Russian Federation

The Catastrophe

On June 22 – the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Russia in 1941 – the Russian “intellectual nationalist” website Sputnik  & Pogrom published an article with the title The Birthday of Hope that lamented the outcome of what is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War. “In speaking of the ‘catastrophe’ of  June 22,” the article’s author wrote,

Soviet – and also post-Soviet – propaganda only partly tells a lie. A catastrophe did indeed take place. However, it took place not on the battlefields but in the minds of the human beings who made up the “new historical community” – the Soviet people. On June 22, 1941, in the minds of the millions of Stalin’s slaves was born a HOPE that gave rise to a military disaster which put the Stalinist tyranny on the edge of destruction.

On June 22 1941 it was suddenly discovered that there were forces in the world that could challenge the Stalinist cannibals. And the millions of slaves felt that the bloody communist rule, with all its party committees, collective farms and gulags – was not forever, that THINGS COULD BE DIFFERENT. For the first time in twenty years, people had the opportunity to choose, and there were very many who did.

The article makes no attempt to justify Nazism – the author says that “socialists always deceive, and the National Socialists were no exception.” But it does make a radical break with the received wisdom about 1941, a break viewed by some as amounting to blasphemy. There were calls for the author and his editor to be imprisoned. Some saw an irony in the fact that the loudest of these calls came from the pages of the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in an article by the shadowy WikiLeaks journalist Israel Shamir, with a photograph of Yegor Prosvirnin headed Why is he still not in jail? Shamir attacked Russia’s liberal and centre-right  intellectuals, claiming that their supposedly enlightened views are really a mask for Nazi sympathies.

In a reply published on the Sputnik & Pogrom website, Prosvirnin retorted:

I swore an oath to Russia and to the Russian people… You, collective deputy Yarovaya and collective publicist Shamir, are not Russia and are not the Russian people… Why are you still not in jail, deputy Yarovaya? Why are you still not in jail, Israel Shamir? Why are you still not in jail, Vladimir Putin? Why are you still not in jail, Treasonous Federation? Why?

See also: Intellectual Nationalism

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U.S. – Russia Relations After Boston – 2

North Caucasus analyst Alexander Cherkasov, interviewed by Vladimir Kara-Murza on Radio Svoboda’s Grani vremeni programme:

Of course, the fact that the main issue in Russian-American relations might be a topic that isn’t Syria at all  … but rather the Boston attack – has somehow, in my opinion, made the subject of the situation of NGOs in Russia even more relevant. Above all, the organizations that undertake independent expert studies – either the monitoring of civil rights, in particular, civil rights in the zones where counter-terrorism operations are underway, or the work with refugees like that done by Svetlana Gannushkina. The Boston terrorist attack is an event that everyone is trying to duck responsibility for. The Chechen authorities say it’s nothing to do with them, the bombers lived mostly in Central Asia and then in the States, and the one who did come to Russia went to Dagestan. The Russian authorities are washing their hands of the whole affair. I would point out that this is the second time in the last half-century when there has been a need for close cooperation between the two countries. The last occasion was the Kennedy assassination, when the Soviet Union had to provide information about the presence of Lee Harvey Oswald in the Soviet Union… At a time when the powers that be on all sides have interests of their own, only independent expert organizations like Human Rights Watch or Memorial can say how far this terrorist attack may be linked to the North Caucasus underground, or the Chechen sector of the North Caucasus underground. Right now we are seeing that those organizations that are working in the region more intensively are either being called “foreign agents” or are having every square inch of their activities minutely examined.

U.S.-Russia Relations After Boston

Non-cooperation

Fiona Hill, director of the Center on the United States and Europe, and senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, on the limits of cooperation with Russia (MSNBC):

The Russian services still see the U.S. as the “main opponent”––a term often used by Vladimir Putin [the glavnyy protivnik in Russian]––that must be countered. This level of mutual mistrust is a significant barrier to the kind of operational information sharing that would be required in pursuing the Boston bombers Chechen connections and other potential cases.

Russian land sales ban upsets Finland

On January 9, Russia’s President Medvedev signed a new decree which specifies border areas where foreign citizens are not allowed to purchase land. The areas include nearly all the regions of the Russian Federation bordering on Finland and Norway, all the way from Pechenga in northern Russia to the Gulf of Finland in the south (near Helsinki).

Finland has asked for an explanation of the new law, according to the Barents Observer, with foreign minister Alexander Stubb making an official representation to the Russian authorities, as quite a few Finns have already bought land in the areas that are now banned:

What will happen to those foreigners that already own land in this areas is highly uncertain. The Finnish Embassy in Moscow is examining the significance of the decree, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

– We stick to the principle of reciprocity as long as it is realistic and possible, says Alexander Stubb, interviewed by YLE.

– We’ll talk with Russian authorities about how this can be realised. If one can buy land here, then of course one should be able to buy land on the other side of the border as well, says Stubb.

Russia has had S-300s in Abkhazia for 2 years

Via civil.ge:

Russia’s announcement about deploying sophisticated air-defense system, S-300, in breakaway Abkhazia might not be a new development, as Russia has maintained such systems there since 2008, August war, U.S. Department of State said.

"It’s our understanding that Russia has had S-300 missiles in Abkhazia for the past two years." State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, said at a news briefing in Washington on August 11.

"We can’t confirm whether they [Russia] have added to those systems or not. We will look into that. This by itself is not necessarily a new development. That system has been in place for some time," he added.

Reuters reported quoting unnamed Pentagon official that the U.S. could not yet confirm the deployment of new missiles and was seeking further information.

"But the absence of transparency and international monitoring in Abkhazia makes this difficult," the official said.

Stratfor infiltration attempt

From the Telegraph:

It was… revealed yesterday that one of the agents, a man called Andrei Bezrukov who passed himself off as Donald Heathfield, had been attempting to infiltrate influential US risk advisory group Strategic Forecasting.

The Texas-based company, better known as Stratfor, said Mr Bezrukov had held five meetings with them to try to get them to install his software on their computers.

“We suspect that had this been done, our servers would be outputting to Moscow,” George Friedman, the firm’s chief executive officer, said. “We did not know at the time who he was. We have since reported the incident to the FBI.”