A Train to Potevka Reviewed
With all the talk lately of renewed tensions between Washington and Moscow, perhaps it's time for Americans to read about what the Cold War was like from someone who actually worked as a covert operative inside the Soviet Unon. Utah native Mike Ramsdell has done a great service to history by providing his first person account of what it was like to be a covert operative inside Russia as the Soviet Empire collapsed around him.
The author of A Train to Potevka is not someone either Russians or Americans would think of when the phrase "CIA agent" comes to mind. Rather than being recruited from an Ivy League or other Eastern U.S. school, Ramsdell attended the University of Utah, where he came to his Mormon faith as an adult. After attending college on an ROTC scholarship, Ramsdell served as a military intelligence officer in Germany in the early 1980s. During his time in Bavaria, Ramsdell befriends a Czech-born naturalized American officer named Yuri Novotny. When Ramsdell's friend Yuri gets caught stealing classified documents from a NATO base on his watch, he learns a traumatic lesson about the desperate decisions people were often forced into as a result of having relatives trapped behind the Iron Curtain and the human toll from the superpower conflict.
Ramsdell makes no bones about the Soviet Union being exactly what President Ronald Reagan said it was - an Evil Empire, based on the lie that there is no G-d. The economic, and more important, spiritual consequences of seventy years of scientific socialism are evident throughout the book. Yet the same spiritual sensibility that fuels Ramsdell's loathing of the materialist, "godless" Soviet system opens his heart to see the kindness and generosity of ordinary Russians, who were just struggling to survive. From the beginning of his assignment in Russia, Ramsdell understood that the deprivation in the Soviet Union was not just material but spiritual in nature.
Continue reading "The Cold War: A Tale from the End" »
Will this Kiwi grow up in a free country?
A new bill introduced in New Zealand's parliament threatens to crack down on non-profits. "A new law could strip charities of their tax-free status if they get too involved in politics. The move has led to fears that charities such as Greenpeace and the Sensible Sentencing Trust may be less inclined to speak out," says the One News website. According to the new bill, many tax breaks will be taken away from NGOs, and harsh audits will be authorized to determine the purpose of NGO activities; supporters say that the bill will combat abuses in the non-profit sphere in the country.
The reason Russia Blog pays any attention at all to this Kiwi controversy is the fact that Wellington's legislation seems to be more strict than the law issued by the Russian Duma and signed by Vladimir Putin. There was a huge negative media outburst a year ago in the Western media regarding the Russian NGO bill when it was being discussed. On October 19th the new Russian law came into effect, sparking another wave of outraged articles and reports with scary titles like "Crackdown on Democracy", etc. The question is: Where is the well-deserved outrage in the American and European human rights communities about this new New Zealand bill? Or are human rights activists implying that somehow freedom is less precious for New Zealanders than for Russians?
Continue reading "New Zealand's Crackdown on NGOs Ignored by Western Freedom Activists" »
This week President Putin answered questions from Russians across the country for 2 hours and 54 minutes. Citizens submitted their questions via e-mail, radio, television studios, and cell phone text messages. People had a chance to ask questions live from across the country, starting in Russia's Far East and continuing to Western Russia, with Russians also participating in the program from outside the country. Putin addressed different issues - Russia's low birth rate, abuses in the army, North Korea's recent nuclear test, and whether he would run for a third term.
Putin once again insisted that he had no intention of amending the Constitution to permit a third term in office. However, Putin also hinted that he planned to continue playing some role in Russian public life, "Even when I no longer have governing power and the levers of presidential rule, I think that without adjusting the fundamental law to my personal interests, I will be able to keep the most important thing that anyone engaged in politics should cherish: that is, your trust. And using that, together we will be able to influence life in our country so as to guarantee its progress and exert influence on what is happening in Russia."
Continue reading "Putin Again Rules Out Third Term" »
147th in the world - behind the Democratic Republic of Congo?
The France-based non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders recently released their Worldwide Press Freedom index, which ranks Russia as 147th on a list of 168 countries in terms of protecting journalists and media expression. Russia's 147th ranking is five spots behind the Democratic Republic of Congo, the site of the bloodiest conflict in the world, and just a few spots ahead of Iraq, where 85 journalists have died violently since 2003. Russia even allegedly lags nineteen spots behind Kazakhstan, where President-for-Life Nursultan Nazarbayev erected a golden statue of himself and whose government has threatened to sue the British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen for his "Borat" comedy act.
