Nov 28, 2006

Polonium for Dummies

Russia’s top nuclear official said today that his country tightly controls all exports of polonium [pictured above], the radioactive isotope that British authorities suspect killed former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London. “Allegations that someone stole it during production are absolutely unfounded,” Rosatom director Sergei Kiriyenko told a news conference.

Allegations that it was purposfully directed to the task have yet to be disproved.

Also, the wizards at Los Alamos Laboratories recommend that the maximum permissible amount of ingested polonium equals .0000000000068 g.

When it decays, polonium emits high-speed volleys of subatomic alpha particles that rip apart DNA coils and living cells. Death is slow and painful.

Nov 27, 2006

Lukashenka Steals Votes, From Himself…?

From RFE/RL, which reads more and more like the Onion each day... in any case, poor Lukashenka is trying so hard to be "European" :) Ern...

“While speaking with Ukrainian journalists in Minsk on November 23,President Lukashenka admitted to rigging the March 19 presidential election, in which he officially obtained 83 percent of the vote, RFE/RL's Belarus Service and Belapan reported. But Lukashenka claimed that he falsified the election in favor of his rivals. ‘Yes, we falsified the last election. I have already told the Westerners [about this].’

“As many as 93.5 percent of voters voted for President Lukashenka. But they said this was not a 'European' result. So we made it 86 [percent],’ he said. ‘The Europeans told us before the election that if there were 'European' figures in the election, they would recognize our election. And we tried to make European figures,’ Lukashenka explained, noting that the move nevertheless has not resulted in recognition of the ballot. Meanwhile, Mikalay Lazavik, secretary of Belarus's Central Election Commission (TsVK), said on November 24 that the TsVK ‘is not aware of any fraud’ in the March presidential election. According to Lazavik, the official results reflect the ‘genuine will’ of the people.”

86 percent, not European? Says who...Saddam Hussein, Mr 103 percent? (PBD)

Tea with Strangers (Update)

KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko died over the weekend.

Initial reports of radioactive thallium proved wrong. In fact, it seems that a much more rare, and exotic radioactive material, Polonium 210, was used.

Litvinenko death bed statement:

Brezhnev's Nationalism Policy Returns Under New Brand

From RFE/RL (Thanks Ern)

"At a November 22 session of the Federation Council's Commission on Nationality Policy that was also attended by the senators and parliament speakers from individual federation subjects, Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev presented the revised version of the draft State Nationality Concept unveiled last year, reported on November 23.

"That initial version contained a formulation referring to the creation of 'a single multinational society in which the Russian people [russky narod] would play a consolidating role.' That formulation triggered outraged protest from non-Russian minorities, and has been watered down in the revised version, which envisages a 'unifying role' for the Russian people in the process of forming 'a single sense of civic awareness [grazhdanstvennost].' President Putin advocated in 2002 revising the Russian nationality policy concept adopted under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin in 1996. That concept was largely authoredby former Deputy Prime Minister Ramazan Abdulatipov, an Avar who is currently Russian ambassador to Tajikistan." LF

Says my intern, "the Russians really miss communism." (Ern)
This is just as bad as Berezhnev’s policy of 'what nationalisms problem?' The "New Socialist Man" is now the "Single Civic Awareness." Good grief. (PBD)

Nov 22, 2006

Baisarov Killed While "Resisting Arrest"

This little note in Jamestown raised a few eyebrows:

"On Saturday evening, November 18, machine-gun fire erupted on Leninsky Prospect in downtown Moscow. Special police forces and a bomb squad quickly arrived at the scene and discovered one fatality. They had no problem identifying the victim, despite his multiple head wounds: Movladi Baisarov, the former commander of the 'Gorets' (Highlander) special detachment.

"According to official information immediately released after the attack, Baisarov was ambushed in a joint operation by the Moscow and Chechen police, resisted arrest, and was killed on the spot (, November 19; Rossiiskaya gazeta, November 20). Nobody appeared to be particularly bothered that this 'special operation' had been carried out in a crowded public place, but other details have provided rich fodder for journalists eager to spin a crime story that perfectly illustrates the current stage of 'normalization' in Chechnya.

