Putin Rejects Foreign Pseudo-Democracy

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a state-of-the nation address  in Moscow,  Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012. Putin delivered his first state-of-the nation address since winning a third term in March's election despite a wave of massive protests in Moscow. Putin has taken a tough course on dissent since his...

Putin bristles at foreign influence, pledges to strengthen Russia’s might

Putin rejects foreign advice on democracy

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV | ASSOCIATED PRESS | Dec 12, 2012 7:08 AM CST in

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday angrily rejected what he described as attempts to enforce foreign patterns of democracy on Russia and vowed to preserve the nation’s identity against interference from abroad.

 

Putin’s speech was his first state-of-the nation address since winning a third term in March’s election despite a wave of massive protests in Moscow. Putin has pursued a tough course on dissent since his inauguration with arrests and searches of opposition activists and introduction of laws that impose heavy fines on protesters and rigid rules on civil society groups.

Speaking to lawmakers, officials and clerics who gathered in the Kremlin’s ornate St. George’s Hall, Putin said Russia would follow its own view on democracy and shrug off any “standards enforced on us from outside.”

“Direct or indirect foreign interference in our internal political processes is inadmissible,” he said. “Those who receive money from abroad for their political activities and serve alien interests shouldn’t engage in politics in Russia.”

One of the laws passed by the Kremlin-controlled parliament requires non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in vaguely defined political activities to register as “foreign agents,” a move the groups said was aimed to intimidate them and destroy their credibility with Russians for whom “agent” is synonymous with “spy.”

Putin also pledged to support “institutions that represent traditional spiritual values,” a hint at even more state support for the Russian Orthodox Church.

In August, three members of the punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for performing a protest song in Moscow’s main cathedral. One was released on appeal, but two others are serving their sentences despite an international protests.

Russia’s task on the global stage will be to preserve its “national and spiritual identity,” Putin said, adding that the strengthening of the nation’s military might should “guarantee its independence and security.”

He added that Russia would continue to push for “coordinated collective efforts” in dealing with global issues.

The Kremlin has said that its continuous refusal to support international sanctions against Syria’s President Bashar Assad is rooted in international law that bars interference in a sovereign country’s affairs.

The conflict in Syria has started nearly 21 months ago as an uprising against Assad, whose family has ruled the country for four decades and it quickly morphed into a civil war, with rebels taking up arms to fight back against a bloody crackdown by the government. According to activists, more than 40,000 people have been killed since March 2011.

Putin sought to boost patriotic feelings by promising to honor heroes of World War I and restoring the historic names of old imperial regiments of the Russian army.

In a speech that focused heavily on social issues, Putin encouraged families to have more children, promised to create 25 million new jobs and develop new incentives for teachers, doctors, engineers and others.

He also made new promises to boost the fight against corruption.

Russia is considered to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. A group that tracks global perception of the problem ranks Russia 143rd out of 183 countries.

“A sustained and visible effort to reduce corruption is one of the catalysts that could cut the current high risk premium investors apply to Russian equities,” Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Sberbank CIB investment bank said in a note to investors earlier this week

Putin called for sanctioning officials who own foreign stocks or banks accounts abroad, and said they will have to explain the source of financing for big purchases including real estate abroad.

His statements would play well with the domestic audience, which has relished in the recent ouster of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov over a military corruption scandal and investigations against other officials suspected of graft. Still, Gleb Pavlovsky, a political analyst and former Kremlin political strategist told the Intefax news agency that “Putin had failed to send a message of purging the high ranks.”

The opposition ridiculed Putin’s statements as lacking substance and novelty. “Everything will be fine soon, I promise,” opposition activist Alexei Navalny wrote sarcastically while summing up Putin’s address.

Another opposition activist, Vladimir Ryzhkov, called the speech a “manifesto of preserving political status quo.”

Putin repeated pledges to reduce the nation’s reliance on exports of oil and other mineral resources and encourage the development of high-tech industries. He also lamented a huge capital outflow and Russian companies moving abroad to avoid the uncertainties of Russian laws and courts.

Russian authorities are expecting capital outflows of up to $65 billion this year. Putin quoted analyst estimates that 9 out of 10 major deals of Russian companies are registered abroad to be governed by foreign laws. He urged the government to seek more information on Russian companies from offshore nations where they are registered.

Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed to this report.

Putin Backs Plan To Wring $1 Trillion Out of Oligarch Expatriates

Putin Backs Efforts to Compel $1 Trillion Repatriation

BLOOMBERG

By Scott Rose & Ilya Arkhipov

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin threw his support behind efforts by allied lawmakers to repatriate as much as $1 trillion in capital held by companies and high ranking officials abroad.

Russia should proceed with anti-corruption legislation that would put limits on bureaucrats and politicians owning foreign bank deposits and securities, Putin said today in Moscow in his first state-of-the-nation address since returning to the presidency in May. The curbs should include all top policy makers including the president, prime minister and their families, he said.

Clawing back assets amassed by Russians in low-tax foreign jurisdictions is central to Putin’s plan to reignite and diversify the sagging economy through investment. The government this week cut its growth forecast for next year to 3.6 percent, less than the “minimum” 5 percent to 6 percent Russia needs over the next decade, Putin said.

“How can you trust an official or politician who makes bold statements about the wellbeing ofRussia, but then tries to move his funds, his cash, abroad?” Putin said. “Property abroad should be declared regardless, and officials should report its value and also the source of the income that allowed them to make that transaction.”

Fighting Graft

Putin has embarked on the most far-reaching campaign against corruption of his 12-year rule since reclaiming the Kremlin this year, ousting Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov because of graft allegations against his subordinates. Russia kept its ranking as the world’s most corrupt major economy, according to Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index published Dec. 5, placing it alongside Honduras and below Uganda and Nicaragua.

Russia could win back as much as $1 trillion in cash held abroad by offering an amnesty, Vyacheslav Lysakov, a State Duma deputy and member of the People’s Front movement that backs Putin, said in an interview before the speech today. Under the proposal, the returning funds would still be taxed, he said.

“It’s a replenishment for the state budget and also the investments we so sorely need,” Lysakov said. “This is money that’s supporting the Western economy, the Western banking system, Western companies. That’s not right.”

Fleeing Jurisdiction

The government must also move to improve Russian courts and legislation to stop what Putin said was a “flight” from the country’s jurisdiction. He ordered the government to draft proposals to bring about the “de-offshorization” of the economy, including using local exchanges for state asset sales.

“Our entrepreneurs are often criticized for being unpatriotic,” he said. “Nine out of 10 significant deals done by large Russian companies, including companies partly owned by the state, are not subject to Russian law.”

Alexei Kudrin, who served as Putin’s finance minister for 11 years, said exiting offshores “really must be done through making the Russian jurisdiction more attractive, not through compulsion,” according to a post on his Twitter Inc. account.

The Micex Index of 30 stocks has advanced 3.3 percent this year through yesterday, lagging behind a 12.9 percent advance in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. The ruble-denominated benchmark was 1.4 percent higher at 1,468.52 as of 5:20 p.m. in Moscow, heading for the highest close since Oct. 22.

$12 Billion

Russians spent $12 billion on foreign property last year, compared with $5.5 billion a year in 2007 and 2008, central bank Chairman Sergei Ignatiev said April 5. Net capital outflows may reach $75 billion this year after doubling to $80.5 billion in 2011, according to the Economy Ministry.

Putin is trying to boost investment to at least 27 percent of economic output by the end of his term in 2018, from 21 percent last year. The Economy Ministry cut its growth forecast for next year this week and has urged the government to spend more of its oil revenue on roads and other infrastructure.

Hours after taking the oath of office in May, Putin signed more than a dozen orders laying out plans for the economy, foreign and social policy. In addition to boosting investment, Putin ordered the government to improve Russia’s standing in the World Bank’s Doing Business rating to 20th by 2018 and creating 25 million high-quality jobs by 2020.

The government is also trying to cut its dependence on oil and gas, which account for half of thefederal budget’s revenue. Without those resources, the budget would be in a deficit of about 10.5 percent of GDP this year, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Dec. 9.

In his speech today, Putin said the central bank and government should do more to safeguard jobs and growth, noting that other monetary regulators including the U.S. Federal Reserve had an explicit mandate to ensure growth.

“We need long and cheap money to lend to the economy, further reductions in inflation and competitive bank rates,” Putin said, adding that he wasn’t calling for changes to Bank Rossii’s mandate. “I’m asking the government and central bank to think about ways to achieve those goals.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Scott Rose in Moscow at rrose10@bloomberg.net; Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

Rebel Politics In Russia–Russian Red Dawn?

Russia’s Rising Red Dawn

Isabel Magkoeva

Isabel Magkoeva

© Facebook

Marc Bennetts

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti)

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 appeared to have sounded the death knell for the ideas of Marx and Lenin in Russia, but just over two decades on, a new wave of young and increasingly visible socialist activists are eager to hoist the red flag over the Kremlin once more.

“I became interested in socialism when I was in my late teens,” said Isabel Magkoeva, 21, a rising star of Russia’s left and an activist with the Revolutionary Socialist Movement.

“I was always concerned by economic inequality and started to ask questions about why this should be. Then I got interested in left-wing literature,” added Magkoeva, a former teenage model who bears a striking resemblance to high-profile Chilean student protest leader Camila Vallejo. “That was when I realized I wanted to get involved.”

But although Magkoeva praises Lenin as a “great revolutionary,” she has few illusions about the Soviet Union, which ceased to exist the same year she was born.

“There was no genuine socialism in the Soviet Union,” she said. “And it is inaccurate to portray us all as seeking a return to the past. That simply isn’t true. We are for a new modernized form of socialism.”

This increase in the popularity of socialist ideas has been bolstered, in part, by Russia’s appalling record on wealth inequality, highlighted earlier this month by a report by the Swiss financial services company Credit Suisse.

“Excluding small Caribbean nations with resident billionaires, wealth inequality in Russia is the highest in the world,” the report said. “Worldwide, billionaires collectively account for less than 2% of total household wealth; in Russia today, around 100 billionaires own 30% of all personal assets.”

It is figures like this that, activists say, have attracted young Russians to socialist groups. Young left-wingers have been among the main movers in the unprecedented protests against the almost 13-year-rule of President Vladimir Putin, bucking an over-two-decade long trend that had seen unreformed, elderly Soviet-era communists as almost the sole champions of socialist causes.

“Young people have almost no chance to buy affordable housing and bring up a family normally. There is almost no opportunity for people to climb the social ladder, especially for those who are not from Moscow,” said activist Sergei Fomchenkov, 38, a leading member of the Other Russia movement.

“And so when people see all this, and then see a small group of incredibly wealthy billionaires building themselves luxury villas and so on, of course they start to see leftist ideas as a real alternative,” he added.

But, like Magkoeva, Fomchenkov has no desire to see Russia return to its Soviet past.

“We want a modernized form of socialism in which the state controls national industry, but not small businesses,” he stressed. “It would be lunacy to attempt to control the activities of every small café, for example.”

Analysts tie this rise in socialist ideas in Russia into a similar trend in a crisis-hit Europe, where leftist parties have made dramatic gains in an increasingly polarized political atmosphere.

“Like everywhere in Europe, vulnerable young people hit by the global economic crisis are rediscovering the ideas of socialism,” said Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at the Moscow-based Carnegie Center think tank. “These ideas were discredited in Russia in the period after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but young people are today moving toward the new left.”

Left Front

The most high-profile of this new generation of leftists, Sergei Udaltsov, made international headlines last week when he was charged with planning mass disorder across Russia on the basis of grainy footage broadcast by a pro-Kremlin channel.

Left Front leader Udaltsov, 36, a fiery, shaven-head activist who has been one of the main players in ongoing anti-Kremlin street protests, could face up to ten years behind bars if convicted on the charges, which he denies. Udaltsov was released by investigators on a pledge not to leave Moscow, but two other Left Front activists remain in custody waiting trial.

“It’s no coincidence that the Left Front movement was targeted,” activist Alexei Sakhnin told journalists after Udaltsov had been freed on a pledge not to leave Moscow. “The Left Front is the only group to have addressed social issues such as rising utility costs, which is something that millions of Russians suffer from every day.”

And the movement’s rhetoric seems to have struck a chord with many Russians. A public opinion survey by state-pollster VTsIOM indicated that Udaltsov was the only high-profile protest leader to have seen his popularity ratings increase since Putin’s election to a third term in March.

“Left wing groups in Russia openly sought a return to a socialism system in the 1990s, but they were entirely discredited,” said Left Front co-founder Ilya Ponomaryov. “But people have now again begun to see leftist ideas as a real alternative and it’s a very positive sign that more and more young people are getting involved.”

But he dismissed suggestions that history has proven it is impossible to build a viable society on the principles of socialism and communism.

“They all got Marx and Engels wrong,” he said, referring to previous failed attempts to construct socialist states. “You have to get the economic approach right first, before you can build a socialist country.”

Communist Nostalgia

Putin once famously called the Soviet Union’s collapse “the greatest geo-political catastrophe” of the 20th century, tapping into a pervasive nostalgia for the Soviet era among the older generation.

And avowed Putin foe Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB officer turned Kremlin critic,told RIA Novosti earlier this year that he shared the president’s views. “We could have kept the country together,” he said.

Left Front co-founder Ponomaryov, 37, also admitted to “mixed feelings” about the Soviet Union.

“It was strong state with many social guarantees, but there was far too much bureaucracy,” he said. “But it’s clear things were better in the Soviet Union than they are now.”

“There was no freedom of speech or human rights back then, but there isn’t any now, either,” he said.

This widespread respect for the Soviet past has translated into voter support for the Communist Party, the second largest political party in parliament.

But activists like Magkoeva, who spent the weekend collecting money for “political prisoners” at a two-day opposition rally in central Moscow, have little time for the party, whose veteran leader, Gennady Zyuganov, has lost four presidential elections since the break-up of the Soviet Union.

“Today’s Communist Party may praise the Soviet Union, but it has little in common with left-wing ideas,” she said. “It is an opposition for show only, which does not shy away from using the most populist ideas, from small business to Orthodox Christianity, to attract supporters.”

And it is the socialist fervor of Magkoeva and her comrades that many analysts see as the biggest threat to Putin’s grip on power.

“A few years ago, it seemed that nationalist groups posed the greatest danger to the authorities,” said Shevtsova, the Carnegie Center analyst. “But now it is clear that it is the new left.”

Russia Gives USAID the Boot for Meddling In Its Political Process

(RTTNews) – Russia asked the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to wind up its activity in the country as it tried to meddle with the country’s political process by using its grants, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Russia told the USAID to cease its activity in the country because the agency had “tried to affect the course of the political process in the country by its use of grants,” Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in Moscow, adding that the agency would cease operating in Russia from October 1.

“The decision was called for primarily because the character of the agency’s representatives work in our country did not always comply with the declared aims of cooperation in bilateral humanitarian cooperation. We are talking about issuing grants in an attempt to affect the course of the political process in the country, including elections at different levels and institutions in civil society,” the Ministry said on its website.

Russian civil society has become fully mature, the Foreign Ministry said, and did not need “external direction.” Moscow is ready to work with USAID in third countries, it said.

U..S State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday had announced the termination of USAID’s activity in Russia.

“The United States recently received the Russian Government’s decision to end USAID activities in the Russian Federation,” Nuland said in a statement. “We are extremely proud of what USAID has accomplished in Russia over the past two decades, and we will work with our partners and staff to responsibly end or transition USAID’s programs.” she said in a statement.

USAID, which operates in more than 100 countries, has been active in Russia over the past two decades. Its array of social programs have targeted issues such as at-risk youth and pressing public health issues, Russian media reported.

The USAID supports development and governance programs around the world. The agency says it has provided “more than $2.6 billion toward Russia’s social and economic development” since 1992.

USAID says it has worked with a wide range of organizations, including government, the private sector and non-profit, during its 20-year history in Russia. The agency claims that its operations were aimed at creating “a more open and innovative society and a strengthened partnership between Russia and the United States.”

The latest development comes two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a controversial legislation that requires Russian non-governmental organizations receiving foreign funding to register as a “foreign agent” and submit to more rigorous checks by the authorities.

Russian authorities say the new law is aimed at preventing foreign nations from influencing the country’s internal politics. Incidentally, foreign-funded NGOs and Western nations, particularly the United States, were blamed for inciting the widespread protests that followed Putin’s disputed re-election in May.

The Opposition claimed that the polls were marred by irregularities. Golos, Russia’s only monitoring group funded mainly by the U.S. and the EU, confirmed that it had received nearly 5,300 complaints alleging violations of electoral laws. The post-poll protests were brutally suppressed, with hundreds of demonstrators detained.

Putin was Russia’s President between 2000 and 2008, when he was forced to stand down by the Constitution. He then became Prime Minister after ushering in his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev as President. Medvedev is currently Russia’s Prime Minister.

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

Knee-jerk Russian Reactionaries Attack Putin Even When He Is Doing the Right Thing

[Putin and the rest of Russia's leaders face a daunting task in seeking to revive Russian spiritual values, which have largely lain dormant, or have been slowly corrupted by subservience to the state for seventy years of Communist totalitarianism. Russia and all of the former Soviet satellite countries are in an extended period of recovery from that era and the illogical dictates of the Central Committee (think, Aral Sea). Spirituality, as much as physical infrastructure, suffered grave deterioration during those years of neglect. Reviving dreams of future greatness for Russia is an essential part of embracing Russian leadership on the world stage today. Without Russian leadership we have very little chance to stop the forces pushing the nations to war.

One further point in parting, for those who misunderstood Putin's meaning when he mourned the loss of the Soviet Union as humanity's great loss--Putin meant that the world might have been spared the past 25 years of savage, unrestrained American hegemonic aggression and the threat of world war which looms before us today. If the Soviet Union had learned moderation, instead of simply collapsing in exhaustion, then there would be no impending war between us today, as we square-off over the remains.]

How Satan Is Destroying Russia

Welcome to 1598. In this year, King Henry IV of France proclaimed the Edict of Nantes, which regulated relations between the country’s Catholics and Protestants and put an end to a religious war that had been raging for decades. Four centuries later, in Russia, in September 2012, billionaire and former presidential candidateMikhail Prokhorovproposed a federal religious code to prevent an all-out religious war.

“In recent months, the relationship between citizens and the state and church has already led to a schism in society that threatens Russian culture,” Prokhorovwrotein a comment published in Kommersant on Sept. 12. He noted that despite the secular government clause in the Constitution, “the majority of politicians, including the leaders of parties in parliament, prefer to ignore what’s written there. Cozying up to the church … undermines the basic principles of the country’s supreme governing document and creates a multitude of dangers.”

The words “threat” and “danger” are bandied about by just about every Russian politician and public figure these days. But leaders have vastly different notions of what exactly the danger is. In a meeting with the public in Krasnodar on Sept. 12, PresidentVladimir Putinsaidthe main danger for the country is insufficient patriotism and a lack of “respect for our history and traditions and the spiritual values of our peoples.”

Putin also said Russia has become the “focus of an overt information war … and certainly of a well-directed propaganda attack.”

Putin’s speeches often sound like they have been written by professional diplomats, and their ambiguity raises more questions than his statements answer. For example, what “spiritual values” does Putin have in mind? This is, after all, the man who used the phrase “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” to describe the dissolution of the Soviet Union, one of the most militantly anti-religious regimes in history. And who is “directing” these attacks against the spiritual values of Russia’s nations?

