The Russian government is challenging an American company because of their use of the word "Russia" in the name of the company website. If this is true, it means that RussiaBlog or Johnson's Russia List will have to change their names.
First of all, the Russian government's ridiculous position contradicts common sense and the free market -- domain names at .com hosts are not state property; and secondly, the Kremlin had no interest whatsoever in this subject until the new channel Russia Today started its work.
Russia Today is an English language 24/7 news channel, managed by the Kremlin and paid for by the Russian taxpayers. The channel's website is www.rttv.ru, which isn't that good of a name for such a "big" endeavor. It would be logical that if someone wants a product they should pay for it (for example the web-name www.paintball.com was sold at an auction for $130,000). I guess it would be logical to assume that there's no money in Russia Today's budget to purchase the domain legally, and that's why the Kremlin is sticking it to businesses with this so-called "administrative resource" red tape.
For more on this story, please read the article below.
Continue reading "No "Russia" in RussiaBlog?" »
Two cases of torture have been reported in the Russian press this week. The first case involved Nizhniy Novgorod policemen who tortured two innocent men seven years ago; the second one occurred this New Years Eve, when a 19 year old army conscript was gang-raped and tortured by 40 of his comrades. Just a few days ago his maimed legs and genitals were amputated.
First about the police. Seven years ago, 22 year old Aleksey Miheev and his friend Ilya Frolov were asked for a ride by their 17 year old friend. They were going different directions and refused the girl in a ride. She took the bus and didn't get home that night. The two young men were accused of raping and killing her and were arrested the same day. After the arrest they were "questioned" at the local police station for five days in a row, 10-12 hours a day.
Continue reading "Medieval Russia" »
With world oil prices high on supply concerns from Nigeria and Iran, Russia is bringing in nearly US$500 million (407 million euros) in revenues from oil and gas exports every 24 hours, analysts say. Petrodollars are dripping through into ordinary Russian's pockets, Sokolin said, with average incomes rising 8.3 percent in real terms in 2005, real wages up 9.7 percent and the average monthly pensions increasing by 9.3 percent over the year.
But as Russia's financial health is improving, the physical health of its citizens continues to be on the decline.
Russia's population dropped by 0.5 percent, or 680,000 people, to 142.8 million last year, Sokolin said. And the average life span of the Russian male is now just 58, the level to which it dropped in the social turmoil that followed the default just over seven years ago. "Nothing has changed with regard to life expectancy," he said.
Read the rest of this Pravda.Ru story at Johnson's Russia List.
The highlights of today's weather in Russia are the following: the interstate freeway between Moscow and Volgograd is blocked by 50 cars that are stuck in the cold. Some of them are completely covered with snow, and a few still have passengers inside. The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations is evacuating the drivers to the nearest towns, and is using heavy equipment to get to the other vehicles.
Temperatures are supposed to rise to minus 5 F by the end of the weekend, though it will become humid and windy. The index with wind chill should stay at negative 35 or colder. It's not only people who are being hurt by the bitter cold. The roofs of the Turkish-manufactured French cars Renault Clio Symbol and the Renault Megane II are shrinking due to plummeting temperatures.
Last year over 16,000 brand new cars of these makes and models were sold in Russia. In the last few days many drivers came back to the dealership to learn why they have new "sunroofs" which had not been there before. Renault isn't commenting on the number of the incidents, but the drivers have been satisfied with the customer service which registers the damage and takes photos for further repairs. On Monday the French company will come up with an official press-release. It seems "General Winter" can do more than just stop Hitler and Napoleon.
Russia, stay warm!
A village in the Sunjensky Region of Ingushetia was attacked by jihadists last night. Several terrorists dressed in camouflage entered the village of Gagarino and randomly shot people with Kalashnikov assault rifles. Two civilians were killed, and two more were severely wounded. The incident occurred at 7:30 p.m. local time, and no one has been caught or arrested in relation with this attack. Please see the Terrorism section of Russia Blog to read more on the frequent terrorist attacks against ordinary Russians.
Traffic police in Downtown Moscow
Friday was expected to bring slightly warmer temperatures -- but also a bone-chilling east wind -- and the mercury was expected to rise toward minus 20 C (minus 4 F) over the weekend in Moscow...Channel One television, however, warned that Moscow temperatures could drop to minus 42 C (minus 43 F), a low last recorded in 1940...
