Aug 31, 2007

Adventure Tourism in Tajikistan Claims Another

DUSHANBE, August 30 (Itar-Tass) -- A Russian tourist Darya Kolesnikova, 20, died in the highlands of Tajikistan’s Pamirs. The accident occurred on Wednesday in Sebzor, where Russian tourists competed in rafting by sport boats in a highland and cataracted river Roshtkala. The young woman apparently failed to steer the oars, and the boat capsized. Rescuers rushed for help, but only took the dead woman from the water. Four tourists, including two Russian citizens, died in Tajikistan’s highlands this summer, the emergencies committee said.

Shell Throws In The Towel

Regnum reports, Shell oil "is ramping down its involvement in Azerbaijan, as the global oil company hands most of its share in the undeveloped Inam project to South Korea. On August 28, Seoul officials announced that South Korea’s National Oil Company signed an agreement with Shell in July to buy out 20 percent of Shell’s 25 percent stake in the BP-led project."

"Excuse me, I'd like to buy your B-52"

Igor continues his quest to expose the utter absurdity that is the Russian nouveau riche....

"A wealthy Russian tried to buy a U.S. B-52 bomber from a group of shocked American pilots at an airshow near Moscow, a Russian newspaper reported Friday. The unidentified Russian, wearing sunglasses and surrounded by bodyguards, approached the U.S. delegation and asked to buy the bomber," said Komsomolskaya Pravda [Russia's newspaper of record]. "An astounded member of the U.S. delegation said the bomber was not for sale but that it would cost at least $500 million if it were to be sold on the spot."That is no problem. It is such a cool machine."As reported in Reuters.

Aug 29, 2007

"Ridiculous" Booze Ban in Lithuania

VILNIUS - With the country’s inaugural alcohol-free day looming Sep. 01, Lithuania's President Valdas Adamkus has said he regrets not vetoing the relevant legislation when it passed over his desk in June 2007. “Such bans make us look ridiculous. They cannot solve the problem,” he said Aug 27, as reported by the Itar-Tass news agency. “It is sheer stupidity to close restaurants and bars on trains and refuse service to foreigners just to prevent students from drinking beer on September 1,” Adamkus said. (Thanks Jen!)

In the Dark

For more than three days, Russia's Kant air base in Kyrgyzstan has been without electricity. Why? Because no-one paid the electric bill.

Aug 28, 2007

This is the straw that broke the camel's back, Russia

So you eliminated freedom of speech, possibly had various journalists killed, intensified your already rampant xenophobia, tried to steal the North Pole as your own...but now you've gone too far. Buying Red Army junk is every tourist's God given right. I will not part with my Red Army flask, Russia!

New York Times: 2 months ago, Roxana Contreras was exploring a provincial Russian town when a street vendor persuaded her to buy some Red Army medals and old ruble notes the day before she was to return to her home in St. Louis, she said. Now she is stuck in Russia, mired in a legal and bureaucratic imbroglio, accused of trying to smuggle cultural treasures out of the country. Pending a court hearing, she has been ordered to remain in Voronezh, about 365 miles south of Moscow, where she had been visitng friends.

Aug 27, 2007

File Under: Karma’s a bitch

Baltic Times: "The multi-billion-dollar Nord Stream pipeline could include an Estonian section, even though the country was not included in the original route. The Finnish Environment Ministry has expressed concern about the original plan and asked Nord Stream to move it further south -–which means entering the Estonian exclusive economic zone and making the Baltic State a key player in the fate of the 12 billion euro project." (Jen)

Chaika Makes An Arrest

Russia's Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika held a press conference on the Politkovskaya arrests. It turns out, the Chechen mafia ordered Politkovskaya's death, and paid Interior Ministry officials to carry out the hit. Even if Chaika's theory sounds like a script idea for the next Borne Identity, he did not elaborat on exactly why the Chechen mafia was hell bent on "undermining the country's leadership and constitutional order" by killing Politkovskaya. Who knows, maybe the Chechen mafia was trying to plan the next Orange Revolution in Russia, and just got drunk on idealism.

--"Who do we have in the Chechen Mafia file?"
--"Lots to choose from, sir."
--"Oh, and don't forget to arrest [redacted]. That asshole's been parking in my spot."

I guess they are waiting to frame the Estonians for Litvenenko… (Thanks Jen & Vika!)


"Listen very carfully, for I will say this only once..."

Aug 26, 2007

Dear East Euros, Take Anger Management Classes

There are other ways to settle disputes than by setting a penis on fire or stitching a vagina shut! Love, Ern. PS. OUCH! Fishing string?!

