Apr 30, 2008

This Just In: Russian Royal Family Still Dead

AP - DNA tests carried out by a U.S. laboratory prove that remains exhumed last year belong to two children of Czar Nicholas II, putting to rest questions about what happened to Russia's last royal family, a regional governor said Wednesday. The bone fragments dug up are those of Crown Prince Alexei and his sister, Maria, whose remains had been missing since the family was murdered in 1918 as Russia descended into civil war, said Eduard Rossel, governor of the Sverdlovsk region.

Of course this discovery means we can rule out the return of the royal family. The 100 year old ladies of Russia can stop holding their breath now.

Eternal Remont is Now Troll Friendly

After yesterday's BBQ, Legal Nihilist suggested we open Eternal Remont up to trolls. Always in the mood to be called a crusader jew who hates Russia, we think this is a smashing idea!

So welcome trolls. The smoking lounge and comment section is now open.

AKP, EU, Agendas, And All That

Our own Razuman Aga Pashazade passed along this article by German Green MP Cem Özdemir. "It's nothing amazing, but it hits at the core of the issue."

Özdemir sees the current legal challenge to the AKP Party as a key test of Turkey's parliamentary democracy, offering "the very choice between a democratic state founded on the rule of law and an authoritarian system..." He adds, "I do not see any signs, that the AKP has a 'hidden agenda' to abolish the rule of law and the secular character of Turkey. However, many people in Turkey - even as they oppose a military coup and aspire towards democracy and the rule of law - do believe this."

Apr 29, 2008

Russian Nanotech

Question: What is "nanotechnology" in Russian politics?

Answer: When each new leader is shorter than his predecessor.

--Some Russian anekdote

(Thanks Amy!)

The "Prime" Minister

Ellustrator never seems to run dry.

Apr 28, 2008

Wait, J.R. Ewing Won the Cold War?

Move over Reagan, it was all J.R.'s doing.... Thanks Jen!

"Dallas wasn't simply a television show. It was an atmosphere-altering cultural force. Lasting nearly as long as recovering alcoholic Larry Hagman's second liver, it helped define the 1980s as a glorious 'decade of greed,' ushering in an era in which capitalism became cool, even though weighted with manifold moral quandaries."

Just as Stalin once screened The Grapes of Wrath "in the Soviet Union to showcase the depredations of life under capitalism [and] Russian audiences marveled that in the United States, even poor people had cars...Dallas functioned similarly."

Two Very Different Russias

Two very different images of sovereign democracy appeared on the pages of the Washington Post and the Financial Times this morning.

In the WashPost it is all rather grim: “Putin did not announce, eight years ago, his intention to create an autocracy in which all television channels would be under Kremlin control; in which elections would be decided, by him, ahead of time; in which every major industrialist and provincial governor would dance to his tune and roving bands of nationalist youths would threaten, intimidate or beat up anyone who objected.”

However, the FT sees things a bit differently. Alright, very differently: “Medvedev will want bring into his administration young professionals and ‘people from internet society...The extent to which [Medvedev] will be allowed to do this is not clear but he wants reformers, pro-west people and not xenophobic patriots.”

The quote comes from Igor Yurgens at Renaissance Capital. How could he arrive at such a radically different view? Well, for starters, Medvedev is the chairman of Yurgens’ business lobby group. But, that probably has little impact on Yurgens’ opinion.

In fact, Yurgens may be on to something. Just think of all that Medvedev could accomplish if he filled his administration exclusivly with “people from Internet society,” like that Chocolate Rain fellow, laughing baby, the Star Wars kid, and -- heaven help us -- “Leave Britney alone.”

Come to think of it, Yurgens is probably thinking of a different Internet.

Apr 25, 2008


John Cusack is staring in a new political satire. He invades "Turaqistan" for a private defence contractor. Sounds like it could be funny, right?

Well, Ben Kingsley's Texas accent is (unintentionally) funny. Hilary Duff's Russian accent is not. Also, who on Earth thought it was a good idea to cast Lizzie McGuire as a Central Asian sex kitten? That's like casting Ludmilla Putin in a Girls Gone Wild Video.

First Berdy dumps the Turkmenbashi's mom off the calander, now this. Central Asia just can't get a break these days.

Turkmenbashi's Mom Looses Her Month

This Berdymukhamedov character is turning out to be a real kill-joy.

"Turkmenistan's president has abolished the calendar introduced by his late predecessor, who named months after himself and his parents, state-run media reported Thursday.'Names of months and days have to comply with international standards,'" he decreed.

Next thing you know, he'll chastise the entire country for not flossing.

Apr 24, 2008

"Fantasies" in the Sky

Despite video to the contrary, Russian military officials continue to dismissed reports of their involvement in the Georgia shoot-down incident as "fantasies."

It would be rather embarrassing for a Russian MiG-29 to have been captured on tape firing at an unarmed Georgian drone, since unarmed recon aircraft are not prohibited under the 1994 Ceasefire Agreement.

Not to worry, the Abkhaz have an explanation: it was us.

“Abkhaz Deputy Defense Minister Garry Kupala told journalists that an Abkhaz Air Force L-39 jet had flown the mission, not a Russian MiG-29.”

But as Jamestown notes, this explanation is problematic. 1) The L-39 does not resemble the distinctive silhouette of a MiG-29. 2) The L-39 lacks the on-board radar needed to fire air-to-air missiles. 3) L-39 is primarily used as a trainer or, in some cases, a light bomber.

