Yesterday, President Putin was walking through the Kremlin as he returned from the Russian Military Academy graduation ceremony. As he was passing the crowd of tourists he stopped to talk to some children in the crowd. One little boy, 4 or 5 years old, attracted Putin's attention. The boy was very shy, but he and the President managed a short conversation. The boy's grandmother pushed him closer to the President who asked, "What's your name?", "Nikita" -- answered the boy.
After that, Putin reached for the boy's t-shirt, lifted it up, and kissed the kid's stomach. Caught on video, the bizarre episode has been broadcast throughout Russia and has sparked the attention of many of Putin's most loyal fans. In an online forum sposored by Yandex and BBC on July 6th, President Putin is scheduled to answer emailed questions from all over Russia and UK. Right now Russia's top question for her president is "Why did you kiss the boy?" Other questions concerning Russian life, the military draft, poverty, bureaucracy, and corruption are of less concern.
You can watch the video here, and see the photos in the extended post. Enjoy!
Continue reading "Putin Shocks Kremlin Tourists with a Random Act of Affection" »
Putin talking to Saudi prince
Moscow- Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is hosting Saudi prince Salman bin Abdel Asis al Saud in Moscow this week. On Wednesday President Putin personally met with the prince and chose this particular meeting to announce to the world Russia's response to the jihadists who murdered four Russian diplomatic workers last week in Iraq: "find and destroy".
Not many people in the world are aware that since Putin was appointed President in 1999, Russia has revived its tradition of hunting down terrorists abroad. Given the traditional centralization of powers in Russia and the common national goal of revenge, there will be no Russian newspapers posting details about ongoing counterterrorist operations on their front pages, as happens with the New York Times in America. The Russian Duma is also not the U.S. Congress; Putin's order "to kill" has elicited nary a word of dissent.
Continue reading "Putin Issues License to Kill" »
RussiaBlog has written many times about the conspicuous consumption of wealthy Muscovites and the outrageous excess of Russian nouveau riche spending money left and right. Finally this week a new report has the statistical proof that Moscow is the world's most expensive city. Below you can read quotes from multiple news sources outlining the most interesting facts. Please don't forget that while Moscow is the Russian capital, many Russians and Eastern Europeans say that Moscow isn't the real Russia and vice-versa. While Moscow prices are booming, common Russians aren't doing so well.
Continue reading "Moscow the Most Expensive City in the World" »
Last week, four kidnapped Russian embassy workers were murdered by terrorists in Iraq. You can download a video that includes verses about jihad, the beheading of one hostage, and another hostage being shot in the head. You can read media coverage of this sickening act from Reuters, Euronews, BBC and CNN.
RussiaBlog would like to note three facts not widely mentioned in the Western media. First of all, the Russian Foreign Ministry blames the United States and Coalition forces for not providing better security around the embassies in Baghdad. While it is difficult to hold someone legally responsible for atrocities committed by fanatics, the Russian Foreign Ministry does have a point: why was it so easy to kidnap diplomatic workers only 1,000 feet away from their embassy?
Continue reading "Russian Diplomats Killed" »
Soviet troops advance under fire
June 22nd marked the 65th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. Since the opening months of the war found Soviet soldiers completely unprepared for the onslaught, in Russia this date passes with far less notice than the VE Day celebrations in May. All around the world people prefer commemorating victories to defeats, though military strategists have understood since the Spartans that more lessons are learned from failure than success.
Continue reading "Barbarossa - 65 Years Later" »
The Mujahadeen Shura Council in Iraq logo
To my great surprise, none of the major U.S. networks are reporting at this hour about the four Russian diplomats kidnapped earlier this month in Iraq. Today their kidnappers announced that the diplomats will be executed in 48 hours unless Russia agrees to their demands.
On June 3, 2006, a Chevrolet Tahoe carrying five Russian diplomats was cut off by a mini-van and a sedan just 1,200 feet away from the Russian embassy in Baghdad. The diplomats were shot at by gunmen armed with assault rifles. Vitaliy Titov, one of the diplomats, was severely wounded and died later that day. Four more embassy workers were kidnapped.
