February 21, 2013
What to Do If Something Explodes in Russia
By Irina Ratushinskaya
Irina Ratushinskaya is a poet and writer.
Everyone knows that Russians are never prepared for anything. That's why they're morally ready for everything.
We know now what happened in Chelyabinsk when a meteorite exploded in the heavens. It's amazing that nobody died.
The city was right under an explosion that, according to NASA, was 30 times greater than the one that leveled Hiroshima. Something unknown sped through the skies. There was a searing flash and a heat wave, followed by a devastating sonic boom. All mobile communication was knocked out.
What should one think and do?
If panic had broken out in this city of 1.1 million inhabitants, numerous casualties would have been inevitable. But shock or no shock, there was no panic. True, many people vented their stress by swearing profusely. But those who suffered injuries received timely medical aid instead of bleeding to death. Moreover, nobody perished in the temperature of minus 15 degrees Celsius that penetrated homes in which windows and doors had been blown to smithereens.
And this despite the fact that in the first hour and a half after the explosion, state emergency services were nowhere to be seen. Not a single alarm siren went off. Such sirens, in peacetime, are activated to warn people to turn on their radios and television sets, so that those responsible for the wellbeing of the populace could explain to that same populace what had happened, and what should be done. They didn't know themselves what to do: meteorites don't fall out of the sky every day.
So at first people had to act independently, and their actions proved so successful that such positive experience is worth remembering.
"What to do? Well, I grabbed the cat and my passport and ran out into the street. They said I should go back inside, draw some water, and stay put."
"All the windows in the office were blown in, suspended ceilings and plaster came crashing down, all the lamps shattered. ...Women were screaming their heads off. For some reason I wished I'd finished my cup of coffee, pulled my military ticket out of my coat pocket and yelled: 'Girls! It's war!!!' then hustled them outside. The street was full of people, all staring up at the sky. ... I could tell by the vapor trail that it wasn't a rocket or an airplane!"
The first reaction proved correct: Get out of the building, seizing documents and anything that's alive. Yes, the first impression was that of a nuclear strike. But the risk of receiving a dose of radiation, be it in the street or a room with smashed windows, is the same. Better to hide in the basement. However, outside there are people who could help and advise. It's no rocket: The vapor trail is all wrong. For some reason, many Russians know what a rocket trail looks like. So it's not war, but something else. That means there will be no shooting and it's OK to return home.
One could also help others. "Thirty-five people were injured by flying glass at the Chelyabinsk radio factory. Communications were out, it was impossible to call an ambulance, so we got the injured to the hospital under our own steam."
In one classroom, a teacher saw her pupils rush to the windows when the searing light filled the sky. She ordered them to hide under their desks, and ran to open the glass doors between classrooms, knowing the flash would be followed by a tremendous sonic boom. And made it just in the nick of time: the boom shattered the glass, showering her with fragments. She then ordered her pupils to put on their coats and hurried them out into the street. None of the children received so much as a scratch, but the teacher had to be hospitalized with multiple lacerations.
All children in kindergartens and schools were promptly evacuated and handed over to their parents, who had raced to the scene. The wounded were taken to hospitals. Volunteers banded together immediately to bring order to hospitals and blood transfusion points that had been affected by the blast. Those very first moments, so important to the saving of lives, were not wasted.
So if something extraordinary happens ≠ get out into the street among people. Even if it's freezing cold.
February 21, 2013
Rogozin Warns Prime Minister of Asteroid Threat
In a letter to Prime Minister Medvedev, his deputy Dmitry Rogozin suggests developing an international asteroid avoidance system.
There are currently two asteroids, Rogozin writes, that pose a particular threat to Earth. The first threat is 99942 Apophis, previously known as 2004 MN4, which will fly by in close proximity to our planet in 2029 and may even strike it in 2036. Another asteroid, named 2011 5, will pass by Earth at a distance of 2,000 km.
The deputy prime minister proposes that the military industry commission and the government work out a strategy for an international asteroid impact prevention system to avoid catastrophes.
The Federal Space Agency was unable to detect the asteroid that fell in Chelyabinsk on February 15. It is designed to identify dangerous space debris in satellite orbits at a range of 200 km to 5,000 km from Earth.
"The military radars in both Russia and the US that observe space are not equipped to discover objects of this type," stresses Rogozin in his letter.
Asteroid avoidance would require global resources and the collective scientific and technical capabilities of Russia, the US and other leaders in the space industry. Such cooperation could also ease competition between Russian and American missile defense systems.
American shuttles and satellites are fitted with powerful space telescopes while Russia is restricted to ground telescopes to monitor the skies.
"For security purposes, Russia requires at least three optical telescopes with lenses of two meters and larger in diameter and real-time data processing," says Lidiya Rykhlova of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Astronomy Institute.
Should such a telescope be produced, astronomers will be able to work out an appropriate plan to prevent threats. Dangerous space objects could be destroyed or deflected.
Since 1998, the US has spent around $20mln a year to sponsor its planetary defense program.
If the two countries join forces against the asteroid threat, it would take away the US monopoly on monitoring space debris and using it for political purposes, believes Anatoly Zaitsev, CEO of the Center for the Planetary Defense non-profit partnership.
"If a flying asteroid poses no threat to the US or its partners, it may just be ignored. This is exactly what happened five years ago when the Americans detected an asteroid that could have collided with Earth. The asteroid passed by our planet but the fact that this threat went unreported speaks for itself," says Zaitsev.
The expert adds that Russia does have viable solutions to offer. One of them is Zenit, a Russian-Ukrainian space launch vehicle capable of preventing threats beyond the Moon's orbit. It takes only 90 minutes to prepare for launch, as opposed to American shuttles that take weeks to get ready.
Zaitsev is going to send Dmitry Rogozin the project for protecting Earth from asteroids, comets and meteorites developed in his center.
Situation with orphans in Russia is more important than debate on foreign adoptions - Putin
NOVO-OGARYOVO. Feb 20 (Interfax) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said the living conditions of orphans in Russia are much more important than the current debate on adoptions.
"We are now actively discussing the work with foreign adoptions, which is, of course, an important thing, but not the main thing. What is more important is the way children, who have been left without parental care, and orphans are raised," Putin said during a meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets addressing the issue.
Putin said the issue of foreign adoptions affects "several hundreds of children" and the number of orphans and children left without parental care in Russia "is, unfortunately, in the thousands."
In this regard, Putin suggested that Golodets discuss the fulfillment by the government of the presidential decree on the solution of the problems of orphans in Russia.
Russians support Putin, not happy with State Duma - poll
MOSCOW. Feb 21 (Interfax) - Sixty-five percent of Russians approve of Russian President Vladimir Putin's work, the Levada Center told Interfax on Thursday, following a nationwide survey conducted on February 15-18.
Levada Center sociologists said that the approval rating of the Russian president gained three points, as compared to 62% in January.
The approval rating of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was virtually unchanged at 56%.
Russia's most trusted politicians also include Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (16%), Communist Party chairman Gennady Zyuganov (10%) and Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky (9%).
According to the Levada Center poll, the country's top ten most popular people include Civil Platform Party leader Mikhail Prokhorov (6%), Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia (5% each), Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko (4%), and A Just Russia Party leader Sergei Mironov (3%).
Nineteen percent of respondents said they currently trusted none of the political figures in Russia.
The government's performance drew approval from 45% of those polled, and 54% took the opposite view. Forty-one percent of respondents said that the situation in the country was developing in the right direction generally, and 42% expressed the opposite opinion.
The State Duma approval rating currently stands at 36% while 61% of Russians disapprove of the Duma's work, the poll said.
Just over half (51%) of all respondents in 130 settlements in 45 Russian regions said that they were in general happy with their governors (mayor in Moscow), while the rate of Russians who were not happy grew four points to 47%, the survey agency said.
February 21, 2013
Russia tries to improve life expectancy with laws curbing drinking, smoking
By Kathy Lally
MOSCOW ≠ Hours after his inauguration last May, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering his government to increase Russian life expectancy to 74 years by 2018, reflecting urgency in the effort to keep the world's largest country filled with enough people to sustain it.
Last year, life expectancy here was 66.5 years, according to estimates by the CIA World Factbook ≠ 60.1 for men and 73.2 for women ≠ compared with 78.5 years in the United States and 79.8 in the European Union. More people are dying than are being born. Russians bear a staggering load of risk factors for disease, with 60 percent of men smoking and each citizen consuming, on average, more than four gallons of pure alcohol a year. Half the population is overweight.
Two big steps are in the works to change some of the dynamics. Russia's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill forbidding smoking in public places, which the upper house approved Wednesday and is expected to be signed quickly by Putin.
And a law that went into effect Jan. 1 has designated beer as an alcoholic beverage instead of a food, prohibiting its sale in ubiquitous street-corner kiosks.
But advocates for better health, leading to longer lives, say Russia needs to do far more.
"Cigarettes are incredibly cheap," said Dmitri Yanin, chairman of the Conference of Consumer Protection Societies. "I think we can change consumer behavior eventually, but it won't be quick because the law doesn't include economic measures."
Poor demographic trends have troubled Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with a population of 148 million 20 years ago reduced to about 143 million now. In 2006, Putin ordered subsidies for women who give birth, calling the demographic situation "Russia's most acute problem today." Last year he said the population could decline to 107 million by 2050 if trends are not reversed.
The latest government health figures suggest the difficulty ahead: Last year, 2,500 more people died than were born, and the infant mortality rate rose to 8.7 deaths per 1,000 births from 7.1 in 2011 after a dozen years of dramatic decline.
"Men, especially, are dying at a productive age," said Luigi Migliorini, the World Health Organization's special representative to Russia. "They're dying when they can be useful to their country and their family. That's why the fight against tobacco and alcohol is so important."
About 400,000 Russians die from tobacco-related diseases every year, Putin has said. Health officials say perhaps 300,000 die from causes linked to alcohol, though its effect on mortality is more debated.
About 20 billion packs of cigarettes a year are bought by Russians, while the United States, with a population of 315 million, buys about 16 billion packs. Popular cigarette brands sell in Russia for about $1 a pack, with taxes making up 30 cents of the price.
Migliorini and other health experts say more far-reaching measures will also be necessary to turn the tide against non-communicable ailments such as lung cancer, stroke and cardiovascular disease, which exploded as the health-care system fell apart with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
A provision of the new smoking ban that would have allowed the government to set a minimum price was deleted after intense industry lobbying. While alcohol use contributes to a high rate of road accidents, so does lax adherence to seat-belt laws ≠ many men here spend more effort carefully arranging a seat belt to make police think it's buckled than it would take to actually buckle it.
Volunteer groups are needed to help people understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle and encourage changes in behavior, health experts say. They call for steps that would go beyond laws and decrees to include pay increases, new equipment and training across the health-care system, along with improvements in the distribution of medicine, which is often prone to interruption.
"Whether their goals can be achieved by 2020 is unclear," Migliorini said, "but setting ambitious targets moves the whole system forward."
But don't forget Russian fatalism.
"I am ready to acknowledge that tobacco and smoking are not mankind's healthiest habits," said Andrei Loskutov, executive director of the All-Russia Movement for the Rights of Smokers. But, he said, a hermit who has lived isolated and free of tobacco in the Siberian taiga now is dying of cancer.
"Churchill smoked," he said triumphantly, "and he lived to 91."
OSC [US Open Source Center] Analysis: Lapse in Airtime Targets Suggests Effort to Improve Putin's Image
February 20, 2013
[Footnotes and graphs not here]
To Improve Putin's Image Russian state TV's apparent practice of maintaining airtime targets for the president and prime minister temporarily lapsed from mid-September to December 2012, suggesting a Kremlin effort to counter speculation over Putin's health and buttress popular perceptions of his leadership. During this period, more airtime for Putin coincided with more frequent portrayals of Putin as the guardian of the Russian people and state legacy. As Putin returned to a more active schedule in January 2013, airtime allocation and coverage tone returned to previous norms, suggesting that similar shifts in the future could serve as an indication that the regime perceives Putin's legitimacy to be in question.
OSC analysis indicates that the Kremlin sets airtime targets for Russian state TV coverage of the president and prime minister. (a) The graph below demonstrates that, from the beginning of Medvedev's presidency in May 2008 until early into Putin's third term as president, the offices of president and prime minister received approximately 67% and 33%, respectively, of the airtime devoted to both offices on the main state TV newscasts, (1) (2) (3) (4) regardless of who occupied each office. (b)
However, OSC analysis indicates that the Kremlin temporarily abandoned such targets during the period from mid-September to December 2012 (see graphs below), likely reflecting an effort to maintain Putin's leadership image in response to allegations of serious health problems and questions about Putin's ability to effectively lead.
During the period from mid-September to December 2012, Putin averaged 42, 57, and 42 percentage points more airtime than did Medvedev on NTV, Channel One, and Rossiya 1, respectively -- a substantial increase from the 34 percentage point difference previously observed between president and prime minister.
Since the beginning of January 2013, however, airtime allocation reverted to pre-September 2012 levels, suggesting that Putin's return to an active schedule eliminated the need to actively work to maintain his image.
In addition to increased airtime, the content of Putin's TV coverage during the period from mid-September to December 2012 highlighted, to a greater extent than in the past, his ability to connect with Russian citizens and be the guardian of Russia's national legacy.
All three networks regularly showed Putin interacting closely with Russian citizens. Typical reporting -- duplicated on all three networks -- included Putin visiting a home for elderly people, (5) (6) (7) giving out a Teacher of the Year award, (8) (9) (10) and personally visiting the Far East to promote the successful economic development of the region. (11) (12) (13)
Additionally, the networks portrayed Putin as a guardian of Russia's national legacy. Rossiya 1 on 30 September 2012 described him as Russia's "cultural savior" (14) and Channel One on 5 November 2012 showed Putin granting Khabarovsk the status of "city of military glory." (15) NTV devoted the entirety of its 7 October 2012 newscast to a celebration of Putin at age 60; the documentary depicted Putin continuing Russia's self-proclaimed legacy of strong executive leadership by demonstrating his physical strength through swimming and working out in a gym. (16)
In contrast, the channels portrayed Medvedev meeting with industry leaders, (17) commenting on issues that are peripheral to Russian citizens' concerns, such as the Georgia elections, (18) and supporting causes unpopular with some Russian citizens, such as tighter penalties for drunk driving. (19) Exceptions included a visit to a children's home (20) (21) (22) and a meeting regarding pensioners' benefits, though the networks noted that Putin initiated the benefits program, with Medvedev providing support.
The graphs were created by totalling the airtime devoted to Putin and Medvedev in a random sample of newscasts aired on the three main state television channels: state-controlled NTV and state-owned Rossiya 1 and Channel One. The percentage of airtime devoted to each individual was then calculated from that total. The sample was selected to approximate roughly 25% of the total newscasts from the beginning of Medvedev's presidency until mid-September 2012 and 50% of total newscasts since then.
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Russia Beyond the Headlines
February 21, 2013
Could the Russian monarchy return?
While the House of Romanov is celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2013 Grand Duchess Maria Romanova, its head, spoke with Russia Beyond the Headlines about her position and what role her family could play in modern Russia.
By Elena Novikova, RBTH
Grand Duchess Maria Romanova the head of the House of Romanov, talks to Elena Novikova of Russia Beyond the Headlines about her position and what role her family could play in modern Russia.
Russia Beyond the Headlines: The House of Romanov is celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2013. What is the meaning of this date?
Maria Romanova: For me, the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanovs is only a part of a great national celebration of the 400 years that have passed since the end of the Time of Troubles and the restoration of the Russian sovereignty.
Our dynasty was offered the crown by the Great Local Church Council and Zemsky Sobor ("assembly of the land") in 1613. This was a decision that set the outcome of the fight for liberation in stone, a historical fact that cannot be undone. This victory was won thanks to the sacrifice and valiant efforts of the representatives of all Russian social classes.
I am convinced that the 400th anniversary of the end of the Times of Troubles will be celebrated with due splendor. However, I believe that this date we needs to be commemorated first and foremost with prayer, charity and educational campaigns.
RBTH: You were born in Madrid, went to school in Oxford and have lived most of your life in Spain. That notwithstanding, in your interviews you have frequently called Russia your true home. What is stopping you from going home?
M.R.: If I were a private person I could return to Russia at any moment. However, as head of the Russian Imperial House I am entrusted with the task of its preservation as a historical institution. In civilized countries, dynasty heads were only able to return to their homelands after the states had clearly defined their legal status.
As proven by France, Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Afghanistan and many other countries whose royal houses had been banished and later returned, a legal status of a non-ruling dynasty is absolutely compatible with a republican political system and does not go against the local constitutions and laws.
I am not putting forward any political claims at all, nor am I trying to reclaim any of my ancestral property. I do not expect any preferential treatment either. However, I am justified in my hopes that the reintegration of the imperial dynasty in modern Russia's contemporary life will be as successful as in other European countries.
Moreover, I expect a law to be passed to protect the Russian Imperial House as an object of historical and cultural heritage in accordance with the article 44 of the Russian constitution. I have no doubts that all legal issues will sooner or later be resolved and eventually we will come back to Russia for good.
RBTH: You have met with the country's leaders more than once but all of those meetings were informal. Would an official meeting with the Russian president be possible in the near future?
M.R.: It is entirely up to the president. I am certain that such an audience will be a token of our mutual respect. Moreover, if such a meeting leads to an action plan to enhance the relationship between the modern state and the historical institutions that preserve the country's ties with its great history, it will be likely to benefit Russia's global image.
RBTH: Do you believe in the restoration of monarchy in Russia?
Despite going through periods of decline and revival, the idea of monarchy will never cease to exist. Indeed, you could come up with a thousand arguments against monarchy pointing out its numerous flaws, but has the republic done away with them? In fact, it seems to me these problems have only gotten worse.
The spreading of the republican form of government has failed to deliver humanity from wars, political terror against own people and powerful social and economic crises, let alone avert moral and spiritual catastrophes.
Home to a large number of ethnic groups with a variety of religious and cultural traditions, Russia might be in need of a living symbol of unity, which is a lawful hereditary monarch.
RBTH: Would you like to play a more active role in Russia's political life?
M.R.: I believe a monarch or a dynasty head must be above political strife with a duty to unite the entire nation. He should not have his name associated with any of the parties, even the one he feels the most congenial with.
Neither my son nor I will ever take part in political struggle as a matter of principle. We are completely above politics. If the Russian nation expresses a desire to restore monarchy, our lawful successors will be ready to fulfill this duty.
Should that happen, however, the legitimate monarch would ascend the reclaimed throne not as a party leader but as head of a historical dynasty equally close to all fellow citizens, willing to hear opinions of all parties and groups without belonging to any of them.
RBTH: You have said numerous times in your interviews that you do not have any claims on the Romanov dynasty's property in Russia. Do you not believe in restitution?
M.R.: I strongly oppose the idea of restitution. I am not asking for anything for myself personally and do not recommend anyone else do it either. A new round of property redistribution will provoke bitter conflicts leading to violence, suffering and resentment.
The only exception is Orthodox monasteries and churches as well as other confessions' places of worship. Those were intended as prayer houses when they were built; using them for other purposes is a blasphemy and a slap in the face of believers. Although most of the sacred objects have been restituted by now, some problems still remain. Nevertheless, I hope they will be resolved according to the principles of law and justice.
How did the Romanovs come to power?
In 1598, Fyodor, the last tsar of Russia's founding Rurik Dynasty died without leaving an heir. The next 15 years, known as the Time of Troubles, were ones of turmoil, during which Russia was invaded by the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. A coalition of Russian nobles and peasants defeated the invaders in late 1612. On Feb. 21, 1613, a gathering of Russia's landed nobles and a few peasants elected Mikhail Romanov tsar, establishing the Romanov Dynasty, which lasted until the murder of Emperor Nicholas II and his family by the Bolsheviks on July 17, 1918.
Moscow Daily Advocates 'Urgent' Reform of Russian Orthodox Church
February 15, 2013
Article by Stanislav Belkovskiy: "Pope Shows Patriarch Way. Program of Russian Church Reform: Brief and to Point."
The Pope's abdication from the Holy See - an event unprecedented in 600 years - has elicited a wave of stormy emotion, and not only on this side of the inhabited world. On Monday 11 February 2013, when the news of the abdication arrived, a terrible thunder storm broke in Rome, and lightning struck the dome of St Peter's Basilica.
However, the abdication did not come as a complete sensation to those who had been following the Pope's verbal and written pronouncements during the past eight years - since Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the former Holy Inquisition), became Benedict XVI. The outgoing Pope would invariably emphasize the main problem of the Church entrusted to his care - the manifest crisis of Catholicism in Old Europe.
"The churches are emptying," as Aleksiy II, the late patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, said in a different, yet very similar regard. Europe, the former focus of Catholicism, is becoming quite secular, and confession of the Christian religion is becoming a pure formality. European political leaders, who today extol Benedict XVI for his "courageous action," actually pursue a policy with which the Church cannot agree under any circumstances. Single-sex marriage and adoption of children by homosexual couples are being legalized everywhere, and next in line is the legalization of euthanasia. A tremendous blow has also been dealt to the authority of the Roman Catholic Church by the scandals that erupted over pedophile priests precisely under Benedict XVI. Something that had lain hidden for decades was revealed, but, under the secret canons of history, the elderly Ratzinger had to take responsibility for what happened.
