Freedom is better than unfreedom

Sunday, December 14, 2008 at 18:31 | Posted in russia | Leave a comment

Freedom is better than unfreedom

Dmitri Medbedev, president of Russia

via Jaanus Piirsalu

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Democracy the Russian way“, posted with vodpod

What shall we do with the drunken soldier?

Thursday, October 9, 2008 at 6:52 | Posted in Alcohol, russia | Leave a comment
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Two Russian soldiers were close to missing their unit’s pullback from Georgia, Reuters reports. The drunken soldiers spent the night in custody of the Georgian police after being driving around in a car. They were handed over to the Russian troops.

A Georgian police officer told Reuters the soldiers were detained late on Tuesday while driving a car in the Kareli region of Georgia, west of Karaleti.

He said they had been drinking heavily, and asked the arresting officers: “Where are we?”

I am not the least surprised.

Which country will Russia swallow next?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 at 4:42 | Posted in russia, war | 6 Comments
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As I briefly mentioned in a comment added to Kai’s post about cyber criminals, Georgia is in addition to the Rusian invasion of the country being exposed to a severe cyber attack orchestrated by the notorious cyber crime organisation Russian Business Network. Not to be mixed with the cyber criminals, Russian Business Network blog exploits the illegal activities of RBN with a comprehensive coverage. As the blog reported on Saturday, the web site of the Georgian Foreign Ministry and a number of other essential Georgian sites have been unaccessible and under unauthorized external control since late last Thursday.

The blog also warns that there may be a number of fake Georgian sites around the Internet that look like a Georgian government site but have no recent news updates. The Foreign Ministry are currently posting their updated info at http://georgiamfa.blogspot.com.

According to the latest information available, the Russian forces are in the process of invading Georgia and the Georgian army is withdrawing to defend the capital Tbilisi. The government is desperately asking for international assistance.

As a citizen of EU I am dismayed that the EU has failed to send a clear message to Moscow that attacking an independent country in order to oust its legally elected government is unacceptable. I am even more dismayed of this statement by the Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini:

“This war has pushed Georgia further away not just from Europe, but also complicates the NATO council in December,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said in a newspaper interview published on Monday.

“Italy maintains that we cannot create an anti-Russia coalition in Europe, and on this point we are close to (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin’s position,” he told La Stampa.

While the Russian government appear to be doing all they can to make sure that such a coalition will be created, statements like that of Mr. Frattini’s are bound to turn things upside down. The Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt compared the Russian attack with Hitler’s argumetation for annexing the Czechoslovakian Sudetes before the World War II. Sad as it is, the World seems to be busy watching the mouth-gagged Olympics while another agressive annexation is taking place in the immediate naborhood of Europe.

The response of the EU, NATO and USA is remarkably similar to that of Neville Chamberlain after his meeting with Hitler in Munich in September 1938: “Peace for our time”. Peace my ass!

The cyber attacks against Estonia last year seem to have been a general rehearsal for what we are witnessing now. The extent and effect of the attack shows that it must have been planned for quite a while ahead. That also goes to the number of Russian troops rapidly deployed to Georgia: not even the Russian armed forces are able to spontaineously engage such a large number of troops so quickly without having intended to do so well in advance.

I would like to close with a quote of Kai’s latest post:

I hope that reactions will come. That the international community will raise it’s voice and tell Russia and Putin that theft is not acceptable. That Georgia will receive support and help on their path to independence and democracy.

I hope so, too, although it may be too little too late to help Georgia. But if reactions fail to come, we can only guess which independent country is going to be next in line to be swallowed. Is it Ukraine? Or perhaps Latvia, Estonia or Finland? All neighbors of Russia and with enough Russian citizens in their population to provide an excuse.

Edit: Official notices of the Georgian government are also being published on the web site of the President of Poland.

Signature to support Georgia

Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 20:57 | Posted in internet, russia | 17 Comments
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Image courtesy of 3dflags.com

I do usually not sign web petitions. There has to be a very good reason if I am going to make an exception. In a moment ago I made an exception of my general policy and signed a web petition to support Georgia. The petition reads as follows:

To:  U.S. Congres, European Parliament, United Nations

The hereby signers, are making a statement to express our support to the Republic of Georgia, currently being attacked by the Russian Federation, we are making a call to the European Union, the United States of America, and all peoples and nations of the world to repulse the current aggressions being performed by the Russian military lead by president Dmitry Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin; our plead is to call the nations of the world and all International Organizations, to demand an immediate ceasefire and the removal of Russian troops off Georgian territories; we also call the Russian people to reject the hostilities and urge their government to return to peace.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

via Marko Mihkelson, MP in Estonia

Wild East

Monday, July 28, 2008 at 7:20 | Posted in russia | Leave a comment
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The Russian government have harrased TNK-BP chief executive Robert Dudley into the point that he had no option but to leave Russia “temporarily”. BP has also found it necessary to withdraw 150 foreign specialists from the country. The Russian ambassador in London Yuri Fedotov dismisses the suggestion of a government backed attack. He says the situation is a “result of commonly applied rules”.

