Sweeping Gypsies Out in Europe the Beginning of Next Wave of Euro-Fascism?

Gypsies or Roma: Europe’s “Most Persecuted Minority”

POSTED BY SWARAAJ CHAUHAN, INTERNATIONAL COLUMNIST

After an eviction, Paris

After an eviction, Paris

 

Today is an important day for Gypsies, also known as Romani (estimated population 6-11 million worldwide). A group of academics, government advisers and gypsy representatives are meeting in Strasbourg to discuss the next steps in a pan-European project entitled “The Decade of Roma Inclusion, 2005 to 2015″. The Independent describes Gypsies/Roma as “Europe’s most persecuted minority that has become the subject of increasingly draconian laws.” (Photo above shows Romanies evicted from their homes in Paris.)

“Now President Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Italy would have us believe that the Roma community as a group represents a security threat so grave that it demands the removal of its members en masse. One is reminded of the Criminal Tribes Act passed by the British in India in 1871, which stigmatised 161 communities there as ‘born criminals’. A recent study concluded that the Act was a result of ‘profound ignorance of India’s social structure and cultural institutions.”

In 1885 the United States outlawed the entry of the Roma. The persecution of the Romanies reached a peak during World War II. In 1935, the Nuremberg laws stripped the Romani people living in Nazi Germany of their citizenship, after which they were subjected to violence, imprisonment in concentration camps and later genocide in extermination camps. More here…

The Independent continues: “Gypsies have been at the margin of European affairs ever since they arrived from India nearly a millennium ago. They have no claims on territory, have never started a war, are far from homogeneous and have produced few figures who bulk large in our history books. In the past they were usually in motion, trundling around the edges of European history, earning a living in the nooks and crannies of society, fortune telling, basket weaving, horse trading, dealing in scrap metal.

“They might be seen as people of doubtful honesty, capable of sly tricks, or seductively wild, depending on circumstance, but whatever they were it was of fleeting importance. They had their world, we, the gaje (non-Romanies), had ours…”

“‘The Decade of Roma Inclusion, 2005 to 2015′, according to its authors, is to ‘improve the socio-economic status and social inclusion of Roma’. The next phase will see Romanies stepping forward in museums and other institutions in Britain, Greece, Germany and Slovenia and talking about their culture, ‘getting people to talk to them and get to know them, to get rid of some of the fear,’ as one of the organisers puts it…

 

After an eviction, Paris

[ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW]

Part of the European community? Bulgarian Roma after an eviction last month

Part of the European community? Bulgarian Roma after an eviction last month

A Slovak Roma woman and child

A Slovak Roma woman and child

An elderly woman in a camp on the outskirts of Rome

An elderly woman in a camp on the outskirts of Rome

Outsiders: The trouble with the Roma

Europe’s most persecuted minority has become the subject of increasingly draconian laws. But recent treatment of the Roma shames our continent, argues Peter Popham

This Thursday, in a hall in the Council of Europe’s headquarters in Strasbourg, a group of academics, government advisers and gypsy representatives will get together to discuss the next steps in a pan-European project entitled “The Decade of Roma Inclusion, 2005 to 2015″.

The idea of the “decade”, according to its authors, is to “improve the socio-economic status and social inclusion of Roma”. The next phase will see Romanies stepping forward in museums and other institutions in Britain, Greece, Germany and Slovenia and talking about their culture, “getting people to talk to them and get to know them, to get rid of some of the fear,” as one of the organisers puts it.

It’s a low-key initiative, very modestly funded – but it has attained a new importance. Thanks to France’s President Sarkozy and his policy of targeting their communities for repatriation, gypsies suddenly find themselves at the centre of European debate. How did this come about?

Gypsies have been at the margin of European affairs ever since they arrived from India nearly a millennium ago. They have no claims on territory, have never started a war, are far from homogeneous and have produced few figures who bulk large in our history books. In the past they were usually in motion, trundling around the edges of European history, earning a living in the nooks and crannies of society, fortune telling, basket weaving, horse trading, dealing in scrap metal. They might be seen as people of doubtful honesty, capable of sly tricks, or seductively wild, depending on circumstance, but whatever they were it was of fleeting importance. They had their world, we, the gaje (non-Romanies), had ours.

Just as only a few Romanies have been feted as culture heroes in the gaje world, few have become notorious. Their crimes were of a scale with the rest of their low-key, inconspicuous lives, picking pockets being the most obvious. But now Sarkozy in France and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Italy would have us believe that the Roma community as a group represents a security threat so grave that it demands the removal of its members en masse. One is reminded of the Criminal Tribes Act passed by the British in India in 1871, which stigmatised 161 communities there as “born criminals”. A recent study concluded that the Act was a result of “profound ignorance of India’s social structure and cultural institutions”.

Are the French and Italian governments, by targeting gypsy communities en masse and demanding their removal, doing something similar today? And if so, what lies behind it?

While it was President Sarkozy’s policy which brought the assault on the Roma to the world’s attention, it was in Italy that the policy of treating gypsies en masse as criminals was first put into place – paradoxically, by a leading politician of the left, a former Communist.

Gypsies have been emigrating to Italy from the Balkans since the 15th century. Today, the Romany population of Italy is thought to be around 180,000, perhaps twice that of Britain. Most of them have been sedentary for centuries. As elsewhere, what has kept them distinct from the majority population is their language, culture and folkways.

What has changed over the past 20 years is the arrival in the West of relatively large numbers of Romany immigrants from eastern Europe: from Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, fleeing the wars that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early Nineties; and from Romania following the death of Ceausescu, the fall of the Communist regime, and the opening of the borders around the same time.

The single most critical moment was the entry of Romania into the EU on 1 January 2007, which enabled Romanian citizens to move around the EU at will. Hundreds of thousands of migrants poured into Italy as a result, more than into any other country. The panicky realisation that they could not easily be removed led to a mood of crisis. A small but very visible fraction of them – no one knows how many – were Romanies.

As in Italy, the Romany populations of Romania and Yugoslavia had been settled for hundreds of years. “We lived in our own villages,” says Dijana Pavlovic, a Romany born and raised in Serbia who now lives in Milan. “One of my grandfathers was a blacksmith, the other was a carpenter. They were illiterate, but they were settled people: the only time they went travelling was when they had to look for work.”

But while Italy’s Romanies remained socially marginal and relatively deprived, Tito and Communism had given those in Yugoslavia the opportunity to improve their lives. “It was Communism that gave my parents the chance to go to school,” says Pavlovic. “Education in Tito’s Yugoslavia was free and compulsory, and after school they got jobs: my father in a warehouse, my mother in a factory.” Dijana was the family’s first university graduate. Today, Romanies in Serbia have TV and radio news programmes and newspapers in their own language, and are represented by Romany politicians.

In Romania, too, most of the community led settled lives for centuries, though their conditions of life were much worse than in Yugoslavia: Romania’s gypsies were slaves until the mid-19th century; most are still very poor, and they still suffer from the prejudices of the majority community. This, as well as the arrival of mass unemployment, explains why many chose to go west.

Reaching Italy, they found the affluent land they had heard about – but became victims of their new country’s prejudices. Eighty-four per cent of Italians still believe gypsies to be nomads, and it was as such that they were treated. “Very few of the Romanies who arrived from Bosnia and Kosovo, fleeing the war, were recognised as refugees,” says Pavlovic. “You weren’t entitled to the status of refugee, precisely because you were a gypsy. And that’s the crux of the problem.”

Because the Italian authorities decided that nomadism was their natural condition, they made no steps to settle the new migrants in houses like other refugees, but instead created camps for them. The press still calls these campi nomadi, nomad camps. It was a way to sidestep the challenge of integrating the Roma into local communities.

The result was ghettoes. And they did what ghettoes always do: they prevented their inmates from developing in step with the rest of society, gave the majority a distinctive, defenceless scapegoat for their problems, and became the focus of tensions that flared up fiercely in times of economic trouble – like now.

At first glance, the gypsy camp in Milan’s Via Idro looks nothing like a ghetto. There is abundant greenery, the caravans and campers and small wooden houses are interspersed with grass and shrubs, and small dogs and chickens and children run about unimpeded. But this is land nobody else would deign to live on. Penned in by the River Lambro on one side, a canal on the other, and the city’s ring road on the third, it is fetid and plagued by flies and mosquitoes. Many of the 110 residents have been here for more than 20 years.

They have by now achieved a sort of normality. The numerous children go to school. The parents work at casual labouring jobs. In a corner of the camp, the oldest residents keep the flame of gypsy tradition going with a stable of horses that they rear to sell. Unwholesome and isolated as it is, Via Idro has an atmosphere of relative calm and stability, and many of its residents, most of them Italian citizens of long standing, seemed fairly cheerful about their lot. But that is about to change – due to what happened in Rome in November 2007.

The Italian capital was dramatically unprepared for the influx of new migrants from Romania after1 January 2007. Informal camps sprang up around the city, including many along the banks of the Tiber, to the consternation of locals. The subway trains swarmed with beggars and accordionists, windscreen cleaners popped up at every intersection. Small, dark-skinned strangers gathered by communal rubbish bins outside apartment blocks, expertly gutting them for anything of value. The city government looked on and did next to nothing.