"I arose late and on my route was met by the night of Rome" (F.I. Tyutchev). Pope Ratzinger admitted that he does not have the strength to halt the processes that are leveling the influence of Catholicism in Europe. This can only be done by undertaking cardinal reforms within the Church itself. But Benedict XVI obviously reckons that at the age of 86 years this is not the best time to start such reforms. He no longer has sufficient strength, physical and mental, to try to change the course of European history set by the logic of the Enlightenment. Hence his abdication. Ratzinger has acted absolutely honestly and, thanks to this, will not be forgotten by the Church's historians.
The Pope's departure is also important to us because it reminds us of confounded questions concerning the fate of our Church - the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (ROCMP). For it, too, is in need of cardinal (please forgive the unfortunate pun) reforms. The very year 2012, more than anything else, shed greater light than ever before on the need for such reforms.
Some people mistakenly believe that the ROCMP is the historical successor to the Russian Orthodox Church. This, to put it mildly, is not quite so. The ROCMP was, to all intents and purposes, founded in September 1943 by Generalissimo Joseph Stalin. At that time the great teacher and leader of the peoples received in the Kremlin Sergiy Stragorodskiy, locum tenens of the patriarch's throne, and Metropolitans Aleksey Simanskiy (the future Patriarch Aleksiy I) and Nikolay Yarushevich. He charged the Church to be a faithful and reliable detachment of the Soviet power and its agent among those who did not deny the existence of God but who at the same time remembered the expression "Holy Rus." An apocryphal story has it that Sergiy Stragorodskiy turned up for the meeting with the leader in secular dress, not in his bishop's robes. At this the sly seminarian asked the locum tenens with his customary accent: "You fear me. Do you not fear Him (the Lord God - S.B.)?"
The authenticity of that rejoinder of Stalin's has not been established empirically. But the leader's words could well have become the motto of the ROCMP: A banner with this text ought to be hung at the gates of the patriarch's official residence in Chistyy Pereulok in the capital. This is because the main task of our titular Church since 1943 has been to serve the interests of the regime. The Lord God will wait. After all, he has eternity in reserve, as Vladimir Vladimirovich (Mayakovskiy) would have said.
This is, in fact, why the ROCMP always clearly conforms to the statehood that exists at this moment in historical time - similar to the way in which a liquid assumes the shape of the vessel that contains it. Under Soviet power the patriarchate shielded Godless Communism. Metropolitan Nikodim Rotov, the spiritual mentor and political father of present Patriarch Kirill Gundyayev and a key figure in the Russian Orthodox Church in the sixties and seventies, even urged people to distinguish between forms of atheism: He said that there is bad atheism and good, Communist atheism, for, according to Metropolitan Nikodim's theory, it is essentially almost Christianity.
Under Gorbachev's perestroyka and during the years of Boris Yeltsin's rule it seemed that the air of freedom might do Professor Pleischner (character in Soviet espionage thriller "Seventeen Moments of Spring") - that is, the ROCMP - a good turn. That the Church would be able to rid itself of total dependence on the Kremlin and really become the spiritual leader of the Russian people. But this was an optical illusion. The ROCMP simply again assumed the shape of the vessel: The chaos of freedom gave rise to ferment within it too. But as soon as Putin's stability fell upon us, the official Orthodox Church once again adapted itself to the situation, submitting to all the main areas of state work.
But whereas under Patriarch Aleksiy II (Ridiger) the Russian Orthodox Church still retained some sense of its own dignity and awareness of its special and different nature, under Kirill Gundyayev it fell irrevocably into the abyss of serving state interests. This church seems no longer to need the hypothesis of the existence of God. Its god lives in the Novo-Ogarevo residence, and its apostles are active in the Kremlin's core blocks.
Everything living and wise in the ROCMP is now being consistently trampled and destroyed. In January of this year, for example, Father Dmitriy Sverdlov, a well-known and popular young priest, was banned from officiating. The formal reason was that he had allegedly absented himself from his parish without obtaining the consent of the church leaders. In actual fact, he had just gone to Krymsk for a few days to help the victims of the dreadful flooding there. The true reason for the victimization of Father Dmitriy is that he openly spoke out about the dishonesty and injustice of the 2011 Duma elections and sympathized with the protest movement. I could cite quite a few other such examples, and it is a pity that a column in Moskovskiy Komsomolets, unlike the city of Moscow, capital of our Motherland, is not elastic.
I am frequently asked this question: What kind of program must the legal opposition in modern Russia have? I frequently give a detailed answer to it, although not everyone is hearing and listening. So. One of the key points is the urgent (and even over-urgent) reform of the Russian Church. As long as the ROCMP remains - and is increasingly becoming - an appendage of the executive power, real political changes in our country are impossible: I am convinced of this.
So, in my view the main tenets of the doctrine of church reform must be the following.
1. The ROCMP as a public organization and a single bureaucratic whole must be eliminated.
2. The Russian Church - it is desirable that it restore its pre-Stalin name and become the Russian Orthodox Church - must be transformed into a confederation of independent parishes.
3. Parishioners will elect their own pastors, the pastors their bishops, and the bishops the patriarch. The model of vertical management of the Church, which has not changed since Stalin's time, should be abolished.
4. It is necessary to revive the procedure of proclamation (catechization): Every member of the Church must understand why he becomes Orthodox and what God, who is above all earthly authorities, is like.
5. Following (in this instance alone) the Catholic example, it is necessary to introduce the institution of confirmation: Any adult, even if he was baptized in childhood, must confirm that he belongs to the Orthodox Church.
That is putting it briefly.
Reform is necessary for the Church to become an institution for emancipating the Russian person, having ceased to be an agent of authoritarianism and a servant of secular power. In my view this is understood well by everyone. By believing laymen, by priests, and even by the higher clergy, many of whom no longer pin any hopes on the present ROCMP leadership. For it (the leadership) has separated itself from believing Russian people with a wall that is higher than the Kremlin wall.
Of course, people will say to me that this program is too radical. I will agree at once. But, as rich Russian history graphically shows, only quick and radical reforms succeed in Russia. This is probably because of our climate: With such weather it is not possible to plan something a long way ahead and gradually. Any reforms in Russia - whether those of Peter (the Great), Lenin and Stalin, or Yeltsin - were tough and swift. The rest either marked time or overtly failed.
Admittedly, church reform will take at least five to seven years. For the very organism of the ROCMP is extremely inert and sluggish. We must realize this.
But what is five to seven years when compared with Russian eternity, which hangs over us like a huge bright cloud?
Of course, the necessary precondition for Orthodox reform does exist. The abdication of Patriarch Kirill Gundyayev. Like Benedict XVI, he must end his career in a convent.
That is the most correct place for him.
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Duma Requests Extremism Probe into Church Reform Article
MOSCOW, February 21 (RIA Novosti) - Representatives of the four factions in the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, on Wednesday requested an extremism probe into an article on a Russian Orthodox Church reform by political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky.
In the article published by the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily on February 15, Belkovsky says that the Russian Orthodox Church should cease to exist in its present form, "as a single bureaucratic entity," and should be transformed instead into a "confederation of independent parishes," so that "parishioners elect their pastors, pastors [elect] bishops and bishops [elect] the patriarch."
According to lawmakers, the article contains "rude and groundless attacks on the Russian Orthodox Church and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill."
"In this article Belkovsky has laid down his own program of action by the opposition concerning the Russian Orthodox Church. The first paragraph of this program states that the Russian Orthodox Church should be eliminated as a religious entity," the lawmakers said. "As this article was published in a wide-circulation newspaper, we consider it a display of religious extremism and an incitement to religious hatred."
They requested Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and Russian Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin to probe the article and take measures if necessary.
Moscow Times/BBC Monitoring
What the Papers Say, Feb. 21, 2013
1. Maria-Luiza Tirmaste interview with Kirov Region governor Nikita Belykh, headlined "'Searches and questioning are surely not needed for dismissal'", who speaks about the criminal cases that he is involved in as a witness, his plans as governor and relations with the Russian leadership and the opposition; pp 1, 4 (3,343 words).
2. Kirill Melnikov et al. article headlined "LUKoil driven into backwoods" says that the Russian oil company LUKoil, which has lost the fight for Russia's offshore deposits to Rosneft and Gazprom, plans to develop oil fields in territorial waters; pp 1, 11 (789 words).
3. Unattributed article headlined "More people to follow Vladimir Pekhtin?" features politicians' comments on the aftermath of One Russia member Vladimir Pekhtin's resignation as a State Duma deputy over an undeclared property scandal; pp 1-2 (462 words).
4. Khalil Aminov article headlined "Bazel thrown away beyond port" says that Oleg Deripaska's holding company Bazel may hand over a freight port built in the Imereti Valley, Krasnodar Territory, to the Olimpstroy state corporation; pp 1, 12 (804 words).
5. Article by the newspaper's political section headlined "Case of mass resignation" says that three One Russia MPs have resigned as State Duma deputies. The party leadership expects the trend to continue and the State Duma does not rule out the possibility of it being dissolved; pp 1-2 (1,385 words).
6. Viktor Khamrayev article headlined "Deputies talk to prosecutor's office and investigation agency" says that protection of children's rights and the fight against corruption have been the main topics in the report delivered by Prosecutor-General Yuriy Chayka and Russian Investigations Committee head, Alexander Bastrykin, to the State Duma; p 3 (636 words).
7. Taisiya Bekbulatova and Kirill Belyaninov article headlined "US Congress being involved in adoption" says that the Russian parliament will contact the US Congress over the death of a Russian boy adopted by a US family in late 2012; p 3 (707 words).
8. Ivan Tyazhlov article headlined "UK becomes twice as hospitable" says that Russian people will be able to receive a long-term UK visas within 15 days, instead of 30 days as before, as from 2013; p 5 (559 words).
9. Svetlana Mentyukova article headlined "Andrey Krayniy sends investigators to personnel department" says that the Russian Investigations Committee has questioned Federal Fishery Agency head Andrey Krayniy, suspected of forgery. Krayniy did not confess to the crime and said that the criminal case against him was unjustified; p 6 (542 words).
10. Kirill Belyaninov article headlined "Russian pilot's guilt being proven by connection to Viktor But (Bout)" says that an appeal against the court's decision filed by the lawyers of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, convicted in the USA for drug trafficking, has been dismissed. One of the proofs of his guilt is that he worked as a pilot in a company owned by Russian businessman Viktor But, who is also serving term in a US prison; p 6 (746 words).
11. Yelena Chernenko interview, headlined "'Russia is the only country among 17 that has not responded to our inquiry'", with the EU prosecutor speaking about the smuggling of donor organs in Kosovo and accusing Russia of impeding the probe into the issue; p 7 (473 words).
12. Sergei Strokan article headlined "Days of Arab political cuisine in Moscow" focuses on the first session of the Russian-Arab cooperation forum in Moscow. The forum is an attempt by Moscow to restore its positions in the Middle East, lost after the Arab Spring, the article says; p 7 (594 words).
13. Yury Barsukov article headlined "Development of Arctic area gets strategic signature" says that President Vladimir Putin has signed a strategy to develop the Arctic region until 2020, which has been drafted for four years; p 8 (508 words).
14. Anna Balashova interview, headlined "'There will also be telephone subscribers who think that they overpay'", with general director of the VimpelCom mobile phone operator, Anton Kudryashov, speaking about development of the company; p 14 (2,774 words).
1. Yury Paniyev article headlined "Netanyahu finds untraditional partner" says that the leader of the Israeli movement Hatnua, Tzipi Livni, will become the justice minister in the new government; pp 1, 7 (589 words).
2. Andrei Serenko article headlined "Zyuganov offered to respond for Trotsky" says that Volgograd Region Cossacks have demanded that Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov apologize for oppression and genocide of Cossacks by the Communists' predecessors; pp 1, 5 (427 words).
3. Svetlana Gamova article headlined "Chisinau swings to left once again" says that a political crisis is escalating in Moldova. The Moldovan leftists are preparing a referendum on the republic's accession to the Customs Union. Romania blames Russia for Moldova's turning away from the West; pp 1, 6 (905 words).
4. Ivan Rodin article headlined "Fight for children and fight against corruption at same time" says that Russian Prosecutor-General Yuriy Chayka and the head of the Russian Investigations Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, have delivered reports to the State Duma; pp 1, 3 (692 words).
5. Anastasia Bashkatova article headlined "Anton Siluanov's pension roulette" says that according to a public opinion poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, Russian people are not interested in the Finance Ministry's initiative to voluntarily define their retirement age, thus a new pension reform may become yet another imitation, the article says; pp 1, 4 (900 words).
6. Alexandra Samarina article headlined "Compromising materials via social networks as new instrument to make elites equidistant" says that two State Duma deputies from the One Russia party have terminated their powers after scandals over undeclared property abroad. Meanwhile, compromising evidence against Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's associates has been posted in the Internet. Experts say that Putin is taking advantage of the situation to increase control over the elites; pp 1, 3 (1,068 words).
7. Editorial headlined "Funds stolen from budget not to be snatched" focuses on large-scale embezzlement revealed in the RusGidro company operating hydropower plants; p 2 (549 words).
8. Oleg Vladykin article headlined "War that was not declared in advance" says that a large-scale drill to check combat readiness and fighting capability of various military units deployed in the Central Military District has been carried out for the first time in the last 20 years; p 2 (541 words).
9. Svetlana Gavrilina report "Smolnyy fears storming" says that the new law on rallies adopted in St Petersburg is much tougher than the federal one; p 2 (700 words).
10. Saveliy Vezhin article headlined "Pekhtin leaves. Are opposition leaders next in turn?" says that State Duma deputies and experts have welcomed One Russia senior member Vladimir Pekhtin's decision to resign as a State Duma deputy amid allegations that he owns undeclared property abroad; p 3 (627 words).
11. Rais Suleymanov article headlined "Prison caliphate" says that radical Islamist movements are becoming widespread in Russian penal facilities; p 3 (806 words).
12. Sergey Kulikov article headlined "IMF advises Russia to strictly observe budget rule" looks at a report on tasks of the Russian economic policy for 2013 made by the International Monetary Fund; p 4 (838 words).
13. Artur Blinov article headlined "Time has come for dialogue in Syria" focuses on the first session of the Russian-Arab cooperation forum in Moscow, at which the settlement of the Syrian issue was discussed; p 7 (679 words).
14. Yevgeny Grigoryev article headlined "EU steps up military efforts in Africa" says that Germany is considering increasing its military contingent in Mali; p 7 (662 words).
1. Anton Trifonov article headlined "Jennings escapes from creditors" says that the founder of the investment bank Renaissance Group has quitted the company; pp 1, 15 (591 words).
2. Irina Novikova et al. article headlined "Following Pekhtin's example" says that according to a source in the presidential administration, six more One Russia MPs may quit the State Duma; pp 1-2 (616 words).
3. Editorial headlined "Educational insufficiency" comments on President Vladimir Putin's initiative to issue a single history book for Russian schools; pp 1, 6 (427 words).
4. Maria Eysmont article headlined "Civil society: Balance of forces is changing" says that new exposures of Russian politicians' activities will undoubtedly appear in the Internet and Russian law enforcers will hardly manage to cope with the new trend; p 7 (411 words).
5. Yelena Khudyakova article headlined "Pay or go to court" says that the Italian company Eni has initiated yet another round of talks to change the terms of the long-term contract with Russia's Gazprom; p 13 (330 words).
6. Irina Kezik article headlined "TNK-BP goes abroad" says that the oil company TNK-BP plans to increase the share of its international projects fivefold by 2020; p 13 (387 words).
7. Editorial headlined "Big discounts in Duma" comments on One Russia MP Vladimir Pekhtin's resignation as a State Duma deputy and says that the parliament's reputation has been tarnished very much; p 6 (288 words).
8. Margarita Lyutova article headlined "One more shale threat to Russia" says that following the shale revolution in gas production, a new shale revolution has begun in oil production; p 4 (618 words).
1. Irina Krasnopolskaya and Irina Nevinnaya interview with Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova, headlined "Thing that minister prescribed", who speaks about healthcare in Russia; pp 1, 6 (3,159 words).
2. Yulia Krivoshapko interview with Regional Development Minister Igor Slyunayev, headlined "Fly in spring", who suggests decreasing the cost of railway and air tickets to Sochi to cover the expenses of the 2014 Olympic Games; pp 1, 5 (1,405 words).
3. Alexander Yaroshenko article headlined "All sleep, court is in session!" contemplates what stands behind people's decisions to post in the Internet video clips unmasking law enforcers: revenge or despair; pp 1, 10 (1,501 words).
4. Alexei Chesnakov article headlined "About history books" comments on Putin's initiative to issue a single history book for Russian schools from the political point of view; p 3 (515 words).
5. Tamara Shkel report "Difficult to catch" says that State Duma deputies have demanded that Prosecutor-General Chayka and Investigations Committee head Aleksandr Bastrykin give the parliament members information about businessman Boris Berezovsky; p 3 (800 words).
6. Ksenia Baygarova interview with former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, headlined "Secret of Abe's message", who speaks about prospects for development of Russian-Japanese relations; p 8 (1,244 words).
7. Igor Dunayevskiy report "Five figures of Chinese bonds" says that the USA has accused China of cyber spying; p 8 (250 words).
1. Svetlana Subbotina and Petr Kozlov article headlined "McFaul does not venture to come to State Duma" says that State Duma deputies and US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul have failed to agree on a meeting to discuss the latest death of the Russian boy adopted by US parents; pp 1-2 (455 words).
2. Vladimir Barinov and German Petelin article headlined "Prosecutor-General's Office justifies handover of Russians to militants" says that the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office has not found any violations in the activity of Russian diplomats in Libya, who handed over two Russian citizens to local rebels in 2011; pp 1, 4 (801 words).
3. Anna Akhmadiyeva article headlined "Public TV finds managers" says that collection of donations, on the basis of which the capital fund of the Public TV will be formed, is expected to begin soon; pp 1, 4 (678 words).
4. Yulia Tsoy article headlined "Putin was asked to suspend foreign adoption" says that the Russian Association of Parents' Committees and Communities has asked Putin to suspend international adoption of Russian orphans until the probe into the latest death of a Russian boy adopted by US parents is completed and a court decision is made on the issue; pp 1, 4 (583 words).
5. Vitaly Loginov interview with businessman Konstantin Malofeyev, headlined "Bank said: 'You do have money"", who speaks about his trial with the bank VTB in the UK and in Russia; pp 1, 9 (1,367 words).
6. Yulia Tsoy and Svetlana Subbotina article headlined "One Russia members describe Pekhtin's decision as courageous deed" says that One Russia MP Vladimir Pekhtin's voluntary resignation has provoked a mixed reaction among State Duma deputies; p 2 (549 words).
7. Oleg Vorobyev article headlined "Russian flag more noticeable in Arctic" says that the Russian government thinks that a number of measures, recently taken to return registration of the Russian trade fleet under the Russian jurisdiction, have been effective, whereas experts have a contrary opinion; p 3 (726 words).
8. Konstantin Volkov article headlined "North Korea covers Obama with virtual fire" says that North Korea has posted in the Internet a video clip, which depicts US President Barack Obama and US servicemen in flames and ends with a picture of a nuclear blast; p 7 (421 words).
9. Igor Yavlyansky article headlined "Presidential election impedes talks" quotes an Iranian Foreign Ministry representative as saying that Iran is ready to make concessions as regards its nuclear program if Western countries recognize Tehran's right to enrich uranium for peaceful use; p 7 (451 words).
10. Mikhail Vignanskiy article headlined "Saakashvili's party to demand compensation from Russia" says that Georgia has estimated the damage caused by the Russian-Georgian war in breakaway republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia at 40bn dollars; p 7 (459 words).
11. Maxim Sokolov article headlined "Caesar's wife" comments on One Russia MP Vladimir Pekhtin's resignation from the State Duma over a property scandal; p 10 (542 words).
1. Zhanna Golubitskaya and Irina Finyakina article headlined "Motherland and mother call orphan from abroad" features comments by Russian children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov and a US Department of State representative on the recent death a Russian boy adopted by a US family; pp 1, 3 (785 words).
2. Mikhail Vernyy article headlined "'I am not secured from jail'" says that well-known political analyst Stanislav Belkovskiy is facing persecution for his article calling for reforming the Russian Orthodox Church and briefly interviews him; pp 1-2 (628 words).
3. Alexander Minkin article headlined "Lesson of history" comments on Putin's initiative to issue a single history book for Russian schools, speaking ironically of how Putin's years will be described in this book, and features experts' comments on the issue; pp 1, 3 (1,148 words).
4. Marina Ozerova article headlined "Saint Vladimir (Pekhtin) saves State Duma" details a campaign against One Russia MP Vladimir Pekhtin suspected of having undeclared property abroad and features political experts' comments on Pekhtin's decision to resign; pp 1-2 (1,635 words).
5. Matvey Ganapolskiy article headlined "What threatens Georgia?" looks at the political and economic situation in Georgia; p 3 (1,304 words).
6. Renat Abdullin and Ilya Baranikas article headlined "Texas investigates Maksim's death" looks at the first findings of the probe into the death of a Russian boy adopted by US parents; p 3 (539 words).
