Archives for September 2013

Translation: Evgeniya Khasis on Tolokonnikova’s Prison Letter

A letter from Yevgenia Khasis, a nationalist and convicted accomplice to murder, and fellow colony inmate of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, published in Komsomolskaya Pravda, 28 September 2013.

Evgeniya Khasis’ Letter: Tolokno’s Passions

I met Nadezhda about a year ago when she arrived at the colony to serve the sentence handed down to her by the court. Despite the differences between our ideological views, I wanted to become acquainted, and there were reasons for my doing so. Firstly, it is difficult to find a person here who is familiar with the socio-political conditions of our society, and even more so with its features in terms of “sovereign democracy”. I have long been isolated from this activity, and it was interesting to hear the news, to hear an opinion, including the opinion of someone with left-liberal views. Secondly, it was interesting to delve into the specifics and methods of the opposition struggle. It was interesting to hear the motives and the goals of the so-called punk prayer that had rocked the entire country. But not only did I have questions to put to her: I for my part was not against her satisfying her curiosity about me, believing that she and her sympathizers had every right to do so.

Living in different prison sections, we used to meet in the convict recreation areas – in the library or in the convicts’ “club”. I invited her into the temple with the rights of an assistant bell-ringer. I shan’t forget how our conversation followed the regular channel of intelligent small talk and debate. In those matters where we could not reach agreement, we agreed on our own default position, each remaining convinced of her point of view. Knowing of the women prisoners’ attitude towards her through the way they gossiped and gossiped about her, and after reading the news reports, where there were details of that moment that had moved her away from perverted pornographic “events” and had turned her into a “star” because of a “punk prayer” in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, I asked Nadia in a comradely fashion whether she had had conflicts within her prison team. I was truly worried that the public hostility and condemnation of her would spill over into the prison colony and that there would be tension between her and the prisoners. However, Nadezhda assured me that she was doing well, that there was no conflict and that she felt that there were was nothing negative in the way she was being treated by any of the prisoners or by the administration.

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What is Ukraine’s Game Plan?

Even a few months ago, it looked as if Ukraine had taken a significant step towards Eurasian integration by signing up as an observer to the Customs Union between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. However, in the past month, evidence is emerging that it was but a temporary ploy to appease Russia while in reality speeding up the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the European Union. This is scheduled to be signed in Vilnius late this November.

The Ukrainians say that that does not preclude further integration within the framework of the Customs Union. However, it is difficult to see how it could simultaneously have free trade with Europe while simultaneously being a part of strategic protectionist bloc. Although it is entirely possible that in the Customs Union will eventually be gradually merged with and into the European economic area – Putin himself has hinted as much – any such scenario will likely be decades in the making.

Putting aside for the moment geopolitical (Atlanticism vs. Eurasianism) and cultural (European civilization vs. Orthodox-Slavic brotherhood) considerations for the moment – which have been overdiscussed anyway both on this blog and Leos Tomicek’s and many others, with the result that there is now little left to add – I would like to frame the debate in economic terms.

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Translation: Vadim Gorshenin – “McCain Looked for a Kremlin Mouthpiece”

In response to Putin’s (in)famous NYT op-ed, McCain told CNN he’d love to reciprocate on Pravda. He was probably surprised when they agreed to it – but he may not have gotten quite what he expected, according to Pravda.ru’s chief Vadim Gorshenin.

“McCain Looked for a Kremlin Mouthpiece, and was not Mistaken”

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Pravda.ru Internet-media holding Vadim Gorshenin on why the American Senator published his article on his site, and not in the “Soviet newspaper.”

On Thursday, the site Pravda.ru published an article by Senator John McCain, in which he replied to Russian President Putin’s publication in The New York Times. Initially, McCain promised to publish an article in Pravda, but he later changed his mind. The Chairman of the Board of Directors of Pravda.ru Vadim Gorshenin sat down with an Izvestia correspondent to tell us how it all happened.

Mikhail Rubin: Who suggested you publish McCain’s article, and when?

Vadim Gorshenin: It was a Foreign Policy journalist, he reads us and even writes lots of nasty things about us. When he heard McCain on CNN saying that he wanted to speak out at the Pravda newspaper, he wrote the following to the editor of our English-language version Dmitry Sudakov: “Could you refute the idea that you have no freedom of speech, and publish McCain’s text?” He replied that yes, of course he could. After this, the American journalist contacted McCain’s press secretary, who said that they’d follow through with all this. And it all ended up just as Mikhail Dvorkovich wrote on Twitter – the very fact of publication proves that everything that McCain wrote is a lie. If all the Russian media is controlled by the Kremlin, then how could such an article have appeared on what everyone calls a pro-Kremlin site?

MK: Did they understand, that Pravda.ru and the newspaper Pravda are two different publications?

VG: Yes, of course they understood. There have even been articles in the American MSM that analyzed the nature of the newspaper Pravda today. When this entire scandal flared up and Zyuganov got the impression that McCain was going to write something for his newspaper, McCain’s aides asked us whether we were somehow associated with the newspaper Pravda.

MK: Well, are you?

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Translation: Ukraine and Its Monsters

Regnum reports on statements made by Ukraine’s President, Victor Yanukovych, in which he visualizes Ukraine becoming a link between the East and the West as a result of an impending trade deal with the European Union.

Yanukovych: Russia and the EU are giant monsters “and we feel it every day”

Victor Yanukovych, the President of Ukraine, calls the European Union and Russia “monsters”, stating that Kiev will never compare the processes of integration in these areas.  The head of the government stated this during the tenth Yalta Annual Meeting today, September 20th, reports Regnum IA.

“I would say that Ukraine is located between two big monsters, the European Union and Russia. And we feel it every day.  We cannot ignore or take this situation lightly, therefore, I am very thankful to our partners from the EU and Russia for their understanding of this issue.  That is why we did not want, do not want, and never will compare processes of integration of the West to the East.  We want to unify them…and Ukraine is confidently going on this path through modernization, through the creation of conditions for the administration of business and the removal of those barriers that are present in questions of trade. So that this process more closely unites us all and so that we would actually create a common economic space from Vancouver to Vladivostok” said the head of government.

At the same time, in Yanukovych’s words, the effectiveness of Ukraine’s cooperation with the European Union depends on how much success there is in building filial relations.  “I would like to wish all of us together the assured construction of a Big Europe.  Ukraine will play its part.  However, a lot will depend on how well these filial relations will work.  We expect that they will be effective”, he said.

A Meeting with Hank Pellissier

This Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting up with Hank Pellissier, who used to work for the IEET, a futurist/transhumanist institute, and is now a blogger-journalist and amateur researcher at the Brighter Brains blog.

2013-09-15 16-59-15 - meeting with Hank Pellissier

As one may glean from the title of that blog, his current area of major interest lies in IQ and how you can bolster (or deflate) it. His most recent book is 225 Ways to Elevate or Injure IQ, the product of four years of research consisting of trawling through and summarizing the existing academic literature on the topic. In the meetup, he expounded upon his work.

Much of it was commonsense, or otherwise of no surprise to people who take an active interest in the topic. Some it was also of doubtful validity, with correlations not always being substantiated by a solid case for causation. But some of it was also new, counter-intuitive, even surprising. Certainly all this material is well worth publicizing and pushing into the public debate because quite apart from the intrinsic individual benefits of higher IQ’s it also leads to more efficient economies, higher technological growth, lower crime rates, etc.

Here is a list of most of these 225 IQ factors from Pellisier’s website. Below is a rough classification and brief discussion of some of the most important and interesting points from his research.

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Translation: Putin Victorious

Expert explains how the recent developments regarding Russia’s proposed resolution to the Syrian Civil War represent major victories for Vladimir Putin and his nation.

Putin’s Five Victories

The plan for the resolution of the Syrian crisis, proposed by Russia, is swiftly becoming more concrete. Already this past Friday, when Russian-American consultations in Geneva were still ongoing, Syria began a full participant of the Convention on the Ban of Chemical Weapons, having signed the corresponding document. A government letter addressed to the General Secretary of the UN Ban Ki Moon states: “The Syrian Arabian Republic confirms that it pledges to follow the regulations of the Convention until they officially come into force on its territory.”

Russia’s transition from a defensive position to a diplomatic offensive turned out to be unexpected and very effective. Arriving at the limits of its tactic of blockage of possible Western aggressive activities against Syria, and understanding that Barack Obama, contrary to his unwillingness, was deciding on a military operation, Moscow suggested a satisfying way-out for everyone (perhaps, except militants and their sponsors). During the course of a week a diplomatic victory was accomplished, which has no analogues in post-Soviet history.

In the first place, Russia conclusively demonstrated that its position regarding international questions is constructive. It also demonstrated that its traditional noncompliance in matters of the use of force in international affairs is not a desire to put a spoke in the wheel of the USA and its allies at any cost, but a fundamental desire to search for political solutions. The symbol of this constructiveness of Russian politics was an unprecedented letter from Pope Francis to President Vladimir Putin, written even before the initiative of Syrian renunciation of chemical weapons, in which the pontiff urged to focus on the search for a peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict.

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Translation: Hurrah for the Bourgeois Candidate!

In Komsomolskaya Pravda, Andrei Ryabtsev notes a close correlation between average housing prices and Navalny’s vote share in Moscow’s districts – and tries to find out why that might be the case.

Why did they vote for Navalny in the centre, and for Sobyanin in the dormitory suburbs?

The election results for Moscow’s mayor have at the same time given rise to some inquiring social-research: Where were all the protest votes concentrated?

The Moscow Election Commission has some very significant figures. It turns out that Navalny was the candidate of the respectable centre, of the prestigious Leningrad District and not of the downmarket Southwest; Sobyanin was the choice of the dormitory areas. Take, for example, the Central Administrative District. In the Arbat Precinct: for Navalny – 35.63 %; for Sobyanin – 43.53 %. Or take Basmanny: 36.1 % – for Navalny , 41.56 % – for Sobyanin. And Zamoskvorech’e: 35.41 % – for Navalny; 42.13 % – for Sobyanin. It was almost the same thing at Meshchansky, Presnensky, Tversky, Yakimanka…

However, let’s just move a little in an easterly direction, to Lefortovo, and – oop-la! It’s 51.58 % for Sobyanin, and for Navalny – 26.9%. No mention of a second round taking place there. And then we have Sokolniki, where on the eve of the election Navalny attracted perhaps the biggest mass meeting of voters: for Sobyanin – 44.06 %; for Navalny – 30.68%. It was about the same in Kuntsevo, Krylatsky, and Dorogomilovo.

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Were the 2013 Moscow Elections falsified?

1. The CEC results

Here they are. The turnout was 32%.

  • Sergey Sobyanin – 51.37%
  • Alexei Navalny – 27.24%
  • Ivan Melnikov – 10.69%
  • Sergey Mitrokhin – 3.51%
  • Mikhail Degtyaryov – 2.86%
  • Nikolai Levichev – 2.79%
  • Invalid ballots – 1.53%

2. Pre-elections opinion polls:

Navalny’s support – among those who indicated a clear preference for one candidate or another – rose from the single digits in June to around 20% on the eve of the elections (Levada, VCIOM, FOM, Synovate Comcon). All the polls – even including the SuperJob poll that only queried active workers, aka excluded pro-Sobyanin pensioners – gave Sobyanin more than 50% in the first round.

His actual result massively exceeded expectations. By common consensus, this was because the “party of the couch” won; although close to 50% of Muscovites were saying they were going to vote, only 32% ended up doing so. These were mainly Sobyanin supporters who were, nonetheless, loth to shift their butts to vote for an uninspiring if competent technocrat who had ran a most lacklustre campaign.

3. Election observers

In the SMS-ЦИК program, accredited election observers would send text messages from their polling stations with numbers from the protocols at their precinct. They could then be compared with the official CEC numbers.

And Sobyanin’s result here was 49.52%.

