Day: January 14, 2008

British Council Fights Back – III

The BBC reports that the British Council has reopened its offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. In response, the corporation notes, the Russian foreign ministry has “summoned” the British ambassador.

According to Sky News, the Kremlin later said it would stop issuing visas to all new British Council staff sent to work in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg, thus placing the Litvinenko affair once more at the centre of deteriorating British-Russian relations.

The Telegraph has more.

Relatives of Beslan victims to go on trial

From the Guardian:

A group of women whose relatives were killed in the Beslan school siege are to go on trial in Russia today after they accused President Vladimir Putin of complicity in the deaths.

The Voice of Beslan group has been charged with “extremism” over an appeal to politicians in Europe and the US which implied that Putin assisted terrorists.

The prosecution was launched under legislation introduced last year which civil rights activists warned could be used to attack critics of the Kremlin.

The UK Times newspaper also has a report here, and the Financial Times covers the item here.

The Precedent

Elena Bonner, widow of academician Andrei Sakharov, discusses the contemporary state of Russia in a recent interview published in the Weekly Standard, pointing to the correct historical analogy for what is currently taking place:

…the bigger picture in Russia saddens her deeply. Bonner believes it is a mistake to see Russia as backsliding toward the Soviet era. “This is a completely different historical point. Analogies to the Stalin era or to the 1970s do not feel real to me,” she said in a telephone interview days after Putin’s United Russia party won the massively rigged parliamentary elections on December 2. “I am closer to the view that there are many parallels to Germany in the 1930s. The same decrease in unemployment, economic stabilization; people are living better. Putin, like Hitler, is seen as the man who brought Russia out of chaos, raised her from her knees. It is ridiculous and embarrassing when the leaders of United Russia refer to Putin as ‘the national leader.’ What’s a leader? The Führer. It’s a carbon copy of a word that inevitably evokes certain associations.”

So far, of course, Russia has no state ideology similar to Nazism; however, Bonner cautions, “there is a very strong nationalist idea, as well as the idea of Russian Orthodoxy as a state church. Authoritarianism, Orthodoxy, populism–not even focused on ‘the people,’ but on ethnic Russians–this formula, which is being more and more broadly adopted by the powers that be, seems to me a very frightening direction for my country. A large part of the population is unhappy about this. But when push comes to shove, even most of those people will not vote for the opposition but for Putin and United Russia, because they’ve been persuaded that the rise in prosperity today is the merit of Putin and United Russia.”

See also: Putin’s Nazi Inheritance