Month: November 2009

Russia "testing reactions"

Georgia’s President Saakashvili has pointed to the irony of the presence of Russia’s President Medvedev at the recent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall:

“What does it mean – welcoming the Russian President in Berlin as if he were a big democrat to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall, while Erich Honecker [the last leader of German Democratic Republic] was not doing even one tenth of what [Russia] is doing now; Honecker was eventually apprehended by the Europeans… And now they [the Europeans] have him [Medvedev] sitting smiling next to them; it won’t work – shaking one hand with them [Europeans] and capturing children with the other.”

By “capturing children”, Saakashvili was referring to the recent detention of four Georgian teenagers by South Ossetian forces. Saakashvili appealed to leaders of the countries of the EU to react more decisively to Russia’s provocative actions:

“The Russians are testing the reactions of others, what others will do in response to Russia’s provocations. What happens next will depend on cases like this.”

Ukraine flu panic "created for political motives"

Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko has said in a public statement that although the statistical incidence in Ukraine of influenza and SARS (acute respiratory virus infection) was higher three years ago and one year ago, this year speculation and panic have been artificially created for political motives. Ukraine’s next presidential election is scheduled to be held on January 17, 2010.

Officials and dissidents – 2

The Soviet past is indivisible from the Communist past. If you repudiate Anti-Sovietism, then declare a Restoration, announce the nationalization of large private property, freeze the accounts in the Cayman Islands, confiscate the mansions outside Moscow and resettle demobilized officers in them, put up for sale the countless villas, castles and estates that were bought by Russian billionaires (after all, they are officials and politicians, too) around the world, and so on. But if you are not ready for such a turn of events, then do not play with fire.

Igor G. Yakovenko, addressing Russia’s present government elite and its persecution of Alexander Podrabinek, who wrote that the Soviet past was “bloody, false and shameful” and that “The Soviet Union was not that country you portrayed in school textbooks and your lying media”.

State violence in Cuba

Dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez describes a gangland-style kidnapping by Cuban government agents, in which she and some of her colleagues were severely beaten:

The curious crowded around and I shouted, “Help, these men want to kidnap us,” but they stopped those who wanted to intervene with a shout that revealed the whole ideological background of the operation, “Don’t mess with it, these are counterrevolutionaries.” In the face of our verbal resistance they made a phone call and said to someone who must have been the boss, “What do we do? They don’t want to get in the car.” I imagine the answer from the other side was unequivocal, because then came a flurry of punches and pushes, they got me with my head down and tried to push me into the car. I held onto the door… blows to my knuckles… I managed to take a paper one of them had in his pocket and put it in my mouth. Another flurry of punches so I would return the document to them.

Orlando was already inside, immobilized by a karate hold that kept his head pushed to the floor. One put his knee in my chest and the other, from the front seat, hit me in my kidneys and punched me in the head so I would open my mouth and spit out the paper. At one point I felt I would never leave that car. “This is as far as you’re going, Yoani,” “I’ve had enough of your antics,” said the one sitting beside the driver who was pulling my hair. In the back seat a rare spectacle was taking place: my legs were pointing up, my face reddened by the pressure and my aching body, on the other side Orlando brought down by a professional at beating people up. I just managed to grab, through his trousers, one’s testicles, in an act of desperation. I dug my nails in, thinking he was going to crush my chest until the last breath. “Kill me now,” I screamed, with the last inhalation I had left in me, and the one in front warned the younger one, “Let her breathe.”

Hat tip: Harry’s Place

Officials and dissidents

…in our social system there are no “politicians of the governing majority”, in their place are officials, performers, whether outside the Duma or inside the Duma. There are no opposition politicians – instead of them there is a procession of clowns. Finally there are no politicians outside the system — the only activity possible is that of the dissident or near-dissident.

To sum it up baldly:  there are officials and dissidents. As in Soviet times, as under the tsars. As in Russia.

Leonid Radzikhovsky, in ej.ru [my tr.]

Destroying Chechnya’s middle ground

RFE/RL’s Caucasus Report examines the abrupt change of tack on the part of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who had earlier said he would welcome the return to the republic of ChRI head Akhmed Zakayev, now exiled in London. But last week Kadyrov branded Zakayev a “liar”, and accused him of misrepresenting the situation in Chechnya. Now Chechen parliamentary speaker Dukvakha Abdurakhmanov has joined the anti-Zakayev campaign, calling him a “traitor”. RFE/RL notes that

If Zakayev’s hypothesis that the “hawks” in Moscow were behind Kadyrov’s criticism of him last week is indeed correct, then Abdurakhmanov’s November 2 interview leaves no doubt that, for whatever reason, they are out to destroy Zakayev’s reputation and influence both within the diaspora community and in Chechnya.

At Prague Watchdog, German Sadulayev has some further reflections [in my tr.] on the subject.

Fighting back

On November 12 the board of directors of Norges teknisk-naturvitenskapelige universitet (NTNU) in Trondheim will vote on whether or not to declare an academic boycott against Israel. The chairwoman of the board says that while she opposes the move, she will not move to cancel the vote.

The university’s rector, Torbjørn Digernes, has already drawn strong criticism for his decision to hold a series of seminars at which only one viewpoint – hostile to Israel – will be heard. Comments on this, and on the boycott project, can be read on the rector’s webpage, where he calls the seminar series “a praiseworthy enterprise”.

Professor Yossi Ben-Artzii of the University of Haifa has written to Rector Digernes protesting the boycott, Ynet reports, and

stressed that Israel is an enlightened state, and that any attempt to impose an academic boycott on it can only stem from lack of knowledge or a wrong perception of the Jewish State. An academic boycott will only hurt academic freedom, while curbing intellectual progress and undermining universal values.

Meanwhile, YNet also reports that the Swedish journalist responsible for the Aftonbladet article

accusing the Israel Defense Forces of stealing and trafficking in Palestinians’ organs, was received Monday with boos and shouts during a panel he took part in at a media conference held in Dimona.

The Swedish reporter said that he understands the anger and explained that his infamous article only claimed that the Palestinian families’ allegations need to be investigated. He also said that there was much misunderstanding surrounding the article. “The fact is that the families said what they said. That’s a normal article,” he said.