H/t AP for this beauty. It is for 2012.
[Click to enlarge].
It speaks for itself so comprehensively that I’m not sure it’s worth commenting further on my part here. Let’s leave that to the comments section.
H/t AP for this beauty. It is for 2012.
[Click to enlarge].
It speaks for itself so comprehensively that I’m not sure it’s worth commenting further on my part here. Let’s leave that to the comments section.
The main points to take away:
And now, a brief regional comparison:
Apart from that:
Come on people – let’s make it work. Stop spamming each other in email newsletters. Refrain from creating thousands of off-topic comments on blog posts that will get lost in the Internet’s recesses as soon as the next blog post comes along. Have your arguments and debates in a place and format – that is, the forum – that is specifically designed to host arguments and debates.
The Western narrative on the Navalny case is that it was a selective and political prosecution on trumped up charges. I think that to a significant (but NOT full) extent that this interpretation is basically correct.
So given the paucity of convincing counter-narratives, I was extremely pleased to see that Alexander Mercouris, a British lawyer who closely follows Russian affairs, make a comprehensive case for why the prosecution’s case was actually quite a solid one in Alexey Navalny - An Examination of His Trial and Conviction.
I strongly believe everyone should read it, even – especially – those who are strong Navalny supporters and convinced of his absolute and unambiguous innocence. At the very least, it would make you think twice before making blanket statements such as that there was “no case” for theft. I’m afraid there was. There was also a clear legal-technical basis for charging him under Article 160 – a notion that I had mistakenly ridiculed in the past. That Mercouris managed to make me change my mind on this is a testament to his essay’s lucidity and legalistic virtuosity. He also argues that were this trial held under British laws, Navalny would have likewise been convicted.
This is not, however, to say that I agree with all the conclusions and reasoning in it; to the contrary, I remain at odds on the two most important points, namely that (1) the preponderance of the evidence wasn’t such that it could have been used to secure what was an incredibly harsh sentence by typical Russian jurisprudence; and (2) of its overall political wisdom. But there are good arguments to the contrary that Mercouris lays out and which are well worth considering and pondering over. Here is not the time to get into an extended debate – my own views and analysis I will further expound upon in a subsequent post. For now, Alexander Mercouris’ essay is reprinted without further commentary so that you can engage with it yourselves and draw your own conclusions.
On 8th December 2008 following a private meeting the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev nominated Nikita Belykh, a well known Russian liberal politician and former leader of the Russian liberal party the Union of Right Forces for the post of Governor of the Kirov Region in central Russia. Belykh’s subsequent appointment set in train a sequence of events which on 18th July 2013 led to the conviction by the Kirov Regional Court of Aleksei Navalny, the well known Russian opposition politician and blogger, for conspiracy to commit embezzlement contrary to Article 160 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
Navalny’s conviction and his sentence of 5 years imprisonment, has provoked angry reactions. In Moscow several thousand of his supporters protested near the Kremlin. Scattered protests also took place in some other Russian cities. The United States government has expressed its “disappointment” with the verdict. The European Union has said the case highlights concerns about the rule of law in Russia. The rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have condemned his 5 year sentence as disproportionate and have claimed that his prosecution is political.
Media comment at least in Britain has been equally harsh. In an editorial suggestively titled “misrule of law” published on 11th July 2013, a week before the verdict, the Guardian claimed that Navalny’s prosecution was a device to silence a prominent critic of the Russian government saying that “….it goes without saying that the charges are bogus”.
Similar comments have appeared in the Times and in the Financial Times.
Navalny himself has claimed that the prosecution against him is politically motivated. He has claimed that the prosecution against him betrays a fundamental ignorance of how business is conducted in a free market economy. He has also claimed that the prosecution is entirely based on the evidence of three persons who have a personal grudge against him and whose evidence is unreliable.
Navalny’s criticisms have been taken up by others. The charge against him is said to make no sense. Yegvenya Albats, the editor of the Russian liberal magazine New Times, says his conviction spells the end of capitalism in Russia. It is repeatedly pointed out that the case against Navalny was investigated previously but was then dropped. That it was later resurrected is seen as proof that it is without merit and that the motive behind it is political.