Perhaps the key to understanding Putin’s speech can be found in a recent television program by Arkady Mamontov, “Provocateurs. Part Two,” aired on Rossia 1 state television a day before Putin spoke in Krasnodar. Mamontov, who has already established himself as a politically sensational filmmaker, revealed in his latest program that the United States has developed a plan for revolution in Russia. The foot soldiers in this revolution are members of the punk-performance group Pussy Riot. We were told that the main organizer of the revolution, including the Pussy Riot stunts, is billionaireBoris Berezovsky, who is pulling the revolutionary strings from his self-exile in London.

Neither Mamontov nor his interview subjects, professional Putin-lovers, produced a single fact proving contact between Berezovsky and the punk musicians. Nor did Mamontov interview Berezovsky, although the tycoon immediately responded with a categorical denial of having anything to do with Pussy Riot.

The film was harshly criticized not only by the liberal end of the political spectrum but even by some members of the Russian Orthodox clergy. Deacon Andrei Kurayev, whose views are hardly liberal,wroteon his LiveJournal blog: “I am not a supporter of Pussy Riot or Berezovsky. But why lie? Why pass off licentious animal instincts for the norms of Christianity?”

Perhaps Kurayev and Mamontov have different notions about Christianity and its norms. In aninterviewwith the Internet portal Orthodoxy and the World, Mamontov spun out a truly apocalyptic picture: “The devil really wants to destroy Russia and its people, to build something else on its territory,” he said.

Mamontov isn’t the only one seeing dark visions. A statementissued by the Eurasian Youth Union, headed by the pro-Kremlin ideologue Alexander Dugin, reads: “Everyone who sympathizes with liberals, Pussy Riot and the West belongs to Satan. This is the army of hell.”

In the days leading up to Saturday’s opposition march, the Eurasian union called upon its supporters to take to the streets to defy them: “On Sept. 15, the devil’s spawn will crawl out on the streets. Eurasians will go out with crosses, daggers and silver bullets to stop hell.”

Satan, evil oligarchs and punk rockers who have sold their souls to the devil, silver bullets, daggers and crosses. It sounds like a script for another Hollywood film about the eternal war between mortals and vampires. Unfortunately, in Russia this is simply a description of public opinion, which exists alongside the Internet and digital television. In fact, technology just spreads the paranoia.

Society has become split between the liberals and the Orthodox fundamentalists, who are locked in a Cold Religious War. There are no fatalities in this war yet, but there are casualties and prisoners of war. Take, for example, the three Pussy Riot members locked up for two years in prison.

In this context, Prokhorov’s proposal to ratify a religious code likely won’t go anywhere, at least in the near future. If we are lucky, the cold war won’t turn hot, and virtual silver bullets won’t be transformed into real bullets fired from a Kalashnikov rifle.

Victor Davidoff is a Moscow-based writer and journalist who follows the Russian blogosphere in his biweekly column.

The Moscow Times

Putin: terrorists “will never achieve” their goals in Russia

 

Путин заседание правления Торгово-промышленной палаты РФ

Photo: RIA Novosti

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that terrorists “will never achieve their dirty goals” in Russia.

“Terrorists, bandits of all shades, no matter what ideological slogans they cloak themselves with, always act cynically, behind one’s back, and they have the sole aim of sowing fear and mutual hatred, disuniting people, and then bringing them under their influence and enslaving them. Replacing genuine values with false propaganda of extremist, aggressive ideas,” Putin said during an honors conferment ceremony in Bolgar in Russia’s Tatarstan republic.

He said there is nothing that terrorists stop at. He accused them of murdering clerics and people professing the same religion as they do, and perpetrating killings during religious holidays.

“But the criminals will never achieve their dirty goals. They have no future, they won’t get anywhere in any of the regions of our large country. Because a united multi-ethnic nation is impossible to defeat,” Putin said.

Putin calls for preserving interethnic harmony

Russia should do everything to preserve peace and interethnic harmony.

President Vladimir Putin reiterated that on Tuesday while giving out state awards to Muslim clerics of Tatarstan, a Russian republic on the Volga.

Russia’s enemies, who resort to terrorism in their bid to pull the country apart, split it according to religious and ethnic principles, will not succeed, he said.

“The multi-ethnic Russian people numbers millions of individuals who cannot be frightened, and therefore cannot be defeated,” Putin said.

He handed the Order of Courage to the widow of Valiulla Yakupov, deputy head of the Spiritual Muslim Board of Tatarstan, who was killed in Kazan on July 19.

The republic’s chief mufti Ildus Faizov, who was wounded in an assassination attempt the same day, was decorated with the Order of Friendship.

Interfax, TASS

NGOs to Register as ‘Foreign Agents’ or Risk Jail Time

NGOs to Register as ‘Foreign Agents’ or Risk Jail Time

Author of the amendments State Duma Deputy Alexander Sidyakin

Dozhd TV

Author of the amendments State Duma Deputy Alexander Sidyakin

Non-governmental organizations funded by foreign donors and involved in “political” activity face hefty fines and jail terms if they fail to register on a state list, under plans drawn up by ruling party United Russia.

The amendments to the law on NGOs, officially submitted to the State Duma on Friday, open a new front in the struggle between the government and civil society groups, following the passing of a law earlier this month that drastically increases the fines for illegal demonstrations.

The proposals, drafted by United Russia Duma Deputy Alexander Sidyakin, would require all non-governmental organizations receiving funding from abroad and engaged in “political” activities to register on a special list as “foreign agents”. These NGOs would also have to publish a report of their activities every six months and undertake an annual financial audit.

Any organizations failing to register within 90 days of the law coming into force would be liable to civil and criminal penalties, the deputy told RIA-Novosti on Friday. The penalties included a maximum prison sentence of four years, fines up to 300,000 rubles ($9,128) or 480 hours of mandatory community service.

Why Putin is being so helpful to the US

[The author of the following report has Putin sized-up correctly, but only partly so.  Putin is cooperating with the US modernization of Central Asian infrastructure, because he hopes to inherit what America leaves there, but more to the point, Putin wants Russia to become a part of the West, or as Western leaders like to call themselves, "the civilized world."  The big question remains--What is most important to Putin, merging with the West into the "New World Order," or doing what is best for the Russian people?] 

Why Putin is being so helpful to the US 

Asia Time Online - Daily News
By Brian M Downing

The United States is now sending almost all its supplies for the Afghan war through Russia or countries obedient to Moscow. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan would not allow US convoys had Russian President Vladimir Putin not sanctioned it. This route has taken away the leverage that Pakistani generals had over the US by virtue of the importance of the southern convoy routes.

In world affairs, one power only rarely helps another without incurring a debt, financial or otherwise. Even during World War II, the US leaned on Britain to open its empire to US commerce. Today, Putin has been exceptionally helpful to the US, despite having to endure disappointments and annoyances over the missile shield, Libya, and Syria.

He even faced an uninformed and worrisome statement from presidential contender Mitt Romney about Russia being the US’s chief foe in the world.

The Russian president might obligingly inform his potential counterpart – in the interest of greater international understanding, of course – that if he were a foe, or treated as one in the future, he could maroon an American-European expeditionary force in the foreboding mountains and deserts of Central Asia.

Accommodating foreign powers and forbearance on the world stage have not been hallmarks of Russian or Soviet foreign policy over the years.

Nor are they readily discernible in the outlooks of former KGB officers. So why is Putin being so helpful to the US? The answer lies in common interests in Afghanistan, but perhaps more importantly in common concerns over the emerging geopolitics of Central Asia.

Russia and the US share an interest in countering Islamist militancy in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In recent years Russia has faced such militants in the Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan, and Ossetia) and does not wish to see their likes regain control of Afghanistan from which militancy might readily spread into Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Russia sees these former Soviet republics as in its sphere and it has worried of pan-Islamic movements there since the days of the communists – if not those of the tsars.

The importance of US supply lines into Afghanistan, in the eyes of the Kremlin, is not limited to the war and a show of cooperation. Putin is an avid student of state power and economics and knows that during the American Civil War (1861-65), the army built up the rail and telegraphic infrastructure which contributed mightily to the nation’s subsequent economic boom; during World War II, the US built ports and air bases around the world that later expanded global commerce; and the port facilities and logistical hubs of the Vietnam war have proved useful to the Hanoi government long after the US departed in 1975.

Putin is also knowledgeable in judo, a martial art in which the expert uses his opponents’ strengths to his advantage. In the Central Asian case, however, both partners will benefit though not equally. As the limitations of the roads, depots, and rail lines running from the Black Sea and Baltic Sea into Central Asia become clear to NATO logistics experts, it will be necessary to improve, expand and modernize them.

The US will build an infrastructure system that Russia and other countries in the region will benefit from for many decades. Corporations that today see Afghanistan as tempting but inaccessible will look again at those promising geological surveys that found great riches.

The US will be bringing in war material and development supplies; the enterprises of various countries will be taking out Afghan copper, iron, and rare earths. Extraction will be confined for the near term to the north where the insurgency is weak but with a settlement someday, southern resources too can head north, especially if Pakistan becomes more unstable and Iran remains under international sanctions.

Russia sees this economic potential as stabilizing the region, enriching its coffers and influence, and limiting or balancing the already considerable Chinese presence in Central Asia. China is ascendant, Russia is not. China has been booming and its leadership and people look about them with a sense of limitlessness. Russia is comparatively stagnant and demoralized. Both powers know that they have vied over many centuries for power in Central Asia and that Russia usually won out, appropriating large swathes of the region.

From Moscow’s perspective, China’s economic expansion into Central Asia may be the basis for greater influence – perhaps a neo-colonial arrangement that from Beijing’s perspective rights the wrongs of centuries past and helps restore its place as the center of the world.

Russia’s goal is not to forge an anti-Chinese alliance with the US. Neither power wants that just now. The goal is to provide the basis for non-Chinese-centered development of the region and to strengthen a triangular power relationship among Russia, China, and the US – one with potential for each power’s shifting over from side to side as circumstances warrant. Undoubtedly, circumstances will change.

The US, however, will be the weakest power in the Central Asian triangle. Geography guarantees that. Crucially, Russia can limit US influence in the region through its influence in several of the former Soviet republics, where old communist personnel and political arrangements have persisted. And of course should the US weary of the region or be expelled by Russia, the roads, depots, and other infrastructure it built over the years cannot very well be taken out.

Brian M Downing is a political/military analyst and author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam. He can be reached at brianmdowning@gmail.com.

Russia Dismayed by Syria Rebels Ceasefire Rejection

Russia Dismayed by Syria Rebels Ceasefire Rejection

Members of Free Syrian Army. Archive

Members of Free Syrian Army. Archive

MOSCOW, June 5 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti)

Russia is disappointed in the decision by Syrian rebels to pull out of a ceasefire that was an integral part of a United Nations peace plan for the conflict-torn Middle Eastern country, a leading Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday.

“This is, of course, sad and extremely negative,” Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said.

He also said a U.S. State Department delegation would arrive in Moscow later this week for talks on how to resolve the crisis in Syria.

A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army told Reuters on Monday that insurgents had pulled out of the faltering truce stipulated by UN envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan and had begun attacking soldiers to “defend our people.” The statement came after a British-based activist group said rebels had killed some 80 soldiers over the weekend.

The spokesman also said rebels were calling for the UN observer mission in the country to become a “peace enforcing mission.” He also said the rebels would welcome the imposition by the international community of a no-fly zone and a buffer zone.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated on Monday that Annan’s plan “remains central” to halting more than 15-months of bloodshed in Syria.The UN has sent 300 observers to Syria to monitor a ceasefire that has failed to take hold since it was supposed to come into force on April 12.

And the European Union and Russia said at a summit in St. Petersburg on Monday that, despite “diverging assessments” they both agreed that Annan’s faltering peace plan remained the best chance of halting the spiraling violence in Syria.

The St. Petersburg summit came a day after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in a televised address, denied that government forces were to blame for the May 25 massacre of over 100 people, including dozens of children, in the Syrian town of Houla. Assad said the killings were an “ugly crime” that even “terrorists” would balk at carrying out.

The United Nations, citing eyewitnesses, has said pro-Assad militia fighters were responsible for the slaughter. Russia has criticized Syria over its shelling of the town, but says it does not rule out that rebels carried out the majority of the killings as a “provocation” ahead of a visit by Annan to Syria.

Syria announced on Tuesday that it would expel the ambassadors of a host of Western countries, including the United States, Britain and France. The move comes after Syrian envoys in the West were told to pack their bags in the wake of the Houla massacre.

The Kremlin has come under international pressure to take harder line on embattled Assad regime.

Russia has denied that it is protecting Assad or that it has any special interests in Syria, but has twice – along with China – vetoed UN resolutions against Damascus over what it calls a pro-rebel bias.

Moscow has, however, fully backed Annan’s plan, which calls for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from urban areas and a ceasefire to end 15-months of spiraling violence there.

Putin said in February in a pre-election campaign article that Russia would not allow a repeat of the “Libyan scenario.” Russia abstained from the March 2011 UN Security Council vote on the resolution that led to NATO airstrikes against forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his eventual death at the hands of rebels.

The UN says over 9,000 people have died since the revolt against Assad’s 11-year rule began last year.

Presidents of All Five Stans Support Putin’s Snub of Obama’s Chicago Victory Party

Moscow Pushes for CSTO-NATO Unity of Mission, Separate Spheres of Influence

[This helps to validate previous articles on US/Russian, as well as capitalist/communist conspiracies intended to establish joint world domination.  They have never really been anything more than paper enemies, who secretly cooperated as they practiced the black art of "brinksmanship," to persuade the rest of the world to accept their joint domination, through global government.  The world has been held hostage, submitted to years of thermonuclear blackmail, endured wars and accelerated levels of human suffering, to underwrite global armaments industries--All to enable the production of this sick charade.  Evidently, it is now safe to bring their deadly, illicit relationship out of the closet, as both sides boldly work towards a common vision of world government out in the open, in the clear light of day.  With both sides willing to submit their rapid reaction forces to United Nations control, we have one agenda, with two separate spheres of control.  

SHUT DOWN THE SOURCE--the UN.] 

George H.W. Bush at 1990-09-11  Joint session to Congress after Iraq invasion of Kuwait:

“A new partnership of nations has begun.

We stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective — a new world order — can emerge….together with Arabs, Europeans, Asians, and Africans in defense of principle and the dream of a new world order….old adversaries like the Soviet Union and the United States can work in common cause.”

CSTO, NATO should cooperate against terrorism, drugs – Moscow

Photo: AFP

Russia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which brings it together with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The current chair nation is Kazakhstan.

At a ministerial meeting of the CSTO in Moscow on Friday, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov praised the organization’s performance in the fields of military, information and financial security. He also mentioned joint action to improve the protection of Tajikistan’s border with Afghanistan, a territory which still poses serious threats.

These threats are terrorism and illegal drugs. Importantly, none can be beaten without close international cooperation against it. Demonstrating full awareness of this, the ministers at the Moscow meeting unanimously backed a Russian initiative to join forces with NATO in combating the Afghan-based terrorism and the Afghan-grown drugs.

Emerging from the session, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also had this to say:

“At this highly productive meeting, the ministers also approved an agenda to be jointly pushed at a number of international organizations, which have their headquarters in New York, Geneva, Vienna and Brussels. The work will be in the form of joint argumentation and joint statements.”

“Under a memorandum in the works, the CSTO will create a joint peace-keeping force, which will operate both within and outside the CSTO area. In the latter case, this force will be deploying soldiers in accordance with mandates issued to it by the UN Security Council. The ministers approved a draft general declaration, which will go before the next CSTO summit in May. This draft contains assessments and guidelines on a variety of regional and global issues.”

Mr Lavrov also touched on the outcome of a ministerial meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent

States, which worked in Moscow on Friday almost simultaneously with the CSTO meeting:

“The ministers reviewed the progress on the programmes of the Commonwealth’s Year of Sport and Healthy Lifestyles in 2012. They scheduled a number of appropriate events in each of the CIS member countries. At the end, the ministers ruled to make 2013 a CIS Year of the Natural Environment. The focus will be on protecting it and raising public awareness of environmental problems.”

The ministers also agreed measures to exchange financial intelligence, coordinate defence policies and improve border protection.

Russian opposition figure may be assassinated, Putin warns ahead of election

Russian opposition figure may be assassinated, Putin warns ahead of election

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned Russians that his enemies may kill a prominent opposition figure in order to fuel public outrage against the government.Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned Russians that his enemies may kill a prominent opposition figure in order to fuel public outrage against the government.

REUTERS NEWS AGENCY

Vladimir Isachenkov
Associated Press

MOSCOW—Prime Minister Vladimir Putin strongly warned his opponents against unsanctioned protests after Sunday’s presidential election, in which he is all but certain to regain the presidency.

In a statement reflecting heightening tensions four days before the vote, he also alleged Wednesday that his foes may kill a prominent opposition figure in order to fuel public outrage against the government.

“They are looking among well-known people for a sacrificial victim,” he said, according to Russian news reports. “They could, I’m sorry, knock someone off and then blame the authorities for that.”

Putin criticized the opposition plans for rallies over what it fears will be a fraudulent election, saying Wednesday it is “unacceptable” to prejudge the vote.

“We will respect any viewpoint but are calling on everyone to act within the framework of law and use only legitimate means,” he said at a meeting with his campaign activists.

Evidence of widespread vote-rigging in favour of Putin’s party in December’s parliamentary election fueled a series of massive protests in Moscow demanding an end to Putin’s 12-year rule. Their organizers had received the authorities’ clearance in advance to avoid any violence.

Civil society and opposition activists have turned out en masse to act as observers at the polls to prevent violations. They are also bracing up for demonstrations after the vote.

The opposition is now pushing authorities to allow a postelection protest at a venue even closer to the Kremlin. The Moscow city government has refused the demand, offering other more distant locations instead. The organizers have rejected that offer, raising the threat of violence.

Putin claimed Wednesday that unidentified forces abroad are plotting provocations against authorities after the vote. He has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. is stoking up protests in order to weaken Russia.

Putin, who was Russia’s president from 2000 to 2008 and has been prime minister since then, is running for a third, now six-year presidential term. Polls have showed he is likely to easily defeat four Kremlin-approved challengers, but his statements Wednesday reflected strong concern about the opposition protests.

Previous rallies in Moscow that drew tens of thousands in the largest show of discontent since the Soviet times were sanctioned by authorities and went on peacefully.

Putin seems to command the strong loyalty of police and other law enforcement agencies, which have seen significant wage increases recently. But a violent confrontation after Sunday’s vote could fuel public anger against Putin and destabilize the situation.

CIS Experts Meet In Minsk To Coordinate Emergency Response Measures

CIS experts to discuss a draft agreement on cooperation in emergency response

Victoria Naumova

Expert Group Meeting to finalize and agree to a draft agreement on cooperation of CIS member states in carrying out joint activities on liquidation of emergency situations and their consequences will be held in Minsk on February 28-29.

As the press service of the CIS Executive Committee, the impetus for the emergence of this agreement was the situation with regard to wildfires in the territory of the Russian Federation in the summer of 2010 when a fire ravaged an area exceeding 500 hectares. Fires were completely or partially destroyed 127 settlements, killing more than 50 people. These losses could be much higher if the aid of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations have not reached their counterparts from other countries, including from the CIS states. For instance, offered its assistance to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.

