the Russian Bear Movement. The exhibition is dedicated to the anniversary of the referendum in which the residents of Crimea voted to join the Russian Federation.

crimea-putin-2The exposition in Novopushkinsky Square will feature about fifty works by patriotic cartoonists and graphic designers from the group Politics Today. The exhibition will send visitors back to the memorable events of the Russian Spring in Crimea. The work that will be presented at the exhibition are produced in the graphic design style [sic].

Members of the Night Wolves national motorcycle club and Julia Berezikova, co-chair of the Anti-Maidan Movement, will attend the event.

crimea-putin-3The exhibition will be held March 16 from 1 to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

Location and time: 1:00 p.m., Novopushkinsky Square, Moscow

Contacts: +7 926 430 2454 (Grigory)

Source: Emailed press release (courtesy of Comrade SC)

A Tale of Two Countries

‘MaiDOWN’ Banners Show Inhumanity
Andrei Malgin
The Moscow Times
Feb. 24 2015

A so-called “Anti-Maidan” march was held last weekend in the center of Moscow. It coincided with the anniversary of revolutionary events in Maidan Square in Kiev one year ago. Demonstrators wanted to show that they would not let the same thing happen in Russia. Watching the event on Russia’s state-controlled television, one large banner figured prominently in the coverage. It read, “We are not MaiDOWNS.”

138343“WE ARE NOT MaiDOWNS!”

“MaiDOWNS” — a tactless reference to the Ukrainian revolution and a person with Down syndrome — is a bit of slang that long ago took root among pro-Kremlin Internet trolls. If any foreign readers were unaware, the term “Down” as used in Russia means “absolute idiot” or “imbecile” and carries a very negative connotation.

Language reflects the condition of society. If a protestor carries a sign showing an image of a black president and the word “monkey” below, that person is clearly intent on offending others with racist statements. And anyone who would insult others by comparing them to a person with Down syndrome must sincerely believe that Down patients are unworthy of our respect and represent the refuse of society.

Maternity ward workers regularly persuade mothers who give birth to children with Down syndrome and other defects to give their babies over to the state to be held in special institutions. The statistics are lamentable: More than half of Russian children born with Down syndrome die within their first year.

An unenviable fate awaits the rest: They have no hope for adoption and will spend the rest of their lives as virtual prisoners. I have seen that whole horrible picture with my own eyes because my wife and I regularly visited one such orphanage in Moscow.

As a result, we adopted a boy from the orphanage whose illness, fortunately, is less severe. Parents from the United States used to adopt Russian children with illnesses or disabilities, but the Kremlin authorities put a stop to that, calling it unpatriotic.

I am friends with an ordinary Italian couple who adopted a boy named Vitya in the Siberian city of Kemerovo two years ago. Just three days after they took him home, the Kemerovo authorities passed a law abolishing all foreign adoption.

Vitya was one of the lucky ones. The Russian orphanage staff had considered him mentally retarded and a hopeless idiot, and nobody even tried to teach him to speak until he was five years old. The staff gave him less to drink so that he would urinate less frequently. As a result, whenever he was thirsty, he would scoop water from the toilet bowl with his cupped hands. His adoptive parents had difficulty breaking him of that habit.

Just after the couple gained court approval for the adoption, a young female court clerk approached them and said, “Admit it, you’re only adopting him for his organs, right?”

It turns out that the young woman had read a story in a Russian newspaper claiming that foreigners adopted Russian children with medical problems in order to sell their organs to the thriving black market for organs in the West.

Thank God, Vitya has almost recovered from his mistreatment. Complete recovery is impossible, but at seven years old, he has finally begun to speak. That is largely due to the herculean efforts of his adoptive parents and the Italian medical system. It is terrible to even imagine what fate would have awaited Vitya in his homeland.

It was President Vladimir Putin’s spin doctors that coined the word “MaiDOWN,” and I winced every time I encountered it on the Internet. But now I have seen that same word emblazoned on a huge banner carried  in downtown Moscow.

In Hitler’s Germany, the authorities systematically eliminated children with Down syndrome as part of the Action T4 euthanasia program. Putin’s Russia will never resort to such measures: It will kill those children with indifference and inhumanity.

Andrei Malgin is a journalist, literary critic and blogger.

Photo courtesy of from-ua.com/news

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After a transgender diva and a bearded drag act, a group of middle-aged punk rockers with learning disabilities could be the next performers to challenge prejudice at the Eurovision song contest.

They are far from the kitsch and camp of Dana International or Conchita Wurst, who became heroes for Europe’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community after Eurovision victories in 1998 and 2014.

