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Vladimir Putin Defends Russia’s Stance on Syria

At a conference in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin harshly criticized the U.S. for its intervention in Libya and cited it as the reason for causing further chaos that ultimately led to the attack in Benghazi that left U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens dead.

During the conference, Putin also dismissed notions that Russia was making a mistake and losing influence in the Middle East by deciding not to intervene in Syria. He further added that his nation is only concerned for Syria’s stability and has no concern for the fate of President Assad and his regime.

Putin’s comments came just as human rights investigators sent by the United Nations concluded that what originally began as a fight to oust Assad and his government has evolved into a sectarian battle, which has pitted communities against one another. Fighters from as far as North Africa are getting involved and contributing to the endless blood bath.

Russia has been a long-time ally of Syria and has used its position in the United Nations Security Council to oppose intervention by the U.S. and it allies and has long defended the sovereignty of Assad’ s government. However, Russia’s tone has changed in recent days and acknowledged that Assad remaining in power may not be such a good thing. It has even urged Russians staying in Syria to evacuate the country immediately.

Russia has been a major arms supplier for Syria and even regularly uses Syria’s port of Tartus as a refueling point. Even so, Putin made it clear during the conference that the two nations merely shared a business relationship and nothing beyond that.

Human right investigations reveal that the situation in Syria has gone from bad to worse. Civilians are being driven out of their communities. Staying behind means they are at risk of becoming collateral damage.

Russia’s Human Interest in Syria


According to a new report released this week, it appears that the import of foreign weapons to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad increased dramatically in recent years, just before the revolution began in Syria. Compared to the previous five years, the shipments of foreign arms were much higher, and most of them came from Russia. The report, prepared by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) show some impressive numbers as to what the state of military weapons appeared to be.

Since the revolution started last year, an estimated 9,000 people died so far, most of them civilians, including many children. The SIPRI reports comes just as the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, was travelling to Moscow in order to meet with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to help negotiate with the Syrian government so that aid could be brought in the most affected regions of the country. Mr Kellenberger said that the humanitarian situation in the country was most likely to get worse.

Meanwhile the report itself found that Syria’s most important weapons import went up 580% between 2006 and 2011. Their most important seller was Russia with 78% of the arms provided to the regime. These Russian weapons included surface to air missiles, coastal defense missiles, and other small arms. Moscow acknowledged in the past selling arms to Assad, despite a UN arms embargo proposal. How many weapons were delivered however remained unclear.

In a speech to Russia’s parliament last week, Mr. Lavrov claimed that the weapons sent to Rysia were for external threats only, and had not been used against civilians or demonstrators. However, many humanitarian organizations such as Human Rights Watch believe otherwise. For example, Russian-made mines were used extensively to block the traffic of people between Turkey and Lebanon, including many fleeing refugees. Nearly $1 billion worth of Russian missiles and airplanes were apparently sold to Syria in 2011 alone. These included some modern Mig planes along with weapons able to take down any invading aircraft.

Meanwhile, Russia is trying to keep its business relationship with the country intact, and has been supporting the Assad regime all this time, which prompted a lot of worldwide criticism. Moscow wants to prevent an outside intervention in Syria like the one that happened in Libya, where Nato countries used a UN resolution to support rebels against Muammar Gaddafi. Despite calling for Mr. Assad to step down, the western powers have been hesitant to provide arms to rebels, fearing an escalation of the war. The EU has banned arms exports to Syria last year.

Syria Violence Continues While World Has It’s Thumb Up It’s Ass

Syria has been plunged into a civil war for many months now, with the latest casualty report being 68 dead amongst the latest clashes in various flash points around the country. Mostly civilians died this time, as is often the case, as the Syrian army and the rebel fighters battle an endless struggle. Wady Barada, a small town near Damascus, was severely hit, with 35 of the deaths being there. Activists on the ground say the casualty report could mount to 200 for the previous 3 days but numbers could not be verified. A local coalition called the Local Co-ordination Committees monitors the uprising and reports those figures to the media. Meanwhile, the world powers on Tuesday appealed to the UN to do something, but there’s disagreements.