As elections approached towards the end of that year, a mood of hysterical anger towards the new arrivals took hold. Then, in November, the wife of a naval captain was mugged and murdered in a dark lane on the city outskirts. The murder, it was alleged, was committed by a Romany who lived in a nearby camp.

That was all it took: a single ugly crime, and a possible Romany culprit. The city mayor, Walter Veltroni, a former Communist, a novelist and a man who has declared his intention of working for the relief of poverty in Africa when he retires from politics, wasted no time. He ordered the immediate demolition of the city’s informal camps, and rammed through an emergency law mandating the expulsion of foreigners, including EU citizens, who were a “security threat”. The target was the Romanies. “I am always on the side of the weakest,” said Mr Veltroni, “and for me the weakest are those who suffer violence.”

But Veltroni’s post-Fascist opponents upped the anti-Roma rhetoric even further and stole the election. By the spring 2008, sicurezza (“security”) – code for expulsion – had become Italy’s populist cure-all. Taken up by Berlusconi and his allies, the chauvinistic and separatist Northern League in particular, the crusade against the gypsies was the single biggest factor in giving the centre-right a landslide victory in the general election.

Two years on, with the economic crisis raging, the contagion of hatred had leapt over the Alps to infect France, where another star-struck politician facing electoral meltdown took the same lesson from it as Veltroni in Rome. And when Sarkozy decided to turn the expulsion of Romanies into a test of wills at the European level, suddenly the issue was everywhere. And a great human tragedy was in the making.

Today the urge to kick the gypsies out has reached as far as the placid camp at Via Idro. Although this place has been home to Romanies for nearly a generation, today the mood is anxious and unhappy: all the residents have been given notice to quit. Ahead of local elections next spring, Milan’s city government has promised to solve what they call the “Roma emergency” by the simple expedient of closing all camps in the city, the legal ones as well as the informal ones. Via Idro is to become a transit camp; no one will be allowed to stay for more than three months. Where will its residents go? “We have no idea,” said a man identifying himself as Giovanni, an Italian Romany with family roots in Croatia. “They say they are going to put other people here, the Romanians. It’s all in the council’s hands…”

“The Romanians” are the 600 Romanian gypsies who live in a far worse official camp a few miles away in Via Triboniano, behind the city’s biggest cemetery. No greenery here: only high fences, stark, tight-packed containers to live in, guarded night and day by police. After an outbreak of violence two years ago, the inmates were obliged to sign a “Pact of Sociality and Legality”, swearing not to steal, not to beg, not to have house guests overnight. They did so as the only way to stay in the camp – but now this camp, too, is to be closed as part of the ruling coalition’s drive to rid the city of Romanies. Like Veltroni’s expulsion drive, Milan’s policy is powered by election fever, and the competition between parties on right and left to be the toughest on the Romanies, who are identified – absurdly, seeing as they account for a mere 1,300 people, more than half of them women and children, in a city of more than 4 million – as the source of the city’s problems.

But this is not a policy, just a slogan: gypsies out! Every few days the press announces new sgomberi, the demolition of illegal camps. But once Via Idro and Via Triboniano and all Milan’s other camps are closed, their occupants will not simply vanish into thin air. Some will be induced by bribes to return to Romania. But given the high unemployment and discrimination there, they will be back in Italy as soon as they can. The rest will take to the road and build new shanties as soon as they are out of sight.

Against heavy odds, the gypsies in these camps in Milan have been doing what they could to improve their lives: putting their children through school, learning skills, saving money to buy homes. But as the Italian state forces them to adopt a roving lifestyle which their ancestors have not followed for centuries, all that effort goes up in smoke. And the “Decade of Roma Inclusion” is turning into quite the opposite.

Pakistan arrests 7 militants, foil plot to kill PM

Pakistan arrests 7 militants, foil plot to kill PM

By KHALID TANVEER (AP)

MULTAN, Pakistan — Pakistani police arrested a group of Islamist militants who were plotting to kill the prime minister and other top government officials, a top officer said Thursday.

The conspiracy against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was “almost complete,” said Abid Qadri, a regional police chief. He said the militants were planning to attack Gilani when he traveled to his hometown of Multan, but gave no more details.

Militants in Pakistan have frequently attacked government officials, security officers and political leaders as part of a campaign to destabilize the U.S.-allied government and take over the state. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun-and-bomb attack near Islamabad in 2007.

Like other top officials, Gilani does not publicize his movements ahead of time and travels with extensive security.

Qadri did not offer any evidence to back up his allegations.

He said authorities learned about the plot during an initial interrogation of the seven militants, who were arrested late Wednesday after a shootout near a village in central Pakistan.

The militants opened fire when police tried to pull their car over for a routine check, Qadri said. Nobody was wounded in the shooting, but two men managed to escape, he said.

The men are members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned Sunni Muslim militant group linked to both the Taliban and al-Qaida, Qadri said. The group has been blamed for attacking minority Shiite worship places as well as assaults on security forces and other targets.

Some of the suspects are believed to have taken part in an attack last year on the offices of Pakistan’s main spy agency in Multan, which is in Punjab province in central Pakistan, Qadri said.

The men were also conspiring to kill Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, also a Multan native, and the minister for religious affairs, who last year survived an assassination attempt in Islamabad, Qadri said. He said the suspects also had plans to attack a dam, a bridge and military installations.

Europe the Intolerant

[SEE: Camp_of_the_Saints.pdf]

Europe the Intolerant

The continent’s progressive image is a fabrication of the American liberal mind.

By JAMES KIRCHICK

Prague

‘The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.” So said Tom Wolfe in 1965, and so it is today.

Various commentators have argued recently that opposition by many Americans to a proposed Islamic center two blocks from the ruins of the World Trade Center represents deep-seated religious bigotry and paranoia. But if any place is plagued by increasing bigotry, it’s not America but Europe, the continent whose welfare states and pacifism are so admired by American liberals.

Last year, nearly 60% of Swiss voted to ban the construction of minarets—all minarets, everywhere, not just near the sites of world-historical terrorist attacks committed by Muslim radicals.

In Belgium, the lower house of parliament passed a burqa ban this year that now awaits Senate approval. In France such a ban became the law of the land last week, having been upheld by the country’s top court. Although there are legitimate reasons for such bans, some support for them certainly arises from anti-Muslim bigotry.

In recent years far-right, anti-immigrant parties have done alarmingly well across Europe. In Sweden, the nationalist Sweden Democrats entered parliament last month for the first time since the party’s founding in 1988. In the United Kingdom, the far-right British National Party won nearly three times as many votes (563,000) in this year’s parliamentary elections as in 2005; last year it won two seats in the European Parliament.

In Austria, the Freedom Party—formerly led by Joerg Haider, who had kind things to say of the Nazis—earned 17.5% of the vote in 2008. In France, the National Front party of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who questioned the existence of the Nazi gas chambers before conceding that they were a “detail” of World War II, came in second in the 2002 presidential election, earning a spot in a runoff with then-President Jacques Chirac.

And now the far right may be rising again in Germany, where stringent speech laws and parliamentary thresholds have long kept it out of the Bundestag. Recent polls cited by the German Press Agency estimate support for an anti-Muslim party at 20%, which would be enough to enter parliament.

“The fall of parliamentary seats into extremist hands represents the biggest shake-up in European politics since the disappearance of communism,” wrote Denis MacShane recently in Newsweek. Mr. MacShane is a Labour member of the British Parliament who previously served as minister of state for Europe.

Europeans are leery not just of Muslim immigrants but of Jews, nearly exterminated on the continent 60 years ago. A recent Pew Global Attitudes poll found that nearly 50% of Spaniards have either a “very” or “somewhat unfavorable” opinion of Jews. The figures are 25% for Germans, 20% for French and 10% for British. This anti- Semitism was underscored by the recent assertion of European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht that “it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.”

So when American liberals decry their conservative counterparts as bigots seeking to impose fascism on the U.S. (having failed to do so during two terms of the Bush administration), they ignore that part of the West where genuine nostalgia for fascism endures.

Anyone who has traveled throughout Europe knows that its image as an exemplar of progressivism, and ethnic and religious diversity, is a fabrication of the American liberal mind.

American liberals who ignore European bigotry while considering opposition to the Ground Zero mosque inexcusable bring to mind the mocking suggestion of German communist playwright Bertolt Brecht: “Would it not be easier in that case for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?”

Throughout the mosque debate, the vast majority of Americans showed themselves to be capable of respectful disagreement. It is Europeans, again, whose darker impulses we have to fear.

Mr. Kirchick is writer at large with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty based in Prague, and a contributing editor of the New Republic.

Two deaths and four years in Putin’s “Sovereign Democracy”

Witness: Two deaths and four years in Putin’s Russia

By Michael Stott

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Two deaths framed my four years in Moscow.

The first was the murder of crusading political journalist Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead in her apartment building on then-President Vladimir Putin’s 54th birthday, a month after my arrival in Russia.