“Fires in Russia have shown inadequate legal framework for cooperation in emergency situations, primarily on the organization of movement and employment of forces and means on the territory of the injured party. To fill this gap and developed a draft agreement on cooperation in joint measures on liquidation of emergency situations and their consequences, “- said the press service.

According to the press service of the CIS Executive Committee, the document identifies the main forms of interaction, organization, conduct and completion of such activities, the legal status of their participants. It is planned that after the finalization of the draft agreement will be experts in the prescribed manner introduced by the Council of CIS Heads of State.

The source said that the strengthening of cooperation in the environmental field, the prevention of emergencies and natural disasters, strengthening joint efforts to prevent and combat natural and man-made disasters included the CIS Development Concept and Plan for its implementation.

“It is obvious that the security environment – one of those global problems that can not be solved by one state, as it requires concerted action by several countries on both the local and regional and global levels – said the press office. - According to world statistics, the number of natural hazard emergencies is increasing annually by an average of 4%, and the economic losses caused by them – by 10.4%. However, when a timely warning and taking the necessary measures in the loss of economy can be reduced to 40%, and in some cases prevent loss of life. “

Vladimir Putin–”Be strong: guarantee of national security for Russia”

Vladimir Putin: “Be strong: guarantee of national security for Russia”

Vladimir Putin: The army must become a professional, and should form the basis of its contractors.  Photo by Konstantin Zavrazhin
Vladimir Putin: The army must become a professional, and should form the basis of its contractors. Photo by Konstantin Zavrazhin

The world is changing. Going it processes global transformation fraught with risks of different, often unpredictable nature. In terms of global economic and other shocks is always a temptation to solve their problems at the expense of others, by the force of pressure. Not by chance that today there are voices that say, soon, “objective” will be a question that national sovereignty should not be subject to the resources of global importance.

That even such hypothetical possibilities with regard to Russia should not be. That means – we will not have to enter into the temptation of their weaknesses.

That is why we are not under any circumstances give up the potential of strategic deterrence, and will strengthen it. It was he who helped us to maintain the sovereignty of the most difficult period in the 90s, when other weighty material arguments here, let’s face it, did not exist.

 We will not under any circumstances give up the potential of strategic deterrence, and will strengthen it

Obviously, we can not strengthen our international position, develop the economy, democratic institutions, if we are not able to defend Russia. If the calculated risk is not possible conflicts, do not ensure the independence of military technology and prepare a decent, adequate military response as a last resort to respond to certain calls.

We have adopted and will implement an unprecedented program of development and modernization of the armed forces of the military-industrial complex of Russia. In total, over the next decade for this purpose is allocated about 23 trillion rubles.

Frankly, there was much debate about the size and timing of such large-scale funding. I am sure – they are fully adequate to the needs and resources of the country. And most importantly – to work to create modern armed forces, Integrated strengthening defense capabilities – can not wait.

This is not about the militarization of the Russian budget. In fact, the money that we allocate – a “pay the bills” for those years when the Army and Navy are chronically underfunded, when practically does not deliver new types of weapons. While other countries have consistently increased their “military muscle”.

“Smart” defense against new threats

We need mechanisms to respond not only to the existing danger. We must learn to “look beyond the horizon”, to assess the nature of threats in the years ahead, 30-50. This is a serious task that requires the mobilization capacity of the civil and military science, algorithms, reliable, long-term prognosis.

What weapons will be required of the Russian Army. What are the technological requirements will be offered to domestic military-industrial complex. In fact, you can create a qualitatively new, “smart” system of military analysis and strategic planning, preparing ready-made “recipes” and their operational implementation in the structures of our law enforcement agencies.

What is in store for us, “the coming century?”

The probability of a global war nuclear powers against each other is low, such would mean the end of civilization. As long as the “powder” of strategic nuclear forces, created a huge labor of our fathers and grandfathers, and remains “dry”, no one would dare unleash a large-scale aggression against us.

However, keep in mind that the scientific and technical progress in various fields, ranging from the emergence of new types of weapons and military equipment and finishing information and communication technologies, has led to a qualitative change in the nature of warfare. So, as the mass adoption of precision non-nuclear long-range all the more clearly will show the trend of adopting them as weapons of a decisive victory over the enemy, including a global conflict.

Much, if not decisive, role in determining the nature of warfare will have the military capabilities of countries in outer space, in the field of information warfare in the first place – in cyberspace. And in the longer term – the creation of weapons based on new physical principles (radiation, geophysical, wave, genetic, psycho-physical, etc.). All of this will, together with nuclear weapons to obtain qualitatively new instruments to achieve political and strategic objectives. These weapons systems will be comparable to the results of the use of nuclear weapons, but more “acceptable” in the political and military terms.Thus, the role of the strategic balance of nuclear forces in deterring aggression and chaos will gradually decrease.

Before our eyes, flashing all the new regional and local wars. There are areas of instability and artificially heated, controlled chaos. And traced deliberate attempts to provoke such conflicts in the immediate vicinity of the borders of Russia and our allies. We see how devalued and destroyed the basic principles of international law. Especially in the field of international security.

Russia under these conditions can not only rely on diplomatic and economic methods of removing contradictions and conflict resolution. Our country is the task of development of military capabilities within the containment strategy and the level of defense sufficiency. And the armed forces, intelligence agencies and other law enforcement agencies must be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to new challenges. This is a necessary condition for Russia to feel safe, and the arguments of our country’s perceived partner in various international formats.

Together with our allies, we must also strengthen the capacity of the Collective Security Treaty. Including the Collective Rapid Reaction Force. CSTO is ready to fulfill its mission guarantor of stability in the Eurasian space.

The most important priority of Russian state policy in the future will remain issues of dynamic development of the Armed Forces, nuclear and aerospace industry, defense industry, military education, military science, fundamental and applied research programs.

The Army has kept Russia

The collapse of a single country, economic and social upheaval 90s hit on all public institutions. Passed the hardest tests, and our Army. Combat training was virtually collapsed. Part of the “first strategic echelon” of Eastern Europe hastily withdrawn in the “open field”. And since there was no money in their arrangement, for the construction of military bases, landfills and housing, it is these, the most capable, best-equipped compound were “under the knife.”

The officers for months received no allowance. What can we hide, often had problems even with the power of the personnel. The soldiers fired tens of thousands. The number of generals, colonels, lieutenant colonels and majors and captains exceeded the number of lieutenants. Defense enterprises were idle, plunged into debt and lost most valuable “piece” of specialists.

According to the Armed Forces suffered a devastating stroke information. Some “leaders” simply could not live a day without having to pobolnee “kick” and humiliate the Army, insult all that is associated with concepts such as Oath, duty, service of the Fatherland, patriotism, Ratna history of our country. Thought and still think this is a moral crime and betrayal.

We must always remember what the country owes the soldiers and officers, who in the hardest 90 years, in spite of everything, kept the army, provided at critical junctures in readiness units. If I had – fought.Have lost their mates and won. So it was in the North Caucasus, Tajikistan, and other “hot spots”. These people saved spirit and honor of the Army. Integrity and sovereignty of Russia. Protect the safety of our citizens. Not allowed to humiliate and to “write off” the country.

However, for the errors in multiple, inconsistent reforms, beyond which is often worthless, except for the mechanical reduction, we had to pay a very high price.

When in 1999 the gang of international terrorists unleashed a direct aggression against Russia, we are faced with a tragic situation. 66000th group had to literally collect the “piecemeal” – summary of the battalions and separate units. The number of staff of the Armed Forces exceeded 1.36 million people. A manned units that can proceed without additional preparation to carry out tasks, almost was not.

But the Army completed its task. Fulfilled their duty of our officers, sergeants, soldiers – citizens, for whom Oath of Homeland meant more than life, their health and well-being. And, more importantly, in the state in society finally returned understand a simple truth – the Armed Forces should be cherished. They need to be strengthened, or “someone else will have to feed an army” or even be in thrall to criminals and international terrorists.

We started with the most urgent things. Restoring basic social security system for servicemen, eliminated the shameful delay in payment of allowances. Year by year, increased the share of expenditure on the development of Army and Navy, and there were times when even the most urgent needs was not enough money.

arms
I am sure no “spot” purchase of military equipment can not replace the production of our own weapons, and can only serve as a basis for technology and knowledge

I remember in 2002 when the Chief of General Staff, of course, not a good life, proposed to eliminate the space-based strategic submarines on Kamchatka. Thus, we would lose and the presence of our naval nuclear forces in the Pacific. I have not made that decision. Due to the lack of necessary funds in the budget had to ask for help when private companies. I want to remember their good word. And “Surgutneftegas”, and TNC do not hesitate to provide the necessary resources to start database recovery. Then joined and money budget. And now we have a modern base in Vilyuchinsk, which will soon come to alert a new generation of submarines of the type “Northwind”.

In all formed part of the strategic directions of constant readiness, complete with contractors. Created self-contained group. It is this group in August 2008, conducted an operation to force Georgia to peace, defended the peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

But the experience of all previous years, argued that the development potential of the former military structure inherited from the Soviet Union, completely exhausted.And that, essentially, is a structure of this? Thousands of storage bases, arsenals, depots, headquarters and numerous “cadre” part. In short, all that was necessary to deploy “mobilization,” many millions of the last century.

Saturate the old structure of men and equipment was pointless: this would not be enough any resources – either financial or human. The main thing – she did not answer, not only promising but also to modern requirements. Nothing is changing, gradual and limited half-hearted reforms, we would sooner or later, finally losing its military capabilities, to lose our Armed Forces as a functioning organism.

The yield was only one – to build a new army. Army of the modern type – a mobile that is in a constant state of combat readiness. This is a very difficult process that involves tens of thousands of people. This is related to the inevitable mistakes, grievances, claims. Aggravated public reaction, including the very military. Reform is not one person or ten. I have a complex institution, inside of which have accumulated a lot of flaws. Failures, “the excesses of artists,” Weak information work and the lack of channels of “feedback”, the formal execution of the directives – all this is real “trouble spots”-reaching reform. Our goal – to see these “trouble spots” and adjust these or other solutions. Maintaining the overall logic of the systemic transformation of the Armed Forces.

What has been done

Parts abridged composition in our Army anymore. In the Army deployed more than 100 combined and special teams. This is a full-fledged military compounds, staffed, and equipment. The ratio of lift on alert – one hour. The transfer of a potential theater of military operations – per day.

First to prepare for a combat mission compounds needed up to five days. A deployment and equipment of all the Armed Forces “in wartime” had to take almost a year. And this at a time when most of the time of armed conflict today lasts from several hours to several days.

Why as a major tactical unit was selected the team? First of all, given our own experience and other Afghan campaign, when, instead of regiments and divisions proved to be effective, and mobile combat assault team, reinforced by aircraft, other means of support.

The strategic center “Yars” with “Topol-M” will come in 10 regiments of SRF.

A more compact in size than the division – the new team at the same time has more punch. Significantly increased by the fire damage and to ensure – artillery, air defense, intelligence, communications, etc.And the team is able to operate both independently and as part of other compounds. I admit that not all the required quality has been brought to perfection. Soon to be fully reach the required standards.

The Russian army gets rid of all non-core and auxiliary functions – economic, domestic and others. Separation from military training to a minimum. Given the time to call in 12 months – this is generally the only way to make a rookie trained fighter. Soldiers and officers should carry out their direct task – combat training and intensive study. What, in particular, have a positive impact on the discipline and order among the troops. And actually enhance the dignity of military service.

There is a serious reform of military education. Formed by 10 major scientific and educational centers. All these institutions are built into a rigid hierarchy and subject to military service gives officers the opportunity to continuously improve their professional level. Here, we rely both on its own traditions and practices in the world.

No significant development of military research there can be no effective military or military-technical doctrine, can not work effectively structure of the General Staff. We need to recover lost jurisdiction of the military institutions, to integrate them with developing a system of military education – as well as in the civilian sector of the economy. The military science must have a decisive influence on the defense problems. A qualified procurement patterns, a division of the Ministry of Defense in charge of the military order – to ensure the effective development of technical specifications for the development, production, planning, characteristics of weapons and military equipment.

Without a doubt, the normal development of military research is not possible without a partnership with civil science, without the potential of our leading universities and SSC. The scientists should have sufficient information on the status and prospects of the Army and weapons systems to be able to target their prospective study, bearing in mind, including the possibility of their use of the defense.

Note also that the authorities in the Armed Forces of the cut in half. Formed by four of the integrated military districts: Western, Southern, Central and Eastern. They passed under the control of air forces, air defense and navy. In fact, we are talking about the operational and strategic command. On December 1, 2011 on combat duty in Russia has taken a new branch of service – Army air and space defense.

In the Air Force established seven large air bases with a strong infrastructure. Upgraded airfield network. Over the past four years – the first time in 20 years – repaired 28 airfields. This year, the planned work for another 12 military airfields.

We built up the possibility of a serious warning of missile attack. Already commissioned tracking station in the Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions, in Armavir, started testing a similar facility in Irkutsk. All teams of aerospace defense complex equipped with modern means of automation “Universal-1C.” Deployed full time space grouping system “GLONASS”.

Provided reliable stability and sufficiency of land, sea and air strategic nuclear forces of Russia. The share of modern ground-based missile systems over the past four years has increased from 13 to 25 percent. There will be continued for another 10 re-missile regiments strategic complexes “Topol-M” and “Yars.” In the long-range aircraft is fully maintained fleet of strategic bombers Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95MS, go work for their modernization. For our “strategists” on the adoption of a new armed cruise missile air-launched long-range. Since 2007, on an ongoing basis resumed flights of strategic aviation in the areas of combat patrols. It starts with the development of promising aviation complex for long-range aviation.

Intrudes on duty strategic missile submarine of the new project “Northwind”. Boats of this class – “Yuri Dolgoruky” and “Alexander Nevsky” – are undergoing state tests.

 Strategic missile submarine of Project 955 “Yuri Dolgoruky” already runs the state tests.

Our Navy resumed its presence in strategic areas of the oceans, including in the Mediterranean. Such a demonstration “of the Russian flag” will now be permanent.

The tasks of the coming decade

We have begun a large-scale, complex re-Army and Navy, and other law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of the state. Priorities here – it’s nuclear forces, defense aerospace, communications, intelligence and control, electronic warfare, “drones” and robotic percussion systems, modern transport aircraft, the system self-defense fighter on the battlefield, precision weapons and the means to combat it.

The system of controls and training of troops should be more qualitative, intensive and comprehensive. Major efforts will be concentrated on the “cobbling together” effective cross-species troops and forces.Improving preparedness of military units to perform combat missions.

Our experts will determine the prospective development of ideology and arms, clearly identify their goals and objectives of the relevant conceptual documents. But it is already clear that the structure of the Armed Forces will continue the role and importance of nuclear deterrence. Anyway, as long as we do not there will be other types of weapons, attack complexes of new generation. Including – high-precision weapons, which, as already mentioned above, can solve problems that are comparable to those that are now before the forces of nuclear deterrence. In addition, in the coming years will increase significantly the value of the Navy, Air Force and aerospace defense.

 Air Force will receive more than 600 modern aircraft, including a fifth-generation fighter.

Time demands decisive steps to strengthen the unified system of air and space defense. These actions have pushed the U.S. policy and NATO on missile defense.

Safeguard against violations of the global balance of power may be either creating your own is very expensive and yet ineffective missile defense system, or, more productively, ability to overcome any missile defense system and to protect Russia’s retaliatory potential. It is precisely this purpose and will serve as strategic nuclear forces and the structure of the aerospace defense. In this matter can not be “too much patriotism.” Military-Technical Russia’s response to the global U.S. missile defense system and its segment in Europe will be effective and asymmetric. And it will fully comply with the steps the United States in the field of missile defense.

Our goal – a revival in the full sense of “ocean” of the Navy, primarily in the North and the Far East. Activity, which began leading military powers of the world around the Arctic, Russia confronts the challenge of our interests in the region.

Defense
As long as the “powder” of strategic nuclear forces, created a huge labor of our fathers and grandfathers, is “dry”, no one would dare unleash a large-scale aggression against us

In the next decade will go to the troops more than 400 modern intercontinental ballistic missiles, land-and sea-based missile eight strategic submarine cruisers, some 20 attack submarines, 50 surface warships and about 100 military satellites, more than 600 modern aircraft, including fighter jets fifth generation, over thousands of helicopters, 28 sets of regimental air defense missile systems S-400, 38 sets of divisional air defense systems “Hero”, 10 brigade sets of missile complex “Iskander-M”, over 2 thousand 300 modern tanks, about 2 thousand mobile artillery systems and tools, as well as more than 17,000 pieces of military vehicles.

 In the next decade, an army regiment will receive 28 sets of anti-aircraft missile systems S-400.

We have a modern military equipment has been translated more than 250 units and formations, including – 30 aircraft squadrons. And by 2020 the proportion of new weapons in the armed forces must be at least 70 percent. As for the systems remaining in service, they will be subjected to thorough modernization.

Thus, the problem of the coming decade is that the new structure of the Armed Forces was able to rely on a fundamentally new technique. In the technique, which “sees” further, more accurate shooting, reacts faster than similar systems of any potential adversary.

The social face of the Army

Modern Army – is primarily a literate, trained people who can apply the most advanced weapons systems. Professionals with deep knowledge and high level of general education and culture. Today the individual requirements of each officer and soldier – to increase substantially.

In turn, the military must have a complete package of social security, adequate to their huge responsibility. This health care services, the system of sanatorium treatment, insurance, pension and decent employment opportunities after retirement. And, of course, the allowance at a level even higher than the wages that are qualified professionals and managers in the leading sectors of the economy.

In 2007 it was decided to reform and a significant increase in allowance and war pensions. In the first stage – in 2009 – was launched large-scale experiment to enhance the military service pay of those on whose shoulders a special responsibility for ensuring the country’s defense.

And now – with the January 1, 2012 – we took the next step: the money allowances of servicemen grew almost three times. Armed Forces – as an employer – are more than competitive. This is a qualitative change in the situation. Creates an additional motivation for military service.

I should add that to January 1, 2012 increased allowance in the Interior Ministry. And from January 1, 2013 – wages will rise significantly in all the other “power”, law enforcement agencies and intelligence services.

Pensions of retired military personnel, regardless of their affiliation, raised from January 1 this year – just 1.6 times. In the future – “war pension” will go up every year, not less than two percentage points above inflation.

There will also be introduced by a special education certificate that will allow soldier after leaving education or retraining in any educational institution of the country.

Separately with the housing problem. For years, she almost did not dare to do. In the 90s, at best, from all sources, granted the 6-8 thousand apartments or housing certificates a year. People are often dismissed even without flats – just put in a municipal place, which did not move.

Let’s remember where we started. Since 2000, significantly increased the amount of housing – have reached the level to an average of 25,000 flats a year. But obviously needed a crucial turning point, the concentration of financial and organizational resources of the state.

The first step in this direction was the Presidential program “15 15″, implemented in 2006-2007, when additional troops were immediately given another order of 20,000 apartments in areas where the housing problem was most acute.

And for 2008-2011, only the Defense Ministry servicemen have been purchased and have already built the order of 140 000 apartments for permanent residence, and 46 000 – service apartments. Never before was not like this. We have allocated funds, even in times of crisis. But, despite the fact that the program was more ambitious than previously planned, the problem is not solved yet.

It is necessary to speak frankly about the causes. First, the accounting officers in need of housing, the Ministry of Defence was made very poorly. And, secondly, the timing, the pace of organizational and staff measures were not clearly aligned with the capabilities to provide flats. We must correct this situation.

