ANOTHER MISQUOTATION IN THE ONLY STORY IN RUSSIA. RIA Novosti reports that Medvedev said that he and Putin would decide which runs for president soon. This assertion will, no doubt be endlessly repeated. But it’s not what he said. What he actually said was that he would decide fairly soon whether he would run for a second term: “I do not rule out the possibility of my running for a second term at the presidential elections. The decision will be taken very shortly”. (Eng Rus) A much better mindset than this sterile obsession with one or the other is the German concept of a Vorstand; a corporate governance team which is “expected to act collectively and collegiately”. Medvedev himself said about the two of them “We have friendly and very warm relations that have been shaping over the last two decades. It is a long time, in my life, too you said I am not that old yet. I have known Mr Putin for almost half of my life, it is quite a lot, and we first met back in St Petersburg many-many years ago.” They’re a team. And they are in turn part of a team that has worked together quite effectively and harmoniously for some years. (I am obliged to Timothy Post for introducing me to the concept of a Vorstand.)
DEMOGRAPHICS. The situation continues to slowly improve. January’s births were down a bit from last year but deaths were down further and the net population loss was reduced from about 44,000 to about 39,000. Anatoly Karlin keeps an eye on the data and his conclusion is that, when you add in immigration, Russia’s population has stopped falling. Whether Karlin’s prediction (“I can confidently predict that the 2020 Census will show a population bigger than this year’s”) comes true or not, it’s high time to stop talking about Russia’s “demographic collapse.” The program started some years ago is clearly working. According to data from a 1987 statistics book I possess, the USSR gross death rate began to increase in the Khrushchev period and rose from 7.4 to 10.2 per thousand at the beginning of the Gorbachev period. The effects can be found throughout the post-communist world. Russia was not the worst affected and is making progress.
FSB NOT TOO HAPPY. First the Communications Minister said there were no plans to ban Skype, gmail, hotmail or the like after an FSB official had said he thought they should be. Then an “art collective” got an award for a rude graffito near the FSB headquarters in St Petersburg. Haven’t we been told endlessly that such things are not possible in Putin’s neo-KGB state?
CORRUPTION. Last week police raided the office of the Moscow Administration of the Federal Tax Service and home of its deputy head as part of investigation into the attempted theft of US$70 million by a St. Petersburg firm. A Moscow court has suspended the President of the Bank of Moscow and one of his deputies from the bank’s management for duration of a criminal probe into a large loan. The story is that money from the City’s budget made it into Baturina’s hands. It sounds more and more as if a web is being woven around Luzhkov and his wife.
FRIVOLITY. A flash mob blowing soap bubbles appeared in the Arbat on Sunday.
INCOMES. Putin and Medvedev have declared their incomes. Appropriately modest. Of course neither has had to spend much of his own money for years.
CARS. Russia’s economy is recovering – fairly successfully – after the global financial crisis with increases across the board. But, for some reason sales of cars and light commercial vehicles have really taken off: they are reported to be up 77% year-on-year in the first quarter.
GEORGIA. An Israeli armaments company is suing Tbilisi claiming non-payment for weapons sales made before Israel cut Georgia off after the Ossetia war. The company had sold UAVs and, in all likelihood, many or most have been destroyed already.
MINSK BOMB. A bomb in a Metro station in Minsk on Monday killed and wounded many. Yesterday Lukashenka claimed the crime solved and the perpetrators caught: three are said to have confessed and another two were arrested today. He intimates there is a connection with another explosion in July 2008. Seems a rather suspiciously quick solution.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)