The US, England and France urged the UN Security Assembly on Tuesday to pass a tough resolution that would ask president Bashar al-Assad to stop the violence and hand over his power. Hillary Clinton spoke in behalf of the US to the UN council, saying “We all know that change is coming to Syria. Despite its ruthless tactics, the Assad regime’s reign of terror will end.” And it’s not just the western powers that called for Assad to resign. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, Qatar’s prime minister, spoke in the name of the Arab League and said that Syria’s president failed to make a sincere effort to end the violence, and instead keeps killing his own people. It’s rare to see so many people asking for a similar action, however the vote will likely not be quick. Russia is a long time ally of the Assad regime and trades weapons with Syria. A Russian deputy said that they prefer a political solution, and a text must be agreed upon by all the members. He said there would thus be no vote in the coming days. Russia also said the Security Council has no right to ask for a rule change in Syria.

The current draft resolution that so many UN members were hoping to vote on was introduced by the Arab League, and asks for a unity government through a transparent and free election. It also asks that there be no foreign military presence in Syria, like what happened in Libya. It also says that the Assad regime must ultimately hand over powers. Observers on the ground say that the chance for a peaceful resolution is practically nil, with the government relying more and more on violence to get its way. It’s difficult to know the total number of death in total, but France believes that number to be over 6,000 since the conflict began over 11 months ago. The UN Human Rights group said they had stopped counting since it had become so difficult to get information from the Syrian government.

Overall, with the UN resolution blocked, and violence on the ground at an all time high, it’s likely that the death toll will keep going up for the foreseeable future. Even if a resolution were passed, there’s no enforcement power, and no military intervention planned, which means Syria would keep going the way it currently is. There’s little hope for the civilians currently stuck in the war zone.

Putin’s Approval Rating Slipping

Although international observers have called the Russian election manipulated and a victim of ballet stuffing, the United Russia party, the governing party of the country, has seen a drop of 14% in voter approval. Vladimir Putin who is running in the parliamentary election leads the United Russia party. On Sunday’s election, the communists won by about a 20% lead. The socially democratic Just Russia party took 13% and the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic party followed with 12%.

Although the United Russia party is not likely to collapse in the near future, this is a step back for Putin and his party. If the United Russia party fails to reach a 7% threshold, he will still have around 53% control over the legislature’s seats. Over the last couple of elections, the United Russia party increased their percentage and held 70% of the seats during the last election. This gave them the power to change Russia’s constitution whenever they wanted. However, these days are over.

Putin still holds a 67% approval rating from Russians, but his ratings have been slipping. The highest that he has attained was 87% during December of 2007. This was the month of his last parliamentary election. His disapproval is rising though. It is estimated that about 1 out of 3 Russian disapprove of the way that he runs the government.

This disapproval has sprung over the falling of the oil boom. During the years of 2000-2008, Russian was given disposable income of 10% more than the previous year. Since the global financial crisis, Russia’s economy has suffered. One of the primary concern for Russians is overspending on government pensions and wage boosts for public sector jobs.

Although it is not official, Putin’s win in next March’s election is fairly certain. When he ran before -2000 and 2004- his approval ratings were at 79% and 81%. Even though these approval ratings have slipped for the moment, there is no telling how he will fair against his competitors.

Medvedev Does Jericho

They made their name – bought their reputation – killing Jews for sport. Then, with Stalin, they warmed our hearts with cute experimentation in cruel authoritarian government ala the figurative meeting of Cosimo De Medici I and Karl Marx. Threats to blow the West to smithereens underscored this nostalgic era.

After being single-handedly responsible for the formation of the largest, most dreadful Islamic terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, when they lost a war to Afghanistan; they greeted Iran’s Islamic Revolution with aiding that country to build its first nuclear reactor.

So what is Russia up to these days? Why, I’ll tell you what, after years of imprisoning their poverty-stricken Jews within the now-ruined walls of their fallen Soviet Union, they have decided to lead the world in the fight for Palestinian Statehood, along lines that defy the State of Israel.

Plus, the price of Kettle One, has just gone up! Bummer…

Dmitry Medvedev & Mahmoud AbbasDmitry Medvedev reaffirmed his recognition of a Palestinian state, saying Moscow has no reason to change the position adopted by the former Soviet Union when they first recognized an Arab State in Palestine under Arafat in 1988.

The Russian President went down to old Jericho last week and said:

“Russia’s position remains unchanged. Russia made its choice a long time ago…We supported and will support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem.”

Mahmoud Abbas thanked Medvedev and his country for being “one of the first states in the world to recognize the state of Palestine in 1988“.

An al Jazeera journalist realized:

“This surely has raised a lot of hopes and a lot of optimism among Palestinians that this kind of recognition would boost their efforts and might influence the upcoming quartet meeting in February…”

Next month, the Middle East Quartet of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and of course Russia will meet in Munich to shock the peace process back to life.

