RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 2 February 2012

CANDIDATES. The rules say that nominees of parties in the Duma are easily registered. So Putin (United Russia), Mironov (Just Russia), Zhirinovsky (LDPR) and Zyuganov (KPRF) were all registered early. Independents must produce two million signatures (a process that requires money and organisation). Mikhail Prokhorov (independent), who has lots of the first, passed and was officially registered The CEC rejected Yavlinskiy (Yabloko) saying that a second check of 400,000 signatures turned up 23% invalid. Yavlinskiy says he will appeal. This would mean that Yabloko members could not be elections observers but Putin and Prokhorov have said they will give them mandates to do so. The signature collection process is rife with fraud and easily-discovered technicalities.

POLLS. A number of opinion polls show that Putin&Co have recovered their position and make it likely that he will win it on the first ballot. Number two is Zyuganov and number three is Zhirinovskiy. And thus it has ever been. “Liberals” are at the margin of error. Prokhorov, who has said that he intends to be the consolidated anti-Putin candidate, has a distance to go from his current rating of 3-4% to get enough to force a run-off. Mironov maybe (maybe) could get himself up to Zhirinovskiy’s level. Another VTsIOM poll puts Putin and Medvedev as the best leaders of the last century (Brezhnev and Nikolay II third and fourth, Yeltsin and Gorbachev last).

WEBCAMS. Here’s a graphic on how webcams in voting stations will be organised.

DEMOS. Last week Moscow City approved several political demos for tomorrow and assigned real estate. The vote fraud people can have up to 50K at Bolotnaya Sq; a group headed by Konstantin Borovoy can have 30K at Sakharov Avenue (no idea what line they will be pushing); 15K at a pro-Putin demo at Poklonnaya Gora and 1.5K of Zhirinovskiy’s people at Pushkin Sq. We shall see what all this brings.

MARS PROBE. The recent Russian probe mission to Phobos failed. A government commission has blamed programming errors (and possibly counterfeit circuit boards). The formerly routine success of Russia’s space launches has stumbled a bit lately, but a Russian re-supply mission docked at the ISS last week. And a good thing too – Russia is the only operating connection these days.

CORRUPTION. According to the Interior Ministry the average bribe size in Russia more than doubled in 2011 (to about US$8000). Two deductions: still lots of corruption, but it is becoming more expensive and therefore dangerous. Fines upon conviction have been hugely increased – millions now.

RUSSIA INC. An official of the Central Bank said there are no plans to change the distribution of foreign currencies in which reserves are held. About a half trillion USD, the current breakdown is nearly half USD, 40% Euros and the remainder in other currencies (including 1% in CAD).

WEAPONRY. The Armed Forces will buy some Italian light armoured vehicles; the Bulava SLBM is declared ready to be purchased. Meanwhile they will scrap 3 million tonnes (!) of ammunition. And – at last – improve storage of the remainder.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY. Sergey Ivanov told the BBC Taliban offered Russia an anti-US alliance and was rudely rejected. Putin, at his first meeting with Bush, warned him the USA was on the target list. But instead of taking up these possibilities, we preferred to expand NATO, listen to the anti-Russia lobby and fall in love with Saakashvili.

CANADA SPY. I say nothing until I see evidence he was passing information to Russia. The Western news media is too prone to reflexively blame Russia. For example see the ridiculous Moskalenko example. (And here’s Canada’s CBC being suckered by the story).

SYRIA. Clinton said that a “Libya scenario” would not happen in Syria. Well, that promise isn’t worth much: a “Libya scenario” wasn’t planned in Libya either; it happened because the no-fly zone had little effect and NATO could not be seen to lose. Moscow no longer believes mere promises.

KACZYNSKI CRASH. And some more support for what has been the Russian line all along: the Polish Supreme Audit Office has found numerous violations in organisation of VIP flights. Hasn’t stopped the conspiracy theories though.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)