A Scathing Response to Chubais

Alfred Kokh wrote a scathing response to Chubais’ earlier post about Nemtsov that I feel deserves attention:

In what way should the opposition stop, Tolya [a nickname for Anatoly]?  In what way should the liberals stop?  In protesting?  Should they show humility in Christ (in whom you do not believe)?  What exactly should they do?  What should they not do?

Should they give up the right to protest, so that they won’t be killed?

Should they give up the right to vote, so that they won’t be imprisoned?

Should they agree to theft the authorities are bogged down in, so they won’t be beaten by police batons?

Should they support the war with brotherly Ukraine so that the authorities will allow them to live?

You made your choice.  You have not communicated with Boris [Nemtsov] for almost a year.  I talked to him yesterday.  This is his word….

The opposition did not kill anyone, and did not call for killing anybody.  The liberals did not imprison anybody, and did not call for imprisoning anybody.

We are not aggressive.  We just want freedom.  We believe that we have rights.  Human rights.  That God (in whom you don’t believe) has given us, rather than Putin (whom you, as a true pagan, worship).

We never crossed any lines.  We have nothing to reproach ourselves for.  And we don’t need to stop.

By stopping we find ourselves in the same company as you.  And this is surrender.

You already strangled the Union of Right Forces (SPS) [ed. a neo-liberal party founded by Gaidar, Nemtsov, and Chubais in 1999].  It was then, as I recall, you also called for restraint in relation to Putin.

Boris will never forgive you.  And Gaidar by the way too.  So that you will have no illusions.  To his dying day, Yegor [Gaidar] regretted that he let you persuade yourself.

And Boris will never forgive us if we stop now.

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Kudrin’s Play

I’ve been focusing on the Nemtsov murder today, but I want to step back for a moment and look at a startling revelation that Russian MP Dmitry Gudkov made in the Financial Times article published on Friday.

Mr Gudkov claims that Alexei Kudrin, a widely respected former economic adviser to Mr Putin, has discussed with officials in western governments the idea that the Russian leader and some members of his closest circle could be offered retirement abroad with a promise to be left alone — an arrangement dismissed as impossible by western diplomats in Moscow.

I am honestly unsure what to make of Gudkov’s assertion.  I know that Kudrin has been traveling quite a bit recently, and he was in the United States this past week.  So the statement that contact has been made cannot be ruled out entirely.

That being said, isn’t Gudkov essentially saying that the West has told Russia’s opposition movement they are on their own, and won’t help them oust Putin?   If that is so, it would go a long way in explaining why the West has been so slow in enacting sanctions and its seeming reluctance to seriously enforce them.

And on that note, it is still business as usual for Brussels with Russia:

But after Nemtsov’s murder, it is clear that a peaceful exit for Putin is not in the cards, even if he were willing to take it.  When it does finally happen, the end of the Putin regime will be violent and the death throes bloody.

Chubais

Anatoly Chubais posted the following eulogy to Nemtsov on his official Rusnano website, and Ekho Moskvy picked it up.  I am posting a portion of it here:

Everybody knows that Boris is an absolutely incorruptible man, absolutely sincere, straightforwardly honest.

And today, when I hear the comments of some politicians on televisions or comments on the internet that Liberals organized the murder of Nemtsov, or comments about the fact that the Liberals have provoked a conspiracy that resulted in the crisis of the Russian economy, I realize that it is not those who say it, but the fact that a demand for anger has been created in this country, a demand for hatred has been created in this country, a demand for aggression has been created in this country.

If only a few days ago here in our city people went around with posters “end the fifth column” and today Nemtsov was killed, let’s think — what will happen tomorrow?  We all need to stop.  I emphasize — everybody.  The Government, the opposition, the Liberals, the Communists, the nationalists, the conservatives.  Everybody.  It’s time to stop.  And at least for a minute, let’s think about where we are taking Russia.

And I hope very much that at least today’s tragedy will help us do so.

