PRESSURE. A prominent Russian businessman says he will sell all his assets in Russia and retire so as to end what he calls “relentless pressure from the authorities”, specifically from “Directorate K of the [FSB]”. He believes this began when the newspaper he part owns began an investigation of corruption in the FSB. He says he does not think the Kremlin is behind “my business… being purposefully and deliberately destroyed” but would like it to clarify its position. One of the Duumvirate ought to say something and soon.
DIRECTION. A recent poll finds an increasing pessimism about the way Russia is developing: 35% think in the wrong direction (up from 26% in Feb 2009) and 31% in the right direction (down from 52%). However, before this is shoved into the latest idiotic editorial about the imminent collapse of “the Putin system”, we need a little context. 61% of Americans think their country is on the wrong track; 73% of British and 56% of EU inhabitants do too. So, as the real world runs, Russians are pretty upbeat.
RUSSIA INC. The EBRD has cut its growth forecast for Russia from 4.2% to 3.1% in 2012 and from 4.3% to 3.3% for 2013. It foresees lower demand for commodities in the Eurozone. Still, by present standards, not bad.
OSSETIA WAR. In a film just out, several former senior generals say Medvedev should have given the order to move into South Ossetia a day earlier and many died because he didn’t . Medvedev defended his decision. (I thought that Putin &Co didn’t allow any public disagreements). I will be amused to see how Saakashvili’s flacks try to spin this, given that Saakashvili’s final version of the story was that they did move a day early.
PUSSY RIOT. The trial began on the 30th and ended yesterday. The judge promises to hand down her verdict on the 17th. Many absurdities about this event: Anatoly Karlin takes the time to dissect a Guardian editorial on the subject – much more time than the writers took to string together memes of the moment, half truths and untruths. I recommend reading it to illustrate just how biased, slipshod and dishonest so much commentary on Russia is. Alexander Mercouris has written a long legal analysis of the case. By the way, unlike the MSM, which is happy to throw around generalisations without sources, both Karlin and Mercouris provide many hyperlinks: they don’t make stuff up. A question to ponder: given that Putin also has the support of Russia’s Chief Mufti, when will we see Pussy Riot call him Putin’s “bitch” too?
SLOW AND STEADY. Not for the first time, Putin laid out his ruling strategy: “Move gradually, calmly, with the necessary rotation, but move forward”.Understandable, but the time can come when caution slips into stagnation. I still think it would have been better had he not run again. I don’t think he’s run out of creativity yet, but it comes to all of us eventually.
CORRUPTION. The first corruption case over the Sochi Olympics is ready to go to court, others are being prepared. Given all the circumstances – lots of money thrown at it, pressure from the top – I’m sure that a lot of money has disappeared.
THE LAW IS SLOW. The Russian legal process is not very high-speed. The investigators have finally sent the Kushchevskaya case to court (gang war is their theory) 21 months after the crime. Four skinheads were sentenced for murder during the Manege Square riot (20 months). And two more were sentenced today for involvement in the murder of a governor in October 2002; four others having been convicted last year. I have no theories but observe that many commentators seem to expect it should go faster.
PUTIN IN UK. Putin met with the British PM and things seem to go pretty calmly. It seems that Litvinenko was not a major part of the agenda. Apparently £4 million has already been spent on the investigation and the coroner hasn’t even made a verdict of how he died yet. Not much return for the money (speaking of slow legal processes).
INTERESTING LAWS. We hear much about laws in Russia; here’s one I just heard about. It’s illegal in Lithuania to deny Soviet aggression and someone was just sentenced for doing so. Don’t hear much about that law which would seem to have the effect of turning historical arguments into criminal cases.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)