Russian Politics, & Personalities

Posts Tagged ‘Corruption

Pyatigorsk & Volgograd2

leave a comment »

With just 40 days until the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, a suicide bombing took place this afternoon in Volgograd, Russia.  Media reports 18 dead and 60 injured so far, but that number is expected to rise.  It appears that the perpetrator of the attack was a female, keeping in line with previous attacks of a similar nature.  The suicide attack on a Volgograd bus in October was also committed by a woman.

On Friday evening, a car bombing took place in Pyatigorsk, Stavropol.  I expect we will know more about how the bomb used in the Pyatigorsk attack was constructed and what it was made with in the next few days.  While they did manage to blow out quite a few windows and killed 3 men, the act itself appeared to be amateur.  Caucasian Knot reported [ru] that the location chosen did not experience high traffic, with a local saying that she thought the attack was against the police and not civilians.  However, if the goal of Pyatigorsk was psychological (and it appears that it was), the amount of physical damage inflicted was immaterial.

These people are not strategists, neither are they experienced.  Even so, the likelihood of similar acts in the next 6 weeks is very high.  The goal is psychological – striking fear into the hearts of the authorities, and making them panic.  Unfortunately, what that means is that there is no way to predict the next target.  The selection of Volgograd and Pyatigorsk seems to indicate that the terrorists cannot manage to travel much farther than that.  Either due to problems with papers, or not enough money to bribe their way through checkpoints.  Or maybe they’re just not trying.  Maybe being closer to Sochi is the goal rather than a strike in Moscow.

I am on the road for the rest of the day.  Here are some links to follow for updates on Volgograd:

RT’s liveblog (in English): http://rt.com/news/volgograd-suicide-bombing-updates-940/

A Twitter list: https://twitter.com/rm867/lists/sochi-2014

Written by Nina Jobe

December 29, 2013 at 6:15 AM

Arsen Kanokov

leave a comment »

The Kremlin accepted the resignation of Kabardino-Balkaria’s chief, Arsen Kanokov, on Friday.  A short announcement posted on the President’s website simply stated that Arsen Kanokov had resigned and was being replaced by Yuri Kokov, the former chief of the Interior Ministry’s anti-extremism branch, Department E. 

There had been rumours for at least the last 18 months that Kokov wanted Kanokov’s job.  A series of arrests in June 2012 of local officials seemed aimed at Kanokov’s relatives and allies.  Kokov’s name popped up then as a possible rival to Kanokov, though nothing seemed to come of it.  Then six months ago, an ally of Kanokov’s was gunned down in Moscow.  His murder was never solved.

A later announcement on the Kremlin’s website showed a photo of Putin meeting with Kokov to discuss the acting chief’s new job.  At one point, Putin noted that Kanokov had done a lot for the republic, saying:

Many problems still remain, but on the whole, the dynamic is positive.  This applies to the budgetary provision and concerns the development of infrastructure.  But, I repeat, the unresolved problems are, of course, much more.

Given Putin’s words and phrasing, it seems likely that Kanokov was relieved of his duties because of the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi.  Tensions remain high in the region of the North Caucasus and fears of a terror attack during the Olympics are very real.  Yuri Kokov’s appointment speaks to the fears associated with the upcoming event.  As former chief of Department E, his experience in fighting extremism likely provides a feeling of security for the federal authorities.  Russia has spent close to $51 billion (if not more) in the Olympic games, and Putin has a lot riding on its successful outcome.

Kanokov fought the terrorist threat in his republic as best he could, but his efforts were not acceptable by the Kremlin’s standards.  In replacing Kanokov with a security expert, the Kremlin is again attempting to replicate the model of Ramzan Kadyrov’s Chechnya.  However, that model is not effective.  Putin has already tried this in Daghestan this year with disastrous results.  The strong leader role that the Kremlin has assigned to Abdulitipov has only turned Daghestan into a war zone, with daily shootouts and bombings.  Even the Kremlin’s gold standard — Ramzan Kadyrov — does not fully control Chechnya, though most of the information about acts of terrorism in that republic are hushed. 

The terrorist threat to the Sochi Olympic games remains very real, but with less than 100 days remaining to the event, it seems unlikely that replacing Kanovkov will have any real impact.

Written by Nina Jobe

December 9, 2013 at 1:22 AM

Security vs Corruption at Sochi

leave a comment »

With a little more than 100 days to go until the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Sochi, security has become a central focus.  Any security system has its weak spots, but as two incidents this week have shown, there are too many holes in Russia’s system. 

The first incident was a bus bombing in Volgograd on Monday afternoon [http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2013/10/a_suspected_black_wi.php].  A female suicide bomber boarded a bus and blew it up.  As I wrote over in my Global Voices column [http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/10/23/in-wake-of-suicide-bombing-russians-question-their-security/], some in the Russian blogosphere were quick to point out that after 14 years of Putin, Russia’s security apparatus still cannot protect its citizens. 