The Sofia Weekly: A Bulgarian man was fined BGN 1000 stitching his girlfriend's genitals with fishing string, Darik News reported on Monday. He was sentenced for the crime, which dates back to mid July, by the Razgrad Town Court. The 45-year-old Todor Marinov was also banned from approaching his victim and was restricted from visiting her working place, her home and the places she visits for social contacts. Marinov, from the village of Belovetz, stitched the genitals of the 43-year-old Albena Sokolova, with whom he has lived for 13 years. His horrible act was provoked by his overwhelming jealousy. The man has been previously sentenced to three years in prison for another crime and decided to prevent Albena from cheating on him with other men by simply stitching her.

Aug 23, 2007

A $6 Million Book?

That's right. "There is so much money floating around in Russia that it seemed entirely logical to produce a book designed for the Russian market." (BBC)

If these idiots will pay Shakira $1 million to sing three songs at a birthday party, why not...
(Thanks Igor!)

A Tribute to the Best of English Russia

A Blog Where Life Is Stranger Than Fiction. (Kudos Chalmers!)
It's enough to make you homesick.

Aug 22, 2007

The Fix Is In

Georgia's opposition is hopping mad over the "covert privatization" of Georgian Railways.

Saakashvili transfered the company to UK-based "Parkfield Investments" under an 89 year managment agreement. Yet, for some unknown reason, people are skeptical how a one year-old company, with an ambigious ownership structure and initial assets of only $12 million, is going to come up with the promised $100 million dollars a year in promised investments. Will you take a check?

Then again, "privatization is privatization, it doesn't matter who gets these companies," as Mr. Privatization (Anders Aslund) would say. And someone has to pay for Saakashvili's Italian suits.

Divorce Russian Style

Russian woman claims Lorraina Bobbit was an amateur...

YahooNews: A woman set fire to her ex-husband's penis as he sat naked watching television and drinking vodka, Moscow police said Wednesday. Asked if the man would make a full recovery, a police spokeswoman said it was "difficult to predict."

The attack climaxed three years of acrimonious enforced co-habitation. The couple divorced three years ago but continued to share a small flat, something common in Russia where property costs are very high. "It was monstrously painful," the wounded ex-husband told Tvoi Den newspaper. "I was burning like a torch. I don't know what I did to deserve this."

1. Is saving money really worth having your genitals set ablaze?
2. Why watch TV naked?
3. What was he watching exactly?
4. Did he run to the shower to put out the flames only to realize there was no running water?

Not That We Ever Had Standards

So here you go people: Putin without his shirt, looking every bit the Marlboro Man. We tried to ignore this story, but the Russians can't seem to get enough. Hell, the Kremlin put in on their website for Christ's sake. Its so obviously an attempt to one-up Sarkozy, but no-one seems to care. If Dick Cheney decides he will not be out-done, we're going to just close up shop and move to Lake Como. To hell with you all.

IHT: "Few could have predicted the squall of gossip and speculation that would follow after Putin stripped off his shirt for the cameras while on holiday with Prince Albert II of Monaco in the Siberian mountains last week. The resulting images of the presidential abs, prominently enshrined on the presidential web site, inspired admiration, criticism and some racing pulses among his admirers. The Russian media still can't get enough. The mass market tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda on Wednesday published a huge color photo of the barechested president, under the headline: 'Be Like Putin.'" Oh sweet Lord.

More 'genocide' word inflation...

...this time from the Estonians. /sigh

"The cousin of Estonia's late president, Lennart Meri, committed genocide by helping deport his countrymen to Siberia nearly 60 years ago, prosecutors said Wednesday. But Arnold Meri, 88, a former top ranking Communist Party official in Estonia, claimed he was a mere civil servant."

Of course, the 'just following orders' defence always works.

Aug 21, 2007

Those Magnificent Russians & Their Flying Machines

This week, Moscow hosted Russia’s largest air show in the post-Soviet era.

Right before a low-level Mig fly-over, Putin felt confident enough to assert that Russia was already the world's leading producer of military aircraft, and would soon become the worlds third largest producer of civilian aircraft. You read that right. Fasten your seatbelt and get out those rosary beads, because we’re all going to be flying Russia’s safe, spacious, eco-friendly, and of course, whisper quiet Tupolev jetliners.

Also, Putin tapped First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov to lead the new state-controlled United Aircraft Corporation, an umbrella group to oversee Russia's resurgent aircraft manufacturing industry. See more on Ivanov's improving presidential odds below.

They May Have Claimed the Arctic...

...but they still have no hot running water in the summer. Maybe they should have stuck a titanium flag on an evian or bon aqua factory...

NY Times: The dour Moscow of cold war film strips is long gone. But every summer, the people here get a taste of old-style deprivation, as if they were flung back to a time when they had to queue up at dawn to buy a few coils of mealy sausage. In neighborhoods rich and poor, for as long as a month, most buildings have no running hot water, not a drop.

Buildings in Moscow usually receive hot water from a series of plants throughout the city, not from basement boilers, as in the US. By summer, the plants and the network of pipelines that transport hot water need maintenance. Off goes the hot water. And in homes across the city, out come the pots and sponges and grumbling.

