Is Medvedev: "Russia's Last Hope"? And Assessing Putin's Legacy
A young reformer? Russian Presidential heir apparent Dimitry Medvedev
Russia's Last Hope
By Victor Erofeyev
The New York Times (republished from the International Herald Tribune)
February 29, 2008
If I recover from a bout of stomach illness by Sunday, I will cast my ballot in Russia's presidential election. But there's no need to rush to get well, because my vote will make no difference.
There was a day when it did seem that my vote mattered. In 1996, I found myself in Ireland on Election Day and made a huge effort to go to the embassy in Dublin and vote for Boris N. Yeltsin, because I feared that the Communists could return to power under his opponent, Gennadi A. Zyuganov, and I would again have serious problems. Mr. Zyuganov is running for president again this year, but I no longer fear him. He will lose.
This not only reassures me, but also leads me to think about how President Vladimir V. Putin, in his eight years in power, managed to destroy Communism. He finished it off so brutally that it's silly to even think about the possibility of its return. Yet some people outside Russia believe that Mr. Putin did away with only the democrats, the liberal parties and the independent news media. No, he also threw out power-seeking oligarchs, who are very unpopular with the Russian people, and he rid the country of chaos and instability, which, he tells us, were rampant in the 1990s.
No matter how you look at it, President Putin also brought order to Chechnya: at least they're no longer flying young Russian soldiers back in body bags every day. And if television is offering more humorous programs and songs from around the world instead of political discussions, people only welcome this. As for opposition parties, the real ones, they quarreled among themselves and became so indistinguishable in their radical demands that the people, with President Putin's help, stopped taking note of them...
Presidential Debates Russian-Style: Get the Hell Out of the Studio! Scoundrel. I'll Rip Your Head Off!
"Take him out, and shoot the scoundrel!"Better than Saturday NIght Live, and real...
Presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky about presidential candidate Andrey Bogdanov: "He's a scoundrel. Look at his face! The guy's sick! A typical schizoid! Any psychiatrist will tell you, the guy is a wacko..."
Vladimir Zhirinovsky to Andrey Bogdanov's representative: "Get the hell out of the studio! Scoundrel. I'll rip your head off. A professor, my foot! Idiot!"
Vladimir Zhirinovsky to his bodyguard: "What are you looking at? Take him out, and shoot the scoundrel in the hallway!"
Election debates are a new Russian tradition. Even though Dmitry Medvedev refused to participate in the debates, 47% of Russians still watched them with plenty of interest. One third of Russians find the debates to be a useless, but entertaining show. Russia Blog believes that debates are a necessary component of modern elections, and condemns the United Russia presidential hopeful Medvedev for rejecting the invitations to the debates.
Russian viewers were left with three debaters: Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, famous leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and the independent liberal candidate Andrey Bogdanov. Last weekend was definitely the high point of the debates. The most interesting episode took place when the debaters thought the cameras were off...
Russia: Weekly News from Patrick Armstrong February 28, 2008
By Patrick Armstrong
Presidential hopeful Dmitry Medvedev talking with Russian students about Internet freedom
ELECTION: I confidently predict that Medvedev will win big and that the OSCE & Co will condemn the election for unbalanced media coverage (something that apparently makes a vital difference in Russia but not in Georgia) and the CIS observers will OK it. Each group has already written its assessment.
MIDDLE CLASS: The big Russian insurance company RosGosStrakh has a report out saying that the Russian middle class has grown greatly. This entity it defines as a monthly income per family member between US$500 and US$3000. Rather a large spread and not particularly big numbers but a huge improvement on the pre-Putin state of affairs. It is quite simply facts like this, and not TV coverage or any of the things that so exercise Western commentators, that will lead Russians on Sunday to vote for more of the same.
Maybe it would help to know the name of the next president of the largest country in the world...
By Blake Hounshell
During Tuesday evening's debate, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama seemed especially comfortable discussing Russia's heir apparent, Dmitry Medvedev. You could tell from the impish delight with which moderator Tim Russert sprang his surprise question -- "What can you tell me about the man who's going to be Mr. Putin's successor?" -- that a revealing exchange would follow.
First, Sen. Clinton correctly noted that "he's a hand-picked successor... who is obviously being installed by Putin." Then, she weighed in on the side of Russia analysts who view Medvedev as little more than Vladimir Putin's puppet, characterizing the former as having "very little independence" (some experts say the jury's still out on this). She concluded, "I have no doubt, as president, even though technically the meetings may be with the man who is labeled as president, the decisions will be made by Putin." (Again, an open question.)