I had read Politkovskaya’s essays “Putin’s Russia” before starting my assignment, struck by the bleakness of the picture they painted but encouraged by her boldness.

Surely a government that tolerates such journalists could not be as bad as she made it out to be?

Politkovskaya’s death was a harbinger. The succeeding four years in Moscow were punctuated with the violent deaths of investigative journalists and human rights workers.

Defense correspondent Ivan Safronov fell from a fourth floor window after researching Russian arms sales to the Middle East. Although he was still alive after hitting the street and neighbors called an ambulance immediately, help only arrived once he had died. Investigators returned a verdict of suicide.

Anastasia Baburova, a young reporter with the opposition Novaya Gazeta, found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time: walking along a central Moscow street in broad daylight after a news conference with Stanislav Markelov, a rights lawyer appealing against the release of a jailed army killer and rapist. Both were shot dead.

The killings largely achieved their aim of silencing critical, independent voices in the Russian media. Alexei Venediktov, editor of Ekho Moskvy radio, says that many journalists have left the profession altogether or emigrated to freer neighboring states such as Ukraine.

Despite the bloodshed, Western media depictions of Putin’s Russia as a totalitarian police state or a rebirth of the Soviet Union are wide of the mark.

Russians have retained the biggest freedom they won with the demise of the Soviet Union, the right to travel freely abroad. The Russian Internet remains largely free and foreign journalists have far more freedom to travel, interview and write than in China or much of the Middle East.

Today’s Russians — especially those in the elite — are far too fond of consumerism and Western comforts to want a return to the shortages, queues and austerity of the Soviet era.

Much more striking about Putin’s Russia are two other aspects: its corruption and its old-fashionedness.

Corruption in Russia is as old as the tsars and bribe-taking is widespread across much of the emerging market world.

Yet the scale of it in Russia is staggering. The government itself estimates that $300 billion a year is paid in bribes. Unlike other countries, much of the cash is not handed over to secure lucrative contracts — though that also happens.

Instead, officials charge protection money in return for not closing down your business, not imprisoning you on a trumped-up charge or not confiscating your assets on a pretext of a tax investigation. It is not bribery. It is extortion.

A Moscow restaurateur says bribes are her main business expense each month, amounting to more than salaries, rent or food. The officials who visit her to collect their money work in rotation — one month the tax police visit, the next the labor inspector, then the hygiene and sanitary service, the fire inspector and so on.

And then there is the young graduate who joined the traffic police. Five years on, he holds a humble post handing out license plates — yet he owns two apartments and a Mercedes.

When Putin put many of his former KGB associates into key positions of power back in 2000, he believed that their professionalism, patriotism and experience would make them trusted and loyal administrators of a new Russia.

Instead, many of what former FSB director Nikolai Patrushev termed “the new nobility” started behaving like the old Tsarist aristocracy — using their positions to amass huge personal fortunes and live astoundingly sybaritic lives.

Stand outside one of Moscow’s more expensive nightclubs at night and see how many of the black Mercedes S-Classes and Bentleys disgorging expensively clad young men and their under-dressed girlfriends bear special passes in their windscreens from the Presidential Administration or the FSB.

No surprise then, that ambitious Russian students say their top career preference is a job with the government. As the joke goes, you live like an oligarch but the job security is better.

President Dmitry Medvedev has declared a war on corruption but Russians’ expectations are low: after all, this is a leader who has spent nearly two decades inside the system and who knows perfectly well how high corruption reaches.

In contrast to an emerging market competitor like Brazil, where a vigorous free press campaigns against abuses of power, Russia’s intimidation of investigative journalists and civil society activists dooms any campaign to name and shame corrupt officials to failure.

And the other death which framed my time in Moscow?

The political death last month of Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow’s veteran mayor. Fired summarily by Medvedev, Luzhkov embodied both those hallmarks of the Putin era: old-fashionedness and corruption.

Popularly elected in the 1990s and originally praised as a dynamic leader who restyled Soviet central Moscow into a ritzy 21st century capital, Luzhkov drew increasing fire as he stayed at the helm of Europe’s largest city for 18 unbroken years.

Eventually it was his public criticism of Medvedev that led to his downfall, though the fortune of his billionaire property developer wife Yelena Baturina did not help.

Luzkhkov’s strident, old fashioned political views sat ill with Medvedev’s Russia. Gay pride marches were “satanic” and Stalin’s contribution to victory in World War Two was honored with posters displayed around the city.

But far from being a maverick exception, Luzhkov was in many ways a typical example of the type of politician who has flourished under Putin.

When President Barack Obama criticised Putin before his first visit to Moscow for having one foot stuck in the past, some commentators felt his criticism had merit.

Famous for his phrase that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century, Putin has at times looked awkward in a 21st century where soft power and knowledge economies trump tanks and torpedoes.

Russia’s brief war with Georgia in 2008 was an example. The Kremlin responded to Georgia’s attack on the pro-Russia breakaway region of South Ossetia by launching an all-out air and land invasion of its tiny neighbor.

Such Great Power military moves were de rigueur in the 19th century and still popular in the 20th.

But in the 21st century they helped trigger a catastrophic meltdown of the Russian stock market, a flight by investors and serious damage to Moscow’s standing among key emerging market nations. Even the country’s closest allies shunned the move.

Perhaps the root of Russia’s problems lies in its seat of power. Nestled next to the river in central Moscow and occupying 68 acres of prime land enclosed by fairytale high red walls, the Moscow Kremlin is a beautiful, mystical world unto itself.

Tread the creaking wooden parquet floors of its long, carpeted corridors under dim clusters of light bulbs enclosed in Soviet-era shades and you walk back in time.

The large office suites on the fourth floor, home to top officials, boast armies of secretaries, banks of old-fashioned white secure telephones and an eerie, tomb-like silence where the 21st century barely intrudes.

Ensconced in what Putin’s former private secretary Igor Sechin described as a “holy and deeply significant” place, would any Russian ruler worry about the rapid rise of neighboring China, the explosive growth of India’s technology industry or the risk that Russia might be getting left behind?

Returning for a moment to the theme of death, if Putinism faces a mortal threat over the long term, it is unlikely to come from the familiar bogeymen he evokes: the West or the political opposition.

It is much more likely to come from corruption or old-fashionedness.

(Editing by Janet McBride)

Luzhkov’s no-show after court summons

© RIA Novosti. Mikhail Fomichev

Luzhkov’s no-show after court summons

Fallen mayor Yury Luzhkov has been summoned to court for bribery and electoral fraud – but rather than face the legal system he helped to create, Luzhkov has failed to show.

The ex-mayor, along with local United Russia bosses, has been called to answer charges of fiddling election results in the 2009 Moscow Duma poll.

Opposition leader Nikolai Levichev, of A Just Russia, filed a suit with Moscow City Court calling for Luzhkov’s indictment over bribery and abuse of his official position during the campaign last autumn.

“We have counted numerous instances of bribery, which have prevented the real will of voters in these elections being expressed, and we would like to see Luzhkov in court for these violations. We hope that now he is an ordinary citizen…he will be answerable before the law,” Levichev told gzt.ru.

Ordinary or not, Luzhkov chose not to appear in court yesterday and is now set to be handed a summons for the next hearing on Oct. 25, Kommersant reported.

 

Turning tides

“He used to be no ordinary citizen and you would try to hand him a court summons,” Levichev said but at this point, gzt.ru reported, democracy would grind to a halt. The ex mayor should remember that he is no longer anyone important and should behave humbly, Levichev warns. “There are sanctions for those who behave disrespectfully towards the court.”

This is the first time that Luzhkov will have appeared in the dock.

“I am absolutely sure that a precedent is close this time…Luzhkov will soon appear personally in court, not his lawyers or the legal department of the mayor’s office, but him personally,” said Dmitry Orlov, director of the Agency for Political and Economic Reform. “This time the judge has set herself up to be very tough.”

Prominent Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov says it is time for Luzhkov to experience all the charm of the judicial system he created in Moscow. “I think that both he and his wife will appear in the courts.”

But Yabloko leader Sergey Mitrokhin has his doubts, and thinks that Luzhkov is unlikely to appear in court any time soon. “It simply can’t be, not unless they bring him in handcuffs.”

Comrade Putin’s Russia: more vulnerable than it seems?

Analysis: Putin’s Russia: more vulnerable than it seems?

By Michael Stott

MOSCOW | Thu Oct 14, 2010 6:05am EDT

(Reuters) – Large photographs of happy young children playing against brightly colored backgrounds decorate a hoarding blocking off a central Moscow square.

Behind the innocent-looking billboards, critics say, lies a hint of the fear stalking Russia‘s rulers. Their worry? That the strong state they cherish is more vulnerable than it looks.

Outwardly Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a tower of strength. The country’s undisputed ruler has spent the past 10 years — first as president, then as prime minister — consolidating power, beefing up the state and building prosperity.

Opinion polls show that Putin remains far more popular than any other politician. Russia’s opposition parties are marginalized, fragmented and weak. Critical voices are few. The mainstream media are relentlessly loyal.

Putin’s press chief Dmitry Peskov says the prime minister inherited a country in ruins when he became president in 2000 and has presided over a steady build-up in incomes.

