UKRAINE. On the 11th Medvedev sent a sort of open letter to Ukrainian President Yushchenko complaining about relations and enumerating Russia’s complaints (for the majority of which Yushchenko would be most responsible). Reactions are appearing: some mocking, some thoughtful. I don’t understand the point of this. Yushchenko will not be the next President of Ukraine and whoever replaces him will have a more reasonable relationship with Russia. According to Gallup, approval of their government by Ukrainians is “the lowest in the world”. Surely the best thing for Moscow to do, if it wants a Ukrainian government interested in more than the “colour revolution package” of irritating Moscow and joining NATO, is to keep its mouth shut and wait for the Ukrainian people themselves to toss Yushchenko out. They need no encouragement from Medvedev: the “Orange Revolution” was based on false premises. As to the Ukrainian arms deliveries to Georgia (and I’d still like to know who paid for them), that’s percolating away in the background in Ukraine and needs no help from Medvedev either. It will likely re-surface with the new President in January, whether Tymoshenko or Yanukovych. So, altogether unnecessary, silly and rather whiney.
ECONOMY. Some numbers that aren’t as bad as previously. Unemployment is reported to have slightly declined (from 6.7 million to 6.3 million or 8.3% of the economically active population). GDP is reported to have grown 7.5% in the 2nd quarter over the 1st (but, year-on-year, is down 10.9%). Has it bottomed out?
THE MIGHTY RUSSIAN ARMS BUILDUP. Deputy PM Sergey Ivanov announced that the Russian Armed Forces would receive about US$15 billion nest year. To put this number in perspective, Canada’s defence budget this year was about the same. I know there is a big difference in purchasing power parity, and the Russian money will go much farther, but 15 billion is hardly an apocalyptical sum.
STATE CORPORATIONS. Over the years Medvedev has mused that state ownership may have outlived its usefulness and I have been watching to see whether this would lead anywhere. He has ordered the Prosecutor General and the Director of the Presidential Control Directorate – interesting choices indeed! – to review and report on “the expediency of the future use of such business structures”.
CORRUPTION. A Moscow court has sentenced Andrey Taranov, the former head of Mandatory Health Insurance Fund, to 7 years in prison on corruption charges.
USE OF FORCE ABOARD. Medvedev has submitted to the Duma a draft law establishing authorisation to use Russian Armed Forces abroad. The reasons given are: to counter attacks on deployed troops; to counter or prevent an aggression against another country; to protect Russian citizens abroad; to combat piracy and ensure safe passage of shipping. No doubt other countries have similar legislation.
ANOTHER MURDER. The bodies of Zarema Sadulayeva (head of Let’s Save the Generation) and her husband, who were kidnapped in the 10th, were found the next day in Groznyy. Investigators wonder whether the target may have been her husband, Alik Jabrailov, who was formerly a fighter against the government. Interestingly, Akhmed Zakayev does not blame Kadyrov for the murders. A discussion of various theories here. Personally I have no clue: I can imagine jihadists and other interested parties wanting to embarrass Moscow and Kadyrev; I can imagine score-settling; I can imagine Kadyrov “cleaning house”. The murders will not be solved, although, like those in Novy Itagi in 1996, we may learn more years later. But there will always be problems with the credibility of sources.
CHECHNYA. To no one’s surprise, the authorities have announced a big increase in kidnappings and murders in Chechnya: the former are up from 4 to 23, and murders from 52 to 78. Crimes of “a terrorist nature” are down. But how can one separate jihadist activity, rebel activity, score-settling and “normal” “bizness”?
MOLDOVA. The four main opposition parties in Moldova have announced a coalition; 61 votes, of which they have 53, are required to name the next President; therefore they need support from some of the 48 Communists. If they fail, there will have to be another election.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)