Moscow is not alone in its summertime water woes. St. Petersburg and other Russian cities have similar systems. But it galls some Muscovites that a city of such power and money cannot provide a basic necessity year-round.

Aug 20, 2007

Ukraine Faces Natural Gas Shortage Crisis

Now is the time to open our sweater factory with retail locations in Kyiv and Lviv (Jen).

"Presidential advisor says majority of stored gas not Ukrainian Kiev, Ukraine—Ukraine may face an energy crisis by the end of the year because Naftogaz Ukrayiny, the national oil and gas company, has failed to accumulate sufficient reserves of its own natural gas..."

What Are the Odds?

The British will bet on anything, and UK-bookmaker Unibet has posted the current line on the Russian Presidential Election 2008: "To replace Putin who will be the next Russian president? Others on request." (Thanks Chalmers)

Ivanov, Sergei 2.20
Medvedev, Dmitry 3.75
Fradkov, Mikhail 10.00
Gryzlov, Boris 14.00
Kasyanov, Mikhail 14.00
Mironov, Sergei 15.00
Yakunin, Vladimir 15.00
Trutnev, Yuri 18.00
Gerashchenko, Viktor 18.00
Stepashin, Sergei 20.00
Matviyenko, Valentina 20.00
Zyuganov, Gennardy 30.00
Seleznyov, Gennadiy 30.00
Nemtsov, Boris 30.00
Kristenko, Viktor 30.00
Shenin, Oleg 50.00
Donskoi, Alexander 75.00
Yavlinsky, Grigory 100.00
Anpilov, Viktor 100.00
Liminov, Eduard 100.00
Zjirinovskij, Vladimir 150.00
Khordokovsky, Mikhail 200.00
Putina, Lyudmila 200.00
Abramovitch, Roman 200.00

Mr. 88 Percent

Kazakhstan finished it's parliamentary election this weekend. Nazarbayev's party pulled 88% of the vote and every seat in parlarment. Always decisive, the OSCE called it a flawed step forward. The question is, if you're going to win anyway, why cheat?

"Yo, Kosovo..!"

Hearing the Rocky theme in the background, we imagine the villagers from Borat running up the steps at the Philadelphia Art Museum. (Vika & Igor)

'Rocky' statue erected in Serbian village.

Two Words I NEVER Wanted to See in a Headline Together

The Sofia Weekly: Bulgaria Launches Probe into Roma Vendetta

Prosecutors have launched pre-trial proceedings into the 2 days of Roma violence in a Sofia district that set the capital on edge and renewed the debate about minority discrimination. Sofia district prosecutor's office said it is conducting interrogations, collecting evidence and examining video recordings of the incident.

At least 200 Roma gathered Monday night in the district, including children under ten, who carried axes, cudgels, pitchforks and stones, chanting "Death for the Bulgarians". The policemen apparently did not know how to react and decided to watch passively the scenes of violence.

Interior Chief Secretary Iliya Iliev defended the police lack of actions, saying they feared they might be accused of discrimination if they were too tough. "A policeman is timid in his actions when he fears he may end up at the military prosecutor's office if he uses his powers to the fullest," he commented.

The police are still investigating the circumstances of the brawl, but Roma witnesses claimed it was retaliation for a clash the previous night, when 30 skinheads reportedly attacked three Roma teenagers, one of whom was badly beaten. Between 20 and 30 people were involved in the row, although witness reports are contradictory, the police said. Four people, all of them Roma, were detained to testify and were released shortly afterwards.

The Conga: Not just for weddings anymore

The Sofia Weekly: Bulgarian Eco-Activists Do the Conga along Strandzha Border

Bulgarian environmental activists plan to encircle with their bodies Strandzha national park in protest against the lack of a plan for its further development. The Strandzha natural park, covering 5.400 hectares of land near the border with Turkey in southeastern Bulgaria, is home to historical landmarks and unique natural monuments. It hit the headlines in June this year after a court decision to revoke the statute of its parts as protected areas triggered a series of protests in Sofia streets. The chain will trace the park borders as outlined in the papers of the municipality of Tsarevo, starting from the seaside, going through the Tsarevo-Varvara road and along the forest areas. The initiative will repeat on a larger scale the one from the middle of July when environmental activists made a conga line 200 meters long marching through Sofia's pedestrian area.

Next thing you know, they'll be doing the chicken dance to raise awareness. Where will it end?!

Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov…President Bush?

The WashPost takes an in-depth look at the president's faltering policy to promote democracy world-wide. How did we miss this priceless Bush quote, “I too am a dissident in Washington. Bureaucracy in the United States does not help change.” (That's Sharansky getting the Medal of Freedom for inspiring the policy that the State Depatment willfully ignores -- so says the article.)

