Russian Reporter Oleg Kashin Beaten Into Coma

Just two days after a security camera caught two men beating journalist Oleg Kashin unconscious on a Moscow street, a second reporter who wrote about a controversial road proposed for a beloved Moscow forest has suffered a concussion at the hands of unknown assailants.

Kashin is in a medically induced coma in a Moscow hospital after a weekend assault that left him with a severed finger, a broken leg and fractured jaws. Video from a closed circuit camera of two men holding Kashin down and beating him with an iron bar that had been hidden in a bouquet of flowers has appeared on a Russian web site and state television. The attack lasted a minute and a half.

I hope that he can work again,” Kashin’s father Vladimir told ABC News. “I hope that he can survive.”

I don’t know why exactly he was attacked,” said fellow journalist Yvgenia Albats, an investigative reporter and editor-in-chief of the magazine New Times. “I know for sure that he was attacked because of his work.”

Kashin has reported on many controversial topics, including political youth groups, but speculation about the cause for the assault centers on Kashin’s coverage of the Khimki road project, a proposed multi-billion dollar highway through the heart of a “green belt” birch forest on the city’s outskirts. Logging for the road began in July, but after fierce public protest construction was temporarily suspended by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. Kashin, who works for the prominent business newspaper Kommersant, had written about a July protest against the road, conducting an interview with a blogger who said he had led an attack on a government building in Khimki.

Backers of the project stand to lose a huge investment if the highway is scrapped. The project is supported by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and after one of Kashin’s articles on Khimki, the pro-Kremlin youth group Young Guard posted a piece online with the headline “Journalist Betrayers Must Be Punished” as well as a picture of Kashin with the label “Will Be Punished.” Young Guard has denied involvement in the attack on Kashin and condemned it.

via Russian Reporter Oleg Kashin Beaten Into Coma – ABC News.

The limits of freedom of expression should be attacking other people’s lifes. You can’t call for “punishments” of “journalist betrayers”, because they are investigating something you don’t like anyone to investigate, and then, when something like that, has happened, take the unhappy mask and condemn it. I’m sure they are really happy after this: even his father doesn’t know if the journalist will survive. So it’s probable that he won’t be able to work either.

Second Moscow bomber was widow of Al Qaida militant

The metro in Moscow is one of the most busiest...
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This is un update on this story (more here, here and here):

The 28-year-old Daghestani school teacher, who blew herself up at the Moscow Metro last week, was the widow of an Al-Qaida militant active in Russia‘s Caucasian region, a report said on Thursday…. (She) was identified as an IT school teacher Mariyam Sharipova, the widow of Caucasian militant “Doctor Mohammad”.

The Jordanian national known among the militants as ‘Doctor Mohammad’, had come to North Caucasus in mid-1990s along with another famous Jordanian militant Khattab and was lately representing Al-Qaida’s interests in Russia’s volatile, predominant Muslim regions.

He was killed on August 30, 2009 in a special operation in a remote village in Khasavyurt district of Daghestan, the daily reported quoting FSB security service sources. Continue reading

Iran Urges Russia to Resist Arms Sale Pressure

TEHRAN. With the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ah...

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While Ahmadinejad mocks Obama:

Iran urged Russia on Tuesday not to bow to Western pressure over the sale of a Russian missile defense system to the Islamic republic that could protect its nuclear facilities from air strikes.

Russia is under intense Western pressure to distance itself from Iran in a dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme, but has refused to rule out delivering the S-300 anti-aircraft system.

Iranian officials have expressed growing irritation at Russia’s failure so far to supply the S-300, which Israel and the United States do not want Tehran to have.

Iran expects Russia not to be influenced and pressured by other countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told a news conference.

“We hope this issue will reach a conclusion in the framework of our agreements,” he said.

via Iran Urges Russia to Resist Arms Sale Pressure | News | The Moscow Times.