“WORKAHOLIC” PRIME MINISTER

“The Prime Minister continues to be a workaholic,” he said. “He feels responsible for all the processes he launched…he uses the potential of the premiership 100 percent.”

Though he avoids commenting on the issue, Putin is widely expected to return to the presidency at elections in 2012 for a fresh six-year term.

Olga Kryshtanovskaya, an expert on the Russian elite and member of the ruling United Russia party, estimates the odds of a third Putin presidency at 70 percent.

Aided by supportive media, the benefits of office and a lack of credible opponents, the former KGB agent is likely to win an overwhelming victory, shunting aside his loyal junior partner in the ruling “tandem,” President Dmitry Medvedev.

Russian business leaders and officials already describe the 2012 election as “completely predictable” — in their eyes a positive thing, because they fear sudden change.

Stability is the mantra repeated time and again by the prime minister and his supporters.

They hail the stability Putin has given Russia, the order he has imposed on its once-turbulent politics and its economy, which crashed in 1998 but limped through the 2008/9 crisis without a currency collapse, a run on banks or mass unemployment.

NO “UKRAINIAN SCENARIO” IN RUSSIA

Putin justifies his political legacy — the scrapping of elected mayors and governors, the democratic opposition pushed out of parliament and curbs on the media — as necessary to avoid a “Ukrainian scenario” — Kremlin code for chaos.

State news channel Rossiya 24 runs a regular item at the end of news bulletins called “Without Commentary,” often featuring footage of riots, disasters, misery or disorder in a foreign land. The subliminal message: life is better in Russia.

But if Russia is so stable, critics ask, why did Moscow authorities erect the hoarding featuring the young children — allegedly for the construction of a previously unannounced underground car park — and block off the Mayakovsky square which was a venue for monthly protests by rights activists?

Why, opposition journalists ask, do phalanxes of Moscow riot police supported by dogs regularly break up small opposition demonstrations and drag participants off to waiting vans, even though only a few hundred people turn up?

Why does the Kremlin’s political mastermind, deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov, ensure overwhelming victories for Putin’s United Russia party in almost every municipal, regional and national election, even when it damages Russia’s image?

Why is Putin’s image so carefully burnished by his minders, with the premier appearing in tightly scripted and amply broadcast encounters with rappers, intellectuals, car workers, fire-fighters, Pacific grey whales and Arctic Polar bears?

Peskov says that Putin wants to be a “socially oriented Prime Minister with a socially oriented budget” but there are other ways of explaining Putin’s populism.

PUTIN’S HIGH RATING

“Putin’s high rating doesn’t mean there is such a great love for him,” Lev Gudkov, the head of Russia’s leading independent opinion pollster Levada Center said. “It’s more a lack of alternatives and a general indifference.”

Russia has other worries too. Constant official boasting about military might hides, analysts say, the reality: the country’s Soviet-era military remains woefully under-trained and under-equipped for modern warfare.

The economy, despite constant pronouncements about the need for diversification and modernization, still depends almost entirely on volatile raw material prices. The same goes for government revenues.

Ironically, Putin’s obsession with stability and his tight control of Russia may have created a blind alley from which the country cannot easily escape.

“Putin is the ultimate arbiter and the whole system depends on him,” one Western ambassador says. “It cannot function properly without him and that is a major risk in the long term.”

Russia’s business elite feel the same way.

“Putin is an enormously skilful operator,” one oligarch said, speaking on condition he was not identified. “You always leave a meeting with him feeling completely satisfied, feeling he is totally on your side. Later you find out how far he actually agreed with you.”

MEDVEDEV — JUST GOOD INTENTIONS?

Many believe Putin’s choice in 2008 of his long-term ally Medvedev as his successor was a deliberate attempt to set Russia on a path to faster economic reform, more efficient government and to make the country more appealing to foreign investors.

But although he has achieved a “reset” of relations with the United States, at home Medvedev has so far failed to deliver much more than good intentions, critics say.

And if Putin returns to the Kremlin in 2012 for up to two six-year terms, detractors say Russia‘s political system could ossify to a point where an orderly handover of power in 2024 — when Putin will turn 72 — becomes almost impossible.

Comparisons with the “era of stagnation” in the 1970s under aging former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev are already multiplying in Russian opposition media.

What are the alternatives?

The main officially tolerated opposition, the Communists, are gradually dying out and there is virtually no constituency in Russia for Western-style liberal democracy.

This leads observers such as author Dmitry Bykov to conclude that if Putin’s system is unable to reform itself from the top down, then the country could fall prey to far-right extremism.

As the editor of one major state broadcaster puts it: “The only political force in Russia today which has the strength and the national organization to challenge Putin is the far right.”

A former ambassador in Moscow from a Western power sums it up: “You may think Putin is anti-Western and hostile to free markets. But he is far more liberal than a lot of the people who stand behind him. Be careful for what you wish for.”

(Editing by Janet McBride)

Anna Politkovskaya’s Last Article

PUNITIVE Collusion

Anna Politkovskaya

Most of the puppets, and Yamadayevans kakievtsev fighting on the side of federal forces to withdraw from the blood feud or revenge

Recently in Stockholm held a conference devoted to issues including the North Caucasus. Were invited political scientists, journalists, human rights activists. At this meeting, and was read the report, excerpts of which we publish today.

Vakha Ibragimov, a researcher, Chechnya:

- A significant number of local residents perceive the “activity” groups formed from Chechens, much worse than what they were doing before they called the feds. “Those – Russian, but the same – my, how can they treat us?” – Such poluvopros-poluutverzhdenie have not heard from the mouths of people. Yet critics in relation to the Kadyrovtsy who hate their people would not want to return 3 or 4 a year ago, when the republic a sovereign and single-handedly ruled the Russian military and security officials.

Why? For one simple reason: the members of pro-Moscow groups, as the Chechens themselves, do not apply to other citizens of the republic based on ethnic principle. Their enemies – not ethnic Chechens, and not even the real separatists, and the specific family and the people with whom they have personal vendettas. Therefore, it can be argued that for most of puppets, Yamadayevans, kakievtsev and others involved in the war on the side of federal forces – not a politically motivated decision. This is a convenient way to solve their own problems with the state, ensuring their safety and for some time, eliminates the question of a material nature.

Members of these groups are involved in the grips of the same people are committing murder and torture and atrocities have long been caught up with death squads, consisting of regular officers of Russian secret services, but their actions are still selective. Residents are not opposed to themselves and the federal government (and the federal government only secondarily), they usually do not touch.

What are these troops, of whom they consist of? Media with the filing of the power structures to position its members as the former rebels, who, realizing the futility of continued resistance, “went on the Russian side. This statement is far from the truth.

One of the main components of Russian policy in the region is a vendetta. This custom is not obsolete in Chechen society, and until recently played in, including a stabilizing role. To kill a man – this was decided not every felon. People who once committed a crime and who achieved remission, are doomed. The only way out for them – to go somewhere. In periods of weakening of the state they are often combined into armed groups and from a position of power to pressure on his pursuers. Some of the armed groups that existed during the reign of Aslan Maskhadov, and brought him a lot of trouble, also consisted of krovniki.

To bid in its policies considered it possible to precisely the Russian government. A significant number of the current so-called power structures in Chechnya created with participation and under the immediate start of people who commit premeditated murder and kidnapping. Immediately after the seizure of the territory of the Republic, for example, in the service of the Russian military moved grouping Movladi Baisarov. Her head was in a gang criminal offenders Ruslan Labazanova that security forces destroyed the Chechen Republic in the summer of 1994 between the two wars with his assistants, he was marked by seizures of people for ransom.

One of the first on the side of the federal government rose Sulim Yamadayev. According to prosecutors, his group is also engaged in kidnapping. Later it was legalized as a special company with the military commandant of the Gudermes district. Now based on it created a battalion “East” as part of the 42 nd Cavalry Division of the Defense Ministry.

As the battalion “West” in the same division is included and a detachment of Said-Magomed Kakiev. This man was also part of a gang of Ruslan Labazanova and was accused of committing a series of criminal and terrorist acts.

The most serious criticism of the civilian population caused by the activities of so-called Kadyrovtsy. Units, which are conditionally withdrawn under this title, grew out of the security service of Akhmad Kadyrov, and still led by his former bodyguard. These same guards now occupy all key positions in Chechnya. Ruslan Alkhanov, for example, is the Interior Minister, and Adam Demilhanov – Deputy Prime Minister on security forces.

Initially, this structure consisted of several dozen people. Mainly because of the number of close relatives and fellow villagers of the former Mufti of the Republic (Kadyrova-starshego. – Ed.). As consolidation began to include there emerged from the underground members of criminal gangs. And then, and now the backbone of Kadyrov’s forces, first in the form of “anti-terrorist centers”, and now as the battalion “South”, “North”, 2 nd Regiment patrol police, etc., co-opted into the power structures of Russia,were people who committed the murder and kidnapping. Of these, the captain, he also entrusted to recruit new recruits.