The second incident actually took place last month, but came to light only yesterday.  RIA Novosti [http://en.ria.ru/crime/20131023/184311460/Passenger-Skips-Russian-Airport-Checks-for-Bribe-Worth-47.html] reported that a man in Yakutsk bought a domestic plane ticket on a discount, using a false passport.  When he arrived at the airport, he bribed a security officer to let him through “pre-flight inspection” with a bottle of cognac and a box of chocolates worth approximately $47.  The police arrested the culprit before boarding the plane, but the fact that he got as far as the departure lounge is worrying.

Two stories, two different outcomes, but both reveal the single greatest threat to security surrounding the Winter Olympics in Sochi.  There has been a lot of outrage about the security system put in place by the Russian security services for Sochi 2014.   A report [http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/06/sochi-olympic-venues-kremlin-surveillance] by security experts Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan “found that phone and Internet networks in Sochi have been retrofitted with a surveillance system, known by its Russian acronym Sorm, which allows the FSB to eavesdrop on phone and data communications in the city [Sochi]” [http://www.themoscowtimes.com/olympic_coverage/article/all-communications-traffic-to-be-monitored-at-sochi-olympics-report-says/487352.html]. 

But what good is a state of the art security system if a man can bribe his way onto a plane for under $50? 

Written by Nina Jobe

October 24, 2013 at 2:57 AM

Marina Litvinovich

leave a comment »

has created a website called Election 2012.  On it she looks at members of the Russian Government, their ties to one another, their ties to big business/oligarchs, their past associations with the business community, etc.  It’s all very interesting, and I am hoping that it will aid my own research, and serve to make this blog better.

Happy reading.

No Commentary

leave a comment »

This next piece needs to be shared in its entirety without any of my own opinions attached to it, I think.  The only thing I will say is that Andrei Piontkovsky’s ending prediction came as something of a surprise.

A fundamental difference between developments in Russia 20 years ago and in Central Europe and the Baltic countries is that Russia has never had a democratic revolution.

The driving force of change was the ruling nomenklatura, which conceived and implemented a plan to convert its absolute collective political power into huge financial power for its individual members.

All the golden dreams of the Communist Party and KGB nomenklatura, which launched perestroika in the mid-1980s, have come true by now. What have they achieved as a result of this 20-year period? The total concentration of political power, just as before, but with huge personal fortunes they could not even have imagined and a completely different lifestyle (in Moscow’s exclusive Rublyovka neighborhood, Courchevel, or Sardinia).

Most importantly, the rulers no longer have any social and historical responsibility. Now they do not need to howl in unison: “The purpose of our life is ordinary people’s happiness.” They were sick of that hypocrisy. Now they repeat matter-of-factly that the purpose of their lives is “the continuation of market reforms” and “getting Russia off its knees,” though none of them believes that or even knows what it means. The regime has promised the people to take “unpopular but necessary measures” for 20 (!) consecutive years of reform as it was implementing measures very popular among a handful of people and aimed at their personal enrichment.

The history of authoritarian regimes succeeding one another in Russia reveals a pattern – they do not die from external blows of fate or attacks by their opponents. They tend to die suddenly of a strange sort of internal disease – the irresistible existential disgust for themselves, their own exhaustion and what Sartre described as the nausea (la nausée) of existence.

Today we are witnessing the Putin regime, which paved the political space with asphalt, waste away from the same chronic disease. The simulacrum of a big ideological style, it could hardly avoid such a fate. In its short biography of one decade it went through all the classic stages of Soviet history only to become a vulgar parody of each of them.

Soviet communism took 40 years to die. Simulacra collapse much faster because they lack any organic matter.

One distinction of Nausea 2011 is that the leadership suffering from it has no project for the future. It can only lose. Yes, of course, many would like to put an end to the excesses of the national leader and his Tonton Macoutes destructive to the object of their power and the source of their wealth.

But the will of our glamorous haves is paralyzed not so much by fear of the alpha male still roaring menacingly, but by the prospect of being left alone without this male to face the alien and silent community of have-nots.

Thus conscience does make cowards of them all …

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

The elite’s unresolved nausea and the burnt-out political space beyond it stop Russia’s historical time, turning it into a sticky and dreary eternity.

Putin’s eternity is the black hole of Russian history, Svidrigailov’s rustic smoky sauna with swollen spiders creeping at the corners, veterans of the KGB’s Dresden field station, and the members of the Ozero dacha cooperative.

The ruling corporation has no people or ideas, or even desires. For them Francis Fukuyama’s end of history came a long time ago. Time stands still in the viscous eternity and our original Eurasian pride – the vertically structured government – is about to collapse to form yet another black hole of Russian history for the third time in less than a century.

