Three links on Donbass


July 20, 2014 by AK

The Panic in Red Square by Tom Nichols:

The only question, really, is how far Putin wants to go toward a trade war, economic collapse, further status as a pariah, maybe even open war, only in order to save face.

Bodies from Malaysia Airlines Crash Left In Deserted Train Station by Max Seddon. The title gives the gist. The pictures are grim.

News from the front: reports that separatists have received orders from Moscow to shell Luhansk, ostensibly to blame resulting civilian deaths on the Ukrainian military. Hard to believe it, but the respected journalist Oleg Kashin, now out of Russia, has tweeted the same.

Draw your own conclusions


July 17, 2014 by AK

CNN reports:

A Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, crashed Thursday in eastern Ukraine.

Now consider this:

- The separatists seized a Ukrainian air defense base late in June. A Buk missile system has been photographed in a separatist-controlled area. The caption explains that this is a Buk captured by DNR special forces and used to shoot down a Ukrainian plane. (More photos.)

- The DNR/LNR forces downed several Ukrainian military aircraft in June and July. The Ukrainian army has not shot at any aircraft, apparently because DNR/LNR have none.

- Minutes after the 777 crash, the DNR “defense minister” Strelkov announced that his fighters had just shot down another An-26 and a second plane, apparently a Su. The tweet has since been deleted but multiple copies exist.

- News of the crash was broken by the Russian news agency Interfax, which said from the start the plane had been shot down – how did they know? LifeNews journos were at the crash site suspiciously swiftly. Which side let them know? What did they expect to find? Here’s their original footage, later deleted from their channel. Stomach-turning.


To Luhansk, sans culottes


July 15, 2014 by AK

Last week, a senior official of the St. Petersburg city government was seen in the city center with a briefcase, in a business suit but without trousers, muttering “Lugansk, Lugansk”. Within minutes, he was picked up by an ambulance and driven to a hospital, where doctors reportedly detected a strong smell of alcohol and burns on his “front extremities.”

So richly delightful… Although Major Kovalev had once pursued his Nose nearby, I sense Muscovite phantoms: Ivan Bezdomny‘s underworn anabasis and Stepan Likhodeyev‘s magical transport to Yalta (to Crimea, yes indeed).

But best of all perhaps, consider Popov’s Dream, also known as The Dream of Councillor Popov, by one of my favorite poets, A.K. Tolstoy (a count but no relation). The protagonist, a relatively high-ranking civil servant, has a dream in which he appears at a reception hosted by a government minister fully clothed but without pants (“pantaloons”). He is detained, accused of plotting to overthrow the government, and urged to disclose the names of fellow conspirators. He starts blurting out names of innocent people, to his own horror, and does not stop until he wakes up. Leo Tolstoy loved the poem.

Curiously, the trouserless Petersburg bureaucrat’s official rank is “state councilor of the Russian Federation, First Class.”

Valeria Novodvorskaya, 1950-2014


July 12, 2014 by AK

Valeria Novodvorskaya, the great Soviet dissident and Russian freedom fighter, died today in Moscow. She was tried several times under the Soviet regime and imprisoned in mental hospitals as were other implacable opponents of the system. She had been outspoken in her criticism of Putin – since 1999, not 2003 or 2007 or 2012 like many others – and did not mince words. Some “reasonable” people wrote her off as a crazy old lady. Unfortunately, most of her criticisms have proved valid. She shouldn’t have gone so early.

Same old projection and denial


July 10, 2014 by AK

A half-sentence from Nabokov’s The Gift in my inelegant translation:

…his only published work was a letter to the editor of an Odessa newspaper in which he angrily repudiated any connection to an unsavory namesake, who turned out later to be his relative, then his double, and finally, himself – as if an inexorable law of droplet attraction and fusion had been at work there.

When Valery Seleznev, a Duma deputy from Zhirinovsky’s LDPR party, got news of his son’s arrest on US hacking charges, he first said it could not have been his son, who had “nothing to do with computer technologies.” Then he added that his son had “an education in humanities” and could not be a hacker for this reason. Finally, he slipped into the old, well-worn groove and accused America of kidnapping his son from the Maldives.

I’m not out to make fun of Valery Seleznev, who lost his right hand as a young man but rose to become a successful entrepreneur and manager – well before he was elected to the Duma in 2007. His son was injured in the 2011 Marrakech bombing so Seleznev’s concern over his health is not mere theatrics. For all his alleged wrongdoing, Roman V. Seleznev seems to have skills and talents not expected from the overprivileged children of Russia’s political elite, and did not have a cushy job with a state-controlled company.

But once you’re in a pack, you’re expected to howl like the other wolves. Join the LDPR, get into the Duma, vote for draconian laws, and the rest will follow: Seleznev père’s America-bashing mantras are mandatory for Duma deputies. To some degree, they are evidence of projection: it is Russia that kidnapped opposition organizer Leonid Razvozzhaev in Kyiv in 2013 and Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko in Donbass earlier this summer.