Medvedev also said:

“We discussed the possible prospects of resuming the dialogue…In order to do that, we need to express maximum moderation. This in the first place relates to the freezing of settlements…”

On top of the political significance of Medvedev’s visit, at least three agreements were signed between Abbas and Medvedev; and $30m was allocated to media, agriculture and sports in the region, promising much more Russian involvement in Palestine’s “nation-building.”

Missiles, Worms and Space Creatures

According to Iran’s defense minister, the Revolutionary Guard has received its first batch of brand new missiles, featuring enhanced guidance systems to hit ground targets.

Developed by Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization and successfully test-fired last month, General Ahmad Vahidi says the Defense Ministry supplied the guard with the upgraded surface-to-surface Fateh-100 missile. Previous versions of the missiles had ranges of up to 120 miles or 193 kilometers. The specifications on the new Fateh-100’s are still up for speculation.

Mahmoud AhmadinejadWhile rumors have surfaced that Ahmadinejad is considering ending the country’s uranium enrichment, a complex computer worm has affected the personal computers of the staff at that country’s first-ever nuclear power plant, just weeks before the facility is to go online.

Named Stuxnet, the computer worm can do serious damage to systems which control the inner workings of industrial plants.

Let’s Make a Deal

On a semi-related note, Moscow and Jerusalem signed a military cooperation agreement – actually the first of its kind – in early September, during a visit by Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. Israel is to sell the not-always-trusted and not-always-rational, builder of the Iranian Nuclear Power Plant, Russia, 36 UAV’s at a price of just $100 million.

Is $100 million worth Russia’s Iranian cooperation and human-rights violations in Georgia? Well how about a $300 million joint-venture to manufacture Israel drones in that country?

Hang on Ehud Barak!

Yes, the rumors are true. Russia will continue to supply Syria with advanced P800 sea-to-surface cruise missiles. These are the most advanced of their kind in the world! Will they be transferred to Hezbollah? Most signs point to yes.

The Russians, however, won’t deliver S-300 surface-to-air missile defense systems to Iran. Apparently that would be taking things one step too far.
Ahmad Vahidi said this on Iranian state-run TV:

“We think Russia should show it has an independent stance in choosing its relations with other countries as well as on international issues…”

The S-300, capable of shooting down aircraft and missiles at ranges over 144 kilometers and altitudes of 27,342 meters, would have been helpful to the Islamic Republic in combating an attack by Israel.

Meanwhile, last Tuesday, Italian authorities seized seven tons of explosives at a shipping container port in Gioia Tauro, Calabria. The shipment, sent from Iran, headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, was being transported by a Swiss-Italian shipping company to Syria.

What’s Happening at the United Nations

The UN is appointing a Malaysian Astro-physicist to head the Office of Space, to welcome extra-terrestrial visitors to the planet.

She is expected to explain that the recent discovery of hundreds of stars have made the possibility of the discovery of alien life more likely than before and that the United Nations should be ready for the chance of “initial contact.”

Russia Refuses to Comply with Chabad

Despite a lawsuit by the Chassidic movement, Russia will not turn over a library of Chabad-Lubavitch documents to the group’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York City; and a U.S. district judge has upheld the Russian’s plea.

Rebbe FrierdigerThe library, collected since 1772 and comprising over 12,000 volumes and 381 manuscripts was originally seized by the Red Army in Nazi Germany as war loot. The Foreign Ministry of the former center of the Soviet Union said that the ruling – that is to hand over the documents to the United States was a “rude violation” of international law. The ruling claimed that because the Rebbe, Joseph Isaac Scheersohn, who was forced in 1927 to leave Russia, had no heirs, that the library was nationalized.

The Russian ministry claims that the library is available for scientific study and worship. Spokesmen of Chabad-Lubavitch in Brooklyn fear that some of the manuscripts in the library could be for sale on the black market.

Another possibility for the future of the library, one which was not mentioned in the proceedings, would be to hand over the manuscripts to the Israeli government since it is the National body of the Jewish people.
For towns such as Kfar Chabad (founded in 1948), Nachalat Har Chabad (founded in 1969) and Kiryat Chabad (founded in 1979), Israel has become a welcome homeland for the Chassidic Movement.