It has also been pointed out that the case against Navalny was only resurrected by the Russian Investigative Committee at the personal insistence of Bastrykhin its chief whom Navalny has accused of illegally owning property in the Czech Republic. Navalny’s prosecution is said to Bastrykhin’s revenge.
Support for these claims is said to be provided by certain comments made shortly before the trial by Vladimir Markin the spokesman of the Investigative Committee.
The purpose of this essay is to examine in detail the facts of the case and the conduct of the trial to determine whether any of these claims and criticisms are true.
The commentator Дарман, who appears to be from Dagestan, argues that Chechens are quite different from the other North Caucasian nationalities. Apparently, minorities in Russia don’t like Chechens much more than do ethnic Russians. (Brings to mind that War Nerd quote, “They seem like one of those tribes that are either going to rule the world or go extinct but nothing in between”). He also argues that the impunity their gangs enjoy isn’t so much because of money, as AP suggests, but because they are capable of physical retaliation/revenge, making the police loth to mess around with them. His comment is reprinted in full below:
This incident brought some bad memories: when I was 8 years old I remember witnessing how Chechens operate, that day they killed an older man outside the movie theater in Makhachkala. These guys were really noisy and the man asked them to calm down. As he was walking out with his wife, the four Chechens grabbed his arms and dragged him behind the theater, where they stabbed him. I did not see the murder, but I remember the man’s wife screaming and a police officer rushed to her, but when he heard that the Chechens were involved, he turned around and walked away as she was begging for help.
Lets not mix chechens and dagestanis. Many times when dagestanis are mentioned in relation to crimes in Russia, people do not realize that 99% of times the huligans or criminals are ethnic Chechens. Over 100K ethnic Chechens live in Northern Dagestan. Dagestan is not a nationality, it is a multi ethnic region, where people called Avars, Kumyks, Dargins, Azeri, Lezgins, Mountain Jews (Gorsky Juhuro) live. These small ethnic groups are all at odds with the Chechens. Which is the case also for most of other Caucasians, except maybe Ingushs.
Ruslan Marzhamov had a couple acquaintances from Dagestan who rushed to his help but too late, and they are the ones who actually took him to the hospital, as Ruslan’s mother mentioned in her interview to the press.
Yes, the people from Caucasus have a short fuse, but it is the Chechens who are giving all Caucasus a bad name. The Chechens have a serious case of megalomania because of their formidable clan system and mafia-like organization, which makes them very dangerous.
Lets not forget that the second Chechen war started when they invaded Dagesta: – these two regions are enemies.
I do not think that Russians are cowards; they are not. Simply they lack good community organization, and that is why 80 organized Chechens can act as if they own a city with 40,000 people. Which is an absurd situation, in my opinion. Chechens are also vengeful and too many small town Russian police chiefs are insecure and prefer not to mess with them for fear of individual retaliation.
From my personal experience: if you are physically strong, not afraid of them (and in arguments they always threaten you and look you in the eyes to see if you are afraid or not, just like dogs they can sense your fear) and have a backing from a strong group of people, they will avoid picking a fight with you. The Chechens are always in groups of three and four, but they only attack if they are sure they have you cornered and defenseless. If you ever get into argument with one of them, be aware that two more will be positioning themselves behind you.
Finally, why do you think Putin is so respected in Chechnya? Because he proved that he would not blink and would level the whole republic with heavy artillery and missiles, if he felt like it. This is the only argument they understand.
Except a few hundred mercenaries and fanatics from Caucasus, Russia and Ukraine, the Chechens fought alone. If there is another war (and I do not believe there will be one) they will fight alone, at least Dagestan and Cherkess will fight against them for sure.
Or neither. Well, isn’t this a useless post?
