MEDVEDEV. Has just granted an interview with Novaya Gazeta – the first to a Russian media outlet. Worth reading before the Western MSM tells you what it thinks you need to know. I cannot emphasise this enough – you must read the ipsissima verba and not rely on reports from sources with axes to grind.
LUCRE. Medvedev has published his income on his Website: appropriately modest.
RUSSIA INC. The Head of the Central Bank says inflation was 5.3% so far this year (4.8% the year before) and the Finance Minister says the budget deficit is 50 billion rubles (US$1.5 billion) in the first quarter.
LENIN. On 1 April (is the date significant?) the Lenin statue (could this be the original “Hey! Taxi! Statue”?) near the Finland Station in St Petersburg was damaged by an explosion. This has occasioned many protests pro and con and a Kremlin official reiterated that the time was not yet ready to move the body from Red Square.
US-RUSSIA. Tone continues good but no real actions yet.
MULTILATERALISM. Putin has several times pointed to North Korea as the example of how international cooperation is supposed to work. I wonder how he feels now that it has fired a missile in the general direction of Japan and announced that it is ordering IAEA inspectors out and resuming work on its nuclear facilities.
NATO. Albania and Croatia are now full members. The Danish PM has been chosen Secretary-General and NATO has agreed to resume the work of the Russia-NATO Council, which was suspended last August.
THE GREAT RUSSIAN MILITARY BUILDUP. It has been confirmed that the Armed Forces will buy UAVs from Israel. The Russians may have defeated the Georgians in August (though I maintain that the Ossetians actually stopped them and they ran away when the Russians got there) but many deficiencies were revealed.
PONAMARYOV. On 31 March, Lev Ponomaryov, a prominent Russian human rights activist, was mugged in Moscow. As this piece wonders, was it “hooligans” (as the police think – he was 67) or politically-inspired as he claims? Not everything that happens in Russia is orchestrated from the Kremlin.
CHECHNYA. Sulim Yamadayev was killed in Dubai on 28 March. The Dubai police have arrested two (one of whom worked for Kadyrov) and accused a Chechen politician of having been behind the death. Kadyrov, for his part, suspects Yamadayev of having been behind the murder of his father. I am inclined to suspect a “tidying up process” (today the “anti-terrorism” operation was formally ended, which further reduces the federal presence) but there are too many currents under the surface to be confident. Kadyrov’s interview (JRL/2009/69/21) is worth reading, however.
BELARUS. I have never taken the so-called Russia-Belarus “Union” seriously and more confirmation of my opinion comes from Lukashenka’s calling for more “transparency” in relations with Russia. Moscow only pays attention to Minsk around election time and takes it for granted the rest of the time.
GEORGIA. It’s begun. Starting on 9 April there have been very large, continuous, well-organised, gradually escalating anti-Saakashvili protests throughout Tbilisi (photos more Film Film). Saakashvili, typically is claiming that it’s orchestrated from Moscow but a listing of the opposition leaders, many of them former colleagues and none of them a Moscow stooge, shows he is, again, being “constructive” with the truth. Some polling suggests most want him gone but do not expect he will go voluntarily. At the end, I remain convinced he will be gone: I do not expect the police to turn out for him again.
MOLDOVA. The bare facts: on the 5th there were elections in Moldova and the ruling Communist Party won; on the 6th there were protests in Chisinau; they turned violent; by the 8th the police had regained control; on the 12th the Constitutional Court ordered a recount which began yesterday. Interpretations: a “colour revolution” gone wrong? Young people fired up by the economic/financial crisis? A lot of protesters carried Romanian flags (go to 1:09) and President Voronin has accused Bucharest of involvement (strongly denied). Moldova is another of the Great Cartographer’s jokes, having been severed from Romania in 1940. 10-15 years ago a live issue was whether Moldova ought to join Romania (the trigger for the fighting in Transdnestr). I had thought that the issue had been put to bed but apparently not entirely yet. A rational discussion of the issue here.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)