In 2012-2013 to fully provide permanent housing for military personnel. In addition, 2014 will complete the formation of the modern service housing fund. Thus, the “eternal” military housing problem will be solved.

Also before the end of 2012 to ensure full flats of the soldiers, who in the 90′s were dismissed without shelter and are in the municipal lines. To date, these people – more than 20,000.

Military personnel, contracted after 2007, will be provided with housing in a planned manner, in the accumulation and mortgage system. The number of participants exceeded 180 thousand people have already bought more than 20,000 apartments.

Another important issue – the fate of military bases and thousands of people who live in them. And this – former soldiers and their families, retirees, civilian experts, in short, those who gave the Army and the country more than a dozen years of his life.

It is unacceptable when these villages with all their problems just “dumped” from the balance of the Defense Ministry on the shoulders of the regions and municipalities. It is necessary to conduct the most thorough inventory of real property of the Armed Forces to be transferred to civilian authorities. In other words, homes, kindergartens, housing facilities – all this economy the Ministry of Defense must be transferred to municipalities in the state of repair, fit for use and, I stress, together with the financial resources for routine maintenance.

Major changes are coming in the system of manning the Armed Forces. Now the Army contract is 220,000 officers and 186,000 soldiers and sergeants. It is planned that within the next 5 years will be recruited every year to have 50,000 contractors who will be appointed to the post of sergeants, petty officers, as well as professionals working with military equipment.

 During a visit to military units, Vladimir Putin always trying to learn firsthand how to live the soldiers and officers.

The selection is very rigorous, multi-layered. Marshal GK Zhukov said: “I command the Army and the NCO.” NCOs – the backbone of the Army, this – order, discipline, normal combat training. At these positions require a decent people who have appropriate moral, physical characteristics, educational level. Not only junior officers, but all the soldiers, contractors will be trained in special training centers and schools of sergeant.

It is planned that by 2017 – with a total authorized strength of the Armed Forces of one million people – 700 000 will be “professionals”: the officers, cadets of military schools, sergeants and soldiers-contractors. And in 2020 – the number of employees at the call to drop to 145,000.

The logic of change clearly indicates that our goal – to build a fully professional army. However, and this must be clearly understood: a professional army – it is “expensive” army. Saving a mixed system of manning for the foreseeable future – is a compromise between the tasks and the current capabilities of the country.

But the call of service quality should also change. This is a mandatory requirement for military reform.

To maintain discipline in military units created by the Military Police. And, of course, in the education of soldiers to protect their rights and interests in ensuring a healthy moral climate in parts of the community should actively participate, veterans, religious and human rights organizations.

I think that it is necessary to a proper level to put the development of the institution of military clergy. In coming years, in each military contingent should appear chaplains.

And yet – we understand that the current system call contains a large element of social inequality. At the call goes mainly to serve children from poor, rural or working-class families, those who are not enrolled in college and could not take delayed. We need measures that would have significantly increased the prestige of military service. In fact, it would turn out “trespass” in the “privilege”.

In particular we should talk about more rights for admission to top universities for those who served. On granting them the opportunity by the state to receive additional training to pass the professional examinations. For end-of-college graduates – the budgetary grants for training in the best domestic and foreign business schools. And also – about preferences for admission to the civil service. The inclusion of management reserves. The army must regain the traditional role of the most important social elevators.

In the future you should think about this concept, as a service to the “trained reserve.”

These reservists – as is customary in many other countries – should be held regularly, not occasionally, as now, training, duties, be ready to join the ranks of combat units.

Today we have – there is no coherent concept of a national reserve of the Armed Forces. His creation – and open discussion of this concept – our immediate task.

I would like to say about the Cossacks. Today this estate include a millions of our fellow citizens. Historically, the Cossacks were in the service of the Russian state, defending its borders, participated in military campaigns of the Russian Army. After the 1917 revolution the Cossacks were subjected to the cruelest repression, in fact – genocide. However, the Cossacks survived, preserving their culture and traditions. The task of the state – in every way to help the Cossacks, to involve them in military service and military-patriotic education of youth.

What I consider important to stress that of course, the Army should become a professional basis and should be contractors. However, the notion of honorable military service for men, we can not cancel, and they must be prepared to defend the country in time of danger.

It should be a whole new level to organize the work on military-patriotic education of students, development of military-applied kinds of sports and physical culture in general. Emergency service lasts for one year, and the soldiers should concentrate entirely on the combat training. It means – it should come into the Army physically fit, tempered, and even better – owning the basic skills of working with transport equipment, computers and information technology. I would like to note in this regard the importance of the state, which carries Russian DOSAAF.

Federal, regional, municipal authorities should provide full support to the organization in implementing its mandated tasks. It is necessary to combine the efforts of state and public structures. In this regard – support the idea of a voluntary movement of the Popular Front in support of the Army, Navy and defense industry.

Our objectives in the field of defense and national security can not be achieved without high moral motivation as the soldiers and workers at the military-industrial complex. Without respect for the Armed Forces and for military service in Russian society.

On the new requirements to the Russian military-industrial complex

Military-industrial complex – it is our pride, are concentrated the most powerful intellectual and technological potential. But we should just talk about the backlog of problems. In fact, national defense centers and businesses over the past 30 years have missed a few cycles of modernization.

Over the next decade, we must fully make up for this lag. To regain technological leadership across the spectrum of the major military technology. I would like to stress once again – to re-bid Army, we’ll do it for the Russian defense industry and our scientific base.

 The rate of re-Army will be on the Russian defense industry.

We have to solve several related problems. This fold increase in the supply current and next-generation technology. It is the formation of advanced scientific and technological reserve, development and exploitation of critical technologies for the development of competitive products for military use. And, finally, is the creation of a new technology-based industries for the production of advanced weapons and military equipment. Construction, reconstruction and technical re-equipment of scientific and experimental base and bench.

Today, Russia is firmly embedded in the global economy and open to dialogue with all partners, including on defense issues and military-technical cooperation.

But the study of experiences and trends in foreign countries does not mean that Russia will go on borrowed models and abandon self-reliance. In contrast, for the sustainable socio-economic development and national security we need, taking over all the best to build and maintain military-technological and scientific independence of Russia.

In this context – of such a “sensitive subject” as the purchase of military equipment abroad. As world practice shows, all the key suppliers of the global arms market, the most technologically advanced and industrialized countries are also terms and purchasers of individual systems, samples, materials and technologies. This allows you to quickly solve pressing problems in defense and, frankly, to stimulate domestic producers.

In addition, there is a fundamental difference – to buy in order to have their own, or purchase, to abandon her. I am convinced that no “spot” purchases of military equipment and the equipment can not replace the production of our own weapons, and can only serve as a basis for technology and knowledge. By the way, as was the case in history. Let me remind you that the whole “family” of domestic tanks 30s of the twentieth century was made on the basis of American and British cars. Then, using the accumulated experience, our experts have created a T-34 – the best tank of World War II.

To really improve the country’s defense, we need the most advanced, best in the world of technology, but not “mastered” billions and trillions. It is unacceptable that the Army has become a market for obsolete models of arms, technology and research and development, and paid for at public expense.

That’s why we have set strict requirements to our defense enterprises and design, encourage the development of competition, are investing heavily in the modernization of the defense industry and technological backlog in training.

The activities of defense enterprises should focus precisely on the mass production of weapons-quality home with the best performance characteristics corresponding to the current and future defense challenges. In addition, only the latest weapons and military equipment will enable Russia to strengthen and develop positions on global arms markets, where the winner is the one who offers the most advanced design.

the task of
defense has no way to catch up with someone calm, we need to make a breakthrough to become the leading innovators and manufacturers.Updating the defense will be the locomotive that pulls on the development of a variety of industries

Respond to threats and challenges of today only – means to condemn himself to eternal role of laggards. We should make every effort to provide technical, technological, organizational superiority over any potential adversary. Such a stringent requirement should be a key criterion for setting goals to CMO. This will allow businesses to conduct long-term planning, consciously direct resources to the modernization, development of new models and weapons. And research centers and institutes will be encouraged and clear guidelines for the development of basic and applied research in both military and related industries.

We greatly advanced in the reform of the Army – we need to be reviewed and the principles of planning, implementation of the state armaments program. For defense companies can build rhythmic work, we have decided to place the state defense order more than one year, and once in three or five, even seven years. I believe that only this step is not enough.

We must start with the linking of military planning and providing the Army with weapons and military equipment and other resources. At the same time – think about the feasibility of establishing a single agency responsible for placement and monitoring of “defense” contracts. Such a body would be responsible for the implementation of state defense orders for all departments.

Adjustments to the state defense order after its approval by the Government should be minimal. It should be remembered that the purchase price in all cases must be fair and reasonable return, not only for businesses but also to invest in their development and modernization, recruitment and training.

Another problem is that the defense industry enterprises and institutions, not having a common information base, often duplicative research and development. We must move towards the creation of the “through the registry”, common databases, common standards, a transparent pricing mechanism for defense products. It is necessary to develop a deeper integration and cooperation between enterprises, the unification of production capacity.

However, carrying out public procurement, it is necessary to stimulate competition. And wise to encourage competition for the best quality, especially at the level of ideas, the research phase. However, at the stage of creating the finished product, priority should be given to the winning design, to avoid duplication of weapons systems.

In the military-industrial complex is not possible to safely catch someone, we need to make a breakthrough to become the leading innovators and manufacturers.

Achieving global technological leadership in the field of arms production involves the restoration of the full cycle from industrial design to the modeling and the mass production of serial products, ensuring their use in the army and subsequent disposal.

Lack of incentives for the development of carrier breakthrough ideas, loss of links between universities, industry institutes and enterprises of the defense leads to delays in the area of military-industrial research, the destruction of scientific schools and high technology industries. All this can not arise “by itself”, the state can not limit ourselves to exhibiting orders for competitions.

The state should aggressively seek breakthrough development, identify research teams that can implement your own reserve to the required profile, encourage healthy competition at the stage of research and development activities. Including by bringing unconventional ideas that are born in groups of young enthusiasts.

In all countries with a developed defense industry research in the field of defense are always one of the most powerful engines of innovation-based growth. That research and experimental development for the “defense”, receiving a strong and stable public funding can bring to the implementation of many breakthrough technologies that are in the civilian sector simply would not pass the “threshold of profitability.” Then they – have ready-made – being developed and adapted the civil sector.

We need a modern structure, functioning as a sort of broker between the military, industrial, scientific and political circles. Able to identify and support the best in the national innovation field, bypassing the bureaucratic processes of the numerous approvals. Optimal models of such structures is now practiced in the near future will be realized in practice.

One of these days – at a meeting with experts in the field of telecommunications and information technologies in Novosibirsk – mentioned the leading American universities that have made a “name” in defense orders and developments. I think that we need to actively involve civil capacity of universities to implement programs to modernize the defense industry. The big “defense” orders can be another source for the development of our leading universities and research centers. It is sometimes argued that the revival of the military-industrial complex – a yoke on the economy, an excessive burden, which once ravaged the Soviet Union. I am sure – it is deeply misleading.

Priority
is important to ensure that counter-flow of innovation, technology, between “defensive” and “civilian” sectors

The Soviet Union died of natural suppression, market began in the economy, from years of neglect of the interests of the people. From the desperate attempts to get the country working as a “single factory” and the inevitable result – loss of control, even in the defense sector. When it is not only experienced, but even taking into service several competing systems simultaneously. When the unit could not establish the transfer of technology to the civilian sector.

And we must not repeat past mistakes. Huge resources are invested in the upgrade defense, the Army’s modernization must be the motor for modernization of the economy. A major impetus for quality growth, when government spending creates new jobs, support the market demand, “feed” science. In practice we are talking about the same effects as those laid down in the current modernization programs. Only the “defense industry” will provide a much more far-reaching effect than the one before that which we could achieve.

Updating the defense will be the locomotive that pulls on the development of a variety of industries: metallurgy, mechanical engineering, chemical, electronic industry, the entire spectrum of information technology and telecommunications. Give businesses in these industries and resources to upgrade the technological base, and new technological solutions. Ensure the sustainability of many scientific and engineering teams – and thus, their presence in the market development for the civil sector.

In the modern world has developed a balance of mutual influence of the defense and civilian technologies. In some industries (telecommunications, new materials, ICT), it is civilian technology are the driving force behind the rapid development of military technology, in others (aviation and space technology) – on the contrary, military developments provide impetus to the civil sector. This situation requires a new attitude towards the principles of information exchange. Revision of outdated approaches to the protection of secrets. We must strictly guard the limited number of truly important secrets – and, conversely, promote the exchange of most of the scientific and technical information between all those who can effectively use it.

It is important to provide a counter-flow of innovation, technology, between “defensive” and “civilian” sectors. Should receive a reasonable estimate of intellectual property created in the “defense”. Such an assessment should take into account the potential and the prospect of civil commercialization of technology transfer. Need to focus on civilian production at the enterprises of the defense industry, but do not repeat the sad experience of “conversion” to the notorious pans and shovels made of titanium. A good example of this already – running into production first made in the “figure” of the Russian civil aircraft “Sukhoi Superjet.”

Obviously, we need an in-depth audit of the economic activity of defense enterprises. There are many areas of inefficiency – a huge, unnecessary costs, overhead costs, which sometimes number in the thousands per cent. Convoluted and opaque relationships with contractors – when the “parent” company teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and in affiliated companies and suppliers of profitability calculated by two-and three-digit numbers.

We will aggressively combat corruption in the military industry and the armed forces, steadily following the principle of inevitability of punishment. Corruption in the area of national security – is, in fact, treason.

Excessive secrecy has led to a reduction of competition, inflation in prices for military goods, obtaining super profits going to the modernization of production is not, and in some pockets of businessmen and officials. Whenever it does not contradict the national interests in the conservation of state secrets, it is necessary to abandon the practice of private trading. Procurement in the defense sector should be under close public scrutiny, and penalties for violations of the state defense order should be tightened.

We will build a single algorithm vertically integrated structures, led by lobbyists should not be this or that enterprise. At the same time need to break departmental stereotypes. Actively involved in the production of military equipment and defense capabilities of our civilian development companies and private companies.

The development of DIC only by the state is inefficient right now, but in the medium term – economically impossible. It is important to promote public-private partnership in the defense industry, including simplifying procedures for new defense industries. Private companies are willing to invest and the means and experience, and available technology in defense companies. And we believe that we will once again their “Demidov” and “Putilovs.”

All major manufacturers of weapons and military equipment the U.S. and Europe – private. A fresh look at the industry from outside the business approaches to breathe new life production, enhance the competitiveness of Russian weapons in international markets. Of course, the private defense companies must act in a special regime, including the requirements of privacy. But it should not become an obstacle to the creation of such companies, their development and access to participation in the state defense order. That the new private companies can be a source of technological breakthroughs that could dramatically change the industry.

The problem is that our private investor does not know what its capabilities will be needed and where the defense can make its own power and capital. In this regard, you need to create an open source of information available on the CMO needs to attract private business investment.

The agenda is also worth upgrading of enterprises, we have inherited from the Soviet Union. It is necessary to optimize the entire production process, which allows use of advanced technology. Bring to a highly qualified managers, engineers, production organizers of the private sector. Strengthen control over the quality of products at the enterprises of defense industry and to establish accountability for the funds used in the state defense order.

In addition, it is necessary to conduct an audit of the mobilization needs of the country. The current system is largely archaic. Today does not require power, capable of only “clone” the old weapons and ammunition. The basis of the military-industrial complex and the “mobilization reserve” should be modern technological production, ready to produce competitive quality products. They can be created on the basis of existing factories and companies in need of reform, and with “zero”.

And, of course, it is necessary to raise the prestige of occupations, work-related “defense.” Therefore reasonable to give the professionals involved in the defense industry, additional social guarantees, and even privileges. In addition, the average wage in the public sector enterprises defense, engineering and research centers should be commensurate with the money allowances in the Army.

Particular attention should be paid to education and training of new personnel in the workplace. Many businesses today are faced with the fact that the technicians and skilled workers in the most acute shortages, and this prevents the timely execution of government orders, not to mention the building of capacities.

A key role in solving this problem should take special schools (including those of applied baccalaureate programs) and technical colleges and technical schools for general care, where graduates often go to work in the “defense industry”. I think that it is possible to implement a scheme of employment on the basis of tripartite contracts between university, industry and student concern. Work at the plant should begin as early as the period of training – in the specialized field trips and internships. For students, in addition to experience, and it will give a decent income, and seriously motivated to learn the necessary skills. Naturally, this part should be an integral part of the curriculum.

The prestige of technical professions is gradually increasing. Defense companies are called to be a magnet for talented young people, providing – as it was in Soviet times – Enhanced implementation of creative ambition in the development, science and technology.

I think that we should think about the direction of the target young workers and the defense of technical university students to practice in leading Russian and international laboratories, institutes and factories. Office of modern technological equipment requires highly qualified, serious knowledge and skills, lifelong learning. Therefore, it is necessary to support and training programs directly in production.

***

Building a defense policy, to modernize the armed forces, we must focus on the latest trends in the art of war. Keep pace with these developments – thus advance to put yourself in a vulnerable position.Jeopardize the country, the lives of our soldiers and officers. We must never allow a repetition of the tragedy in 1941 when the state and the Army’s unpreparedness for war was paid for the enormous loss of life.

The unprecedented scale of the program of modernization of arms and defense industry confirms the seriousness of our intentions. We understand that Russia will have to draw on the implementation of these plans are very large financial resources.

The problem is that, without exhausting, and multiplying the economic forces of the country, to create such an army, a defense industry that can provide Russia’s sovereignty, respect for partners and lasting peace.

Photo: ITAR-TASS , RIA Novosti and Constantine Zavrazhin .


Going Through the Motions of “Democratic Reform” with Turkmenistan Referendum

Turkmenistan has chosen Arkadaga

 

Eugene Minchenko

Despite the promises of liberalization, in fact, occurred more authoritarian and repressive policies …

Last Sunday, February 12, Turkmenistan held presidential elections, which were attended by almost 97 percent of voters. Approximately the same percentage of votes received, according to preliminary data, the current president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Seven other candidates competed mainly in the praise the wise policy Arkadaga (Patron). It is this magnificent title called Berdymukhamedov in Turkmenistan. I recall that his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov called Turkmenbashi (Father of the Turkmens).

Turkmenistan – is not an oasis of calm

Turkmen “thaw” was short-lived. In the first five years of his presidency, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov refused only on the most grotesque features of the former regime.Despite the promises of liberalization, in fact, occurred more authoritarian and repressive policies.

The political system of Turkmenistan is relatively stable, but an attempt to make it more open is dangerous for the regime, as it can cause inter-clan and inter-tribal conflict in which the growing social discontent will serve as a medium.

Actually, now Turkmenistan is not a haven of peace in Central Asia. During 2011 a number of oil and gas companies in connection with the nonpayment of wages were mass strikes.

However, the most massive display of discontent caused the behavior of the authorities last summer during a series of explosions at military ammunition depots near Ashgabat. As a result of an emergency, according to some estimates, killed more than 100 people. Official Ashgabat has a policy of suppressing information. Residents of the city prohibited to communicate with relatives abroad. The key words associated with the tragedy, to jam telephone conversations.