American district Judge Royce Lamberth said the plaintiffs can sue to recover more than 25,000 pages of manuscripts and letters, which properly belong to the Scheersohns. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2004 in California against the Russian Ministry of Culture, the Russian State Library and the Russian State Military Archive.
All of the documents were originally taken to Latvia and then Poland after the Rebbe left Russia in 1927. The Russians seized the library after the outbreak of the Second World War when the Rebbe left for Brooklyn. Since then, they have been filed in a Russian Military Archive.

Russia Steps In

President MedvedevPresident of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev has urged the United States to actively work to achieve peace in the Middle East – citing the “human tragedy in Gaza”.
The comment apparently indicates Moscow’s willingness to become an active Middle East mediator. Are they wanted? Last week, during a visit to Syria, Medvedev said that the Israeli-Arab tension threatens to draw the Middle East into a “new catastrophe”.

Bibi, despite insider allegations of the contrary, claims that he does not “intend to halt construction of Jewish housing in east Jerusalem”. The Palestinians, of course, accuse the Jewish Country of undermining trust and urge Obama, who supports establishing an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, to intervene.

Medvedev claims that no one should be excluded from the peace process, clearly referencing Khaled Mashaal, the exiled leader of Hamas – shunned as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union nations – and rightly so. Medvedev did urge Mashaal to free Gilad Shalit, according to Kremlin spokeswoman, Natalia Timakova, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

At the meeting in Damascus with Syrian counterpart, Bashar Assad, the two presidents agreed on the affirmation of Iran’s right to develop a nuclear energy program.

From Russia With Love

Gee-Wiz – what’s happening in Russia these days? Corruption, lies, murder, and it all seems to get suspiciously brushed under the carpet away from the public eye – it is really beginning to look like the last days of the Soviet empire.
Sergey Magnitsky was mysteriously laid to rest on Monday November 24th in a pre-detention center in Moscow. The 37-year-old lawyer was a key witness in a fierce battle of alleged tax fraud between the Russian government and Hermitage Capital Management – once the country’s top investment fund.

From Russia with LoveLast November a case was filed by the government against the company’s co-founder William Browder. Browder had accused Russian officials of using Hermitage and like companies to fake tax refunds, there by duping Russian taxpayers out of millions.

The young Magnitsky was arrested in connection to his involvement with Hermitage Capital Management. He was being kept for the better part of a year in Matrosskaya Tishina jail; and this is where it starts getting weird…

A 40-page affidavit sent to Russia’s general prosecutor Yuri Chaika explained that Magnitsky who suffered from acute pancreatitis, was denied numerous requests to see a doctor. The attorney’s eventual death was ascribed to a ruptured abdominal membrane. The affidavit went on to describe the unsanitary conditions of the prison. “At night you can hear them squeaking,” wrote

Magnitsky of the rats who ran up and down the halls of the jail. He was held in a cramped 8.2 square meter cell with two others; and he claimed that he was starved during court outings. He was also refused the right to see his wife and two young children.

Sergey Magnitsky’s lawyer Dmitry Karitnov had called for a criminal investigation into the officials in charge of the pre-detention facility – but get this – he was shot down. Russia’s procurator said there would be no criminal investigation until a complete review of the death has been completed.

Now that the story is all over the media, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is calling for an investigation into Magnitsky’s death.

Browder who has been barred from Russia since 2005 because of similar matters, denies committing tax fraud. There is little chance that he could be extradited, but the Londoner was however put on the Interpol wanted list.

Africa Israel Can’t Pay its Debts

A second Israeli giant is on his way down. After Arkadi Gaydamak, the Russian billionaire, unceremoniously fled the country with his tail between his legs and renounced his Israel citizenship after a miserable failure of an attempt to run for mayor of Jerusalem by courting the Arab vote, Lev Leviev, another Russian billionaire and owner of Africa Israel, is suffering. The company lost over 1.3 billion shekels in the last quarter, and stock in his company has plummeted. He recently announced that the company will not be able to repay their debts starting in 2011. His biggest mistake? Investing in the US.

Leviev2009 debts are about 600 million, with 2010 being about one billion shekels, which they will be able to meet. After that, it all depends on where the global economy stands.

In big trouble from this crisis is Bank HaPoalim, which has significant investments in Leviev’s company, and if Africa Israel indeed can’t repay what they owe the bank, then the Israeli banking system could take quite a hit, as HaPoalim is the lead domino in what could be a continuous fall. Commission paid to banks in Israel is high as it is already, and HaPoalim has lost a lot of money in recent years. Just wait until Leviev’s drop comes around and then see what happens to bank fees. It’s not going to be pretty.

