ALARUMS PAST. In November, accepting an award, the well-known Russian media personality Leonid Parfyonov gave a speech excoriating the state of the news media in Russia: a culture in which reporters were a species of “state official” ever attentive to their “boss’s bosses”; one in which everyone understood there were stories that “that can be broadcast on television and those that cannot”. This attracted some attention together with mentions of reporters killed or harmed in Putin’s time. While there is no doubt a good deal of truth in what he said, charges of control or bias in what is and is not broadcast are not unknown elsewhere. He also intimated that Russian TV was being dumbed down. Well that’s hardly unique to Russia either. In my opinion, anybody who depends on the MSM in any country for his news is missing a lot and the New Media is winning everywhere. And in Russia, you can read criticisms similar to Parfyonov’s translated from foreign media on the Net if you want to. But the point is that, whatever mixture of truth and exaggeration there may have been in his observations, it seems that nothing has happened to him. He lives and thrives.
CORRUPTION. Two Moscow Oblast prosecutors suspected of protecting underground casinos have been put on the federal wanted list. This follows dismissals of several other senior officials on charges of having protected the illegal casinos. Three police officers were sentenced to prison terms for stealing substantial amounts of money from travellers at one of Moscow’s airports. Investigators have requested a warrant for the arrest of the former Bank of Moscow President. Medvedev has signed a law which greatly increases penalties in corruption cases. I haven’t the statistics, but it seems to me there are more and more cases involving higher-ups. Although, as I’ve said before, I don’t think the campaign will really bite until someone in an office near Medvedev’s or Putin’s is arrested.
THE HOLIDAY FORMERLY KNOWN AS MAY DAY. Since 1992 re-named Spring and Labour Day, saw lots of parades in Moscow that passed off quietly. The numbers were indicative, if not of actual support, then of organisational ability. United Russia got out 25K, KPRF 4.5K; Just Russia 3K; LDPR 0.7K and the liberal opposition 0.25K.
MISTRAL. Something has gone wrong with the negotiations. The former Russian negotiating team was dismissed – one man for “internal reasons” the other for re-appointment – and a new team is to be appointed. But the deal may fall through: Ruslan Puhkov thoroughly discusses the issue and possible obstacles to agreement here.
OPEN SKIES. A Canadian team is beginning flights over Russia. To tell the truth, I’d forgotten all about this. But, I suppose, since the demise of the CFE Treaty, it has it uses in strengthening transparency.
MARKELOV MURDER. A jury found the two defendants guilty “and not deserving leniency”. They were members of a super-nationalist group, Russkiy Obraz and Markelov seems to have been their target and Baburova just an unfortunate witness. Sentencing is expected shortly.
EMERGENCIES MINISTRY. Long-time readers will know that I admire this organisation and its leader Sergey Shoygu. It seems to be one of the most effective state structures in the country. It recently showed off some of its new kit for fighting fires. More evidence that Russia Inc’s energy money is not being wasted.
MANOEUVRINGS. Sergey Mironov, speaker of the Federation Council, may be recalled by the St Petersburg legislature. He was head of Just Russia until recently. He has been critical of St Petersburg and its Governor and there are likely enough votes there to unseat him. More grist for the speculation mill. Is this a move to make him and Just Russia more plausible as an opposition? As part of a move to run two Team candidates for president? Or St Petersburg wants its representative to say nice things and not that it’s very corrupt?
MISSILE DEFENCE. The commander of the Space Forces has outlined Moscow’s proposals for a future European missile defence network. They are the familiar ideas of sectors (with Russia’s “shield” covering Eastern Europe and the Black, Barents and Baltic Seas) and a joint data processing and command centre.
INTERNET. Medvedev met with “internet community representatives” last week to open a discussion about regulation. As a lawyer, he was most concerned about copyright. There was no hint of government control.
JIHADISM. It is reported that the leader of foreign jihadists in the North Caucasus was killed in Chechnya yesterday.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)