7. Yulia Ruzmanova and Pavel Chuvilyayev article headlined "State corporations without state" says that despite the Russian government's efforts, officials still have posts in state-run companies and looks at yet another initiative to get rid of them; p 4 (1,953 words).
8. Yan Smirnitskiy interview, headlined "'Schneerson library is myth'", with Borukh Gorin, a representative from the Federation of Russian Jewish Communities, speaking about the Russian-US scandal over the co-called Schneerson collection, which a US court ruled to be handed over to the US Hasidic community; p 7 (999 words).
1. Vera Moslakova article headlined "Unwillingly leaving row" says that some experts have treated One Russia MP Pekhtin's resignation from the State Duma as the purposeful ousting of old officials from the parliament; p 1-2 (642 words).
2. Yulia Savina and Aleksandr Kolesnichenko article headlined "Housing battle" focuses on Russian servicemen's housing problem; pp 1-2 (1,297 words).
3. Nadezhda Krasilova article headlined "'Does he respond with case?'" says that one more man has been detained as part of the probe into the 6 May riots on Moscow's Bolotnaya square in 2012. The detainees' lawyers warn about the second wave of persecutions; p 2 (699 words).
1. Yulia Yakovleva and Svetlana Makunina article headlined "One Russia losing 'purses'" says that the ruling party will have to revise its funding and focus on the funds of state companies as private businessmen have started leaving the party; pp 1-2 (600 words).
2. Alexander Litoy article headlined "Torture with time" says that according to human rights activists, prisoners of the penal colony in Kopeysk, who held a protest against severe treatment in November 2012, are being put under pressure. At the same time it still remains unclear how many of the colony officials will be officially charged with torturing and blackmailing; p 2 (300 words).
1. Irina Fedorova article headlined "Americans, give me my second son back while he is still alive" says that birth mother of orphan Maksim Kuzmin who died in the US has asked the US side to return her second son Kirill back to Russia; p 6 (400 words).
2. Georgy Andreyev article headlined "Prominent deputy Pekhtin gives up deputy seat" comments on Vladimir Pekhtin leaving the State Duma amid the scandal with his alleged property in Miami; pp 1, 3 (850 words).
3. Vasily Aut article headlined "Europe invites Russia to war" says that Moscow has been proposed to take part in a military training exercise in Mali; p 4 (400 words).
4. Alexander Kots and Dmitry Steshin article headlined "Christian from Damascus: 'We will hold on and hope Russia doesn't leave us'" features a report from Syria; p 8 (1,100 words).
5. Valery Butayev interview with Russian deputy Finance Minister Aleksey Moiseyev; p 10 (900 words).
Rossiiskaya Gazeta (weekly)
1. Natalya Kozlova interview with with Alexander Sorochkin, deputy head of Russian Investigations Committee and chief military investigator, speaking on probe into Oboronservis corruption case; p 5 (800 words).
2. Mikhail Barshchevsky interview with Russian Supreme Court head Vyacheslav Lebedev speaking on corruption cases; p (800 words).
1. Viktor Ruchkin article headlined "Time to sit down at negotiating table" reports on the latest developments in Syria, saying that President al-Asad has voiced his readiness to deal with the opposition using political methods; pp 1-2 (800 words).
Russian Journalist on Impact of Dvorkovich-Sechin Standoff on Medvedev's Future
February 19, 2013
Article by Mikhail Rostovskiy: "Second after Putin: Igor Sechin as Secret Vice-President"
Who is the number two politician after the president in today's Russia? Former member of the ruling tandem and now ordinary Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev? Your information is outdated, dear sirs! The number two person in the Russian state hierarchy is Igor Sechin, the president of the energy giant Rosneft.
Last Sunday (17 February), a state-owned Russia TV channel suddenly made mincemeat out of the Russian prime minister's closest associate -- his deputy, Arkadiy Dvorkovich. Dmitriy Kiselev, the presenter of the program Vesti Nedeli, accused Dvorkovich of actions, which might prove to be "worse than the loans for shares auctions of the 1990s".
Brandishing the text of the government instruction signed by Dvorkovich, the impassive television presenter Kiselev announced something terrible to the people. The White House was planning to place the entire electricity network of the North Caucasus and Krasnodar Kray under the management of Akhmed Bilalov, the oligarch who was recently publicly berated by Putin, for next to nothing. Under such a scheme, the state would even remain in Bilalov's debt. But the tycoon from Dagestan would himself get his hands on an extremely powerful political weapon.
Despite the undoubted importance of this episode for the Russian state, I do not want to look into all the details of it on principle: whether the accusations that have been made public are fair or not. Let us take a look behind the scenes instead -- let us understand why we were shown what we were shown. Believe me, this story is no less dramatic than what we saw on the screen.
So, let me introduce you: Igor Ivanovich Sechin, Putin's closest aide, since time immemorial. Nickname: Igor Ivanovich Nastoyashchiy (the real Igor Ivanovich) (the false one is Russian Federation First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Ivanovich Shuvalov). During the first eight years of Vladimir Putin's presidency, Sechin served as head of the Presidential Secretariat. Which document Putin would read, and who he would meet, and who he would not, depended on Sechin.
Sechin also has the reputation of the man who "swallowed up Khodorkovskiy". Having come to the conclusion that the then richest man in Russia was a sworn enemy of the state, people say that Sechin managed to convince Putin of this.
After Putin's departure for the White House, Sechin followed him -- this time as his deputy and the person in charge of the entire Russian energy sector. No place was found for Igor Sechin in Medvedev's office. Moreover, Sechin's enemy Arkadiy Dvorkovich became the new deputy prime minister in charge of the energy sector. But Igor Ivanovich Nastoyashchiy found himself a better seat -- as the president of one of the world's largest energy companies, Rosneft. And since then, the Sechin versus Dvorkovich fight has been a major intrigue of Russian politics.
Initially Dvorkovich and his patron Prime Minister Medvedev had serious successes to boast of. Not just anyone succeeds in forcing Putin to retract a decree endowing Sechin with huge powers as secretary of the presidential commission for the fuel sector.
But now fortune has obviously stopped smiling on the prime minister and his deputy. Do you remember another fateful television picture of recent days: President Putin angrily scolding Yevgeniy Dod, the head of the company RusGidro?
Well-informed officials say that Dodd was once considered a figure loyal to Sechin. But then he changed sides and joined Dvorkovich. And this was the "harsh but just retribution". And so that everything was clear to all the political players, the camera periodically picked out Igor Sechin's face. Since Igor Ivanovich was sitting at Putin's left hand.
Let us now move to Sochi. In the sights of the television cameras Putin, without mincing his words, "criticizes" "Comrade Bilalov" -- the businessman who during the construction of the ski jump increased the cost estimate almost se ven-fold.
Akhmed Bilalov, a former member of the State Duma and the Federation Council and the vice-president of the Russian Olympic Committee, is a person who is extremely close to Dvorkovich, and to Prime Minister Medvedev. He is also a friend of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Kozak, a close ally of Putin. But that is irrelevant in this case.
It seems that the reputation of being "Medvedev's man" is becoming something of a black mark. Putin ordered Bilalov to be removed from his post as an Olympic official. And Russian state television hits him at point blank range. Apart from Kiselev's energetic charges that have already been mentioned, our brave television people suddenly started to take an interest in the company Kurorty Severnogo Kavkaza (Resorts of the North Caucasus), which Bilalov heads. To the amazement of the camera people, it turns out that there seem to be things wrong there as well! The North Caucasus is there, but the promised "world class resorts" are not!
What happens beyond the sights of the TV cameras is also quite interesting. Well executed smears against the PR-campaigners of Medvedev and Dvorkovich are appearing on the Internet. Major problems are suddenly appearing for the "captains of business" close to this team. In the opinion of some officials, the recent resignation of Deputy Fuel Minister Pavel Fedorov is also part of this episode. Fedorov, according to this theory, suffered because of his too zealous enforcement of Dvorkovich's policies.
The most interesting question is, of course, the following: How could this entire situation affect the political future of Prime Minister Medvedev? The influence might be direct and immediate. What is now happening around Dvorkovich, has long gone beyond an ordinary bureaucratic tug-of-war. It is starting to look more like an elimination game. And Medvedev will go the same way as Dvorkovich. In fact, arguments are now being accumulated in favor of the government's resignation.
The big question is whether Putin will make use of these arguments. But it seems that the majority of Russian political players have already understood the signal from the top: it is better not to stand in the way of the bulldozer driven by Igor Sechin. It will be very painful.
Anti-corruption action in Russia increasingly ineffective - prosecutor general
MOSCOW. Feb 20 (Interfax) - Russia's prosecutor general has accused law enforcement agencies of increasingly ineffective action against bribery.
"It is for the second year running that we have been expressing anxiety at a decrease in the number of registered instances of bribery. Instances of offering bribes have not only been going down in number - by 21% - but also instances of accepting bribes, which is one of the most dangerous corruption-related crimes," Yury Chaika said during a State Duma session.
"This reflects obvious shortcomings on the part of investigation services," he said.
Chaika said those convicted of corruption last year included 889 federal state and local government officials, including "244 heads of municipalities and local administrations." Also, 114 members of various tiers of the legislative branch and 1,159 law enforcement officers were convicted of corruption, he said.
Damage from corruption in Russia exceeded 20 billion rubles in 2012 - Chaika
MOSCOW. Feb 20 (Interfax) - The fight against corruption intensified in Russia in 2012 and the damage from corruption is estimated at more than 20 billion rubles, Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said.
"We have determined over 49,000 (corruption) encroachments, which is almost one-fourth more than was registered in 2011, and the number of people found to have committed corruption has increased by 13%," Chaika told a "parliamentary hour" meeting in the State Duma on Wednesday.
"The damage has reached almost 21 billion rubles," he said.
The number of registered crimes committed by organized groups has tripled, and the number of (misappropriations) in large and especially large amounts went up 80%," Chaika said.
Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigations Committee, said in his report to the State Duma on the disclosure of corruption facts that these figures do not reflect the full picture of corruption in the country.
"In 2012, the number of corruption crimes involving the Investigations Committee increased considerably, despite the general 4% decrease in crime, reaching almost 50,000 crimes. Some 10,000 facts of bribe-taking were registered," Bastrykin said.
"Yury Yakovlevich is right to say that these figures clearly do not reflect the number of corruption crimes committed in the country. We agree on that. Despite the figures I am giving now, we, of course, should intensify our cooperation in this direction," Bastrykin said.
Bastrykin said the Investigations Committee made over 800 decisions on the prosecution of people who had special legal status in 2012. Specifically, some 600 parliamentarians elected heads of municipal entities and local self-government bodies were subjected to criminal liability
"Among them are 19 deputies of the legislative assemblies of the Russian regions, 29 members of elections commissions, 6 judges, and 100 investigators from various agencies, of which, unfortunately, 15 were Investigations Committee officials," he said.
Nearly 90% of Russians support ban on foreign bank accounts of officials - poll
MOSCOW. Feb 21 (Interfax) - Support of the Russian public to President Vladimir Putin's bill banning foreign bank accounts of civil servants is practically unanimous, the Public Opinion Foundation said. It polled 1,500 respondents in 100 towns and cities in 43 regions on February 16-17.
Seventy-three percent heard about the bill, and 26% learned about it during the poll.
From 85% to 89% of the respondents said they supported every provision of the law. The support was even higher, 89% to 91%, amongst Communist Party voters. Some 82-87% of United Russia voters backed the bill.
Some 85% support the ban on civil servants' ownership of foreign bonds, 87% support the ban on foreign bank accounts, and 85% support the proposal to dismiss civil servants who fail to close their foreign bank accounts within three months.
Some 89% support the president's proposal to bind civil servants to report foreign real estate owned by themselves, their spouses and underage children and the source of money with which the property was acquired.
The bill will apply to government members, federal judges, top managers of state corporations, members of the Central bank Board of Directors, deputies of the State Duma, the Federation Council and regional legislative assemblies, governors, regional ministers and the like.
The State Duma will hear two presidential bills banning foreign bank accounts and foreign bonds of Russian civil servants on February 22.
February 20, 2013
Putin Declares War on Sleaze
Vladimir Putin is vowing to make a dent in the eternal Russian problem of corruption. Skepticism is warranted.
BY ANNA NEMTSOVA
Anna Nemtsova is a Moscow-based correspondent for Newsweek magazine covering Russia and the former Soviet states. She is also the winner of the 2012 Persephone Miel Fellowship.
A few days ago I stopped by a low-budget beauty salon in downtown Moscow to sample the popular mood. Last week, President Vladimir Putin introduced a bill into the Duma (the Russian parliament) that aims to block top state bureaucrats and their closest relatives from holding money, shares, or bonds abroad. The ladies in the salon were abuzz about the move, enthralled by the notion that officials famous for their roomy villas and aquamarine swimming pools in Miami, the South of France, or Bulgaria were finally facing a reckoning. "Finally he's got his act together!" a middle-aged client, Irina, said of Putin's sally. "I'm sick of reading about [ruling party] United Russia wives spending billions of stolen dollars at foreign resorts." Lena, the hairdresser, denounced one of Putin's own advisers: "Pavel Astakhov keeps his family in Cannes," she declared. "He goes to visit them every weekend while I have to scrape by just to redecorate my apartment." How she knew this privileged information was somewhat irrelevant; in Russia, indeed, the cynical suppositions of the populace all too often lag far behind the grubby reality. The salon customers went on to ponder whether former Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov or ex-Minister of Agriculture Yelena Skrynnik, both currently under investigation, will actually go to jail for embezzling millions of rubles in state funds. (The photo above shows Putin meeting with the newly appointed minister of defense, Sergei Shoigu, after Serdyukov was sacked.)
Putin's move has served to enflame Russians' smoldering anger over the obvious corruption of the elite. Ordinary Russians have historically obsessed over the division between "us" (ordinary folk) and "them" (the ruling elite). But rarely has the gap inspired as much bile as it does today. Eavesdrop on middle-class Muscovites and you're bound to hear tirades about sleaze at the top. Corrosive state corruption, which experts claim costs the Russian economy some $400 billion a year for the Russian economy, has permeated all levels of Russian society. The chairman of the Audit Chamber, Sergei Stepashin, says that bureaucrats plunder around one trillion rubles ($33 billion) from state purchases every year: "One-fourteenth of the country's budget annually goes into the pockets and offshore accounts of state officials and businessmen affiliated with them," he recently told state news agencies.
In just the past week there have been scandals at three different ministries. The main oncologist of the Ministry of Health, Valery Chissov, quit after investigators accused his deputy of taking a million-ruble bribe from a commercial company in return for guaranteed state contracts for medical equipment. At the Skolkovo high-tech hub, Russia's answer to Silicon Valley, investigators revealed the embezzlement of $800,000 in development funds and opened a criminal case against the foundation's finance director, Kirill Lugovets. (Police suspect he paid that amount in rent to a building owned by his own parents.) Skolkovo, which once enjoyed the direct patronage of ex-President Dmitri Medvedev, is supposed to be a showcase of transparency and competitiveness; it has even succeeded in establishing a series of collaborations with MIT. But critics say the whole project has a rotten smell to it. In a recent interview, the vice president of the Skolkovo Foundation, Alexander Chernov, admitted that many remain skeptical about the center's future. "Anything initiated by the government immediately generates skepticism," Chernov said.
Even the Bolshoi Theater, that symbol of Russia's rich cultural legacy, has been drawn into criminal scandals. Soon after an attacker splashed acid on his face, Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi's creative director, told me that he hopes that the Kremlin will make an exemplary effort to investigate his case and show results. Last year he asked both Vladimir Putin and then-president Dmitry Medvedev, the president at the time, to help put an end to the scandalous corruption conflicts tearing the Bolshoi apart, but nothing had been done. "The question is whether, after what happened to me, the authorities will tackle the bigger problems at the theater," Filin said. "If they don't manage to solve anything even now, it makes you wonder what else has to happen in order to get the authorities to react."
Billions of stolen rubles vanish or "dissolve," as Vladimir Putin put it last week, without a trace. He has promised "intense, tough, and consistent" measures to fight high-level corruption in the bureaucracy. As if to demonstrate his resolve, last Wednesday Putin publicly scolded the minister of energy, Alexander Novak, and the CEO of state hydroelectricity company Rus Hydro, Yevgeny Dod. "You should be fighting with your teeth to recover these funds," Putin told them. "A billion rubles (about $33 million) has been stolen, a billion has been given to a fake firm, a billion has vanished. And you're still investigating, and you sometimes don't think that it's necessary to protect the interests of the company."
The new campaign aims to change the deeply rooted lifestyle of nearly two million Russian officials: Husbands serve the motherland while their wives live abroad and their children attend the best Western private schools. Only last year, the Russian elite purchased overseas property worth $12 billion abroad (much of which was never declared). Capital flight amounted to more than $60 billion. When the Russian sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya recently issued a confidential report saying that the real incomes of leading officials are now around $60,000 dollars a month, members of the ruling United Russia party rebuked her. (Kryshtanovskaya, a long-time member of the party, left it in protest.) "After late year's protests, Putin had to push the elite to make a choice," Kryshtanovskaya told me. "They either had to quit their government jobs or take responsibility for hiding their illegitimate incomes."
Putin's new anti-corruption law tries to draw a bright red line between two kinds of officials. On one side are the "exemplary patriots" (as the current parlance has it), who plan to earn and spend their money within the borders of Russia. On the other are the despicable non-patriots, who harbor nefarious secret plans to sneak off one day to a comfortable home in a foreign country with good roads, high-quality medical services, and a nicer climate. One of the patriots, Duma Deputy Mikhail Degtyarev, said that "the country will be sealed for Russian officials completely by the end of this year." The 31-year-old Degtyarev confirmed that dozens of Russian officials, including Igor Shuvalov, the deputy chairman of the Russian government, will have to say goodbye to their foreign assets and their multi-million dollar properties abroad -- "or they will have to use their smarts and re-register their property," as he put it.
Ordinary Russians, who have to pay bribes every time they need surgery or apply for admission to kindergarten for their children, have a hard time believing that any law will stop state bureaucrats from stealing money. After all, hasn't bribery been illegal all along? Yet the public has welcomed the first victims of the campaign from within the ranks of the ruling party. One of United Russia's leaders, deputy Vladimir Pekhtin, quit the chairmanship of the Duma earlier this month after opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny revealed that Pekhtin owned $2 million worth of real estate in Miami, Florida. Navalny, who has made himself a figure of considerable popularity with his online crusade against graft, has promised to identify hundreds of other officials who own property overseas. But his contributions to the fight against corruption haven't exactly made him a darling of the government: He is a suspect in one criminal case and under investigation in another (though so far there is no evidence of his guilt in any of them). Stories like his, indeed, suggest that Russia's struggle against sleaze remains an uphill climb.
Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor
February 20, 2013
The interior ministry attempts to professionalize and reform the Russian policew
Inadequate Professionalism in the Police Forces Remains a Problem for the Russian State
By Richard Arnold
New recruits to the Russian police will soon undergo mandatory polygraph tests in order to gain admission to the force. The requirement, introduced in June 2012 as part of a comprehensive reform of the police, will now be introduced in practice (http://izvestia.ru/news/528950). The Russian Ministry of the Interior (MVD) purchased 83 polygraph machines at a cost of 300,000 rubles (around $10,000) each. The tests are to be carried out in every region of the Russian Federation and are designed to weed out alcoholics, drug addicts and individuals with unstable psychologies (http://www.m24.ru/videos/11692). Indeed, one of the main effects of the tests will be to prevent such people from applying to join the police in the first place. The introduction of the tests came after a series of recent scandals, including the conviction of the head of the Moscow police for planting illegal drugs on suspects. Another infamous and controversial scandal involving the Russian police was connected to the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky, who worked for the US investment fund Hermitage Capital, was arrested by the police and died in custody after being denied access to medical treatment during his detention (http://www.vedomosti.ru/politics/news/2009/11/17/886095). It was the treatment of Magnitsky that provoked the United States Congress to pass a law protesting human rights abuses in Russia. The well-publicized Russian reaction was to impose a ban on American couples adopting Russian children.
Although the 2012 reforms might be viewed as an attempt to mollify the protests against corruption that began in December 2011, they are also part of a package of reforms to "professionalize" the police introduced by then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010. According to the 2010 law, the purpose of the police is the "defense of the lives, health, rights, and freedoms of citizens of the Russian Federation... for the prosecution of crimes, defense of social order, and guaranteeing of social safety." Symbolically, the reforms also changed the name of the Russian police from the Soviet-style "Milizia" to the more common "Poliziei" (http://lenta.ru/news/2010/08/07/polizei/). Other components of Medvedev's reforms were to decrease the number of police officers from 1.28 million to 1.1 million and to change the funding structure of the police so that they are paid for from the federal and not regional budgets (http://mvd.ru/work/polozhenie). These particular reforms, therefore, became yet another component of the "power vertical" system of rule constructed by Vladimir Putin, in essence taking even more responsibility away from the regional governors.
