Aleksey Barinov facing charges
ARHANGELSK, Russia, May 23 -- Aleksey Barinov, the governor of Nenetskiy Region was arrested. The governor faces criminal charges of fraud and grand theft as part of a group of corrupt officials.
In the late 1990s, the governor served as CEO of the natural resources company "ArhangelskGeoDobicha" (Archangelsk Geological Mining).While directing this firm, Mr. Barinov allegedly appropriated several condos and garages from the corporation and forged bills of exchange and geologic research contracts. Mr. Barinov also faces charges of tax evasion. The governor's illegal profits added up to one million dollars per year. FSB investigators still don't know the grand total of the governor's illicit funds; however this arrest was just the first in a series for arrests and forced resignations for several prominent Russian politicians. In my opinion, these people are the real Russian mafia, not the petty pimps and drug dealers you hear about on Western television.
Continue reading "Russia's Real Mafia Are Russian Governors, Senators; Several Politicians Forced to Resign; Putin Fires General" »
Space station commander Pavel Vinogradov will not smack a golf ball into orbit outside the International Space Station (ISS) during a planned spacewalk next week, NASA officials have said.
Vinogradov, commander of the station's Expedition 13 mission, was slated to hit a golf ball into space during a June 1 spacewalk as part of an agreement between Russia's Federal Space Agency and the Canadian golf equipment firm Element 21 (E21) Golf Co. "It's definitely not in this one," NASA ISS spokesperson Kylie Clem told SPACE.com of the golf shot. "We've been told that it's been pushed to the next [Russian] spacewalk."
"Just about every single record for distance in the golf industry will be shattered this fall when an astronaut will hit a golf ball into orbit around the Earth using an E21 golf club," Element 21 said in a statement earlier this month.
Read the rest of the story from Yahoo News
Peggy Hilt in court (Reuters)
Manassas, Virginia -- Peggy Hilt was sentenced to 25 years in prison today for killing her daughter, who was adopted from a Russia orphanage. 14 children adopted in Russia have been killed by their US parents over the past ten years. RussiaBlog decided to take this case as an opportunity to address the issue of adoption of Russian kids by American families, which is a major issue for many couples hoping to adopt here in the Pacific Northwest.
According to the News Observer, Kathy Friend, an American trying to adopt a child in Irkutsk, blamed the Hilt case for delaying many adoptions. "Not only did Peggy Sue Hilt kill her daughter, but she has killed the hopes and dreams of many children here in Irkutsk to be with their American-forever families," she said. Nearly 60,000 Russian kids have been adopted by American families since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many Americans were worried that adoptions of Russian children would be banned by the Duma because of the recent murders. However, this is not true.
Continue reading "Child Murderer Gets 25 Years; Duma Reconsiders Legislation on Foreign Adoptions" »
MOSCOW -- A Toyota Land Cruiser Prado exploded in the northern part of the city. Police suspect that this was a business-related crime. An unidentified businessman and his driver and bodyguard were in the car. All three survived, which means that the bomb was planted to "scare" rather than to "kill".
The bodyguard was armed with a pistol, which is illegal, but possession of this kind of weapon is usually overlooked by authorities. There's no official way to be licensed as a bodyguard in Russia.
Please read more about business-related attacks in the crime section of the RussiaBlog.
Also, you can find a video update about Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, from the New York Times website, by clicking on this link.
Continue reading "Businessman Attacked in Moscow" »
Bruce Willis visited Moscow for the Russian-language release of Over the Hedge, his new animated cartoon. The actor was joined by the Russian actors and pop stars.
Click on the extended post for pictures of Bruce Willis, who never misses an opportunity to visit his friends in Moscow.
Continue reading "Bruce Willis Visits Moscow" »
VORONEZH, May 23 -- Vasiliy Nikitin, a Hero of Soviet Union (the Soviet equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor) received a phone call in the morning, telling him to stay home for lunch, because he would be getting a "phone call from Moscow at noon". Precisely at noon the phone rang and the WWII veteran was told to hold for a moment. Nikitin didn't know who was calling and for what reason, but he later said that "When he started talking to me, I knew right away it was Putin himself!"
The veteran was flattered and nervous and doesn't remember how long he talked with the President, "probably 15-20 minutes". Nikitin shared with the President his memories of being wounded eight times while fighting the Germans and getting caught in his burning tank several times. Putin listened with interest and didn't interrupt the old man.