That is exactly the reason why western businesses should be particularly careful about investing into joint ventures in Russia. This applies especially to the oil and energy sector. Those “commonly applied rules” tend to include that Russians are happy to receive the venture capital and expertise from their western partners but as soon as the business is up and running, the western partners are smoked out of the country and far too often the business is taken over with government back-up.

The only positive side of the TNK-BP affair could be that western investors might realize that Russia is not a country with rule of law but a Wild East where anything can happen. Just remember what happened to Mikhail Khodorkovsky!

Gazprom and the Russian mob

Sunday, June 15, 2008 at 5:21 | Posted in crime, russia | 1 Comment
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I spotted (via Marko Mihkelson, MP in Estonia) an extremely interesting testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Roman Kupchinsky. Mr Kupchinsky testified before the committee just a couple of days ago, on 12th June 2008. He used to be the director of the Ukrainian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty from 1989-2002. He is currently a partner in the risk analysis firm AZEast Group. He immigrated to Brooklyn, NY in 1949 from a refugee camp in Austria; served in the US Army as a rifle platoon leader in Vietnam in 1968 and has a BA in political science from Long Island University.

As Mr. Kupchinsky testified, World’s largest gas company Gazprom, owned by the Russian state, is connected to the organized crime in Russia through a large number of middle man companies. Gazprom currently supplies about 25 % of Europe’s gas. The current Russian president Dmitri Medvedev was Gazprom’s board chairman prior to being elected as the President of Russia. Former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin must have been informed of Gazprom’s dubious connections.

Here is a quote of Mr. Kupchinsky’s testimony:

Some American experts downplay the lack of transparency and the dubious methods used by Russian state-owned companies to conduct business by saying “Companies in the US and Europe also do crooked things” and point to the Enron affair and recent accusations of wide scale bribery by the German company Siemens. The argument is that American “Russophobe’s” are holding Russia to a higher standard.

The difference however, is that the U.S. and Germany arrests and prosecutes criminal behavior while in Russia the crooks not only go scot free – they are awarded state medals for their actions, while individuals like Mikhail Khordokovsky, who opted to run a clean shop and refused to bow to Putin’s will, wind up prison.

One gas trading intermediary company, RosUkrEnergo, based in Zug, Switzerland, is owned 50 percent by Gazprom and 50 percent by two Ukrainian businessmen who hid their identities for years and who are alleged to be linked to Russian organized crime. This is a classic case study of how the Kremlin and Gazprom conspired to protect what was believed to be a criminal enterprise.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, was directly involved in creating this company along with former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in July 2004, and has publically defended RosUkrEnergo on a number of occasions saying: “Believe me; we don’t know the identities of the hidden Ukrainian owners [of RosUkrEnergo].”
Putin’s statement raises an important issue. Is it common practice for Gazprom, the world’s largest gas company, to sign multi-billion dollar contracts with individuals whose names they do not know? How can this state-owned company possibly conduct due diligence?

To make matters worse, Gazprom vehemently denied allegations in the world press that its partners, whose names they claimed not to know, were in league with Russian organized crime figures. Later when the public evidence became overwhelming, Gazprom and Putin accused the Ukrainian government of “forcing” the Russian side to accept the Swiss-registered company into the Ukrainian-Russian gas contract signed in 2006.

Who can believe that Ukraine can force Russia to do whatever it wants!

All of the testimony as a four page pdf-file is available here.

The current and former president of Russia connected to organized crime through World’s largest gas company? Well, that is what I certainly suspected but this is the first time I am able to point at so prominent evidence to confirm it.

Political satire the Russian way

Saturday, June 7, 2008 at 4:35 | Posted in Politics, russia | Leave a comment
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In absence of free media, political satire in Russia is to be found on line. Pity that the low Internet penetration does not allow footage like this to be enjoyed by the public at large.

Kasparov attacked by flying penis

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 at 2:21 | Posted in russia | Leave a comment
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Former chess World champion Gary Kasparov, who is currently an oppositional politician in Russia, faces and air attack by a flying dildo while speaking at a political meeting. Apparently, something about the level of political discourse and the true face of the Russian government is being said after the air born penis has been taken down.

via Oop and Wired

Silent dissent

Wednesday, May 7, 2008 at 0:56 | Posted in russia | Leave a comment
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The Other Russia writes that organizers of March of dissent in last minute decided to cancel the demonstration planned to have taken place in Moscow yesterday. The opposition did not want to risk mass detentions and violence by the police after the local officials refused to sanction the rally.