Putin's Iron Grip on Russia Suffocates Opponents NYT Article Brings Sharp Responses From Russians
Last weekend, The New York Times published another piece of amazing anti-Russian propaganda. "...the city's children, too, were pressed into service. At schools, teachers gave them pamphlets promoting "Putin's Plan"..." Those who have been to Russia in the last decade drop the newspaper either with laughter or with anger. One of the Real Russia Project's advisors explained his bewilderment upon reading the article:
"If you know where I am coming from, you know I see little merit in the article. I do wonder who paid Levy to write such a fanciful piece. It doesn't explain Putin's 85% approval rating in the polls - not the marks of a despot, nor of a person whose followers need to go to the lengths described in the article to shore up support. I have been to Nizhny Novgorod; it is one of the most dynamic regions of Russia. I am going to forward the article to two friends working in Nizhny that I spent time with in the past several months - one Russian, and one an expat who has lived there since 1994. I expect that their comments would be consistent with hundreds of Russians I talked with on four trips this past year - it is silly to think that people need to be cajoled into supporting Putin, or Medvedev, for that matter."
Unlike most Chinese citizens, Russians enjoy unfettered access to free media online, and their response to the NYT was overwhelming in the first hours after the publication appeared on the Russian internet (or .ru-net). Many Russians took advantage of their access to uncensored Internet, free media, and uncontrolled blogging platforms to express their personal opinions and to prove the NYT wrong. A few Russian commenters agreed with the article's viewpoint - but if anything, this should only prove the NYT to be even more wrong, as according to the slant of most Western reporting in the last several years, Russians are not supposed to have access to free media, nor be able to express their personal opinions under the "iron grip" of President Putin...
Yuri Mamchur discussed the upcoming Russian and American presidential elections on Russia Today TV today, February 25, at 12:55 pm PST (3:55 pm EST, 11:55 pm Moscow time). Visit the Russia Today website or follow the link below the picture to watch the interview.
Russian Federation and CIS Weekly News February 23, 2008
By Patrick Armstrong
Yevgeny Adamov was sentenced to 5Â½ years in prison
CORRUPTION AND STATE CORPORATIONS. Yevgeny Adamov, the atomic energy minister from 1998 to 2001, was convicted by a Moscow court of embezzlement during his term and sentenced to 5Â½ years. This raises the issue of corruption at the highest levels. In his final press conference Putin was asked which of Russia's problems had he found the most wearying and difficult to resolve; "corruption", he immediately answered. Very true: corruption, all the way from the oligarch acquisitions to rapacious traffic police, gums up everything in Russia. And some things have been done about it, although one can suspect that they are rather selective.
But I'm not sure that blurring the distinction between say, a 1st Deputy PM and the Chairman of the Board of one of the world's largest companies is the right way to fight it, although I can see why such a thing might have been thought the only way to get a grip on the company. But, to me, the problem is: from where do these government officials on state boards receive the larger remuneration? In his press conference, Putin explained that he believed state corporations to be necessary "when there is a need for major long-term investments that private business is not yet ready to incur" but that the time would come when this was no longer the case and "we will gradually list these companies on the stock market and make them part of a market economy". Something to watch in the transition is whether these state company positions remain with the individual or the office. The only indication so far is that Medvedev has said he will give up the Gazprom position.
The American presidential elections receive excellent coverage in the Russian media. While Russian journalists rarely offer commentary about the U.S. candidates, straight news reporting of the American presidential campaign is done in exhaustive, overwhelming detail. Not to be outdone, Russia Blog just completed its own humble, non-scientific poll. The goal? Determine which U.S. presidential candidate Russians prefer as the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
After presenting the question to nearly 50 Russians, the answer is clear: one hundred percent of our not-so-random sampling said Senator Barack Obama is their first choice. Huh? Up is down and down is up, at least if you believe conventional wisdom. Why would the Russians, stereotypically considered to be a racist and conservative nation, pick Senator Obama--the first viable black U.S. presidential candidate, and the one who many Americans agree breaks the traditional U.S. presidential mold on many levels?
Putin Slams Clinton, McCain Says that Hillary Clinton Has No Head
Vladimir Putin: Hillary Clinton Has No Head
"At a minimum, a head of state should have a head," - Vladimir Putin
During impromptu remarks in New Hampshire on January 6, 2008, former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton joked that Russian President Vladimir Putin, as a former KGB agent, "by definition doesn't have a soul." Also using Mr. Putin as a punchline on the campaign trail, the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, Senator John McCain, has frequently said, "I looked into his eyes and saw three letters: a K, a G and a B."
Both Senators' jokes are references to a famous statement delivered by President Bush in 2001, after his first summit with President Putin in Slovenia, that "I looked the man in the eye...I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul."
Yesterday President Putin decided to hit back at his critics on the U.S. presidential campaign trail. During a four hour-long press conference at the Kremlin, Putin observed sarcastically that, "a state official must at least have brains."
Click on the extended post to read more news from the press conference.