Illustrative story Lema Salmanov – a native of the village of Mayrtup. In November 2002, in his yard, he shot two fellow villagers, which agreement was reached to withdraw money for previously purchased their truck. Relatives of those killed have declared Leme vendetta. But for the criminal authorities stepped in: he was appointed commander of the detachment puppets in the village, and then the emerging anti-terrorism center Kurchaloi district. Having almost unlimited possibilities, he began to pursue his krovniki and their immediate families, and all those who, even hypothetically, could ever get back at him. Some of them went to the militants, others were hiding with friends. Those most familiar for the granting of asylum and persecuted: beaten, tortured, were killed. In the conflict were drawn several families. His episodes were put in the media as the fight against “terrorists.” On the Day of the Russian police in 2005, Lem Salmanov, six months before it even had time to shoot his elderly cousin, uncle, tried to reason Lema, the government awarded a medal.

This man is still one of the most influential commanders in Kadyrov’s militias. Although it would seem, what is it for the Russian government? After all, the result of his work – not only the corpses of personal, not state enemies, but dozens of people who fled to the mountains, the rebels …

It seems that this is precisely manifests the essence of Chechenization was originally conceived in order to push the Chechens did not give attenuate the conflict by moving it to the plane of the Civil War. It is clear that in promoting such a policy is best to rely on those who, in transgressing one day make a similar more than once. Cancel vendetta in Chechnya no one is going, the prosecution of crimes possible through the many years that it connects with the Russian authorities of such people is much stronger than the ideological beliefs.

Politics this incidentally solves a purely propagandistic tasks. For example, participation in the war of the locals on the side of the Feds gives grounds to declare the conflict as having no separatist roots.

In the Chechen media have always been people positioning themselves as supporters of finding the republic within Russia. They were organized movements and armed groups. Under the command of, for example, Bislan Gantamirov were hundreds of people opposing the separatists since the early 90′s. At the beginning of the second Chechen war, even before it was set up the security service of Akhmad Kadyrov, in some areas have militias, thanks to which Russian troops without losing much mastered the mountainous part of the country.

However, members of these units and their commanders refused to take part in the sweeps, the capture and execution of people. Stressing loyalty to the Russian government, militias nevertheless demonstrated the intention to protect the population, including the military.

Since the summer of 2000 from “unreliable” allies began to get rid of. Militia Vedeno district, for example, at first dismissed and then most of those who participate in it, either kidnapped or killed. Was destroyed by rifle company in the Shatoi district commandant’s office, which is based on the people, for ideological reasons, who got under the Russian flag. The reason – the refusal to join the battalion “West”, formed largely from criminal elements.

In other words, Chechenization – is not just a transfer of authority structures consisting of local residents, and the elevation, the legitimation of those who was willing to engage in punitive operations against its own population. Thus, Chechenization – a course to expand the war. The result of the implementation of such policies was the replacement of the genocide of the population, carried out by Russia’s own structures in the initial stages of the conflict, now terror supported and directed by Moscow criminal and semi-criminal gangs.

 

КАРАТЕЛЬНЫЙ СГОВОР

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Большинство кадыровцев, ямадаевцев и какиевцев воюют на стороне федеральных сил, чтобы уйти от кровной мести или отомстить

 

Недавно в Стокгольме прошла конференция, посвященная в том числе и проблемам Северного Кавказа. Были приглашены политологи, журналисты, правозащитники. На этой встрече и был зачитан доклад, фрагменты которого мы сегодня публикуем.
Ваха ИБРАГИМОВ, исследователь, Чечня:

— Значительное число местных жителей воспринимают «деятельность» отрядов, сформированных из чеченцев, куда хуже, чем то, что делали до них так называемые федералы. «Те — русские, но эти же — свои, как они могут так относиться к нам?» — такой полувопрос-полуутверждение не раз слышал из уст людей. И тем не менее критически настроенные по отношению к кадыровцам, ненавидящие их люди не хотели бы возврата 3—4-годичной давности, когда республикой полновластно и единолично управляли российские военные и сотрудники спецслужб.

Почему? По одной простой причине: члены промосковских отрядов, будучи сами чеченцами, не действуют в отношении остальных жителей республики исходя из этнического принципа. Их враги — не этнические чеченцы и даже не реальные сепаратисты, а конкретные семьи и люди, с которыми у них имеются личные счеты. Поэтому можно утверждать, что для большинства кадыровцев, ямадаевцев, какиевцев и других участие в войне на стороне федеральных сил — не политически мотивированное решение. Это удобный способ разрешить собственные проблемы при помощи государства, обеспечивающего их безопасность и на какое-то время снимающего вопросы материального характера.

Члены этих отрядов замешаны в тех же захватах людей, совершают убийства и пытки и по жестокости давно уже сравнялись с «эскадронами смерти», состоящими из кадровых офицеров российских спецслужб, но их действия носят все же выборочный характер. Жителей, не противостоящих им самим и федеральной власти (причем федеральной власти только во вторую очередь), они обычно не трогают.

Что же представляют собой эти отряды, из кого они состоят? СМИ с подачи властных структур позиционируют их членов как бывших боевиков, которые, «поняв бесперспективность продолжения сопротивления», перешли на российскую сторону. Данное утверждение далеко от истины.

Одной из главных составляющих российской политики в регионе является кровная месть. Обычай этот не изжит в чеченском обществе и до последнего времени играл в том числе и стабилизирующую роль. Убить человека — на это решался не каждый уголовник. Люди, однажды совершившие такое преступление и не добившиеся прощения, обречены. Единственный для них выход — уехать куда-нибудь. В периоды ослабления государства они часто объединялись в вооруженные группы и с позиции силы оказывали давление на своих преследователей. Некоторые из вооруженных групп, существовавшие в годы правления Масхадова и доставившие ему немало хлопот, также состояли из кровников.

Сделать на них ставку в своей политике посчитало возможным именно российское руководство. Значительное число нынешних так называемых силовых структур Чечни создано с участием и под непосредственным началом людей, совершивших преднамеренные убийства и похищения. Сразу же после захвата территории республики, например, в услужение к российским военным перешла группировка Мовлади Байсарова. Ее руководитель состоял в банде уголовника-рецидивиста Руслана Лабазанова, которую силовые структуры Чечни разгромили летом 1994 г. Между двумя войнами вместе со своими подручными он отметился захватами людей с целью получения выкупа.

Одним из первых на сторону федеральной власти встал Сулим Ямадаев. По данным прокуратуры, его группировка также занималась похищениями. Позднее она была легализована в качестве специальной роты при военном коменданте Гудермесского района. Сейчас на ее основе создан батальон «Восток» в составе 42-й мотострелковой дивизии МО РФ.

В качестве батальона «Запад» в ту же дивизию включен и отряд Саид-Магомеда Какиева. Этот человек также входил в банду Руслана Лабазанова и обвинялся в совершении ряда уголовных преступлений и террористических актов.

Наиболее серьезные нарекания со стороны гражданского населения вызывает деятельность так называемых кадыровцев. Отряды, которые условно выведены под таким названием, выросли из службы безопасности Ахмата Кадырова и до сих пор возглавляются его бывшими телохранителями. Эти самые телохранители теперь занимают все ключевые посты в Чечне. Руслан Алханов, например, является министром внутренних дел, а Адам Демильханов — вице-премьером правительства по силовым структурам.

Первоначально в эту структуру входили несколько десятков человек. В основном из числа ближайших родственников и односельчан бывшего муфтия республики (Кадырова-старшего. — Ред.). По мере укрупнения туда стали включать вышедших из подполья членов криминальных банд. И тогда, и сейчас костяк кадыровских формирований, сначала в виде «антитеррористических центров», а теперь как батальоны «Юг», «Север», 2-й полк патрульно-постовой службы милиции и т.д., кооптированных в силовые структуры РФ, составляли люди, совершившие убийства и похищения. Из них назначались командиры, им же поручалась вербовка новобранцев.

Показательна история Лемы Салманова — уроженца селения Майртуп. В ноябре 2002 г. у себя во дворе он застрелил двух односельчан, которые по договоренности пришли, чтобы забрать деньги за ранее купленный у них грузовой автомобиль. Родственники убитых объявили Леме кровную месть. Но за преступника вступились власти: его назначили командиром отряда кадыровцев в селе, а затем и формирующегося антитеррористического центра Курчалоевского района. Получив практически неограниченные возможности, он стал преследовать своих кровников и их ближайших родственников, всех тех, кто даже гипотетически когда-нибудь мог отомстить ему. Некоторые из них ушли к боевикам, другие стали прятаться у знакомых. Этих самых знакомых за предоставление убежища также подвергли репрессиям: избивали, пытали, умерщвляли. В конфликт оказались втянуты несколько семей. Его отдельные эпизоды преподносились в СМИ как борьба с «террористами». В День российской милиции в 2005 г. Лему Салманова, за полгода до этого успевшего даже застрелить своего пожилого двоюродного дядю, пытавшегося урезонить Лему, наградили правительственной медалью.