There are only six heroes from The Great Patriotic War (Russia's term for WWII) left in Voronezh, out of 57... Vasiliy Nikitin chose to receive the cash value of his cancelled veterans' pension, but the local government has never paid him. Considering his miserable state pension, this hero barely survives. The NTV Channel ran a special report about this veteran and a day later Putin promised the old man that he would personally solve his unpaid pension problem. Something tells me Vasiliy will be getting a check for the remainder of his days...
US Nuclear Safety NGO Activists Travel to Russia, 2001
By Jeremy Whitcombe
Russia's pullback from foreign-funded NGOs is a rational reaction to how some of these institutions were abused by criminals posing as philanthropists during the Yeltsin era. But how much of the Russian government's reaction is justified- and how much is politically motivated? Future Chinese NGO legislation will follow Russia's lead, as American involvement in the "color revolutions" of Central Asia and Eastern Europe comes to light.
Russia's January 2006 law limiting the operation of NGOs, especially those with foreign funding, has earned it pariah status. What Western audiences rarely hear is that Russia has reasons to crack down on some NGOs.
Continue reading "China, Russia and NGOs" »
Police photograph the scene of the shooting
St. Petersburg, May 19 -- Police shot and killed the leader of the neo-fascist skinhead group Mad Crowd. Dmitri Borovikov was shot in the head while resisting arrest and brandishing a knife. St. Petersburg police allege that Borovikov and his Mad Crowd gang committed a number of racist attacks and gunned down a Senegalese student on April 7th.
St. Petersburg police investigated the gang for a month before they linked the murder weapon to Borovikov's neighbor, who had given it to him to repair. The apartment where Borovikov's girlfriend lives was under surveillance, and after several weeks the suspect showed up. Police decided to arrest him when he stepped out of the apartment building into the street.
Continue reading "St. Petersburg Skinhead Gang Leader Shot Dead by Police" »
Immediately after hearing Vice President Dick Cheney's negative remarks about Russia, I thought to myself: things just don't connect. Cheney's comments outraged both Russians and Americans alike, especially some people I know well who have spent considerable time in both countries. A good friend of mine who is an American lawyer, and has been doing business (and supporting the GOP) in Russia for nearly twenty years was dumbstruck by the Vice President's remarks.
At the same time, I have been trying to decide what to write about Putin's annual address to the Russian nation. Unfortunately, two long business trips prevented me from spending time on either topic.
So today, when I didn't find any immediate Russian news to report, I decided to simply write about Russia as it is today, in the here and now. Recent events lend themselves to just such an informative and critical overview.
By now I'm sure you have heard about Hamas visiting Moscow, and Russia's demographic crisis, with the country possibly losing 1/3rd of its 140 million people by 2040. There is also the ongoing tragedy of Russian army conscripts being brutalized by their comrades, with some losing body parts and others going AWOL or committing suicide to escape daily torment at the hands of their comrades. Many of the same thugs who torture their fellow soldiers also display their adolescent ultranationalism by joining skinhead groups and killing blacks and gays.
Continue reading "Connecting the Dots on Russia" »
Logo for House 2 Show
Pensioners from the Russian city of Sverdlovsk recently wrote a letter to the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov about...a reality TV show. The reality show Dom 2 (House 2), like its MTV counterparts, is mostly about young slackers who pretty much do nothing. Russian pensioners, organized by a babushka named Rimma Alesandrovna Vrubel, think that the show is an immoral influence on Russian youth. Mrs. Vrubel has a 17 year old grandson who is due for his mandatory army service next year. The pensioners wrote to Ivanov asking him why the reality TV stars were not doing their duty.
This is the second complaint by elderly pensioners against the show, and today the Defense Ministry replied to the babushka, explaining the results of their investigation. Out of ten participants on the show, five Russian citizens are older than 27 year of age and therefore are no longer eligible for army service. One other participant is a citizen of Uzbekistan. The other four guys are the right age for the army service and the Defense Ministry will do its best to get these able-bodied young men drafted into the army. The pensioners are very satisfied with the Defense Ministry response. "They read our letters and care about the nation's opinion" -- said Mrs. Vrubel.
Continue reading "Russian Reality TV Stars Get Drafted" »
Today's Weird but True News from Russia
Orthodox priests join the protest
Moscow-- Hundreds of Russian Orthodox Christians took the streets today to oppose The Da Vinci Code and burn posters from the movie, in their best impersonation of the angry Muslims who torched Danish flags in response to the Mohammed cartoons. "That's how the heretic things are burned!" exclaimed one ecstatic spokesman for the demonstrators. While the posters were burning, Moscow cops stood aside. Officers had been briefed by their supervisors not to intervene in these "religious things, unless there's an open physical fight". Many Russian Muslims are also outraged by the film, because Jesus is esteemed as a prophet in the Koran, they view The Da Vinci Code's claim that Jesus slept with Mary Magdalene as an attack on their religion as well as Christianity.
