Posts Tagged ‘Corruption’
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.