"Baisarov had organized his detachment during the chaotic 'peace' that followed the end of the first Chechen war in September 1996. At the time it was called the 'oil regiment,' because it controlled a few oil wells and the smuggling business. With the start of the second war in autumn 1999, the 'regiment' shifted allegiance to Moscow and became a part of the 'guard' of Akhmad Kadyrov, the new Chechen leader appointed by Vladimir Putin. Baisarov was wounded in a clash with rebels who targeted collaborators and then sidelined by Kadyrov’s ambitious son, Ramzan, who took charge of protecting his father but failed to prevent the spectacular assassination of his father in the Grozny stadium on May 9, 2004.

"It remains unclear why the FSB decided earlier this year that it no longer needed this detachment for operations too 'special' to put its own forces in harm’s way. Kadyrovtsy surrounded Gorets members in the village of Pobedinskoe, near Grozny, but Baisarov refused to surrender and escaped to Moscow."

Eternal Remont is baffled as to why Moscow would be considered safer. But we judge not.

Disaster at Mažeikių nafta oil refinery

A refinery only a Pole would love...JBD

The best part is that the Polish company, PKN Orlen, went thru with their purchase of the refinery, even after the fire.

God bless you Poland.


Nov 21, 2006

Cultural Learnings of Ukraine

The folks at the purpotedly-prestigious Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP) in Kyiv have a new favorite student - David Duke, the Imperial Wizard of the KKK and former state representative for the glorious state of Louisiana.

With hate-mongering no longer as successful of a venture in the US of A (damn that Martin Luther King, civil rights, and those AIPAC "Zionist pigs"), Duke has moved onto greener pastures - namely, Russia and Ukraine, where this modern-day Gray Wizard Saruman can spew his hatred to a shamefully-enthusiastic audience.

"After receiving an honorary degree from MAUP a few years earlier, Duke obtained a PhD in history from the university in September 2005 for his doctoral thesis entitled "Zionism as a Form of Ethnic Supremacism." Must've been quite a read, just like that antisemitic Walt & Mearsheimer rag on the Jewish lobby, which they dared call "substantiated research". But misery does love company:

David Duke is now a big fan:

Shame on you, MAUP.

The Kyiv Post has the full story here:


Tea with Strangers (Update)

New photos of KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko have been released, along with reports that his poisoners could have employed radioactive thallium, a unique form of the metal used to poison rats.

If true, this news would limit the circle of suspects to those with access to such an exotic variant of the poison. Certainly not SVR spokesman Sergei Ivanov, who dismissed Russia’s role as nonesence. "May God give him health," Ivanov said.

Russian security services have used radioactive thallium in the past. In fact, Soviet agents used radioactive thallium against former-KGB agent Nicolai Khokhlov in the 1950s. As in the Litvinenko case, Khokhlov was also a defector.

The subtlety of the message is not lost on Eternal Remont. Althought doubts over cause of the illness persist.

Something old, something new (Thanks Chalmers)

Flavor Country (Thanks ERN!)


RUSSIANS SMOKE 375 BILLION CIGARETTES PER YEAR. Nikolai Gerasimenko,who heads the Russian State Duma's Health and Sports Committee, saidin Moscow on November 16 that people in the Russian Federation smoke375 billion cigarettes annually, ITAR-TASS reported (see "RFE/RLNewsline," February 10 and March 23, 2006). He added that 60 percentof all men and 15 percent of women smoke, including 48 percent of pregnant women. PM

Did I read that correctly, "48 percent of pregnant women?"


The Cold War as a Low Carb Light Beer

This quote from Viktor Kremeniuk, Deputy Director of the Institute of USA-Canada Studies in Moscow, got me thinking. Speaking on developments in Russian-US relations, Kremeniuk notes, "The only thing that has prevented a full slide into a new cold war was the personal relationship between Bush and Putin."


During the Cold War, I seem to remember the subtle hint of impending doom, the present threat of the nuclear snuff. What's more, the driving ideological conflict was as central to the conflict as the military component. National Security Doctrines notwithstanding, the old gray mare of Russia’s nuclear forces just ain't what she used to be. And the brutal ideological chasm has since been replaced by differences of opinion over accepted accounting practices, the share of national ownership in vital industries, and the role of international monitoring agencies in domestic affairs. This is hardly an all-or-nothing ideological death match. Yet, why all of the talk about a new Cold War?

Pundits are generally savage fools who lack in imagination what they hold in vanity. Lacking the ability to conceptualize present relations between Russia and the United States in realistic terms, I suspect that many revert to the default setting, which has remained in place since 1991: Cold War.

No, Mr. Kremeniuk, Russia and the United States have been prevented from sliding full scale into a new cold war, not by the personal relationship between Bush and Putin, but by the fundamental and irrevocable changes which have taken place in the last decade and a half.