Aug 17, 2007

'I'm Not a Dunk, It's a Health Spa'

The BBC reports on a Ukrainian health spa's 'wine therapy' program. "The formula is simple - lots of dried herbs are mixed with lots of Crimean wine. Sometimes vodka is added for an extra kick." Sweet Lord, vodka and wine? Eternal Remont once experimented with this deadly combo and woke up beside a troupe of acrobat midgets and a bearded hooker from Krasnoyarsk.

'How Did You Make The Terrorists So Small?'

Chinese President Hu Jintao ponders the mystries of Putin's micro-mini tank collection, and other highlights from the wrap-up of the SCO's Arms Expo 2007: "Try Before You Buy."

Aug 16, 2007

More Yukos Hilarity (Jen)

The Russian government has sold off chunks of Yukos, much to the dismay of everyone else with claims pending before a Dutch court.

The Russian government “might as well have offered up the Statue of Liberty to the participating bidders, as [it] has the same right to sell that landmark as [it] had to sell Yukos Finance—none whatsoever,” said the company.

(Jen: I heard yesterday that Russia levied back-taxes on The Clausing Barn Restaurant in Eagle, Wisconsin.)


The initial report on the Georgian missile affair is in. Yup, radar tapes show not one, but three separate incursions by a SU-24 from Russian airspace. The missile was either dropped (oops) or sputtered out (oops) when the pilot attempted to fire at a Georgian radar instilation.

The missile in question is a Russian-made Kh-58 (above), specially designed for the SU-24. The Georgian's don't fly this aircraft, nor do they have this missile in their arsenal.

Originally, South Ossetia's "President" claimed the Georgians had planted the missile to embarrass Russia. This is the same line which the Kremlin has adopted throughout. However, nobody seems to have CC-ed Russia's peacekeeping commander in South Ossetia on the talking-points memo. On August 7, Major-General Marat Kulakhmetov claimed that South Ossetian forces had fired a man-portable missile at a unidentified Georgian aircraft which had flown into South Ossetian airspace. (Get it, Georgia invaded us!) So that's what must have fallen to the ground. Too bad the Kh-58 weights well over 300 pounds, is not very "man portable," and did we mention the can-only-be-fired-from-a-SU-24 part?

Not that it matters. This is the Caucuses. We don't need no stinking facts.

It Was the Summer of '99

Remember August-September 1999, when "Chechen Terrorists" were felling Russian apartment buildings with a high-grade military explosvie that one could only procure from KGB-run factories?

Well, so do the Georgians (Messenger ): "Davit Bakradze, the new State Minister for Conflict Resolution, had the sharpest of sharp re-joinders for Ivanov's statement [that Tbilisi planted the missile].'Unlike its neighboring country, Georgian authorities do not plant bombs in apartment buildings,' Bakradze said."

To our knowledge, this is the first time a government official has just come out said it.

(If you're in the mood on these hot muggy days, take a min. to stroll down memory lane.)

Lunchtime Poll: What would you do with 5,000 Dragunov rifles?

And perhaps more importantly, what the hell is Venezuela planning to do with 5,000 sniper rifles?

NYT: A proposed contract between Russia & Venezuela that could transfer 1,000s of sniper rifles to Venezuela has raised concerns in the US about the potential use or regional distribution of the weapons by the socialist-inspired government of Pres. Hugo Chavez. Venezuela is negotiating a contract with Rosoboronexport to purchase about 5,000 modernized Dragunov rifles.

Venezuela has about 34,000 soldiers in its army & 23,000 in its national guard. Because sniper rifles are specialized infantry weapons & not typically issued to large numbers of soldiers, diplomats and military officers and analysts said, a purchase of several thousand Dragunovs would not seem to have a conventional military use for Venezuela’s armed forces.

“Sales like this, & other sales of military equipment & arms to Venezuela, don’t seem consistent with Venezuela’s needs,” David J. Kramer, deputy assistant secretary of state for european and eurasian affairs, said. “It does raise questions about their ultimate use,” he added.

Aug 14, 2007

Russia's Railroad Bomb, Who's To Blame?

A lot of people smell somthing fishy in the "it was a terrorist bomb" explination for yesterday's train accident between Moscow and Peter.

Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- "Russia's top security official warned of a heightened terrorist threat ahead of elections after a homemade bomb derailed an express train, injuring dozens of people...'The terrorist threat in Russia has been used repeatedly' by the authorities to cement control, said Masha Lipman, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center. 'This raises concern.'"
The last time Russia changed its head of state, the Kremlin orchistrated the affair under the manufactured threat of Chechen terrorist attacks. The Presidential election is in seven short months away. If OJ shows up to hunt for the "real terrorists" behind the accident, we'll konw the fix is in...

