Month: July 2007

Q & A

So when you had your spat with Russia ……

 We said the same thing in public and in private. What we said was we want good relations with Russia, we want to work with Russia bilaterally and multilaterally. We want Russia to be a serious and respected member of the international community but the right to be a member of the international community comes with responsibilities, co-operation on processes, especially in a very serious case. We remain committed to justice for Mr. Litvinenko. We’ve got a judicial system that we want to defend, whose integrity we have to defend. There’s a discussion to be had with Russia about what role it’s going to play in the international community. There are a range of issues — the [Conventional Forces in Europe treaty] for ballistic missiles, Kosovo, Litvinenko — where it’s important that we understand Russia and Russia understands us.

(David Milliband, Britain’s new foreign secretary, this week in Time)

Beslan video disproves official version

Via Reuters:

Previously unseen film proves that the bloody end to the 2004 Beslan siege was caused by security forces firing on a school crammed with hostages, not by blasts from within, a victim support group says.

The Beslan Mothers’ Committee says the footage disproves the official version that the detonation of a boobytrap device planted by Chechen separatists inside the building caused the carnage at School No.1, in the southern Russian town of Beslan.

Russia against Taiwanese independence

Russia has come out openly against independence for Taiwan. From RIA Novosti:

A Russian foreign ministry official said Monday, during a meeting with the Chinese ambassador, that Russia recognized only one China and stood against Taiwanese independence.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovenko and Liu Guchang discussed important issues concerning bilateral strategic relations, including cooperation in the United Nations. Considering Taiwan’s drive for international recognition of its independence and its right to join the UN, the Russian diplomat reiterated Moscow’s position in principle fixed in the 2001 Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation.

“It was confirmed during the meeting that Russia is against any possible form of Taiwan’s independence, recognizing only one China, and the government of the Chinese People’s Republic as the only legitimate government representing China,” the Foreign Ministry commented on the meeting.

Via CeceniaSOS

Caucasian muftis in the U.S.

On Wednesday there were federal Russian news reports that President Bush had “invited a group of Caucasian muftis to his rancho”, and that the meeting had the (somewhat surprised) endorsement of top Russian political figures, including foreign minister Lavrov, but as is frequentlyy the case with Caucasus reporting in the Russian Federation, this story turned out to be false.

What really happened was that a delegation of Caucasian muftis – from, it seems, North Ossetia, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria – arrived in the United States as part of a routine U.S. State Department international exchange and information program called Muslim Life in America. They will stay until August 13. This was confirmed by Magomed Albogachiyev, deputy director of the Co-ordinating Centre of North Caucasus Muslims (KTsMSK), speaking to RIA Novosti from Washington, D.C.

Putin’s Nazi Inheritance

As the Putin regime currently in power in Moscow increasingly takes on the aspect of a totalitarian government, the country’s leader is also losing any last inhibitions he may have had about appearing as an heir to the fascist leaders of the 1930s. Putin’s recent appearance at a Hitler-Jugend-like Nashi “youth camp”, where he attacked as “colonialist” Britain’s response to the refusal of extradition for the KGB operative who is the primary suspect in the Litvinenko poisoning affair, made him look disturbingly akin to such figures of the past.

At chechnya-sl, Norbert Strade has commented on Putin’s “high-pitched whining”, the shrillness of which is reminiscent of a familiar voice from Europe’s tormented past, reflecting, just as Germany did in the 1930s, “the stupid arrogance of a regime that is itself colonialist to the core and believes that this is totally normal for a Russian Empire but a crime for others. Once again, a Russian tragedy is moving into the realm of farces and burlesques. Btw., Britain would probably have extradited Zakayev, if it wasn’t for two things: a) that the Russian “evidence” against him was a clown act and an insult to a hard-working British court, b) that Zakayev had no chance for a fair trial and correct treatment in Russia – which means that Britain *couldn’t* extradite him because international human rights conventions overrule bilateral extradition treaties.

“Nothing of this applies to Lugovoi. The evidence against him is massive, he would get a fair trial in London, and nobody would torture him or help him fall from a window. What the KGB mob really is afraid of is the risk that their hitman might squeal while in British custody. They’d rather finish him off with a SIM-card than letting him go. Lugovoi wasn’t meant to be identified in the first place, but the brilliant plan wasn’t so brilliant after all, and now the little man in the big Kremlin office is very, very angry.”

A Rough Patch in Relations

El Païs has a new free-of-charge online edition.

Today’s lead story is about a double agent who was arrested on Monday in Tenerife, Canary Islands, suspected of having sold to Russia the identities of Spanish spies and other state secrets belonging to Spain’s National Intelligence Agency (CNI).
(hat tip: Leopoldo)

More from Reuters here.

Reconstruction?

grozny

Recent satellite photos of Grozny show that large areas of the Chechen capital’s infrastructure are still badly damaged and in need of repair. This tends to contradict the Kadyrov government’s claims that the capital is now subject to widespread “reconstruction”.

Posters to the Chechnya Short List (chechnya-sl) have been pointing out, the current Google Earth image of Grozny shows the capital partially obscured by a large white cloud. However, as one poster makes clear,

you can still zoom in on e.g. Minutka “Square” and see the total destruction, as well as the Potemkin activity. They have apparently erected some kind of nice white structure in the middle of Minutka, and there’s some car and truck traffic, but the image shows that the directly adjacent buildings have been destroyed down to their still visible foundations, and all the apartment buildings in the area are damaged.

You can also look at other areas and see exactly where the famous “reconstruction” has taken place – a few buildings along a road here, a single building there, in the middle of still almost total (I’d guess 90%) destruction in the urban areas. Those must be the places where friendly journalists and the CoE improvement crowd are taken on the KGB sightseeing tours.

An interesting detail is the fact that the the black smoke trails from the burning oil wells have disappeared. They used to look like the ones seen in Kuwait after the first Gulf War, and continued for years and years. Apparently the Russians or the Kadyrov gang have now managed to take full control of the oil theft, so the tit-for-tat burning of other gangs’ resources stopped.

Litvinenko murder was Kremlin-sponsored terrorism

The British government puts the blame for Alexander Litvinenko’s murder on the Russian government. From the Sunday Times:

The senior British official was unequivocal. The murder of the former KGB man Alexander Litvinenko was “undeniably state-sponsored terrorism on Moscow’s part. That is the view at the highest levels of the British government”.

This official had access to the latest police and intelligence findings, and he was reflecting the views of senior Home Office counter-terrorism officials, Scotland Yard detectives and others with close knowledge of the murder investigation. All confirmed last week that they believe the plot to poison Litvinenko in London last year was ordered by the Russian secret service, the FSB.