Crime scene (from NTV news report)
After several weeks of peace and quiet in the Moscow business world, today there was another "business-related" murder. This news received only two paragraphs in the most outlets and can only be found on the bottom of the crime section of Russian websites. It reads: "The body of 37 year old Pavel Orlov was found in his apartment on Udaltsova Street in Moscow. Mr. Orlov was shot twice in the back. Investigators said that Mr. Orlov, a native of St. Petersburg, was the owner of a successful restaurant chain in Moscow where he was renting the apartment. The murder is business related."
Please see the crime section of RussiaBlog for more information on business-related crimes and killings in Russia.
Zurab Tsereteli describing his public art work in Moscow
Internationally renowed Russo-Georgian artist Zurab Tsereteli will be in Bayonne, New Jersey on September 11, 2006 for a public ceremony dedicating a monument "To the Struggle Against World Terrorism".
The Associated Press reports that "The monument also has been billed as a gift from 'Russian President Vladimir Putin, the people of Russia and the artist' to the people of the United States, in the spirit of France's gift of the Statue of Liberty. The segments of the monument arrived in New Jersey from Russia last September, shortly before Putin attended a groundbreaking in Bayonne when he traveled to New York for meetings at the United Nations."
Fox News has an earlier version of the story discussing the controversy over whether some names should be removed from the monument. Unlike many other 9/11 memorials, the site includes the names of six people killed in the first terrorist attempt to bring down the World Trade Center, in 1993. New York and New Jersey officials are in talks with the artist's lawyer to decide about the other names not found in the official list of WTC dead.
Click on the extended post to see the monument and read the full AP article.
Continue reading "Russia Donates 9/11 Memorial to New Jersey" »
Prince Saud Al-Feisal and President Putin in Moscow
With the world's headlines currently dominated by news from the Israeli-Hezbollah War, it's surprising how few English-language media outlets have noticed the statement President Putin delivered yesterday in Moscow, after his meeting with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Saud Al-Feisal. Putin said "Russia condemns any attempts to solve any problems through resorting to terrorism...the state of Israel has a right to live in peace and it should exercise it."
While Putin was visiting with the Saudi Minister, Chechen Prime-Minister Ramzan Kadyrov was visiting Russian youth organizations for a political summer session on Lake Seliger (located between Moscow and St Petersburg), where he announced that two more Chechen terrorist commanders have been neutralized; with one killed and another captured. Hozh-Ahmed Dushayev, the "Emir" of Kurchaloevsky Region and his partner were responsible for the most recent terrorist attacks in the now peaceful province of Russia.
Continue reading "Putin Condemns Hezbollah, Supports Israel; Kadyrov Kills More Terrorists" »
Chavez embraces Putin in the Kremlin
Today's news is that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is visiting Moscow, slapping the backs of Putin and LUKOil's Vagit Alekperov, signing oil contracts, and pledging to purchase $3 billion worth of Russian weapons. Chavez also used his Kremlin stage to taunt America, calling the U.S. a "stupid giant". Chavez basked in the welcome from the Kremlin, the friendliness of many ordinary Russians on the streets, and favorable coverage from the Russian media. Russia Blog will try to explain why Chavez' visit was such a success for the Venezuelan strongman.
First of all, Hugo Chavez is drunk on oil money, and he usually pays on time and with cash. For example, the last time Russia Blog wrote about relations between Russia and Venezuela, we noted that Chavez ordered 100,000 barrels from Lukoil to meet his obligations to Petroleos de Venezuela's subsidized customers in South America.
As we have written many times before, Russians will never turn away anyone who has cash, (even Saddam Hussein), but they could care less about the causes of nationalities that have no money (i.e. Palestinians). Until very recently, Russia had nothing to sell besides oil and gas and some very good weapons. Second, many Russians, just like many Americans inside the Beltway, are still stuck in a Cold War mentality, and Chavez' anti-American remarks sounded great to them. But the biggest non-monetary reason Chavez scored was that Russians have a soft spot for loud pugnacious guys with a mafia attitude, and Chavez delivered. Chavez acted like a middle-aged millionaire gangster from a Siberian town, swilling vodka in public, listening to loud Russian national music, dropping cash and bear hugging President Putin.