The encouraging news is that Israel is one of the first countries to officially exit the global recession, with economic growth small, but measured in the last quarter. Hopefully, it will be enough to offset this, and perhaps the giant can recover in time for the upswing. Until such is determined, it will be an interesting next few years. Is it ever not?

I wonder who the next Russian billionaire to get some stress will be. Leviev has admitted to flowing a billion shekels of his own money into the company to keep it afloat, and tells of working 20 hour days recently in a frantic frenzy to keep above water.

Russiafication

Israel is undergoing Russiafication says Lily Galili in HaAretz (this phrase only appears in the Hebrew version of the article).

What Lily means to say is that veteran Israelis increasingly share the immigrants’ negative views of the police. In other words, Russian immigrants are more suspicious of the police, and are more likely to feel persecuted by the police.

Two examples are fresh in memory. The first is Russian Knesset member Marina Solodkin who recently stood by a suspected child murderer, and seems to believe some conspiracy theories.

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) accused the authorities yesterday of taking advantage of a Ukrainian immigrant’s ignorance of Israeli law to “set him up” as the alleged murderer of 13-year-old Tair Rada from the Golan Heights.

The second example is the reason why Lily Galili wrote the aforementioned quote. Avigdor Lieberman, a Russian immigrant, and the leader of the “Yisrael Beytenu” (Israel is Our Home) party, is once again being harassed by the police in connection with some serious corruption allegations. The irony is that the more involved Lieberman becomes with police investigations, the more support he receives from the Israeli-Russian public.

Personally, I agree. This might not be a politically correct statement, but Israel is definitely undergoing Russiafication — Whatever that means, and however you choose to interpret this statement.

In the past 20 years, more than a million immigrants have arrived in Israel from Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Along with their luggage, the Russian immigrants brought with them a unique blend of political and social impressions. Most of them have aligned with the far-right of the political map, and ultimately, have irrefutably transformed our national discourse to what it is today.

On the bright side, the racist hostility towards Russians that had used to characterise veteran Israelis throughout the 90’s have mostly dissipated by now. However, nowadays many veteran Israelis are eagerly adopting the Russian hostility towards the Arab-Israeli population.

Therefore it is of no surprise that Ehud Barak now seeks to reseble Russian president Vladimir Putin in an attempt to lure the Russian electorate. In a new broadcast ad, when referring to Arab terrorists, Barak turns specifically to the Russian public: Like you say in your circles, we need to wipe them while they’re on the toilet.

Do you find the ad racist? Is the attempt to market a brutal perspective the only chance to garner the Russian vote, or is it yet another stereotypical approach to politics?

Pure Escapism

This week, the Broadcasting Authority (who controls “Channal 1”) has chosen Achinoam Nini — known internationally as Noa — and Mira Awad to represent Israel in the upcoming 2009 Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, Russia.

Choosing an Arab / Jewish pair to represent Israel in these days of bitter conflict seems like pure escapism. Indeed, several Arab-Israeli artists have made a public appeal to Mira Awad, asking her not to take on the role of Israel’s “fig leaf” while atrocities are being committed in Gaza.

Personally, I think sending this pair can only do good to Jewish – Arab relations inside Israel. We need any glimpse of hope that could help us believe, still, that this land has a future — a viable future, for all its human inhabitants.

Noa & The palestinian singer Nabil Salameh performing together “Centro del Mundo” at Rome in 2002

How the Georgian conflict might affect Israel?

KremlinThe war in Georgia heightens the tension between Russia and the US, reminding many of us of the Cold War era. How this shift in the international arena might affect the state of Israel?

Well, first of all, there’s Iran. A growing involvement of American forces in Eastern Europe would make it virtually unable to open a new front in Iran. Furthermore, Russia’s backing is essential for any UN sanctions on Iran, and such backing is already quickly evaporating as the old tensions between the superpowers come to life again.

When faced with the pressure to choose sides, Israel will surely align itself with America. This could severely affect the large Russian population within Israel, which could become disgruntled and more alienated. In addition, Russia may make it more difficult for Jews in Russia to make Aliyah, which is a vital process in maintaining the delicate demographic balance in this country.

Finally, the prolongation of this conflict will have serious worldwide economic implications, especially on oil prices and on the American currency. Are we prepared to stand the tide?

