Month: July 2009

Silenced voices

It now looks probable that the Russian government will ban Skype, along with other foreign Internet phone services. Skype, it will be recalled, was born in Estonia, though it’s now owned by eBay.

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Islamism in Chechnya

In the aftermath of last Sunday’s suicide bombing in central Grozny, Ramzan Kadyrov has blamed a Russian citizen, Alexander Tikhomirov, who goes by the name of “Said Buryatsky”. According to Kadyrov, Tikhomirov’s  father was a Buddhist and his mother a Christian, while Tikhomirov himself is now a Muslim convert and preacher whose ideas are alleged to be widely circulated in the Chechen Islamist “underground”. The suicide bomber, a young man called Rustam Mukhadiyev, is supposed to have come under the influence of Tikhomirov’s Islamist preaching.

In this new televised public statement about the bombing, Kadyrov declares that the terrorists “have made it their aim to spill the blood of the Chechen people, but their days are numbered… The police and other law enforcement agencies are on their trail, and the most severe punishment awaits them, the most severe punishment that is envisaged by Russian laws.”

Kadyrov is also reported as saying about the relatives of wanted insurgents: “Either let them go out and destroy their dogs themselves, or let them give them to us!” Among many Chechens this has led to fears of collective retribution.

NATO, Afghanistan, Russia

On August 1, former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen takes over from his predecessor, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, as NATO secretary general. Rasmussen will begin work on August 3, and on August 4 he will preside over the first session of the North Atlantic Council at ambassador level in Brussels. Itar-Tass reports that Rasmussen will meet with Russia’s Dmitry Rogozin on August 11. In Heritage Review, Sally McNamara discusses Rasmussen’s priorities, which include Afghanistan, NATO enlargement, and the formulation of a new Strategic Concept. Of the latter, she notes that

If the new strategic concept is unfocused and filled with EU priorities, such as climate change and international development, Rasmussen will have failed to sufficiently concentrate the negotiations on NATO’s core purpose and vision. Instead, the strategic concept must address the new threat environment, as well as the willingness and ability of all alliance members to confront these challenges. A separate internal net assessment may, therefore, be needed to address the capabilities gap and members’ capacity and willingness for action, as well as an external net assessment to better understand emerging threats, such as cyber terrorism, ballistic missile proliferation, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

One way infection

Pointing to Rospotrebnadzor, which it sardonically characterizes as “the new federal Russian law enforcement agency that combines the functions of customs service, border control and interior ministry” (the agency has existed since 2004), an editorial in ej.ru notes that its director has issued a sternly worded instruction that because of the swine flu epidemic in the U.K., groups of schoolchildren and others intent upon visiting Britain for the purpose of improving their skills in the English language will not be permitted to travel there during the month of August. Yet there is no similar restriction on British tourists visiting Russia. The editorial wonders why…

Estemirova vigil

Prague Watchdog has published a photo report on the vigil-cum-rally that was held in Moscow on July 23 to remember the murdered human rights activist Natalya Estemirova.

The New York Times/IHT writes that around 200 people took part, but that after the event, “riot police officers pushed about 15 people into a bus. It was unclear on Friday whether they had been released.”

The misreading of the Resolution

As the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact approaches, the Russian authorities appear to be set on finding justifications for the atrocities that were committed by Stalin’s regime. They are persisting with their plan to bring in a law that will impose criminal liability on anyone – whether individual, group or state authority – who attempts to draw a parallel between the crimes of Nazism and those of Stalinism. At Maidan, Halya Coynash examines the background to the law, and the cynical assumptions that inevitably underlie it. In particular, the proposed legislation represents a deliberate misreading of the PACE resolution:

It is difficult of late to rid oneself of the feeling that the Russian authorities are trying to shout down half the world. Mr Koperov’s point of view regarding the recent OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Resolution “Divided Europe Reunited” (hereafter the Resolution) is repeated by Russia’s Council of the Federation which “strongly condemns attempts to give a biased interpretation of historical facts”. The following is clearly prompted by the Resolution:

“they are resorting to active efforts to reconsider the real reasons for the War and to place blame for the beginning of the War equally on the USSR and Hitler’s Germany and at the same time to absolve those who abetted the Nazis and committed crimes on the territory of countries occupied by the Nazis”.

It would be worth seeking an assessment of the Council’s following conclusions from both political analysts and psychiatrists however there is something else which is even more staggering. There is absolutely nothing in the Resolution which even remotely warrants such an accusation. The Resolution states that:

“in the 20th century, European countries experienced two major totalitarian regimes, the Nazi and the Stalinist, which brought along genocide, violations of human rights and freedoms, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

It only recalls “the initiative of the European Parliament to proclaim 23 August, when the Ribbentrop –Molotov pact was signed 70 years ago, as a Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, in order to preserve the memory of the victims of mass deportations and exterminations”

Do we have a situation like the statements once made in the Soviet Union about the novel “Doctor Zhivago” – “I haven’t read it but I know that it’s disgusting anti-Soviet propaganda”? Hardly likely: the Resolution is put succinctly and it is difficult to imagine that nobody is following the bemused reactions from various organizations, including Memorial, which have already publicly pointed out the bizarre misreading.

I suspect they were counting on something else. They assumed that the Resolution would not be read and that people would simply be indignant at entirely fabricated disrespect for the soldiers of the Red Army. People would be right to feel indignation – were there even a modicum of truth in the allegations. There is not.

Read it all.