Posts Tagged ‘corruption’
The Russian blogosphere is discussing the Nashi’s latest faux pas: The young Putin’s followers opened an installation at the Seliger Camp that presents a number of Russian and foreign individuals as wearing Nazi hats. Among the “nazists” is the highly respectable lifelong human rights activist and vocal critic of the Kremlin Lyudmila Alexeeva as well as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Boris Nemtsov etc. (some photos and a description in Russians are here).
It’s not surprising at all to see Nashi calling Kremlin’s opponents fascists. In fact, Nashi have been doing this ever since they themselves were compared to Hitlerjugend in April 2005 (for instance, I was an organizer of one such action). The best way to fight such accusations, they concluded, is to call oneself an Antifascist Movement. As a proverb says, attack is the best form of defense.
There is another problem that some bloggers point to. The Seliger Camp is not a Nashi’s own playground. Thanks to their leader Vasiliy Yakemenko’s position in the government they made it an official state-sponsored event. It means that taxpayers’ money have been spent on mocking and blackmouthing political opposition and human rights activists. One can wonder how it goes with the principles of pluralism and impartiality of the state embedded in the Russian Constitution. Others would just say that instead of wasting budget money on this propaganda crap, the government should have spent them on pensions or, say, repairing roads in the province.
I’m sitting in a cafe at Vienna Airport and have a few minutes for a short account of my visit to Washington DC. I was invited there to discuss the most recent Nations In Transit report by Freedom House. According to the report’s findings, Russia has experienced, unsurprisingly, the worst decline of democracy among all 29 post-Communist countries.
Before and after the discussion that took place at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, I and Vladimir Milov (a co-author of the famous Putin. The Outcome reports) met with US policymakers, human rights activists and journalists. We shared our views on the current state of affairs and dynamics of the Russian politics and suggested what can the West do to improve it. One of my ideas was to connect the possibility of US investments into Medvedev’s favourite project of Skolkovo with meeting by the Kremlin of certain conditions of rule of law, independence of the judiciary system and real fight against corruption. Both the Russian society and the American business would benefit from fulfilling fulfilling these conditions, and it would be very difficult to argue against them.
Some other ideas are connected with the positive effect that the US high-tech companies can bring about in Russia. Specifically, I’d name two things: a small one and a big one. The small one is introducing Russian-language interfaces and generally promoting in Russia services like Twitter or flickr. The language barrier is still there despite the two decades of globalization, and even renaming the “Tweet” button into “Чирикнуть” could help a lot. Having more international and independent from the government online services would make RuNet freer and more protected against possible abuse.
The big thing is about bringing more Internet, most importantly broadband, to Russian regions. The vast majority of regular Internet users in the country still reside in Moscow, St. Petersburg and some other big cities while mid-sized and small towns remain offline. Increasing penetration rate is very important to make the Internet an influential medium, in social and political sense. This task is certainly easier to put than to complete, though.
A few minutes after sharing some of these ideas at the State Department, we learned that 10 men were arrested in the US and accused of spying for Russia (fortunately, I am still at large). Looks like the honeymoon between the White House and the Kremlin is over.
An investment fund called Hermitage Capital Management accuse Russian police and tax authorities of participating in a fraud, which costed Russian taxpayers $230,000,000. According to their film, an organized group of high-ranking officers bribed judges and lawyers, faked documents and criminal cases to steal more than one billion US dollars from the fund (which didn’t work) and 4 billion roubles from the Russian budget. Trying to conceal the crime, corrupted officers fabricated cases against HCM itself. Yesterday, HCM CEO William Browder and legal adviser Sergey Magnitskiy were charged with tax evasion.
I don’t know the details of the case, so I can’t judge what is true in this movie and what is not. But the story is, unfortunately, very lifelike. No doubt, this could really happen in Russia.
Yevgeny Chichvarkin, one of the leaders of the Kremlin’s puppet party Right Cause and a businessman, reportedly “emigrated to an undisclosed country”, i.e. escaped from Russia. The reason for that was criminal prosecution of him as a former shareholder of EuroSet mobile phone retailer chain. Previous administrative measures have already “convinced” him to sell his shares (a widespread way of taking over someone else’s business in Russia) but his foes didn’t leave him alone.
The irony here is that Right Cause openly admits cooperation with Kremlin and claims to be a mediator between the enterpreneurs and the government. Their leaders repeatedly said that the authorities are willing to help Russian business but it’s mainly the non-conformist opposition that ruins it all. Now that they even failed to defend themselves against the siloviki, Chichvarkin will have to continue supporting the government from exile.