Olmert’s Russian Quickie

Olmert and PutinIt seems that we writers can’t get enough about writing on Israeli political tête-à-têtes. And Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s “quickie” visit to see Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin last Thursday is just one of those episodes in Israel’s continuing problem with Iran’s ongoing nuclear program – and Russia’s latest involvement with the Iranian Republic. That this short, three hour visit, followed on the heels of Putin’s own state visit to see Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, must have sent alarm bells ringing in Jerusalem. Olmert, who barely had time for a quick dinner meeting with the Russian leader before flying back to Israel, must have expressed his country’s concern for Putin’s remarks that Iran (in Putin’s opinion) does not appear to have plans to build a nuclear weapon.

That “assurance” was not enough to satisfy Olmert who only last year, on October 18 2006 (see photo), spent a longer period in Moscow to warn Russia that Israel will not stand idly by and allow Iran to become a nuclear military power. Putin even made his own comments then that his country would not allow this to happen.

So, why Putin’s seemingly ambivalence to what appears to be a very serous situation regarding the Islamic Republic? Was it serious enough for Olmert to ‘commute’ to Moscow in the time that he would do to drive to Haifa in heavy traffic; and in addition, to make this quick trip known to the press? Indeed it was, as Russia seems to be charting its own foreign policy course, which is definitely one that favors its own self interest, and is bringing Russia into a confrontation position with the United States that hasn’t been around since the end of the Cold War. There are many reasons for the Kremlin’s friendliness with Teheran. For one thing, Russia’s foreign trade with Iran is considerably larger than its trade with Israel (except for possibly diamonds that is).

Besides agreeing to supply the Iranians with a lot of updated military hardware, including several types of missile systems, Russia has also agreed to help Iran with its nuclear reactors, which are supposed to be for the manufacture of electricity and other “peaceful purposes”. What isn’t being divulged is to what extent Putin is actually committing his country to helping Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Ali Kahmanei, the chief reigning Mullah, to complete Iran’s nuclear facilities and have them “on-line” as soon as possible.

Olmert warned the Kremlin last year that Israel would do what it has to do to prevent Iran from reaching the “point of no return” regarding Iranian reactors producing weapons grade enriched uranium and plutonium. That “point” is apparently nearer than most of us would like to believe, and this has prompted Olmert to pop in to see Putin at what apparently was a “spur of the moment” arranged visit (something like out of an “Ice Station Zebra” or “Fail Safe” movie scenario, perhaps?).

More on this visit will undoubtedly be divulged, as what exactly Olmert did discuss with Mr. Putin is still classified information – and rightfully so. Too much detail of these kind of events often get leaked out and the consequences are not helpful to any of us, especially here in Israel.

Most of us living in this country, myself in particular, would like to go bed at night without wondering what might be store for us – and perhaps sooner than we think!

Putin The Dictator

Vladimir Putin
This idea of a “managed democracy” in Russia reeks of a one man dictatorship and old fashioned soviet corruption. Looks like Putin found the formula for staying an iron fist dictator while enjoying the status of an International member of the Western political arena. Showing us all that nothing changes after all. With a history of murder, corruption and abuse we now see that Russia is enjoying more of the same.

Anna PolitkovskayaAnna Politkovskaya’s assassination October 7th was an obvious Red flag. Despite the brutal contract killing, the video tape of the killer and the lame attempts by Russian authorities in solving the crime (surprise, surprise) – no leads were found. Imagine for a second this happened today in a Western country. A leading civil rights, established journalist is gunned down outside her apartment building and no one is held accountable.

On Saturday, Movladi Baisarov, a man described by every news publication on the planet as “former head of Chechnya’s shadowy security forces”, was shot outside his apartment block in Moscow. The Russian authorities claimed that he was killed while resisting arrest and after he attempted to detonate a hand grenade. Local reports claim that Baisarov, a leading critic and rival of Ramzan Kadyrov, the 30 year old Chechen Prime Minister backed by Kremlin, was riddled with bullets fired by the Chechen special forces and Russian intelligence officers (FSB) who had ambushed him. The same Kadyrov is also linked to the murder of the journalist.

And now, Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident mysteriously poisoned in London early this month is now in hospital under armed guard. I am sure that Russian authorities are going to blame some bad sushi for that one.

The Federal Security Bureau (FSB) is being used by Siloviki, a faction in the Kremlin made up of ex KGB officers, who are now more powerful then ever. These members are now holding top positions in the energy sector that is being again taken over by the government. The FSB has received a fivefold increase in “intelligence” funding in the past 6 years, all courtesy of the Russian President Vladimir Putin – A KGB alumnus.

And the people? They are shit scared. And Putin? He will need to step down in 2008 but until then – hey the sky’s the limit !

Hat Tip: The Age

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