Electric power use reached a 15-year high of 146,000 megawatts earlier this week, the electricity monopoly RAO Unified Energy Systems said Wednesday. Russian ministries raised their estimate of the death toll across the frozen country to more than 30 people. Temperatures in Siberia stayed at minus 81 F.
Read more about the Russian winter on CNN.com
The Russian government plans to purchase another natural resources giant Norilsk Nickel through a state-owned company that specializes in diamonds ALROSA. Vladimir Potanin, one of the richest Russian oligarchs, has decided that it's time to bail out. Norilsk Nickel is worth 16.5 billion dollars.
As Russia Blog has mentioned before, Mikhail Khodorkovsky made the mistake of not cooperating with the government, and he tried to sell his hard assets to foreigners. The oligarchs are welcome to milk the cow, and put the milk in offshore accounts, but they cannot sell the cow.
A new presidential election is coming up, and no one knows yet who is going to replace Putin. The corrupt "system" might become unstable, and Russian oligarchs can either 1) lose their companies, or 2) lose their freedom. Abramovich set an example for his fellow oligarchs by bailing out and leaving Russia behind with pockets full of cash. He could have sold Sibneft for a more if it had gone public, but he does not want to join Khodorkovsky in Siberia next to the Chinese border. Furthermore, in a single day the assets Abramovich appropriated from the Soviet Union over several years became cash in British and Swiss banks.
Alexander Hloponin, governor of Krasnoyarsky Kray, a region rich in metals, issued a statement supporting the negotiations between Potanin and the Russian government. The governor used a very interesting phrase: "The government and the President are controlling the situation very strongly. Russian companies should be controlled by Russian stock-holders, and there will be no attempts to sell them to the Western corporations. Our companies will be working and benefiting our country and our citizens".
Italian businessman Pieropaolo Antinori was gunned down in downtown Moscow today at 4:15 pm.
His car, a Nissan Maxima, was cut off and surrounded by cheap Russian cars, which were abandoned after the crime. Several people in ski masks broke the windows of the Nissan and took out several cases loaded with cash (a lot of business in Russia is done in cash due to corrupt banking system). The businessman tried to cover himself with his hands, begging for his life, however he was shot few times in his head.
The driver was uninjured, and though he is in shock, he delivered the story to the police. Mr. Antinori was a successful shoe-maker, who was a regular in Moscow, where he was involved with many businesses. Officials suggest that the motive for his murder was not the money in the suitcases, but the market competition with local businesses.
No one has been charged or arrested in relationship to this crime.
The Russian winter is here. In Moscow the temperature has dropped 40 degrees in 12 hours, and it's supposed to stay at -- 36F (- 37C) for a few days. The temperature in some Siberian cities has not risen above negative 81 Fahrenheit for about a week, and it keeps on dropping. On average about 10 people freeze to death across the country each day, and about 100 more are seeking medical attention because of frostbite. The dead and frozen people are usually not homeless, some of them are regular professionals, who are walking home too late, swallow too much cold air, and pass out and die.
Many streets in the cities have no light and power because it's either damaged by the cold, or the cities are saving electricity to heat homes. By the way this is one of the reasons why Russians live in condos and apartments and rarely in individual houses -- it's either virtually impossible to keep the positive temperature indoors or it would cost about $2,000 a month.
Continue reading "Moscow Hits Negative 36 Fahrenheit" »
The first story in Foreign Affairs January/February 2006 issue concerns the ignorance and ambivalence of young Russians about the Stalin era. According to the Levada Center's polling since 2003, 20% of Russian adults would vote for Stalin tomorrow if he were running for President, "only 40% say they definitely would not". As the authors note, imagine the international outcry if Hitler were to poll similar numbers in modern Germany! "Only 28 percent felt that Stalin did not deserve credit for the Soviet victory in World War II" - this in spite of Stalin's pre-war provision of Hitler's panzers with oil, his aggression that eliminated Poland as a buffer state between Germany and the USSR, his purge of the Soviet officer corps that left only a handful of talented generals to pick up the pieces, and the resulting incompetence that led to millions of Soviet casulties in the vast encirclement battles before the tide turned in 1942-43. All of these are only Stalin's crimes related to World War II, not including the prewar Great Terror and the postwar anti-Semitic Jewish doctors plot.
