PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. I have long been bemused by the West’s Putin obsession. Beginning when Moscow-based reporters didn’t bother to go to St Petersburg to see what people thought of the Deputy Mayor, any mention of Putin must now include ex-KGB, election fraud, deaths of reporters and so on. But a certain admiration is appearing as people notice he is a very effective leader (of course that damages the other memes that Russia is in terminal decline and he steals elections; but never mind: we’re not talking rational here). Forbes has just anointed him the world’s most powerful person. I look forward to the next twist.
SYRIA. The inspection teams claim that all equipment at Syria’s declared production sites has been destroyed. Syria joined the Chemical Weapon Convention in the middle of the month. Consumers of Western news media outlets may have noticed the curious fact that the former wall-to-wall coverage of Syria has disappeared.
BOOZE. An official says alcohol consumption per capita is currently 13.5 litres of ethyl alcohol equivalent, down from 18 in 2010. While there has been an anti-alcohol campaign, higher prices and, I think, somewhat of a behavioural change, a drop to 75% in three years sounds too good to be true.
NAVALNIY. Developments that together add up to… I have no idea. The Constitutional Court ruled that the law forbidding people convicted of major crimes running for public office was unconstitutional. The Kirov Region Court suspended his sentence. New charges appeared claiming that he and his brother swindled the Yves Rocher company. Those who believe Putin makes every decision in Russia can stitch together a story. Those who go a little deeper into Navalniy’s background and who followed his first trial are not so sure.
ILLEGALS. A fatal stabbing in Moscow led to protests and riots; the man arrested for the murder was an Azerbaijani. This has led to a crackdown with the police “detaining” hundreds of possible illegals in Moscow markets. Russian nationalists (like Navalniy, as a matter of fact – but that’s something his Western image makers play down) use people from the Caucasus and Central Asia as their favourite bogeyman and it doesn’t take much to ignite a riot. The police are cracking down (but, given the level of corruption, they are probably paid off to ignore the reality “Isn’t it just easier to give money to the policeman?”). This is a serious problem with much bad potential. Yesterday Putin fired the local police chief but what’s that supposed to do?
CORRUPTION. The OboronServis investigation chews away: and the investigators say they have confiscated a trove of gems and gold from Yevgenia Vasilyeva, former head of OboronServis and presumed girlfriend of the former Minister of Defence. And plenty of more cases too: arguably the most dramatic being an official in a provincial town charged with banditry and accomplice to murder. Numerous investigations and arrests all the time. But punishment is still pretty feeble. Putin described the state of play yesterday.
INTERESTING FACT. A US official has reported that “approximately half of the nuclear energy in the United States” comes today from decommissioned Soviet warheads.
JIHADISM. A suicide bomb in Volgograd and a suicide bomb factory discovered in Dagestan. Two plots discovered and a bomb defused. Two killed with their own bomb in a mosque. Many shootouts and operations. Altogether more activity than normal. We’re told that terrorist attacks have halved since 2011.
GREENPEACE. Greenpeace is not winning this one – check out the hostile comments on this puff piece. The story has not attracted the anti-Russia myth-makers; of course Berezovskiy isn’t around any more.
GEORGIA. In the presidential election, Giorgi Margvelashvili of Georgian Dream has won convincingly with more than 60% of the vote. And so ends the last of the coloured revolutions. At the time I was not nearly as sceptical about their legitimacy as I now am; engineered from outside for Washington’s geopolitical aims: NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine and a US base in the Kyrgyz Republic suddenly became the number local one issues. Ukrainians never wanted into NATO and Bishkek has told the Americans to get out. Meanwhile two Georgian security officials have been arrested for staging a terrorist attack in 2008 designed to embellish the “Abkhazia threat”. I expect more revelations about the reality of Saakashvili’s regime. Ivanishvili has reiterated that he will step down as Prime Minister soon.
SUNDAY’S PARADE IS CANCELLED. The NATO Secretary General informs us that neither Ukraine nor Georgia will join NATO in 2014.