But Finland’s PKN are aiming to raise awareness of people with learning disabilities – and “have a fucking good time” along the way, the band say.

Opinion polls and bookmakers predict the band will be runaway winners on Saturday when television viewers select Finland’s entry to the Eurovision finals in Vienna in May.

“If Finland wasn’t ready before for a punk Eurovision entry, they are now,” said Sami Helle, the band’s bass player.

PKN, short for Pertti Kurikan Nimipäivät (Pertti Kurikka’s Nameday), comprises four men with an average age over 40. Their explosive Eurovision entry, Always I Have To, is about having to do things you might not enjoy , such as washing up or eating properly.

Barely 90 seconds long, it has an anthemic quality and its refrain, “aina mun pitää”, is much easier to sing along with than the double umlaut may suggest.

[…]

David Crouch, “Finnish punk band with a difference take a punt at Eurovision title,” The Guardian, February 27, 2015

Editor’s Note. On Saturday night, PKN won Finland’s New Music Contest, taking 37.4% of the popular and jury vote. The band will represent Finland at the Eurovision contest in Vienna this coming May.

Suffer the Little Children

My friend L. writes:

Today a fourth-grader told me that his history teacher [at a school in Petersburg’s Central District] had explained in class that Stalin had shot traitors. “Is it true?” the child asked me. I said the teacher was a foolish woman and it was pity she hadn’t been shot! And that the student could go and tell her so. The child reasonably remarked that if he did that, she would call the police. I then gave him the rundown on Stalin, thus completely and utterly undermining the history teacher’s authority.

Save children-6303

“Let’s Save Russia’s Children from American Slavery!” Placard at Anti-Maidan rally, Field of Mars, Petrograd, February 21, 2015. Photo courtesy of Sergey Chernov

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Fontanka looking for kindergarten that staged “Militiaman Day” with arms
February 24, 2015
Fontanka.ru

Photos from a “Militiaman Day,” allegedly held at a St. Petersburg kindergarten, are being discussed today on the blogs. In the photos, a man in a major’s uniform shows children all sorts of modifications of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, as well as a Dragunov sniper rifle, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and a shaped charged anti-tank grenade. The children happily pose with all these weapons, which are probably dummies used for training.

ds2

The photos has had a bombshell effect on the Russian segment of the Internet. The shots have been compared to images from children’s celebrations in institutions supported by Hamas.

ds1The blogger who posted these photos claims that one of the parents decided to make the children happy in this way.ds3

The only thing that remains off camera is what kindergarten would permit such a celebration? We ask parents who know in what kindergarten the photos were taken to contact Fontanka’s editors.

The images, above, are screenshots from twitter.com as reproduced on Fontanka.ru

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Gleb Kuznetsov writes on Facebook that it is no longer necessary to watch television [to experience Russian war hysteria]: it suffices to pay a visit to a kindergarten: “As she was undressing the child, Grandma vaguely heard what was being said in the group before classes began. Seated on little stools, the kiddies were gathered around the minder. ‘Children. There is a war on in Ukraine. People are dying. Little kids and their parents are being hurt. Enemies have attacked them. But our president is a good man, children. He is fighting for peace… He is sending arms to the militiamen. So today we’ll be gluing envelopes.’ A child of six heard this as was he was changing his clothes and yelled, ‘Hurrah! World war. We’ll beat everybody.”

source: online812.ru

NODsat

While trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of Russia’s National Liberation Movement (NOD), who organized the alternately comic and dismal “Anti-Maidan” rally on the Field of Mars in Petrograd this past Saturday, I discovered (via their website) that NOD had an affiliate in London, the so-called For Russia Party 

NOD-5840
Anti-Maidan rally, Petrograd, February 21, 2015. Photo courtesy of Sergey Chernov

The For Russians, it turns out, have typed up quite an ambitious platform:

1. Entry of the United Kingdom (UK) into the Customs Union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus

2. Introduce a visa-free regime between England [sic] and all countries of the Customs Union.

3. Exit of the UK from the European Union, which has been steadily taking on the features of a union of European states based on fascist ideology.

4. Exit of Great Britain [sic] from the aggressive NATO bloc.

5. Entry of Great Britain into an alliance with Russia for the mutual strengthening of their defense.

6. Introduce compulsory Russian language instruction in UK schools.

7. Introduce the teaching of classic Russian and Soviet literature in UK schools.

8. Protect the property of Russian Federation citizens in Great Britain.

9. Introduce free access for the public in both countries to products and goods from both the English [sic] and Russian markets.