One young Russian explained her positive response: Stalin's power would not be unlimited if he were alive today. Other educated Russians explained that looking back at the past was useless anyway.
One woman stated, "I think there's no point in turning back. If you look back all the time then we won't see the present or imagine the future."
A young man concurred, saying, "Stalinist times--that's a tired topic to keep beating to death. History must be studied, but to continually walk around and repeat 'repressions' 'repressions'- why?" He believed any interest in the topic was "purely the result of propaganda. Look, under Stalin people lived freely and well, just like right now under Putin."
Fortunately, a slight majority in the surveys supported erecting monuments to Stalin's victims, and attitudes towards Stalin are slightly more skeptical among the young than the old. The real question is what ignorance and distortions surrounding the darkest chapters of Russia's history mean for Russians now.
Continue reading "Stalin Nostalgia and Fascist Economics" »
Billionaire's Fall Gives Rise to Spammers
MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia has more in common with Nigeria these days than oil.
Following up on the politically charged jailing of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a wave of scam e-mails in the style of Nigeria's notorious spammers has appeared in in-boxes from Moscow to Kentucky.
But instead of impassioned pleas by dead African dictators' aides to move millions of dollars overseas, the appeals appear to come from the inner circle of the man who was once Russia's richest.
"Dear friend, I got your reliable contact from my husband's business diary," begins one letter from "Leila Khodorkovsky," claiming to be the billionaire's wife -- whose actual name is Inna. The letter requests assistance investing $45 million of the tycoon's money and promises compensation.
Read more on the Washington Times website.
The Wall Street Journal has an article today named "West Hits a Wall With Putin".
The easiest way to address my disagreements with the WSJ's opinion would be to comment on the short graph (Acting Up) attached with the article (click on the link to view the graph).
The arrest of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky didn't have to do much with his political criticisms of Putin. I will quote parts of the previous Russia Blog articles and add some new stuff.
Khodorkovsky had acquired billions of dollars (anywhere between 8 and 20, depending on where you read about it), and his "charity" was focused only on bashing Putin, who stood in the way of his businesses, and not for multiple social projects. If someone young in his late 30s made a fortune from oil by getting lucky and smart during the "privatization" period, wouldn't it be more "ethical" to consider larger giving to charity than a lousy 50 million dollars a year? The Gates Foundation in contrast gives out a billion dollars to charitable causes all over the world each year.
Continue reading "Start Paying Attention to What Really Matters in Russia" »
'Condoleezza Rice needs a company of soldiers. She needs to be taken to barracks where she would be satisfied. On the other hand, she can hardly be satisfied because of her age. This is a complex...
'Complex-prone women are especially dangerous. They are like malicious mothers-in-law, women that evoke hatred and irritation with everyone. Everybody tries to part with such women as soon as possible. A mother-in-law is better than a single and childless political persona, though." - says the vice-speaker of the Russian Duma Vladimir Zhirinovsky. If you want to have a good laugh, please read the entire interview of Mr. Zhirinovsky given to Pravda.Ru.
Rodina is amusing the public again. It offered to change the official Russian (Gregorian) calendar back to the Julian's style, so "the Russian Orthodox Christmas would be coming ahead of the New Year's eve". As I wrote before, the Julian calendar is 13 days apart from the Gregorian, which is used today, and the change was made in the last few centuries at different times in the different countries. Russia switched to it after the Communist Revolution in 1918.
Rodina finds no inconvenience and problems in putting the nation 13 days apart from the rest of the world, and in the reasoning of the change being "to preserve the logistics of the Orthodox Christmas". Maybe that's why Russians become more and more aggressive towards those who are not like them -- Russian and Orthodox. For example today three people were injured in a Russian Synagogue in Moscow, after a skinhead jumped into the building with a knife, yelled out that he was there "to kill them all", and started slicing people with a knife. As a result the citizens of America, Israel and Tajikistan were severely injured.
Continue reading "Amusing Rodina" »
Dnevnoy Dozor ("Day Watch"), the sequel to Nochnoy Dozor ("Night Watch") made $20 million dollars in the Russian and Eastern European movie theaters in the first 10 days since its release - reports Gazeta.Ru. The third part of the movie will be made in Hollywood, since now the producers can afford to do it. The trailer for Night Watch is here.