The list goes on. The Palestinian Authority is ranked thirteen spots ahead of Russia, even though reporters have been kidnapped or threatened by Hamas for reporting weapons smuggling tunnels dug under houses, the launching of rockets at Israeli towns, and the indoctrination of children to create suicide bombers. Lebanon, where Hezbollah recently threatened reporters with death for filming rocket launchers that the militia had cynically placed in crowded neighborhoods, is ranked 107th. The list also ranks the "extra-territorial" United States, which includes the U.S. military in Iraq (not just the country's struggling new government) as 119th in press freedom, while the Israeli-administered Palestinian territories were ranked 135th -- far behind several war-torn African countries that do not have a history of press freedom or strong civilian control over their militaries.
Continue reading "A Closer Look at Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Rankings" »
Today the World Politics Watch blog has a post summarizing the most interesting recent articles about Russian foreign policy. The tone of these pieces is geopolitical and "realist", and this tradition from Thucydides all the way to the present has emphasized rivalries and the balance of power between nations. Some of these articles portray U.S.-Russia relations as a kind of zero sum game where the balance of power is allegedly see-sawing back towards Moscow, while the best of the bunch, from Australian scholar Paul Dibb (writing in The American Interest magazine) takes a long view of Russian history. Prof. Dibbs' essay reiterates something we have repeated here since we started Russia Blog: Russia is never quite as weak or as strong as it appears. Although Russian society in absolute numbers is declining, Russia still has many wellsprings of revival, and too many proud, educated people to go gently into the night. Dibb adds that while America may find Russia more prideful for years to come, in the long run Russian elites want to build relationships with several great powers as insurance against being swamped by the new/old superpower next door.
Thursday, October 19, 2006 marked a new era for foreign NGOs in Russia. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International didn't file their paperwork before the deadline set by Russia's new NGO law, and had to temporarily suspend some of their activities. All of these organizations are still allowed to conduct administrative work -- accounting, planning, answering telephones, but they won't be able to get back to their full operations until they complete their registration.
Meanwhile, the Moscow offices for the Carnegie and Ford Foundations, American Trade Assembly, United Families Foundation, Oxfam and many other foreign NGOs have successfully registered and are continuing their work. Yens Zigert, director of the Moscow branch of the German Heinrich Boell Foundation, said: "This was the fastest case of registration I've ever seen in my practice." He also said that the only German foundation that didn't get registered yet is the Friedrich Naumann Fund. Svetlana Brezhneva, head of the Moscow office for the British foundation CAF, said that they still had not registered, but were continuing their charitable activities. "We were promised to get registration next week," said Brezhneva.
Once again, Russia Blog takes a closer look at what the new NGO law is, how it is different from comparable laws in other countries, including the US, and why some NGOs have more problems registering on time than others.
Continue reading "NGO Registration in Russia: Crackdown or Incompetence?" »
The poster reads: "Government Party, Stop the Chaos!"
Russia keeps adding to the death toll of respected political and community leaders. This time the killing took place in Dalnegorsk, a city in the Russian Far East region of Primorsky Kray. Dmitry Fotianov, a popular mayoral candidate and member of President Putin's United Russia party was gunned down at noon Thursday October 19 in front of his campaign headquarters. Fotianov's killers shot him dead with Kalashnikov assault rifles and then fled.
Police suspect that this murder comes in retaliation for the killing of a bodyguard for another candidate in the region. Alexandr Terebilov, Fotianov's opponent in the mayoral contest, declares that he had nothing to do with this crime, and that he will not withdraw his candidacy from the second round of voting for the mayor's seat. In the first ballot, Fotianov took 40.71% of the votes, while Terebilov won 42.28%.
Continue reading "Dalnegorsk Mayoral Candidate Killed, Citizens Outraged" »
Keeping the lights and servers on in Moscow board rooms
The Colorado-based Energy Biz Insider magazine has an excellent article this week on the challenges of setting market prices in Russian electric power and gas utilities.
Much of the controversy surrounding Russia's increasing clout in world energy markets revolves around the fact that state-owned conglomerates like Gazprom and Rosneft have the temerity to demand world prices for gas, starting with former Soviet republics like Ukraine and Belarus, but will only gradually introduce these rates in Mother Russia. However, as we have documented here at Russia Blog, Russians do not receive massively subsidized gasoline (unlike citizens of OPEC countries) and are paying about the same prices at the pump as Americans do for lower-quality petrol.