Things could always get worse. They propably will. But the ships have been burned and I feel very safe.


Nov 20, 2006

Litvinenko Update (Thanks Igor)

Here's a "wild conspiracy theory" on the Litvinenko case - the Kremlin did it.

Man Wins Drinking Contest, Then Dies. Organizers Shocked!

As Reuters reports, “A vodka-drinking competition in a southern Russian town ended in tragedy with the winner dead and several runners-up in intensive care.

"The competition lasted 30, perhaps 40 minutes and the winner downed three half-litre bottles. He was taken home by taxi but died within 20 minutes," said Roman Popov, a prosecutor pursuing the case in the town of Volgodonsk. "Five contestants ended up in intensive care. Those not in hospital turned up the next day, ostensibly for another drink."

Popov said the director of the shop organizing this month's contest had been charged with manslaughter. He had offered 10 liters of vodka to the competitor drinking the most in the shortest time. Russians drink the equivalent of 15 liters of pure alcohol per head annually, one of the highest rates in the world. Some experts estimate one in seven Russians is an alcoholic.”

Eternal Remont doubts the validity of such estimates, as one in three experts are still in denial.

Okruashvili retires to the Dacha Circut

Woo! Looks like Okruashvili could only make it seven days dealing with Georgia's economy. Who wants to crunch numbers all damn day when youcould be calling caterers and ordering in bulk find Georgian wines foryour New Years party in Tskhinvali? (Which, by the way, is getting closer and closer...!)

Did Saakashvili take a cue from the U.S. to clean out the war-mongering hawks from the government? Molodets! It's hard to strike deals with the monstrously big state to the North when you have someone muttering in the background about the fact that Russians, in fact, will eat poop.


Tea with Strangers

Former KGB and Federal Security Service Col. Alexander Litvinenko was moved into the ICU of a London hospital over the weekend, just days after meeting with a “mysterious stranger” who claimed to have information on the death of Anna Politkovskaya.

Doctors found ungodly levels of the toxic poison thallium -- a high class rat poison -- in his system. While not nearly as sexy or 007-ish as the titanium-soaked ricin pellet which the Bulgarians used to eliminate Georgi Markov, London is becoming a rather dangerous place for Eastern European exiles.

The Kremlin was supremely displeased with Litvinenko’s defection in 2000. It has fermented this displeasure, while Litvinenko spent his time as an outspoken critic of Russia’s authoritarian drift. But thallium in a drink? You know its Amature Hour at the Apollo, when even the Bulgarians are more professional.


Nov 14, 2006

Daring Daily Mail reporters go to Borat's village in Romania... find, you guessed it, ignorance and crushing poverty.

In what could be a great agitprop piece during the heyday of the Cold War, Mssrs. BOJAN PANCEVSKI and CARMIOLA IONESCU tackle Western bourgeois imperialism with great gusto and aplomb. There are so many things about this article that are utterly ridiculous, not only did I not feel pity for these people, I actually think another Borat episode is in order.

"Cambridge-educated Baron Cohen filmed the opening scenes of the Borat movie in Glod - a village that is actually in Romania, rather than Kazakhstan, and whose name literally translates as 'mud', last summer....

The comedian insisted on travelling everywhere with bulky bodyguards, because, as one local said: 'He seemed to think there were crooks among us.' While the rest of the crew based themselves in the motel, Baron Cohen stayed in a hotel in Sinaia, a nearby ski resort a world away from Glod's grinding poverty.....

Just four villagers have permanent employment in the nearby towns of Pucioasa or Fieni, while the rest live off what little welfare benefits they get.....

Indeed, when local vice-mayor Petre Buzea was asked whether the people felt offended by Baron Cohen's film, he replied: 'They got paid so I am sure they are happy. These gipsies will even kill their own father for money.'.....

But feelings in Glod are running so high that The Mail on Sunday saw angry villagers brandishing farm implements chase out a local TV crew, shouting that they had enough of being exploited."

Who's the intolerant one now, I ask? Read it here:


It is rather sad, that the real life village is not too distant from the fictional one depicted in the film. Art follows life, follows art... (The real life Villiage of Mud pictured above.)


Nov 10, 2006

How I Won the [Cold] War

In a tribute to East German spymaster Markus Wolf, Russians celebrated their hard-fought victory in the Cold War on Friday.

That's correct, Russia actually won the Cold War -- or so an observer might assume had they attended Wolf's official tribute in Moscow.

