Saturday, October 25, 2014


The Power Vertical

Preventative Measures

FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov is ready and waiting.
FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov is ready and waiting.

A few days ago, fellow Power Verticalist Brian Whitmore gave the rundown on a bill the government has submitted to the Duma that would give the Federal Security Service (FSB) the authority to take “preventative measures” against individuals and organizations whose activities they think might lead to the commission of a crime, particularly the promotion of “extremism.”


Today, former assistant to Boris Yeltsin and INDEM foundation head Georgy Satarov has an interesting analysis of what the government’s thinking might be in calling for such an, excuse the pun, extreme measure. Satarov’s analysis is particularly interesting because he has gotten a hold of the “explanatory note” that the government submitted together with the bill, in which it lays out its “reasoning.”(If you read Russian, it is worth going through the whole piece, because I’ll only hit a couple of highlights here. Also, you can read the text of the government's letter and the text of the bill itself on the Duma's website by following the links on this page.)


First, Satarov mentions that the bill is directed against “the actions of people that facilitate the appearance of reasons or the creation of circumstances for the commission of a crime.” Under the bill, Satarov speculates, the FSB could theoretically take “preventative measures” against the Duma for passing a law that creates opportunities for corruption. Or it could go after the president for signing such a law or the government for enforcing it…. By such logic, the FSB could act preemptively against minorities for creating the conditions under which some neo-Nazi skinheads might want to beat them up. Jews could be harassed for inciting anti-Semitism by being Jewish. Police officers could be arrested for provoking violent anarchists.


Even more interestingly, Satarov notes that the explanatory note for the law claims that “the activity of radical organizations is leading to the growth of social tension and a strengthening of negative processes in society, especially among youths.” Satarov adds that the theme of youths runs through the document “like a red thread,” perhaps giving a hint about the real purpose of the bill. His dissection of this bit of the FSB’s logic is worth quoting at length:
 

 

They are trying to persuade us that “the activization of the activity of radical organizations” is the cause of social instability and the strengthening of negative tendencies in society. Next they’ll be telling us that the wind is caused by the movement of tree branches. But the scariest thing is that they might really think this way themselves. When I was a presidential assistant, I systematically read the analyses of various agencies, and the most talentless and useless ones came from the FSB. It doesn’t seem to occur to them (and they definitely don’t want it to ever occur to us!) that social tension is rooted in the constantly increasing gap between rich and poor, in bureaucratic unaccountability from which there is no protection, and many other miracles produced by the practices of the authorities, of whom the author of the document is a member. We might also mention their efforts to inculcate xenophobia, chauvinism, and great-power arrogance. They are the ones who encourage the demonstrations of fascists and forbid the protests of democrats.


The government’s explanatory note also argues that the law is needed because “certain mass-media organs, both print and electronic, are openly facilitating the formation of negative processes in the spiritual sphere, reinforcing the cult of individualism and violence and doubt about the ability of the state to defend its citizens, de facto drawing youths into extremist activity.” That is, we can expect this conveniently vague measure to be used against mass media as the country approaches the next national elections (Duma deputies! Pass this law and save your seats!). As I noted in my last post here, this bill will work very nicely with another government initiative to bring blogs and other Internet publications under the umbrella of the mass-media law.


Next, Satarov takes note of the government’s admission in the explanatory document that “despite the organizational and legal measure that have been implemented in recent years…the number of crimes against lives and health committed on the basis of extremist-nationalistic convictions is not decreasing.”


Satarov then enumerates the “organizational and legal measures” the government has taken in recent years: cancelling gubernatorial elections; abolishing elections in general as an institution of honest political competition; the introduction of restrictive laws on the activity of public organizations; the expansion of the definition of extremism to include anything that the government doesn’t like; the restriction of the institution of jury trials; the unprecedented growth of corruption; and the unconvincing imitation of a war against corruption. And now, this new bill – or, to quote Monty Python, now for something completely different.


Satarov ends his analysis by noting that the FSB is one of the government agencies that is directly subordinate to the president. He therefore notes that it is more than passing strange that this bill to amend the law on the FSB came from the government and bears the prime minister’s signature. Hmmm.


-- Robert Coalson

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous from: USA
May 06, 2010 15:31
"cult of individualism" is an interesting phrase. As opposed to what? Reality of collectivism? Russia is looking more and more like the USSR with every passing year.

by: Jon from: Macao
May 10, 2010 03:38
Sounds like Tsar Putin preparing for his return. Also sounds remarkably like the kind of language used by the Chinese Communist Party.
In Response

by: BS Buster
May 11, 2010 06:17
For accuracy sake, you need to look at the situation in a more complete manner.