There are many legitimate reasons why sudden inflation from 1990s-style "shock therapy" in Russian domestic energy markets is to be avoided. Not only does Russia need capital to fund the replacement of dozens of Soviet-designed nuclear reactors, but old oil and gas fired plants must be replaced with new coal-fired facilities to free up more gas for export while Russia's power grid is upgraded to modern standards. All of this new infrastructure will require tens of billions in new investment, which is why RAO Unified Energy Systems and other Russian utilities are going public in the next eighteen months, listing shares on the London Stock Exchange.
Click on the extended post to read Energy Biz Insider Editor in Chief Ken Silverstein's article.
Continue reading "More IPOs to Power the Russian Economy" »
Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Rice in March 2006
It seems almost forgotten today that President Bush came into office in 2001 promising better relations with Russia and its new President Vladimir Putin. When Bush invited Putin to his Crawford Ranch in August 2001, he was jeered by D.C. pundits from both sides of the aisle for declaring that he saw into the Russian President's "soul". As former Bush speechwriter David Frum notes in his pro-Bush book The Right Man, few of these critics noticed a month later when Putin was the first world leader to call Bush on 9/11 offering America overflight and basing rights for the invasion of Afghanistan.
2002 began with heady talk of deeper cooperation between the U.S. and Russia in the war on terrorists, expanded energy investment, and even negotiating peace between Israelis and Palestinians. So what happened in the ensuing four years to bring U.S-Russia relations to this point? The short answer would be "Iraq" - but a non-partisan observer would have to admit that there have been several more compelling reasons for the strained relationship between Washington and Moscow.
Continue reading "Perception vs. Reality in U.S.-Russia Relations" »
Location of Khabarovsk Krai on the Manchurian border
The Russia Profile website has two excellent articles this week on the relationship between Russia and China, between the former superpower and the rising superpower. Here at Russia Blog, we have commented on several articles about the ongoing shift in the balance of power between the two nations and what it means for the future of Siberia and the Russian Far East. Now Russia Profle confirms that popular fears of Russia losing territory and resources to Chinese demographic expansion are both widespread and much overblown.
For now, official Chinese migration to Siberia and the Far East regions is small, though these figures are probably dwarfed by the number of illegal migrants crossing the completely open border. Even so, most young Chinese probably see far more opportunities in China's booming coastal cities than in Far Eastern Russia, where business still mostly involves trading Russian raw materials for Chinese manufactured goods.
Follow the links or click on the extended post to read both articles "Unhealthy Competition" and "An Exaggerated Invasion".
Continue reading "Chinese Migration into Russia - Fear vs. Opportunity" »
Day Watch DVD cover
There are few sequels that surpass the original, but Day Watch is easily better than Night Watch, the first installment in director Timur Bekmambetov's epic horror trilogy. As with Bumer 1 and 2, what starts as an action adventure veers unexpectedly into a love story. Bekmambetov, however, is determined to mess with your mind just enough to keep you off-balance.
The story begins a few years after the events of Night Watch, with our hero Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) still patrolling the streets of Moscow at night on the lookout for evil vampires preying on mortals. When a pint sized vampire starts drinking the blood of babushkas, Anton gets a sickening but familiar feeling responding to a radio dispatch from Night Watch HQ (for all their supernatural powers, the Light Others cruise around Moscow in old Soviet utility trucks). Anton's partner, Svetlana (Mariya Poroshina, who played Phil's wife in Brigada) senses that there is something personal for him about this case. When Svetlana catches the vampire child "in the gloom" (the dark world that parallels our own) she rips off his ski mask to reveal -- Yegor, Anton's vengeful son. After siding with the forces of darkness at the end of Night Watch, the child has been tutored in the ways of evil by the vampire overlord Zavulon (Viktor Verzhbitsky).
Critics here will point out that Yegor is a sort of vampire version of Anakin Skywalker --the boy whose well-stoked childhood grudge turns him into Darth Vader. But what keeps Day Watch interesting (unlike Star Wars) is the question to the plot -- if you had the power to magically erase one regret in life, what would it be? In the movie, the device for changing history is called the Chalk of Fate, and it is the prize the 14th century Central Asian pillager Tamerlane seeks in the opening battle sequence of the film, only to find that he is not the master of his own life, much less of the world.