Continue reading "Why Do Russians Love Chavez?" »
Leonid Nevzlin, Khodorkovsky's business partner,
"lost in translation" with Israeli journalists
Leonid Nevzlin, the former senior business partner of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, received his Israeli citizenship in 2003, when the Kremlin first set out to destroy Yukos. Since then, Mr. Nevzlin has been waving his new passport around, declaring that "Israel doesn't give out its people". However, the recent influx of foreign investment into the Russian energy market may prove many people wrong, including Nevzlin and Boris Berezovsky.
Lured by Rosneft's IPO and the promise of lucrative action in Russian energy, the oil industry seems to have forgotten about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former richest man in Russia, who now resides 12 miles from the Chinese border in Siberia. NGOs fighting the Kremlin to "free Khodorkovsky" have been drowned out by the hype surrounding the Russian government's IPO for Rosneft, the state-owned company that received the choicest parts of YUKOS.
Last week, a delegation of Israeli lawyers visited Moscow, to find out how they could help extradite Nevzlin for the crimes he's being investigated for in Russia. The list of white collar crimes Nevzlin is accused of should be familiar to anyone who has studied the careers of the oligarchs: tax evasion, theft, etc. Meanwhile in London, the British government is hosting a group of Russian general prosecutors, headed by the "Prokuratura" senior officials; they are talking to the British lawyers about how to extradite Berezovsky back to Russia.
Continue reading "Money Talks Louder than Politics" »
Should this man be worried?
An anonymous Moscow-based blogger writing for Ruminations on Russia is making some interesting claims about a report issued last week by UBS, an international investment bank. According to RoR's Thursday July 13 blog post, foreign investors are seriously underestimating how quickly the Russian economy is growing, and therefore how much gas Russia will soon burn at home instead of having available for export. For those of us hoping that Russia can provide the U.S. and Europe with a major alternative to importing more oil and gas form the Middle East, at first glance this sounds like very bad news.
Contrary to the dire predictions of Peak Oil doomsayers, the main obstacle to Russia meeting the world's need for more energy is not geology, but waste and corruption.
Continue reading "Private Energy Producers Rising in Russia?" »
Rosneft CEO Sergei Bogdanichikov with his picture of Putin
As the war in the Middle East continues to dominate the headlines and drive up oil prices, the biggest news in global energy markets this week continues to be OAO Rosneft's initial public offering.
As Austin, TX based Strategic Forecasting notes, until two years ago, Rosneft was an afterthought in the Russian oil market, a state-owned pigmy next to the privately-owned giants Lukoil, Yukos (Mikhail Khodorkovsky) and Sibneft (Roman Abramovich). Then Mikhail Khodorkovsky tried to sell his company to several multinational oil companies while buying influence in the West, portraying himself as the champion of opposition to Putin. The Kremlin responded to Khodorkovsky's hubris by dismembering Yukos and banishing the oligarch to a Siberian prison, far away from the friends he thought he could buy on Capitol Hill. Now the same oil majors Khodorkovsky thought would protect him from the Kremlin are buying shares in the empire he built, based on assets the oligarch stole from the Soviet Union.
Continue reading "Rosneft Picking its Shareholders" »
Another week brings two more horrible stories about senseless brutality in the Russian army. This time one of the victims is 19-year old Radik Habirov from Kazan, who was brought in to a local hospital weighing only 65 pounds and is now in a coma. This is the worst case of documented abuse in the Russian Army since the widely reported case of Pvt. Sychev six months ago. Last week in Moscow more details emerged from closed hearings about the extent of Pvt. Sychev's mutilation. Even Army doctors accustomed to seeing scars and broken bones from abuse have been shocked at how severely Pvt. Sychev was tortured by his comrades.
Army doctors had tried to cover up the crime, blaming the loss of Sychev's legs on a pre-existing medical condition, but a civilian panel of medical examiners concluded that Sychev was gang raped in the barracks while taped to his bunk. After being sodomized repeatedly, he was forced to do squats, then made to hold in the squatting position for hours, until he lost circulation in his legs. By the time he was brought to a hospital, doctors could only save Sychev's life by amputating his legs and genitals.
Warning: Graphic Photos in the Extended Post
Continue reading "Russian Army Desperately Needs Reform" »
The G8 summit is over and it could not have gone better for the Kremlin. World leaders saved their painful questions regarding the status of democracy in Russia for the unofficial dinner. The topic of continuing brutality in the Russian army wasn't even mentioned. And the so-called alternative G8 summit launched by the Russian "freedom fighters" Andrei Illarionov and chess master Gary Kasparov went largely unnoticed.