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Kyrgyzstan riots: opposition protesters seize power

National emblem of Kyrgyzstan

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Activists seized the parliament building and laid siege to the government headquarters. The deputy prime minister was taken hostage and there were reports from police that the interior minister had been killed. The main state television station was overrun and by early afternoon the president had declared a state of emergency.

Reports suggested about 100 people were killed and hundreds more wounded, although the death toll was expected to rise with witnesses describing piles of dead bodies in the streets.

Last night a Kyrgyz opposition leader announced on state radio that Daniyar Usenov, the prime minister, had signed a letter of resignation. It was also announced that a provisional government had been formed with a former foreign minister, Roza Otunbayeva, at its head.

…The US State Department later said it had no information that the government had fallen and for the moment they believed Mr Bakiyev was still in power. Last night a US military official said flights had been suspended from the airbase amid the riots.

…“Russia and the United States have been competing for influence for a long time and have airbases just a few miles apart, so it is an active centre of the Great Game right now between the powers of Russia, China and the US,” said Chris Weafer, the chief strategist at Uralsib bank in Moscow.

He said living standards in Kyrgyzstan, where many families depended on money sent back from relatives working in Russia, had fallen sharply because of the economic crisis and that had probably triggered the unrest.

via Kyrgyzstan riots: opposition protesters seize power – Telegraph.

Russia has had to deny that they have triggered the unrest. Speaking about meddling in foreign affairs… More about this in TIME:

The struggle (between US and Russia) came to a head in February of last year, when the Kyrgyz handed the U.S. military base an eviction notice just weeks after Russia provided the impoverished country with a $2 billion loan and $150 million in aid. Russia denied any link between the two events, but U.S. officials saw it differently. Washington soon reached a deal with Kyrgyz leaders to keep the base open — in exchange for a tripling of the yearly rental to $60 million, among other conditions.

… Putin vehemently denied the allegation at a press conference in the Russian city of Smolensk on Wednesday, saying the events in Kyrgyzstan had caught him by surprise. He added, however, that Kyrgyz President Bakiev had made many mistakes since coming to power in what is known as the Tulip Revolution five years ago. “When President Bakiev came to power, he very harshly criticized the deposed President, [Askar] Akayev, for his family values, for the fact that his relatives had positions throughout the Kyrgyz economy. I have the impression that Mr. Bakiev has been stepping on the same rakes,” he said, alluding to the fact that Bakiev appointed his family members, including his son, to top government posts. A Kremlin source told Russia’s Interfax news agency on Wednesday that Bakiev “would not be welcome in Moscow.”

The U.S. State Department was quick to issue a statement saying its air base in Kyrgyzstan was “functioning normally.” “We are continuing to monitor the circumstances. We continue to think the government remains in power,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement on Wednesday. But that view is beginning to seem untenable: Bakiev has already fled the country, and the opposition says it is forming a new government. How amenable that government would be to the U.S. presence in Kyrgyzstan remains to be seen. What is certain is that the struggle for influence between Russia and the U.S. may again heat up in Central Asia.

NYT worries about the fate that awaits to the US military base.

Also this can have some effects on the drug trafficking route thoughout Central Asia.

EUReferendum says that the protests were “largely spontaneous” and were caused by the high prices of energy:

“The violent rolling protests appeared to be largely spontaneous rather than a premeditated coup,” it says, eventually telling us that a “leading expert” has said the government had triggered the protests by imposing punitive increases on tariffs for water and gas. “In the last few months there has been growing anger over this non-political issue,” said Paul Quinn-Judge, central Asia project director of the International Crisis Group.

So has Russia meddle here or not? It’s difficult to tell by now, we’ll see the future developments in this country.

The death toll has risen to 74.

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Putin: Russian arms to Venezuela may be $5B

Venezuela continues buying weapons, making Putin very happy indeed:

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Arms exports to Venezuela may reach as much as $5 billion, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday, a few days after he traveled to the country.

Putin visited Venezuela late last week to meet with President Hugo Chavez and pledged to sell more weapons to the country but gave no concrete figures.