Russia Promises Poland to Declassify Katyn Documents
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100508/wl_afp/russiapolanddiplomacyhistorykatyn

Russian President Slams “Totalitarian” USSR
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100507/wl_afp/russiapoliticshistorywwii

In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
May 11, 2010 13:58
BS-
You also need to look at the situation, and ask more questions like: Why were the Katyn Documents classified in 2004 only to be declassified a few years later? Is there something the Russians didn't want the world to know about the Soviet role at Katyn? Also, why is there division in Russia regarding Stalin's role in history? Communist purges, famine in Ukraine, Katyn, Ribbentrop/Molotov pact (Pact of Steel, as it was known), post-war Jewish purges in USSR....Stalin was behind all of it! Putin and company have always lamented the collapse of Soviet power, not necessarily the USSR...I'm happy for the demise of both.
In Response

by: BS Buster
May 18, 2010 06:47
Anonymous

At last notice, I understand that the documents in question are in the process of getting declassified. A number of governments and institutions the world over aren't always so quick to release certain documents. For example, I understand that the Vatican hasn't fully come clean on documents pertaining to some of its manner during WW II and shortly thereafter.

Russia isn't completely monolithic. On M-R, why did PACE mention that without noting the earlier Western appeasement at Munich?

As a non-bigoted anti-Communist, I don't miss the USSR, while supporting a secure and strong Russia, which doesn't unnecessarily provoke, or get unnecessarily provoked.

In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
May 18, 2010 17:42
BS-
Russia is not coming clean, it is doing the opposite. The Katyn documents are an exception to what is otherwise harrassment of historians trying to document Stalin's crimes against humanity. When researchers suddenly get their computers confiscated by "the authorities", and then not returned afterward, it strongly suggests that the Russian FSB wants more control over historical information. The Vatican doesn't do that. When they release something, it stays released. As for Western appeasement before WWII, can anyone blame them for being that way less than 20 years after the "Great War of 1914-18". Most nations in the late '30's were more concerned with surviving the Great Depression, than starting yet another European war. I hope that Obama isn't taking an appeasing role with Russia in order to avoid another Cold War. If he is, it will probably backfire.
In Response

by: BS Buster
May 19, 2010 14:04
Anonymous

The proof is in the pudding. There're numerous examples to give which show how Russian government and non-government advocacy is becoming more open and critical on the discussed topic. The situation is by no means perfect, while appearing to be part of an ongoing process. I don't quite get one of your points concerning when a given document is released. Once it's made known, it can't suddenly be stricken from memory

The fact of the matter is that other governments as well as some institutions aren't so willing to quickly release certain documents.

On your last point, you explain the basis for the Munich appeasement. On M-R, the Soviets had a basis as well, which tends to get downplayed or distorted by some.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
May 19, 2010 17:16
"I don't quite get one of your points concerning when a given document is released. Once it's made known, it can't suddenly be stricken from memory"

Yes it can! After the US left Vietnam, those US collaberators left behind were sent to "re-education camps". It's called brainwashing my friend; it happened during the Soviet era and it continues today in Putin's Russia.

"On your last point, you explain the basis for the Munich appeasement. On M-R, the Soviets had a basis as well, which tends to get downplayed or distorted by some."

The Soviet basis didn't make any sense. It was nothing more than a land grab by Stalin. It wasn't as if the USSR allied itself to Poland like it was after the war. The Soviet Union SEIZED a large section of Poland as well as the Baltic countries and eliminated the sovereignty of those states. Saying it was justified because of Western appeasement of Hitler is just an excuse. Are you questioning the rights of those states to exist? If so, my response would be "YES!" they do have a right to exist!
In Response

by: BS Buster
May 20, 2010 10:22
Not at all. Just look at some of the Russian views in Russia getting regularly propped. They aren't being sent to re-education camps.

The Soviets did offer an alliance to defend Czech sovereignty. Instead, the West chose to keep the USSR out of Munich as the Nazis got their way.

The Soviets proceeded to make their own deal with the Nazis. Should the Soviets have let the Nazis take all of Poland, making the Nazi threat to the USSR a greater one?

FYI, the Poles and Hungarians took Czechoslovak territory along with the Nazis in 1938.


In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
May 20, 2010 15:56
BS-

"Not at all. Just look at some of the Russian views in Russia getting regularly propped. They aren't being sent to re-education camps."

Russian "re-education" is happening in their school system today with modified history books glorifying Stalin and minimizing his crimes against humanity. Russian television is also playing a role because it is controled by the Kremlin which modifies news content before broadcasting on a daily basis.

"The Soviets did offer an alliance to defend Czech sovereignty. Instead, the West chose to keep the USSR out of Munich as the Nazis got their way."

What's that got to do with the absorption of parts of Poland, Finland and the Baltic states into the USSR? If the Nazis do something, does that mean it is justified for the Soviets to do the same?

