Colorado Springs-- Last week Andrei Illarionov, a former advisor to President Putin, addressed the 29th Annual Heritage Foundation Resource Bank. Illarianov's speech was warmly welcomed and made a deep impression on the audience. At the end of the evening, some people had tears in their eyes and Illarianov received the standing ovation. Sitting in the audience, I looked around in complete disbelief at what I was witnessing. Is Illarianov's speaking fee really enough for him to believe the things he said? And are Americans really naÃ¯ve and ignorant enough about Russia to buy what he is selling?
Mr. Illarionov read his speech from his notes the entire time, glancing at the crowd only a few seconds of the time. For the first fifteen minutes of his talk, the former presidential economic advisor spoke of free markets, democracies, dictatorships and other general topics, to impress the audience with his "knowledge". This part was hardly controversial; everyone in the audience agrees that people live better in free-market democracies rather than under Communist autocracies. Having stoked expectations and built up the audience, Illarianov then preceded to make his most outrageous claims.
Continue reading ""Iran, Syria, Somalia...now Russia"
How Honest Is Illarionov?" »
By Michael Averko
Katherine and Viktor Yushchenko
I've been holding on to a piece of history which was forwarded to me by an informed and trusted source. It's an August 23, 1983 Washington Times letter by Katherine Chumachenko, who is now married to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. Since it is not archived on the internet, Chumachenko's letter was submitted to me in the form of a transposed email attachment. I see no reason to second guess its authenticity. Should anyone prove differently (doubtful), then please inform me and I will issue an immediate retraction.
Continue reading "Ukraine's First Lady and the Ugly History of the Captive Nations Committee" »
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller - backed by President Putin
The BBC reported this week that Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller flexed his corporate muscles, warning British regulators not to rule out Gazprom's potential acquisition of Centrica, the largest natural gas supplier in the UK.
Attempts to limit Gazprom's activities in the European market and to politicise questions of gas supplies, which are in fact entirely within the economic sphere, will not produce good results," Mr Miller said. "It should not be forgotten that we are actively seeking new markets such as North America and China," he added. "It's no coincidence that competition for energy resources is growing."
Gazprom is the largest state-owned natural gas monopoly in the world, and after acquiring Sibneft in 2005, it also has oil reserves greater than those held by Irving, Texas-based Exxon, the world's largest private energy company.
Mr. Miller's remarks were intended to remind EU regulators who sits in the driver's seat of global energy markets, both from the point of view of suppliers and customers. North America and Asian demand for gas continues to grow rapidly, while European demand for gas grows at a much slower rate, resulting in less leverage for EU customers and regulators in the future. Gazprom was severely criticized by the EU and in the Western media last January, when the state-owned giant temporarily suspended gas shipments to Europe through Ukraine during a dispute over prices with Kiev. Gazprom restarted deliveries after reaching an agreement with the Ukrainian government, and also announced that it would start charging Belarus higher rates for natural gas starting in 2007.
Continue reading "Gazprom CEO Warns European Union" »
RIA Novosti reported last week that 90% of the automatic rifles in the world based on Mikhail Kalashnikov's Model 1947 are unlicensed copies, according to the CEO of the Izhmash firm that owns the patent. While this isn't exactly breaking news, as a worldwide cultural phenominon it's interesting because the Kalashnikov "is symbolically reflected in the national coats of arms of six states" (I'm not sure if this estimate includes the flag of Hezbollah, the Shi'a militia that controls southern Lebanon).
To explain why the Kalashnikov is the most successful assault rifle of all time, Nicholas Cage's character in the movie Lord of War describes shooting an AK-47 by saying, "It's so easy a child can use it. And they do." According to Wikipedia, the nickname for the African boys who carry guns in that continent's numerous regional conflicts is "kalash".
Continue reading "Izhmash CEO: 90% of Kalashnikovs Sold Worldwide Are Knockoffs" »
by Kim Zigfeld (a/k/a La Russophobe)
You may not be a tennis fan, but even if you are not you may recall so-called "Russian" Maria Sharpova's pledge not to be "another Kournikova" selling her body for soft porn profit while her game, and the game's reputation, goes into the tank. From the photos to follow you can see how reliable this Russian's word is...