The Definition of Insanity

Insanity is commonly defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results each time. No one has apparently explained this concept to Nasrullah ibn Ibadullah. Ibadullah, former chief mufti of Turkmenistan, was released from prison last week after being jailed for his alleged participation in the failed 2002 assassination attempt on Niyazov. Today RFE/RL reports that Ibadullah has agreed to join the Turkmen government, AGAIN, as an adviser to the State Council of Religious Affairs.

After sampling some of Turkmenistan's 1100 different types of musk melon while celebrating national Melon Day on Sunday, Ibadullah decided to give working for the Turkmen government another shot. One can only hope it works out better for him this time around.

Aug 13, 2007

Russians Do Love Their Chess

Its not exactly playing chess with death, but it comes damn close. IHT reports on the macabre trial of a Russian mass murderer who marked off his dead on a chessboard.... "One by one, the squares on the chessboard filled up with numbers — each commemorating a murder. Alexander Pichushkin allegedly killed most of his victims in a Moscow park, smashing their skulls with a hammer or throwing them into sewage pits after getting them drunk. He boasted he had nearly reached the last square, No. 64, by the time police captured him last year."

Turkmenistan Celebrates Melon Day

I bet it still doesn't hold a candle to the Suzdal Cucumber Festival.

August 12, 2007 -- Turkmenistan is celebrating its annual "Melon Day" holiday today. Melon Day, which pays tribute to the approximately 1,100 different sorts of melons that grow in the country, has been an annual holiday in Turkmenistan since 1994. Newspapers in Turkmenistan on August 11 carried a message from President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in which he reminded the country that "since ancient times Turkmenistan has been considered the homeland of the best melons in the world." [Insert joke here.]

Thanks Hill...!

"Peace Mission 2007" Turns Into A Goat Rodeo

The SCO held an elaborate arms expo/anti-terrorist exercise over the weekend, essentially allowing Chinese generals to test drive all the new toys Russia intendeds to sell them next year. The affair quickly descended into hillarity. Kommersant's lead was priceless...

"....About 6000 soldiers from SCO member states Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are participating in the exercise. Their initial efforts at staging an antiterrorist operation were hampered by the language barrier and the lack of clean water and toilets." Other highlights included:
  • The promised Russian-Chinese airborne drop didn't happen. Instead empty Ilyushin-76MD's did a low fly-over of the exercise area.
  • The Chinese refused to airlift their own troops and equipment, saying that the terrain was "unfamiliar."
  • Tajik and Kyrgyz units did not take part in the joint training on August 6, as they arrived a day late and were forced to sit around and watch.
  • Russian Chief of the General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky expounding on his belief that democracy was the region's largest security threat.

Aug 10, 2007

The Eternal Flame Gets Snuffed reports that last night, three drunk Belarussian youths have done what the Germans could not 60 years ago, by extinguishing the Eternal Flame dedicated to World War II soldiers in Minsk's Victory Square.

Although the article does not note the precise method used by the perpetrators of this heinous crime, erudite EternalRemont readers could probably venture a guess or two. Reaction from Moscow is forthcoming. EternalRemont, always dedicated to providing timely political analysis, offers the following future scenarios:

1) A massive Nashi demonstration in front of the Belarussian Embassy in Moscow. Nashi leader Vasily Yakemenko personally hounds the Belarussian Ambassador for the next 5-6 months.

2) The Duma announces a boycott of Belarussian goods in Russia. After establishing that such goods consist solely of potatoes, Duma announces the yam as the new Russian national staple food.

3) Within hours, all three Belarussian servers are shut down by Russian hackers

4) Gazprom establishes a $30/cubic meter " Eternal Flame Tax" on gas exports to Belarus. When EU officials object, tax extended to all EU members, excluding Germany.

5) All Belarussian guest workers are ordered to leave Moscow, while the police searches for their children in Russian schools.

In the confusion over the indistinguishably-Slavic features of Belarussian natives, all citizens whose last name end in -shenko are deported from Russia. Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko writes another article in Foreign Affairs, decrying Putin's "imperial tendencies."



Some Go in, Others Go Out

Yesterday on this site I commented on Berdymukhammedov throwing people in jail. Today the opposite is true. reports that the President of Turkmenistan has granted amnesty to at least 11 people imprisoned during the late Niyazov's reign.

Among the pardoned is Nasrulla Ibn Ibadulla who served as head Mufti of the Turkmen spiritual board from its creation in 1994 to 2003. In 2004, Ibadulla was sentenced to 22 years. While the exact charges against him were not made public, there was widespread speculation about the reason for his downfall. Was it because of his ethnic Uzbek background? His unwillingness to elevate the Rukhnama to the status of the Q'uran? Or had he participated in the 2002 assignation attempt against Niyazov?

Whatever the reason, Ibadulla was a prominent figure in Turkmenistan and Berdymukhammedov has made yet another bold move in granting him amnesty.