One cause of the summit's success was the pre-summit police work which prevented anti-globalists and other protesters from getting close the heart of the city. One of the protestor's requests for an anti-globalization march was approved, but with one condition -- the protestors had to march in circles around the soccer stadium on the outskirts of the city.
Continue reading "Russia's Success at the G8 Summit" »
In the anticipation of the G8 summit this week in St Petersburg, we present two different stories about the city hosting the gathering of world leaders. One is from Good Morning America shown today on ABC, a video report about the Russia's "remarkable transformation". The other story is yesterday's article from The Guardian. I encourage our readers to watch the short ABC News video clip, which portrays Russia's growing middle class; it is overly optimistic, but based on real facts and backed by interviews with upwardly mobile Russians.
The UK Guardian's article is also a must-read. You can visit the link or read the article in the extended version of this post. It depicts the struggles of lower level Russian civil servants, Russians who lack the special skills demanded by a modern economy, and raises legitimate questions about democracy and freedoms in Russia, which were briefly addressed in the ABC News report: "They [Russians] don't worry about what's going on with democracy here, as long as life is getting better!"
Since we started this blog last year, Russia Blog has been showing our readers these two lifestyles within one country. These two reports will only prove the points we have been making to anyone who will listen.
Continue reading "St Petersburg - One City, Two Points of View" »
Articles about Russia have been coming fast and furious this week with St. Petersburg hosting the G-8 summit for the richest countries in the world. For the Kremlin, the most important story is that the nation is finally being allowed to join the World Trade Organization, five years after the U.S. agreed to Chinese WTO membership - this in spite of China having a far worse record on pirating intellectual property and denying human rights than Russia.
For U.S. foreign policy, the most important announcement this week is the Bush Administration's agreement with the Kremlin to liberalize trade in peaceful nuclear technology. The deal would be similar to the nuclear pact the Bush Administration negotiated with India, the world's largest democracy, and an emerging Asian superpower capable of competing with China.
In return for U.S. technology and investment, Russia agrees that the reactor it is building in Iran will be incapable of enriching uranium, and all spent fuel rods will be returned to Russia. Of course, preventing individual Russian nuclear scientists from working at Iran's enrichment plants is the real issue, but one that can be solved if those Russian physicists are given plenty of peaceful work to do elsewhere. Moreover, critics can hardly call this initiative radical - it is consistent with the 1990s bipartisan Nunn-Lugar legislation, which allocated $10 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars in the last decade to secure Russia's nuclear arsenal and brainpower from falling into the wrong hands. Indeed, Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Curt Weldon thinks that this deal could have happened three years ago, if it were not for tensions arising from the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Continue reading "Bush and Putin: Let's Make a Nuclear Deal" »
The Houston Chronicle reported last week that Gazprom Deputy Chairman Alexander Medvedev has accused the Paris-based International Energy Agency of organizing European governments against buying Russian gas. This is the second time in recent months that Gazprom has warned the European Union and EU regulators not to hinder its ambition to purchase assets "downstream" in the energy supply chain.
Continue reading "Gazprom Criticizes International Energy Agency" »
George Soros has some controversial history with Russia
Billionaire investor George Soros is continuing his very public campaign to keep major Western investors from putting money into Rosneft's initial public offering (IPO). Like its sister firm Gazprom, Rosneft is owned by the Russian state, and therefore owns assets seized by the Kremlin from Yukos.
Since acquiring Yukos' assets, Rosneft has made several bold moves. Last year, Rosneft and the Kremlin were criticized by the Wall Street Journal's editorial board for extending a job offer to Don Evans, President George W. Bush's first Secretary of Commerce, and a close friend from Bush's hometown of Midland, Texas.
Rosneft is hoping to raise $11 billion dollars with this initial public offering and bring in Western investors as minority stakeholders. Rosneft needs this capital to upgrade its aging network of pipelines and bring the latest extraction technologies into Siberian oil fields. Without this investment, it will be more difficult for Russia to expand production and help stabilize world oil prices.
Continue reading "Soros Assails Rosneft IPO" »
Of the 203 passengers on board - 127 are dead, 66 injured, and 20 of the survivors are in critical condition. This is the aftermath of the A-310 plane crash in Siberian city of Irkutsk. According to the government officials, families of the victims will receive $3,000 compensation: 50% paid by Siberian Airlines, 12% by the airline's insurance company, 15% from the city of Irkutsk, and the rest from the federal government. Sadly, that is all the parents of dozens of schoolchildren killed in the crash will likely ever receive. The kids were on their way to summer camp at Lake Baikal.