As observers note, "Playing up his Russian background and recalling past espionage triumphs over the United States and its allies...Moscow's lavish praise for Wolf reflects a newly-awakened admiration in Russia for Cold War intelligence successes that has been promoted by President Vladimir Putin."

In other news, Eternam Remont is anxiously waiting for an update on the real winner of the Vietnam conflict.

(Kudos ERN!)

Ironing out the Irony

ERN forwarded the logo for Russia's new human rights campaign. (And yes, this blog is hereby illegal in Germany.) The irony, of course, is not lost amid a day of ironic developments.

Three days ago, Russia’s delegation to the UN introduced a resolution condemning xenophobia and racism. UN diplomat Andrei Nikiforov noted that such things were “absolutely incompatible with the obligations assumed” by UN member states. (Jamestown). Nikiforov seems to have missed reports of his country’s shameful treatment of Georgian school children last month, Putin’s acute case of xenophobia, or the unvarnished racism which occurs on a daily basis towards minorities in the Russian Federation.

This presents a maddening question, ripe with opportunity: can Russia be brought to answer for its own United Nations resolution?

Indeed, Moscow hopes to use the resolution to harass Latvia and Estonia for “anti-Russian” language laws abroad, while insulating the government from accusations that it has promoted xenophobia and racism at home.

‘That’s preposterous. Look, we have a UN resolution!’

Nov 9, 2006

The Weekly Standard is Soused

It is time to think seriously about the question on everyone’s mind: are the editors at The Weekly Standard drinking again?

We ponder the question after they published yet another article by the mad genius, Igor Khrestin. Amid his excellent analysis of Russia’s reaction to the Mid-term elections, Igor notes this little aside, “But with bilateral relations descending to Cold War levels in the recent months, Democrats in control of key House…”

Cold War? Holy Jesus, when did this happen?

My Y2K bunker is not even finished. Now I have to ponder the uncomfortable news that the Cold War has returned and we'll have to adjust to the possibility of a post-apocalyptic world without Dean and Deluca.

Still, the article does answer why I have never been able to understand the new CBS series “Jerico.” I kept asking, "Who the hell would nuke Kansas?"

Now we know Mr. Khrestin. Now we know.

Kyrgystan: Don't Take Your Guns to Town

We would be remiss in neglecting the real crisis which has enveloped Kyrgystan in the last few weeks. Part of the problem, was determining if it was a story at all. Political turmoil in Central Asia is so threadbare, it borders on the cliche.

Nevertheless, it seems as if the non-crisis that could have been a crisis, if it wasn't a crisis in the first place, has diminished.

As IWPR reports, "Just as the stand-off between President Kurmanbek Bakiev and his opponents began to look irreversible, and police moved in to separate crowds of pro-and anti-government supporters, parliament came up with a consensus version of the constitution which lies at the heart of this dispute."

While this solution does not make good on the the institutional, social, and political promises which the "Tulip Revolution" has failed to deliver, the threat of street violence has subsided....for now.

Also in the "is it a story?" file, Gender Discrimination in Kyrgystan, you be the judge...

Knowlege Workers of the World Unite

Noting that Bill Gates is the " the riches man on the planet," Kommersant reports that the multi-billion dollar maven has set his sights on Russia.

Along with schemes to stop software picracy, he also proposed converting Soviet-era ICBM's into plowshares -- in this case, low orbit launch vehicles which will turn the planet into one big Starbuck's WiFi hotspot.

Although Eternal Remont was not able to dispatch a photographer to the meeting, we have aquired an artist's rendition of events as they happened...

Thanks IGOR.
Credit to

BANG! POW! SPLAT! Putin visits GRU headquarters

Get your Cold War pants back on. This could get interesting. (And yes, the GRU is using the "Batman" logo in their emblem.)

From RFE/RL: "President Vladimir Putinvisited the new headquarters of the Main Intelligence Directorate(GRU) of the Armed Forces General Staff in Moscow on November 8, reported. The daily "Nezavisimaya gazeta" noted ironicallythe following day that the event was "shrouded thebest traditions of the intelligence department." Putin suggested to GRU staff that the United States poses a threat to Russia, sayingthat "the practice by a number of states of taking unilateralillegitimate action seriously undermines [international] stability."He added that "this also goes for their attempts to push their positions unceremoniously, fully ignoring the lawful interests ofother partners." Lest there be any doubts as to which country he hadin mind, he noted that "a number of states are striving to free their hands so they can deploy weapons in space, including the nuclearweapon." He told GRU department heads that "it is important to definecorrectly the development of the military-political situation, tofollow in detail trends of technological, economic competition." Forhis part, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov praised the new GRUheadquarters as using the most up-to-date equipment in a way that isunique in Russia." Thanks ERN

You know, for a moment there, I thought Putin was speaking about Russia's "attempts to push their positions unceremoniously, fully ignoring the lawful interests of other partners" on Georgia. My mistake. PBD

Nov 6, 2006

Nostalgia for the future

ERN flagged a great article in RFE/RL on Alexander Prokhanov's new look at Russia's future Empire.