Aug 9, 2007

Russian Bombers Prompt Flood of 80s Nostalgia

As the AP reports: "A Russian bomber flew over a U.S. naval base on the Pacific island of Guam on Wednesday and 'exchanged smiles' with U.S. pilots."

Tell Maverick and the gang they need to come out of retirement. We've got a job for those rakishly handsome flyboys! (Vika)

Bold Moves in Turkmenistan

Berdymukhammedov has been in power for less than a year and he has been very busy. Not only has Turkmenistan recently signed agreements to provide natural gas to China, Iran and Turkey - agreements that have the potential to upset Turkmenistan's relations with Russia - the President is taking swift action against any possible domestic opposition.

John C.K. Daly writing for the Eurasia Daily Monitor covered how former head of the Turkmen secret police, Lieutenant-General Akumra Redzhepov and his son have been arrested and sentenced to prison. RFE/RL today reports that Former Turkmen Agriculture Minister Paizygeldy Meredov has also been arrested. Listed among the missing is Alexander Zhadan, former head of Niyazov's finances, who disappeared right before the death of his boss was made public in December.

It is speculated that Zhadan, Meredov and Redzhepov all have massive bank accounts, padded with natural gas and cotton revenues siphoned off throughout Niyazov's reign. Berdymukhammedov, it appears, wants to both get this money back and remove any potential opposition. He is moving quickly and boldly to do so. But how secure is he? Secure enough to disrupt relations with Russia? Secure enough purge domestic political elites?

Saakashvili is a Bad Ass

Two points have been overlooked in the instant analysis of the Georgian missile row. First, the Russians are taking their PR talkers from the South Ossetians. (South Ossetia's 'president' was the first to front the "Georgia planted it" story.) But hell, Russia got away with it in the spring, why not try again? This is the only kind of recycling Russia likes, but it shows a general lack of creativity.

Second, Saakashvili should get a high-five. Sure the “Saakashvili-sucks” crowd will be miffed, buy he’s played this just about as pitch perfect as you can: Grab your Versace sunglasses, roll up your tailored Burberry sleves, invite foreign ambassadors to accompany you to the impact site, then just look serious and in-charge. When its all over, go home, get a neck massage from the wife, and lodge a complaint with the U.N. in the morning.

This is how aspiring NATO members act. And The bastard looks good doing it.

Aug 8, 2007

Ukrainian Man Tallest in World

Insert Chernobyl joke here.

YahooNews: A Ukrainian man is the tallest person in the world at 8'5", overshadowing a Chinese man who previously held the title, Guinness World Records said Wednesday. Leonid Stadnik, a 37-yr-old former veterinarian, is 8 in. taller than the former titleholder, China's Bao Xishun, who measured 7'9".

Stadnik's growth spurt started at age 14 after a brain operation apparently stimulated his pituitary gland, which produces the human growth hormone. He lives with his mother, Halyna, in NW Ukraine, taking care of the family's house and garden.

According to Guiness, the tallest man in medical history was Illinois native Robert Pershing Wadlow, who was 8 feet 11 inches and died in 1940 at the age of 22.

Belarus pays its whole debt. So the question is... many women did the Belarusian government have to sell to raise $460 million?

RFE/RL: Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly, Gazprom, says Belarus has paid all of its $460 million debt for Russian gas deliveries in the 1st 1/2 of the year. Gazprom threatened to limit gas deliveries to Belarus earlier this month if the bill went unpaid. Belarus made a 1st $190-million payment on its debt for Russian natural gas on August 3. The dispute over the bill was watched closely by the West, as pipelines in Belarus are a key transit route for Russian oil and gas to Europe.

Aug 7, 2007

Someone Explain This Cartoon....

"Ну вот две недели в отпуске пролетели незаметно."

Credit: Ellustrator

You can't touch it, if its not really there...

Russian Ambassador Vyacheslav Kovalenko on the missile row: What Su-24? Georgia has its own airspace? And we sure as hell don't know anything about no missile, not even that one right there, smoking in the crater. No idea. Its not ours. You must have planted it. Don't you people have visa applications to be filling out?

Georgia: Russia is Shooting Blanks

(Thanks LJ) AP: Georgia accused Russia of ''undisguised aggression'', saying 2 Russian fighter jets intruded on its airspace and fired a missile that landed near a house. Russia denied the allegation -- the latest dispute between Moscow and the former Soviet republic.

The Interior Ministry said 2 Russian Su-24 bombers illegally entered Georgia's airspace Monday night over the Gori region, about 35 miles NW of the capital, and fired a missile that landed on the edge of the village of Shavshvebi.

The missile did not explode, Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said.

Georgia has long accused Russia of trying to destabilize the country and of backing separatists in its breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which President Mikhail Saakashvili has pledged to bring back into the Georgian fold.

The Gori region where the missile was dropped is next to South Ossetia.