The protestors were praying for the hearts and souls of moviegoers and shouting the slogan "Buy a movie ticket -- sell Jesus Christ!" A handful of young Russian girls who witnessed the protest decided that now they "must see that movie". The spokesman for the protesters added that, "We're burning the heretic posters, we'll burn the heretic books and we'd love to throw Dan Brown and the actors into the furnace as well, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!" Several hundred copies of Dan Brown's novel will be burned tomorrow at 2 pm, in Pushkinskaya Square in downtown Moscow. If you live in Moscow make sure to check out the movie and the protest!
Click on the extended post to read more outrageous and funny stories from Russia.
Continue reading "Russian Orthodox Protesters Call for Jihad on Dan Brown, Da Vinci Code" »
Yesterday The American Spectator published my article about illegal immigrants. I'm receiving a lot of letters to the editor related to it. Below is the revised published version of the older RussiaBlog post; the letters to the editor can be found in the extended section of this post. I just got back from an extended trip and apologize for a long time without new posts. Please enjoy the comments and the article and come back soon for more posts about Russia!
Continue reading "I'm Not Illegal" »
By Michael Averko
Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior - destroyed by Stalin in 1931, painstakingly restored in the 1990s
Last week saw the formal unification of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) and the Moscow-based ROC. Since the Soviet breakup, growing ties have emerged between diaspora Russians and Russia.
After the Russian Civil War (1917-1921), the politically exiled anti-Communist "White" Russians formed the ROCOR. The ROC which remained in Russia had to be subservient to Soviet rule in order to survive. Critics of that church have been quick to highlight this fact. It's also true that in pre-revolutionary Russia, the ROC was beholden to the existing government structure.
Whether during pre-Soviet, Soviet and post Soviet times, one can find plenty of negative commentary about the ROC. Much of the criticism comes from non-ROC sources. I'm glad to see some individuals making a sincere effort to provide a more even-handed perspective on the subject. To my knowledge, every major religious denomination has had political aspects ranging from the good to not so good. The many earnest followers of each respective faith should not be tarnished because of such actions.
Continue reading "Russian Orthodox Church Unites" »
By Michael Averko
African and Russian students protest neo-fascist violence
The following commentary originally appeared in the Sunday, May 7, edition of Johnson's Russia List.
Two classic and different approaches highlight the diverse manner in how Russia is covered. One of them deals solely with that country, minus analogies to what's evident elsewhere. The other scenario takes a comparative view, where related situations in other parts of the world are linked (in academia, "comparative politics" is a standard political studies discipline).
Both extremes have their advantages and drawbacks. No two situations are exactly the same and quite often, the given comparison can be way off the mark. A prime example is Polish Defense Minister Radek Sikorski's recent suggestion that the Russo-German gas pipeline is a reincarnation of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which saw Poland carved up between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. When used properly though, the comparative route can better relate the situation in a country to others outside of it.
The unfortunate problem of racism in Russia brings to mind some recent articles on the subject. Along with my friend Yuri Mamchur's Russia Blog post on May Day fascist demonstrations, an Open Democracy article by Zygmunt Dzieciolowski covers intolerance in Russia without making comparisons to other parts of the world. Kirill Pankratov of eXile.ru in contrast, takes the comparative approach. This route shouldn't be seen as deflecting attention away from the serious problem of racism in Russia. At the same time, there should be a fair and balanced appraisal of Russia's problems.
Continue reading "Coverage of Intolerance in Russia and Abroad" »
Cover of Brigada DVD
Brigada, subtitled "Once Upon a Time in Russia" in the U.S. and "Law of the Lawless" in Europe, is probably the best-known Russian mafia mini-series. Brigada made actor Vladimir Vdovichenkov a star. Vdovichenkov went on to portray a heroic ex-con in the 2003 hit movie Bumer, and also in Bumer 2. With good English subtitles, Bumer and Bumer 2 could easily be shown on HBO.
Brigada on the other hand, was made for RTR TV in 2003, and Director Alexei Sidorov only had $200,000 to shoot the entire first season - or roughly what the producers of Fox's hit "24" spend on each episode. Unfortunately, this shoestring budget (by Western standards) means that cheesy background music and terrible English subtitles make it difficult for non-Russians to appreciate the quality of the acting or comprehend the storyline.
