Writing in ej.ru, analysts Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan suggest that by placing the blame for the Domodedovo tragedy on lax airport security, the Kremlin has finally come out into the open and has opted to classify terrorist acts of this kind as natural disasters rather than planned attacks. The security services will no longer work to find the culprits, but will hide behind a mask of official impenetrability, making the guardianship of “security” their number one priority instead.
Letter from Committee to MBK and PLL 30 December 2010
Dear Mr Khodorkovsky, dear Mr Lebedev
We have read today with gratitude your message of encouragement to your supporters: “Our combined efforts have not been without success. A regime without the law is like a stool without legs. It looks foolish and the future is unpredictable.” Yours is the moral victory.
The rulers now in power in the Russian Federation have subverted the rule of law, but that is not all. They have betrayed the high ideals set forth in the Constitution. They have subverted democracy itself. They have installed and maintained a corrupt kleptocracy and brought dishonour on their country. By their misdeeds they have brought Russia into disrepute among the nations of the world. They have reinvented the mock trial for our new century. They are the men of yesterday.
The regime has demonstrated its lack of conviction, its absence of courage, by the decision to defer the announcement of the sentences until the last moments of the year, in the hope that the news of this renewed injustice will not be much noticed.
Your supporters around the world have not been discouraged by the weak, illogical decisions of the judge in your case, since it is clear that he has not been able to withstand the pressures imposed on him by those in power. Instead, we take encouragement from the moral pressure now on President Dmitry Medvedev to exercise his prerogative and to use the constitutional Presidential Pardon available to him, as is his undoubted right and his clear duty.
We take courage also from the idea that the overwhelming struggle of humanity is for justice and morality everywhere, and the weight of all humanity cannot, finally, be defeated by perverted men temporarily in positions of power.
We thank you for the moral stand you have taken against injustice, and the courage you have shown during your long ordeal. We wish you health and good spirits to enable you to withstand the difficulties ahead of you; and we assure you of our continuing support until the day when you are set free and can return to your families and loved ones.
On behalf of the Committee to Free Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev
Jeremy Putley, United Kingdom
Maren Koop, Germany
Cliff Esler, Canada
The Telegraph reports that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has launched an outspoken attack on the USSR, calling it “totalitarian” and criticizing its human rights record. The text of the Izvestia interview can be read in Russian here. Money quote:
Если говорить прямо, тот режим, который сложился в СССР, иначе как тоталитарным назвать нельзя. К сожалению, это был режим, при котором подавлялись элементарные права и свободы. И не только применительно к своим людям (часть из которых после войны, будучи победителями, переехала в лагеря). Так было и в других странах соцлагеря тоже. И, конечно, из истории это не вычеркнуть.
It turns out that “Ikramuddin Khan” is the pseudonym of Vadim Sidorov, a Muslim convert also known as Kharum ar-Rushi, head of the National Organization of Russian Muslims.
Many commentators in the West tend to forget that Russia has a steadily growing number of ethnic Russian converts to Islam. Specialist observers have documented the trend, however: in 2007, Paul Goble quoted a figure as large as 20,000, and by now the numbers are likely to be even higher. Daniel Pipes has a useful and interesting survey of the subject on his website, where he quotes President Dmitry Medvedev as saying:
“Russia is a multi-national and multi-confessional country. Russian Muslims have enough respect and influence. Muslim foundations are making an important contribution to promoting peace in society, providing spiritual and moral education for many people, as well as fighting extremism and xenophobia. There are 182 ethnic groups living in Russia, and 57 of them claim Islam as their main religion. This figure speaks for itself.”
It does indeed.
Reports say that family members of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have been secretly flown to Russia. Via Arutz Sheva:
The Iranian Students Solidarity organization, representing tens of thousands of students in Tehran and other major cities, claims that contacts within the regime leaked the information to them. According to these sources, members of Khamenei’s family, including his daughter-in-law and grandson, have been evacuated to Russia in a private plane. In their secret trip, the Khamenei family members were accompanied by special security personnel assigned to maintain their safety.
The pro-democracy organization further claims, quoting the same alleged regime contacts, that Khamenei dispatched a close confidante to Russia to explore the possibility of the Russians hosting the Khamenei family. According to the student solidarity movement sources, the emissary met with various Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The source added that Putin’s wife offered the Supreme Leader’s relatives an estate near Moscow to “accommodate [them] for as long as it is necessary,” according to an Iranian Students Solidarity statement.
The trip to Russia allegedly took place in the wake of violent clashes between regime forces and protesters on December 28.
Tobias Ljungvall took notes during a recent speech given at a Stockholm seminar by Russian political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov. As Tobias observes, Lukyanov more or less reproduces the Kremlin’s current view of world affairs and of Russia’s role in them [my tr.]:
1. Russian foreign policy under President Medvedev has not undergone any fundamental change compared to the foreign policy that prevailed under Putin. The differences in nuance can be partly explained by the fact that Medvedev is a different sort of person.
2. Russia is not like the Soviet Union, partly because it lacks an ideology.The loss of empire in1991 was worse than other countries’ similar experiences (e.g, Britain’s loss of its colonies) as the lost areas were extensions of the country and some were a part of the national identity. The building of the Russian state began many centuries ago in Kiev, and therefore Russia finds hard to accept that Ukraine should join NATO.
3. A key concept is the so-called multi-polar world. The United States’ attempt at hegemony has failed but has made the world more unstable because it cannot rely on international law any more. Relations between emerging new poles will shape the present century.
4. While in the West the Kosovo war of 1999 was perceived positively as proof that it was possible to defend human rights by force, Russia’s interpretation of the Kosovo events was that national sovereignty no longer applies in the world. Russian public opinion turned its back on integration with the West and Western ideas of morality.
5. Instead, Russia was forced to strengthen its own capability. The only real guarantee of sovereignty for Russia is its nuclear weapons. In the absence of the former capabilities of the Soviet Union, Russia has also politicized gas and oil, in a way that Lukyanov thinks ultimately does most harm to Gazprom itself. The Soviet Union never mixed business and politics in the way that is now happening.
6. So now Russia is trying to avoid new gas conflicts with Ukraine. Today it is only Ukraine’s President Yushchenko who tries to provoke them. But hopefully after the elections which are due to take place in two months’ time Yushchenko will go into political retirement.
There is more.
At Prague Watchdog, Andrei Babitsky and German Sadulayev comment on President Medvedev’s new North Caucasus policy, announced in his recent address to the Federal Assembly, and his appointment of an “overseer” for the region, which is now for the first time being perceived by the Kremlin as a political entity. Also, a new Reuters report quotes ChRI leader Akhmed Zakayev as saying that Russia intends to significantly increase the numbers of its troops in the North Caucasus, as part of a planned surge.