"False Patriotism"

Pavel Baev has really outdone himself.

"Seeking to maintain the breathtaking run-of-luck momentum, Russia has arrived in a rather tight corner where its fast growing internal demand for cheap energy clashes with the imperative to export huge volumes of hydrocarbons at the highest possible prices....The symbol of Gazprom – a capital G with a blue flame – has become a sign of energy insecurity, and Russia’s attempts to maximize its benefits by stamping this symbol on every available reservoir, even deep under the Northern Pole, would inevitably backfire. False patriotism fuelled by gas intoxication is a recipe for a truly bad hangover."

Aliev, Scapegoat or Total Criminal?

While it would be naive to think that Rakhat Aliev, former son-in-law to President Nazerbayev, never acted unethically and respected both the spirit and the letter of Kazakh law - did this guy really murder, abduct, assault and launder money AND get away with it for years?

RFE/RL is reporting that the body of Anastasia Novikova, missing since 2004, has been found. Novikova worked for NTK television, a subsidiary of Alma-Media group which was co-owned by Aliev until his flight from Kazakhstan earlier this summer. According to RFE/RL, Aliev and Novikova "reportedly had a personal relationship" and the Kazakh Interior Ministry is investigating the possibility that Aliev was involved in her death.

If Aliev is the criminal he is being made out to be, shame on the Kazakh government and shame on the ruling family to let him get away with so many crimes for so long. If, however, Aliev is being persecuted for expressing a desire to replace Nazerbayev as President, this is but more evidence that Kazakhstan is not the democracy it wants the west to think it is.

Aug 6, 2007

Russia Cancels 90 Percent of Afghan Debt (Vika)

Russia to Afghanistan: Sure, we'll forgive your debt...let's be real good friends! By the way, how do you feel about evil, imperialistic American influences? Eternal Remont is anxiously awaiting its invitation to the formal exchange of BFF braclets between Presidents Putin and Karzai at the Kremlin.

WWTD: What would Turkmenbashi do?

As in the fashion world, in Turkmenistan, you're either "EEn" or your "Out." From the looks of it, the Turkmenbashi's National Security Chief, Akmura Redzhepov, will not be debuting his new line at this year's Prêt à Porter show in Paris.

According to published reports, Le Petite Presidente Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov has sent Redzhepov up the river for 20 years on "unspecified crimes related to abuse of power." Not to worry though, Redzhepov will have some company in the clink. His son, Nurmurad, a colonel in the secret police, received a 13-year sentence.

If he lives, however, Redzhepov will get the last laugh. It seems that he is the only one alive who knows how to access the secret $3 billion Turkmenbashi retirement fund.

Aug 3, 2007

How Much For a Vollyball Team?

For those of you who are counting. The current world market value of one Bulgarian nurse is $11.2 million -- tradable in sovereign bonds.

Bulgaria forgives Libyan debt. (Thanks Jen!)

Old Is New Again

Remember the days of Stalin, when you had to go down to the police station in person to denounce your neighbors and get their apartment? Not anymore.

Thanks to the Internet, Russians can induldge in their favorite national passtime from the comfort of their own home.

"Back in February 2007, a poll on the legal status of foreign nationals in Moscow showed that 47% of Moscow residents would like to anonymously finger illegal migrants via the Internet."

That's nearly 1 out of every 2 people.

Jingoistic Geology III

Thus far, the Canadians have offered the best response on Russia's attempt to "own Christmas." Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told broadcaster CTV on Thursday, "Look, this isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and plant flags and say, 'We're claiming this territory.'"

The Canadian's have a right to be pissed. That same ridge which the Russian's claim to be part of "their" continental shelf, also belongs to Canada. Oops.

State Department spokesman Tom Casey gets second prize. "I'm not sure of whether they've put a metal flag, a rubber flag or a bed sheet on the ocean floor," he said. "Either way, it doesn't have any legal standing or effect on this claim."

All of this has got us thinking. When the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon in 1969, they planted an American flag. Employing Russia's same logic, the United States should, by rights, own the moon. This opens up a universe of possibilities, like charging fees anytime someone looks at the moon. It would be just like the time Eternal Remont sold tickets to glimps the image of Boris Yeltsin, which miracously appeared on the bottom side of a cheese quesadilla. Say goodbye to the national debt.

Adding Venezuela to the mix has made East European energy politics SO fun

Financial Times: Belarus has turned to Venezuela to help pay back a $456m debt to Russia for gas supplies after Moscow threatened to halve its gas deliveries, Alexander Lukashenko, Belarusan president, said on Thursday.

“I have instructed the government to reach into the reserve fund for $460m to pay Russia for gas. Hugo Chávez [the president of Venezuela] and our other friends can give us credits today. Even foreign commercial banks are prepared to lend to Belarus,” the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Mr Lukashenko as saying.