The professionalization of the police, including better screening of recruits, is certainly an important issue for the Russian state to tackle. Pervasive corruption and the police's connections to organized crime undermine the autonomy of the state and so threaten its viability. This is most dramatically illustrated in the case of police tolerance of nationalist crimes. Neo-Nazi skinheads who commit grotesque acts of violence against members of ethnic minorities are too frequently charged with the lesser crime of "hooliganism" and not with violating Article 282 of the Constitution Russian Federation, which forbids inciting hatred and violence based on sex, race, nationality, language, origin, religion as well as any social group affiliation. Sentences are usually much greater when prosecution takes place under the latter charge. Indeed, in 2006, this was protested against by the then-head of Dagestan Mukhu Aliyev: "if the crime is committed on nationalist grounds, then it should be classified as such, and not recorded as a hooligan prank" (http://grani.ru/Politics/Russia/m.109720.html). While the number of prosecutions under Article 282 increased in 2010≠2011, such gains were reversed in 2012. The human rights group Memorial has also accused the police of active involvement in violence against some groups, like the Roma (Gypsies) (UCSJ Bigory Monitor, 2006; http://www.memo.ru/hr/discrim/ver1/index.htm; http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/docs/ngos/fidh_roma.pdf). The unequal application of the law contributes immensely to alienation between ethnic Russians and minorities. It is also likely to gain more prominence when Russia comes under the international spotlights of the Winter Olympics in 2014 and the World Cup in 2018.
Concerns also persist over the politicization of the police force and the prosecution of protestors against the regime. Such prosecution is sometimes conducted under the cover of supposedly protecting the rights of religious minorities. This indeed was the charge under which authorities prosecuted the punk rock band Pussy Riot. More recently, the police were ordered to suppress violators of the new law that bans "homosexual propaganda" in Russia (http://tvrain.ru/articles/gosduma_bystro_primet_zakon_protiv_geev_ih_budut_presledovat_po_vsej_rossii-333857/). Further, the police have canceled their international activities with their counterparts in the US to prevent drug and human trafficking that began in 2002. The claim was that cooperation "does not correspond to present realities" and "has already exhausted its potential." Such reasoning does not stand up to scrutiny, however, as the flow of heroin from Afghanistan is still causing problems on Russian streets and human trafficking is an omnipresent threat. A far more reasonable interpretation is that the cancelation of bilateral police cooperation is a response to Washington's Magnitsky law and marks a further attempt to distance the Russian Federation from the United States (http://www.inosmi.ru/russia/20130202/205380602.html). There are significant dangers to having the domestic police being used as a tool of the state, not least of which is international criticism. Whether there are further efforts to reform the police or not, the true professionalization of the police will need to remain a top priority for Kremlin lawmakers to avoid such criticism≠both internal and external≠in the future.
Window on Eurasia: Putin's Nationality Policy Won't Work as He Intends
Staunton, February 20 ≠ Both the five specific planks of his nationality policy that Vladimir Putin outlined yesterday and problems underlying his entire approach to this issue guarantee that the Russian president will offend both Russians and non-Russians and produce the very outcome he says he is trying to avoid ≠ more ethnic tension in the Russian Federation.
In his speech to the Presidential Council on Inter-ethnic Relations, Putin argued that the main task of any nationality policy must be "the strengthening of harmony and accord" among Russian citizens, "regardless of their ethnic or religious memberships" so that they will see themselves "as citizens of a single country" (www.odnako.org/blogs/show_23991/).
But each of the five specific ideas he offered is certain to offend ethnic Russians or non-Russians and sometimes both at what is likely to appear to members of both groups as an uncertain and inconsistent set of policies that is likely to intensify their anger not only at each other but at the leadership in the Kremlin.
First, Puin declared that the Russian language is "the fundamental basis of the unity of the country." That will please many Russians, but it is certain to offend many non-Russians who will see Putin's position as containing within it an implicit threat to their national languages, and as the Tatars and Finno-Ugrics have shown in recent months, they are certain to react badly.
Second, the Russian president called for the creation of a single standard national history textbook, one which stresses "the uninterrupted path of Russian history and the interconnection of its various stages" and which calls for "the respect for all the pages" of Russia's national past and which ensures that all citizens will "know the genuine history of [the country's] peoples and the ingathering of Russian lands into a single powerful multi-national state."
There is no agreement among Russians on whether their history is continuous or discontinuous, with some viewing the Soviet period as part and parcel of their past and others seeing it as something alien. And there is no agreement between Russians and non-Russians over their history: 1552 will never mean the same thing in Kazan that it does in Moscow.
And many people, Russians and non-Russians alike and especially the intellectual elites of both groups, are profoundly disturbed by the notion that they should return to a state-controlled history rather than continue to explore the complexities and diversity of their past and present as they have been doing over the past two decades.
Third, Putin said he supports the work of the 989 national-cultural organizations, a promise that will offend both Russians and non-Russians. The Russians will see this as undercutting the president's commitment to a single people in the country, and the non-Russians will view it as the opening salvo of another attack on the existence of the autonomous republics.
Fourth, the Russian leader said that he opposed the return of cultural monuments confiscated by the Soviets because to allow that would open a "Pandora's box of problems. That will please some among both Russians and non-Russians who will retain them, but it will anger many more, who seek the return of exactly such buildings and other valuables.
And fifth, Putin said that holding major sports and other international meetings will help fuse the various peoples of the Russian Federation into one. But discussions about the Universiade in Kazan this summer and the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year suggest that these are divisive for many in a variety of ways, not least because these events have used up funds that could be spent for other reasons.
These programs are divisive enough, but there are two underlying problems with Putin's approach, reflecting his lack of understanding of the nature of ethnicity and identity in his country, that guarantee each of these will have more serious consequences than would otherwise be the case.
On the one hand, Putin has spoken at such a level of generality on such things as the promotion of a non-ethnic identity that various people are seeking to connect the dots in ways that will exacerbate this sensitive issue. That has already happened in the last 24 hours, with one United Russia legislator saying that Putin wants to promote a single "non-ethnic Russian nation" (izvestia.ru/news/545167) and many non-Russians expressing concern.
For many outside the former Soviet bloc, that may seem to be a tempest in a teapot or at least little more than playing with words. But words matter, and for Russians and non-Russians, a nation is not a people. Even the Soviet government never sought a Soviet nation because that would have struck at the non-Russian identities many retained. Even suggesting that Putin plans to do that is incendiary and shows he does not fully understand what is at stake.
In Russian parlance, a people can include various ethnic, religious and linguistic groups who may practice endogamy within their distinct membership, but a nation is one in which there is a single language and where endogamy is coterminous with its entire membership. That would be the deathknell for many smaller nations; it would undercut the nature of Russianness for many Russians.
But on the other hand, as historian and commentator Aleksandr Yanov points out in an essay in "Novaya gazeta" today, Putin has not yet learned to "distinguish patriotism from nationalism" and thus has not escaped from a division which has split Russian society for centuries and which continues to divide it (www.novayagazeta.ru/comments/56546.html).
Yanov suggests that Putin has fallen into this trap because he has sought to replace the classical Uvarov Russian trinity of "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality" with a new one that makes patriotism, sovereignty and tradition the primary values. The problem begins, the historian says, because as no one should be surprised, there are many traditions.
There is a tradition which places the nation and its values above the state, one that extends from Nil Sorsky in the 15th century to Andrey Sakharov in the 20th, but there is also a tradition which celebrates the state and its police powers and which holds that the people must be subordinate to and serve it, not the other way around.
Putin, Yanov argues, would like to take something from each, but the problem with that is that the Russian president's celebration of the state may appeal to some Russia nationalists, it will offend many others, especially those of the "creative classes," and it will alienate even more than they now are the overwhelming majority of the increasingly numerous non-Russians.
It is thus obvious, Yanov says, that Putin "does not suspect how long Russian thought has tried to cope with the delimitation of these key but contradictory phenomena ≠ the bright, intimate, and natural as breathing FEELING of love for the fatherland from the cold harsh IDEOLOGY" imposed by the state.
"Putin's trinity," Yanov concludes, will thus "fall apart in front of our eyes." For him, "patriotism is indistinguishable from nationalism" and thus he is driving the country into a trap. His predecessors, Aleksandr III and Nicholas II experienced this. And if Putin understood what he was doing, he would retire.
Instead, Yanov's article suggests, the current Russian president seems unwittingly committed to making his own situation and that of his country worse by articulating a nationality policy that is not based on an understanding of the nature of his country's history and its problems and that consequently is exacerbating rather than reducing all of its difficulties.
Russian state TV talk show discusses media freedom, Communist Party, meteors
February 17, 2012
The 17 February edition of the "Sunday Night with Vladimir Solovyev" talk show on state-owned Rossiya 1 TV featured discussions on proposed amendments to the legislation on protection of honour and dignity and on the state of space research in Russia, as well as an interview with Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) leader Gennadiy Zyuganov.
Amendments to media legislation
Several Russian pop stars, including Grigoriy Leps and Stas Mikhaylov, visited the State Duma and testified on the need to introduce amendments to legislation, which would protect them from paparazzi and introduce special status to public figures.
Presenter said that while pop stars may not be actually interested in limiting media coverage, politicians and officials may use the bill to further infringe media freedom. The amendment proposals followed a series of revelations concerning State Duma members, such as undeclared property, he added. In Russia, everyone knows that it is the special services that conduct surveillance, and any information on any person is bought and sold, but there was never a criminal case when one of those who conducted surveilllance was arrested or convicted, presenter said. The media are always to blame, as though we do not know who's really standing behind that, he said.
Deputy State Duma speaker Sergey Zheleznyak (One Russia (United Russia)) said that the amendments are to the civil code and concern matters such as inviolability of dwelling, personal and business reputation, and there cannot be any talk of special status. Legal norms concerning unreliable information have to be described in more detail, for cases when the inaccuracy of information was not intentional and thus cannot be equated to libel, he added. The responsibility for offences is not adequate compared to harm that can be done, Zheleznyak said.
Chairman of the State Duma media policy committee Aleksey Mitrofanov (formerly A Just Russia) said that his role as a politician is to negotiate some middle ground between celebrities and the media. Those who do not hold state posts present no legitimate public interest, he added.
First deputy head of State Duma culture committee Iosif Kobzon (One Russia) said that he supported statements from Leps and Mikhaylov. Allegations in the media may harm families, while the Union of Journalists does not punish its members for publishing libel, he added.
Member of the presidential human rights council Irina Khakamada said that the whole thing appears to be staged in order to protect officials from any criticism. This is what is called "pollination" (Rus: opyleniye) when there is a bill submitted with seemingly one purpose but aimed to have wider effect, she added. Human rights council will submit amendments to try to limit the "pollination", Khakamada said. She was sure that investigative journalism would be finished but tabloid press would continue thriving as before, she added.
Penalties for libel and interference with private life "will be used in such a way so as to let mud be slung at oppositioners, libel them via central TV, create super-films in which everything is staged and faked, and start criminal proceedings after that" but nothing would be possibly done against loyal politicians, Khakamada predicted. She also cited a court decision to place Left Front leader Sergey Udaltsov under house arrest, when the Investigations Committee quoted media reports about Udaltsov's wife Anastasiya Udaltsova leaving him due to domestic violence, which Udaltsova herself denied at the hearing, to no effect.
Editor in chief of Moskovskiy Komsomolets newspaper, chairman of the Moscow Journalist Union Pavel Gusev said that a journalist charter should be passed as soon as possible, similar to most European countries. "Self-regulation in the media can be a lot more efficient than any tough laws," he added. Investigative journalism, reporting on corruption and officials' activities would be impossible if amendments are passed in their present form, and journalists are already often prevented from performing their professional duties, Gusev said.
Lawyer Genri Reznik also cited European experience, where public interest is seen as valid, and where private persons are more protected than public ones. Journalists should not be discouraged from exploring sensitive subjects, Reznik said. Existing legislation on defamation aims to differentiate between reports made to order (Rus: zakazukha) and journalists' genuine errors, he added. Addressing Mitrofanov, Reznik said that "Lately, you have been passing laws that offend my legal feelings".
Director general of Fabrika Faktov news agency Timur Marder said that the amendments are yet another case of certain State Duma deputies seeking publicity to earn political points, as nothing new is being proposed. He cited British Prime Minister David Cameron's decision, after the Leveson Inquiry, to let the media self-regulate, as an argument against tough legislation. Actor Leonid Yarmolnik supported the opinion that the law would be used to shroud people that society has a legitimate interest in from media scrutiny.
CPRF secretary general Gennadiy Zyuganov was interviewed on the occasion of the party's 20th anniversary, and the launch of Russkiy Lad (Rus: Russian harmony) movement.
Zyuganov said that the party has a programme for the future, which will wed Russian idea with socialist ideals and high spirituality. CPRF is "Russia's main stabilizer, and would help Russia get out of deep crisis", he added. Zyuganov said that at the moment, everything is pointing to a leftwards turn and formation of a popular front led by President Vladimir Putin. Zyuganov said that he would agree to take up the prime minister's post if he were allowed to go in with his own programme and team. He would have supported Putin's early programme again, as it spoke about strong state, powerful spirituality, social justice and fighting corruption, Zyuganov noted. Putin "conducts normal dialogue with different political forces" but his own government does not follow it up, destroying energy and education sectors, Zyuganov said.
It was correct that State Duma member Konstantin Shirshov (CPRF) asked to be stripped of immunity, as allegations against him date back several years, and it is not clear why they resurfaced, Zyuganov said. It was only possible if someone in the Kremlin or somewhere on top had ordered that, he added.
Zyuganov explained that he included Udaltsov in his team during the 2012 presidential campaign as he wanted to include a wide range of forces to try to prevent civil war-like confrontation. He expressed hope that Udaltsov would "come to his senses" in the future.
Meteorites and Russian science
The final section of the programme was dedicated to the recent meteorite fall near Chelyabinsk, and to the state of Russian science.
Kurchatov Institute president, Fellow of the Russian Academy Of Sciences Yevgeniy Velikhov said that there was no prior warning about the fall, neither in Russia nor anywhere else in the world. The issues of nuclear proliferation or epidemics are much more dangerous to humanity than space bodies, he added. The positive effect of the Chelyabinsk meteorite was that due to levels of education and technologies, it was ordinary people who brought the first evidence of what was happening, photos and video, Velikhov noted.
Corresponding member of the Tsiolkovskiy Russian Space Academy Yuriy Karash said that a fall in oil and gas prices is a much bigger threat to the survival of the Russian state than a fall of an asteroid or meteorite. It is unfair to accuse Russian scientists of ignoring the problem, as the space council under the Russian Academy of Science earlier proposed to start a programme to protect people from asteroid and comet threats, he added.
The Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos) was trying very hard to get on the US space programme, to no avail, and later the US rejected Russian expertise and preferred to develop a new spacecraft with Europe, Karash said. Until Russia makes some serious contribution to the research again, it is not likely to be welcome, he added.
A member of the expert council on issues of aerospace defence, Dr Igor Ashurbeyli, said that criticism of Defence Ministry and other bodies is groundless, as the tasks of discovering or destroying space bodies had never been set. International agreements prevent weapons that could be used to destroy space bodies from being deployed in the earth's orbit, he added. The systems are orientated against locations on the earth's surface, Dr Ashurbeyli said. The relevant systems, however, are disjointed, as some are part of Roskomsos, and some answer to Defence Ministry, he added.
Other panellists included director of institute of international security problems Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Andrey Kokoshin, member of the Russian Academy of Science commission on fighting pseudoscience Dr Rostislav Polishchuk, and director of centre for planetary defence of earth from asteroids Anatoliy Zaytsev.
Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reportinghttp://pulitzercenter.org
February 19, 2013
Death by Indifference: AIDS and Heroin Addiction in Russia
By Gregory Gilderman
Gregory Gilderman is a multimedia reporter and editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast. He has worked at ABC News, CBS News, and PBS Frontline.
Imagine a country with a heroin problem. It has millions of people who have used the drug and an entrenched underclass of dealers and suppliers. Because heroin users like to inject the drug intravenously, regardless of how old or contaminated their syringes may be, this country has also developed an AIDS problem. It is in fact facing two epidemics: one of heroin use, the other of HIV/AIDS.
The threat to the national health is obvious, but elected officials say little. The public looks upon drug users, and upon people with HIV/AIDS, with indifference or scorn. The government could take action but doesn't. So the epidemic spreads. Millions of unnecessary deaths result.
Americans shouldn't have a hard time imaging such a place; we need only look back to the United States of the early 1980s. In Vladimir Putin's Russia, one needn't look back≠just looking around should suffice.
In a country of 143 million people, between 840,000 and 1.2 million are HIV-positive, according to a 2009 estimate by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO). That means Russia has one of the highest percentages of HIV-infected people in the world, outside sub-Saharan Africa; Robert Heimer, an epidemiologist at Yale who has been studying the intersection of Russia's heroin and HIV/AIDS epidemics, says as many as five percent of all young people are infected.
UNAIDS also reports that 1.8 million Russians are current injection drug users. "Unscientific" is the kindest word one can use to describe the few drug treatment options that are available; public education about HIV and AIDS is almost nonexistent. Opiate substitution therapies such as methadone maintenance≠the gold standard of heroin addiction treatment≠are illegal.
In recent months, Russia has rejected millions of dollars from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, largely because it doesn't want to follow international protocols for fighting HIV/AIDS, such as distributing clean needles to injection drug users. Nongovernmental organizations that advocate harm reduction strategies≠needle exchanges, providing condoms to sex workers≠face police harassment and criminal penalties.
Russia's only significant response to the crisis has been to make anti-retroviral (ARV) drug therapy available to people with full-blown AIDS, but heroin addicts are ineligible. There is anecdotal evidence, some of it reported in the medical journal The Lancet, that even non-heroin addicts must cope with ARV drug shortages.
"The Russian government's strategy of treating drug use and tackling its HIV problem is neglect and denial," Anya Sarang, a Moscow-based public health activist, recently told me. "It is totally opposing all the effective interventions that are commanded by international organizations, while they're not offering anything to prevent the spread of HIV among injection drug users."
This two-front failure≠against intravenous drug use and against the spread of HIV≠is at first glance hard to fathom. How could a country so ambitious of first-world status blithely allow millions of its own citizens to die needlessly, especially at a time when the rest of the world can visit and see this disheartening spectacle up close? But Russian leaders don't want to be told what to do by the West, even if this means embracing magical thinking when it comes to public health policy. And there's something else at work. For HIV and AIDS haven't struck all segments of the population equally; their victims are members of groups the country views as undesirables: sex workers, gay men, heroin addicts.
"I think," says epidemiologist Robert Heimer, "some people in the Russian government actually believe that these people are not redeemable and not worthwhile human beings."
The epidemic started with heroin, in the early 1990s. The context is well known: the Soviet Union was collapsing, borders were opening, the state's control of its population was evaporating. Young people were poor, unemployed, and eager to try anything Western: music, fashion, drugs≠all of which were available.
Heroin use exploded in the late 1990s, much as it had in urban ghettos of the United States in the mid-1960s and again in the late 1970s. But there were important differences in these two national experiences with the drug. Obtaining a steady supply of heroin was a challenge for American criminal organizations, as traffickers needed to move it overseas from the "Golden Triangle" of Laos, Burma, and Vietnam, or from Turkey. Law enforcement could attack the few supply lines that, say, the Genovese crime family of New York City had established, and have considerable effect on whether the drug was available on the streets of Harlem. The dismantling of those lines in the early 1970s helped end the epidemic that began in 1965. Heroin became harder to find, expensive, and, with a street-level purity of five percent, unable to provide sufficient bang for the buck.
Russian traffickers in the 1990s faced no such geographical obstacles, largely because Afghanistan had emerged in the late 1980s as the world's largest producer of opium and the dominant supplier to Europe. Key trafficking routes ran through Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, along Russia's massive southern border. It didn't hurt that in those chaotic days, elements of law enforcement were complicit with drug traffickers. In St. Petersburg I spoke with a thirty-six-year-old woman named Olga who dealt heroin in her building complex during that time; I asked whether she ever feared getting caught.
"I can definitely tell you I wasn't afraid of the police," she said.
The primary way Russians used heroin≠what experts call "the route of administration"≠was intravenous injection. This made Russia different from the United States and Western Europe, where, since the mid-1990s, heroin users have snorted the drug in its powdered form, or inhaled its fumes (often referred to as "smoking"), with only a small percentage depending on needle injection, and then only as a last resort. Russians started with needle injection (many Russians grow up learning how to use syringes to inject medicine and therefore lack the aversion to needles Western users have) and have never bothered with less efficient ways of getting the drug into their systems.
In Russia, as in the US and Europe, heroin use is often a social activity, especially among new users. So hundreds of thousands of heroin users in Russia, without knowing it, exposed themselves to an array of infections through needle use: tuberculosis, hepatitis, HIV.
During a recent trip to St. Petersburg, I was struck by a story told to me by a forty-year-old drug addiction counselor named Timur. He works out of a small, ground-floor office, and spent nearly two decades using heroin. It was in 1991, the same year that the Russian Federation banned the Communist Party, that Timur, then nineteen, decided to record a rock-and-roll album with friends. So one night they lugged their instruments and a cumbersome reel-to-reel recorder to a friend's apartment for what turned out to be an uninterrupted, two-day combination jam session and party.
"Freedom was quite unexpected for many people," Timur says. "It was just wonderful."
Only there was heroin at that party as well as freedom.
"Among my friends and acquaintances from that night, there are just a handful that are still alive," Timur told me.