Click on the extended post to read spoilers and watch the trailer
Continue reading "The Redemption of Anton Gorodetsky
Dnevnoy Dozor Reviewed" »
Regions which participated in the elections are marked in red
Russians across the country went to the polls on Sunday one week ago. The "highlight" of the free regional elections held on October 8, 2006 was the fact that the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (Vladimir Zhirinovsky's faction) failed to make any gains, taking only a few seats across the regions; Russian liberals, on the other hand, did not score enough votes to win even a single seat in any region.
President Putin's party Edinaya Rossiya (United Russia) didn't score as high as expected either, but still took first place. The surprise of the election was the success of the Party of Pensioners, whose entire platform is paying pensions to veterans and the elderly and giving each Russian citizen royalties from Russia's vast natural resources. The election results show three very strong trends in Russian society: 1) a plurality of the people trust the ruling party; 2) Russians have lost any belief in the so-called liberal parties; 3) there is a growing awareness that Russia can improve social services now that real wealth is being created and the oligarchs are no longer running the country.
Please view the extended post for election results in detail from representative Russian regions and brief descriptions of the parties. No further comment from us is needed, as the numbers speak for themselves.
Continue reading "Russian Regional Elections -- Pensioners Party Gains Seats, Liberals Fail" »
ITAR-TASS photo of Anatoly Voronin
Today Bloomberg Financial News is reporting the murder of ITAR-TASS news agency business chief Anatoly Vornonin. Mr. Voronin was a well-respected reporter and had been with ITAR-TASS for 23 years. The headline over the link to this story from the Drudge Report at this hour asks "Another One?" - referring to the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politovskaya on October 7th - but the circumstances of this case are very different. Gazeta.ru quotes Russian prosecutors and police sources indicating that Voronin was stabbed to death by an assailant he knew, perhaps a friend. Voronin's body was found in his apartment early this morning by his driver.
Bloomberg has more in the extended post, including a tally of prominent Russian businessmen killed in the last month.
Continue reading "ITAR-TASS Journalist Anatoly Voronin Murdered" »
U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and RosAtom Director Sergei Kiriyenko
With North Korean nuclear tests and the murder of Anna Politovskaya dominating international headlines last week, probably even many Washington Post readers overlooked Hudson Institute fellow Richard Weitz's excellent article on the great potential for U.S.-Russia nuclear energy cooperation. This is unfortunate, as the nuclear industry is an area where both the U.S. and Russia enjoy some of the largest growth potential in the world. Russia and the U.S. also account for a large number of the reactor designs currently operational around the world and therefore are the logical countries to lead a global consortium to insure that nuclear material is used for peaceful purposes. Furthermore, if Iran continues to reject participation in an internationally monitored program, it would only prove to the world that the Ahmadenijad regime wants nuclear bombs and not peaceful electricity.
Continue reading "Expanding U.S.-Russia Nuclear Energy Trade" »
Moscow -- On Monday, October 2, 2006, the largest aluminum corporation in the world was officially created. The Russian companies RusAl and SUAL and the Swiss trader Glencore announced the merger of their holdings and the creation of the united company Russian Aluminum. This newborn "baby" is the world's largest aluminum producer, easily surpassing giants like Alcan and Alcoa.
Russian Aluminum consists of the three: RusAl owns 66% of the shares, SUAL -- 22% and Glencore -- 12%. The new CEO of the company is former head of RusAl, Alexandr Bulygin, and the chairman of the board of directors is the former head of SUAL, Brian Gilbertson. The merger is being administered by JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley. The new Russian company will employ 110,000 people in 17 different countries. Annual production volume will reach four million tons of aluminum and eleven million tons of alumina, three and a half tons of the latter will be produced for export. In the next 18 months shares of the company will become public on the London Stock Exchange. The new Russian IPO will sell 20-25% of the company's stock.
This year the gains of the Russian Aluminum will be $10 billion. Full registration of the company will be completed by April 1, 2007; however the company will have to receive approval from the federal Anti-Monopoly Service of the Russian Federation and similar agencies in seven other countries. Some might say that the antitrust evaluation of the new-born giant will be rigged, however the chances of the company succeeding with its registration are very high. According to international antitrust standards, the company's size and market share will be compared to that of Alcan and Alcoa, and Russian Aluminum will only produce 400,000 more tons a year of aluminum than these firms.
Continue reading "Largest Aluminum Corporation in the World Going Public Within 18 Months" »
Moscow -- Last week Severstal announced the issue of its first IPO. Before the end of the year 2006, shares of the company will be publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange. The current owner of the company, Alexey Mordashov, is planning to maintain control over his company even after it goes public.