“One can see signs of emerging empire almost everywhere. In events such as the building of new types of ships and submarines...launching the new 'Bulova' missile...or the construction of the North European Gas Pipeline,” said Prokhanov.

The timing of the book is important. Prokhanov's nationalist fantasies have long propelled his own political aspirations. And even though his unapologetic anti-Semitism could shame even Borat, it is worrisome that his ideas have found such fertile soil among Russia’s intellectuals and autocrats. Even more worrisome, is the thought that these highly-influential groups are beginning to mistake the influx of petro dollars as signs that “sovereign democracy” is producing a genuine renaissance in the country.


Nov 3, 2006

What’s in a name?

During Communist times, the East Germans would often joke that, “We pretend to work, and the government pretends to pay us.” In Serbia, the joke has been resurrected, of sorts, as the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs no longer exists, yet individuals calling themselves “Ministers” continue to show up for work.

This state of affairs occurred after Montenegro opted out of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro, leaving the left-over’s of Serbia to unite with Serbia and form the new country of, wait for it, Serbia. It was at this point that the real hilarity insued.

Vuk Draskovic was Foreign Minister of Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Yet, said country no longer exists. Unfortunately, the new Serbian parliament has yet to create a new Foreign Ministry or recognize the de facto existence of the hold-over. The same goes for the Minister of Defense, Zoran Stankovic.

"Every week journalists ask me if I am a minister or if I am not a minister, am I allowed to do some things or am I not allowed to do some things," Stankovic complained on Friday. The prospects for righting the situation look bleak. “Both stayed on as ministers of Serbia but have still not been endorsed by parliament. And they are not likely to be now, because a general election is expected to be called any minute and a new parliament may be sitting by January.”

Gazprom grabs Armenia

Over the weekend, Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian signed over control of his country’s gas and electric supply to Gazprom. The deal also places the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline under de facto Russian control.

From the Russian perspective, Armenia’s energy demand represents only a pittance. Yet, the deal is important because it may close the door on competing pipelines from Iran to more lucrative markets in the EU.

Nov 2, 2006

Borat Movie getting high marks

This was my favorite review: "It's outlandish and outrageous, like Swift's A Modest Proposal as rewritten by South Park's Eric Cartman for the YouTube generation."

Don't forget to join us tomorrow night (7:30 pm, Friday, Nov. 3) at the Georgetown Loews for the Unofficial CERES screening.

Here me now and believe me later...

The Russian Foreign Ministry went into spin control yesterday, attempting to calm nervous German consumers over their country’s over-reliance on Russian gas supplies.

The solution? Blame the United States.

According to the wizards at the Foreign Ministry, the US was using "artificial geopolitical schemes" to scare Europeans. The Foreign Ministry promised that Russia would never use gas supplies as a political tool, as it did in Ukraine, or arbitrarily raise the cost of energy to leverage its foreign policy.

That very same day, Gazprom doubled the price of natural gas going to Georgia.

Nov 1, 2006

Holy God

(This is a story ERN has been following with shock and awe.)

It seems that Reuters is the latest to run a story on the impact of Russia’s new vodka regulations. As the story notes, “Counterfeit vodka laced with toxic household agents has turned Russia's national tipple into a deadly cocktail and is killing Russians by the dozen.”

Short on cash, Russia's desperatly poor have taken to drinking aftershave and brake fluid after new government regulations priced them out of the market. Yet, even as Russian lawmakers try to bring the Hammer of Thor down on illegal moonshiners, they can’t seem to make the connection between the recent spike in expensive alcohol regulations (passed on to the consumer), and the rise of deadly alcohol substitutes.

"From July 1 they (officials) introduced licenses for wholesale deliveries of liquids containing alcohol. In August poisoning from antiseptics began."

'Bartender! I'll have two fingers of Bactine, and whatever the lady is drinking.'