Today, some organization calling itself "The Mujahadeen Shura Council in Iraq" announced that "even though Russia didn't participate in the Iraqi invasion, its government was supportive of the Crusader American invasion". Now the "council" wants Russian Federal forces (police and army) to withdraw from Chechnya and free all Muslim prisoners in Russia within 48 hours, otherwise the diplomats will be executed. The leaders of Mujahideen Shura Council added: "But we say to those people that we do jihad against the enemies of Allah and make His Rulings prevail everywhere in the land. For us every Muslim in the world is a brother, and for him, we sacrifice our money and our people if he encounters anything. How can you ask us to forget what the weakened Muslims are encountering from the Russian government and its people?"
Continue reading "Russian Diplomats Have 48 Hours to Live; Chechen Terrorist Commander Killed" »
Travel Russian style
During any season of the year, Western tourists are amazed at the number of Russians on the beaches of Turkey, Egypt, Spain and Italy. In Egypt and Turkey you might have trouble communicating complicated thoughts in English, but you will never have a problem finding locals who understand Russian or billboard targeted exclusively at the Russian tourist crowd.
These observations paint a picture of rich Russians traveling abroad and spending tons of money as they go. Stories abound of Russians throwing hundred dollar bills left and right on their Mediterranean vacations. To find out if these rumors of prodigal Russians are representative of the general Russian population, RussiaBlog decided to take a closer look at who is traveling where and how much they are spending. The numbers we found challenged many generalizations about Russian tourists. It appears that only 1.4% of Russians will go abroad for their vacation this summer, and only 13% of Russian kids will be able to afford summer camps. The rest of the nation will stay close to home, working at their "dachas" where many families and elderly raise fruits and vegetables to get them through the rest of the year.
Continue reading "Russian Travel:
Can Russians Afford a Vacation?" »
Yesterday Chechnya celebrated the 100 days of Ramzan Kadyrov being prime minister of the state. Ramzan Kadyrov is son of assassinated president Akhmad Kadyrov. He is very popular among common Chechens and also is a good friend with the Kremlin. Since Putin managed to get this twenty nine year old Chechen on his side, the violence in Chechnya has dropped almost to zero; Chechnya got its first centralized government in history; many schools, hospitals and bridges destroyed by a decade of war have been rebuilt.
Kadyrov has a genuine 85% approval rating by Chechens, while being fully backed and supported by the Kremlin. One hundred days ago he gave a promise to Chechens that he would leave his position, if the population and the parliament weren't satisfied with his work. Through the day Kadyrov was very busy, and even didn't show up at some of the events celebrating the beginning of operations of a new middle school, new dance club, new hospital, new bridge, new stadium named "Ramzan", etc.
Putting money to work...
Continue reading "Ramzan Kadyrov Scores a Hundred" »
Pyotr Buslov's Bumer (the Russian equivalent of "beamer"), released in August 2003, opens with a BMW 750 sedan parked in a dimly lit alley in a Russian city. Two thieves, Kostya (Brigada's Vladimir Vdovichenkov) and Petya (Sergei Gorobchenko) easily steal the car, and drive it to a chop shop. When they arrive, they decide to keep the BMW and have their mechanic forge new plates and serial numbers for the engine. While driving from the chop shop, a cop pulls them over and takes them to the station, where they pay a $1,000 bribe and are released. After a hard night of stealing cars, Kostya goes home to his devoted wife Nastya (Anastasiya Sapozhnikova), who is sick of Kostya's criminal lifestyle, and wants to leave Russia for good.
Just when the couple are about to argue about emigrating again, Kostya's cellphone rings (this movie ringtone later became a pop hit song) with a frantic call from his brat Dimon (Andrei Merzlikin). Dimon had been driving all over the road in his white Mercedes when he nearly collided with a group of gangsters. These heavies forced him to pull over, beat him up, and stole his car. Dimon needs Kostya and the other "brothers" help to get his car back. Lyokha (Maksim Konovalov) and Petya track down the gang that stole their friend's car, and they barge into the gangsters' offices. When the gangsters start trading insults and threats, Lyokha pulls a pistol and shoots a man dead.