According to the London Stock Exchange website, Severstal will place GDR on LSE for the regular shares of the company. The actual IPO seller will be Frontdeal Limited, a company registered in Cyprus. The banks coordinating the shares allocation are Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and UBS Investment Bank. The owner of the Cyprus offshore company which owns 38% of Severstal is Alexey Mordashov. According to publicly available information, through his holdings in many different companies Mordashov controls over 90% of Severstal.
Continue reading "Severstal Will Issue IPO by the End of 2006" »
The Wall Street Journal reported on October 9, 2006 on page A12 today that Russian mining company Norilsk Nickel more than doubled its profits in the first half of 2006. The company's stock closed at $128.50 per share on Thursday, and Norilsk Nickel plans to buy back a billion dollars worth of its own stock at $131 per share. Shareholders will also be rewarded with a dividend of 56 rubles ($2.07) per share for the first nine months of 2006. The International Herald Tribune has the full story here. Norilsk Nickel is one of a basket of Russian companies traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), AMEX, the London Stock Exchange, and the technology-weighted Nasdaq index (NN's holdings include key metals for semiconductors).
In other Russian business news from the weekend, LukOil President Vagit Alekperov announced that his company would invest $100 billion dollars to develop new oil and gas production. The ten year development plan will be presented to investors in New York on October 19. Alekperov vowed to acquire refining capacity in the U.S. and other key markets, adding that the company could boost earnings by $3.5 billion by making gasoline instead of just selling crude. Lukoil is also turning many of its drilling and shipping units over to contractors to emphasize its core business of pumping and transporting oil. The IHT again has the story.
Continue reading "Norilsk Nickel Doubles Profits, Lukoil to Invest $100 Billion" »
MOSCOW- On Saturday, October 7, the prominent Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building. Her assassin, a tall-dark haired man wearing a large cap to conceal his face, was caught on tape. The Novaya Gazeta newspaper where Politovskaya worked has offered a $930,000 reward for details leading to the arrest of whoever was involved in the killing.
Today Reuters is reporting that during a phone call Sunday afternoon regarding North Korea's nuclear test, President Bush raised the issue with President Putin of attacks on journalists in Russia. Putin responded that Russian law enforcement would thoroughly investigate the crime and have every resource at their disposal. In the official White House statement, President Bush urged Russia to "conduct a vigorous and thorough investigation to bring to justice those responsible" for the crime. Yuri Chaika, Russia's Prosecutor-General (counterpart of the U.S. Attorney General), has taken charge of the case.
Novaya Gazeta, which has former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev as one of its publishers, claims that Politovskaya was working on a major new expose of human rights abuses by security forces in Chechnya. The fact that the murder coincided with President Putin's birthday (birthdays are very important in Russian traditions) suggests that someone wanted to send a message, and has led many Western media outlets to charge that the Kremlin or security services were behind the crime. USA Today, the largest circulation newspaper in America, compares Vladimir Putin to Josef Stalin in their editorial today. Many Russian analysts, in contrast to their Western counterparts, have asked: who benefits from Mrs. Politovskaya's death?
Continue reading "Who Killed Anna Politkovskaya?" »
Moscow - the economic pain from Georgia's conflict with Russia has spread to the biggest cities in Russia. Wealthy Georgian business leaders in Russia have tried to stay out of this conflict, but it has already hurt their businesses. Many casinos and night clubs in Moscow, including the popular "Golden Palace" and "Metelitsa," are owned by Georgian businessmen. In the past, police and sanitary inspectors had an understanding with the owners and overlooked multiple code violations. Last week many night clubs and casinos were closed for running casino tables and playing machines without permits and operating unsanitary kitchens.
RIA Novosti story headline:
"Even NATO can't pull Georgia out of this swamp"
Earlier today, 143 illegal immigrants from Georgia were deported by plane to Tbilisi. At the same time, 175 Russian citizens were evacuated from Georgia; another evacuation flight is scheduled to pick up Russians in Georgia on October 9. Georgian artists from the national ballet group Suhishvili-Ramishvili canceled their tour in Russia due to the transportation blockade. Even the famous Georgian artist Tsereteli, a friend of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, is being accused of embezzling funds from government-funded art projects.