Russian female tennis players had an impressive year in 2004. Five of the eight slots in grand slam event finals were filled by Russians, and three of the four slams were won by Russians. In addition to Wimbledon, Russia's Maria Sharapova also won the season-ending WTA Tour Championship title, making 2004 the best year by far for Russian tennis and Sharapova Russia's apparent golden girl.
Continue reading "Beauty Before Tennis" »
We are delighted to see the increased traffic and comments on Russia Blog. We welcome your comments and open discussions, however, we reserve the right to edit or delete comments deemed obscene, libelous, or completely irrelevant to Russia/former USSR. We manually approve comments sent to us via email, so sometimes it takes several minutes or hours before the comments appear on the blog. This is a tool to eliminate spam, not to censor content.
Also, you are welcome to submit your articles as some of our permanent readers have done. If they meet our language and content requirements, we'll be glad to post them.
Thanks for reading Russia Blog!
My good friend asked me how to make a Russian Easter Cake, the kind that I've been eating my whole life at my grandma's house, the kind that is sold in every grocery store across Russia in the two weeks before Easter. I personally find it extremely complicated and tedious to make, but on the other hand I consider ham and cheese eggs to be a fancy treat...
Anyway, here's the recipe:
Continue reading "Russian Easter Cake (Kuhlich) Recipe" »
St Petersburg -- today at 8 pm a citizen of Afghanistan was assaulted and severely injured downtown. Eyewitnesses say that the three men who attacked the victim were dressed in police uniforms; furthermore there's evidence that the attackers were police officers and that they were drunk while beating the Afghan man. At this time, St. Petersburg officials won't comment on their investigation.
This incident follows multiple attacks in Russia based on the skin color, ethnicity and national origin of the victims. For more stories related to this topic, please see the Human Rights section of Russia Blog.
Continue reading "Afghan Attacked in St Petersburg; Putin Calls for Law and Order" »
As Russia Blog has written before, we are open to publishing our readers views and comments to spark discussions on Russia-related topics. Here's an article by our reader.
by Kim Zigfeld (a/k/a La Russophobe)
Victor Yanukovich, candidate for the presidency of Ukraine, is a convicted criminal, having been sentenced to three years in prison for robbery in 1967. No sooner was he released than he was convicted of assault and battery in 1970 and sentenced to two more years in prison. In 1978 he was prosecuted a third time, but this time acquitted.
Yanukovich joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1980.
An electrician by training, he does not have a genuine undergraduate diploma but only a degree he obtained through a correspondence school. He then obtained various higher degrees through vague periods of study. His knowledge of Ukrainian language is extremely poor and his handwritten documents on the record are full of linguistic errors.
Continue reading "A Primer on Viktor Yanukovich" »
As crowds of illegal immigrants march through the streets of American cities, I look down at the protest from my Seattle office and wonder "Why don't I march with them?" Well, because I'm not illegal. In the last six years while visiting this country and starting my new job with Discovery Institute, I have paid the U.S. government nearly $20,000 in visa and application fees. I have spent 90% of the money I earned in the U.S.A. in this country, and I have volunteered for nearly 2,000 hours with local non-profits. My good friend Franklin Cudjoe, the head of the Ghana think tank Imani, was denied a visa three times, before he finally received one last year. However, Franklin never complained and always paid the non-refundable fees.
If you are a native born American, you probably have no idea what visas are or how difficult they are to get. The brief description of a non-immigrant visitor's visa into the U.S. is as follows: let's say you decide that you want to visit the U.S. for a conference, or to see a relative for a couple weeks (the visa Anton Verstakov, the news editor of Russia Today, obtained to speak here). You should apply for a B visa (B1 = Business visitor, B2 = tourist, B1/2 = business and pleasure). After filling out the forms and paying a $100 non-refundable, cash-only fee to the U.S. government, you get scheduled for a visa interview. A one year visitor's visa will cost $100 cash (in addition to the first hundred), a two-year visa is $200 cash. Don't forget to have your finger prints taken. If you don't pass the interview, you get rejected and go home, leaving the first $100 behind in Uncle Sam's hands. The embassy workers don't have to have a reason to reject you.
Continue reading "A Legal Non-Immigrant Worker's View of the Illegal Immigrant Protests" »
United Russia, President Putin's ruling party, is working on a bill to finally bury Lenin. According to United Russia spokesman Andrei Isaev, the bill should be written and passed now, and the burial should take place right after the presidential and parliamentary elections.