Flirting with the corporate state II


July 9, 2014 by AK

The Moscow sex ad mag, Flirt, keeps educating its readership on fine points of international politics. “Who needs WW3?” asks the cover of Issue 69, the answer hidden from view on pp. 2-3 but probably some variation of “AmeriKKKa”. The latest issue cuts thought to the heart of current affairs with “Project Anti-Russia: did the Holodomor really happen?”

The answer takes a whole double spread, a lot of revenue lost. But if that’s the price of the magazine’s continued existence – in the land of Yelena Mizulina – I wouldn’t be so surprised.

The good old boys


July 6, 2014 by AK

Last Friday, when pro-Russian separatists had started leaving Slavyansk, news came out that a new “acting Prime Minister” had been appointed in the “Luhansk People’s Republic”. The new “PM”, Marat Bashirov, is a Russian citizen, a Moscow resident, and formerly a senior government and public relations manager with Viktor Vekselberg’s Renova group.

Currently, the PMs of both the Donetsk and Luhansk “republics” are Russian nationals with extensive PR/GR experience. Alexander Boroday, Bashirov’s Donetsk counterpart, was the go-to go-between for the corporate raider Konstantin Malofeev, his direct line to the Kremlin. Bashirov’s mission is to help build a “union” of Donetsk and Luhansk – but is it? My guess it’s some or all of the three:

  • To liaise with the Center, which trusts Boroday and Bashirov more than Strelkov or the locals.
  • To feed the media during a siege or retreat.
  • To clean up traces, destroy documents and bodies, plant false evidence of Ukrainian atrocities if retreat is inevitable.
A liquidation team with a focus on damage control?

“Condition… prevents the serving of sentence”


July 5, 2014 by AK

The triplegic man sentenced in January 2014 to six years in a labor camp has been approved for release by a court in Kostroma. The camp administration argued it was unable to provide adequate care to the inmate, supporting his lawyers’ request for release. However the prosecution can still appeal this decision within ten days so Topekhin remains in the prison hospital at the moment.

Anna Karetnikova, a Moscow human rights advocate, and Svetlana Sidorkina, Topekhin’s lawyer, deserve huge credit for this. The camp officials understandably did not want an invalid on the premises: their Moscow bosses would have them responsible if he died or if his plight made it onto Russian TV or into non-Russian media. The provincial court showed more decency than the Moscow judge and the Moscow City Court, which refused to suspend the sentence but reduced the term to four years – not much further from a death sentence than six.

White Square


July 3, 2014 by AK

The church in White Square in Moscow looks to me like a modernist building based on early Kiev-Novgorod-Vladimir architecture, as if influenced by a painting by Aristarkh Lentulov. Indeed, it was designed, re-designed and built in the modernist period and was consciously modeled on the 1198 Savior Church on Nereditsa hill by Novgorod, destroyed during WWII and rebuilt as a historically-informed replica.

It is an Old Believer church neighboring a small business quarter built in the 2000s. Exiting the Belorusskaya metro station into White Square – the church is on one’s left – and looking up at the office towers, one might think of Canary Wharf or, perhaps, some part of the City of London. The business compound appropriately houses J.P. Morgan, BNP Paribas, Swedbank and Handelsbanken, as well as Big Four auditors PWC and Deloitte, consultants McKinsey, and law firms Norton Rose and K&L Gates.

The proximity is accidental of course, like the London Stock Exchange being literally next door to St. Paul’s, in Paternoster Square of all places. But it is worth mentioning that the Old Believer community was one of the major driving forces during Russia’s first capitalist transformation, from 1861-1917.

Russian courts: breaking what was fixed, cont’d


June 22, 2014 by AK

No relief on the home front. As I have mentioned earlier, Russia is merging its relatively decent arbitration courts into the general jurisdiction system, which sounds proverbially like adding a jug of honey to a barrel of sh*t. According to Kommersant, many judges from the team of Anton Ivanov, the chairman of the soon-to-disappear supreme court of arbitration, have been disqualified from the new supreme court. Does not bode well for the “de-offshorization” campaign.

Putin will go and the regime will change one day, sooner or later. But how are we going to deal with these judges? Nothing short of a revolutionary change will help. Arbitration courts should be brought back and the business community asked to pick judges it can trust. But to fix criminal justice, the bare minimum would be a tectonic change in the legal principles and a thorough purge of prosecutors and judges.

Yeltsin’s reformers deserve credit for introducing a different procedure for jury trials, similar to Anglo-Saxon procedure; unfortunately, they failed to extend this practice to a large enough number of cases to make it the norm, rather than an exception. Still it was a good start start we could build up on in post-Putin Russia. Apart from extending the use of jury trials, it would be a great idea to introduce voir dire, unanimous or qualified-majority verdicts, and much stricter rules of evidence to protect the accused.


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