Chubais’ message that a climate of hatred caused this to happen was not met positively.  Rustam Adagamov tweeted:

In Russia they are killing the opposition, putting them in prisons and detention centres, and Chubais urges them to stop.  One [Nemtsov] was already stopped yesterday on the bridge.

Nemtsov Part 2

The Russian internet is rife with conspiracy theories about Nemtsov’s murder, and the Russian government has already chosen two variants that were suggested early on last night.

Even Gorbachev got in on the blame game:

So the official version now is that either the CIA did it, or ISIS, or Ukraine’s security services.  I’ve already gotten a few comments telling me that the timing and location are too obvious for the Kremlin to have ordered the hit.  To which I responded:

Slava Rabinovich posted a long comment on the issue of the location of the murder.  I won’t share the whole of it, but this part struck me:

Understand that he was specifically killed in this place.  Look at CNN’s stories.  You know what a “picture-perfect shot” is?  Like in English called kind of “like a postcard”.  This is already spinning on CNN, Euronews, and on all the other channels.  A picture-perfect shot, and the corpse on the sidewalk of the bridge, with the Kremlin, and St Ivan’s Cathedral in the background.

This is nothing less than an act of intimidation.  An act to intimidate the Russian people, and an act to intimidate the whole world.  It is so spectacular, so picture-perfect, with such a background, it is shocking.  It captures the imagination.

 

Nemtsov Murder Scene

Muscovites are now gathering at the death scene:

Boris Nemtsov

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was shot dead this evening in Moscow.

Nemtsov had apparently commented earlier in February:

Nevertheless, Russia’s so-called opposition movement couldn’t even manage to eulogize Nemtsov properly.  Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s tweet said it all:

“He was reckless, but a very good guy”

Of course, the inevitable question arose: why?

Sasha Sotnik wrote on his Facebook page:

I want to ask Obama, Merkel, and Hollande….

How many more deaths do you need to understand the kind of system you are dealing with?  To realize that you are dealing with a killing machine…

The KGB-FSB will kill everything.  It will kill everyone.  If necessary it will send agents with polonium [a reference to the Litvinenko murder in 2006].  Or missiles.  You too will be killed – Obama, Merkel, and Hollande.

Think before the hourglass is turned over in favor of the KGB

And on that note, I’ll leave you with Belkovsky’s tweet:

Opposition

The Financial Times had a good article today about the opposition movement in Russia.  The profile was written ahead of Sunday’s scheduled ‘anti-crisis’ protest, which activists admit will be lucky to see 20,000 attendees (in a city of ~12 million).

The group is fighting multiple problems, one of which is a misinformed population who still get their news from television, which is largely dominated by state-run propaganda.

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov noted:

“They [people I talked to] believed that the embargo on imported foods is America’s fault, and they were surprised when I told them no, that was not Obama, it was Putin,” he says. “This is what we need to make people aware of: the crisis, that’s Putin.”

And his compatriot, Duma Deputy Dmitry Gudkov commented:

“If, roughly speaking, 60 per cent of the population supports Putin, only 5 per cent are active supporters. The other 55 per cent are zombified TV watchers who will never decide any sort of politics,” he argues. “You show them a different picture [on the TV] tomorrow, and they’ll think differently.”

The general feeling among the group is not one of despair per se, but they seem to feel that the wait may be a long one.

Nemtsov appears to think Putin could win the election in 2018, and see out his fourth term, ending in 2024.

And in London, Mikhail Khodorkovsky agreed that we may not be near the end of Putin:

That being said, the situation could change very rapidly.  A targeted television and radio campaign could change the facts on the ground in less than a week.  However, as long as the state has a monopoly on information, the wait could be as long as Nemtsov’s dire prediction of 2024.

P.S. Khodorkovsky gave a speech at Chatham in London last night.  You can find the link to it here.