Этот человек до сих пор остается одним из влиятельных командиров в кадыровских формированиях. Хотя, казалось бы, зачем он нужен российской власти? Ведь результат его деятельности — не только трупы личных, не государства, врагов, но десятки людей, ушедших в горы, к боевикам…

Представляется, что именно в этом и проявляется суть чеченизации, изначально задуманной для того, чтобы столкнуть чеченцев, не дать затухнуть конфликту, переведя его в плоскость гражданской войны. Понятно, что при продвижении такой политики лучше всего опираться на тех, кто, преступив однажды, совершит подобное еще не раз. Отменять кровную месть в Чечне никто не собирается, преследования за преступления возможны и через много лет, что связывает с российской властью таких людей намного сильнее, чем идеологические воззрения.

Политика эта попутно решает и сугубо пропагандистские задачи. Например, участие в войне местных жителей на стороне федералов дает основания заявлять о конфликте как не имеющем сепаратистских корней.

В чеченской среде всегда были люди, позиционирующие себя как сторонники нахождения республики в составе России. У них были организованные движения и вооруженные отряды. Под командованием, например, Бислана Гантамирова находились сотни людей, противостоящих сепаратистам еще с начала 90-х. В начале второй чеченской войны, еще до того, как была создана служба безопасности Ахмата Кадырова, в некоторых районах возникли отряды ополчения, благодаря которым российские войска без больших потерь овладевали горной частью республики.

Однако члены этих отрядов и их командиры отказывались участвовать в зачистках, захватах и казнях людей. Подчеркивая лояльность к российской власти, ополченцы тем не менее демонстрировали намерение защищать население, в том числе и от военных.

Начиная с лета 2000 г. от «неблагонадежных» союзников начали избавляться. Ополчение Веденского района, например, сначала распустили, а затем большинство из тех, кто в нем участвовал, либо похитили, либо убили. Была уничтожена стрелковая рота при Шатойской районной комендатуре, основу которой составляли люди, по идейным соображениям вставшие под российские знамена. Причина — отказ влиться в состав батальона «Запад», сформированного во многом из криминальных элементов.

Другими словами, чеченизация — это не просто передача полномочий структурам, состоящим из местных жителей, а возвышение, легитимизация тех, кто готов был участвовать в карательных операциях против своего же населения. Таким образом, чеченизация — это курс на расширение войны. Результатом реализации такой политики явилась замена геноцида населения, осуществлявшегося собственно российскими структурами в начальной стадии конфликта, на сегодняшний террор поддерживаемых и направляемых Москвой криминальных и полукриминальных банд.

Анна Политковская

Anna Politkovskaya: Putin’s Russia

Assassination

Wikinews has related news:Politkovskaya’s death

On October 7, 2006, Politkovskaya was found shot dead in the elevator of her apartment block in central Moscow.[13][14] Police said a Makarov pistol and four shell casings were found beside her body, unusual because the Makarov PM pistol ejects shell casings 18–20 feet to the rear of the shooter. Reports indicated a contract killing, as she was shot four times, once in the head. It was unclear at the time who ordered the killing.[15][16][17]

The funeral was held on Tuesday, 10 October 2006, at 2:30 p.m., at the Troyekurovsky Cemetery. Before Politkovskaya was laid to rest, more than 1,000 people filed past her coffin to pay their last respects. Dozens of Politkovskaya’s colleagues, public figures and admirers of her work gathered for the funeral. No high-ranking Russian officials could be seen at the ceremony.[18]

Pall bearers carry acclaimed investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya casket from the funeral ceremony hall to the hearse at Troyekurovskoye cemetery in Moscow October 10, 2006.
Pall bearers carry acclaimed investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya casket from the funeral ceremony hall to the hearse at Troyekurovskoye cemetery in Moscow October 10, 2006.

Anna Politkovskaya: Putin’s Russia

Anna Politkovskaya

Anna Politkovskaya: Lynch laws is the order of the day

Anna Politkovskaya made her name reporting from Chechnya for Russia’s liberal newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.She was also the author of two books in English, A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya (2001), and Putin’s Russia (2004).

Her writing was often polemical, as bitter in its condemnation of the Russian army and the Russian government as it was fervent in support of human rights and the rule of law.

The following are extracts from Putin’s Russia by Anna Politkovskaya published by Harvill. (Used by permission of The Random House Group Limited.)

THE RUSSIAN ARMY

“When [Putin] first appeared on Russia’s political radar screen as a possible head of state rather than as an unpopular Director of the universally detested Federal Security Bureau (FSB) he began making pronouncements to the effect that the Army, which had been diminished under Yeltsin, was henceforth to be reborn, and that all it lacked for its renaissance was a second Chechen war.

Everything that has happened in the northern Caucasus since then can be traced back to this premise. When the Second Chechen War began, the Army was given free rein, and in the presidential elections of 2000 it voted as one for Putin. The Army has found the present war highly profitable, a source of accelerated promotion, more and more medals, and the rapid forging of careers…

An arrest in Chechnya

Few Russian journalists are now writing about abuses in Chechnya

How exactly Putin has helped the Army we shall see in the stories that follow. You can decide for yourself whether you would like to live in a country where your taxes sustain such an institution. How you would feel when your sons turned 18 and were conscripted as “human resources”. How satisfied you would be with an Army from which soldiers deserted in droves every week, sometimes whole squads or entire companies at a time.

What would you think of an Army in which, in a single year, 2002, a battalion, more than 500 men, had been killed not fighting a war but from beatings? In which the officers stole everything from the 10-rouble notes sent to privates by their parents to entire tank columns? Where officers are united in hatred of soldiers’ parents because every so often, when the circumstances are just too disgraceful, outraged mothers protest at the murder of their sons and demand retribution.

PUTIN AND THE SOVIET UNION

I have wondered a great deal why I have so got it in for Putin. What is it that makes me dislike him so much as to feel moved to write a book about him? I am not one of his political opponents or rivals, just a woman living in Russia.

Quite simply, I am a 45-year-old Muscovite who observed the Soviet Union at its most disgraceful in the 1970s and ’80s. I really don’t want to find myself back there again.

CHECHEN CHILDREN

On April 8, two nine-month-old twin baby girls were declared shaheeds – martyrs for their faith – in Chechnya. They came from the tiny Chechen farmstead of Rigakh and were killed before they had learned to walk.

It was the usual story. After the March 14 election relentless military operations were resumed in Chechnya. The Army, in the form of the Regional Operational Staff Headquarters for Coordinating the Counter-terrorist Operation, announced that it was attempting to catch Basaev: “A large-scale military operation is under way to destroy the participants of armed formations.”

The scene which confronted Imar-Ali Damaev, the father of the family, would have turned the most hard-headed militant into a pacifist for life, or into a suicide bomber

They failed to catch Basaev, but on April 8 at around 2.00 in the afternoon, as part of the “military operation”, the Rigakh farmstead was subjected to a missile bombardment. It killed everyone there: a mother and her five children.

The scene which confronted Imar-Ali Damaev, the father of the family, would have turned the most hard-headed militant into a pacifist for life, or into a suicide bomber. His 29-year-old wife, Maidat, lay dead, holding close their four-year-old Djanati, three-year-old Jaradat, two-year-old Umar-Haji, and the tiny nine-month-old Zara. Their mother’s embrace saved none of them. To one side lay the little body of Zura, Zara’s twin sister…


Killed children


Destroyed Damaevs house

Anna Politkovskaya

A new book by Anna Politkovskaya is to be published in English in 2007

All the murders of children since 1999 in bombardments and purges remain unsolved, uninvestigated by the institutions of law and order. The infanticides have never had to stand where they belong, in the dock; Putin, that great “friend of all children”, has never demanded that they should. The Army continues to rage in Chechnya as it was allowed to at the beginning of the war, as if its operations were being conducted on a training ground empty of people.

This massacre of the innocents did not raise a storm in Russia. Not one television station broadcast images of the five little Chechens who had been slaughtered. The Minister of Defence did not resign. He is a personal friend of Putin and is even seen as a possible successor in 2008. The Commander-in-Chief himself made no speech of condolence.

CONTRACT KILLINGS

Late yesterday evening, Paul Khlebnikov, editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Forbes Magazine, was murdered in Moscow. He was mown down as he left the magazine’s office. Khlebnikov was famous for writing about our oligarchs, the structure of Russian “gangster capitalism” and the huge sums of easy money certain of our citizens have managed to get their hands on.

Also last evening, Victor Cherepkov was blown up by a grenade in Vladivostok. He was a member of our parliament, the State Duma, and famous for championing the weakest and poorest of this land… As he left his campaign headquarters, he was blown up by an anti-personnel mine activated by a trip-wire.

Yes, stability has come to Russia. It is a monstrous stability under which nobody seeks justice in law courts which flaunt their subservience and partisanship. Nobody in his or her right mind seeks protection from the institutions entrusted with maintaining law and order, because they are totally corrupt.

Lynch law is the order of the day, both in people’s minds and in their actions. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. The President himself has set an example by wrecking our major oil company, Yukos, after having jailed its chief executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Putin considered Khodorkovsky to have slighted him personally, so he retaliated.