Social tension is also growing due to high unemployment among young people. By the way, it is the presence of a large number of young unemployed is one of many protest movements in Arab countries. It is necessary to take into account the fact that under conditions of high unemployment, the current visa regime with Russia does not allow Turkmenistan to export “surplus” of the economically active population.

In addition, the country is very high potential for inter-tribal conflict, even when compared with the period of Niyazov’s rule. According to some experts, the potential tribal tensions can lead the country to “Arab” or “Libyan” scenario.

Ambitious plans without reinforcement

Turkmenistan because of limited gas export routes, and the unwillingness of key buyers to pay him, “Central European” price for oil is experiencing shortages of funds, which casts doubt on the implementation of ambitious investment projects.

Despite the availability of energy resources, the Turkmen authorities are faced with shortage of finances. Because of the instability in Afghanistan under TAPI pipeline development issue. The position of Russia and Iran blocking the implementation of the Trans-Caspian pipeline under the Caspian Sea. Unable to use Iran as an export platform because of international sanctions. The Chinese give the lowest price, and “Gazprom”, forced to conclude in 2009 at a price of an unfavorable contract, chooses the minimum amount of gas (up to 10 billion cubic meters in the specified amounts to 30 billion cubic meters).

According to the Ambassador of Turkmenistan in Russia Khalnazar Agakhanov he made at a roundtable at RIA Novosti, the surplus in the country today in the volume of marketable gas 50 billion cubic meters.

In such circumstances, the government of Turkmenistan has found an easy way out, practicing refusal to pay contracts. Last year there were a number of scandals with the Turkish construction companies, which are not paid. In the conflict intervened personally, Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

At the same time, the story of Russia’s MTS was a sad result – this operator in Turkmenistan eliminated. Although the termination of MTS provoked serious discontent of people, and at the beginning of 2012, without regard remain, according to some reports, more than 1 million people, the conflict is still not resolved. Russian businesses are not protected.

Not everyone will be able to fly to Moscow

The exact number of people living in Turkmenistan, Russian is not known, but does not exceed 50-60 thousand people. For this indicator, Turkmenistan is Central Asia since the end of second place after Tajikistan, where at last count, there are not more than 30 thousand Russian-speaking population.

In 2013 Turkmenistan introduced new foreign passport, a person who, preserving the Russian passports will not. In the offices of the Turkmen Airlines ads have already appeared, that in July 2013 tickets on international flights will be sold only in the provision of new passports abroad.

In practice, such measures of the authorities indicate that holders of Russian and Turkmen old passports wishing to buy tickets to Moscow, will not be able to fly out of the country.Students who leave to study in foreign universities, can be stopped at the border, where they announced a ban on exit.

Persons with dual citizenship will be difficult to expect a new passport. When applying for a new passport they are required to sign documents renouncing Russian citizenship.

Russian diplomacy could be more tightly to protect the interests of its citizens in Turkmenistan – the foreign policy situation is favorable for this. In fact, Russia’s support is needed now more than ever Turkmenistan.

Who benefits from pressure on Ashgabat

Despite the diversification of gas supplies from Ashgabat, the choice is not so wide – in the limited capacity of the gas sales would be prudent to remove the tension in relations with Moscow and to improve relations with traditional partners – “Gazprom”, which is able to increase gas purchases this year.

Counting on China as a key buyer of raw materials, Turkmenistan enters into a new relationship. Pro-China policy carries the risk of reduced income from the sale of gas, as well as new political risks in relations with the United States.

Turkmenistan is particularly vulnerable in the event of possible destabilization in Afghanistan and the military campaign against Iran. With the emergence of the “arc of instability” in Central Asia, exacerbated conflicts between members of the new “Great Game”.

The West will expand opportunities to put pressure on Ashgabat, as well as support for the parties to the elite, or intertribal latent opposition in this country. In the future, such support could turn and open surgery.

In this way, the change of power took place in Libya – the country is very similar with Turkmenistan on the availability of resources, political and economic systems.

Yevgeny Minchenko, director of the International Institute of Political Studies – especially for RIA Novosti.

Source :: RIA Novosti

State Dept. Openly Interfering In Russian Democratic Process

State Dept. Denounces Russian Antigay Bill

U.S. State Department officials today expressed opposition to a proposed law in St. Petersburg, Russia, that would prohibit LGBT events or public discussions.

By Trudy Ring

U.S. State Department officials today expressed opposition to a proposed law in St. Petersburg, Russia, that would prohibit public speech or events concerning LGBT issues.

We are concerned by proposed local legislation in Russia that would severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and indeed all Russians,” reads a statement issued by the department in response to a question raised at yesterday’s White House press briefing.

450,000-600,000 Registered NGOs In Russia

450,000 NGOs in Russia

U.S. finances opposition

By Sara Flounders

Published Feb 6, 2006 

A struggle is developing in Russia over legislation regulating non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that is due to go into effect in April.

The new law was passed by both houses of the Russian legislature, called the Duma, and signed by President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 10. Resistance to it has opened a window on the level of Western and especially U.S. intervention in Russia today.

Under the new law, foreign organizations and groups receiving funding from outside Russia have to register with the government. Russian officials say the legislation is necessary to combat the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing from foreign governments to organizations in the country.

An original version of the law was toned down under an intense campaign of pressure from the NGOs themselves and from the U.S. government. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressured Putin, expressing concern for “democracy.” The legislation was on the agenda at the recent G-8 meeting.

The law imposes restrictions on the financing, registration and activities of NGOs. This term originally meant any non-profit, voluntary, civic, humanitarian, health, human rights, service or environmental organization. Now a huge number of organizations that claim to be non-governmental, but rely on the U.S. and other major imperialist countries and on big corporations for their funds, operate in Russia and in many countries around the world. They dispense aid, set policy and intervene in political life based on the political agenda and economic interests of the funders.

The sheer number of organizations described as NGOs and the number receiving foreign funding is staggering. Since 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of NGOs have sprung up in Russia. Members of the Russian Duma say over 450,000 NGOs operate in Russia today. The Yale Center for the Study of Globalization puts the number even higher, saying that “There are at least 600,000 registered non-governmental, non-commercial organizations operating in Russia. At least as many may be working in the country without official registration.”

Duma deputy Alexei Ostrovsky, a co-author of the new law, estimates up to a quarter of Russian NGOs receive money from abroad. These include environmental groups, human rights monitors and consumer advocates.

President Putin, in supporting the legislation, said: “Whether these organizations want it or not, they become an instrument in the hands of foreign states that use them to achieve their own political objectives. This situation is unacceptable. This law is designed to prevent interference in Russia’s internal political life by foreign countries and create transparent conditions for the financing of nongovernmental organizations.”

The cross followed the gun

When the European capitalist nations first established colonies around the world, the cross followed the gun. Thousands of missionaries were an integral part of the machinery of conquest and subjugation.

Establishing a colonial administration meant reorganizing society and the ownership of property in a way that benefited the colonizers. It involved schools, training and political orientation for those among the local elite who would become collaborators. Religious conversion helped to pacify a whole section of the population, and paved the way for some to become loyal and fervent servants of the new power structure.

Today in Russia, not just religious organizations have been flooding into the region. The primary role of proselytizing capitalist values is played by “human rights” NGOs.

In response to these new restrictions, the volume of political pressure and protests from Washington has been turned up. But it is sheer hypocrisy. Regulations that are far more restrictive and intrusive monitor organizations in the U.S.

Any individual or organization here that accepts money from a foreign country must register with the U.S. government under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Charitable donations are a matter of public record. Imagine Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea or Iran pumping millions of dollars into political organizations in the U.S. Even U.S. allies such as Britain, France, Germany or Japan cannot secretly fund political organizations within the U.S.

Alexei Pankin, writing in the Jan. 25 issue of the magazine Russia Profile, described his relation with two NGOs. “I ran a USAID-funded three-year program supporting Russian media, with a total budget of $10.5 million, and a Soros Foundation program supporting Russian media with an annual budget of $1.8 million. The number of supervisors, bosses, inspectors and advisers who I had to deal with (or had to deal with me) defies belief. I am sure there were intelligence officers among them.”

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), successor of the KGB, on Jan. 23 accused four British diplomats of spying. It said it had caught one of them “red-handed” channeling funds to several Russian nongovernmental organizations. London denied misconduct, saying it openly funded NGOs in Russia.

Significant foreign funding comes directly from U.S. sources, such as the quasi-governmental National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and from the European Union’s Tacis Program. Millions of dollars in funding originates with foundations that represent the interests of the wealthy elite, such as the Ford, MacArthur, Carnegie, Rockefeller and Soros organizations.

Regime change in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan

The role of U.S.-funded NGOs in trying to impose “regime change” in Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, Nicaragua and Haiti is increasingly understood. The role of these same subversive organizations in Eastern Europe and the countries that made up the former Soviet Union is less well known, even though they operate on an even larger scale there.

Russia’s FSB security service chief, Nikolai Patrushev, recently blamed foreign-funded NGOs for fomenting coups in the post-Soviet states of Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

The active and open role that foreign-funded NGOS played in the overturn of these three governments is what is setting off alarm bells in Moscow. The imperialist media fondly call these coups “velvet revolutions” and sometimes “color revolutions” for the colors chosen by the opposition forces.

Ironically, the political leaders who were overthrown—especially Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia and Leonid Kuchma in Ukraine—had in the past been the U.S.-chosen candidates. Both had carried out policies that brought their governments into the U.S. orbit. They had pushed for joining NATO’s “Partnership for Peace.” Both had agreed to send troops to Iraq.

Yet both politicians were unceremoniously thrown out when they were not totally compliant with U.S. corporate demands. Both of their replacements—Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia and Viktor Yuschchenko in Ukraine—had served in the governments of their predecessors.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said after attending Yuschchenko’s inauguration as president of Ukraine on Jan 23, 2005, that he was “proud to have been associated with both events”—in Georgia and Ukraine.

Much insight into U.S. plans for the future and evaluations of past interventions can actually be found on the web sites of the foundations behind these regime changes.

40,000 NGOs in Ukraine

In an article on the World Bank’s website entitled: “Civil Society Development in Ukraine and the Orange Revolution,” Vira Nanivska, director of the International Center for Policy Studies in Ukraine, brags: “Today some 40,000 NGOs in Ukraine involve 12 percent of the population—and these organizations have been a key active force in the Orange Revolution.” (www.worldbank.org)

She describes how international consultants, policy experts and technical assistants work in coordination to change legislation, develop interest groups, set up media centers and develop protest movements. NGOs affect legislation, train civil servants, establish community councils and business associations, and push to revise the state budget in their own interests.

Young people and student organizations are drawn in through campaigns around HIV/AIDS, protection of minority rights and fighting child abandonment. The whole aim of this web of projects, she explains, is to prevent any “backsliding towards the old regime” and to push for “Euro-integration,” meaning integrating into international and European organizations like NATO and the World Bank.

The overturn of socialist ownership and the breakup of the Soviet Union is a process that did not end in 1991. Shaping the laws on property, the rights of foreign capital, justifying the expropriation and privatizing of the socially owned resources, industry and services for individual profit, dismembering social programs, shaping the media, education and culture, and undermining any assertions of sovereignty are a much longer process.

These funds have an even greater impact in a region where the centralized socialist planning that once guaranteed pensions, full employment, free health care, free education and subsidized housing is gone. Its brutal dismembering has affected millions of people, leaving them intensely angry with the leaders who betrayed them.

Funding youth movements

A significant part of the U.S. corporate funding is to create youth movements. The Soros Foundation, USAID and the NED together funded the Serbian youth group Otpor. Young people were provided specialized training and seminars in Budapest, Hungary, along with t-shirts, stickers, posters, office rent and a newspaper, as part of the successful campaign to overturn the Milosevic government in Serbia.

In Georgia, the Soros Foundation budgeted $4.6 million for the youth group Kmara, which became a primary weapon against the government. In Ukraine, Soros budgeted $7 million for the youth group Pora.

The opendemocracy.net web site is funded by the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. An article there by Sreeram Chaulia analyzes the role of U.S.-funded NGOs from Georgia to Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine. The blurb for it is provocative, saying that “new forms of youthful, tech-savvy mass mobilization are impelling regime change from below. But is the phenomenon as benign as it appears? Are the movements who inspire the ‘color revolutions’ catalysts or saboteurs?”

The author is not criticizing these NGOs; he is evaluating their effectiveness in implementing “regime change.” A few of his observations give insight into how these political organizations operate as just another weapon in the U.S. arsenal.

“Sabotage can suffice in some countries while full-scale military offensives may be needed in others,” Chaulia says.

“These three revolutions—the ‘rose revolution’ in Georgia (November 2003-January 2004), the ‘orange revolution’ in Ukraine (January 2005) and the ‘tulip revolution’ in Kyrgyzstan (April 2005)—each followed a near-identical trajectory; all were spearheaded by the American democratization Ingos [international NGOs] working at the behest of the U.S. foreign policy establishment. … Rarely has the U.S. promoted human rights and democracy in a region when they did not suit its grander foreign-policy objectives. … Ingos heavily dependent on U.S. finances have been found to be consciously or subconsciously extending U.S. governmental interests. …

“NED’s first president, Allen Weinstein, admitted openly that ‘a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA. … NED was conceived as a quasi-governmental foundation that funneled U.S. government funding through Ingos like the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), and Freedom House. …

“The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, worked closely with NGOs like Freedom House and the Soros Foundation—supplying generators, printing presses and money to keep the protests boiling until President Akayev fled. Information about where protesters should gather and what they should bring was spread through State Department-funded radio and TV stations.”

Today’s new and developing anti-war movement needs an understanding of the many forms of U.S. intervention, along with the chaos and instability that it breeds. This will build anti-imperialist awareness and strengthen the growing global demand of “U.S. out now!”


Articles copyright 1995-2011 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Email: ww@workers.org

Presidential elections in Turkmenistan – Looking from a different angle

Presidential elections in Turkmenistan – Looking from a different angle

nCa

Tariq Saeedi

Ashgabat, 4 February 2012 — The presidential elections in Turkmenistan will take place in less than 10 days from now.

Observers and analysts have raised several objections on the whole process:

  1. All the seven candidates running against President Berdymuhamedov are weak and obscure
  2. There is no opposition candidate
  3. The election manifesto of all candidates looks like a weak carbon copy of Berdymuhamedov’s manifesto
  4. These are sham elections; just a way for the sitting administration to stay in power

Superficially, these look like justifiable objections. Let’s examine them one by one.

Weak and obscure candidates

Two of the candidates against Berdymuhamedov are serving ministers, two are deputy governors of regions and two are heads of major industrial enterprises.

Because of their official positions, their names have been appearing off and on in the print and electronic media. In a system that is still struggling to get rid of its communist legacy, these candidates are not exactly obscure.

As far as their being weak is concerned, it is a relative term and cannot be applied wholesale. Weak against what? strong in what sense?

What is the sign of a strong candidate? Should he promise to break the whole system apart without knowing or caring for the consequences; without any plans to build something better in its place?

No opposition candidates

When talking of opposition candidate, we must first identify them. Is there any real opposition leader inside or outside the country?

Except for one possible exception, all of the names that are thrown around as opposition leaders are the persons with proven embezzlement cases against them. After fleeing the country with millions of dollars, they suddenly discovered, with helpful prodding by Russia and the west, that they were opposition leaders. This is not how authentic democracy works in real life environment.

Then, there is the matter of following the legal channels. No matter how cumbersome and obstructive, there is a system in Turkmenistan for getting registered as a presidential candidate. Admittedly, the law ‘On presidential elections’ is designed to keep unwanted candidates away.

However, this law has been around for quite a few years now. There was ample time for any opposition candidates to attempt to break into the system. Had they made high profile attempts to enter the presidential race, long before the elections were announced, one would have considered them as genuine candidates denied a chance. For instance:

  1. They could have moved the courts to reconsider the cases against them. Their requests would most probably have been turned down but they would have had on record their desire to seek justice.
  2. In their endless media appearances outside the country, they could have voiced some solid ideas on what they would do for the country and the people. Instead, they squandered all the opportunities in merely badmouthing the sitting government.
  3. They could have started or sponsored some media outlets with positive attitude instead of getting piggy ride on the biased and slanderous websites.
  4. They could have demonstrated in any way whatsoever that they have genuine concerns for the people instead of scheming with the western players for sabotaging and toppling the sitting regime.

Also, there is the undeniable code that as soon as a media outlet starts receiving funding from an interested country, organization or individual, it ceases to be an independent media. This is fully applicable to politicians and pseudo-politicians: The moment they receive funding from a foreign country, organization or individual, they forego the right to speak for their people.

Election manifesto

It is absurd to make an issue of similarity of manifestos of presidential candidates in Turkmenistan.

As Obama said before being elected, he will keep what is working and replace what is not.

There is no reason why this simple logic should not be applied to Turkmenistan: There are all the indications that the economy is growing, industrial base is expanding, benefits are trickling down to the people and the country is playing an increasingly useful role at the regional and global level. Why should there be any desire to tinker with this?

Sham elections

If we accept the indictment that these are sham elections, merely a ploy by the government to remain in power, is this an absolute inevitability?

What is there to prevent the voters to stamp on any name on the ballot paper once they are behind the curtain in the polling booth?

If the people are really, totally fed up with the present government, will they not put their stamp on any other candidate’s name except for Berdymuhamedov just to show their disgust?

Even if the whole process is a sham, the final 30 seconds of this process, when a voter is alone in the booth, are not a sham.

Russian TV attacks new US ambassador

(Hillary swearing McFaul in.)

“He co-directs the Iran Democracy Project, as well as Professor of Political Science at Stanford University.

He is also a non-resident Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Eurasia Foundation, the Firebird Fund, Freedom House, the International Forum for Democratic Studies of the National Endowment for Democracy, and the International Research and Exchange Board (IREX).”

Russian TV attacks new US ambassador

By Sofia Javed
Associated Press

MOSCOW—State television has lashed out at the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, questioning his credentials and suggesting his agenda is to support opposition leaders and promote revolution.

Channel One criticized Ambassador Michael McFaul’s appointment in a segment that aired on Tuesday night, McFaul’s second day on the job.

“The fact is that McFaul is not an expert on Russia,” said Channel One analyst Mikhail Leontev. “He is a specialist purely in the promotion of democracy.”

The commentary questioned McFaul’s previous work in Russia with the National Democratic Institute —- “known for its proximity to the U.S. intelligence services” —- and his connections to the “so-called democratic movement” in the early 1990s.

It also suggested McFaul has written hundreds of articles against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who is expected to return to the presidency in March.

Noting the title of McFaul’s 2001 book — “An Unfinished Revolution in Russia. The political change from Gorbachev to Putin” — Leontev asked, “Has Mr. McFaul arrived in Russia to work in the specialty? That is, finish the revolution?”

The report followed video of Russian opposition and civil society leaders leaving the U.S. embassy after meetings with McFaul and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns — McFaul’s first official receptions in his post.

He met with senior government officials at the Kremlin on Monday.

Environmentalist Yevgeniya Chirikova, who was among those invited to the embassy, tweeted that McFaul’s choice of hosting opposition leaders first had cast him in a positive light.

Others at the meetings included human rights and anti-corruption activists, along with representatives from the Communist, Just Russia, Yabloko and People’s Freedom Parties.

Human rights activist Lev Ponomarev was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that the discussions included elections, the jailing of Russian businessmen and the awakening of political activism in Russian society.

“We had an informal conversation about the state of civil society in our country, about human rights violations and the problems that we have,” Ponomarev said.