The dangers of contracting HIV from shared needles were familiar to the international community in the 1990s, but few Russians were made aware of them, although the relationship between heroin use and HIV/AIDS was obvious. As Judyth Twigg noted in a 2007 report for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, there were two hundred and fifty thousand official cases of HIV by 2002, with eighty-seven thousand new cases just in 2001, almost all the result of injection drug use. The public health threat was met, Twigg remarked, with awkward silence.
People who experienced the new social and chemical freedom of the 1990s today share a numbed awareness of how little was done. "Everyone was solving their own problems," Alex, a thirty-two-year-old recovering heroin user, told me. Alex grew up outside of Moscow, but our conversation took place four hundred miles to the north, at a residential drug and alcohol recovery center in Pushkin. "We had no information about the world. Lots of new things appeared in our life, drugs too, and we just didn't know how to manage them. We lost, somehow. We lost ourselves in it, in all those new things in life."
"Our government also was not thinking about the country," Alex continued. "And this is the main problem of Russia, through all of its history."
The people most at risk for contracting HIV live beyond the reach of what few government measures exist, or avoid government altogether because of the penalties involved with being "deviant." Heroin addicts, for example, must officially register. Once registered, they cannot have driver's licenses; they may lose their status as university students; they cannot hold many jobs. Heroin possession is a crime; repeat offenders face long prison sentences. The disincentives for disclosing substance abuse are not subtle.
The just under one million sex workers in Russia, for instance, live at the whim equally of pimps and the police, and have no practical recourse if they are raped or assaulted. One former sex worker said the force is filled with "maniacs" who live off the bribes of brothel owners and street pimps. Concerning sex workers in Russia, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime offered this detail: "Before being presented to clients, women are raped by the traffickers themselves in order to initiate the cycle of abuse and degradation."
Another former sex worker, Irina Maslova, operates an NGO called Assistance; she counsels sex workers on the street, and provides them with clean needles and condoms. Because this activity is in conflict with official policy, and her NGO receives funds from abroad, Maslova risks running afoul of a new law that would designate her a "foreign agent," a phrase used by Stalin to justify sending people to the Gulag. It still has a chilling effect.
"Sometimes I really think that it would be good if some officials and people who stand really high in power would have a child with HIV or drug addiction," Maslova says. "Or one who has become a sex worker, so that they would understand that this problem exists."
Outside of a few parts of St. Petersburg and Moscow, homosexuals live in the shadows of Russian society. In St. Petersburg I spent an evening with a discussion group for gay men who are HIV-positive. One told me his mother said she would kill him with an axe in his sleep when she learned he was gay. Another said his doctor called his employer and got him fired for being gay. The young man running the group talked about calling Russia's suicide hotline and saying he wanted to kill himself because his family wouldn't accept him for being gay. The operator told him to find a psychologist who would cure
him and make him straight.
Meanwhile, the incidence of HIV among wives and female sexual partners of male intravenous drug users is rising, and those women are feeling the sense of shame and stigma that has been directed at heroin addicts.
"HIV is closely associated in the heads of Russian people with drug addiction," Masha, a twenty-nine-year-old woman who is HIV-positive, told me. "There is this public image of a drug addict as a person who is sick and ugly and is lying somewhere on the street. They transfer this image to all HIV-positive people."
The fear of going to state doctors≠there is almost no private health care in Russia≠leads women to seek help from Russia's robust network of NGOs. Mother Plus was established to provide services to HIV-positive women with young children. A thirty-two-year-old HIV-positive woman named Anastasia who has an infant son talked to me at Mother Plus's St. Petersburg office.
But even here the disease makes its victim an outcast. "When I come to my [government] clinic, to the doctor," Anastasia relates, "she says directly to me, 'How can you live with this diagnosis?'"
Despite the fact that the disease continues to live in the shadows, Russia dedicates hundreds of millions of dollars to AIDS treatment. But it dedicates almost none to prevention. Treatment comes in the form of ARV drugs for people with very low white blood cell counts. These drugs in the broadest sense constitute both treatment and prevention because they lower a patient's viral load and make it harder for him or her to transmit the infection.
But ARV drugs in themselves are insufficient unto the need. The treatment of heroin addiction has four decades of research and the experience of a myriad of countries to draw upon. If there is a single universal lesson it is that there is no better method for the individual substance abuser, and for the larger society, than opiate substitution therapy. A heroin user who is provided methadone or buprenorphine has no need to inject heroin, share dirty needles, or commit crime to satisfy the deep physiological craving heroin creates, because the substitute medications satisfy it safely.
In Russia, methadone maintenance therapy is illegal, and even those most critical of the government say that there is no point in trying to change that disheartening fact in the near future. The treatment preferred by both the government and the Eastern Orthodox Church is twelve-step recovery programs such as Narcotics Anonymous. These programs have appeal because they rely upon the strength of the individual spirit, but where twelve-step programs have been studied, they show very high dropout rates. There is certainly no evidence they achieve anything like the success of opiate substitution therapy. The government supports detoxification programs, but these also have high failure rates because they don't address the specifically physical nature of opiate dependency.
Providing clean syringes to injection drug users≠what's usually called needle exchange≠barely exists in Russia. Assume there are one million active users, each of whom uses three needles per day. That would require making three million needles available in order to eliminate the need for needle-sharing. Last year, the one NGO that provides clean syringes, Humanitarian Action, distributed seventy-five thousand.
That there are no drug treatment options available that actually work reinforces the idea that when it comes to heroin addicts, nothing works.
"Drug users themselves think that nothing can help them," says Sasha Volgina, an activist and the head of EVE, a women's rights organization. "That's why [there's] the idea that only prisons or, I don't know, separating these people or killing these people could help."
There is disagreement in the world public health community about how best to address what is happening in Russia. Some argue that bashing the Russian government will only make its leaders less likely to change; that there is within Russia a desire to be seen as a great power that can solve its own problems; that working within the existing policy is the best hope. Others urge criticism and confrontation.
It is instructive to remember that it wasn't spontaneous enlightenment that brought harm reduction practices and funding for AIDS research to the US. It was the aggressive politics of gay rights groups such as ACT-UP, then, finally, a public relations blitz that included celebrities such as Magic Johnson, Greg Louganis, Elton John, and many others. Opinion polls of the early 1980s showed most Americans believed people with AIDS brought the condition upon themselves. By 1988, that number was down to less than twenty-five percent, and Nancy Reagan was making television appearances with Ryan White, a thirteen-year-old who'd been expelled from a middle school in Indiana for having AIDS. But public opinion in Russia changes at a glacial pace compared to that of the US, and anyone attempting to implement the protest tactics of ACT-UP risks swift and violent retaliation.
Not long ago I visited a small apartment in a gray, Khrushchev-era apartment building on the outskirts of St. Petersburg. In it, a thirty-nine-year-old woman named Irina sat on a bed, surfing the web on an old laptop. Her right foot was wrapped in bandages, and she rarely leaves her room. Irina was a heroin user in the 1990s; her addiction lasted sixteen years. In 2009 she was diagnosed with AIDS. Beside her, on a small bed, is her three-year-old son, who is HIV-positive. State-provided ARV drugs keep her and her son alive.
Irina says she thinks often of the opportunities she's missed. "I would love to see the world," she said. She misses her husband, who died several years ago. Her father, whom she describes as an alcoholic, passes the days watching television in the living room. This is the apartment in which she was raised. Irina says she knows one day she will likely die in it. I asked her if there was anything about her life, and all that she has been through, that she wanted people to understand.
"It's difficult to say," Irina said. "But it really feels like everything has left you, and nothing is left."
February 20, 2013
Manipulating Pussy Riot
Letters Show Division in Punk Group
By Benjamin Bidder and Matthias Schepp in Moscow
Three women from the Russian punk bank Pussy Riot secretly wrote each other letters while in pretrial detention. The letters show how state power was used to manipulate the trial and divide the punk band. And President Putin? He benefited from the scandal and tightened his grip on power.
In Russia, female prisoners who spy on their fellow inmates are referred to as Nassjedka, or mother hens. They continually badger their victims until they confess, give away secrets or betray their accomplices. In return, the informers hope for an early release or improved detention conditions.
One of these mother hens was also used to spy on imprisoned members of Pussy Riot. Her name is Irina Orlova, and she was housed in a cell with Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, the eldest of the three imprisoned Pussy Riot members, a computer programmer who once worked for an arms manufacturer. Investigators had identified Samutsevich as the weakest of the three women, partly because she is a lesbian and is therefore likely to be more fearful than the others of being housed in a prison camp, where other inmates often torment homosexuals.
Orlova, the mother hen, charmed Samutsevich. She cleaned up the 12-square-meter (130-square-foot) cell, combed the activist's hair and prepared food for her in the kitchenette, as one of her former attorneys recalls.
Playing Imprisoned Activists Against Each Other
It was apparently with Orlova's help that a team of informers and investigators were able to create suspicions among the activists and influence the trial that attracted worldwide attention last year. From the very beginning, Russian intelligence agents kept the band and those associated with it under observation, in an attempt to dismantle the Pussy Riot myth and play off the imprisoned activists against each other.
The methods the authorities used are described in letters the women sent to each other while in pretrial detention last fall. Their attorneys secretly carried the letters from one visitors' room to the next. The documents, which SPIEGEL has seen, depict the daily lives of the women in prison, as well as the efforts by one of the women, Maria Alyokhina, to organize a visit in the exercise room. But they also offer insights into the Pussy Riot case, which exemplifies the means by which President Vladimir Putin achieves his victories, revealing how his spy state manipulates trials and controls public opinion.
"Watch out for Irina," Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the band's 22-year-old spokeswoman, told Alyokhina, 24, who was in a cell on the floor underneath hers. She was referring to Orlova, who, as she wrote "I do not want Irina to have any chance to influence us." The letter is dated Oct. 13, three days after the appeal hearing, when Samutsevich was released on probation in a surprise development, while the two other women were sentenced to two years in a prison camp. The warning came too late. The intelligence agents had already successfully driven a wedge into the group.
"Is it possible that Yekaterina fell for it?" a distraught Alyokhina wrote back. In other words: Could it be that Yekaterina Samutsevich, her friend, had made a deal with the hated authorities?
The letters suggest that she did.
In 2009, Orlova was sentenced to five years in prison and sent to one of Russia's most notorious penal colonies for women. Convicted of fraud after cheating homeowners out of their property, she was someone who knew how to gain the confidence of her victims. This made her the ideal candidate for "Zentr E," a notorious special department at the Russian Interior Ministry. Though officially established for the "fight against extremism," its real objective is to take action against opponents of the Kremlin. "Zentr E is effectively a political police force, a reincarnation of the secret police of the czars," says opposition politician Ilya Yashin.
It wouldn't be the first time that Zentr E had turned its attention to Pussy Riot. The agents have been shadowing the band and its precursors, the street art group Voina, for years. At earlier Pussy Riot performances, a man who has since been exposed as a Zentr E agent was repeatedly seen among the onlookers. The secret police also monitored the women's telephone calls and emails, and brought them in for questioning. It is hard to imagine that the members of Pussy Riot were able to plan and begin the controversial performance at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior, for which the three women were arrested almost a year ago, without observation. Could it be that in fact the government cleverly orchestrated the drama surrounding Pussy Riot?
In March 2012, Orlova was transferred from a Volga River province to Detention Center No. 6 in Moscow, a concrete box in the city's southeastern outskirts, nicknamed the Bastille. She was placed into cell 110, with Samutsevich.
Others Worried about Relationship
"The two were at loggerheads from March to June," Tolokonnikova wrote in one of her letters about the two women. "Then the operativniki got to Irina Orlova." Operativniki are members of the police and intelligence services. "After that, Cat even accepted the fact that Irina was practically spoon-feeding her." Cat is Yekaterina Samutsevich's nickname. Tolokonnikova also wrote that she was worried about the "mother-daughter relationship" between Orlova and Samutsevich.
Tolokonnikova is the political head of the band. While in prison, she wrote seven diaries full of personal and philosophical musings. The world's image of her is of a very attractive, petite girl with big eyes, wearing a blue T-shirt featuring a combative-looking fist, locked, like a hardened criminal, into a glass cage in the courtroom.
Her letters show that she was concerned about the unity of the feminist group, but also about losing the battle for public opinion. "I think in the prism of history. For that, I am willing to go through shit," she noted. "It has to do with my idealism, the good in me, but at the same time there is also something bad there."
Tolokonnikova didn't write what exactly she meant by that comment. Perhaps she was ruminating over the drawbacks of remaining true to her principles, which had resulted in her two-year prison sentence. Or perhaps it was her appetite for fame. "The girls certainly enjoyed all the hype," says her former attorney Mark Feigin. Before the trial, Tolokonnikova told him: "No admission of guilt, and no cooperation with the government and the investigators."
In court, she likened herself to the dissident Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Like Feigin, who had marched at the front of anti-Putin demonstrations, she wanted a "political trial." The attorneys considered founding a Pussy Riot party and also sought to use the trial to settle scores with the Putin system. And the longer the trial went on, the more Pussy Riot -- charged with "hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred" -- became a symbol of the resistance to the Putin regime, at least abroad.
But then Samutsevich foiled the strategy. On Oct. 1, the first day of the appeal hearing, she informed her two co-defendants, on the drive to the courthouse, that she wanted to part ways with their shared attorneys. Samutsevich presented it as a minor issue, a mere "formality," as Tolokonnikova later wrote. Soon afterwards, in the courtroom, Stanislav Samutsevich, Yekaterina's father, made a last, futile attempt to dissuade his daughter from the "stupid idea" that would "divide your group" and "benefit your enemies."
At first the court turned a deaf ear to Samutsevich's request for a new attorney. But then a clerk whispered something to the judges, and after a brief pause they relented. It was as if they had received an order, and as if the judges were not in control of the trial but in fact someone behind the scenes.
The new attorney argued that Samutsevich had not taken part in the performance, because guards had overpowered her beforehand. Although this was already known, it now resulted in Samutsevich being released on probation on Oct. 10.
Exploiting the Pussy Riot Brand
Was it betrayal? In a letter to Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova questions whether Samutsevich's "conscience is truly clean." "I very much believe that the whole thing isn't just a present for Yekaterina, but a political trap." Alyokhina writes that she is so sad that she would get drunk if she had the chance. "I can't get the idea out of my head that Cat made a deal. The lies and the drama with the cops, that's what gets to me."
While her two friends were still having their discussion in prison, Samutsevich launched into a bout of mud-slinging on the outside that was almost as useful to the Kremlin as a confession of guilt. In remarks directed at the attorney, she said: "You said the whole time that we had done everything because of and against Putin. That's not true. We are feminists above all." She even filed a complaint with the bar association, sought to have the defense attorneys disbarred and accused them of trying to secure the trademarks for Pussy Riot behind the women's backs.
But the letters show that the two other incarcerated women gave a great deal of thought to the exploitation of the Pussy Riot brand. In one letter, Alyokhina wrote to Tolokonnikova: "We spent a lot of time discussing business with the lawyers. I think we have to do this. I don't think we'll be portrayed as political scum. Why do you think that this is junk? We will decide for ourselves who we want to sue. And the most important thing is that we can do good things with the money."
Tolokonnikova also wrote: "The whole thing is worthwhile if we manage to get everything done in secret, without media attention, and that Pussy Riot will make some dollars. If not, to hell with it. I don't want to ruin my reputation and that of Pussy Riot for a few dollars. I'd rather be so dirt-poor that I just sit around on my naked ass than not be able to look at myself in the mirror anymore."
Several months earlier, the imprisoned women had hired a Moscow firm to register Pussy Riot as a trademark. Ironically, the owner of the company is the wife of attorney Mark Feigin. The contract is dated April 5, 2012 and is signed by the three women. "My signature seems to be genuine," says Samutsevich, "but I've never seen the contract before."
Attorney Feigin, since fired by his clients, insists that the contract is genuine. He owns an apartment worth €5 million on Moscow's "golden mile," he says. "I don't need the money. At 20, Feigin fought for the Serbs in the Yugoslav civil war, at 22 he was a member of parliament, and at 28 he became the deputy mayor of Samara, a city on the Volga River. Then he joined the opposition. As far as the band and its members are concerned, he says, the Kremlin achieved its goal. "Pussy Riot's reputation in Russia has been destroyed."
Everything that's happening helps the government, says Feigin, including the dispute over money and contracts, the firing of the attorneys, the suspicions and the rumors of betrayal. Media organizations aligned with the Kremlin are using the accusations leveled by Samutsevich to discredit Pussy Riot. In a poll, more than three-quarters of Russians support the harsh sentences.
For Putin, the Pussy Riot scandal has been worthwhile, in three respects. On the eve of the presidential election, the band's performance in the cathedral mobilized his conservative supporters. It divided the opposition, partly because many of Putin's opponents saw the performance as the desecration of a church. And now Putin can successfully portray the West, which stylizes the women as icons of freedom, as decadent and anti-Russian. The fate of the two women in prison camps will also discourage copycats.
Tolokonnikova is incarcerated in penal colony 14, in Mordovia, 400 kilometers southeast of Moscow. In a letter from the camp dated Nov. 7, she writes: "Today is my birthday and my first day in the brigade. I am trying to cheer up the prisoners. They are all so sad. I hope that I will succeed and that I won't become sad myself. Everyone accuses me of being naÔve. I think naivetť is a powerful weapon."
Newspapers recently printed a photo of Tolokonnikova, the pretty one, looking haggard from life in the prison camp, trudging through the cold with a wool scarf wrapped around her head. She was transferred to the sick ward in early February, and she has complained about headaches for weeks. She is only allowed one hot shower a week. There is only cold water in the pipes on other days.
Alyokhina is even worse off. She is imprisoned at the Beresniki penal colony, a prison for 1,200 women in the foothills of the Ural Mountains. At outside temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit), it's no more than 19 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) inside. The women are ordered to get up at 5:30 a.m., and they spend their days sewing fur jackets. When human rights activists visited the penal colony in January, they noted that there were four toilets for 100 prisoners, and that two were broken.
The woman convicted of staging a performance with guitars and neon-colored stocking masks is serving her prison sentence in a division with felons. After being harassed by her fellow inmates, Alyokhina denounced two of them, a drug dealer and a murderer, with the prison warden. After that, one of the women said to her: "We will make your life a living hell."
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
February 21, 2013
IMF More Upbeat Than Medvedev on GDP Growth
By Irina Filatova
The International Monetary Fund took an optimistic stance at Russia's prospects Wednesday, saying that its economy could demonstrate a faster pace of growth over the next few years than the annual goal of 5 percent set by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
To attain those growth rates, the government should focus on the "three legs" of ensuring macroeconomic stability, developing the financial sector and improving investment climate, the IMF's representative in Russia, Odd Per Brekk, told a news conference.
"Standing on those three legs ... the Russian economy could grow by as much as 6 percent annually over the medium term," he said.
Brekk praised the government's efforts to keep the economy on a stable path, like tying federal spending to the price of oil and a shift toward inflation targeting by 2015 that will involve increasing the flexibility of the ruble exchange rate and reducing the Central Bank's currency interventions. Those measures, he said, "should provide policy anchors for economic stability that Russia has been missing."
At the Federation Council, Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatyev voiced concerns Wednesday that the shift to the free ruble exchange rate might result in high volatility on the currency market. He told senators that the bank might continue to use some mechanisms to regulate the exchange rate after the shift to inflation targeting. But he added that those measures would not contradict the inflation targets.
Brekk cautioned that inflation would likely reach 6 percent this year and in 2014 if the Central Bank's policy remained unchanged but noted that policy changes promised to allow the bank to reach its inflation target.
The Central Bank expects inflation to reach 5 to 6 percent this year before slowing down to 4 to 5 percent in 2014.
Brekk also outlined other steps critical for attaining a stable economic growth, including developing the financial sector and improving conditions for doing business.
The IMF has welcomed Russia's 2012 accession to the World Trade Organization, which should make the investment climate more predictable, as well as the government's focus on selling off state assets.
But Brekk said much work lies ahead because to attract investment, the government should also strengthen the rights of property owners and minority shareholders, tackle corruption, reduce red tape and improve the rule of law.
Turning to the short term, Brekk said the IMF expects Russia's economy to grow by 3.75 percent this year, slightly above the Economic Development Ministry's forecast of 3.6 percent.
The government has been charged with ensuring annual economic growth of at least 5 percent over the next five years under a program revealed by Medvedev this month.
Brekk also said the economy remains vulnerable to external shocks attributed to fluctuations of oil prices.
"Which [growth] scenario will materialize will depend on the government's economic policy choices," he said.
February 21, 2013
Clock Is Ticking on Putin's Economic Pledges
By Sergei Guriev and Oleg Tsyvinsky
Sergei Guriev is a professor and rector at the New Economic School in Moscow, and Oleg Tsyvinsky is a professor at Yale University. This comment appeared in Vedomosti.
This year will be decisive in determining if President Vladimir Putin can fulfill his campaign promises regarding economic policy. The most important is his promise to put Russia in the top 20 countries with the best business climate. It might seem that 2018 is still far off, but if significant process is not made in 2013, it is unlikely Russia can meet that goal five years down the road.
Why is this promise the most important? First, progress toward this goal is easily measured and can be determined irrespective of the state apparatus. Second, the promise cannot be implemented without improving the quality of institutions. In other words, improving the business climate is not as simple as throwing money at a project to build a bridge to nowhere. Third, improving the business climate will have a significant impact on economic growth.