Sanctions

I cannot remember when I started following Slava Rabinovich on Facebook, but he has been flooding my feed recently with links, prognoses, and advice about Russia’s economic woes.  Rabinovich is very clear on his views on Putin and the war in Ukraine.  So I was intrigued when he commented last night that he could solve the problem of Putin in less than 3 months.

What would I do if I were in the place of the West today?  A cheap but easy [solution].

Today I would introduce sanctions against 1,000 individuals who are directly responsible for unleashing the war of Russian against Ukraine, including all the mid-level [ed. he actually uses the word “livestock” here] management, and the pseudo-journalists from the state media, because they are the contemporary terrible biological weapons.

After that, I would add an additional 200 people every week.

I assure you that after a maximum of 10 weeks, it would all be over.  I do not know exactly how, but it would certainly be over.

These measures are very simple, and do not require any training at all, except to use information that is already there.

One of Rabinovich’s followers commented:

“I don’t understand why the US & EU have not got rid of Putin & Co. I will not believe that they cannot. So they don’t want to.”

Another agreed, saying:

“If the West has not adopted these simple measures, then either they are stupid, or they find this war profitable.”

I understand these sentiments, and do agree that more could be done to stop Putin and his cronies in Ukraine.  But, to be honest, I am more inclined to agree with this commenter:

What sanctions? A ban on travel to the EU and the US?  That’s funny, the world is full of places where you can go for rest and relaxation.  Maldives, Israel, etc.  Freeze their accounts?  Frivolous.  Most of these “disenfranchised” direct accounts in Western banks are not, and those that are, are swirling in offshore companies, with solid faceless beneficiaries.  What about property?  The same as the accounts.  Let’s speak honestly, using sanctions to squeeze these scum is impossible, unless you place them on Interpol’s international wanted list, in order to arrest them anywhere in the world when the exit their aircraft.  That is when there can and will be some sense.  But until then, all this talk is nonsense.

Sobchak, Stalin, and Putin

The former mayor of St Petersburg and Putin’s mentor, Anatoly Sobchak, died 15 years ago this month.  Sobchak’s wife, former Senator Lyudmila Narusova , recently published a book about Stalin that she says her husband had been writing when he died. According to Narusova, Sobchak was inspired to write the book when he was living and working in Paris in the late 1990s.  Below are some highlights from a recent interview Narusova gave to Radio Liberty Russian Service.

It was there, while working in the White emigre archives and library of the Sorbonne (he taught at the university), he decided to write a book about Stalin – first as a sinister figure, to determine the course of our history. Secondly, after the first coup, he [Sobchak] was very disappointed that the country, which was already a new Russia, did not give a correct assessment of Stalin. In fact, besides the 20th Party Congress which exposed the cult of personality, and a little bit at the 22nd Congress, at the state level there was no conviction, as Sobchak said (and as a lawyer he knew it), there were no “Nuremberg Trials” of Stalin and Stalinism. And he urged Yeltsin to hold a true trial of the CPSU and of Stalin, not the farce that was arranged by Burbulis [an adviser to Yeltsin] and Shakhrai — for the destruction of the peasantry under the guise of dekulakisation, for the destruction of the intelligentsia, for the genocide of our own people.

Anatoly believed that the crime of destruction of millions of people in the concentration camps of the Gulag were comparable to Hitler’s crimes. Hitler destroyed other nations, but Stalin destroyed his own people. This book is about that. Sobchak understood that in our nation lie the roots of totalitarianism. The slavish obedience — to go vote for someone for whom they say they have an incomprehensible fear — all of this has not been eliminated, and this book is a warning.

Discussing what is currently taking place in Russia under Putin’s leadership, she stated:

You see, there is some kind of resuscitation of Stalinism, a Soviet renaissance. This trend is very disturbing, very dangerous. And we realized that the book is more relevant than ever. I am not talking about the restraining trend of restrictive law that directly violate the Constitution, those crazy invectives of our members who want to cancel foreign language lessons in school, beating their breasts, imagining themselves to be patriots. I would not be surprised if they cancel trips abroad, saying that there is nothing to see or do there.