"The Soviets proceeded to make their own deal with the Nazis. Should the Soviets have let the Nazis take all of Poland, making the Nazi threat to the USSR a greater one?"

The Nazis took all of Poland anyway in 1941. From what I understand, the Nazis were not considered a threat by the USSR until the actual invasion started. If your neighbor and I decided to rob your home and split the loot, is only your neighbor a criminal, regardless of what events happen afterward? The Nazis double-crossed the Soviets, but before that, they both essentially divided East Europe amoungst themselves.

"FYI, the Poles and Hungarians took Czechoslovak territory along with the Nazis in 1938."

Once again, this has nothing to do with the Baltic states, or parts of Poland or Finland being absorbed into the USSR. Your argument has not basis, its just an excuse. It sounds like, "if Poland, Hungary, etc. does it, than the USSR should do it too."





In Response

by: BS Buster
May 20, 2010 21:34
Of late, Russian education, government and society at large are taking a more critical view of Stalin.

Reading back on the previous exchanges is the explaining away of Western appeasement without noting the Soviet desire at having their security interests better maintained.

Prior to M-R, the Soviets and Nazis were seen as being on a collision course. After Munich and before M-R, some in the West were hoping for a Nazi-Soviet war that would weaken the two while keeping others out of it.

Historically, the Baltics were used as a strategic asset of several powers near it. Hence, the USSR was by no means alone in having that attitude. This point doesn't excuse such manner, while providing a more complete overview.

FYI, the Finns were offered different land from the Soviets before the start of the Soviet-Finnish war. The Soviets wanted a land adjustment of the two countries borders on the premise that Finland favored the Nazis in a Nazi-Soviet war. It was well within Finland's right to refuse that offer. I make these points for providing a fuller view of the situation. I'm not into overly rhetorical propaganda.

by: F. Kazemzadeh from: Alta Loma, CA
May 12, 2010 22:12
Preventative? What does it prevenatate?

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17:49 October 24, 2014

EVENING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

PUTIN ACCUSES UNITED STATES OF 'UNILATERAL DIKTAT'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of escalating conflicts around the world by imposing what he called a "unilateral diktat."

Putin made the remarks in a combative speech to political experts at the Valdai International Discussion Club, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin said the United States has been "fighting against the results of its own policy" in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

He said risks of serious conflicts involving major countries have risen, as well as risks of arms treaties being violated.

He also dismissed international sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "mistake," saying they aimed at pushing Russia into isolation and would end up "hurting everyone."

We did not start this," he added, referring to rising tensions between Russia and the West.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, TASS)

MERKEL URGES PUTIN TO SOLVE UKRAINIAN GAS DISPUTE

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call to push for a quick resolution of the ongoing gas dispute with Ukraine as winter looms.

The call by Merkel to Putin on October 24 comes as representatives of the EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet again next week in EU brokered talks aimed at solving the gas dispute between Kyiv and Moscow.

Merkel also underlined that upcoming elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists must respect Ukrainian national law.

Pro-Russian insurgent leaders are boycotting a parliamentary snap poll on October 26 in Ukraine and are holding their own election in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, home to nearly three million people, on the same day instead.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)

UNHCR SAYS MORE THAN 800,000 DISPLACED IN UKRAINE CONFLICT

By RFE/RL

The United Nations says the conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 800,000 people from their homes.

Around 95 percent of displaced people come from eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been battling pro-Russian separatists.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told a briefing in Geneva that an estimated 430,000 people were currently displaced within Ukraine -- 170,000 more than at the start of September.

It said at least 387,000 other people have asked for refugee status, temporary asylum, or other forms of residency permits in Russia.

Another 6,600 have applied for asylum in the European Union and 581 in Belarus.

The agency said it was "racing to help some of the most vulnerable displaced people" as winter approaches.

It also said the number of displaced people is expected to rise further due to ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine.

THREE ALLEGED MILITANTS KILLED IN NORTH CAUCASUS

Three alleged militants have been killed by security forces in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee says that two suspects were killed in the village of Charoda in Daghestan on October 24 after they refused to leave an apartment and opened fire at police and security troops.

One police officer was wounded.

Also on October 24, police in another North Caucasus region, Kabardino-Balkaria, killed a suspected militant after he refused to identify himself, threw a grenade towards police, and opened fire with a pistol.

A police officer was wounded in that incident.

Violence is common in Russia's North Caucasus region, which includes the restive republics of Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Chechnya.

Islamic militants and criminal groups routinely target Russian military personnel and local officials.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)

MOSCOW LAWYER IN HIGH PROFILE ORGANIZED CRIME CASE KILLED

A lawyer, who represented an alleged victim of the notorious Orekhovo criminal group in Moscow, has been assassinated.

Police in the Russian capital say that Vitaly Moiseyev and his wife were found dead with gunshot wounds in a car near Moscow on October 24.