Click on the extended post to read more.
Continue reading ""Brigada: Season 1" Reviewed" »
Soviet and Russian flags side by side
Moscow -- May 9 - Today Russians observed solemn Victory Day celebrations. This is a day which is hard for many Russian families to forget; my dad's family alone lost nine men and two women in World War II. The Soviet Union claimed that 27 million men and women died during the war, but some historians believe even more Soviet citizens were killed as a result of famine, combat, and mass deportation between 1941-45.
Now that the Soviet Union is gone, there are no more parades with tanks and missiles rolling down Red Square while the leaders watch from boxes as the nation flexes its military muscles. The parade today consisted of a somber march of honor guard army units, carrying flags, symbols and rifles of the victorious Red Army units.
May 9 is one of the best days to visit Moscow -- everything is shut down for pedestrians, there's no crime, and no bitterness -- even police officers are singing war songs along with the veterans. Today was for Russian patriots, not for thousands of marching communists and young thugs waving fascist flags. Many female veterans couldn't walk a 100 yards without strangers handing them flowers in gratitude. The entire megapolis turns into a surreal version of heaven. Two hundred thousand Muscovites participated in the celebration, which ended with fireworks shot into the air 30 times from a hundred weapons - just like back in 1945.
View more photos from Vesti.ru in our extended post
Continue reading "Victory Day in Russia" »
Several Russian media outlets are reporting this week that Aeroflot will purchase Airbus instead of Boeing airliners
In the last year, Aeroflot has been negotiating to purchase 22 long-distance Boeing 787 Dreamliners, worth $3 billion dollars. Under the contract, Boeing would have started delivering the planes in 2008 and completed the order in 2009.
Since the early 1990s, there has been fierce competition between Airbus and Boeing for dominance in the global airliner market. When Aeroflot recently modernized its medium-range fleet, it replaced Boeing 737s with Airbus A320s. Nonetheless, for several years Aeroflot has used Boeings 767s for its long distance routes. Now Gazeta.ru, Vedomosti.ru and several other Russian media outlets are reporting that Aeroflot is reconsidering the Boeing purchase, due to the political uproar sparked last week by Vice President Cheney's remarks about Russia. Aeroflot is now likely to order A350s manufactured by Boeing's rival Airbus.
The final decision on this purchase will be made on May 10, and it looks like Americans here in Seattle will lose a very large lucrative contract due to the Vice President's irresponsible remarks. Russia Blog is wondering why the Vice President, the Administration and certain U.S. Senators have all recently decided to step up their harsh criticism of the Kremlin lately. Why now?
Russian sources on this topic:
Seattle -- May 12, the Russian folk/rock band Lyube is performing at Benaroya Hall. Lyube has been the most popular Russian band for several years with their traditional melodies and poignant lyrics. RussiaBlog has written before about popular music in Russia, and how the hits are the songs with strong melodies and realistic words. Lyube has been the first or near the top of the charts every year since the late 1980s.
Like the most popular American country and rock ballads, Lyube's songs are compassionate stories about common Russians. Many of their songs are about the brutal Russian Army life and the war in Chechnya, talking about a single mother's son going into the army and dying for his troubled motherland. The album Zona Lyube was entirely devoted to Russians in prison -- their life stories, dreams and hopes. Combined with great instrumentals, background choir vocals and beautiful music -- this is concert will be a must see (and hear) for everyone interested in Russia.
Sadly, I have never seen Lyube performing live, and though they will be playing only a block away from my office, I will be in New York and will miss the show. Please click on the extended post to see photos of Lyube performing for Russian troops in Chechnya.
UPDATE1: Lyube tickets are now sold out according to Ticketmaster and the box office at Benaroya Hall. If you're like Charlie and still looking for tickets, try EBay or Craigslist. As of 3 p.m. PST May 9 there were no tickets being scalped online. Outside the Benaroya Hall website, there was no advertising in Seattle for this show, and it's still sold out. That's what I call a loyal fan base.
Continue reading "Popular Russian Folk Rockers to Perform at Seattle's Benaroya Hall" »
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly the richest man in Russia, now a resident of the Siberian Colony YaG-14/10 twelve miles from the Chinese border, was hospitalized this week. Mr. Khodorkovsky had been on a hunger strike, drinking water as his only nutrition. He started a hunger strike to protest his jailers' decision to put him in a single-person cell, after he was attacked by another inmate April 14.