Discovery Institute is pleased to host distinguished Russian Studies scholar Herbert Ellison and international attorney Bill Robinson for an insightful and informative forum and discussion on the state of U.S.-Russia relations. The event will be facilitated by Yuri Mamchur, Director of Discovery Institute's Real Russia Project, and will focus on Western stereotypes about Russia and how these stereotypes negatively impact trade and diplomacy between our respective countries. Board members and affiliates of the Russia Roundtable of the Tacoma World Trade Center will participate in the forum as well.
This is a rare opportunity to hear the views of these highly knowledgeable Northwest leaders as they examine the business and investment climate in Russia, while at the same time debunking a number of myths about life within the country. The event will be filmed by Russia Today, Russia's English language news channel.
The lecture and reception will be held Wednesday, October 11, 2006 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Discovery Institute, located at 1511 Third Avenue, Suite 808 in downtown Seattle (map). Beverages and hors d'oeuvres wil be served. There is no cost to attend, but we do ask that you register soon, as space is limited.
To register please contact Annelise Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (206) 292-0401, ext. 153.
Continue reading "Event: How Do Western Stereotypes Harm U.S.-Russia Relations?" »
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and his military advisors
On Monday, Russia Blog documented the economic pain from the Georgian government's game of chicken with Russia. Now several American foreign policy thinkers are asking what the U.S. has to gain from further conflict in the Caucuses, and leaders of the Georgian opposition are speaking out, telling Westerners that the democratic promise of the 2003 Rose Revolution has been betrayed by the politics of impoverished nationalism.
This week America's Future Foundation and German Council on Foreign Relations scholars Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman published an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune with the pointed title "Let's Get Real". The co-authors of the book "Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World" call for a major initiative to permanently resolve the conflict between Russia and Georgia over the disputed regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Lieven and Hulsman ask why the West maintains double standards about self-determination for NATO-hosting Kosovo but not for parts of Georgia that host Russian troops and wish to join the Russian Federation. Lieven and Hulsman single out Senator John McCain for criticism, alleging that sympathy for the Georgian cause in Congress has unintentionally fueled Saakashvili's delusion that Washington will bail him out in any confrontation with Russia.
Yesterday the Japan Times newspaper published an article by Georgian opposition leader Igor Giorgadze, accusing Saakashvili's pro-U.S. government of jailing its political opponents. Since few Americans (even those who closely follow world politics) may have the opportunity to read this story, we have decided to reproduce it in the extended post.
Continue reading "Georgian Opposition Leader Speaks Out" »
Pyotr Buslov's Bumer: Film Vtoroy opens several years after the events of Bumer (pronounced "boo-mer") movie. Kostya (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) is doing hard time in a prison colony, serving a fifteen year sentence for murder and robbery. In prison he befriends Kolya (Aleksandr Golubyov) a younger prisoner, who closely guards a photograph of his beautiful sister Dashka (Svetlana Ustinova). On the outside, Dashka is hard at work pretending to be a teenage girl molested by local politicians in order to blackmail enough cash from their campaigns to bribe her brother out of jail.
The trouble begins when Dimon, now a wealthy businessman in Moscow, decides to bail his old friend out. The film opens wth the prison wardens discussing the pros and cons of releasing a convicted killer, weighing the value of an enormous bribe compared to the trouble they could get in for releasing a convicted cop-killer. Eventually they decide to take the bribe - and then they hire a hitman to kill Kostya as soon as he gets to Moscow.
Continue reading ""Ya Svoboden" - Bumer 2 Reviewed" »
Russian officer Alexei Zavgorodny escorted by Georgian police
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement over the weekend, declaring that the Georgian government's arrest of seven Russian officers was provocative, and that "there seem to be some powers which specialize in creating new crisis every day, thinking it will distract attention from the old problems. In the short term it might give some effect, but it absolutely will not help in resolving old and very serious crises around the world". Putin compared the Georgian government's actions to the paranoia of the USSR under Stalin (a Georgian by birth) and Beria. Putin has asked the Russian Parliament to levy economic and travel sanctions against Georgia that would amount to a blockade.
Putin's verbal jab at "you-know-who" prompted a diplomatic phone call from President George W. Bush to President Putin. A few hours after this presidential talk, international observers came to a Georgian prison in Tbilisi to monitor the release of seven jailed Russian officers. The freed Russians were driven first to the Russian Embassy, and then on to the airport for a flight to Moscow.
Continue reading "Russia Issues Blockade Against Georgia" »