I am referring to the Global Corruption Barometer released by Transparency International a couple of weeks ago, which I covered at my other blog. For the most part, there were no surprises; the only really strange figures came from Taiwan, where 36% of people claimed to have paid a bribe in the past year. Otherwise, the results largely cut to popular perceptions and stereotypes of corruption in various countries.
The really bad thing is that this time round there was no bribery incidence data for Russia, not to mention eleven other countries – and China wasn’t included in the survey at all. I investigated this further, and was told that Russia’s results along with those of the eleven other countries didn’t pass Transparency International’s validity and reliability tests.
Enquiring further, I got the following answers from the GCB research team:
(1) Why didn’t Russia’s incidence of bribery data (as well as several other major countries like Brazil, France, and Germany) pass TI’s validity and reliability tests for inclusion?
Now in its 8th edition, we have several years of past data on these questions and have data from other surveys which ask similar questions of people’s experience with bribery. We can therefore use this data to identify where the results for a particular country are volatile over time and across surveys and therefore less reliable as a data point for that country. For 12 countries including Russia, the data gathered in this years GCB for the bribery question can be identified as an outlier when compared with other available data and was therefore excluded from the final report
(2) Would it be possible to get access to Russia’s bribery data anyway, with the caveat that those figures would have a lower degree of reliability and should not therefore be counted as part of Transparency’s official records?
I am afraid not. We take the findings of this survey very seriously as a reflection of people’s views and experiences of corruption. Given the importance of this data and how it can be used to inform the fight against corruption, we will not making available data that does not pass our validity and reliability tests.
Would it be possible for you to at least indicate whether Russia’s outlier this year was above or below the trend? It would at least give me some sense of comparative perspective should Russian polling agencies come out with their own bribery polls this year.
As we do not have confidence in the reliability of the data I can not provide further information on this to you.
Well, I tried. But the results for this year must remain a total blank. You are free to speculate whether there could have been any political motivations to that.
For my part, I will just say that this is a real shame since at this rate the next time we’ll get data for Russia from the GCB – assuming its data passes their validity and reliability filters next time round – will be in 2015.
So for now DR readers will have to be satisfied with a bribery incidence graph that only stretches to 2012. Let us hope that Russian pollsters move in to fill the gap left by the GCB sooner rather later.
UPDATE: Thanks to Fedia Kriukov (for digging up the article) and Moscow Exile (for translating it at The Russian Spectrum): A Crisis of Zombification: How Transparency International failed on The Russia Corruption Rating.
Please read it. The author, Andrey Kamenetsky, pretty much conclusively demonstrates that the reason Transparency International didn’t include Russia’s bribery incidence data in their 2013 report was because it was lower than expected.
Its failure is so stark that I hardly need post a notification on the actual site. To the extent that I visit it nowadays it is mostly just to clean spam, which is just depressing. It has not achieved critical mass, despite the initial incentives on offer, and in my experience if a forum fails to get going early on then any exisiting participation rapidly collapses.
In all honesty I half-expected this anyway. It would have probably taken off had it gone online in 2006/2007, at the height of the so-called “New Cold War.” Nowadays, in these days of “Reset,” Russia just doesn’t command the interest it used to.
Thank you for all the people who tried to get it going.
Of particular note: Alcestis Eshtemoa, Alexa M, Alexander Mercouris, Alex Bond, Bellum, hoct, mls13, Moscow Exile, Ombrageux, owenpolley, Patrick Armstrong, Sevan, SWSpires, Vostok.
Barring a miraculous splurge of (genuine) acitivity in the coming weeks, the forum will be going offline at the end of September.
To forumers – Please look through the archives and save anything you wish to save of your posts for future use elsewhere.
To everyone – The future of The Russian Spectrum is solid and promising; be assured it is not going the way of the forum anytime soon. Do not mistake a relative lack of posting in the past two months as a sign of trouble – to the contrary, it is because the time I previously used for translating there is now taken up by serious discussions of funding and partnership with major media outlets.
Earlier today, Navalny received a custodial sentence of five years for the theft of 15 million rubles ($500,000) worth of timber from Kirovles.