Continue reading ""Day Watch" Big Success, Yuschenko Meets Putin" »
"Rosneft's chairman is Putin's powerful deputy chief of staff, Igor Sechin. From the Kremlin, he is reported to have masterminded the attack on Yukos's leadership--from which Rosneft benefited handsomely. Sechin leads the siloviki faction in the Kremlin composed of former military and secret police officers. According to the Financial Times, Rosneft is viewed in Russia as "the oil company of the Siloviki," of which Putin and the other leading candidate to replace him as president, second deputy prime minister Sergei Ivanov, are themselves members.
"Medvedev and Sechin, both senior government officials at the head of Russian energy giants, are among Russia's "new oligarchs." In a systematic, Kremlin-directed reversal of the rushed privatizations of the 1990s that coincided with Putin's rise to power, the Russian state has coopted or destroyed the independent tycoons of the 1990s who controlled Russia's vast natural resource base--and who represented centers of financial and political power beyond Kremlin control--and replaced them with its own loyal servants. According to the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta and the Christian Science Monitor, seven people from President Putin's inner circle now control nine state companies with total assets equal to 40 percent of Russia's GDP."
Read more at Weekly Standard online.
As Russia Blog has written before -- January 6 is the Christmas Eve for the Russian Orthodox.
60% of the Russian population are planning to attend the services in the churches and cathedrals around the country. The service starts at 10 pm and goes on until the early morning. Not all of the Christians will make it to the end, I would guess that 70% of the worshipers will go home after the midnight service.
The Moscow subway will run every other minute and will continue serving the Muscovites until 2 am. Public transportation will be available until 3 am. All the services will start working again at 5:30 am.
All Russian government officials will be seen on TV at the cathedral of Christ the Savior in downtown Moscow. The government approach in Russia is different, and its marketing strategy is different from the one in the US. President Putin and the ministers are not afraid to upset small groups of Muslims and Jews, they would be viewed as rude and vulgar leaders if they were not seen tonight worshipping with the 60% of the nation. The actual number of people celebrating Christmas but not going to church is even higher.
Merry Christmas Russia!
Spetnaz troops along with police and army units, supported by attack helicopters tried to kill eight terrorists in Dagestan. The operation became important when one of the terrorists was identified as a "senior jihadist", who had participated in the Beslan massacre. The Kremlin insists that not a single terrorist escaped from the school that day, however the mothers of the dead children have a different opinion. It was important for the Russian government to destroy this terror cell.
However, the operation lasted nearly two days, and while five terrorists were killed and one injured, the "seniority" slipped away. Two Russian soldiers died and seven were wounded. This statistic tells you something about the preparation of young conscripts when fighting veteran Jihadists.
Continue reading "Jihad Commander Escapes Again" »
The war in Chechnya is dragging on after twelve years and 18 year old drafted soldiers are still dying on a daily basis; Russian pensioners are saving money by not buying toilet paper, and 80% of the population is barely making the living. But it's not the same in Moscow. The hot new trend of the season is "airbrushing". Blue lights and sirens are getting old, or are not important enough, and all the house-wives and kids of oil and gas executives are rushing into the offices of the new car painting shops.
"Salvador Dali is boring" -- says Konstantin, executive of one of the airbrushing companies -- "everyone wants his painting".
Airbrushing is getting to the point of not just plain showing off but of displaying your social status. In my opinion it goes along with the golden elevators that take cars to your apartment, outrageous and ridiculous. These pictures should speak for themselves. Enjoy!
The Ukrainian-Russian gas dispute has been a big deal in the media lately, and there was plenty of coverage from all the media outlets, even in the Seattle papers. Today, with the fight seemingly over for now, Russia Blog will take a closer look at what has happened.
First of all, I'll address the concern voiced by major media outlets regarding the "unfair deal" where Belarus and Kazakhstan get the same gas for 25% of the price Moscow is demanding that Kiev pay. Kazakhstan and Belarus are strategically the closest Russian allies; either Russian troops are stationed in these countries, or Russia performs nuclear tests in these countries, launches space craft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, etc. These former Soviet republics are not going to join the EU or NATO anytime soon, and they don't really claim to have free markets.
At the same time, the new Ukrainian government decided that everything Russian is bad, and the free market future of Ukraine lies within EU and NATO. The most popular slogan these days in Russia was, "If you paid for the revolution, pay for the gas!"
Continue reading "More on Russian-Ukrainian Gas Dispute" »