McFaul later explained on his blog that U.S. officials in Russia make a point of meeting with both government officials and civil society leaders.

“It’s a policy we call dual track engagement,” he said. “We learned a lot from listening to these leaders.”

McFaul is regarded as one of the nation’s leading experts on U.S. relations with Russia, and has been involved in the Obama administration’s efforts to “reset” relations with Moscow. That includes the signing of the New START treaty that set a ceiling of 1,550 strategic warheads in each country’s arsenal.

He responded to Channel One’s report on Twitter late Tuesday, saying the commentary included “no word about the 3 years of reset.”

“Yesterday my mtgs with WH/Kremlin officials could not have been warmer. pluralism!” he tweeted.

Russian state television has suggested there has been U.S. involvement in growing protests following December’s fraud-tainted parliamentary election, in which Putin’s United Russia party won a majority of seats.

Two days before the vote, Kremlin-controlled NTV television showed a half-hour program attacking Golos, Russia’s only independent election monitoring group, which is supported by grants from the U.S. and Europe.

The program included shots of suitcases full of U.S. dollars and claimed that Golos was openly supporting opposition parties and trying to discredit the election.

The show aired several days after Putin accused Western governments of trying to influence the election through their funding of unidentified Russian non-governmental organizations.

 

The Prospects of Facebook Activism in Uzbekistan

A fascinating discussion over at the Central Asian blog, Registan.net, has been taking place this past week about the possibility of Internet-fueled revolution in Central Asia. The debate coincides with recent reports about increasing numbers of Internet users in Uzbekistan, and the surging use of Facebook.

In light of those developments, I thought I’d survey a few Uzbeks that I know to ask if they felt that those numbers would translate into more online activism and any additional pressure on the authorities to loosen their domineering grip on society. The uniform answer was “no” and the prime reason: “fear”.

Everyone agreed about the upsurge in Facebook use and how it had become standard for most young people to have their own profiles, as IWPR pointed out already last September:

Most of my friends started surfing the net this year, the main reason being social networking sites, which are becoming very popular in this country,” a university student in the capital Tashkent, who did not want to be named, said. “Almost all young people who have mobile phones are internet users here. It’s now normal for young people to have a Facebook profile, which they use to try to express themselves.

Still, those that I spoke to doubted that Facebook would be used anytime soon for Arab-spring-like political activism. People are still just too afraid. One person I spoke to gave me an example. Let’s call her Tania. So Tania was posting comments in a discussion on her friend’s Facebook wall about the arts week organized by the president’s daughter last year. Tania was questioning the use of public money for the event, but was not rabidly critical of the presidential family. Nevertheless, her friend got spooked and deleted all of Tania’s comments and any others that might be deemed critical.

Tania felt that almost no one would dare to post overtly political comments on their profiles.

So far, the Uzbek authorities have not become antsy enough to opt for a wholesale shutdown, though, according to IWPR, the authorities did get pretty nervous in the wake of the Arab spring and “pages where Uzbek users were posting and commenting on news from Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Libya became unavailable.”

They also apparently got nervous when some young people took to YouTube last year to post videos from school. As RFE/RL reported back in October, there have been at least a few cases of something possibly resembling Internet activism among students. I say “possibly” because it’s impossible to know the motivations of those who placed two videos up on YouTube, one showing the daughter of a local prosecutor screaming at and beating her teacher, and the other depicting a bunch of young men waving money at their instructor. Were they posted to show the special treatment that politically connected kids get in school and to highlight corruption inside universities? In any case, one Uzbek that I spoke to claimed that the government had reacted by firing the two teachers, expelling the girl, and passing a measure restricting the use of Facebook in classrooms.

I couldn’t find independent verification of any of that and inquiries among some other Uzbeks failed to turn up much beyond a news story from last August that talks about the creation of a new committee to monitor the media. But simply the rumor of a Facebook ban might be sufficient to make others think twice about posting anything potentially inflammatory. And if Facebook carries the “taint” of something dangerous, users might be more likely to use something like Muloqot.uz, which was launched in the fall with support from the state telecoms company – intended for Uzbeks within the country, and in all likelihood closely monitored by the secret services.

If Muloqot.uz managed to offer serious competition to Facebook, that could negative the potential consequences of a theory highlighted in the Registan debate: Ethan Zuckerman’s “cute cats” hypothesis. Ethan, a senior researcher at the Berkman Center of Internet and Society and an old friend of TOL’s, has made the very valid point that the masses generally don’t care or even know about if some single site monitoring human rights is shut down, but they become irate if their government blocks entire services – say YouTube or Facebook – that they regularly use to post pictures of their cats or to do some other non-political activity. They also tend to become more knowledgeable about abuses because they start to wonder why the authorities decided to turn off their favorite site in the first place.

To avoid that scenario, the authorities could simply decide not to wait for the user numbers to get big enough for people to really care if Facebook or YouTube connections come up empty. In December, for example, the arbuz.com web forum shut down, a place where people had posted critical comments, including attacks on the government for not doing more to protect ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan during the recent conflicts there. But the site was used mainly by the Diaspora and the move didn’t elicit a major response from within the country.

Given the fear factor, it’s hard to imagine all this new online activity making a difference without many other developments occurring “offline” at the same time. What would happen, however, if usage continues to rise exponentially, the authorities don’t turn off the lights, and at least a small fraction of those new users started to post critical comments on Facebook or at least to access the pages of people living abroad that might not be as scared as their peers to post something controversial?

In other words, .1 percent of 106,000 users (the current number) might present no threat, but what about .1 percent of 1 million?

Screenshot above is from Muloqot.uz.

Rent-a-Mob Protests in Central Asia

Rent-a-Mob Protests in Central Asia

Journal of Turkish Weekly

When angry citizens take to the streets in Kyrgyzstan, not all of them are there out of conviction – some may be “activists for hire”, part of a band of people prepared to express public outrage in return for some kind of remuneration.

More often than not, they are women recruited as a cheap way of filling out crowd numbers, and perhaps reducing the likelihood that the police will storm in, batons flailing, as they would do if demonstrators were predominantly male.

In neighbouring Uzbekistan, meanwhile, major public protests are non-existent, and the state uses rent-a-mob tactics for a more ominous purpose. In order to discredit and assault dissidents, it hires women to set on them in the role of outraged citizens unconnected with the state. According to sources IWPR talked to in the country, it is standard practice to coerce civilians into committing acts of intimidation and violence.

IWPR interviews with hired “activists”, police and commentators in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan reveal that hiring female labour is an effective way of creating a stir, at little cost and at arm’s length. Despite considerable differences in the way such women are deployed in the two states, they are typically from marginalised groups and in need of an income.

PROFESSIONAL PROTESTORS

In Kyrgyzstan, political groups began actively recruiting women as protest participants some years ago, in the belief their presence on the streets could help defuse confrontations with the security forces.

Women played a key role in protests in the southern town of Aksy in 2002, turning out in the altruistic hope that this would offer some protection to their male relatives and neighbours who were taking part. In the event, this did not happen, and police killed six of the protesters.

Many more protests ensued, often against President Askar Akaev until he was ousted in 2005, and then against his successor Kurmanbek Bakiev, forced out in 2010.

These days, the motives of protest participants of either sex are often less clear. According to Pavel Dyatlenko of the think tank Polis Asia, rent-a-mob schemes have become widespread.

The phenomenon of hiring female protesters is so common that they have acquired the jocular collective nickname OBON – “special-assignment female units” – by analogy with the OMON riot police.

Selecting women for the role may be a calculated move to play on the perception that since “their place is in the home” in this male-dominated society, they must be resorting to protest out of genuine desperation.

In contrast to Uzbekistan, women are less likely to be employed as provocateurs in Kyrgyzstan than as general campaigners for some kind of political cause. And because the political climate is less rigidly authoritarian than in Uzbekistan, the cause may be either pro- or anti-government, depending on who is paying.

The OBON phenomenon has gained such notoriety that politician Ravshan Sabirov raised it in the Kyrgyz parliament in November, calling for such mercenary action to be punishable by law.

According to the Knews.kg news site, Justice Minister Abylay Muhamedjanov said in response that it would be hard to include a ban on something called “OBON” in the bill on freedom of assembly then before parliament, and suggested the wording should be “destructive forces”.

In the capital Bishkek, protest participants are often drawn from the shanty towns created by incomers from the countryside who are desperate for work and easily manipulated.

The principal incentive is either straight cash or an in-kind reward such as the offer of a good job later on.

The private TV station Channel 5 in Kyrgyzstan last year reported that the informal pay scale for this kind of activity ranged from 11 to 22 dollars a day for taking part in a demonstration; 44 dollars a day for recruiting and managing ten demonstrators, rising to 500 dollars a day for doing the same with a crowd of 1,000; 22 to 33 dollars for a day’s heckling and 66 dollars for more serious troublemaking. The fee for hunger strikers was negotiable. Experts say these approximate rates still apply.

Despite this, many of the women interviewed for this report played down the monetary aspect, suggesting that they were motivated by support for a politician from their clan or region.

At the same time, they were clear that they expected favours or payment in return. And once they got started, just having a steady source of income often obscured any higher motive.

Salkynay, a 40-year-old divorced mother of two from the northern town of Karabalta, told IWPR how she got involved with a political party campaigning for the October 2010 parliamentary election.

A neighbour offered her work distributing leaflets and recruiting new members from her network of friends, and she was then given her own assignment – to attend a public meeting held by a rival candidate and attempt to derail his performance by heckling him.

“I got 500 soms [around 11 US dollars] for bombarding him with difficult questions,” she said, admitting that on this first outing, she had to read from a script while other hecklers had their questions off pat.

Salkynay acknowledges that money was uppermost in her mind, but says she was also happy to be supporting her local member of parliament, who had built a playground and helped pensioners. She would have campaigned for any of the parties, though perhaps not with the same degree of enthusiasm, she said.

The election campaign earned Salkynay just over 200 dollars in the space of a month – more than the average wage, and twice what she used to earn in casual jobs as a market trader or restaurant dishwasher.

Salkynay said the political party agents who hired people like her knew what they were doing, and sized each new recruit up to calculate just how little they needed to pay them.

“They know who these people are and how they live,” she said. “Depending on their financial situation, they can offer them 500 soms, and top that up if necessary.”

Given the army of unemployed, she added, there was no shortage of people willing to spend a couple of hours standing in some square as part of a demonstration, for which they would earn as much as for a full day’s work.

WORKING FOR THE HIGHEST BIDDER

Those who join protest movements for purely mercenary aims attract a lot of criticism.

A local government official in southern Kyrgyzstan told IWPR about one woman who he said had worked for opposing political sides, all for money.

“Against Bakiev, for Bakiev, in support of the opposition, against the opposition,” he said.

IWPR spoke to the former activist herself, who said she was just “a woman who is always fighting for justice” and had turned against Bakiev only when he proved to be no better than his predecessor Akaev, against whom she also protested until he was ousted in 2005.

She insisted she never got any remuneration, saying, “I never took part in a rally for money, or for anything else.”

Salima, 60, from outside the capital Bishkek, used to be a regular participant in demonstrations in support of a political figure who fell out with the government about ten years ago. Although she was paid for mobilising and participating in protests at the time, she said she was a committed supporter of the politician, since she was from the same region as him.

In the end, she gave it up later, because the politician failed to deliver when she approached him and asked him to secure a good job for her daughter.

“Now I see women my age taking part in rallies, and I want to tell them that no politician is worth all that time and effort,” she said.

BULLIES FOR THE REGIME

Many rights activists believed that the OBON idea in Kyrgyzstan was borrowed from Uzbekistan, and then modified to suit the different circumstances there.

In Uzbekistan, where the police state has a monopoly on political activity, rent-a-crowd tactics are used for more sinister aims.

For at least a decade, the uniformed police and the National Security Service, SNB, have been coercing women to harass and assault dissidents and disrupt demonstrations. They commonly use prisoners released on probation, others with a criminal record, sex workers, or market traders – all groups that live in fear of the police, and can therefore be pressured into carrying out their will.

For the security services, the advantage of using proxies is that they can dissociate themselves from the use of physical violence.

Yelena Urlaeva, head of the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, has been on the receiving end of such attacks more than once. Six years ago, she travelled to the western city of Bukhara to attend the trial of dissident poet Yusuf Juma.

“As soon as I got off the train, a group of women attacked me with steel bars and sticks, shouting at me and demanding that I leave,” she recalled.

In April 2011, Urlaeva’s house was broken into by another group of women, after she and her colleagues were interviewed in the Russian media.

An SNB officer confirmed that it was official policy to recruit and deploy groups of women.

“It isn’t a new practice – it was employed in the Soviet era, and it was pretty effective,” he told IWR on condition of anonymity. “At the beginning of the 2000s, it was decided to revive it, as it was becoming difficult to use force to crush protests and rallies held by rights activists and other disgruntled people. With western journalists always present in the country, brutal treatment of protesters would be reported immediately. When the ‘women’s battalions were used, there could be no reproaches against the police or the authorities – it was as if people, women were unhappy with the protesters and were taking a stand.”

According to the SNB officer, the police will put together a “women’s battalion” and set its civilian members on an individual human rights defender, or on a group of activists.

“There are about 30 women in such groups. Each of them is put together to perform a particular task. If someone has to be beaten up, it will be well-built young women aged 20-25,” he said, adding that older women would be called on if threats and intimidation were all that was required.

Muhabat, a sex worker in the capital Tashkent, was forced to take part in organised attacks after police put pressure on her.

She says she and other prostitutes had been paying off local police, but were then visited by a senior officer who told them they were now on a list of police agents tasked with combating “enemies of the people” whenever required to do so.

Their first job was to break up a protest outside the prosecutor’s office in Tashkent’s Chorsu district, where several dozen residents were trying to get the demolition of their homes halted.

“We were instructed to mostly attack the men, to bite them and provoke them into hitting back so that they could be arrested for beating up women. We were told to hurl insults at them and tear at their clothing. The instructions were to hit men in the face or kick them in the groin and pull women by the hair where possible,” she said.

Nargiz, a market trader in Tashkent, was swept up with a group accused of failing to issue receipts, during a police raid to stop tax evasion. They were given a simple choice – cooperate with the police or face punishment, and Nargiz agreed to the former.

“Two hours before being sent out to disperse a protest, we were issued our instructions and given sticks to beat up the rights activists. For each action, we got paid 50,000 soms [25 US dollars], plus assurances that we could continue trading at the Kuyluk market unhindered,” she said. “Sometimes we didn’t get paid anything, and instead we were threatened with trouble.”

Nargiz said she used to be called up two or three times a month, but nowadays it was less frequent. This ties in with the accounts of both Urlaeva and the SNB officer, who said the use of these special “female units” had tailed off in recent years.

“It used to be widespread. Such units still exist, but they aren’t sent into action as often as before,” the security officer said.

The reasons for this have more to do with the fact that there are so few active dissidents and human rights activists left in Uzbekistan, rather than a shift to more liberal attitudes. After the 2005 shooting of hundreds of civilians in Andijan, rights defenders and independent journalists were arrested or fled the country.

In parallel, foreign reporters and human rights monitors were expelled or forced out of Uzbekistan, so the kind of scrutiny the SNB officer spoke about was less of a problem for the security services.

In Kazakstan, using women as an arm’s-length way of meting out state-sanctioned violence is rarer. One case occurred in June 2011 in the western town of Janaozen, when striking oil workers and their wives were detained for several hours. The incident began when a woman approached their demonstration and began insulting and assaulting them.

As is common practice in neighbouring Uzbekistan, the Kazak police waded in and detained the victims of the attack, not the perpetrator. Police later told journalists that the woman had filed a complaint against the demonstrators.

In Kyrgyzstan, the consensus view is that OBON-type activities will continue as long as there are people willing to do anything for money – in other words, as long as the economy remains in severe depression.

Dinara Oshurakhunova, head of the Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society, says she does not blame the women who allow themselves to be recruited. But she is scathing about those with the money and will to “exploit the knowledge that these people are prepared to come out for a rally because they need to feed their families”.

The names of some interviewees have been changed to protect their identities.

Alexander Kim reports for the Kloop.kg website from Osh. Asyl Osmonalieva is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek. Inga Sikorskaya is IWPR senior editor for Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Bakhtiyor Rasulov is a pseudonym for a journalist in Tashkent.


Friday, 13 January 2012

IWPR

Putin Is Playing Poker, Not Chess–Does He Have A Winning Hand?

By Steve LeVine

Russian leader Vladimir Putin urges an end to absurdist doubt regarding his political longevity, and a focus on reality — such as the triumphant energy deals with which he closed out 2011. Putin is referring to a surprising, double-flanking maneuver in Turkey and Ukraine that gives Russia the apparent advantage in the late stages of a contest for energy market — and, some fear, geopolitical — domination in Europe. But Putin’s tenor also suggests a decided shift to the past in Russia’s relationship with the world — the “reset” of relations with the U.S. is over, writes theFinancial Times’ Charles Clover. Putin — whose administration last week issued a formal reportaccusing the U.S. of “mass and flagrant abuses of human rights” — is clearly prepared for the type of fisticuffs last seen during the depths of the George W. Bush Administration.

Can one write off this clutch of anti-Western activity to domestic politics — Putin singing a tune that he thinks plays well with Russian voters ahead of the March 4 election, in which he is seeking a return to the Kremlin for a third term? It seems more complicated than that — Putin is playing to the gallery, but events outside Russia also are motivating him to behave at turns opportunistically; other times, they are causing him to lash out apprehensively.

Putin’s energy gambit is an example of him acting on the opportunistic side, specifically in the realm where Russian politics frequently find animation — in the construction, or blockage, of energy pipelines. In the current case, Putin has managed to seriously out-maneuver U.S. and European political leaders by advancing the prospects of South Stream, a proposed $21 billion natural gas pipeline from Russia to Europe, crossing underneath the Black Sea.

First, Putin last Wednesday got Turkey — which since the mid-1990s has played only for the Western team when it comes to pipeline politics — to cross over just this once, and allow South Stream to occupy its territorial waters in the Black Sea. Then on Friday, he followed up the coup with an orchestrated television appearance in which he casually agreed to a suggestion by Alexei Miller, the head of natural gas giant Gazprom, to accelerate South Stream by a year, and begin to build it by the end of 2012.

If this actually happens, it could mean that South Stream would be ready in 2014, and not 2015 as previously reckoned. That would gravely impact Western proposals for Nabucco, a rival natural gas pipeline intended also to serve Europe, but transport only non-Russian gas. Nabucco’s proponents advocate it as a way to reduce Europe’s reliance on Moscow, and hence a feared danger of gas-fueled Russian political advantage on the continent.

All of this happens while the U.S. and Europe are preoccupied by their own set of financial crises. Here, the Wall Street Journal’s Charles Forelle sums up Europe’s in a highly recommended 23-minute documentary:

Yet, as suggested, this is a big if. When it comes to pipeline politics, little is how it appears on the surface. In this case, there is much speculation that Putin actually has little interest in actually building South Stream. Rather his objective is dual, in this view of events — to thwart Nabucco, and to frighten neighboring Ukraine — through which almost all Russian gas currently travels to Europe — into signing a highly favorable (to Russia) gas deal.

Ukraine certainly perceives Putin’s most recent moves as political hardball. Putin’s aim formerly seemed to be to get a high price for gas. But in the last couple of years, his appetite has grown to owning pipelines and other energy infrastructure in the countries where Gazprom operates. In the case of Ukraine, he wants a large share of the state pipeline company.

