Saturday, October 25, 2014


The Power Vertical

Russia's Summer Frost

An opposition activist looks out from a police bus after being detained near a protest camp on May 17.
An opposition activist looks out from a police bus after being detained near a protest camp on May 17.
Can we call it a crackdown yet?
 
A court in St. Petersburg has ordered former schoolteacher Tatyana Ivanova to pay 30,000 rubles ($890) in damages for the "moral suffering" she caused when she blew the whistle on alleged electoral fraud back in December.

Aleksandra Dukhanina, a diminutive 18-year-old Moscow State University student, has been detained and faces five years in prison for allegedly attacking police officers during antigovernment demonstrations that turned violent on May 6.
 
Two others -- Maksim Luzyanin, a 36-year-old businessman, and 22-year-old Andrei Barabanov -- have also been detained and charged with provoking violence in those same demonstrations.
 
A court in the southern town of Cheboksary has sentenced Dmitry Karuye, a 20-year-old opposition activist, to 15 days in jail for allegedly spitting on a portrait of President Vladimir Putin.

The preliminary investigation into the feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot has been completed. Three members of the group -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich -- face up to seven years in prison on charges of hooliganism and conspiracy to spread religious hatred for performing the song "Holy Mother, Throw Putin Out!"  in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.

And, of course, the State Duma is debating a bill that would make it exceedingly difficult -- if not virtually impossible -- for the opposition to organize protest actions. And more than 20 activists protesting the law were detained outside the Duma on June 5.
 
After a brief mini-thaw between the parliamentary and presidential elections, there has been a gradual uptick in repressive measures, ranging from high-profile cases (Pussy Riot) to more obscure ones (journalist Andrei Kolomoisky's prosecution for posting a video mocking Putin on his blog).
 
But the pace has clearly picked up of late, indicating that Putin has settled on a get-tough strategy with the increasingly emboldened opposition and its supporters.
 
"It appears that the Russian regime has definitely made up its mind about its attitude toward the protest movement. It considers any street actions to be protests and intends to take the toughest possible measures against participants in these actions without conducting any meaningful dialogue with society," Gazeta.ru wrote in an editorial last week.
 
As I have blogged in the past, the Kremlin's decision to embrace hard-line tactics with the opposition reflects the philosophy of deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin, Putin's latest political guru.
 
Volodin's predecessor -- and archrival -- Vladislav Surkov, the regime's former uber-ideologist, was not opposed in principle to hardball methods, but by and large he favored the softer touch of tricking, cajoling, and co-opting the opposition.
 
Playing rough with opposition protesters and marginalizing their leaders worked when the opposition was -- well -- marginal. But Surkov understood that in the current political environment, the approach could easily backfire. But he is no longer in the Kremlin (he's government chief of staff) and no longer responsible for the regime's political management strategies.
 
A new poll by the Public Opinion Foundation shows that trust in Putin had fallen to 48 percent by the end of May, down from 55 percent in March. A hard-edged approach now, especially with economic storm clouds on the horizon, could make these numbers even worse, embolden the opposition, and win it more supporters.

2012 is clearly not 2007.

"The authorities don't understand this," Pavel Salin of the Center for Political Assessments told Russia Profile. "Unfortunately, they continue to operate with zero logic, and they don't understand that society, which has gone through a fundamental change in attitude, is several levels above them."

This was on display in the St. Petersburg courtroom when the judge ruled against Ivanova, the whistle-blowing former schoolteacher and election commission official. (You can read my post on her here, with a video of her explaining what she witnessed.) After the verdict, supporters presented her with flowers and spectators shouted, "Shame on the judge!"
 
And Ivanova, for her part, said she was undeterred. "I feel energized," she said. "I want change so badly."
 
-- Brian Whitmore
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
June 05, 2012 16:05
Yet another baldfaced lie by the gringo nation of Beavus and Butthead

by: Sey from: World
June 05, 2012 16:10
Blood will run down the streets of Moscow before Putin is either forced to go, or goes on his own decision.

by: john from: canada
June 05, 2012 19:38
So maybe Ambassador McFaul did intend to say that Russia is a wild country? And from the evidence presented here, it looks like its getting wilder - or is just becoming more clearly a country of Asia, not a country of Europe.

A country whose ideologues now favour state sovereignty over human rights, rule of law, low corruption?

Why Putin loves Belarus and China?
In Response

by: rick from: milan
June 06, 2012 00:41
and if will be a country of Asia
where is problem ?

I think that in our time many people live much more better in Asia than in Europe

your post expresses the typical self-referential concept
of all western people

"" We are so much better
that the simple term "europe"

expresses positivism

while the term Asia expresses negativism


My compliments, dear neo colonialist
In Response

by: john from: canada
June 06, 2012 13:01
rick: I agree that to stereotype all of Asia as not being progressive could be seen as both racist - and wrong. I'll amend my statement to say that Putin is aligning his country with other countries that have significant human rights abuses, poor ranking on the Corruption Perception Index, Freedom Index and UN Human Development Index. Examples of Belaurus and China still stand, to be joined by virtually all of the other Asian "stans". To stay that many people live better in Asia than in Europe is empty, when the world's most-populous country does not enjoy democracy, rule of law or freedom from corruption. In addition, so many Chinese live very poorly by UN HDI standards that these Chinese alone outweigh European-based poverty.

by: DEDA CVETKO from: NUEVA YORK
June 06, 2012 02:49
Hey, if the State Department and US Treasury are so rich that they can fund "mass" demonstrations in Moscow, they might as well pay $6,000 per person (instead of the current $100.00) in penalties. Nothing says "World's Greatest Democracy" as subverting other democracies and bankrolling their faux opposition.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
June 06, 2012 15:42
You just nailed an important issue on the head. The US DOESN'T actually have the money to fund these mass demonstrations. Jack, Rick, Eugenio and other trolls seem to think otherwise. It is mainly the paranoia of Putin, Lukashenka, Assad, and others that make the claim of foreign-funded demonstrations. Has anyone complained about foreign funding of OWS?? Also, there is no such thing as "World's greatest democracy" anywhere (we might be the world's oldest though).

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
June 07, 2012 02:40
Can we call it crackdown yet?
Yes, Mr.Whitmore as well as the usurpation of power, orders to kill unwanted or put them in jail.
And why no one talks about the qualities of a person?
We see that Putin is obnoxious man, arrogant, cad and very vindictive...
Of course people like Putin should not be allowed to power..
but in Russia is always so-scoundrels and rascals in power
As drunken Yeltsin appointed him under the blasts in Moscow so he sits in the Kremlin..
Then Yeltsin, in delirium tremens was ready to appoint any...house exploded ..аnarchy in the Caucasus...all on the verge..
The whole policy of Mr. Putin has been reduced to the maintenance of high energy prices by creating a tense situation in the world..
Putin himself misanthrope, he does not tolerate other people's opinions, despises and hates the opposition and what do you expect from this type, he will change?
Do not make laugh my slippers Mr.Whitmore!!
Now your task is waiting when someone wlill be imprisoned, beaten, killed, poisoned with polonium, where will begin next conflict.
Then strain you brain, what else will happen...


In Response

by: Frank
June 11, 2012 17:55
You appear live and well in Moscow Vakhtang.

At RFE/RL, Foreignpolicy.com and a number of other venues, there's a "crackdown" against journos/analysts with a view different from the favored slant.

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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