On April 14, 22-year old prisoner Alexander Kuchma got into an argument with the former oligarch and attacked him with a shiv. Khodorkovsky suffered a deep cut on his face. No charges have been filed yet as a result of this incident. According to Russian laws, in cases involving personal injury, the victim has to press charges himself. Khodorkovsky, probably worried about his personal safety and reputation among his cellmates, has decided to drop all charges. The prisoner Kuchma received a slap on the wrist for this brutal attack - just a few days of solitary confinement.
Continue reading "Khodorkovsky Update" »
Filling up in Russia - high sulfur and high cost
Several U.S. politicians this week are calling for a windfall profits tax to punish oil companies for making too much profit and allegedly price gouging at the pump. Likewise, on the international stage, several European and American leaders have accused Russia of using gas prices to bully its neighbors and manipulate world energy markets. U.S. Senator John McCain, a leading contender for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2008, observed last week in Brussels that the Soviet Union never cut off natural gas to its neighbors, but Gazprom did last year.
Piling on with more Russia-is-an-energy-manipulator commentary yesterday was one Max Boot, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. To read the LA Times article registration is required, but Tennessee Law School Professor Glenn Reynolds, who runs the very popular Instapundit blog, posted this excerpt:
Of the top 14 oil exporters, only one is a well-established liberal democracy -- Norway. Two others have recently made a transition to democracy -- Mexico and Nigeria. Iraq is trying to follow in their footsteps. That's it. Every other major oil exporter is a dictatorship -- and the run-up in oil prices has been a tremendous boon to them.
My associate at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ian Cornwall, calculates that if oil averages $71 a barrel this year, 10 autocracies stand to make about $500 billion more than in 2003, when oil was at $27. This windfall helps to squelch liberal forces and entrench noxious dictators in such oil producers as Russia (which stands to make $115 billion more this year than in 2003) and Venezuela ($36 billion). Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez can buy off their publics with generous subsidies and ignore Western pressure while sabotaging democratic developments from Central America to Central Asia.
While we won't comment on Boot's implied comparison between Putin and the anti-American loudmouth Chavez, Russia Blog's editors decided to do our own quick comparison of subsidies paid to Venezuelans and Russians.
Continue reading "Is Russia Abusing its Energy Position?" »
Putin Hires U.S. PR Firm to Improve Russia's Image
Today is the World Press Freedom Day, and the highly respected NGO Reporters Without Borders published their annual report on the state of media and freedom of speech in the world (you can read the full text of the report here).
Briefly, it's been a bad year for journalists around the world who have faced kidnappings, killings and threats, especially in Iraq, the worst year recorded since 1995. As for freedom of speech -- the list of countries with strong government censorship included the former Soviet republics of Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. People were prosecuted for Internet posts and articles in China, Vietnam, the Maldives, Iran, Libya, Syria and Tunisia. The report did not include Russia on this list of Internet censors, but did criticize the Kremlin, stating "Violence against journalists in Russia was frequent and impunity prevailed in a country where news is still closely controlled by the government." The problem with this sentence is that it implies a connection between the first fact, and the second opinion. The two journalists killed last year were victims of organized crime, or perhaps the mullah's regime in Iran, not the Russian government.
Continue reading "Reporters Without Borders Comments on Freedom of the Press in Russia" »
Demonstrators shout "Putin Go to Hell!", "Death to Homosexuals!", "Beat up the Jews and the Blacks!"
Protesters' banner reads, " Putin and Successors - Go to Hell!"
Moscow - May 1 is the Day of Labor and Solidarity in Russia. A few thousand people marched through downtown, celebrating the holiday and chanting slogans. The most popular slogans of the day were "Putin and Successor -- Go to Hell", "Death to Homosexuals" and the usual "Seig Heils" from Russian skinheads. The march consisted of a mixed crowd including Communists led by former Presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov joined by many Russian fascists. The latter groups claimed that they joined the parade in solidarity with "the Russian working class in its fight against the non-Russian capitalists". Some neo-fascists were carrying Russian Orthodox images of Jesus Christ and holding their icons and Nazi flags side by side.
Continue reading "Moscow Fascists, Communists Mark May Day" »
Moscow -- About 70 babushkas (old Russian ladies) and young nationalists gathered May 1 to protest a party at the gay club "Three Monkeys". Yesterday the same kind of protest took place in front of the club "Renaissance". Today the protestors were more aggressive; the babushkas were waving Orthodox icons, and the nationalists were yelling out fascist slogans. Special police units surrounded the protestors expecting violence through the night.
Enjoy the pictures from this amazing event here at RussiaBlog!
Continue reading "Babushkas and Skinheads Protest Gay Club Party" »