Given nationalist Ukrainian politics, such a move could be politically fatal to President Viktor Yanukovich. Putin’s moves so startled Ukraine that Prime Minister Mykola Azarov went onto Facebook and threatened to sue Russia. It is not clear what grounds there would be for a suit, yet the sentiment is notable.

As regards price, the sides are astonishingly far apart. The picture is a mirror into the old era of natural gas — one undergoing an utter transformation because of new supplies of shale gas and the invention of efficient, ocean-going liquefied natural gas supertankers — in which little pockets of the world charge wildly different prices for the same commodity. In this case, Russia is asking Ukraine for roughly $11.42 for 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas, or almost four times the U.S. price of about $3. For its part, Ukraine says it may be willing to do a pipeline deal — if it can pay $7.14 per 1,000 cubic feet, or 2.3 times the U.S. price (in the language the Europeans speak, Russia wishes to charge Ukraine $400 per 1,000 cubic meters; Ukraine wants to pay $250. The conversion of cubic feet to cubic meters is roughly 1:35).

This set of circumstances has to have Putin gloating. Until recently, Russia’s prospects had been clouded by the challenge of shale gas, which Poland, Hungary and other European countries may start producing, and the arrival in Europe of LNG from Qatar. Such new supplies could undermine Russia because Gazprom’s tax payments account for some 20 percent of total state revenue.

But at once Gazprom’s — and thus Russia’s — prospects are reversed. Last year’s nuclear disaster in Japan, by reverberating in Europe in the form of the ordered shut-down of German and other nuclear power plants, increases demand for Russian natural gas. Nabucco — the Western pipeline champion — has badly stumbled by failing to find sufficient gas to transport.

The Obama Administration — as politically preoccupied as the Europeans — has not even managed to get its political opponents in the U.S. Senate to formally confirm its choice as ambassador to critical Azerbaijan, a diplomat named Matthew Bryza. And now Putin has put Russia in the catbird seat with the deal with Turkey.

Yet all is not well for Putin. The Arab Spring makes him nervous. Already, opponents fired up over his sense of political entitlement — Putin and his protege, President Dmitry Medvedev, casually announced in September that they would swap positions; they regarded the nod of Russian voters as a formality — have been in the streets (pictured above, Moscow street scene on Friday).

The latter is what has most likely caused Putin to lash out at the U.S. The problem is that the Arab Spring is not going away soon, and the street politics it has propagated in Russia may not either.

The West tries out old tricks in Russia

The West tries out old tricks in Russia

By Mikhail L. Titarenko (China Daily)

The West tries out old tricks in RussiaLong before the State Duma elections of Dec 4, the ultra-rightist and liberal mass media, collaborating with anti-Russian elements in the West, forecast that the ruling United Russia party would suffer a serious defeat.

They organized all sorts of sociological surveys to support this thoroughly planned campaign and to push their “predictions” on the “crisis” facing Russian leaders and “sharply declining rating” of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev. The anti-Putin campaign became really vociferous when the United Russia congress officially and unanimously approved Putin as its nominee for the presidential election in March 2012.

It is true that the election results showed the correlation of political forces and sentiments in Russia, which is experiencing the difficult strategic consequences of the disintegration of the erstwhile Soviet Union and the impact of the global economic crisis.

The Russian authorities should learn the lessons from the protests, which shows the global crisis has had a serious impact on Russia’s economy. For example, it has increased the cost of housing and utilities substantially, and led to proliferation of corruption, lack of discipline among bureaucrats, strong bureaucratic stranglehold, and chaos in army and military reforms. Quite naturally, these factors have influenced people’s attitude toward the United Russia party and the bureaucracy, which has won the “top prize” in terms of public repulsion.

However, the “go ahead” for the nasty campaign came from politicians in the United States, who made it clear that they would not welcome Putin back as president of Russia. The opposition in Russia took the signal immediately and went on the “offensive”.

Voters manifested good understanding of the fact that in the past decade as well as during the current difficult times Putin, the non-partisan leader of United Russia, and Medvedev have made substantial efforts to consolidate the country and solve its political and social problems. As for Putin, he has won wide public recognition as a Russian patriot who cares and works for the consolidation and prosperity of the country and to improve the lives and livelihoods of the working people, especially the less-protected section of society.

The West assumes that the disintegration of the Soviet Union was the result of its victory in the Cold War. It hopes that with Western support, separatists and criminals will take the next step to cause the collapse of Russia. In their writings, American politicians such as political scientist and former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright have described scenarios of an expected collapse of Russia and even redrawn its national borders.

Putin, who posed the main geopolitical obstacle to the realization of such goals, outlined the strategy for Russia’s revival and consolidation of its status as an important independent country that would cooperate with other countries, including the US, on the principle of equal rights.

As shown by the Dec 4 election results, the United Russia party, notwithstanding the weakening of some of its authority, retained a very considerable percentage of voters’ confidence and won 50 percent of the popular votes. The results also reflect that the Russian people still have the undoubted confidence in Putin and Medvedev.

The Western media try to fan the liberal opposition’s passions in every which way they can. But the Russian authorities, manifesting maximum tolerance, have allowed such anti-government demonstrations to take place.

Some media outlets are engaged in unbridled propaganda, aimed specifically against Putin. But the Russian people know that it is a preplanned political provocation, designed by anti-Russia elements to destabilize the situation in the run-up to the presidential election.

When the liberal media in Russia and in the West loudly advertise their concern over “democratic development” in Russia, they expose their involvement in efforts to silence true public sentiments, as evident in the protests in the US, Britain, Italy, Germany and France. The demonstrations in the West are aimed against the ruling oligarchs in those countries who have fattened their wallets during the economic crisis and distributed multi-million-dollar bonuses among themselves, thereby aggravating the financial and economic chaos.

The Western media should reflect on their double standard on democracy and protests for justice. As the Holy Bible says, before pointing out a mote in another’s eye, they should remove a beam from their own eyes.

The author is president of Russia-China Friendship Association and director of Institute of Far Eastern Studies, affiliated to the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Putin Has Tough Sell for His Eurasian Union Idea

Analysis: Russia’s neighbors balk at Putin’s “big idea”

Elizabeth Piper
Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Vladimir Putin bills it as an economic union that could rival China and the United States, stretch from the Polish frontier to Pacific shores and reunite at least part of the Soviet Union.

The Eurasian Union, according to Putin, could recoup the potential lost when the Soviet empire collapsed 20 years ago and secure a group of like-minded countries by binding them together against any meddling by the West or China.

But with details scarce and only Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus signed up so far, the project has been dismissed by critics as another “big idea” before a March presidential election which Putin may now struggle to win in the first round after facing the biggest protests since he took power.

“Even though Putin has underlined that this is not the Soviet Union, nevertheless, the idea of a great government that everyone fears and therefore respects is very popular with a large part of the electorate,” said Dmitry Oreshkin, an independent political analyst.

“(The Eurasian Union) is a very good pre-election fairytale that will never be realized. “

Putin has sought ways to reunite former Soviet republics since becoming prime minister in 1999 and being elected president the following year, capitalizing on nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ of stable prices and predictable government.

He touched a chord in 2005 when he called the Soviet Union’s demise “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” and is not shy of expressing his desire to restore Russia’s imperial dominance of its “near abroad.”

Twelve years ago, he pushed the idea of a union with neighboring Belarus, which Russia often calls its little brother — just one of several attempts by Russian leaders to knot together countries which once shared one command economy.

“It is completely clear that the interests of Russia, the demands of her past and the past of all those other countries in the region requires union to unite their strengths,” said Konstantin Zatulin, the Russian director of the Institute of CIS countries – a loose grouping of 11 former Soviet states known as the Commonwealth of Independent States.

“Not long ago we were one economy and since then there has been a huge loss from industries we were developing, we have lost a lot of technological know-how … It would be strange if the countries did not want to remember what connects us.”

The break-up of the Soviet union disrupted lives and the economy. Relatives and friends found themselves divided by new borders. Factories from missile manufacturers to shipbuilders were isolated from suppliers by a foreign officialdom.

LEGACY BUILDING

The Eurasian Union idea is not new.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev dreamed up the idea more than 10 years ago and its current incarnation is an extension of a Customs Union, spearheaded by Putin, between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan which Ukraine, the former Soviet Union’s third biggest economy, refused to join.

Putin says it is modeled on the European Union, promising free movement of labor and free trade to promote the development of domestic industries. It envisages the eventual adoption of a common currency and its headquarters will be in Moscow, largely paid for from the Russian purse.

Kyrgyzstan is willing to join and Tajikistan is reported to be considering the measure, ensuring that Russia’s eastern flank is covered but bringing little in terms of economic value.

“In fact, there is little new to such aspirations, and little reason to believe they will be more effective than previous attempts to forge the CIS into a coherent entity,” the Economist Intelligence Unit said in a recent report.

“But it is significant that Mr Putin has made bolstering ties with the CIS such a policy priority, even if he denies that he is trying to recreate the old Soviet Union.”

Putin has given the idea momentum again – momentum only his $1.48 trillion economy can give to what avowedly is an economic union. Kazakhstan has GDP of $149 billion, Belarus and its largely command economy is worth has $17 billion, according to the World Bank. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are even smaller.

But without Ukraine, which has hedged its bets because it wants to keep the possibility of EU membership open, the union loses most of the European part of the planned alliance.

“Belarus is needed because it is a country which is on the western flank. If we want to be part of Europe properly then we have to find a way to cooperate with Belarus and Ukraine,” said Zatulin, who until this week was a first deputy chairman of the CIS committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament.

“And don’t forget that Belarus and Ukraine are kin, our closest kinfolk in every sense of the word.”

LEGACY

Since unveiling it in an October newspaper article, Putin has made the union a main election platform, promoting it at a congress of his ruling United Russia party in September before a poll earlier this month which the opposition said was fixed.

It has, some political experts say, become one of his “big ideas” — one which he may promote further to deflect attention from his domestic problems as he faces mass protests and calls for his resignation over the parliamentary election.

His popularity rating has sunk since the poll and doubts are growing over his ability to secure the more than 50 percent of votes needed to win the presidential election in the first round.

Kazakh leader Nazarbayev also faces problems. Riots in an oil town over company sackings have raised questions about his rigid authoritarian system before a January parliamentary poll.

“It’s an instinctive effort to save the shared history from the Soviet Union and maybe capture this in some sort of organization with slightly unclear prospects for the future,” Lilit Gevorgyan, Russia and CIS country analyst at IHS Global Insight in London, said of Putin’s proposal.

“Both Putin and Nazarbayev see themselves as historic figures, who already secured a place in the history of their countries, but still believe they have great minds that could be put into a wider project.”

“Their strength is the weakness of this initiative. It is driven by a vision of strengthening their own legacies rather than the common economic and political future of their countries,” she said.

Putin, now 59, will want to go down in history as a decisive, active leader of an increasingly powerful country and is careful about the image he projects.

At a question-and-answer-session with the public last week, he smarted at a suggestion that Russia should become a “bridge” between East and West.

“Russia is not a bridge. It is an independent, self-sufficient force in the world, not just some sort of link,” Putin said.

“But it certainly has elements of a Eurasian character. They are additional factors in our competitiveness, and we will certainly use it. That’s why we put the question on the establishment of a Eurasian Union.”

SQUEEZED

Russia has long feared being squeezed by an expansionist European Union in the West and a perhaps more aggressive China to the East. China now accounts for 18.2 percent of Kazakhstan’s exports compared with 8.5 percent to Russia.

With the European Union’s “Eastern Partnership” program largely on hold as it tackles a debt crisis, Putin was able to pounce to bring Belarus on board – at a price.

Russia won control over Belarus’s pipelines, but had to reduce the price of gas when Belarus almost went bankrupt this year. Moscow may have to keep money flowing to Belarus for some time.

“Symbolically, the idea has big support, but in reality, (Russians) do not believe in it, they are not ready for serious spending,” Alexei Levinson, head of socio-cultural research at the Levada Centre polling organization in Moscow.

“Selling gas at a discounted price to Ukraine and Belarus does not command a lot of support. For all the conversations about our Slavic brotherhood, money is money.”

For Kazakhstan, it may be more about maintaining neighborly relations and perhaps offsetting any threat from an unpredictable China.

“I think another reason for the government to decide on integration is because in a global world, with the growing economies like the United States and China, China is a very strong neighbor and we never can tell what they are thinking,” said Andrey Yershov, vice president of commerce and foreign economic relations at a locomotive assembly plant near the Kazakh capital Astana.

“One day they might claim something and in that case Kazakhstan will be more protected in this union.”

NO DETAILS, NO SUPPORT

Yershov, whose locomotive plant is at the forefront of Nazarbayev’s efforts to wean the Kazakh economy off a dependence on natural resources, said he could not say whether the new union would help his business which depends on imports from outside the region.

He simply did not know what it entailed.

“As a businessman I have not received any information from the authorities from which I can understand what the changes are and what the benefits are,” he said by telephone.

“These initiatives have been discussed for a long time in the government but to my knowledge we haven’t, and other businessmen haven’t, been approached.”

It is an attitude characteristic of Putin, who, according to some Russian media, did not consult his colleagues in the CIS about his plans to propose a Eurasian Union.

It is as if he and Nazarbayev think they can attract other countries simply with their personalities, said Gevorgyan.

“These leaders have already made their mark, but instead of exiting politics they have come up with this new idea,” she said.

“If their own voters are already tired, the question is why should foreign countries – although they don’t see them as such — join. How can you inspire them?”

(Additional reporting by Jennifer Rankin and Douglas Busvine in Moscow, and Dmitry Solovyov in Almaty, editing by Timothy Heritage)

KGB in Belarus Torture Femen Topless Activists, Arrest Australian Filmmaker Kitty Green

  • by:Lucy Carne, Shannon Deery 
  • From:Herald Sun 
Femen

Femen protesters are arrested by security services in Ukraine earlier this month. Picture: AFP AFP

Kitty Green arrested in Belarus

Kitty Green has told friends she is safe. Herald Sun

UPDATE 9.02am: A MELBOURNE woman has been arrested by the KGB during a topless protest against Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, in Belarus.

Young filmmaker Kitty Green, 27, was feared missing after KGB officers abducted her on Monday at 11am (local time) during a feminist protest on the streets of Minsk.

The group of topless women said three of its members were abducted by security officers, beaten, humiliated and left naked in a forest during the protest.

Ms Green was reportedly held with three other Belarusian female journalists in a KGB office where she was fingerprinted and interrogated until evening.

It was not until the Australian embassy in Moscow intervened that she was released, according to the Femen organisation.

Ms Green had been living in Kiev, Ukraine for the past six months working on a documentary on the Femen organisation.

Femen is widely known in Ukraine and neighbouring countries for its demonstrations in which women bare their breasts to draw attention to an array of causes.

It is understood Ms Green had been in Belarus by herself before the protest.

She has told friends on Facebook she was arrested but is safe after leaving the country via Lithuania.

“She is very relieved she was freed,” Ms Green’s flatmate Alexandra Shevchenko told the Herald Sun this morning from Kiev.

“We were very worried when she was missing but we are very thankful the Australian Embassy in Moscow helped free her.

“Kitty said she was held in the KGB office and they took her fingerprints and made a file on her.

“She told me she will never go to Belarus again.”

The three Ukrainian women were later seized by Belarusian KGB agents at the Minsk train station.

They were reportedly blindfolded and taken to a forest where they were forced to strip naked.

The KGB agents then doused them in petrol and threatened to set the women on fire, before using knives to cut off their hair.

The women were then abandoned without their passports, clothes or money in the forest, a Femen spokewoman said.

They walked to a nearby village to seek help.

“They were able to telephone and told me they were in awful condition, barely alive,” the group’s leader Anna Gutsol said.

A KGB spokesman refused to comment.

Ms Shevchenko said the Ukrainian Embassy in Belarus would not to help the women escape.

“It’s a terrible situation,” she said.

“Kitty was lucky and was not hurt like the other girls, but she is from a strong democratic country.”

A close friend of Ms Green’s, who did not wish to be named, said she was shocked to read about the arrests.

The woman, who met Ms Green while the pair were studying at Melbourne University, said she was worried by the reports but glad to hear her friend was safe.

She said Ms Green had told her friends over Facebook that she was safe and well.

“I was very, very surprised,” she said.

The friend said Ms Green had been overseas for about six months, and had not yet revealed plans to return home.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade this morning confirmed that an Australian journalist was detained and subsequently released in Minsk.

“Consular Officials from the Australian Embassy in Moscow provided the journalist with consular assistance. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra provided assistance to the journalist’s family in Australia,” a DFAT spokeswoman said.

- with AP

What the mood shift in Russia means

What the mood shift in Russia means

M. K. BHADRAKUMAR

Police push people out from a square to prevent a protest against alleged vote rigging in Russia's parliamentary elections in Triumphal Square in Moscow on Wednesday. Photo:AP
Police push people out from a square to prevent a protest against alleged vote rigging in Russia’s parliamentary elections in Triumphal Square in Moscow on Wednesday. Photo:AP

Russia is changing, the mood of the electorate is changing, the way the people view the government is changing but the way the political class conducts the business of the state hasn’t changed.

The results of last Sunday’s parliamentary election in Russia underscore that democracy springs surprises when least expected. And the genie once out of the bottle can never be put back sans mayhem. Equally, democracy is doubtless gaining traction in Russia, and the leadership has probably allowed the political space for people to express their discontent in an open election more than at any time before.

The ruling United Russia (UR) suffered a severe setback, securing “only” 50 per cent vote, as against a whopping 64 per cent in 2007. It translates into a drop of 72 seats but the UR will now have to settle for a “mere” 238 seats in the 450-member Parliament. Why “only,” why “mere”? But then, this is Russia. The UR lacks the two-thirds majority needed for making constitutional amendments. In sum, the next government that was expected to be led by Dmitry Medvedev — that is, as things stood yesterday — will have to function in a more accountable legislative and political setting. But consensus building also needs a certain political culture that Russia may not yet possess. Coalition building surely becomes the judicious political course. The Russian Parliament gets a historic opportunity to get out of the trough into which Boris Yeltsin tragically dispatched it 20 years ago when he ordered tanks to open fire at it. But that is simplifying matters. The fact of the matter is that in the steeply vertical post-Soviet power pyramid, Parliament never quite figured out its rightful role.

The UR’s political base continues to be the conservative section of the electorate. The nearest one can compare it would be with Gaullism seen in France in the 1960s — a strange cocktail of the left and the right of the ideological spectrum, statism, nationalism and so on. Interestingly, the “protest votes” have gone to bolster the left parties — the Communist Party (CP) in particular, which now emerges as the main opposition with 92 seats, securing almost 20 per cent of the total vote. Even more important is that the CP is spreading its wings. It got around 25 per cent of the votes in Siberia and the Far East. To quote Itar-Tass, “now one could say that the ‘red belt’ has extended to the Asian part of Russia.” The UR lost ground in the Karelia, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Sverdlovsk and Yaroslavl regions. Russia’s vast “peripheries” seem to be swinging to the left.