 

LA Band Blocks Freeway to Call Attention to Homeless Children

Band members arrested after blocking 101 Freeway for performance

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Officials said a band blocked the 101 Freeway in Hollywood on Tuesday morning for an impromptu concert that jammed traffic and tested the patience of commuters.

In what is believed to be an effort at promotion, authorities said that members of a band called Imperial Stars blocked all but one lane of the southbound 101 with a large truck advertising the band. The group has a song called “Traffic Jam 101.”

Witnesses said they saw members of the band singing and playing instruments on top of the truck.

The California Highway Patrol reported that three people were under arrest, and officials were trying to get all lanes of the southbound 101 open again. The traffic backup extended into the San Fernando Valley.

The driver of the truck fled in another vehicle and took the keys to the vehicle with him, the CHP said.

Sarah Faden, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department, said the three suspects were “creating some type of havoc” on the freeway.

The Imperial Stars are a self-described “hard core hip hop band” from Orange County whose latest song is “Traffic Jam 101.” On its website, the band pledges that all the money earned from the song will be going to Homeless Children America. The website features the same truck used during the impromptu concert Tuesday morning.

The band has played at the Viper Room and House of Blues.

– Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: The scene on the southbound 101 Freeway. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Russia’s Rosneft to explore for oil in Abkhazia, say rebels

MOSCOW – Agence France-Presse

Russian oil giant Rosneft will explore for offshore oil deposits in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region, a potentially rich source of hydrocarbons, the region’s rebel leader said.

“The work is beginning … At this point, we are bringing in the equipment,” Abkhaz rebel leader Sergei Bagapsh said Wednesday in an interview with Russian daily Kommersant.

Rosneft will explore several sections of the continental shelf off Abkhazia’s Black Sea coast between the towns of Gudauta and Novy Afon, which “contain significant oil reserves,” Bagapsh said.

He said only one of 22 oil wells drilled in Abkhazia in the Soviet period had been briefly operated since a bloody conflict in the early 1990s that saw the region break away from Georgia’s control. Bagapsh said Abkhaz authorities had attempted to resume oil extraction but failed due to a lack of resources.

“We were able to extract oil … but we had to shut it down again. At that time we were not yet ready as we lacked specialists and equipment,” he said.

The Georgian government has repeatedly raised concerns over Russia’s plans to explore for oil in Abkhazia, saying the work is in violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and poses environmental threats to the entire Black Sea region.

Abkhaz separatists waged a civil war with Georgia in the 1990s after the break up of the Soviet Union that killed several thousand people and left 250,000, mostly ethnic Georgians, as refugees.

Georgia insists that Abkhazia is an integral part of its territory but Russia recognized it and another rebel province, South Ossetia, as independent states following its brief conflict with Georgia in 2008.

American “Wild Geese” Are Pecking Afghanistan

American “Wild Geese” Are Pecking Afghanistan

American “Wild Geese” Are Pecking AfghanistanIvan Tulyakov (Russia)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused private military companies hired by US intelligence of working for the Taliban and organized crime.

The CIA has hired Xe Services, a private security (or military) firm better known as the controversial Blackwater, to guard facilities in Afghanistan. Details of the deal are classified. We only know that the contract is worth around $100 million, according to a report by The Washington Post that cited insider information. Xe Services has been given the assignment of providing “protective and guard services in the region.” The Washington Post’s source did not specify precisely what it is to do.

Without revealing the details of the contract, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano stressed that Xe personnel would not be involved in operations within the country. That is difficult to believe because the private American security firm Blackwater, which changed its name to Xe Services after a series of high-profile scandals, has repeatedly made international headlines.

Blackwater was founded in 1996 as a private security firm that has long since essentially become a small army of professional mercenaries. Previously, “experts” like these, who are better known as “hounds of war” or “wild geese,” were hired by international corporations to overthrow undesirable regimes in third world countries. Once the international community declared mercenaries to be outside the law, their activities began receiving “cover” from private security firms that get contracts from government agencies.

Officially, Blackwater employees guarded the head of Iraq’s civil administration. In fact, mercenaries have repeatedly carried out “special operations” in the country.

But murder will out. The New York Times reported in mid-December 2009 that Blackwater had been involved in an operation to kidnap people suspected of links with militants in Iraq. Press reports six months prior to that said that Blackwater had special death squads to kill or capture al-Qaeda leaders.

Xe Services (Blackwater) could still have been operating in Iraq today, but in September 2007 employees of the company shot 17 Iraqi civilians for no apparent reason. After that incident, which caused an explosion of anti-American sentiment in the Arab world, the Iraqi government revoked Blackwater’s license and at the same time accused the firm of selling weapons to Kurdish separatists.

But the then President George Bush spoke out in defense of the firm, which is a major contributor to the Republican Party, saying that sometimes guys guarding State Department employees have to use force. The US administration pays its “guys” well for that kind of work. Xe Services (Blackwater) contracts were worth more than $1 billion by the end of last year.

Now this infamous “wild geese” unit has received a major contract from the CIA to provide “protective and guard services” in Afghanistan. As it turns out, however, the new mercenaries are not welcomed either by the Kabul government or the Taliban.

The Taliban said that “CIA agents and mercenaries from Blackwater were [given the] infamous task in the long-term US strategy to destabilize the situation in the region.”

While the Taliban are alarmed by the actions of mercenaries taking part in secret special operations, the central government in Kabul rightly fears the emergence of a third force in the capital that would be fully capable of carrying out a coup, should their overseas “master” see the need.

The foreign private security firms, which employ about 30 thousand local residents, have a bad reputation with Afghans.

President Hamid Karzai feels that the presence of a large number of private security firms in Afghanistan discourages ordinary Afghans from joining the national army and police. “Why would an Afghan young man come to the police if he can get a job in a security firm, have a lot of leeway and without any discipline,” he said in an interview on the ABC television network.

He said that private security firm employees collaborate with “Mafia-like groups” in Afghanistan, and perhaps also with the Taliban and terrorists.

Karzai called on Americans to stop funding private security companies in his country. “I am appealing to the U.S. taxpayer not to allow their hard-earned money to be wasted on groups that are not only providing lots of inconveniences to the Afghan people, but actually are God knows in contact with Mafia-like groups and perhaps also funding militants and insurgents and terrorists through those firms.”

In Washington, Karzai’s demand to stop using private security firms was called very aggressive and provocative.

That once again indicates that activities by “wild geese” in the form of private security organizations continue to be highly important to the US administration, which apparently has lost faith in its ability to find a military solution to the war in Afghanistan. And although the secret program to physically eliminate al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders was supposedly canceled, nobody knows what mission the employees of Xe Services (Blackwater) have been given in the country. Judging by the size of the contract, it goes far beyond “guard services.”

SourceNew Eastern Outlook

(MAP) Anti-war protest set at Bush library groundbreaking–Nov. 16

[ALSO: Protesters gear up for Rice's appearance at Twin Cities synagogue]

Anti-war protest set at Bush library groundbreaking

12:00 AM CDT on Thursday, October 14, 2010

By LORI STAHL / The Dallas Morning News
lstahl@dallasnews.com

Anti-war protesters are planning to converge around SMU next month, when formal groundbreaking ceremonies for the George W. Bushpresidential library center are expected to draw up to 5,000 visitors to campus.

The Nov. 16 groundbreaking probably will get considerable national attention, because it comes exactly one week after Bush’s memoir,Decision Points, is released.

The former president, who has made few public appearances since leaving the White House, is expected to break his self-imposed silence about his two terms in office when the book debuts.

A coalition of peace activists, some of whom have been meeting with local law enforcement officials in recent weeks, wants to share the spotlight.

“We as citizens must take it upon ourselves to make sure that truth is not buried by spin doctors,” said Trish Major, communications director of the Dallas Peace Center.

Another protest organizer, Hadi Jawad, said: “We feel an obligation, given the history of what we know, to mark this somehow. Questions need to be raised and asked about what the legacy of the Bush administration is. That is what we’re trying to start.”

Bush Foundation president Mark Langdale said the protest is not a surprise.

“Yes, we are aware [of the protest], and they have the right to express their opinion,” he said.

SMU’s campus Police Department, which is the lead law enforcement agency for a complex set of logistics involving security and traffic control, has met with protesters to map out a plan for the big day.

“It’ll be a very hospitable event, despite what we think will be a pretty large crowd,” said Bill Detwiler, SMU’s associate vice president for business services.

SMU is in University Park, and the campus is private property, but some of the streets are public. Meanwhile, Highland Park lies just to the south of campus, across Mockingbird Lane, and the city of Dallas’ border is to the east, across Central Expressway.

SMU police have been meeting with colleagues in those cities, as well as the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department and the Secret Service, which provides security for the Bushes.

It was unclear Wednesday whether the outside law enforcement agencies would provide officers for the event and if so, who would bear the cost.

“Our plans aren’t really at all finalized yet,” Detwiler said. “It’s a collaborative event.”

The evolving security plan calls for medical aid stations on campus, as well as a pre-approved staging area for protesters and counterprotesters.

Protest organizers have emphasized that the protest is “not a personal message about George Bush” but an attempt to make sure his record is not distorted as the library center begins to take shape. It is expected to be complete in 2013.