It is simply not true to say that there was “no case” against Navalny, as the Western and Russian liberal media insists on doing. There is wiretap evidence and witness testimony that Navalny and Ofitserov exploited their official positions to rewrite Kirovles supply contracts so as to have them go through VLK, a shell company that took a signicant cut for its “services.” It is also a fact that VLK was indebted to Kirovles, the state lumber company that was allegedly defrauded, to the tune of around $100,000 upon the latter’s bankruptcy.
But that, at worst, would fall under Article 165 (“causing financial loss by way of deceit and misuse of trust”), and not under Article 160 (“theft”) on which Navalny was actually convicted. At the most elementary level, how can one “steal” $5 from someone, and yet only owe him $1 at the end of it? The evidence in support of this is that Navalny actually was charged in relation to Kirovles TWICE before, but under Article 165; it was also dropped twice, which perhaps indicates that the prosecutors didn’t believe the evidence was sufficient to secure a conviction. Until, presumably, a certain political decision was taken to go ahead with the prosecution after all. A decision that Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin himself all but admitted: “But if the person in question draws attention to himself with all his strength, or we can even say, teases authority – saying that oh I am so white and flawless, then the interest in his past increases and the process of exposing it to the sunlight, understandably, accelerates.“
So let’s put aside concerns about legal process, morality, and justice for a moment. Let’s even assume Navalny really was guilty of ”causing financial loss by way of deceit and misuse of trust.” In short, let’s posit the most favorable possible interpretation and frame of reference as far as the Kremlin was concerned. What, exactly, does it gain by jailing Navalny on an article (“theft”) that couldn’t possibly have applied to him?
Well, let’s make a list, shall we.
(1) Proudly confirm Russia as a country where legal nihilism reigns. With Khodorkovsky, it was eminently credible that he was guilty of the charges made against him – an assessment later confirmed by the ECHR, even if neocons, faux-leftist liberals, and political shysters posing as human rights lawyers like Robert Amsterdam begged to differ. No such “defense” applies to Navalny’s conviction. Not to mention, of course, the conflict of interest involved in the IC deciding to prosecute Navalny – for real, this time – soon after he accused its head Alexander Bastrykin of having owned properties in the Czech Republic.
(2) By even further delegitimizing the Russian courts system – as if it didn’t have enough image problems already – it also undermines any other prosecutions the state might carry out. There is video evidence of Urlashov taking a bribe (even the NYT acknowledges that the case is probably legitimate); of the Bolotnaya “political prisoners” hurling stones and beating up policemen; of Udaltsov planning riots and taking money from a pro-Saakashvili Georgian. The Pussy Riot sentence of two years may have been extremely harsh, but it was undoubtedly legal; there was, furthermore, a roughly analogous case in Germany in 2006. But thanks to the Navalny mess, these cases are all going to be even further discredited together with the judicial system in general.
(3) There appears a man with a Messiah complex who claims he has “millions” behind him, but in reality enjoys the support of no more than 10% of Muscovites (and 5% of the entire country). He can’t gather enough signatures to pass the municipal filter required to participate in the Moscow elections, so you order your United Russia flunkies to help him out. He gets registered. You now have the prospect of a truly “competitive” election in in the capital – thanks to Navalny’s participation – but one that you are nonetheless all but guaranteed to win. Surely this would calm down the “hamsters.” And then, “BAHM!” Wave goodbye to that new aura of legitimacy you’d hoping for. In fact, you are now regarded by some people as a manipulative scumbag for “helping” Navalny in the first place. That is the story of Sobyanin. One almost feels sorry for him.
(4) Make a martyr out of a man with 5% approval ratings, who’s popularity has been decreasing even as his name recognition spread through Russia. It couldn’t matter less whether or not he “deserves” that status. The reality is that the PR efforts to portray Navalny as a timber chief have been entirely unsuccessful – not that surprising, really, considering the Kremlin cares so little for its image that it left its propaganda to bloggers like Stanislav Apetyan - and as such, according to opinion polls, more than half the Russian population views the Navalny case as politically motivated.