The solemn inauguration of Putin as the Father of the Nation on 8 May 2012 for the third and, in fact, life term will be a control shot to Russia’s head. In the coming decade, events will evolve rapidly along a trajectory predetermined by the lack of freedom and steady destruction of the nation’s gene pool for centuries.

The control shot will trigger the final wave of emigration of professionals and talented young people (5 to 7 million of them) from Russia.

After their departure, science, education, and health care will finally crumble. The continuing plunder by Putin’s gang of KGB agents/raw materials traders and the Yeltsin-era oligarchs who have sworn fealty to them will lead in 2013 or 2014 to the collapse of the financial system, a sharp depreciation of the ruble, pension fund bankruptcy, and mass unemployment.

North Caucasian republics, starting with Chechnya, will finally break away from ailing Russia after they stop receiving tribute. The government will not dare to use force to retain them for fear of terrorist attacks by Islamists.

Spontaneous protests by disadvantaged people will begin in various provinces of the country. The regime will use force, like Syria’s dictator, in an attempt to quell riots.

In the end, Putin will find himself in a hopeless situation and will be overthrown in 2015 in a Romania-1989-style military coup.

After taking power, the military will try to rely on nationalist sentiment, which will lead to a rise of separatism in the remaining ethnic regions and overt political, economic, and possibly military pressure from China on Russia’s Far East and Siberia.

In 2016 and 2017, the Chinese will establish two puppet Russian-Chinese states, the Far Eastern Republic and the Republic of Siberia.

In 2018, the Baltic region, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and Karelia will break away from Russia. In 2019, central Russian regions will ask for accession to Ukraine, which will have concluded an agreement on associated membership in the EU by that time.

Lengthy negotiations, including on the fate of the residual nuclear capabilities of the once-great power, the status of the Russian language, and the interpretation of World War II history, will end in the resurrection in 2021 of the bilingual Slavic state of Kievan Rus destroyed by the Mongols nearly a thousand years ago.

Medvedev’s Speech

leave a comment »

I am posting a link to Medvedev’s speech at Davos. I have not had time to go through it yet, but I will post some comments in the next few days.  A lot of people were worried that the terror attack somehow changed the subject from Yukos, and Magnitsky to other issues.  However, I think that the real issue remains the same no matter which subject you are talking about: corruption.  Anyway, commentary forthcoming…

P.S.  Miriam Elder had an excellent piece published in The Atlantic about the issues surrounding the bombing of Domodedovo.

Written by Nina Jobe

January 29, 2011 at 5:28 PM

Mikhail Lesin

leave a comment »

I have never been interested in Mikhail Lesin because I always imagined him a minor player who was initially kept on as a courtesy to Boris Yeltsin, and then somehow managed to survive in the dog eat dog world that is the Kremlin.  I still believe this, actually.  What I find curious is most people’s response to the sacking of Mikhail Lesin.  Most people act as though this is the first personnel decision ever made by the President.  But we know that is not true.  Only a few weeks ago, Dzhakhan Pollyeva was transferred out of the speech writing bureau.

I have mixed feelings about all of this.  I think that Lesin was irrelevant, and thus the decision was more than likely based upon a personality conflict, rather than the stated corruption.  Plus, he still appears to be a member of the Supervisory Board of Sochi 2014.  On the other hand, it could be the beginning of the anti-corruption drive that Medvedev has decided to use as his platform.

In light of that, Itar-Tass asks: was Lesin’s resignation a casual event, or did it herald the beginning of some far-reaching process?

I think that it is entirely possible that it is the latter, but I am hesitant to read too much into this decision.

Written by Nina Jobe

November 22, 2009 at 11:57 PM

Russian Corruption

leave a comment »

from Yulia Latynina:

I have been wondering lately: How much of Russia’s gross domestic product is lost to bribes taken by government officials?

Consider an ordinary example — the price of housing. The standard rule is that the price per square meter for an apartment equals one or two times the amount of an average salary. With salaries averaging $500 to $1,000 per month, apartments should cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per square meter. In fact, they cost an average of $5,000 per square meter these days. That is five to 10 times higher than they should cost.

It is obvious that the price of apartments in Moscow reflects the amount that builders must pay in bribes to the officials. Contractors must fork over enormous sums simply to obtain the necessary permits, and those costs are reflected in the selling price. Also, the officials receiving the bribes do not invest their income in their businesses (their chief “business” is extorting bribes). Instead, they go out and buy more apartments, only fueling the cycle of ever-increasing prices.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Nina Jobe

November 18, 2009 at 6:01 PM

Posted in Corruption

Tagged with ,


leave a comment »

of yesterday’s speech by Medvedev is here!  14 pages on Word at 10 point font.  Now to run through and pick out my own quotes…

Written by Nina Jobe

November 13, 2009 at 2:29 PM

Posted in Dmitry Medvedev

Tagged with ,