A year ago, on Jan. 30, 2012, Putin published an article in Vedomosti titled "We Need a New Economy." The priorities he set forth in that piece were formalized by the decree "On Long-Term State Economic Policy" on May 7, immediately after his inauguration. In that decree, the government is instructed to "take measures toward achieving primarily the following indicators: raising Russia's position in the World Bank rating of business conditions from 120th place in 2011 to 50th in 2015 and to 20th in 2018."
Very little time remains. The World Bank published its Doing Business in 2013 report in the fall of 2012. Russia was listed at No. 112 among 185 economies. That is better than the 120th place that Russia occupied the previous year, but it is still a long way from 50th place. Judging by Order No. 2096-r issued in November, the government plans to span the gap between 112th and 50th place in two leaps, beginning with a giant stride in 2014 to 81st place.
However, the Doing Business in 2014 report will be published in the fall of this year, and the data for that assessment is being gathered right now. That means, Russia's ability to make the leap to 81st place in 2014 is being determined as you read this. The legal framework for 2013 is already under consideration. Unfortunately, Russia did not pass any laws in 2012 that improve the business climate. The State Duma was busy with other important matters, placing restrictions on the Internet and nongovernmental organizations, raising fines for rallies and libel and retaliating against the U.S. Magnitsky Act. It is unlikely that Order No. 2096-r will be carried out, and it is no surprise that massive capital flight continued in 2012. What's more, despite the long-awaited advent of a period of "political stability," investors continue to prefer placing their money in other countries.
Of course, this is not to say that nothing was accomplished last year. The government and the Agency for Strategic Initiatives did a great deal of work preparing "roadmaps" for improving the business climate in specific sectors. These "roadmaps" must now be implemented in the form of new laws and regulations in order to raise Russia's rating in the Doing Business in 2015 report.
In fact, the government gave itself two extra years to meet its criteria, specifying in a separate document that success in reaching the target indicators should be reflected in ratings published after the period in question. That means, for example, that Russia should be listed in 50th place in the ratings published not in 2015, but in 2017 because that report will be published in the fall of 2016 and will be based largely on data concerning 2015. Nonetheless, the task remains formidable ≠ after all, other countries will not be standing idly by during the next two years either.
In our view, another key point included in the president's decree of May 7 is the mention of very specific dates for privatizing state property. Putin ordered the government to develop a privatization plan by Nov. 1, 2012, that would enable "the government to withdraw by 2016 from the capital ownership of companies in the 'non-raw materials sector' and that are unrelated to natural monopolies and the defense industry." In particular, this means the full privatization of bank assets such as Sberbank, VTB and Rosselkhozbank and such assets in the transportation sector as Aeroflot and Sovkomflot. Implementing that ambitious plan and privatizing those assets would improve their efficiency and increase their competitiveness. However, the real question is whether the plan will even be carried out: after all, previous privatization plans were systematically forgotten.
In contrast to progress toward improving Russia's rating in the Doing Business reports, even preliminary preparations have been slow in coming toward implementing the privatization plan. The November deadline passed without the appearance of the preliminary privatization plan for 2014-16. Last year's privatization of a 7 percent stake in Sberbank showed that even such a successful sale requires a significant investment of time. Therefore, if the government plans to carry out Putin's May 7 decree to privatize a 51 percent stake in Sberbank and a 77 percent stake in VTB, the process must be started immediately. If the privatization plan for 2014-16 ≠ that will announce the sale of those assets, among others ≠ is not published in 2013, it would be impossible to fulfill Putin's plan on schedule.
Is it possible to fulfill Putin's campaign promises to improve the business climate and privatize state assets? Yes, very much so. But it will require not just words, but deeds this year.
Exclusive: Radical economist emerges as leading Russian central bank contender
By Darya Korsunskaya and Douglas Busvine
February 21, 2013
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A controversial economist and former presidential candidate who accuses the West of conspiring to turn Russia into an economic colony has emerged, sources said, as a leading contender to take charge at the country's central bank.
Sergei Glazyev, a Kremlin economic adviser, is being linked to the post a month before a deadline for his boss Vladimir Putin to nominate a successor to Sergei Ignatyev, who retires on June 23 after 11 years in the job.
Some insiders have been quick to write off Glazyev, who during his presidential run in 2004 lambasted Putin for running "a corrupt and irresponsible regime". Yet the speed with which Glazyev's star has risen since he endorsed the Russian leader's bid for a third Kremlin term a year ago has caught attention.
One high-ranking source in Moscow's liberal economic establishment said Glazyev is viewed favorably by both Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. A second source confirmed his status as a candidate and a third said he might get the job.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment on the central bank succession. Glazyev, appointed by Putin last July to advise on regional economic integration, was not available to comment on Thursday, an aide said.
"Glazyev is under consideration because the others ... do not suit either Putin or Medvedev at all," the first source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Economists still lean towards the view that Putin will plump for an insider, like Ignatyev's deputy Alexei Ulyukayev, to complete the central bank's shift to a policy framework based on Western-style inflation targeting.
"I would find it difficult to believe in a volte face," said Jacob Nell, a Russia economist at Morgan Stanley in Moscow. "It wouldn't be consistent with how Putin has behaved in the past on economic policy."
CIRCLING THE WAGONS
Yet the liberals, who have controlled the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Russia since Putin rose to power, are concerned that radical change could endanger Russia's $2.1 trillion economy and the management of the world's fourth-largest foreign reserves.
They have collectively recoiled at the unorthodox views of Glazyev, 53, who was tasked by Putin last month with coordinating a new strategy to stabilize Russia's economy if the world slides back into crisis.
In a preliminary report to Putin, cited by the Vedomosti daily on January 18, Glazyev wrote: "As a result of the growing issuance of global currencies, the threat arises that Russian assets can be taken over by foreign capital."
Those comments drew a prompt and withering response from Anatoly Chubais, a leading market reformer who worked in government with Glazyev 20 years ago and now heads Russia's state technology fund Rosnano.
"A person who argues in all seriousness that the United States and Europe are issuing money so that they can grab Russian assets on the cheap can be anyone, as long as he is healthy; just not an economist," Chubais deadpanned on his blog.
Russia's leaders have expressed increasing concern that the central bank has focused too much on bringing down inflation, to the detriment of growth that slowed last year to 3.4 percent - its lowest since the 2009 slump.
Putin, at a major Kremlin policy meeting at the end of January, complained about high borrowing costs, but Ignatyev held firm, saying that interest rates should only fall as inflation falls.
The institutional stand-off intensified on Wednesday, when Ignatyev went public with claims that $49 billion - or 2.5 percent of the national income - was illegally transferred out of the country last year.
Ignatyev said that "one well-organized group" was responsible for more than half of the outflows, in what analysts said was a coded accusation that the Russian security services were complicit.
Ulyukayev, the central bank's first deputy chairman, agrees with Ignatyev that the economy is running close to capacity and has pushed back against easing policy until inflation falls.
Other contenders, central banker Sergei Shvetsov - in charge of market operations - and former Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, now head of state bank VTB's (VTBR.MM: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) retail arm, share similar orthodox views.
Also in the frame, but regarded as long shots, are VTB CEO Andrei Kostin and Andrei Bugrov, a former financial diplomat who now holds a senior position at billionaire Vladimir Potanin's investment company Interros.
Of all the candidates, Glazyev has been the readiest to say that the Kremlin's call to boost economic growth rates to 5 percent or more are realistic - and even to suggest that they lack ambition.
In his January article, Glazyev wrote that Russia could boost growth to a rate of 8 percent, while industrial production could surge by 10 percent per year.
Such views would get a favorable hearing from the pro-Kremlin majority in parliament's lower house, who would need to ratify Putin's choice. Ignatyev's hawkish inflation stance drew hostile questions when he testified to lawmakers on Wednesday.
Alexei Kudrin, a former finance minister respected by financial markets, has meanwhile ruled himself out of contention after turning down the central bank job following his resignation from government in September 2011, sources say.
February 21, 2013
Russia's missing billions revealed
By Charles Clover in Moscow
Russia's central bank governor has lifted the lid on $49bn in illegal capital flight last year ≠ more than half of which, he says, was controlled "by one well-organised group of individuals" that he declined to name.
Sergei Ignatiev, due to step down in June after 11 years in his post, is seldom outspoken about any issue other than interest rates. But he unburdened himself in an interview with the Moscow newspaper Vedomosti about money leaving the country through the back door, which he said equalled 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product last year.
"This might be payment for supplies of narcotics . . . illegal imports . . . bribes and kickbacks for bureaucrats . . . and avoiding taxes," he told the daily, which is part-owned by the Financial Times.
Russia's central bank has access to daily monitoring data on all payments within the commercial banking system, and Mr Ignatiev said the $49bn figure was mainly drawn from analysing "payments made by Russian organisations to non-residents, the stated aims of which are clearly false".
He added: "Apart from this, our analysis shows that more than half of the total of shady operations is conducted by firms directly or indirectly linked to each other by payments. The impression is created that they are all controlled by one well-organised group of individuals."
Mr Ignatiev also drew attention to the prevalence of what is known in Russian as "one-day firms", which operate as conduits for money transfers and then vanish before they pay taxes. He estimated that half of the 3.9m registered commercial organisations in Russia were inactive and "waiting for their hour to come".
A Moscow-based economist, who asked not to be identified, said the schemes described by Mr Ignatiev were exactly those being investigated now in several jurisdictions in connection with the case of the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in police custody in 2009 after he attempted to track a fraudulent tax refund that appeared to benefit a group of bankers and law enforcement officers.
"What Magnitsky was looking into ≠ that was the tip of the iceberg," the economist said.
Igor Yurgens, a former adviser to Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, said that if what Mr Ignatiev said about a "single organised group" was true, "such an operation would not be possible without serious support from law enforcement".
Mr Ignatiev appeared to allude to somewhat lacklustre efforts by Russia's law enforcement agencies at tackling the problem, saying: "In the event of a serious concentration of effort by the . . . agencies, I think such people, and the beneficiaries of such operations, could be found."
Sergei Aleksashenko, a former first deputy central bank governor from 1995-98, said the capital flight schemes spoken about by Mr Ignatiev could be deduced from the daily commercial banking data. He said: "It is easy to spot if you know what to look for."
However, he pointed out, excessive diligence in bank supervision was hazardous to one's health in Russia. Mr Ignatiev's former deputy in charge of bank supervision, Andrei Kozlov, was shot dead in 2006 after launching a crusade to clean up the banking sector, revoking the licences of several banks. The head of a private bank, closed by Mr Kozlov for violating money laundering regulations, was convicted two years ago of ordering his murder.
Mr Kozlov's successor, Gennady Melikyan, deputy governor of the central bank in charge of bank supervision, resigned for unclear reasons in September 2011.
Acquaintances of Mr Ignatiev found his public revelations remarkable, adding that his decision to unburden himself about high-level corruption was probably connected with his forthcoming exit.
"He usually doesn't make big public statements unrelated to monetary policy," said Sergei Guriev, rector of the New Economic School in Moscow, who serves on the board of state-owned Sberbank together with Mr Ignatiev.
"He is a very intelligent person of high integrity, and in closed-door meetings he is always very straight. Probably, he just believes that central bankers should not speak too much in public."
Russia needs financial police to combat illegal capital flight
By Jason Bush
MOSCOW, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Russia needs to create a specialised financial police force to combat illegal capital flight and monitor state spending, Alexander Bastrykin, the country's top investigator, said on Thursday.
Bastrykin, the head of Russia's Investigative Committee, appeared to be responding to concerns raised by the central bank over illegal schemes to siphon tens of billions of dollars out of the country each year.
"A range of measures has been worked out to decriminalise the Russian economy and oppose the illegal export of capital abroad," Bastrykin said at a meeting of Committee officials, linking the creation of a financial police to these measures.
His comments, reported by Russian news agencies, came a day after the head of the central bank, Sergei Ignatyev, said that $49 billion was illegally transferred out of Russia last year.
More than half of that sum was shifted out of the country by "one well-organised group", Ignatyev told the Vedomosti daily in an interview, also published on the central bank's web site, without elaborating.
The claim has highlighted the rampant scale of corruption in Russia under President Vladimir Putin, raising embarrassing questions about law enforcers' effectiveness. Russia has several agencies responsible for investigating financial crimes.
Both the Ministry of the Interior, which controls the police, and the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, have economic security departments tasked with fighting fraud and corruption.
In addition, most ministries and state companies have internal security and oversight divisions that are tasked with monitoring expenditures.
Bastrykin said that this system of internal control was ineffective, referring to recent scandals at the Defence Ministry that have cast a spotlight on high-level government corruption.
Last year, losses from corruption in the armed forces amounted to 7.5 billion roubles ($248 million), the Investigative Committee's top military investigator told RIA news agency on Thursday - two-and-a-half times more than in 2011.
Bastrykin's proposal to create a single financial police force is likely to run into resistance from the existing agencies as they jealously guard their powers.
For example, Bastrykin's Investigative Committee is frequently at loggerheads with the Interior Ministry. The two agencies have recently clashed in public over the investigation into Defence Ministry corruption.
An additional complicating factor may be widespread corruption within the law enforcement agencies themselves.
Russian investigators have frequently been accused of complicity in financial crimes - including ones that they are investigating.
In one of the highest-profile cases, London-based investment fund Hermitage Capital Management accused Interior Ministry and FSB officials of complicity in the theft of its subsidiaries and $230 million in budget funds - a charge Russia denies. ID:nL6N0BI1CX]
Bastrykin told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper in 2009 that state officials were "in almost all cases" involved in thefts of companies, including police who "frequently" steal corporate documents and accept bribes to open criminal cases.
An opinion poll by the Levada Centre last year showed that 83 percent of Russians regard corruption of the law enforcement agencies as a serious problem, compared with 11 percent who think otherwise.
Russia Beyond the Headlines
February 21, 2013
G20 tests Russia's influence
In 2013, Russia will host the G-20 summit for the first time ever. Russia's official presidency started in December 2012, but high-level meetings, culminating in the September 2013 St. Petersburg summit, are just beginning. Leading a global institution of the world's most powerful countries is both a great opportunity and a great test for Russia.
By Alexey Dolinskiy, special to RBTH
Russia's G20 presidency was long-awaited, yet it came unexpectedly: The national political elite had not prepared for this global role as thoroughly as they had prepared to host the G8 summit in 2006 or the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2012.
The APEC summit Russia hosted in Vladivostok in 2012, for example, took several years of preparation, with Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov being responsible for preparing the venue (which did not exist before the summit), aligning the agenda and heading the work on Russia's priorities in the organization.
The G20 presidency turned out differently. Although it was known well in advance that Russia would host the G20 summit of 2013, Russia's G20 Sherpa (responsible for all key matters related to the summit) was appointed only in August 2012. Chief economist of Sberbank, Ksenia Yudaeva, who holds a doctorate degree in economics from MIT, was named the Russian G20 Sherpa and the head of the Presidential Experts' Directorate.
The difference in the timing of these two summit appointments was matched by the difference in the appointees' political authority. Igor Shuvalov was Putin's Sherpa back in 2006, when Russia hosted a G8 summit for the first time in its history. Yudaeva's appointment, on the other hand, is the first high-level governmental position to be given to a young individual with a background in both academics and the private-sector.
The change in national leadership rendered the events of the first half of 2012 another complication for G20 preparations, as cabinet reshuffling made it unclear as to who would be responsible for what domain in most federal agencies.
Finally, the APEC summit also became a challenge to proper preparations for the G20 presidency, since officials responsible for international cooperation in most ministries were preoccupied with APEC and had little chance to dive into the G20 agenda.
As a result, Putin's speech in Los Cabos, Mexico (G20 Summit 2012, July), which outlined basic directions of Russia's G-20 presidency in 2013, came indeed as a crucial announcement ≠ both for foreign audiences and for Russian government officials. The final agenda of the presidency was completed by December 2012, when it was officially announced by President Putin and Russia officially assumed the presidency.
Russia's priorities in the G20 are centered around economic growth, with a focus on job creation and investment, trust and transparency, and effective regulation. These topics embrace traditional G-20 agenda items such as financial regulation, food security, employment and public debt, which are to be discussed through the prism of Russian priorities throughout the year.
According to Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, who spoke at the Gaidar Forum in Moscow earlier this year, Russia has an ambitious plan for the year 2013.
"By the September summit we want to develop a mechanism of monitoring G20 commitments fulfillment, develop an initiative of trading stock denominated in local currencies, a new formula for IMF quotas calculation and a mechanism of derivatives trade regulation," said Storchak.
Traditionally, the G20 agenda has included two tracks: the financial track and the Sherpas' track. The former can be traced back to the time when the G20 was still a finance ministers' meeting, although today it still involves largely ministers of finance and heads of central banks. The latter track appeared after the G20 became a venue for the national leaders' meeting in November 2008, when it became a rapid response mechanism in the global economic crisis.
The Sherpa's track is a replica of the G-8 arrangement: there is a designated government official in every member state responsible for preparing the leaders' meeting. In the G-20, Sherpas are essentially responsible for everything beyond finance.
G20 architecture is further complicated by the Outreach program. In addition to the governmental two-track dialogue, five other tracks have been established in the last few years: Business20, Think20, Civil20, Youth20 and Labour20. Each of these involves a specific group of participants that have now become part of the G-20 process: private companies, think tanks, students and labor organizations.
Civil20 has become Russia's contribution to further expansion of the G20 institutional platform.
According to the University of Toronto professor and founder of the G20 Research Group, John Kirton, "since Russia is not a member of the G7 Finance Minister Forum, the fact that Russia has been chosen for the 2013 G-20 summit really certifies its status of a top-tier global financial and economic governor." Kirton added that the topics selected for Russia's presidency year were chosen rather well, not just for Russia but for many countries.
As a host country, Russia has to organize productive discussion on every topic and in every track; the late start has made that a significant challenge. However, involvement of the broad expert community can mitigate that problem.
The G20 presidency comes as Russia looks back on its presidency in APEC in 2012 and prepares to lead the G8 and BRICS in 2014. Intense cooperation with experts and business communities is one of the APEC lessons that has already been noticeably applied by Russia for the G20 presidency. Russia has been learning to shape global agenda, and there is more to come.
Interesting facts about the G-20
* The G20 represents 90 percent of the global GDP, 80 percent of global trade and two-thirds of the global population.
* Technically, the G20 members do not represent exactly 20 countries. The EU is counted as a single G20 "member," although there are several European countries represented by the EU.
* The G20 has existed since 1999, but it became an institution of truly global importance only after the global economic crisis of 2008.
* The title "Sherpa" designates the personal representative of a head of state in the G8 or G20, but the word came from a Nepalese ethnic group famous for assisting alpinists in conquering the Himalayas.
February 21, 2013
Euro Area Is Russia's Best Strategic Partner
By Lucio Vinhas de Souza
Lucio Vinhas de Souza is managing director and sovereign chief economist at Moody's Investors Service and former head of the Russia desk at the European Commission's Directorate General for Economic and Financial Affairs.
It is no surprise that Russia and the euro area have important economic links. The euro area, despite disappointing growth and prolonged economic stresses, retains a very large share of global gross domestic product. At around 17.5 percent, the share is roughly 6.5 times larger than the Russian economy and almost 60 percent larger than China's. The euro area is also geographically close to Russia's most important economic centers east of the Urals.
The economic importance of the euro area for Russia is present in several dimensions, starting with trade flows. Around a third of Russian exports, measured by value, go to the euro area ≠ a share that is five times larger than the amount of Russian exports that go to China.
The same importance of the euro area for Russia can be seen in terms of foreign direct investment. The euro area is the source of around three-fourths of all foreign direct investment, and the European Union as a whole accounts for almost 85 percent.
Finally, the significance can also be observed in terms of capital flows into the Russian banking sector. Of all the foreign bank claims in Russia, 69 percent came from the euro area, and almost 80 percent from the EU. This, incidentally, implies that there is also a significant correlation between the risk perception of Russian banks and euro-area banks, as measured, for instance, by five-year spreads for credit default swaps.
These significant and multifaceted links leave Russia open to shock waves from stresses in the euro area. But how can we measure the possible effects of a euro-area shock?
A good way is through a vector auto regression, or VAR, model, a widely used, simple and robust estimation procedure. Essentially, in it Russian GDP growth changes are assumed to capture all the links with the euro area in a joint fashion, without the need to specify these channels individually. (Series that represent an external "energy price shock," a variable of great relevance for Russia and a measure of an external demand shock from developing countries were added as control variables in the estimation).
The VAR results can be summarized as such: A euro-area shock is transmitted almost one-to-one to Russia. For example, a 2 percent GDP shock in the euro area would have a 2 percent GDP effect in Russia. These results would make Russia almost as vulnerable to a euro-area shock as a non-euro-area EU economy.
Nevertheless, these results are potential ones. The Russian economy has cushioning tools like its now-flexible exchange rate, and it can also potentially diversify away from the euro area toward other regions of the world, therefore reducing its exposure to a euro-area shock. A practical example of that would be, say, to increase exports to places like China and the other BRICS countries.