Why are people “protesting” in Russia? Obviously, the ruling party that held power during the economic crisis suffers the “anti-incumbency” factor. The UR campaign was run by Dmitry Medvedev, whom Vladimir Putin had named Prime Minister in a new government headed by him if he won the presidential poll in March next. And Mr. Medvedev wasn’t convincing enough in his new role as captain of the UR ship. Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev complemented each other through the past four years but once they publicly confessed in September that they were like Siamese twins, the so-called “tandem” lost its mystique, its élan. The highly literate Russian people apparently didn’t like that they had been taken for granted by the political class. How the UR’s defeat affects Mr. Medvedev’s political future will make an interesting puzzle. He needs to reinvent himself.

ARRIVAL OF SOCIAL NETWORKING

Without doubt, the internet and social networking have arrived in Russia as a catalyst of change. The western media are projecting the parliamentary election results as a “defeat” for Mr. Putin, but that is wishful thinking. A born fighter who grasps the meaning of the UR’s alienation from people, he remains hugely popular. Mr. Putin admitted that the results were an accurate reflection of the mood in the country. So, the question remains: why this “protest” vote? The point is Russia is changing, the mood of the electorate is changing, the way the people view the government is changing, but the way the political class conducts the business of the state hasn’t changed. For an outsider, this mood shift has been evident for quite some time and the only issue was how soon and in what form it was going to manifest.

Public corruption; an indifferent bureaucracy; a pervasive sense of ennui borne out of the feeling that the more things seem to change the more they remain the same; a sense of stagnation and helplessness triggering an overpowering longing for change (especially in the regions of Siberia and Far East which see Moscow as a “distant” capital); uncertainties of various kinds — the Russian economy depends critically on energy prices but Moscow has no control over the world energy market; economic difficulties — Russia relies on energy exports to meet 40 per cent of its budget and an average oil price of $126 a barrel is needed to balance its budget next year; an unfavourable external environment with the U.S.-Russia “reset” in abeyance till 2013 at least — all these seem to have combined in varying measures. However, the most important thing is that the UR hasn’t been “defeated,” rather, it has been given a reprieve. It is not lying prostrate in the boxing ring dazed by a knockout punch, and at least half the audience is still clapping, wanting it to have a go at it no matter the bruises. Which also signals that the Russian people want political stability. Russia’s political stability is not affected since it is only very seldom that the government may need to muster two-thirds support to moot a constitutional amendment or reverse a veto by the Upper House of Parliament. Even then, the UR can negotiate support of smaller parties case by case.

TAME SHOW COME ALIVE

However, Russia’s democratic landscape has changed beyond recognition. CP leader Gennady Zyuganov proposes to challenge Mr. Putin in the presidential poll. This was not unexpected but in the changed circumstances, the March election that was destined to be a tame show has suddenly come alive. The political discourse is changing. And the unthinkable is happening: Mr. Putin may have a fight on his hands to avoid a run-off, which would severely damage his political standing. Mr. Medvedev phoned Mr. Zyuganov and sought “constructive cooperation” as on past occasions. The big question is whether the communists will function as a “constructive” or unforgiving opposition. Mr. Zyuganov is an experienced politician and would sense that there is a continuing bedrock of support still among the Russian people for the ideology his party represents — and it could be growing.

On the other hand, Mr. Putin will feel the compulsion to respond to the growing leftist sentiments. Other than the CP, the left-of-centre A Just Russia also gained, increasing its seats to 64 from 38 in the outgoing parliament. It works closely with the UR. In sum, what is important is that it helps the ruling party that the main opposition is the communist party, rather than the liberals. A major deficiency of the Russian system is the absence of a “popular liberal party or a party of annoyed urban communities,” as the top Kremlin aide and mastermind on Russian politics, Vladislav Surkov, admitted in an interview with a popular radio host. But then, as the prominent Russian think-tanker, Sergei Mikheyev, promptly counterposed: “The election results have clearly shown that liberals are not popular in Russia. How can you create a liberal party if people do not vote for the liberals? And why is it that those who are unhappy with the authorities are not necessarily liberals?”

Good question. But Mr. Surkov offered a great explanation, too. “In closed systems disorder increases … It leads to even greater ‘closedness’ and, as a result, greater chaos. Therefore, in order for the system to preserve itself and develop, it should be opened. New players should be let into it … We can’t allow ourselves to wind up in the situation of ‘solux rex’, the lonely king. There is more turbulence in an open system but however paradoxical it may be, more stability as well … It is wrong to act in 2011 in the same way as in 2001. This is as if a patient has been treated, treated successfully, he has recovered, but he is still being treated. It is enough to treat him. Everyone has been treated. It is time to let go.”

HIGH-STAKES AFFAIR

Suffice it to say, the upcoming presidential election is going to be a high-stakes affair for not only Russia but also world politics. The big powers are circling the wagons in an international environment fraught with great fluidity and a growing threat of war. How Russia goes about it, where indeed Russia stands, with whom Russia chooses to hold hands and in what circumstances — all these would largely depend on who leads the country in the formative period ahead. The March election, therefore, is not going to be Russia’s exclusive indulgence in democracy.

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

What Happens If Putin Starts Calling These Flash Mobs What They Are?–US State Dept. Shock Troops

[CIA psywar specialists have fine-tuned their social media political action system, so that they can instantly capitalize on any bad political news.  With State Dept. watchdog groups like Golos patrolling electoral exercises like piranha looking for blood in the water, it is a sure thing that they will find some dead issue to pounce on.  Putin understood that this would happen once he let the West in.  The question now is how will he deal with it, like a democratic head-buster or a real dictator.  There is a fine line that Russian enforcers can walk to emulate the American police state.  Look for long-range acoustical mob control devices to appear at the next planned protests.]

Chanting ‘Russia without Putin,’ flash mobs roil Moscow

Protesters across Russia march against Vladimir Putin’s ruling party following allegations of official vote-rigging in last weekend’s Duma elections.

By Fred Weir,

Opposition demonstrators walk along a main thoroughfare during protests against alleged vote-rigging in Russia’s parliamentary elections in Moscow on Tuesday. Police clashed with demonstrators protesting alleged election fraud in Moscow and at least two other major Russian cities on Tuesday as anger boiled against strongman Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his ruling United Russia party.

Ivan Sekretarev/AP

MOSCOW

Moscow was uncommonly tense Wednesday, with tens of thousands of riot police patrolling the streets and helicopters buzzing overhead, while opposition leaders promised more flash-mob-type demonstrations to protest alleged official vote-rigging in last weekend’s bitterly contested Duma elections.

For more than a decade, Russians appear to have quietly accepted Vladimir Putin’s system of “managed democracy.” The system utilizes a toolbox full of official measures to ensure that only Kremlin-approved parties and candidates get elected, and that the decisive share of votes is always won by the ruling party, UnitedRussia (UR), which has been headed by Mr. Putin for much of its existence.

But on Monday, after official returns showed UR winning almost 50 percent of the votes – down sharply from the 64 percent it won in 2007 polls – up to 10,000 protesters, informed mainly through social media, converged on the downtown Chistye Prudhi metro station. They attempted to march to the Kremlin, shouting slogans like “down with the police state” and “Russia without Putin.” About 300 were detained, and a few such as radical blogger Alexei Navalny and liberal opposition leader Ilya Yashin were subsequently handed 15-day prison sentences for “refusing to follow a lawful police order.”

Occupy Moscow Protests Powered By Twitter Low-Level Warfare

INSIGHT-Social media makes anti-Putin protests “snowball”

By Alissa de Carbonnel

MOSCOW, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Artyom Kolpakov used to shrug when he came across occasional appeals on social media sites to protest against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his government.

“I didn’t see the point really,” he said.

But something changed when, clicking through amateur videos and online testimonies documenting cases of ballot-stuffing and repeat voting, he saw others shared his outrage at Putin’s party’s victory in Sunday’s parliamentary election.

On Monday evening, Kolpakov, 38, was among several thousand Russians who took to the streets of Moscow in the biggest opposition protest in years.

Such protests against Putin’s rule, as president from 2000 to 2008 and as prime minister since then, have rarely drawn more than about 200 people, some of them Soviet-era dissidents and others activists in marginalised opposition groups.

Typically, they are quickly dispersed by heavy-handed riot police. But Sunday’s rally attracted about 5,000 people and a similar rally on Tuesday drew several hundred.

Many were responding to calls on social networking sites VKontakte and Facebook to “continue the revolution”, and tweets sent by protesters from Triumfalny Square in central Moscow.

“For the first time really the online presence has transformed offline politics,” said Konstantin von Eggert, a commentator for Kommersant FM radio. “The whole thing works like a snowball. This is definitely the start of something that will stay in Russian political life.”

CROSSING A LINE

Just as news of planned rallies spread on social media, protesters and opposition forces used Twitter to keep each other up to date on the whereabouts of detained leaders.

The wife of Alexei Navalny, a blogger now serving a 15-day jail sentence for his role in Monday’s protests, took up his twitter feed on Tuesday. Later in the day, a follow-up protest at which police detained about 300 people was streamed live on the Internet.

By midday on Wednesday, over 10,000 people on Facebook and 4,300 on Russia’s Cyrillic-language VKontakte had pledged to attend a fresh protest near the Kremlin on Saturday. Another 8,000 people said they “maybe” would join.

The links for the protest can be found at facebook.com/events/198328520252594/ and vkontakte.ru/event32872901.

“It’s absolutely a Facebook story. It’s not as if there is some kind of organiser of this, some kind of villain,” veteran journalist Sergei Parkhomenko told Dozhd TV, an independent cable and Internet television station that has been one of the only broadcasters to cover the opposition protests.

For Kolpakov, who lives on the outskirts of Moscow and works at a recording studio specialising in children’s songs, new media has been instrumental in changing his view of Putin since he won popularity by restoring order following Russia’s difficult transition to a market economy in the 1990s.

“During Putin’s first term, I was happy that he restored some kind of order. Then it became clear this order was not for the good of the country but for the good of his inner circle,” he said.

“It takes time to understand that the authorities have crossed some kind of line.”

OUTRAGE AFTER ELECTION

Sunday’s election was, for him, the moment that line was crossed. Kolpakov drove an hour to the centre of Moscow to take part in Monday’s protest, ignoring his wife’s pleas to stay safely at home with their one-year-old daughter.

He had already volunteered as an election monitor after reading online allegations that Putin’s United Russia party was trying to bribe and bully voters in the run-up to the election.

Kolpakov saw no foul play at his polling station in Shchyolkovo, east of Moscow centre, where he says the Communist Party won almost twice as many votes as the ruling party.

So he was stunned when he heard the official result registered United Russia leading the pack with 46.6 percent of the vote in Moscow.

His outrage grew when he saw some of an avalanche of video clips online, most of them apparently shot by disgruntled citizens and election observers using smart phones.

One clip, which has had more than 1 million clicks, gives a bird’s eye view of an election official in Moscow calmly ticking off a stack of ballots, apparently preparing to stuff the urns with votes for United Russia.

In another, Kolpakov says a group of so-called merry-go-round voters are shown being bused from one polling station to another.

Yet another testimony widely shared on networking sites shows the disparity between scans of hand-counted voting results and those posted on the Central Election Commission’s website.

A DIFFERENT PICTURE ON STATE TELEVISION

The picture painted by state television, which is dominated by positive coverage of Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev, is very different.

It has been silent on the protests, reporting marches by pro-Kremlin youth groups that were organised to drown out anti-government demonstrators meeting at the same square in central Moscow on Tuesday.

“How do you feel when you understand that you are being lied to, that people take you for an idiot, that they are wiping their feet on you?” Kolpakov said.

“People are angry and it’s natural. The temperature is rising. Our authorities must understand that if this is repeated, more and more people will take to the street.”

Medvedev, presents himself as the iPad-toting, Internet-savvy modern face of Russia, dismissed such videos as inconclusive evidence and thanked citizens for backing United Russia.

In a potentially embarrassing incident, an obscene post by a United Russia deputy calling anti-government bloggers “stupid sheep” among other things was retweeted on Medvedev’s Twitter feed. The tweet was quickly deleted. The Kremlin was not immediately available for comment.

THREAT TO KREMLIN?

The ability of social networking sites to mobilise a large group of Russians is a new and powerful tool that could give the Kremlin cause for concern as Putin plans a return to the presidency in a March election.

“A Twitter revolution is when people stop messing around on twitter, and start coordinating action through it,” tweeted Ilya Varlamov, whose twitter followers grew by several thousand to almost 6,000 throughout the day on Tuesday.

“Muscovites have taken the expression ‘Twitter revolution’ literally,” he said, commenting on live cell phone streaming of people gathering outside a court house where activists were on trial after overnight arrests.

Many observers are still sceptical that an Arab Spring is about to sweep Russia.

Although more than one third of Russia’s population now have access to the web – or 50.8 million people, says Internet marketing research group ComScore – only a small percentage are politicised and they are mainly in Moscow and other big cities.

Often there is no alternative to tightly controlled media in the Russian provinces, where the authorities hold the most sway with voters.

“Let’s be honest, so far the Internet and social media have influence only in big towns and cities,” said Gennady Gudkov, an opposition lawmaker with the left-leaning Just Russia party. “It doesn’t have much sway in the regions and provinces.”

FEARS OF CRACKDOWN

Many bloggers fear the Kremlin will act to reign in Russia’s vibrant blogosphere, if it becomes too influential. Some bloggers have already been prosecuted offline under libel law and Russia’s wide-reaching law on extremism.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks — attempts to make a computer or network unavailable — have in the last few days shut down a large number of media websites. Russia’s most popular blogging site, LiveJournal, was hobbled.

The cyber attack also simultaneously crippled the websites of leading radio station Ekho Moskvy – owned by state energy monopoly Gazprom – Kommersant newspaper and other top media outlets. Russia’s main independent vote monitor, Golos, was another targeted.

“I am sure the authorities will very soon try to introduce legislation that will restrict the Internet,” Von Eggert said, although the Kremlin has denied such suggestions.

The cyber attacks spurred bloggers and Twitter users to step into the gulf, with Navalny and others offering up their blogs as a clearinghouse for evidence of election violations.

Popular writer Boris Akunin polled readers of his blog on whether they believed the elections were rigged: Only 243 out of 8,129 respondents thought the vote was fair.

“I will address a few words to Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin): ‘I am sorry for you,’” he wrote at Borisakunin.livejournal.com. “‘You don’t have to be Nostradamus to predict your future.’”

WILL ONLINE LEADER BECOME OFFLINE LEADER?

New media, and the protests they have helped spawn, may also be in the process of building Navalny, 35, into a much more potent opposition force.

Until now he has been an informal leader of the disenchanted, campaigning online against corruption, as well as showing nationalist tendencies. But his jail sentence on Tuesday could turn him into a symbol and leader of the protests.

In a tiny courtroom where he was sentenced to 15 days in jail for obstruction of justice during Monday’s protest, Navalny said the Kremlin would seek to silence anyone who spread the word about what he said was obvious vote-rigging.

“The elections were falsified,” Navalny, looking exhausted and angry, told Reuters in the stuffy court opposite the old headquarters of the KGB secret police on Lubyanka square.

“The very acknowledgement of this fact will be deadly for the regime, and they will do their utmost to shut the mouths of everyone who talks about it openly,” said Navalny, looking gaunt and without laces in his dirty boots.

Using his blog to illustrate the absurdities of Russia’s corrupt bureaucracy, Navalny shot to prominence by challenging state companies such as pipeline operator Transneft to explain millions of dollars of unorthodox payments.

He has also challenged Putin directly, accusing him of ruling a corrupt elite as “chairman of the board of Russia Inc.” and branded his party “swindlers and thieves”, a phrase that haunted the party during its election campaign.

Ekho Moskvy editor Alexei Venediktov wrote on his station’s website that the arrest could turn Navalny into a much bigger problem for the Kremlin.

“Navalny’s arrest was a political mistake. Jailing Navalny is the transformation of an online leader into an offline one,” he wrote. (Additional reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Maria Tsvetkova and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Peter Graff)

Russia sends troops to Moscow after protests

Russia sends troops to Moscow after protests

Riot policemen detain an opposition supporter during a rally in central Moscow on December 5, 2011. (AFP photo/Andrey Smirnov)

Riot policemen detain an opposition supporter during a rally in central Moscow on December 5, 2011. (AFP photo/Andrey Smirnov)

MOSCOW – Russia deployed troops in central Moscow and held opposition figures on Tuesday after an unprecedented protest against polls that critics said were rigged in favour of Vladimir Putin’s party.

Several thousand people took to the streets in the capital late Monday despite freezing rain for a rally against the results of Sunday’s elections in which Putin’s United Russia party won but with a sharply reduced majority.

After the protest, the interior ministry sent troops into Moscow and increased the alert level of security forces in an apparent bid to ensure order was preserved amid warnings of more demonstrations.

“They (the troops) have just one aim — to ensure the security of the citizens,” interior ministry forces spokesman Colonel Vasily Panchenkov told the Interfax news agency. A police spokesman said the security forces were now on a “heightened regime” of alert.

Throughout the morning, Russian bloggers posted videos and claimed they saw columns of armoured vans carrying the troops heading down the main avenues into the city. Their numbers were not immediately clear.

Police said they arrested 300 people including prominent activist Ilya Yashin and opposition blogger Alexei Navalny in the protest Monday when participants headed towards the Lubyanka Square that houses the feared FSB security service.

Around 250 were still detained by Tuesday afternoon, Olga Shorina, spokeswoman for Solidarnost (Solidarity) movement that organised the protest, told AFP. Many now face 15 days of arrest, she said.

During the rally — called mostly through social networks whose use has boomed in Russia in recent years — protesters chanted “Russia without Putin” and “Putin should be in prison.”

Navalny has won a huge following on the Internet for exposing corruption at state-owned firms and he coined the phrase, which has now been taken up by all the opposition, “swindlers and thieves” to describe United Russia.

It was the largest protest in many years and a boost for Russia’s embattled opposition which traditionally struggles to mobilise protests in a country which has lost its taste for street politics in the turbulent 90s.

Putin suffered his worst ever setback at the ballot box on Sunday as United Russia’s majority in the State Duma was sharply reduced.

The opposition claimed the results would have been even more dramatic in clean elections.

Vladislav Surkov, first deputy head of the Kremlin administration described as the architect of Russia’s current political system, admitted the country required reform to ensure its future stability.

“The period of sanitising and revitalising a political system that decomposed in the 90s is over,” he said in comments to writer Sergei Minayev and posted on LiveJournal, one of Russia’s most popular blogging sites, Monday night.

“An open system is more turbulent but also more stable no matter how paradoxical this is. And we are in favour of stability, right?”

United Russia obtained 238 seats in the 450-seat State Duma in Sunday’s polls, down sharply from the 315 seats it won in the last polls in 2007.

It polled less than 50 percent of the vote, down from over 64 percent in 2007, which translates into the loss of 13 million votes, according to estimates.

Monitors led by the OSCE said the polls were slanted in favour of United Russia and marred by “frequent procedural violations” including ballot stuffing. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised “serious concerns”.

Along with United Russia, three other usually pliant opposition parties won seats in the State Duma, including the Communists. However liberal party Yabloko failed to win sufficient votes for seats and another anti-Kremlin force, the Parnas party, was not even registered for the vote.

United Russia’s biggest opposition will be the Communist Party with 92 seats. It was followed by the A Just Russia party with 64 seats and the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party with 56 mandates. Turnout was just over 60 percent.

The opposition said that the authorities had used unprecedented dirty tricks to keep the ruling party’s dominance in the State Duma despite falling support.

The website of the independent monitor group Golos, which exposed violations in the campaign, was down after a week of harassing of its leaders by the authorities.