Continue reading "Driving from the 21st to the 15th Century - Bumer Reviewed" »
MOSCOW -- The Russian Duma (Parliament) approved on the second reading a bill which removes the majority of army draft exemptions. According to current law, the husbands of pregnant wives, fathers of children under three years old, teachers and doctors from remote villages could be temporarily exempted from serving in the army. Now, every able-bodied male is legally obligated to serve.
Pregnant wives will receive $135 in exchange for their husbands, and after the baby is born - $200. If the husband is killed... well, too bad, because the widows' pensions are not nearly enough for a single mom to raise a little child on.
Russian schools and hospitals barely have any male employees due to very low salaries. While working for a Moscow School 1205, I remember attending a meeting for regional schools which served a population of three million. There were only five new male teachers present, all under the age of 25, all wanting to find other jobs as soon as possible. Being a male teacher in Russian schools is a heroic act and an extraordinary privilege for kids. The Duma's logic just doesn't add up in my mind -- how can they expect boys to become men (so that they would serve in the army) without any male role models around, with their fathers and teachers in the army?
Continue reading "Genocide or Stupidity?" »
Chahmahchyan getting ready for a well-deserved "vacation"
This week the parliament of Kalmyk region was asked to fire their federal Senator Levon Chahmahchyan, so that the FSB could press charges when he is no longer immune from prosecution. Among other crimes, the Senator was caught carrying $300,000 cash out of the offices of the local company "Transaero", for whom he had been doing favors. The hundred dollar bills were marked this time, and his suitcase was full of them, stacked neatly just like in a Hollywood movie.
Senator Chahmahchyan is of Armenian origin. The Armenian mafia has always been very powerful in Russia. Many Armenians are dominant players in the construction business which is booming in major Russian cities. Several Armenians are close business partners with Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's wife, who along with her husband has become a billionaire during his term in office.
Chahmahchyan's son in law is a senior official at the Russian Ministry of Finance. When he was first caught, Chahmahchya joked that this was just a political game between him and "Transaero" executives, but later in the day his son in law was arrested as well. The Senator had just been elected the day before as the new president of the Russian Armenian Association.
Continue reading "Another Senator Arrested for Taking Bribes" »
Sochi is the southernmost city in Russia and is located on the Black Sea. The airport is easily accessible from Moscow or St Petersburg via a three hour flight. The seawater is rather dirty, and the environment isn't nearly as clean as you will find in the Pacific Northwest. However, this is the only opportunity to enjoy the "Riviera" for many Russian businessmen and officials who either do not have enough time to go abroad or cannot leave Russia, because they will be arrested for financial crimes. The examples of Pavel Borodin and Yevgeny Adamov proved that sometimes it's better to stay in Russia.
Agence France Press has a great story about Sochi. The town is receiving incredible investments from the state gas monopoly Gazprom, and local officials want to bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. The only thing I would like to correct from Yahoo's story is the fact that Sochi isn't known for being a ski-resort, but it used to be a famous summer resort destination for Soviet elite, and now serves as an extremely overpriced destination for Russians above the law.
Original Yahoo Story:
Continue reading "Sochi - Russia's Black Sea Riviera" »
The entire album goes for $1 on www.allofmp3.com!
RussiaBlog has written before about copyright violations in Russia and the former Soviet Union. I have really strong feelings about this issue, because I produce my own music and have worked with the largest Ukrainian music business at the time in late 90s early 2000s.
Things are getting better with DVD's, because Russian companies simply dropped prices per copy so they would be able to compete with pirated versions. Licensed DVDs for new Russian releases can be purchased for $4-6 each. The same with Russian music, regular CDs go for $3-5. The only hope for musicians is daily live concerts. However, Western producers are getting ripped off again and again. Please read more about music business in Russia here, and in the meantime, enjoy the news story from MSNBC.com.
MOSCOW - A Russian Web site that lets visitors download albums for less than $1 is a smash hit with music fans -- but not with U.S. trade and music industry officials.
Continue reading "Pirate Russian Web Site Rivals iTunes" »