Nevertheless, it is not necessarily true that such a diversification would be economically optimal for Russia. This can also be assessed via a simple estimation, called gravity equation, that estimates exports as a function of the sizes of the respective markets (measured by their GDPs) and of the distances between markets (as a proxy for trade costs). The results show the shares of trade that are "economically optimal," or reflect economic fundamentals. This procedure would suggest a reference value to a possible Russian over/under trading with the euro area, China and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The results of this additional estimation suggest that Russia indeed significantly "undertrades" with China, therefore suggesting a potential to reduce vulnerability by diversifying away toward more dynamic developing markets. But this would not necessarily happen via a reduction of exports to the euro area, whose share in Russian exports seem roughly in line with what the model would predict. Namely, Russia exports what it should to the very large and geographically close euro-area market. The real Russian "overtrading" would seem to be located elsewhere, namely, in the CIS markets.
The conclusions from my findings are twofold. First, the Russian economy's strong links to the euro area do carry with it the potential for Russia to be negatively affected by further euro-area economic stress. Second, Russia could indeed diversify economic links away from the euro-area market, but the potential benefits of geographical diversification should not be overestimated given that the strength of Russian economic relations with the euro area are likely structural in nature, reflecting the size of the euro-area market and the proximity of Russia to it.
Therefore, while chairing the G20 and having the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Community as stated priorities, Russia should not lose sight of the fact the euro area is and shall remain for the foreseeable future its most strategic external economic relation.
February 20, 2013
Gazprom Isn't Being Run By Evil Geniuses, It's Being Run By The Keystone Cops
By MARK ADOMANIS
[Graph here http://blogs.forbes.com/markadomanis
The other day I wrote about how Gazprom, Russia's natural gas export monopoly and one of the major levers of the country's foreign policy, was in pretty tough straits and that it had good reason to fear an EU probe into its anti-competitive practices.
The reason I think that Gazprom should take the EU probe so seriously is that it appears to be pulling prices for its gas out of a hat: when you look at the prices Gazprom charges its customers and the amount of gas they actually buy there isn't any meaningful relationship. Additionally, and even more strangely, there didn't seem to be any relationship between a country's relationship to Russia and the price if paid for Russian natural gas: two countries with poor relations with Moscow the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, had the cheapest prices for gas while several countries known for being friendly, such as Serbia and Greece, paid a great deal more.
A friend from graduate school suggested a possible answer to the riddle: Gazprom's prices are correlated with the share of the gas market it held in each country. According to this theory, you would expect Gazprom to charge more in countries where it held a monopoly or near-monopoly position, and less in countries where it was just another player in the market. This sounds like a very plausible theory, and in order to test it I marched over to Eurostat to look at natural gas consumption and imports to determine Gazprom's overall share of each market. When I compared the share of Russian gas in a given market to the unit price that Gazprom charged, I got a graph that was just as nonsensical and bizarre as the one I produced yesterday:
This makes me think that my theory about Alexey Miller throwing darts at a big map of Europe was closer to the truth that not. The story that this graph tells is not that Gazprom is cruelly using its monopoly position to fleece its unwilling customers. No, the story that it tells is that Gazprom doesn't have the faintest idea what it's doing and is basically just winging it. You have countries, like Finland and Slovakia, that are entirely dependent on Russian gas not only paying two very different prices, but also paying less than many countries, like Poland, that get barely 50% of their gas from Russia. This isn't an evil plan, it looks like basic incompetence of the sort that you wouldn't expect to see from a newly minted MBA, much less a massive globe-spanning energy empire.
And that's part of why I think that, if it wants to survive, Gazprom is going to have to make major changes to the way it does business. There's simply no way that, in an increasingly competitive global energy market, a company as large as Gazprom can continuously price its product in such a completely arbitrary way. It is possible to get away with such "F*** you, pay me!" tactics for a certain period of time, and in Gazprom's case for a very long period of time, but they completely poison the business relationships that are at stake, inevitably alienate customers, and weaken long-term demand for the product being sold. The chart above does quite a lot to explain why Europeans are so furiously trying to wean themselves off of Russian gas: there's very little predictability or rationality in the process.
Does this mean that Gazprom is going to collapse? No. But it does mean that business as usual is increasingly unfeasible with each passing day. And, of course, the longer that Gazprom tries to stymie change, the more wrenching that change will eventually be.
Russia Beyond the Headlines/Vedomosti
February 21, 2013
No need to direct Siberia's development from Moscow
Siberia will get back on its own feet, if the federal government will just leave it alone.
By Vladislav Inozemtsev, Vedomosti.ru
Vladislav Inozemtsev is the director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies and a member of the board of Russia's Ministry for Regional Development.
Advocates of different approaches to developing Russia's eastern regions are once again debating at the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum. I am positive that no state-owned corporation, foundation or government ministry can ever resolve Siberia's problems, for obvious reasons.
First of all, in 2012, products and goods extracted or manufactured beyond the Urals accounted for almost 75 percent of Russia's total export value (around $410 billion).
At the same time, according to preliminary estimates, total economic investment in Siberia and the Far East in 2012 amounted to 1.9 trillion rubles (about $62 billion). If the federal government were serious about developing Siberia, it would make much more sense to leave some of those revenues in the region.
Second, only markets can now provide a real understanding of where to invest. Meanwhile, the government and its agents are focused on pouring money into gigantic projects that will never pay back. Development strategies for Siberia and the Far East focus on initiatives such as rebuilding cities in the Arctic, building a bridge to Sakhalin, or digging a tunnel beneath the Bering Strait.
All of this might be interesting from Moscow's perspective ≠ except, no more than 160,000 people cross from Sakhalin to the mainland each year, a tunnel to Alaska would cost several times Russia's annual trade with that American state, and the Trans-Siberian Railway is mainly used to export iron ore and coal.
Third, Siberia now requires huge investments in the social sphere ≠ a task much more readily accomplished by local rather than federal government. At the same time, a bridge to Sakhalin, a tunnel to Alaska, redevelopment of the Arctic shore, and the railway projects will all cost $150≠200 billion over 10 years, which is 1.5 times the amount spent on housing construction in all the territories beyond the Urals throughout the entire post-Soviet period.
Siberia is a unique part of Russia. It has always been a place where, voluntarily or not, social activists from all across Russia have congregated. Russians beat Americans to founding pioneer towns on the Pacific Coast; we laid railway tracks there almost at the same time as they did.
When was it that we fell behind and why?
It happened quite a long time ago, mainly because we started developing Siberia as a dependent territory governed from Moscow. We fell behind because we founded the first university in Siberia 300 years after we conquered it, while the British did that just 50 years after they started colonizing New England.
In my opinion, instead of establishing a new state-owned corporation, the government should take a completely different approach to making Siberia and the Far East prosperous.
First, meaningful steps must be taken to develop budget federalism. At least a quarter of taxes generated from natural resource must be spent on the region's development, with spending decisions to be made with broad participation by the general public (ideally through local referenda or polls). In no way would this undermine the federal center's positions.
Second, Siberia's economic efficiency must be improved. The experience of the United States and Canada has demonstrated that northern towns do not need to be rebuilt: the territory should be developed by bringing workers there on a shift basis instead.
The ideas of "formation of large anchor communities for advance development of the territory" ≠ as stipulated in the strategies for developing Siberia and the Far East ≠ make no sense and are counterproductive. Siberia has no population problem: The average population density beyond the Urals is 5.87 people per square mile, compared to 1.6 per square mile in Alaska and 0.07 in Northern Canada.
There are, however, problems with how this population is employed: Productivity at state-owned companies (such as Russian Railways) is one-sixth or less of that in Europe or Japan. The task today is to compress the territory, rather than expand it, and to make its economy more efficient.
Third, Siberia should play a greater role in the Pacific's economic and political life: The economy of the entire region is only 1/34 the size of that of China, for example. We need to become part of the Pacific economy and establish ties not only with China, but also with South Korea, Japan, Australia, and Canada ≠ and, for that matter, with the United States as well.
The idea that the Pacific is limited to Asia alone is wrong. Asian countries facing the Pacific account for 48.6 percent of its combined GDP, while North and South America together account for 46.1 percent. Russia is a natural balancing force in the region, rather than just China's sidekick. Yet, for some reason, this is more evident when the situation is viewed from Siberia rather than from Moscow, which has recently set its eyes firmly on Beijing.
First published in Russian in Vedomosti.
New York Times
February 21, 2013
New Chinese Leader to Make Moscow His First Visit
By JANE PERLEZ
BEIJING ≠ The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, has selected Moscow as his first foreign visit as president, to be followed immediately by a trip to South Africa for a summit of the group of leading emerging market countries.
Mr. Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao, also chose Moscow as his first overseas stop after assuming office, but this time, Mr. Xi's journey to Russia has a special significance, analysts say, coming as China tries to answer the Obama administration's pivot to Asia. That American policy is viewed with suspicion in Beijing and is broadly interpreted unfavorably by the Chinese government as containment of China.
By going to Russia, Mr. Xi will be working to ensure that China's relationship with Moscow, a sometimes prickly affair and one in which the balance of power has dramatically tilted in favor of China, is in good shape before he meets with President Obama later in the year, analysts said.
There have also been indications that Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin would try to hammer out a long-sought energy deal that would provide China with Russian oil and gas."China wants to consolidate its position with Russia before dealing with the United States," said Jin Canrong, associate dean at the School of International Studies at Renmin University. In particular, he said, China will likely look for Russian support in its territorial dispute with Japan, an American ally, over islands in the East China Sea.
Mr. Xi is not expected to meet Mr. Obama until September when both leaders will attend a summit of the G-20 nations in St. Petersburg, Russia, Chinese officials said. Efforts to arrange a meeting between Mr. Xi and Mr. Obama before September appear to have made little headway so far, officials in China and Washington said.
The Chinese have not released a precise date for Mr. Xi's visit to Moscow, largely because he does not formally become president until the National People's Congress meeting, which opens in Beijing on March 5. Mr. Xi now holds the post of leader of the Communist Party, a post he assumed last November.
In Moscow Tuesday, President Putin said he looked forward to the visit of Mr. Xi "soon." The Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, who was in Moscow Tuesday to prepare for Mr. Xi's meeting with Mr. Putin, confirmed the planned visit to Moscow.
Chinese state-run media reported this week that Mr. Xi would visit Russia on the way to the meeting of the leaders of the so-called BRICS nations in Durban, South Africa, on March 26-27. BRICS is the acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
At a Chinese Foreign Ministry briefing Wednesday, the spokesman, Hong Lei, repeated Mr. Yang's statement that the Mr. Xi would visit Moscow.
There have been few expectations that Mr. Xi and Mr. Obama would meet earlier than September, although both men are expected to speak by telephone once Mr. Xi assumes the presidency, officials said.
Mr. Obama welcomed Mr. Xi to the White House in February 2012 when Mr. Xi was vice president, and was known to be the next Chinese leader.
Word of Mr. Xi's itinerary comes as the new American Secretary of State, John Kerry, is starting his first overseas trip this weekend, a nine-country tour of Europe and the Middle East.
Unlike his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, who departed from tradition and visited Asia first ≠ including China ≠ Mr. Kerry is reverting to the more familiar path of Secretaries of State visiting allies in Europe and trouble spots in the Middle East.
The protracted wait for a presidential-level meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Xi also comes as tensions between China and the United States escalate over a broad range of issues, including stepped-up accusations by the United States that China's military is responsible for cyber hacking against American companies.
Given the strains in the relationship, there are hazards in delaying a face-to-face meeting, said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "In the absence of presidential dialogue, there is risk of intensifying suspicion and potential for the relationship to drift apart," she said. "An early summit would be undoubtedly welcomed by the entire region, which is somewhat anxious about U.S.-Chinese friction."
As tensions have festered between China and the U.S., China and Russia have drawn closer on major international issues, even as China's ever strengthening role in Asia and its growing global role have placed Russia in a diminished position.
On issues important to the United States ≠ Syria, Iran and North Korea ≠ China and Russia have displayed common interests that will most likely be on the agenda during Mr. Xi's visit to Moscow. And they are also likely to focus on increased co-operation on energy policy.
China's vice premier, Wang Qishan, met twice with the head of Russia's state-owned oil producer Rosneft, Igor Sechin, in Beijing this week, an apparent prelude to the Moscow summit.
The main difference between China and Russia over energy has been the price of gas. In the past, Russia has refused to accommodate China's price demands, arguing it could sell gas to Europe at a better profit than to China.
Bree Feng contributed research.
New York Times
February 15, 2013
Vows of Change in China Belie Private Warning
By CHRIS BUCKLEY
HONG KONG ≠ When China's new leader, Xi Jinping, visited the country's south to promote himself before the public as an audacious reformer following in the footsteps of Deng Xiaoping, he had another message to deliver to Communist Party officials behind closed doors.
Despite decades of heady economic growth, Mr. Xi told party insiders during a visit to Guangdong Province in December, China must still heed the "deeply profound" lessons of the former Soviet Union, where political rot, ideological heresy and military disloyalty brought down the governing party. In a province famed for its frenetic capitalism, he demanded a return to traditional Leninist discipline.
"Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered," Mr. Xi said, according to a summary of his comments that has circulated among officials but has not been published by the state-run news media.
"Finally, all it took was one quiet word from Gorbachev to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Communist Party, and a great party was gone," the summary quoted Mr. Xi as saying. "In the end nobody was a real man, nobody came out to resist."
In Mr. Xi's first three months as China's top leader, he has gyrated between defending the party's absolute hold on power and vowing a fundamental assault on entrenched interests of the party elite that fuel corruption. How to balance those goals presents a quandary to Mr. Xi, whose agenda could easily be undermined by rival leaders determined to protect their own bailiwicks and on guard against anything that weakens the party's authority, insiders and analysts say.
"Everyone is talking about reform, but in fact everyone has a fear of reform," said Ma Yong, a historian at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. For party leaders, he added: "The question is: Can society be kept under control while you go forward? That's the test."
Gao Yu, a former journalist and independent commentator, was the first to reveal Mr. Xi's comments, doing so on a blog hosted by Deutsche Welle, a German broadcaster. Three insiders, who were shown copies by officials or editors at state newspapers, confirmed their authenticity, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the risk of punishment for discussing party affairs.
The tension between embracing change and defending top-down party power has been an abiding theme in China since Deng set the country on its economic transformation in the late 1970s. But Mr. Xi has come to power at a time when such strains are especially acute, and the pressure of public expectations for greater official accountability is growing, amplified by millions of participants in online forums.
Mr. Xi has promised determined efforts to deal with China's persistent problems, including official corruption and the chasm between rich and poor. He has also sought a sunnier image, doing away with some of the intimidating security that swaddled his predecessor, Hu Jintao, and demanding that official banquets be replaced by plainer fare called "four dishes and a soup."
Yet Mr. Xi's remarks on the lessons of the Soviet Union, as well as warnings in the state news media, betray a fear that China's strains could overwhelm the party, especially if vows of change founder because of political sclerosis and opposition from privileged interest groups like state-owned conglomerates. Already this year, public outcries over censorship at a popular newspaper and choking pollution in Beijing have given the new party leadership a taste of those pressures.
Some progressive voices are urging China's leaders to pay more than lip service to respecting rights and limits on party power promised by the Constitution. Meanwhile, some old-school leftists hail Mr. Xi as a muscular nationalist who will go further than his predecessors in asserting China's territorial claims.
The choices facing China's new leadership include how much to relax the state's continuing grip on the commanding heights of the economy and how far to take promises to fight corruption ≠ a step that could alienate powerful officials and their families.
"How can the ruling party ensure its standing during a period of flux?" asked Ding Dong, a current affairs commentator in Beijing. "That's truly a real challenge, and it's creating a sense of tension and latent crisis inside the party."
Mr. Xi and his inner circle have about 18 months to consolidate power and begin any big initiatives before preparations for the next Communist Party Congress and leadership reshuffle in 2017 start to consume elite attention, said Christopher Johnson, an analyst on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"For now, he's a guy who's trying to be two things at once," said Mr. Johnson, formerly a senior China analyst for the C.I.A. "The question is: How long will they be able to get by with gestures like four dishes and a soup before they have to make the hard choices?"
So far, Mr. Xi has been busy distinguishing himself from his predecessor through an energetic succession of visits and speeches. Mr. Hu, who formally remains state president until next month, when Mr. Xi will take over that post, also came to power accompanied by widespread expectations of change. But he proved to be a rigidly unadventurous leader.
In recent weeks, Mr. Xi has promised to clean up Beijing's noxious smog and make it easier to hail a cab on the city's congested streets. Before that, Mr. Xi also vowed that the party would allow "sharp criticism" of its failings, and said "power must be held in an institutional cage."
Censors have allowed photographs showing Mr. Xi as a relaxed man of the people to spread on the Internet, including one of a jolly encounter with a man in a Santa Claus costume during a trip overseas.
Mr. Xi "doesn't want to be known as Hu Jintao is known, as someone who didn't make much progress," said Ezra Vogel, an emeritus professor of social sciences at Harvard University who recently visited China, a country he has studied for decades.
Yet Mr. Xi has qualified his promises in ways that have already disappointed some proponents of faster market-driven change and political liberalization. In one speech, Mr. Xi said that change must be piecemeal, citing Deng's dictum that progress is made "crossing the river by groping stones." In another, he said Mao Zedong's era of revolutionary socialism should not be dismissed as a failure.
He has also repeatedly demanded that the military show unflinching loyalty ≠ a principle that, in his view, the Soviet Communist Party under Mikhail S. Gorbachev fatally failed to uphold.
Mr. Xi, 59, is the son of a revolutionary who worked alongside Mao until he was purged and jailed. A senior commentator for a major Chinese newspaper said that political patrimony had made Mr. Xi even more sensitive to showing that "while talking about reform, he also wants to tell the party that he won't become a Gorbachev."
Unlike the former Soviet leader, Mr. Xi presides over an economy that, for all its hazards, has grown robustly over three decades, propelling China to greater international influence. But Chinese officials have warned that rising stature is also generating external rivalries and domestic demands that would magnify the damage from political missteps and schisms.
"We're a major power, and we absolutely cannot allow any subversive errors when it comes to the fundamental issues," Mr. Xi told party officials in Guangdong. "If that happens, there's no going back."
Edward Wong contributed reporting from Beijing.
February 21, 2013
'Broken phone' fixed, Lavrov and Kerry to meet next week
By Robert Bridge
Russian Human Rights Commissioner Konstantin Dolgov confirmed on Thursday that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Berlin, Germany on Feb. 26.
The meeting comes after it was reported by the Western media that Kerry failed to reach Lavrov via telephone on two separate occasions last week, causing analysts to speculate on the condition of the Russia-US relationship.
However, the Russian Foreign Ministry rejected the claim that two attempts were made to reach Lavrov, saying that Kerry had made just one attempt, but, according to Foreign Minister spokesperson Alexander Lukashenko, "the conversation could not be held" because Lavrov was touring African countries at the time.
The outspoken leader of the Russian LibDem Party (LPDR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky joked about Kerry's failure to reach Lavrov, suggesting that the US Secretary of State was desperately attempting to reach the Russian diplomat to warn of a new US weapon test that had gone awry and was heading for Russian territory.
Zhirinovsky was referring to last week's spectacular meteorite explosion that lit up the skies over the Russian town of Chelyabinsk.
It will be Kerry's first official trip abroad after taking over from Hillary Clinton as the new US Secretary of State, and there will be much to discuss between the two veteran statesmen.
Dolgov, speaking at a meeting of the State Duma committee on the family announced that Lavrov told informed him that the question of the rights of Russian children adopted by American families would be one of the main talking points.
The comment came just hours after it was reported that another adoptive Russian child died in the United States.
"I spoke with Sergey Lavrov just before coming here, and he asked me to stress that this issue, primarily the death of Maxim Kuzmin, will be among the key issues on the agenda of his negotiations with Kerry scheduled for next week," Dolgov said.
The Human Rights Commissioner of the Foreign Ministry said Russia was not informed promptly enough about Kuzmin's death.
Meanwhile, US officials have declared their willingness to maintain cooperation with Russia, particularly the Russian embassy in Washington, to determine the details of the tragedy, he said.
"There have been certain assurances from the U.S. that they are keeping this situation under special control and will be doing all they can at the State Department to provide us with all the necessary information and do whatever they can so that this case be investigated properly," Dolgov said.
Kuzmin was adopted by a US family from the same orphanage as Dmitry Yakovlev, the child who died from heatstroke in 2008 after being left unattended inside of a car by his American parents. Yakovlev's name has been given to a Russian law that prohibits the adoption of Russian children by US citizens, which took effect at the end of 2012.
Meanwhile, other pressing international issues will certainly be discussed by Lavrov and Kerry, including the two-year conflict in Syria, where a militant opposition is trying to force out President Assad.
Moscow, adhering to the conditions laid out in the Geneva Communiquť, want both sides to honor a ceasefire and enter negotiations. Washington, however, has taken a decidedly pro-rebel position and has repeatedly issued calls for Assad to step down.
At the same time, the question over how to deal with North Korea, which conducted an underground test of a nuclear device on February 12, will also rank high on the agenda.
It's too early to speak about cause of Maxim Kuzmin's death - U.S. consul
February 21, 2013
The results of the autopsy performed on Russian child Maxim Kuzmin who died in the U.S. have not been made public yet, Acting U.S. Consul in Russia Bill Bistransky said.
Bistransky told Kommersant FM, commenting on the statement made by Russian envoy on human rights, democracy and supremacy of law Konstantin Dolgov saying that the autopsy results indicate that the boy died of cruel treatment that he has no information on the autopsy results and he was only informed about the autopsy being performed four hours ago.