Political experts now search his [Putin's] past to figure his motives. Can we believe him when he says he's pursuing a transformation process at a pace appropriate to a country ruled for centuries in an authoritarian manner?
Based on what we saw in the 1990s under Yeltsin, I'd say he's got a decent case. To that end, one can claim Putin is simply allowing his social and political structures sufficient time to adapt to a global economic landscape that's not easily navigated by the naive or less-than-determined-to-succeed.
Key to me is that he respected the need to give up the presidency. He didn't break the rule set. He's getting around it somewhat, but that's very Russian--the land of the work-around...
Russian mafia hitmen shot dead Dublin gangland member Paddy Doyle on the Costa del Sol, senior gardai claimed this weekend. Doyle, the survivor of a vicious criminal turf war in south Dublin which has claimed at least 10 lives, was gunned down in Estepona last Monday. Veteran detectives with the Garda Siochana's 'Operation Anvil', the drive against Dublin's crime gangs, said the 27-year-old had beaten up a close relative of a Russian mafia leader based on the southern Spanish coastline.
'From what our Spanish colleagues have told us, this was a professional Russian hit. There were 13 shots and we don't think they wasted a bullet. It has a military-trained assassin written all over it, possibly ex-special forces,' a senior detective told The Observer. 'The intelligence coming back from the Costa del Sol is that Paddy Doyle crossed the Russian mafia, which is something you do there at your peril.'
The most exclusive club in Moscow, Dyagilev, burned down on February 7, 2008. No one died, but three people were hospitalized with serious injuries. One of the injured sustained serious burns, while two others suffered from smoke inhalation. Overall, the rescue effort lead by Moscow firefighters was impressive, as a facility filled with 1,500 drunk people was promptly evacuated at the break of dawn. The roof of the Diagilev club collapsed during the blaze. A rescue helicopter was scrambled to fight the fire with multiple ambulances and fire trucks also arriving on the scene. The fire, which spread over 15,000 square feet, was put out. Neighboring buildings were also evacuated.
The Diagilev Project was known to be the most lavish and high-profile spot for international celebrities, corporate executives, and the clubbing elite in Russia. Famous U.S. comedic actor Jim Carey, Brazilian soccer superstar Ronaldo, and former world heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson used to stop by the club. The Chinese Embassy was planning to hold a New Year's party (Chinese Year of Rat) at Dyagilev the night after the fire. The club did not serve beer, and many Russian stars were unable to pass through the notorious face-control; reserving a private booth could cost as much as $40,000. Time magazine devoted three full pages to the club in a recent issue that proclaimed Russian President Vladimir Putin as Man of the Year.
Russia Sees Baby Boom in 2007 The First One in 15 Years
Something must be going right in Russia's economy and society. A significant increase in the birth rate of a country is only possible when more people have faith in their incomes and hope for the future. Some demographic experts attribute the recent growth in births to President Putin's policy of making payments to Russian mothers, while others think that it's just a coincidence.
On Friday the Kansas Times newspaper quoted the Russian Health and Social Development minister's happy announcement. According to new government statistics, last year the Russian Federation witnessed the highest number of children born since the collapse of the Soviet Union fifteen years ago.
U.S. Nuclear Power Plants to Get More Russian Uranium
By Tom Doggett; editing by Doina Chiacu
Sequoyah nuclear power plant in Tennessee
U.S. nuclear power reactors will be able to obtain more supplies of Russian enriched uranium for fuel, under a trade deal signed by the two countries late on Friday, February 1, 2008. The agreement will provide U.S. utilities with a reliable supply of nuclear fuel by allowing Russia to boost exports to the United States while minimizing any disruption to the U.S. domestic enrichment industry.
"The agreement will encourage bilateral trade in Russian uranium products for peaceful purposes," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. "It will also help to ensure that U.S. utilities have an adequate source of enriched uranium for U.S. utility consumers. Gutierrez and Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Sergey Kiriyenko signed the deal allowing for sales of Russian enriched uranium directly to U.S. utilities. Before the agreement, such direct transactions were not permitted.
Russia's Glamorous Female Bodyguard Killed As Her Porsche Is Carjacked in Moscow
Anna Loginova with the Porsche Cheyenne she died trying to prevent being stolen
Russia's most famous female bodyguard Anna Loginova has been killed after failing to prevent her own Porsche from being carjacked. The glamorous 29-year-old died from head injuries after clinging to the door handle of the Cheyenne and being dragged along the street at high speed as the car screeched away.
"She suffered serious injuries and died at the scene," said a police spokesman. Police believe that she was killed in a random carjacking and was not the victim of an attack based on her work for wealthy high-profile Russian clients.
Russia Blog presents up-to-date news, facts and commentary on the state of events in Russia and the former Soviet Union. The blog is managed by Yuri Mamchur, Director of Real Russia Project. The blog is edited by Charles Ganske.