The only two possible explanations for this tragedy are 1) pilot error or 2) equipment malfunctioning. The pilots on this flight had an excellent record, they had logged over 20,000 hours of flying without incident in their careers. Even though the runway was wet after light rains, it seems unlikely that both skilled pilots would have lost control of the airplane due to the wet conditions.
Continue reading "Airliner Crashes in Irkutsk - 127 Dead" »
Basayev having the remains of his foot surgically removed
CNN is reporting this morning that Shamil Basayev, the terrorist who bragged about planning the Beslan massacre, has been killed by Russian security forces. This victory is far more important to Russians than the killing of Zarqawi was for the Americans in Iraq - this is the equivalent of us nailing Osama Bin Laden.
CNN has more details:
Russian television showed Patrushev meeting Monday with Putin to tell him about the special operation in Ingushetia -- a republic bordering Chechnya -- in which Basayev was killed in the early morning hours of Monday.
The Russian agents exploded a truck bomb next to several cars in which Basayev and other rebels were riding, according to Interfax, which was quoting Ingush Deputy Prime Minister Bashir Aushev.
"This is retaliation he deserves for killing our children in Beslan, Budennovsk, all the terrorist acts his bandits perpetrated in Moscow and other regions of Russia, including Ingushetia and the Chechen Republic," Patrushev said in an Interfax report.
Law enforcement officials in Ingushetia told Interfax Basayev's body was in pieces but it was identified by his head and by the fact that he had earlier lost a foot.
Twelve other Chechen rebels were killed in the operation, the official said.
A statement on website www.kavkazcenter.com said the Chechen rebel leadership was not making any comment yet, Reuters news agency said.
The U.N. Security Council put Basayev on its official terrorist list last year after Washington classified him as a threat to the United States.
Russia Blog congratulates the Russian security forces for a job well done. We know that Basayev's death is small comfort to the families of his victims, but it is a huge step towards peace and prosperity in the Caucuses and another stinging defeat for the global jihad.
UPDATE1: Russian newspapers are quoting President Bush's comment this afternoon at the G-8 Summit press conference, "If this is the person who planned the murders of the children of Beslan, he got what he deserved."
UPDATE2: U.S. Army National Guard Captain Jason Van Steewyk echoes my thoughts exactly about how, even in death, the AP cannot bring itself to use the t-word for a child killer.
UPDATE3: The latest AP story today uses the word "terrorized" and describes Basayev as a "ruthless warlord". Perhaps I spoke too soon.
Click on the extended post to see Shamil Basayev's legacy - WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES
Continue reading "Beslan Mastermind Shamil Basayev Killed" »
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller next to President Putin
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is reporting some big numbers in their story about Russia's oil and gas boom today. According to the CBC article, Russian oil and gas companies are raking in "$550,000,000 every day, or $380,000 every minute, around the clock. The state gets 65 per cent of that. Oil and gas exports account for about 60 per cent of federal budget revenues and 60 per cent of its exports."
What is more interesting than these raw numbers though is what the Kremlin is doing with the windfall.
Continue reading "Russia Energy Revenues $550 Million Per Day; Kremlin Builds $76 Billion Stabilization Fund" »
Russian Spetsnaz squad in action
After Putin's recent order to "find and destroy" the Islamic terrorists who killed Russian embassy workers in Iraq, several human rights organizations like "Memorial" and Committee "Citizenship Cooperation" (Grazhdanskoe Sodeystvie) accused Putin of being authoritarian and ignorant of UN conventions and international law. Yesterday, the Duma ignored this criticism of the president and instead expressed their support for his firm message. By unanimously approving an entire packet of anti-terrorism bills in their most conservative form, the Russian Parliament moved past earlier debates and granted the President new powers and funds to counter international terrorism.
According to one new law, the president can now order Russian spetsnaz or intelligence groups to execute operations in foreign countries. The new law was tempered by a provision mandating that the President needs the Federal Assembly's approval before he can utilize Russian military forces. Anatoly Kulikov, the former chief of MVD (Russian police) and current Member of Parliament, explained that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, did not get any extraordinary powers in the new bill. The purpose of the bill is simply to make Russian citizens feel safer while travelling and working abroad.
Continue reading "Human Right Group Calls Putin's Order to Kill Terrorists Illegal; Duma Makes It Legal" »