Navalny is not tainted by the mass theft and thuggery of the 1990s. He is a member of the upper middle-class who drives a fairly modest car, lives in a good but not luxurious apartment, and has a lot of things to say about corruption and bureaucrats. Yes, not all those things might be true; and you are also free not to like him for his “nationalism,” or any one of his various other political stances. Nonetheless, the fact remains that as far as most normal Russians are concerned he still cuts a vastly more sympathetic figure than Khodorkovsky, the first “martyr” of the non-systemic opposition.
(5) The street opposition has split into squabbling groups and petty infighting. The Coordinating Council has become something of a byword for ineffectiveness and political impotence, with its recent chief Treasurer suspected of stealing its funds and making off with the proceeds. So what’s a great idea? Give them something to rally over!
(6) Attendance at the Moscow protests has been dying down ever since the rally at Prospekt Sakharova in February 2012. It entered freefall since the May 6th riots, when the protesters lost a lot of goodwill from the population by getting into scuffles with the police. So what’s a great idea? Jail Navalny and incite them all out into the streets again! Why not, LOL?
(7) In recent weeks, Russia got the image and propaganda coup of a decade thanks to Snowden’s decision to stay and seek asylum there. It was entirely undeserved, of course, given the status of whistle-blower protections in Russia; that is to say, they don’t exist. Though granted, Russia was was singularly sluggish about taking full opportunity of the windfall, e.g. aggressively positioning itself as a safe haven for Western dissidents. After all, “our relations shall not be the hostage of Snowden or other US or Russia extravagant persons,” according to certain influential people linked to the Russian government.
But he might not have worried overmuch. Sandwiched as Snowden was in between the conviction of Magnitsky’s corpse and the jailing of Navalny, he might as well not have existed so far as the media narrative will be concerned in the next months. He will become one of those “extravagant persons” at the center of US – Russia relations, the latest in a long line that stretches back to encompass Magnitsky, and before him, Litvinenko, Khodorkovsky, and Berezovsky (funny, and sad, how that list progressively goes from oligarchs, to their employees, and finally to just an ordinary citizen). Defending the Kremlin’s clawback of the state from the oligarchs in the early 2000s was reasonable and proper. As regards Litvinenko and Magnitsky, the situation was a lot less clearcut, but still far too murky to make any clear judgment one way or the other. With Navalny, however, the Kremlin is now clearly in the wrong.
And so it will be Navalny! – Navalny! – Navalny! for the next months and years to come, in the absence of an (improbable) acquittal in an appeal. And unlike in earlier years, no longer unjustifiably so.
(8) But what about Serdyukov? So unfair *wah* *wah* *wah*. Well, look, unless you suffer from some infantile disorder of idealism, you will know that society is corrupt, hierarchic, and unfair. In some countries the law levels the playing field to a greater or lesser extent. In Russia, the emphasis is very much on the latter: “For my friends – everything; for my enemies – the law” might be cliche, but it is impossible to deny its continued relevance. It sometimes seems that the more you steal in Russia, the better your chances of getting away with it. Ordinary bureaucrats who have stolen orders of magnitude more than Navalny – even if we take at face value the $500,000 he was convicted of – typically get suspended sentences for their efforts (gazeta.ru has compiled a detailed list). Akhmed Bilalov, the fall guy for the Olympics cost overruns that made them the most expensive games in history, was “allowed” to emigrate to Britain. Former Moscow Mayor Luzhkov walks freely, commuting between Moscow and his mini-palace in London. The Oboronservis scandal that developed under former Defense Minsiter Serdyukov, where losses are at more than $100 million and counting – that’s more than 200 times greater than the most than the least favorable possible accounting of Navalny’s demeanours - remains at liberty as a mere suspect to the case, while his lover Elena Vasilieva who did the dirty work is under “house arrest” in a central Moscow luxury apartment with 13 rooms, and gets three hours off per day to do boutique shopping. This is all not so much even a question of “morality” as of basic legitimacy and whether such a state of affairs will continue to be tolerated indefinitely. When Putin was asked why Serdyukov wasn’t in jail at his annual Q&A by a Komsomolskaya Pravda reporter, he replied, “We don’t want another 1937.” Because, of course, imprisoning types like Luzhkov and Serdyukov for corruption is totally equivalent to rounding up and shooting hundreds of thousands of saboteurs and spies. At this rate, sooner rather later people will be DEMANDING a new 1937.