The White House legacy is also a matter of concern, Major said, adding, “We saw advisers who said torture was permissible under U.S. law. We’ve seen economic policy that favors the rich over the poor. We’ve seen unprecedented power invested in the executive branch that has never been quite as blatant. And we’ve seen diminished civil rights with the Patriot Act.”

The Bush Foundation did not offer an immediate response to those criticisms.

Organizers say they expect peace activists from across the state, along with some clergy. They say it’s too soon to know how many people will participate. They will promote their campaign through a website, as well as a Facebook page that will ask, “What book do you want to see in the Bush library?”

China price for stability raises alarm

Analysis: China price for stability raises alarm

Main Image
Armed policemen from the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit and paramilitary policemen march during an anti-terrorism drill in Beijing in this file picture taken September 23, 2010. China swaddles all its big meetings, events and sensitive dates with police and guards to scare off trouble-makers, extinguish protests and project power. Preparations for an annual Party leadership conclave in Beijing from Friday have brought onto Beijing streets even more plain clothes officers and gun-toting anti-riot police.

Credit: Reuters/Petar Kujundzic

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING | Thu Oct 14, 2010 4:27am EDT

(Reuters) – The Chinese government’s bid to maintain stability at all costs is creating a domestic security system so expensive that experts and officials say it is sapping funds needed elsewhere to sustain the country’s economic health.

The ruling Communist Party’s smothering of public support for Nobel Peace Prize winner and jailed dissident, Liu Xiaobo, is the latest example of the lengths, and costs, the authorities are willing to go to keep a lid on even minor events that might seem to threaten its hold on power.

China’s total spending on domestic security reached 514 billion yuan ($76.7 billion) in 2009, a whisker below the military budget of 532 billion yuan, a group of social researchers from the elite Tsinghua University in Beijing estimated in a report published earlier this year.

“Threats to social stability are constantly being side-stepped and postponed, but that is making social breakdown increasingly grave,” it said. “The current model of stability has reached the point where it cannot continue.”

Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher on China for Human Rights Watch, an international watchdog group called the resources devoted to stability “absolutely humungous.”

“There’s a vicious circle that more security leads to more security,” he said by telephone.

China swaddles all its big meetings, events and sensitive dates with police and guards to scare off trouble-makers, extinguish protests and project power.

The massive security for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing has become a general template, and is on show for preparations for a Party leaders’ meeting in Beijing from Friday.

HOW MUCH LONGER?

The show of strength works for now. But many question how much longer it can be effective.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao will use the Party meeting to hone a five-year economic development plan intended to cement their vows to build a “harmonious society” free of serious division and discontent.

And for the moment, China’s formula of one-party rule and economic growth can ward off serious challenges from below, the public still happy enough with its economic and social gains.

It is later, especially if growth and revenues flag, that worries some Chinese experts and officials.

Firm control of discontent has been a defining policy of China’s government, especially since the pro-democracy protests of 1989 that ended in a bloody crackdown and Party patriarch Deng Xiaoping’s demand that “stability comes before all else.”

Stuck to by successive leaders, that slogan has created an expensive illusion of solid order for which the country may one day pay heavily, the experts and officials said.

“This unyielding stability has already reached the point where it cannot be sustained, because it exacts a huge cost,” Yu Jianrong, a prominent expert on social unrest at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in a recent lecture in Beijing.

“What may happen in China in the future is that there are more outbreaks of local turmoil,” he said.

RAPID GROWTH

Rapid economic growth over the past two decades has rekindled official worries that social flux and inequality could unsettle Party control.

President Hu chaired a meeting in late September that studied the social strains facing the country, state media reported at the time. He warned officials to be ready for a rough patch.

That means more spending on social welfare, healthcare and rural services in its next five-year plan starting from 2011, the official Xinhua news agency said on Wednesday.

Yet the government’s single-minded demand for officials to snuff out symptoms of unrest is skewing resources and attention away from social needs and into playing cop to monitor and detain potential protesters, say officials and experts.

A study of 10 provinces and local governments showed outlays on domestic security rose faster than for schools, hospitals, and welfare, and often ate up a bigger share of budgets, the Social Sciences Weekly, a Shanghai paper, reported in May.

The focus on averting unrest is skewing officials’ priorities, as well as budgets. Points systems are often used to weigh officials’ promotion prospects based on the number of protests in their areas.

Some local governments demand grassroots officials deposit millions of yuan in “guarantees” every year, and money is taken from the fund if there are protests under their watch, a Chinese magazine, People’s Tribune, reported last month.

“Many local government departments don’t put themselves in the shoes of people in hardship and try to solve the fundamental problems at their root,” Feng Qingyu, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Administration, which trains rising government officials, wrote in a study published in April.

Rather, they worry about “how to increase and maintain security camera systems, how to increase uniformed police and plain clothes security staff,” wrote Feng.

($1=6.7 Yuan)

(Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

Petraeus Aides to Pressure Pak Army Leaders To Allow US Incursions

US in favour of cross-border attacks to check Taliban flow from Pak

Melbourne, Oct 13 (ANI): US military officials are advocating cross-border attacks as part of new tactics to choke off the flow of Taliban fighters and bomb-making materials from Pakistan into key battlefields of south Afghanistan.

Two senior officers belonging to the team of General David Petraeus, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, are scheduled to meet their Pakistani counterparts this week, a senior NATO official said.

Major-General Mike Flynn and Major-General William Mayville plan to share US intelligence about Taliban efforts to recruit fighters in refugee camps in Pakistan, and locations where the Taliban load ammonium nitrate to make bombs.

The officers will also present intelligence to their Pakistani counterparts about Taliban operations in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, The Age reports.

The US has had faced problems this year in Kandahar and neighbouring Helmand province, where it has sent tens of thousands of additional troops.

The US offensives in the region have struggled to clear guerilla fighters, who easily disappear into the local population.

General Petraeus is facing a deadline from the White House to show progress in the war by next July, and officials said he was pushing the Pakistani military to confront the Taliban.

“We’re going to take this fight to the edge. We’re not going to back off,” said one official.

Kandahar and parts of Helmand have remained violent in part because of the infiltration of fighters over the border.

The Taliban leadership fled across the border to the Balochistan capital, Quetta, after the US invasion of 2001, and some members are believed to be directing the insurgency from there. (ANI)

Another Baloch National Party Leader Murdered in Kalat

The Blaoch Hal News

QUETTA: A senior leader of Balochistan National Party (BNP-M), Mir Nooruddin Mengal, was shot dead by unidentified men near his residence in Kalat, some 145-kilometer in southeast of Quetta, on Wednesday.

The enraged political workers blocked the RCD  (Regional Cooperation Development) highway for traffic in protest against the killing.

According to sources, as Mengal stepped out from his residence situated in Gharebabad  near Kalat Bazar, unidentified men ambushed him and opened targeted firing. As result of firing, he sustained bullet injuries and was rushed to nearby hospital by the local people where the injured was referred to Quetta for specialized treatment. Mengal succumbed to his injuries on his way to Quetta.

The assailants, who were on motorbike, escaped from the scene after committing crime.

“The victim was shot in head and chest,” a doctor at Kalat hospital reached via phone disclosed to The Baloch Hal.

Mengal, the slain leader, was a member of the central committee of Balochistan National Party. He was the first cousin of Justice Amirul Mulk Mengal, a former governor and Chief Justice of Balochistan High Court. He was in politics for the past many decades and suffered a lot because of his political views. He remained in prison for fighting for Baloch national rights.

” Noor-ud-din was very close to party chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal and was a top aide on political issues,” he political expert told The Baloch Hal.

Party workers, in large numbers, reached the hospital soon after the incident to condemn the assassination attempt. Enraged political workers also staged a protest demonstration on RCD highway disrupting flow of traffic in protest against the political assassination. The traffic remained disrupted for several hours and caused inconvenience to the passengers.

Police said they were still ignorant about the incident whether it was a targeted killing or as case of tribal enmity.

“Investigations are still underway to chase the criminals who carried out the attack,” said an official.

Central Secretary general of Balochistan National Party Habib Jalib Baloch had been shot dead in Quetta in July this year while several other BNP leaders have been coming under attack in the recent times.

On its part, the BNP termed the incident as a case of targeted killing by the State functionaries and elements who killed its veteran leader Habib Jalib Baloch and other leaders.

Acting President of BNP, Dr Janzeb Jamaldini, has strongly condemned the incident and called it a pre-planed strategy to create a serious law and order issue in the province.

He announced that BNP will hold protest demonstrations on Thursday (today) and shutter down and wheel jam strike throughout Balochistan on Friday and also observe ten days of mourning.

Dr Jamaldini said Nooruddin Mengal’s killing was a part of the ongoing cycle of targeted killing of  BNP leadership in order to eliminate them from political surface of province.

“Our political party will not be cowed down nor will we deviate from our struggle for the Baloch right to self-determination,” he said adding that soon his party will hold protests across the province against what he billed as “targeted killing” and “extra-judicial arrest” of Baloch political leaders.