This rolling back under the guise of patriotism. Although it is not really patriotism. This is what is called “jingoistic patriotism”. But under the guise of patriotism there is another “Iron Curtain”. Those who are in parliament, those who run the country, seem to want to cut us off from the world again, to close in on ourselves. And it is a very disturbing trend, because it is one step away from nationalism. We do not even understand how dangerous it is!

Narusova also implied that she would not leave Russia, saying:

I do not see another destiny for myself than to live in this country, in Russia. And I do not want to live in a country of totalitarianism. I do not want to go back to those years when my parents lived in fear.

When asked about President Vladimir Putin, Narusova stated:

“…Vladimir Putin is a man who believes he has a special mission, that he is a statesman — this is so. He really thinks he understands the public interest, and is implementing it… but as Voltaire said, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Fifteen years is a long time.

This is not the first time Narusova has suggested that Putin has changed. In a 2012 interview shortly after she was ousted from the Federation Council, she lamented:

“This shattered some illusions that I still had regarding Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], who I know as an absolutely honest, decent and loyal man. But regarding his entourage, I feel squeamish towards those who surround him. He surrounded himself by United Russia’s leadership, where people are of very low moral standards. And can’t they understand, the petty, fussy, greedy ones, that once a liar, always a liar? They lie to each other, to him, but he keeps relying on them.”

In discussing her husband’s death, Narusova admitted that she thinks he was murdered, but she would not say who she thought was behind it, saying the time was not right. She does agree with the interviewer that two men who were murdered, in 2009 and 2011 respectively, had been present when Sobchak died. She also noted:

“Any journalist who tries to set about [investigating] will follow Shabtai and Burlakov [the two men who were murdered]. Therefore, I do not advise you to do it, or to even raise the issue.”

Who Knew About Crimea?

I was talking to someone a few months ago about the rumor that the invasion of Crimea was known and made by roughly half a dozen people, none of whom had assets in the West.  The person I was discussing this with suggested that the rumor could be proven by looking at the Russian stock market in the days leading up to the invasion.  To be honest, I don’t know enough about economics, or the way the stock market functions, to pursue it.  But it struck me as an interesting way of looking at what had happened, and the decision making process behind it.

The conversation has been sitting in the back of my mind, so I was not exactly surprised when I saw an article in Vedomosti on Tuesday night that researchers had decided to do exactly what had been suggested to me back in October.

However, their findings seem to indicate the exact opposite of the initial thesis that was presented.  It appears that many more people than 6 knew that something was going to happen.

“Apparently, there were people in the market who traded on macro, or political, information before it became widely known,” Volkova wrote, pointing out that natural gas giant Gazprom’s board chairman, Viktor Zubkov, sold a stake in the company as early as Feb. 11, 2014 — only a few weeks before Gazprom stock plunged 14 percent on March 3.

You can find a summary of the findings (in English) here.

Malofeev 2

On his Facebook page today Vladimir Milov wrote a post questioning the narrative that blames Konstantin Malofeev for what has happened in Ukraine.

On “the Malofeev plan for the partition of Ukraine”, published in Novaya [Gazeta], I do not believe in this.

The plans to partition Ukraine have been clearly designed for a long time, and the development of them is conducted in an atmosphere of secrecy involving the highest officials of the Security Council, the GRU, the FSB, and the Army.

Why would the Kremlin need Malofeev (who is essentially a failed businessman) to draw up such a plan?

Again, a certain sector of the elite are not happy with the way this war is going.  They are unhappy about the methods used.  They also may think the conflict should be over by now, and wonder why it is being dragged out.  So the Kremlin needs somebody to blame, and to take the attention away from them and their mistakes.  Who better than Malofeev who is known to be connected to certain groups currently running around Ukraine (Strelkov, Borodai, etc.)?