A Venezuelan loan to Belarus would not be surprising. Mr Chávez visited the country in June, describing Mr Lukashenko as a “brother in arms”.

A supply cut to Belarus could threaten countries in northern Europe importing Russian gas through Belarusan transit pipelines, a charge Gazprom denies.

CSIS Study: Russian Media Working As Intended

CSIS wanted to know what Russia's "Putin Generation" (ages 16 to 29) thought about the United States:

"Nearly 80 percent agreed that 'the United States tries to impose its norms and way of life on the rest of the world,' we found. Nearly 70 percent disagreed that the United States 'does more good than harm.' Three-quarters agreed that the 'United States gives aid in order to influence the internal politics of countries,'" say the authors of the study.

Aug 2, 2007

Now that's what I call a Holiday!

I wonder if Aeroflot will offer discounted tickets to get to this little festival? RFE/RL reports:


Sergei Morozov, who is governor of Ulyanovsk Oblast, said on August 2 that citizens should be given September 12 as a day off work in order to conceive children and help offset Russia's demographic decline, reported. He proposed calling the holiday the Day of Conception. Morozov has previously captured attention with calls for officials from around Russia to send him their unwanted statues of Lenin for an open-air museum and his insistence that officials pass a test in Russian-language proficiency. PM

Moldova Dissed From World Santa Claus Congress

"Moldova didn’t receive an invitation to this event despite the fact it has a special Academy, a national Santa Claus and activities similar to the institutions of this kind from Europe."

It all has to do with a fight over when to celebrate Christmas. Oh yeah, and Moldova has "too many official holiays" already, so the National Assembly won't recognize a December Christmas. No word yet on the fate of August 31, Limba Noastra (National Language Day).

Go Moldova!

In solidarity with little Moldova, Eternal Remont will hereby change its Official Lanugage to Coloradian. From now on, all posts on this blog will be made in Coloradian. All non-Coloradian posts will first have to be translated from English into Coloradian.

Aug 1, 2007

Rumor Mill: Lukashenko is Leaving Politics to Become a Musician

The word on the blogosphere is that Lukashenko is starting up a Beastie Boys tribute band. Check it out:

Today before a packed press conference in Minsk, the President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, announced that he would be stepping down from his post to devote his life to an even greater undertaking: over-50 Beastie Boys cover band, which he dubbed "Sabotage."

"I've been a huge fan of the Beasties for years," explained Lukashenko. "As you can see, I've been cultivating this look for some time now."

Lukashenko hopes the band will start touring in the near future, playing medium-level clubs and bars in Belarus, as well as the aging hipster circuit in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Auditions for Sabotage start Monday.

"A Cruder Kremlin"

Today’s FT sports a slick write up on the state of Kremlin spin-ology, “In front of a domestic audience [Putin] often slips into harsh language, even street slang, to get across his message."

On the Litvinenko case, “Mr Putin suddenly switched from calm analysis to harsh words. ‘They are making proposals to change our constitution, which is insulting for our nation and our people,' the president declared at the televised meeting. 'It is their brains, not our constitution, that need to be changed.’"

Easy pickings for UK Ambassador Anthony Brenton:

The Russian constitution, he said in an interview, also "states that economic activities aimed at monopolization are prohibited (Article 34); that people have the right to choose freely their place of residence in Russia, including in Moscow (Article 27); and that Duma deputies cannot engage in paid work (Article 97)."

Rock and roll Anthony Brenton. The "our-constitution-is-sacred" argument just won't hold water.

Bulgaria's Honeymoon With Democracy Ends…

…as Jury Duty begins. Get this, you're elected.

From Darik: "This is the first time when a court jury is introduced to Bulgarian juridical system after changes to the Judiciary Law last week. All Bulgarians over 18 years of age, who have authority with the society and do not have a criminal record, are eligible to apply for jurors, the law states. The youngest elected juror is 22 years old, the oldest is 72." It is always wild to see a country with a Justinian Legal Tradition seat Celtic juries. Hilarity is sure to follow.

Colbert's Take on Russians in the North Pole

It may or may not involve an army of hermit crabs...

European Human Rights Court Continues to Hand Russia Her Ass

You'd think all the journalists and Chechen victims would file one large class action suit. Just a thought.

RFE/RL: STRASBOURG COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF RUSSIAN JOURNALISTS AGAINST THE STATE. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on July 31 in favor of 3 Russian journalists and ordered the Russian government to pay compensation. Russian courts previously convicted the 3 on different charges of allegedly slandering government officials. The German weekly "Der Spiegel" of July 30 described the Strasbourg court as a "beacon of hope" for Russians, many of whom have little confidence in their own judicial system. More Russian citizens file cases in Strasbourg than do citizens of any other country belonging to the Council of Europe. Putin has called many of the resulting court rulings politically motivated.