Moiseyev was representing Sergei Zhurba, an alleged victim of the Orekhovo gang and a key witness in a case against one of the gang's leaders Dmitry Belkin.

Belkin was sentenced to life in prison on October 23 for multiple murders and extortion.

Last month, another of Zhurba's lawyers, Tatyana Akimtseva (eds: a woman), was shot dead by unknown individuals.

The Orekhovo group was one of the most powerful crime gangs of the Moscow region and in Russia in the 1990s. Its members are believed to be responsible for dozens of murders.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)

17:27 October 24, 2014

LITTLE GREES VOTERS, ANYONE?

17:26 October 24, 2014

SPY VS. SPY

17:00 October 24, 2014
08:29 October 24, 2014

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

UKRAINIAN PM WARNS OF RUSSIAN DESTABILIZATION OF ELECTIONS

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is warning that Russia could attempt to disrupt Ukraine's parliamentary elections scheduled for October 26.

Yatsenyuk told a meeting of top security officials and election monitors on October 23 that "It is absolutely clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will continue and will be provoked by Russia."

Yatsenyuk said "we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge -- to hold parliamentary elections."

The prime minister said Ukraine needs the "full mobilization of the entire law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and attempts at terrorist acts during the elections."

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said authorities have ordered some 82,000 policemen on duty for election day.

He said 4,000 members of a special reaction force would be among those maintaining order during polling hours and would be concentrated in "those precincts where there is a risk of some terrorist acts or aggressive actions by some...candidates."

The warning by Yatsenyuk comes on the heels of three violent attacks on parliamentary candidates in the past week.

The latest, against Volodymyr Borysenko, a member of Yatsenyuk's People's Front Party, occurred on October 20 when Borysenko was shot at and had an explosive thrown at him.

He allegedly survived the attack only because he was wearing body armor due to numerous death threats he had recently received.

Elections to the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament, will be held despite continued fighting in the eastern part of the country between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Voting will not take place in 14 districts of eastern Ukraine currently under the control of the separatists.

Those separatist-held areas -- in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- are planning on holding their own elections in November.

Additionally, Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament.

Polls show President Petro Poroshenko's party leading with some 30 percent of respondents saying they would cast their vote for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

It that percentage holds on election day it would mean Poroshenko's bloc would have to form a coalition government, likely with nationalist groups who oppose conducting peace talks over fighting in the east.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)

RUSSIA DENIES ESTONIAN AIRSPACE VIOLATIONS

By RFE/RL

Moscow has denied claims of an incursion by a Russian military plane into Estonia's airspace.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax news agency on October 23 that the Ilyushin-20 took off from Khrabrovo airfield in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on October 21.

The spokesman said the reconnaissance plane flew "over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea" while on a training flight.

On October 22, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Tallinn, Yury Merzlakov, after the Estonian military said the Russian plane had entered its air space.

In a statement, NATO said the Ilyushin-20 was first intercepted by Danish jets when it approached Denmark, before flying toward non-NATO member Sweden.

Intercepted by Swedish planes, the alliance said the Ilyushin entered Estonian airspace for “less than one minute” and was escorted out by Portuguese jets.

NATO has stepped up its Baltic air patrols and Moscow has been accused of several recent border violations in the region amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of abducting one of its police officers on the border.

Russia claims Eston Kohver was seized inside Russia on September 5, while Estonian officials say he was captured at gunpoint in Estonia near the border and taken to Russia.

The European Union and United States have called for the immediate release of the Estonian security official, who is facing espionage charges in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Navy has been searching for a suspected submarine sighted six days ago some 50 kilometers from the capital, Stockholm, although it said on October 22 it was pulling back some of its ships.

Swedish officials have not linked any particular country to the suspected intrusion and Moscow has denied involvement.

(With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and the BBC)

RUSSIAN COURT POSTPONES RULING ON OIL FIRM BASHNEFT

A Moscow court postponed to next week a ruling on a move to take control of Bashneft, an oil company from tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

The judge said on October 23 that the next hearing will take place on October 30 after the prosecution requested more time to prepare its case.

Prosecutors filed the suit in September to regain state ownership of Bashneft, citing alleged violations in the privatization and subsequent sale of the company to AFK Sistema investment group.

Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder of the conglomerate, is under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering during the firm's acquisition in 2009.

Yevtushenkov, 66, was arrested on September 16.

He is ranked Russia's 15th richest man by U.S. magazine Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

11:11 October 23, 2014

THERE IS NO RUSSIA WITHOUT PUTIN?

According to a report in the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia," deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi that Western politicians "do not understand the essence of Russia."

"Volodin stated the key thesis about the current state of our country: As long as there is Putin there is Russia. If there is no Putin, there is no Russia," Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society, told "Izvestia."

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or