NGOs. The new law was overwhelmingly passed by the Duma and the Federation Council. (a real all-party effort – it’s a popular provision: 60% plus). In essence, NGOs that are foreign-funded and operate in the political sphere must report on the extent of foreign funding and label themselves as foreign agents. Here is what has changed. The law is somewhat modelled on the US FARA law of 1938 that “requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal” (something seldom mentioned in much of the commentary on the Russian law). Much flapdoodle from those whose oxen will be gored and livelihoods will be affected. Application is, of course the key, but I have no problem with the law: I think Canada, which has a similar problem, should have a similar law. People should be able to know what interests are trying to influence them.
STATE COUNCIL. Leaders of the parliamentary opposition have been added to this advisory group which held its first meeting in this new format on Tuesday. Usual response: either an opening to or cooption of.
INTERNET. The Duma and the Federation Council have passed a law allowing websites “promoting illegal drugs, child abuse or suicide” to be shut down. Not uncommon elsewhere.
POLITKOVSKAYA MURDER. Back at the beginning of the investigation, a senior policeman, Dmitriy Pavlyuchenkov, was suspected of having set up the killing. Then something happened and this line was not pursued. But he was re-arrested and has apparently pleaded guilty to tracking her whereabouts and giving weapons to the actual killers. In what may be a plea-bargain, the Investigative Committee has formally charged him with involvement, but not doing the actual killing. From the beginning the official theory has been the man who ordered the killing (suspicions but no names – thought to be in the West somewhere), the sub-contractor (a Chechen “biznesman”), the spotter (Pavlyuchenkov) and the actual killers (people were tried but found not guilty). (The Wikipedia article isn’t much use, being mostly a collection of rumours.) I have always believed that she found out something (perhaps without knowing that she had) that some player in Chechnya didn’t want known and she was killed. (By the way if, as many still believe, Putin had her killed, we would not be hearing about a senior policeman’s involvement.)
ECONOMY. Putin is smart enough to know that Russia Inc is too dependent on energy sales and that the coming North American domination of production will seriously change the oil and gas business. He has spoken of the first many times, as did Medvedev in his time. His latest move in what I think will be the predominant issue of his current term, is the creation of a President’s Economic Council to guide diversification of the economy. Easier to say than to do of course.
FLOODS. There are serious floods in Krasnodar Region, and many have died. Udaltsov says the problems are a direct result of corruption. No doubt corruption has played a part, but, typically, he gets all absolutist: “Nothing is invested in infrastructure, everything is being stolen”. No it’s not all stolen and there is much investment. Of more interest, there has been, as with the forest fires a couple of years ago, much civil society involvement.
SYRIA. The deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, is quoted as saying Russia will not deliver any new types of weapons or sign military contracts with Syria until the situation stabilises. This especially affects the 36 Yak 130 trainer/light ground attack aircraft.
BORDERS. Putin and Yanukovych at their meeting last week signed a preliminary agreement on the delimitation of the border in the Kerch Strait. This agreement (which one assumes will stand) two decades after the breakup of the USSR is an example of how difficult these issues are. In the Soviet days it didn’t matter where the line was because it was all in the same country and was a federal responsibility anyway. But navigation and access matter between independent countries. And that took a lot of back and forth to get to. The details aren’t out but it appears that Russian ships can freely pass through to the Sea of Azov and Tuzla Island is part of Ukraine. There was also some agreement about Russian Black Sea Fleet basing in Ukraine. Novorossiysk is supposedly being built up to be a major – maybe the major – base for the Fleet, but it’s not clear what has actually been done and Google Earth doesn’t suggest that much has.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)