Bistransky also said it is now too early to draw any conclusions on the causes of the child's death.
At the same time he believes it is too early to speak about the possibility of returning Kirill Kuzmin, the brother of Maxim Kuzmin, who was adopted by a U.S. citizen and died in Texas, to Russia.
Bistransky told Kommersant FM the U.S. consular services currently have no specific information on the cause of Maxim Kuzmin's death and the local child protective services have now made a decision that the boy should stay with his adoptive father. He said it is premature to discuss the boy's removal from his adoptive family as he is a citizen of the U.S. and lives in a specific pace under the control of the local law enforcement and judicial bodies.
February 21, 2013
Ulyanovsk Hub Not Getting Much Use by NATO
By Nikolaus von Twickel
NATO and Russia pride themselves on cooperation over Afghanistan and the fight against terrorists and pirates, but a planned logistics hub to transport military hardware from Afghanistan is not taking off.
Moscow and the Western military alliance will conduct a range of exercises this year, including a joint anti-terror drill in the Paris metro, NATO Assistant Secretary General Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic told a roundtable meeting Wednesday. National media reported in 2011 that Russia and NATO want to test a jointly developed device for screening crowds for hidden explosives in Paris.
Grabar-Kitarovic also pointed out that a direct phone line was established last week between General Knud Bartels, the chairman of NATO's Military Committee, and General Staff head Valery Gerasimov, allowing both sides' military leaders to stay in touch.
The assistant secretary general was speaking via video link from Brussels to a roundtable with defense experts in the alliance's Moscow Information Bureau.
She said NATO's new public diplomacy strategy identifies the partnership with Russia as a priority.
However, roundtable members later confirmed that the planned logistics hub in Ulyanovsk, through which alliance members are meant to fly out military hardware from Afghanistan, has yet to start in full.
The government offered NATO use of the airport in the Volga River city as a hub last year against fierce resistance from Communist and nationalist opposition activists, who object to letting NATO members use facilities in the country's heartland. Ulyanovsk is the birthplace of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin.
But no alliance member has announced that it will use this option for troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is to be completed by next year.
The only cargo that has been sent through Ulyanovsk so far is a number of containers for the British contingent that were sent from Camp Bastion in Afghanistan to Britain in December. That shipment has been described as a "trial" by both NATO and Russian officials.
A senior diplomat from a NATO country told the panel that the route was considered too expensive. Experts from his defense ministry have calculated that shipping a container from Afghanistan through Ulyanovsk costs 50,000 euros, while sending it via the Termez airbase in Uzbekistan costs only 30,000 euros, the diplomat told The Moscow Times, asking not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
But Yury Gorlach, a deputy director in the Foreign Ministry's European department, argued that Ulyanovsk was worth the extra cost because it was safer. "When you send valuable cargo from Afghanistan, Ulyanovsk is an option," he said.
The senior NATO member diplomat suggested that alliance countries are reluctant not just because of financial reasons. "They do not like the idea that Russian intelligence can take a close look at what they send back from Afghanistan," he said.
Among other cooperation proposals that have yet to bear fruit is a NATO proposal to help Russia to destroy or recycle its sizable ammunition reserves.
That proposal is currently undergoing a feasibility study, according to NATO officials.
The roundtable marked the 12th anniversary of the setting up of NATO's Moscow Information Bureau.
February 21, 2013
Wooing Russia ≠ and its influence
By David Ignatius
A sign of Russia's defensiveness, bordering on paranoia, is that some senior Russian officials regard the recent buzz about shale gas and oil as American propaganda designed to undermine Moscow's clout as an energy producer.
Vladimir Putin's Russia has a chip on its shoulder, for sure. It's a big weight of resentment, reflecting the crushed ambitions of a fallen superpower. But Russia still has big shoulders, too. It's a country that, for all its ills, has the ability to assist or obstruct U.S. diplomacy.
The administration is exploring ways to engage Russia as President Obama begins his second term. At the top of the list are the biggest U.S. headaches ≠ Syria, Iran and North Korea. The White House thinks that, after a period of frosty relations, Putin is also looking to rebuild a cooperative relationship.
White House officials are encouraged that even when relations were sour, Putin never threatened core U.S. interests, such as the "northern distribution route" for shipping supplies to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, transiting former Soviet states. "They want to find a way back to a stable relationship," argues one senior official.
The outreach to Russia is meant to be hands-on, embodying Vice President Biden's dictum that "all politics is personal." Biden expansively courted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference this month. National security adviser Tom Donilon is planning a trip soon to Moscow to see Putin and discuss arms control and other issues. John Kerry, the new secretary of state, spoke with Lavrov on Sunday and is planning to meet him soon. And Obama will probably meet Putin this September in Russia before the Group of 20 meeting.
Biden's meeting with Lavrov on Feb. 2 illustrated the new bid for cooperation. Noting that Russia had trained the Syrian military unit that handles chemical weapons, he proposed that the United States and Russia cooperate in securing those weapons if President Bashar al-Assad's regime should fall. It was an implicit recognition of Russia's continuing interest in Syria after Assad is gone.
Biden and Lavrov also discussed the danger that the war in Syria could produce a Balkanized nation fragmented into ethnic cantons. Russia understands that such an outcome would harm its interests.
The diplomatic contribution Russia could make in Syria was highlighted that same day in Munich, when Lavrov met Sheik Mouaz al-Khatib, who leads a coalition of Syrian opposition groups. Afterward, Lavrov praised Khatib's willingness to meet with representatives of the Assad regime and promised continued Russian contact with the Syrian opposition.
When Kerry phoned Lavrov on Sunday, "they discussed the importance of the U.S. and Russia using their respective influence on the parties in support of a viable political transition process," according to the State Department.
While these diplomatic maneuvers are encouraging, they are faint sparks of light against the dark tableau of Russian support for Assad in a war that has killed more than 60,000 Syrians. Part of the frustration of dealing with Putin is that for him, everything seems to be transactional. There's a price for Russian peacemaking in Syria or support for limiting Iran's nuclear program. But what is it? Obama might make the deal, if he knew what it was.
Critics of Obama's policy argue that engaging Putin will only encourage him to continue his repressive policies at home. Putin is a bully, goes this argument, and appeasing him will backfire. He encourages Assad's brutal war in Syria because he fought similar battles against Chechen rebels. And as the United States engages Putin, it becomes complicit in his suppression of dissent.
So what's the answer to this classic foreign-policy dilemma, where U.S. interests and values are in conflict? I'd argue that the benefits of a more cooperative U.S.-Russian relationship ≠ on Syria, Iran, North Korea, arms control and other issues ≠ are so substantial that they are worth the cost. That's a heavy burden, especially since it's likely to be borne by Russian human-rights activists.
The Obama administration made a similar strategic choice in its first term, when it decided that a positive "reset" with Russia was a top priority and placed missile defense, NATO expansion and other issues lower on its list. This decision opened the way for Russian support of U.N. resolutions sanctioning Iran.
A second presidential term isn't a clean slate, but it offers a new chance to test whether Russia's interests and America's can be aligned. To get where he wants over the next four years, Obama needs to unlock the Russia door.
The Heritage Foundation
February 20, 2013
U.S. Policy on Russia for Obama's Second Term
By Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.
Ariel Cohen, PhD, is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
Since Vladimir Putin's third inauguration as Russian president last May, U.S.≠Russian relations have deteriorated sharply. Officials on both sides have moved past the "reset" honeymoon as disagreements over geopolitics and human rights abound.
Spanning two continents and with a veto on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Russia is uniquely positioned to play a prominent role in U.S. foreign policy. However, the United States needs a new course of action for the next four years to prevent Russia from negatively affecting U.S. interests across the globe.
The current Russian ruling elite has not overcome the anti-Americanism imbued in their Soviet upbringing. State-controlled media and government officials openly perpetuate it. Russian politicians have sought a ban on American English "foreign words" in the media, have forbidden Russian nongovernmental organizations from taking U.S. donations, and banned Americans from adopting Russian orphans. Anti-Americanism is part of a concerted effort to secure the regime against dissent, counter Western influence, and undermine already brittle U.S.≠Russian relations.
Differences over Syria and Iran continue to prevent strategic action on two of the world's most pressing issues. Russia has not wavered in its support for Bashar al-Assad's regime, vetoing any meaningful sanctions at the UNSC. While Russian officials do not support an Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons, their selective commitment to the principle of noninterference in internal affairs of state causes resistance to potent sanctions and opposition to the potential use of force. High-level talks have not solved these issues, and as each one moves to a breaking point, Russia only hardens its resolve.
Russian Diplomatic Assertiveness
Russia's anti-Americanism and its geopolitical ambitions have combined to create a combative foreign policy. Russian measures over the past year include:
Launching a slander campaign against U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul on state TV;
Cancelling the Nunn≠Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which aids in the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction in former Soviet space;
Expelling the United States Agency for International Development;
Forbidding U.S. funding of "political" nongovernmental organizations;
Banning Radio Liberty and the Voice of America from AM/FM broadcasting;
Passing the DimaYakovlev law, which prohibits Americans from adopting Russian orphans;
Banning $500 million a year in U.S. beef and pork imports; and
Cancelling an agreement on law enforcement and drug control.
Moscow seeks to break U.S. influence in Russia, no matter the harm to relations or even its own children.
Russia's recent actions suggest a strategic break from the West and establishment of a Russian "pole" in a multipolar world order in which Russia does not cooperate with the West and justifies domestic crackdown and political stagnation.
As the chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Alexei Pushkov, said, "We are saying farewell to our dependence on 'Power No. 1.'" Referring to the Sergei Magnitsky Act, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "We will consistently and firmly rebut attempts to interfere in our internal affairs and lecture us," conveniently forgetting that the Soviet Union was a signatory to the 1975 Helsinki Accords on human rights.
Russia has also opposed any U.S. influence along its periphery, even when it serves common interests, such as the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan. Putin has promoted the Eurasian Union, a Russian-dominated organization that aims to control former Soviet states economically. Like Russian and Soviet rulers before him, Putin is establishing a zone of buffer states to protect his centralized, authoritarian regime against the rising China and radical Islam while pushing Russia and its neighbors away from the West.
At the same time, Russia neglects its own strategic interests in which the U.S. could provide important assistance, such as improving health care and higher education, cooperating in science and technology, and developing the rule of law.
The Obama Administration believes it can convince Russia to cooperate rationally, ignoring all the evidence to the contrary. It argues that both countries share a mutual interest to stem Islamist terrorism and that Russia has helped the U.S. in Afghanistan by facilitating the Northern Distribution Network for NATO troops. It takes at face value Russian statements that it wants to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; meanwhile, Moscow prevents stricter sanctions and calls any potential military strike a costly mistake.
The White House also ignores Moscow's rapprochement with Beijing and Russian military modernization, which includes building new weapons systems that are clearly aimed at the U.S.
The U.S. Policy Conundrum
The Obama Administration unsuccessfully attempted to keep Russia as a partner within the West's orbit. It signed an ill-advised New START arms reduction agreement and would like to conclude further bilateral arms reduction treaties, ignoring the massive Russian tactical nuclear arsenal of up to 8,000 devices.
Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the lifting of the Jackson≠Vanik Amendment produced no progress in the bilateral relationship.
The U.S. reduced its profile in the former Soviet states, expecting in vain that Moscow would feel less threatened and increase cooperation. As Putin pushes for a Eurasian Union, Western ties in former Soviet states may be narrowing. The Kremlin decided that the U.S. is weak and in retreat and decided to push back on Syria.
The U.S. also attempted to encourage Russia to become more open and free, but the Kremlin perceives this as an attempt to implement an "Arab Spring" scenario through insidious American tools such as Twitter and Facebook. It accused the State Department of sponsoring the recent mass protests in Russia.
What the U.S. Should Do
The change of the Obama national security team is a good opportunity to reassess ties with Russia and build a relationship that is realistic and serves U.S. national interests well. Specifically, the Obama Administration should:
Deploy a missile defense system in Europe and avoid deep defense budget cuts. The U.S. cannot afford to leave itself or its allies unprotected from emerging ballistic missile threats or ignore the modernizing Russian military. Despite the pending reductions in force, the U.S. should maintain its space, air, and naval superiority in the European and Eurasian theaters.
Enforce Russian compliance with WTO rules regarding the unfounded ban of U.S. beef and pork imports. No WTO precedent supports Russia's excessive standards for U.S. meat imports. The U.S. does, however, have scientific support for its position from the World Health Organization and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Re-engage in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The U.S. should expand political≠military relations and economic ties with key countries such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. To balance off Russia (and China), the U.S. should expand broad political, military, economic, and civil society cooperation.
Make human rights and democracy a central pillar of U.S.≠Russian relations. The U.S. should call on the European Union to pass a measure similar to the Magnitsky Act, because corrupt Russian officials spend more time and hide more assets in Europe than in the U.S. Such an effort can be combined with U.S. international broadcasting reform and a renewed public diplomacy effort aimed at Russia and Eurasia. The U.S. should also call for the release of political prisoners, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former CEO of Yukos.
Between the Urals and a Hard Place
The U.S. and Russia have convergent interests on key international issues, and cooperation would be beneficial to both. However, continuing Russian anti-Western foreign policy may result in increasing isolation. Russia may also eventually seek China's patronage.
Moscow needs to recognize that the U.S. is not a threat. It should stop conducting itself like an antagonist and return to a partnership with the U.S., which characterized the last quarter of a century.
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2013
Subject: Eurasia Analyst, Volume II, Number 1; 20 February 2013
From: Eurasia Analyst <email@example.com>
A publication of independent researcherswww.eurasiaanalyst.org
20 February 2013
The Bases of Russian Foreign Policy, Part Three: Why?
By Susan J. Cavan
On February 15, President Putin presented Russia's new foreign policy concept to the RF Security Council, noting: "Our basic foreign policy principles all remain unchanged. ... In particular, [the Concept] reflects major developments such as the global financial and economic crisis, which continues to worry us all, the changing balance of power in the world and in world affairs, the growing turbulence in the Middle East and North Africa, and the increasing significance of the cultural and civilisational [sic] dimensions in global competition today." (1)
While the new concept does not mark a radical departure from recent versions, it does make clear the theoretical underpinning of Russia's foreign policy, coupled with the proposition that the global financial crisis of 2008 marked a watershed and created conditions for changes to relationships within the international community.
According to the new foreign policy concept, the ability of the West "to dominate in the world economy and politics" has been diminished since the crisis. (2) The world is experiencing a period of transition during which a new "polycentric international system" is forming. This transitional period opens the possibilities for new economic and financial systems, new alignments in collective security and shifts in political development. This period provides for the creation of "flexible forms of participation in many-sided structures with the goal of effectively attempting to resolve the errors of the West." (3)
The concept suggests the realization of Russia's previously touted goal of multipolarity. It would seem that conditions in the international arena have ripened ≠ after years of condemning as unstable an international system dominated by a sole superpower and resting on a single "pole" of western institutions dominated by that superpower, finally, Moscow sees a tilt toward the stability of a system underpinned by multiple poles...or perhaps just two poles.
The striving for multipolarity in world affairs reflects a theory of foreign policy credited to Yevgeni Primakov. It developed as a counterpoint to interpretations of Francis Fukuyama's thesis that historical ideological evolution may have reached an end, as the principles of liberal democracy seemed to sweep away further political-ideological challenges. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the 1990s demonstrated to Russians that re-orienting its governing system toward models of western political and economic development presented them with a chaotic and often tragic path. In foreign policy, abandoning the ideological rationale of Cold War confrontation did not always produce agreement between the former super powers, especially as Russia struggled to resolve its manifold domestic issues.
As the U.S. became the indispensible world power, Russia's leaders came to view their position in international affairs as diminished. Multipolarity provides a vision of relevance for powers that are neither leaders nor followers. Rather than attempting to align with western values and ideals, multipolarity makes it feasible to set a different course. Decrying a "uni-polar" world (either U.S. led or led by western consensus) as unstable, Russia continues to propose that alternate beacons of development provide more stable support to the international system.
In fact, this thesis of multipolarity seems very much a rehash of Cold War superpower polarity with a less ideological base. As the Soviet Union represented a different model of development and governance in contrast with the West, so Russia seems poised to present its response to the 2008 global financial crisis as a distinct approach meant to correct the "mistakes of the West."
Recently, Yevgeni Primakov ventured into economic affairs both to defend the policies of the Putin administration domestically and to attack the wholesale application of western theories in the Russian context. "Russia's neoliberals...proceed on the basis of the universality of Western economic theories, ignore their evolution, and, most important, do not take into account the peculiarities and degree of development of market relations in our country." (4)
Primakov's attack on Russian neo-liberals represents more than a domestic dispute; its significance in foreign policy is seen in the rejection of a western path of economic growth and the assertion of a "strong state" approach ≠ an approach that might be far more seductive to authoritarian leaders as they strive both to maneuver through economic turbulence and maintain tight state control in their regimes. "One of the fundamental principles of neoliberalism [sic] is that the free play of economic forces, and not state planning, ensures social justice. However, this conclusion does not withstand collisions with reality, not only in Russia but in other countries, too." (5)
For Primakov, it is just a short hop from economics to politics: "The identification of political freedom with the limitation of state power is categorically incompatible with the need to democratize our society." (6)
This defense of the strong state consists in part of a reprise of Russia's assertion of "sovereign democracy" with a twist that shrugs off western criticism: Some states need strong central control in order to develop their full economic and political potentials. It takes Putin's curt dismissal of western interference in Russian domestic affairs and attempts to see it writ large as developmental critique. This is not just a rejoinder to the critics of Russian justice as applied to Sergei Magnitsky or Pussy Riot; this is an attempt to provide a manifesto of sovereign development.
For those states that observed the developments of the Arab Spring with alarm and see calls for democratic reforms and greater civil freedoms as western provocation, Russia hopes to serve as a guiding light to rebuff the arrogance of the West and to illuminate a separate path to economic, political, and perhaps even collective, security.
Putin's new foreign policy concept highlights the potential that exists at this moment in world affairs for a shift from the domination of the west and its institutions. As a result, the authors of the concept consider the possibilities of a "new and more balanced" global financial and currency system; stress the importance of regional alliances; and continue to assert the central role of the United Nations (specifically, the U.N. Security Council) in solving international disputes.
The priorities laid out in the concept seem designed to prepare Russia to take up a role in the creation of a new international architecture. As he presented the concept to the RF Security Council, Putin outlined some of these measures: "The concept puts the emphases on the use of modern forms and methods of foreign-policy efforts, including economic diplomacy, the introduction of so-called elements of soft power, and adept involvement in global information traffic." (7)
Russia's embrace of "soft power" approaches, while not new to this iteration of the foreign policy concept, receives greater emphasis now, along with acknowledgment that there is serious work to be done. As Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointedly observed: "[W]e have to be Russia, to be the country which is attractive for our foreign associates. Attractive not just because of resource reserves - petroleum, gas, minerals, fresh water - but also because of our intellect, which is one of the best in the world. We have to be attractive by our culture, history, language, which has to be more actively supported in foreign countries. And, of course, we have to be attractive by our foreign policy." (8)
Clearly, Russia has set out to embody a new model of development and present an alternative vision of international relations. However, the efficacy of its plans to deploy a soft power barrage hinges not on its implementation but on the perception of its success. Russia has a long row to hoe. As Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor of Russia in Global Affairs and Chairman of Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy notes: "The current dislike for the West in the developing world, exemplified by the Arab Spring, does not translate into greater affinity for Moscow. Russia, which continues to exude its traditional pathos amid the dramatic changes in the region, is still seen as a reactionary, rather than a progressive country. ... And until the Russian nation defines its goals and guidelines for itself, it will be unable to offer anything attractive to other countries. Therefore, soft power will be at best limited to a set of technical measures ≠ not entirely useless, but ultimately ineffective." (9)
1) Meeting with Security Council members, 15 Feb 2013, President of Russia Official Website via http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/5006.
2) ŽŌő√Ň–√…— ◊őŇŘőŇ –ŌŐ…‘…ň… ÚŌ””… ”ňŌ śŇńŇ“Ń√……, available on the Kremlin website via http://www.kremlin.ru/news/17520. (Last accessed 19 Feb 2013.) Translation by the author.
4) Article by Academician Yevgeniy Primakov: "Modern-Day Russia and Liberalism," Rossiyskaya gazeta, 17 Dec 2012; BBC World Monitoring, 19 Dec 2012 via LexisNexis Academic.
7) Kira Latukhina report: "Efforts for Standing. Vladimir Putin Has Presented the Updated RF Foreign-Policy Concept"]; Rossiyskaya gazeta website, Moscow, in Russian 18 Feb 13; BBC Worldwide Monitoring via LexisNexis Academic.
8) Text of "Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's interview in the "Sunday evening with Vladimir Solovyev" programme on "Russia" TV channel, Moscow, 10 February 2013" published in English by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on 16 February; Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, Moscow, in English 16 Feb 13; BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 16 Feb 2013 via LexisNexis Academic.
9) "How soft is too soft," by Fyodor Lukyanov, The Moscow News, 13 Feb 2013 ; viahttp://themoscownews.com/russia/20130204/191204366/How-soft-is-too-soft.html.