(9) Even the Prosecutor-General Office thinks Navalny’s immediate jailing is way over the top and uncalled for! So on top of reigniting opposition protests, the conviction may well have provoked an inter-siloviki scuffle as well.
(10) Last, and admittedly least, a note to the Kremlin: If you ever end up following La Russophobe’s advice, chances are it’s time to stop, and reconsider.
Power summary: If the Kremlin wanted to provoke instability both within the elite and without, invite contempt from broad swathes of otherwise neutral or apathetic social groups, and sully its image both internally and in the West for many more years to come, then jailing Navalny was a great idea. It could have hardly have chosen a better way to go about it.
The verdict is worse than petty and hypocritical. It’s incredibly stupid. I do not think it was so much a “Kremlin” decision as an initiative of the siloviki around Bastrykin, the IC, and Sechin (suffice to say that even the Prosecutor-General’s Office isn’t all that happy about it). One need hardly mention the liberal/technocratic wing of the Kremlin, which actually helped Navalny get past the municipal filter to participate in Moscow’s elections. Why would Sobyanin do that intentionally, just to come off looking as a total scumbag when Navalny was jailed and arrested? Sobyanin doesn’t need it. Even Putin doesn’t need it! As he himself might say, jailing Navalny is a lot like shearing a pig: Little fur, and a lot of squealing.
He’s been found guilty, as expected. The main question is what the sentence will be: Suspended, or a real term. Here is my prediction (which on developments so far might well turn out to be awfully wrong).
UPDATE: Even if he is found guilty and sentenced, he still has the choice of appealing his sentence. This will give him enough time to contest the Moscow elections.
Though I know I missed the train on this news, one point in particular is worth drawing attention to as regard the stabbing of (the half-Tatar) paratrooper Ruslan Morzhanov by a 16-year-old ethnic Chechen, which incited the small town of Pugachev to stage a peaceful mini-revolt against the feds.
The town has seen similar tragedies before. A brutal murder was committed in very similar circumstances in 2010. Twenty four-year-old Chechen Beslan Mudayev fatally stabbed twenty eight-year-old Nikolai Veshnyakov five times during a fight that broke out right in front of Zolotaya Bochka. Locals claim that the Chechen community, consisting of a dozen families in total, has been harassing the local population. According to official statistics, there are about 80 Chechens living in various parts of the Pugachev District.
So. Two murders, committed within the space of 3 years, from a group of 80 people belonging to a “repressed” minority. The town’s population is a mere 41,000 and in such places, a lot of people do know each other.
I would be angry as well. Moreover, I would feel unsafe. If 2.5% of a certain group are murderers, then complaints that many of the rest are thugs in general become all that more credible (at least for minds not dominated by political correctness). The popular demands made by Pugachev residents to expel those local Chechens that are not employed or registered in their city – that is, merely enforcing the law on residence, as opposed to the ethnic cleansing it has been portrayed as – though perhaps quite harsh, is not obviously unreasonable given the horrifying circumstances.
One can have some issues with Navalny, co-signing a petition condemning the federal government’s limp-wristedness on ethnic crime, its opposition to legalizing self-defense isn’t one of them, and its at times heavy-handed response to airings of legitimate ethnic Russian grievances isn’t one of them.
The Western media doesn’t see it that way of course. To left/liberals, the small-town Russian protesters are chauvinist troglodytes – with Putin at times even held responsible for this “xenophobia,” despite the government’s avowed opposition to all expressions of russki nationalism; while the conservatives/neocons salivate over the prospect that the Pugachev Affair is but the prelude to Russia’s disintegration.