COURTS. The Moscow Arbitration Council has ruled invalid most of the tax claims against the British Council. In other cases, several oil and gas companies were found to have violated anti-monopoly legislation and PWC’s appeal connected with its Yukos audits was successful. The difficulty with court decisions on subjects with political content is to decide whether they were made independently or under instruction.
GDP. The Economic Development Ministry has lowered its growth forecast to 7.3% from 7.8%. A government source reported that GDP had grown 7.7% in the first 9 months of the year. Still respectable.
FINANCIAL CRISIS. The stock market continues to follow world trends; on Friday the Duma approved bills allowing the government to spend more than $18.5 billion bailing out banks and supporting the stock market.
RUSSIAN JUSTICE. Slow, but eventually gets there. Russian Central Bank 1st Deputy Chairman Andrey Kozlov was murdered in September 2006; arrests were made in January 2007 and on Tuesday a jury found banker Aleksey Frenkel guilty of organising the assassination.
MOSKALENKO. On the 14th a lawyer in France, Karina Moskalenko, connected with the Politkovskaya case, complained of a mercury-like substance in her car. Naturally, some jumped to the conclusion that Putindunnit and, on the 22nd, the Washington Post effectively blamed him. Unfortunately for the editorialists of that paper, that very day the French police released the results of their investigation: the mercury had come from a barometer that broke while being transported by the car’s previous owner, an antiques dealer. No wonder so many Russians think there is an “information war” against Russia.
TRANSDNESTR. I have been wrong before on this one, but I have been detecting signs recently that this longstanding secessionist issue may be unthawing: nothing dramatic, but some openings visible.
CAUCASIAN RUMOURS OF WARS. More small scale activity across the North Caucasus. On the 18th a military convoy was attacked in Ingushetia; 2 bombs were defused in Makhachkala on the 20th; a car exploded in Vladikavkaz on the 22nd and on Tuesday 3 jihadists were killed in Groznyy.
GEORGIA. An opposition rally is being planned for 7 November, the anniversary of the rally that was crushed by the security apparatus last year. Nino Burjanadze, former member of the “Rose Revolution” triumvirate (the second, Zurab Zhvania is dead, murdered some say), and former speaker of Parliament, has now formally gone into the opposition, saying among other things: “Democratic principles have been ignored” and “The priority of today’s government is to keep its power” and calling for early elections but, this time “only under the conditions of an improved election code, a healthy electoral environment and free media.” She is also scornful about the latest government changes. She is someone to be taken very seriously. The Prime Minister has been just replaced; I wonder if he will join the many of Saakashvili’s former colleagues now in opposition.
TALKS. Tbilisi wants “the international community” to prevent South Ossetian and Abkhazian representatives attending the Geneva talks. It would be foolish to do so because the situation will never be resolved if the principals are excluded: the origin of the whole mess is that Ossetians and Abkhazians do not want to be in Georgia and if Stalin had drawn a different map, they wouldn’t be.
THE STORY KEEPS CHANGING. When he made his “victory” speech on 8 August, Saakashvili made no reference to Russian forces having entered South Ossetia. A few weeks later he claimed that the Georgians attacked late on the 7th because the Russians were then entering. In the Washington Post, his story changed again: there he claimed the Russians had entered early in the morning of the 7th. This third story seems to have been dropped: now it is stated that the Georgian Peacekeeping Force Commander’s statement late on the 7th that Georgian troops had began an operation to bring “constitutional order” to the Tskhinvali region was false. Hard to keep up. The BBC has partly redeemed its slavish relaying of Tbilisi’s talking points during the war in this report: Part 1, Part 2. Well worth watching for those who followed the war on the Western media and think they know what happened. No news, however, for those who watched Russia Today, available on your home computer .
RE-DRAWING THE MAP. Daniel Fried has now joined in this cartographical enterprise by accusing Moscow of violating the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan by remaining in Akhalgori (are there actually any Russian troops there?) According to my USSR Atlas (1984) this area was part of South Ossetia then.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada