In my last post about the Law on the Police, I dedicated a section to Aleksandr Khinshtein, whose opposition to the legislation I characterized as phony and predicated on bad blood dating back eleven years to a bizarre run-in with the MVD involving a traffic violation. A very knowledgable friend immediately wrote me to explain that Khinshtein’s relationship with the MVD is a lot more complicated than that. Thoroughly shamed, I’ve done some reading up on Mr. Khinshtein, and I offer the following text as a corrective on my previous representation of the man.
In 1999 and 2000, when Khinshtein was catching heat from the police, he was working at Moskovskii Komsomolets as a muckraking journalist. It was around this time that he targeted Vladimir Rushailo (Minister of Internal Affairs from May 1999 until March 2001) and a number of MVD senior staff in a series of exposés about corruption and criminal activity inside the police. For example, in an article from May 2000, Khinshtein told the story of Eduard Budantsev, an officer in the MVD’s organized crime unit who foolishly authored a report implicating Rushailo and his “righthand man” Aleksandr Orlov in accepting bribes, using police resources for commercial activities, and serving the private interests of various oligarchs (namely, Boris Berezovsky). Neither Orlov nor Rushailo were brought up on charges, whereas Budantsev was demoted and threatened with criminal prosecution himself. Continue reading ‘A Bit More About Aleksandr Khinshtein’ »
It’s been just over one year since I started ‘A Good Treaty.’ In the last twelve months, plenty has changed for me personally: my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world, I finished working in Washington, DC, and my whole family and I moved to Middletown, Connecticut. Very recently, I added my name to the blog, having decided that AGT was old and matured enough to deserve an accountable author.
Federal legislation 446526-5, better known as “The Law on the Police,” is now sitting on President Medvedev’s desk, approved by both houses of the Russian legislature. When he signs it in the next few days, the law will take effect March 1, 2011, closing another chapter in Russia’s re-embrace of bourgeoise aesthetics, finally killing off the Bolshevik-named “militsiia.” Champions of the legislation, like United Russia Duma Deputy Vladimir Kolesnikov, have compared it to serf emancipation and the Stolypin Reforms. The law’s opponents sometimes downplay it as nothing more than a change of two letters (from militsiia to politsiia), and other times denounce it as the Ministry of Internal Affairs’ victory over the interests of the Russian people.
The Law on the Police made headlines last Fall, when a government website went online hosting the entire text of the draft legislation, inviting random citizens to post their raw feedback. When this process ended, the President’s office then spent another couple of weeks revising and rewording various sections of the law. In late October 2010, the bill was submitted to the Duma, where it entered committee for yet another round of discussion and rewriting. Deputies would next offer more than 600 revisions — 398 were rejected by the committee, 144 were accepted, and the rest were returned to their authors for more work and later abandoned.
The structure of this post will be as follows:
A review of the most significant changes to the legislation’s original language. This involves summarizing the seven key revisions made to curtail the authority of the police, and the nine key revisions made to expand the authority of the police. There could very well be important changes that I’m missing here, but I’ve done my best to capture the most. (This does not cover expansions or contractions of police powers that were included in the law’s original language and left unchanged by the final draft.)
A review of the twenty-six rejected revisions submitted by a coalition of Duma opposition members, plus two United Russia deputies. (This group also authored 17 revisions that were accepted, but I won’t be covering them here.)
Background on the opposition’s revisions, focusing mainly on Aleksandr Khinshtein and Andrei Makarov, two United Russia deputies who played important but different roles. Continue reading ‘The Law on the Police’ »
Yours truly recently answered some questions from Kim Zigfeld, the hivemind behind “the best Russia politics bloggers in the world,” otherwise known as La Russophobe. For those who don’t remember, Zigfeld’s blog called me an “idiotic, lying jackass” in August 2010. While Zigfeld gives every indication that she still thinks I deserve this honorific, it was fun all the same to receive her interview questions (despite their outraged, accusatory tone).
Lots of stuff going on here.
Here’s a taste of what I was asked:
Is it just a coincidence that your report about Navalny appeared online at almost the same time as a massive DDOS attack on his website? Did you report on that attack (and the simultaneous attacks on Live Journal and Novaya Gazeta)?
Oleg Kashin recently received a brutal head trauma and nearly died as a result, in an attack many believe was made by Kremlin operatives to silence his opposition journalism. Russia also has a long history of misusing psychiatric hospitals for political purposes. In light of that, do you think your attack on Kashin might have been inappropriate, or at least in bad taste?
Do you ever communicate with any Russian government officials or operatives? Do you receive any funding (including such things as free trips, meals, etc.) from any source connected in any way with the Russian state?
Aside from this amusing conspiracy stuff, Zigfeld’s questions focused mainly on past AGT posts about New START, Oleg Kashin, and Aleksei Navalny. She added a very unflattering introduction before the text of the actual interview, where I’m accused of being a “cold-blooded” reptile, guilty of “vile acts” such as “undermining American values.”
For my responses and the full text of the interview, please visit this link.
In collaboration with Anatoly Karlin at Sublime Oblivion, we have created three tables listing the biggest players in the “Kremlin clans” according to Vladimir Pribylovsky’s recent book ВЛАСТЬ-2010: 60 биографий (Power in 2010: 60 biographies). (See Karlin’s comments and his original translation of the book’s introduction). The biggest update has been the replacement of Sergey Bogdanchikov by Eduard Khudaynatov as President of Rosneft.
The youngest one in curls.
We hope that it will be of use to all Russia watchers, amateur and expert alike.
Channel Five snuggles a little closer to Channel One.
In a Novaya Gazeta article published January 12, 2011, Liliia Shevtsova argued that Russian authorities rely on three columns of support to maintain their existence: nationalism, internationalism, and systemic liberalism. Her diagnosis is that nationalism is coming into its own and gaining spontaneity, not to mention coming into friction with international cooperation efforts (like the US-Russian Reset and improved Russia-NATO relations). Systemic liberalism is “staggering” and growing tired, Shevtsova says. This, she explains, is very dangerous because the facade of an empowered liberal movement is necessary for Russia’s elite to enjoy an integrated life with the West:
“Only imitated liberalism can provide the upper class [klass rant'e] with the chance to integrate into Western society.”
Last week, that imitation got a little weaker when Channel 5 canceled three talk shows that were all hosted by fairly high-profile liberal journalists: Svetlana Sorokina’s “Programma Peredach,” Nikolai Svanidze’s “Sud Vremeni,” and Dmitri Bykov’s “Kartina Maslom.” Each of these shows lasted roughly a year, the beginning and end of which were both marked by management changes at Channel 5. Continue reading ‘Channels One & Five: A Love Story’ »
I recently read a very interesting interview with the always-provocative Maskim Kononenko, an insanely active Russian LJ blogger, journalist, and creator of the wildly funny vladimir.vladimirovich.ru short stories saga. The original text of this “Russkii Zhurnal” interview can be found here, and my translation appears below.
One thing I’ll note about Kononenko’s comments is that he seems to overlook the fact that Aleksei Naval’nyi’s history does involve extensive collaboration with the liberal democrat “traditional opposition.” (I’ve written about this before here.) Evgeniia Chirikova seemed like someone who might build bridges between the opposition and the authorities, but one wonders if this is still possible (or even something she still desires) after the highway through Khimki forest received the green light from the Kremlin, despite a temporary halt to the construction and a dashed effort to consult civil society. Furthermore, Naval’nyi is not at all shy about promoting Vladimir Milov’s political party (DemVybora), though Kononenko argues that people like Milov are yesterday’s news.
This leads one to suspect that Kononenko’s categories (“old” vs. “new”) are somewhat artificial, and that the “traditional” roots of the Russian opposition are perhaps wider-reaching than he wishes to admit.
Egor Sviridov, the man whose death launched a thousand angry Russians
Since early December, reporters and commentators have eagerly taken up the issue of nationalism in Russia, following a series of marches and demonstrations by groups of grieving sports fans (which quickly attracted far-right political extremists). Several unsanctioned, increasingly violent rallies sparked a massive public debate about racism, internal immigration, migrant workers, and the Kremlin’s approach to intimidating and manipulating Russia’s civil society. For the media, this was an opportunity to circulate photographs of Russian muzhiki fighting with riot police and pouncing on innocent darker-skinned passersby. Vladimir Putin and Vladislav Surkov sweetened the deal by lashing out at liberal democrats, ludicrously suggesting that they’d popularized unsanctioned protests. This allowed journalists to recycle the standard tropes about Putin’s authoritarian rule, leading to all the requisite theories about who enabled the riots, how they play into the 2012 tandem-tension, and so on. This is a necessary, important conversation to have (and indeed I’ll examine some tie-ins below), but — as our focus drifts onward into the future — the small matter of what started all this madness grows more and more forgotten. That boring detail is the story of Egor Sviridov and his killer Aslan Cherkesov. Continue reading ‘The Murder of Egor Sviridov’ »