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Translation: The G20 and the Ghosts of Progress

In this op-ed piece posted on Lenta, Anton Klyuchkin analyzes the effects of recent Kremlin decisions, admonishing their results for pushing the country away from the West.  Looking past the rhetoric, however, a better picture of the retaliatory nature of Russian-American relations comes into view, one in which both sides seem determined to antagonize the other.

Ghosts of Progress

Russia used the G20 Summit for another quarrel with the USA

The G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, opening on the 5th of September, positions itself as a platform for the discussion of economic questions.  But world leaders are going to Russia to discuss, in the first place, the situation in Syria.  The Russian side, which organizes the summit, has already set the tone for the meeting, falling upon the United States with another portion of criticism and having refused itself, thus, the right to act simultaneously as peacekeeper and as an equitable partner in dialogue with Washington.

On the eve of the meetings with colleagues in Petersburg, Vladimir Putin, the host of the summit, gave an extensive interview to Russian Channel 1 and the American agency AP, having declared that Russia can support a military operation in Syria, the authorization on which Obama is seeking from the United States Congress.   The Russian leader, however, specified that Moscow can take such a step only if the UN Security Council receives proof that the forces of Bashar Assad employed chemical weapons against the civilian population, and sanctions intervention.  This step of the Russian leader towards his counterpart, who has already lost hope for constructive dialogue with Moscow, has turned out to be, however, a step back: Obama has repeatedly spoken about his decision to lead a military operation without regard to the UN Security Council.  Moscow is trying to prevent such a scenario at all costs.

During the interview, Putin expressed his desire to meet with the American president at the G20 Summit.  However, it is hard to say whether the leaders of Russia and America will be able to discuss their divisions regarding the situation in Syria (as well as other irregularities in bilateral relations) during the summit in Petersburg.  The fact of the matter is that a bilateral meeting was not officially planned out, as both sides were preparing negotiations between Obama and Putin in Moscow.   At the beginning of August however, soon after Russia granted provisional asylum to the former American intelligence employee Eduard Snowden, Washington cancelled the meeting, citing insufficient progress in the relations of both countries.

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Translation: The Caucasus Situation

In this article by Alexey Stepanov from Komsomolskaya Pravda, recent events and continued concern over the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi demonstrate that terrorism still afflicts Russian territory

Putin: Several Countries Are Deliberately Destabilizing the Situation in the Northern Caucasus

The President of the Russian Federation urged to “more roughly stop such attempts and to always give an appropriate response.”

At an enlarged meeting of Russia’s Security Council, the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin stated that several countries and international organizations are still interested in the destabilization of the situation in the Northern Caucuses.

“We are facing the destructive, anti-Russian activity of a number of foreign countries and non-governmental and international organizations under their control, who still consider the Northern Caucasus as a base for the destabilization of Russia as a whole” said Putin, as quoted by the BBC.

In connection with this, Putin considers it necessary to “more roughly stop such attempts and to always give an appropriate response.”The head of the government also emphasized that the terrorist threat in the Northern Caucuses is holding out (still remains), now as before.

“In spite of the obvious positive progress, the state of affairs in the Northern Caucuses improves much too slowly.  The terrorist threat and challenges to security have not been removed once and for all”, Vladimir Putin declared, recalling, “the suppression and neutralization of terrorist and criminal threats are especially important in connection with the holding of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014.”

We remind you that on Monday, September 9th, at around 8 in the morning, a Russian diplomat in Abkhazia was shot and killed.

In Moscow on Sunday, September 8th, the 25 year old militant Sherali Kuratov, of the extremist organization “Mujahideen Jamaat al-Tawheed Val-Jihad”, was arrested with a grenade in his pocket.

On the eve of the holiday¹ in the capital, several attacks against members of Moscow’s police force occurred, which led to (ended up with) mass arrests of immigrants and members of criminal ethnic groups.  Moscow’s Central Office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs stressed that these raids in the struggle against illegal immigrants were not demonstrative and will be conducted regularly.

Translator notes

1.  The holiday in question is “Election Day”