I am displaying my silent dissent from distance by not mentioning – apart from this post – the inauguration of Dmitri Medvedev as the puppy president of Russia later today. It took seven years for Putin to bring back the Soviet rule. Unfortunately there are those in the west that misread the development.

Prodi bought by Gazprom?

Monday, April 28, 2008 at 15:34 | Posted in corruption, eu, russia | 4 Comments
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Estonian MP Marko Mihkelson refers to the Russian paper Kommersant which suggests that the outgoing Italian prime minister Romano Prodi is going to be offered a lucrative job as a board member of the company projecting to build the pipeline South Stream. Gazprom director Andrei Miller is going to meet Prodi in Rome today.

Gerhard Schröder was unable to resist the temptation when he was ousted as chancellor of Germany by the German people. Buying up Prodi would be even a fatter catch for the government run Russian oil mafia. Not only is Prodi a former Italian PM, he is also a former president of the EU commission.

I hope that Mr. Prodi is not for sale. It would be a serious blow for anything even resembling a common EU foreign and energy policy. Romano Prodi is rich enough as it is and he can make all the money he needs without selling his integrity to Russia.

Update: Prodi has apparently refused the offer. I am glad to note that not everybody is for sale.

March of dissent

Wednesday, April 23, 2008 at 8:43 | Posted in russia | 1 Comment
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The oppositional Russian organization The Other Russia have filed the necessary paperwork to Moscow officials to organize a demonstration on 6th May under the slogan “March of Dissent”. It remains to be seen whether the rally will be allowed to take place at the Griboyedov monument, in vicinity of Chistye Prudy metro station. Last time a similar event was announced on 3rd March 2008, it was stopped and 200 persons were detained by OMON.

It is not an invention

Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at 6:42 | Posted in russia | 1 Comment
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Reuters reports that Igor Chupin in Russia has converted an old military truck into a mobile sauna on wheels. That is great but it is definitely too much to call this an invention. Similar mobile saunas have been rolling on the roads in Finland and Estonia for ages. I had a bath in a mobile sauna as early as 1990’ies.

I hope Mr. Chupin is not going to apply for a patent for this “invention” because it was invented for a long time ago.

Industrial safety? Never heard of it

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 at 5:03 | Posted in russia | Leave a comment
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A demolition team at work in Moscow. I wonder how much those helmets would have helped if the wall had collapsed under their feet.

via Jaanus Piirsalu

Arrested for insulting a snowman

Saturday, March 22, 2008 at 4:29 | Posted in civil rights, russia | Leave a comment

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum reports that the police in Nizhny Novgorod on Thursday raided the local office of the Foundation for the Promotion of Tolerance. All computers at the office were confiscated and the office was sealed. Homes of several opposition activists were searched by the police.

Also in Nizhny Novgorod, five activists of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP) were arrested for, believe it or not, “insulting the snowman“:

On 21 March 2008, members of the banned National Bolshevik Party (NBP) made a snowman outside the regional prosecutor’s office in Nizhny Novgorod. The nine opposition activists hung a sign on the snowman reading “The Biggest Extremist”.

The chief of local police came out and tore up the sign, saying the opposition activists had “insulted the snowman”. The police then arrested five of the activists.

Mockery trials are expected to take place in Nizhny Novgorod. Let us just hope for warmer weather so that the snowman would melt away before giving evidence in court.

Russia plans to censor Internet

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 7:32 | Posted in censorship, Freedom of speech, internet, russia | 8 Comments

Russia has so far not bothered very much to regulate the Internet. The low Internet penetration in Russia has guarded most citizens from the harmful effects of free speech. Since the traditional media is under heavy government control, access to independent sources of information has has been kept on a suitable level without special measures targeted against the web.

However, this is likely to change soon. According to The Other Russia, the Prosecutor-General’s Office has filed legislative proposals about web censorship to both houses of the Parliament and the presidential administration. The prosecutors want to make ISP’s and telecoms responsible for “objectionable and extremist material” in the Internet.

Aleksey Zhafyarov, the deputy head of Directorate to supervise enforcement of laws on federal security, interethnic relations and countering extremism was frank with the agency:

“We have a paradoxical situation on our hands: there is a whole group of companies that maintain the internet and derive a profit, yet take no responsibility for the impact on society of the content they host.”

Internet related bills have previously been tabled in both houses, among others one that would require all web sites with more than 1000 daily visitors to register as mass-media outlets and another one limiting foreign investments to telecom and internet industries.

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