10. Make cheap heat and electricity from Russia available to the citizens of Great Britain.

11. Establish May 9 as a public holiday in England.

12. Special rights and protections for Russian speakers in England.

13. Introduce the legislative framework for preventing manifestations of Russophobic propaganda in British media.

You can visit their digs in Covent Garden if you’d like to join up.

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Anti-Maidan Actions Shouldn’t Make Putin Feel Secure, Vishnevsky Says
Paul Goble
February 22, 2015
Window on Eurasia

Staunton, February 22 – The Kremlin-organized Anti-Maidan demonstration in Moscow should not make Vladimir Putin feel secure because it was in reality an updated version of the Day of the Black Hundreds, Boris Vishnevsky says, groups organized by the tsarist regime to show support for the autocracy but that later did nothing to defend it.

Just as a century ago, demonstrators paid for by the regime or pushed to take part by their employers or officials went into the street to “denounce the revolution, praise autocracy, demand the preservation of the existing order and destroy ‘the enemies of the tsar and Fatherland,’” the Yabloko St. Petersburg city deputy says.

In its current incarnation, “the heirs” of the Black Hundreds denounce the Maidan, praise Putin and demand the destruction of ‘the Fifth Column,’” led by notorious Stalinists, supporters of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, and demonstrating by their slogans – including “’Putin is Better than Hitler’” – their level of sophistication.

Also like their tsarist-era predecessors, the Anti-Maidan organizers are spectacularly unfortunate in identifying themselves in this way, as becomes obvious, Vishnevsky says, if one compares the Maidan and the Anti-Maidan and if one considers how the Black Hundreds groups behaved when push came to shove — and how the Anti-Maidan people are likely to.

In Kyiv, people came into the Maidan “to drive out a corrupt regime.” In Moscow, they “came to the ‘Anti-Maidan’ in order to express their loyalty and support to the powers that be.” They did not demand the regime meet its obligations to the people but only and instead that “the power not change.”

That may sound good to Putin and his backers, Vishnevsky continues, but he ought not to be too encouraged by this.  That is because “when his power begins to shake, not one of those who came to the ‘Anti-Maidan will come out in his defense” – just as a century ago, “not one of the Black Hundreds types came out to defend the tsarist power.”

But if Putin does not care to look that far back in time, he might consider a more recent example, the St. Petersburg deputy says.  None of those who had shouted “’Glory to the CPSU!’” or denounced “’the crimes of American imperialism’” came out to defend the communist regime when it began to fall apart.

Indeed, he suggests, like their predecessors, those in the Anti-Maidan who “equate Putin with Russia” and swear that they will ‘not give him up’” will betray him among the first. If Putin doesn’t believe that” – and he probably doesn’t – “then let him ask Yanukovich,” an even more recent victim of the delusion of those in power about how much support they have.

But there are more reasons for Putin to be worried. The extremist slogans on offer in the Anti-Maidan action, including anti-Semitic tropes that also link it with the Black Hundreds of the end of the Russian Imperial period, the lack of support from those whose names were invoked, and the small size of Anti-Maidan actions outside of Moscow should be of even greater concern.

As Forum-MSK.org points out today, the workers of the Urals Wagon Factory (Uralvagonzavod) who Putin sees as symbolic of his support among Russia’s silent majority and who were referred to be speakers at yesterday’s event in Moscow are anything but enthusiastic about him and his policies.

Lacking new orders, that plant is cutting back production plans and laying off workers, a situation that is replicated at many industrial sites around the Russian Federation and that hardly is an advertisement for the successes of the Putin regime or a reason for workers to give it more than lip service support.

Outside of the Moscow ring road, there were a number of Anti-Maidan actions. But because the PR needs of the regime were largely satisfied by the 35,000-person crowd in Moscow that could be shown on television and because the regional governments now lack the resources to do more, they were very small, in some cases no more than a handful and in others only a few dozen or a few hundred.

The Kremlin may not care a lot about the size – few in the Moscow media and even fewer Western reporters will cover anything outside of the capitals – but it probably should be worried that those taking part were in many cases the very Russian nationalist extremists it has been prosecuting and that their slogans were even more extreme than those in Moscow.

Moreover, the Kremlin’s PR specialists may be nervous about what happened when regional media picked up on that: In many cases, they were not afraid to say that “the meeting in support of Putin … failed.”  That is exactly what a Karelian news agency did.

In Petrozavodsk, the republic capital, the agency said, a meeting had been scheduled as part of “an all-Russian action ‘in support of national leader Vladimir Putin’” with slogans like “’It is [time] to drive out ‘the fifth column.’” But in the event, Vesti.Karelia.ru noted, “only 15 people” came out in behalf of those ideas.

It may be that the men in the Kremlin won’t take notice of this; but there is no question that the people of Karelia will.