“Our delegation has just returned from Venezuela, and the total volume of orders may exceed $5 billion,” Putin said in televised remarks.

Russia on Friday agreed to lend Venezuela up to $2.2 billion for the new arms deals.

Hugo Chavez's government has already bought more than $4 billion in Russian weapons since 2005, including helicopters, fighter jets and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles.

via Nation & World | Putin: Russian arms to Venezuela may be $5B | Seattle Times Newspaper.

Read it all. Specially the last paragraph…

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Russia: change everything, so that nothing changes

The nature of Russian governance has moved on somewhat since the 16th century. But one thing has remained the same: post-Soviet Russia is a profoundly feudal society. I don’t mean that as a generalised insult denoting ignorance and backwardness. I mean really feudal, in its most literal sense. Feudalism is the exchange of service for protection. In the absence of functional legal or law enforcement systems, people’s only real protection lies in a network of personal and professional relationships with powerful individuals. And so it is in Russia today — for every member of society with something, however small, to lose, from a market stall owner to the nation’s top oligarchs. Your freedom from arbitrary arrest, fraudulent expropriation and extortion by bureaucrats is only as good as your connections.

… In November, 37-year-old tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died of pancreatic failure in Moscow’s most notorious remand prison, Butirskaya. At the time of his arrest Magnitsky had been working for Hermitage Capital, once the biggest investor on Russia’s stock market. Magnitsky’s crime had been to complain about a $230 million tax refund scam apparently perpetrated by corrupt tax officials and police. These criminals had used companies stolen from Hermitage during a police raid as vehicles for claiming false tax refunds. Magnitsky and the Hermitage team had painstakingly documented the details of the scam and complained to every official body they could think of. Yet instead of pursuing the guilty, Russian authorities arrested Magnitsky. According to his heartbreaking prison diary, investigators repeatedly tried to persuade him to give testimony against Hermitage and drop the accusations against the police and tax authorities. When Magnitsky refused, he was moved to more and more horrible sections of the prison, and ultimately denied the medical treatment which could have saved his life.

… The case, which had garnered next to no publicity while Magnitsky was alive, suddenly made the pages of the Moscow business press on his death (though not, of course, the tightly controlled national television stations). The presidential human rights council, a rather beleaguered body of activists, brought the Magnitsky case directly to the President’s ear. Medvedev’s response, to his credit, was swift. To date, 20 prison officials have been fired, as well as the deputy head of the Moscow Interior Ministry in charge of investigating tax crimes. More heads will doubtless roll in the coming weeks — although I would bet that the real perpetrators of the tax scam, reliably reported by the New Times magazine to be in the upper echelons of the Federal Security Service’s ironically named Economic Crimes Department, will escape punishment.

So was justice done? Emphatically no, and not just because the real culprits are likely to escape. The point is that even the firings which have taken place bring Russia no closer to being a law-based society. Rather, it was personal justice, dispensed on the President’s word. In time-honoured fashion, misdeeds were brought to the attention of the good Tsar who dispensed quick and terrible punishment. This is not the ‘order’ that Russians yearn for, it is simply another brand of legal nihilism.

via There’s something rotten in the state of Russia | The Spectator.

So, the system has basically continue as it was under Tzarism, only the “image” we see it’s somewhat different. No, Medvedev does not either want change: he wants things as they ever were:

under the current system, it is your superiors — or, if you are unlucky, your enemies and competitors — who decide whether you get prosecuted for your crimes, or whether to protect you. Crucially, it also means that innocence is no defence against prosecution, as poor Sergei Magnitsky found.

More power, more corruption: the circle goes on, because Putin has already got rid of every possible opposition Russia could have had. Neo-Soviet Russia in all its splendour.

Ingushetia: Construction Minister shot dead in his office

The string of assasinations in Ingushetia puts region back on agenda. This is what happens when you say these three things:

So, what does Putin really think about Islam?

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