KPRF, the Russian Communist Party, have issued their own opinion on this bill. Half of the Russian population, they claim, doesn't like the idea of burying the body of the Communist leader. The reasons of the opposing factions are very different. Orthodox Christians see him as an Antichrist, and don't want his body to be given a Christian burial, while Communists and older people would rather have their leader available on display. According to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, if United Russia and Putin bury Lenin now, they are in danger of losing their vote. If it's done after the elections, when the "desirable" replacements are elected, it won't matter.
Stalin used to lay next to Lenin's, but he was finally buried in 1961. President Boris Yeltsin vowed to bury Lenin in 1999, but it never happened. Lenin's body is a tough call -- it's been there forever, and some people don't want to bury him for sake of a scientific experiment; how long will Lenin's embalmed corpse last? The author of this article has seen the body few times through his life and finds the idea of a crazy Communist dictator mummified and still on display in the 21st century very disturbing.
Continue reading "Lenin's Body to Be Buried in 2008" »
By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow
London Daily Telegraph
Millions of airline passengers travelling through Russia will soon have to take a lie detector test as part of new security measures. The technology, to be introduced at Moscow's Domodedovo airport as early as July, is intended to identify terrorists and drug smugglers. If successful, it could revolutionise check-ins.
Passengers will pick up the handset of a "truth verifier" machine while they are asked questions. Apparently the machine, developed by an Israeli company, can even establish whether answers come from the memory or the imagination.
Read the rest of the story
Gas pipeline in northern Russia
Yesterday the New York Times had a story on the lack of pipelines preventing several oil fields in Siberia from capping the natural gas that comes out of their wells. Instead of pumping the gas to markets in Europe and Asia, Soviet era fields like the ones near Usinsk, 1,000 miles northeast of Moscow, are flaring gas. The amount of gas annually wasted by one company, Rosneft, would be enough to power a city the size of Denver (600,000 people) for a year. These gas flares can be seen at night by satellites orbiting in outer space.
On the positive side, Rosneft is trying to raise cash for new pipelines with an initial public offering open (at least theoretically) to some foreign investors.
Tales of waste and inefficiency in the oil and gas sector in Russia are nothing new. However, the article reveals a fact that most westerners outside the oil industry probably didn't know - why Russia dilutes its expensive low sulfur crude with cheaper, higher sulfur oil from the Caucuses to create the mediocre "Urals blend" it sells to Europe.
Continue reading "The Politics of Russian Oil Distribution" »
Aeroflot's Boeing 767
Seattle, WA -- Aeroflot is the biggest Russian airline, dating back to the days of the Soviet Union when it used to be a state monopoly. Today things are different, and Aeroflot must compete in the Russian market and internationally as well. This is why Americans and foreigners residing in Oregon and Washington recently saw their favorite direct flight between Seattle-Moscow cancelled. This route will not re-open until Summer 2008.
Flights inside Russia are still done using old Russian jets like Ilyushin and Tupolev. The planes are loud, uncomfortable and they aren't allowed in European and American airports because of their noise levels. While noise levels are the official reason, the real one might be the issue of safety. Soviet-era planes simply aren't safe to fly. There are many stories you could hear from old-time American travelers who took flights to Russia on Soviet aircraft.
However, Aeoroflot's Seattle office commented on this article saying that "If you look close into Aeroflot's history, you'll be surprised to find that Aeroflot was and still is one of the safest airlines in the world (there are many other Russian airlines currently operating in Russia, please don't mix them up with Aeroflot)."
Continue reading "Why Doesn't Aeroflot Fly to Seattle?" »
By Michael Averko
A Ukrainian-American acquaintance of mine recently likened Ukrainian political figure Yulia Tymoshenko to a Stalinist because the name of her party (Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc) has a cult of personality aspect. I nevertheless shy away from the loaded Stalinist label. Outside of North Korea's Kim Jong Il, I'm hard pressed to find a present day world leader who comes close to matching the Soviet dictator. Even Kim Jong Il falls well short of the ruthless standard set by "Uncle Joe."
Politics is a business. Corporations are often named after their respective founders. For this reason, it's somewhat surprising to see so few political parties (the world over) named after the party leader. Like her or not, Tymoshenko has that charismatic touch.
Continue reading "A Primer on Yulia Tymoshenko" »