Keep trying. Seriously, you’re doing better.

The video is even better:

Mikhail Prokhorov: Snob

Amy sends along this real story from the Moscow Times, not the Onion:

"If you don't like mingling with the rabble on Facebook or Odnoklassniki, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov [Russia's fifth-richest person] feels your pain. Upwardly mobile Russians will soon be able to enjoy Snob, a social networking site of their own..."

Prokhorov also plans to launch a magazine with the same name. But he might not have thought this one through completely, since Eternal Remont and all of those Russian millionaires in his target demographic are already subscribers to Lebanon’s Snob Magazine for women.

By the way Prokhorov, Snob is a pejorative.

McCain Weighs In...

Igor notes McCain's statement on the Georgia-Russia tiff. "I am now eagerly waiting for the day until President McCain starts referring to Prime Minister and Executive Puppeteer Vladimir Putin as 'the mad dog of Eurasia.'"

Here's the text.

Find the “Abkhaz Anti-Aircraft Weapons”

These days, cameras are everywhere: shopping malls, street corners, Georgian reconnaissance drones... In fact, this has created a little problem for the Russian Foreign Ministry, following the shoot-down of a Georgian recon drone over Abkhazia.

When the news first broke of the incident, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying, "It was shot down by Abkhaz anti-aircraft weapons."

That’s when everyone learned an important lesson about cameras.

Straight away, Georgia provided amazingly clear video of a twin-tailed Mig-29 firing an air-to-air missile at the unarmed drone (top left). The Georgian military also claims to have a radar record of the jet taking-off from inside Abkhazia.

Now, faced with these minor details, Russia could argue that it takes an extremely liberal interpretation of ground-based “Abkhaz anti-aircraft weapons” to mean "Russian operated Mig-29." However, any missile launch by a Mig-29 is a big no-no, regardless of whose flag is painted on the tail.

Under the terms of the 1994 Georgia-Abkhazia Ceasefire Agreement, Russia could be allowed to position its own Mig-29's in Abkhazia under the Kremlin’s mildly ridiculous assertion that its armed forces in the region are “CIS Peacekeepers.” However, under Section 2(h) of the same agreement, Russia would have to somehow argue that an unarmed recon drone presented a “direct military threat” to its forces – an incredulous assertion at best.

Also, Section 2(g) states in that the United Nations, and not Russia, is responsible for monitoring the air space over the security zone. Strike two.

Now, Russia could argue that Georgia violated the ceasefire by sending a military aircraft over the security zone. However, this isn't neccessarly a violation, since the document only states, "There shall be no armed forces or heavy military equipment," defined as artillery, mortars, tanks, and armored transport vehicles. There is no mention of drones, leaving Russia holding the bag for firing a missile at a Georgian reconnaissance aircraft that technically, isn't prohibited under the ceasefire terms.

In the broad view, none of this really matters. Russia can veto any unpleasant UN resolutions which attempt to sanction the act. As such, it is unlikely we’ll see immediate blowback. Indeed, some analysts are noting that NATO’s lack of a Membership Action Plan for Georgia will only embolden Russia.

More drones are going to die.

Anyway, here’s a cool map of the security zone, fiy.

Apr 23, 2008

Of Atheists, Omens, and Women…in Space

Two weeks ago, Eternal Remont noted that even professed non-believers in Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome were nervously offering up prayers for the safe return of South Korea’s first astronaut, Yi So-yeon.

Looks like someone answered.

First, her Soyuz TMA-11 space capsule re-entered the atmosphere hatch-side first. This is the opposite of heat-shield-side first, which is an important detail in re-entry.

Second, Yi So-yeon and her fellow cosmonauts experienced an unintended “ballistic re-entry." This is an uncontrollable, steep trajectory dive at 10x Earth’s normal gravity. The cosmonauts subsequently landed 260 miles away from the intended drop zone, but couldn’t phone home because their antenna had burned off in the process.

A quick call from US military (who was tracking the flight) saved the day. Russian officials eventually found Yi So-yeon, American Peggy Whitson, and Russian Yuri Malenchenko alive and well in the wastes of Central Asian.

But here’s the best part: Russian Federal Space Agency Chief Anatoly Perminov wants to blame the whole thing on the women.

"You know in Russia, there are certain bad omens about this sort of thing, but thank God that everything worked out successfully,” Perminov said, adding, “Of course in the future, we will work somehow to ensure that the number of women will not surpass [the number of men]. This isn't discrimination. I'm just saying that when a majority [of the crew] is female, sometimes certain kinds of unsanctioned behavior or something else occurs, that's what I'm talking about."

Unsanctioned behavior?

We have no idea if Perminov was referring to the botched “ballistic re-entry,” or all of those special space experiments you can only perform on Cinemax after prime time.

Apr 22, 2008

"Gateway to the Future"

In the run-up to Sochi’s winning Olympic bid, the Kremlin hired the best media companies money could buy. It turns out you can create an entirely parallel reality if you just hire the right people (above).

It also turns out that the International Olympic Committee is getting jittery about the little things, like the total lack of roads and electricity in Krasnodar.

Meanwhile, Russia’s point man for the project, Semyon Vainshtok, resigned last week. Words like, “mismanagement and cost overruns” followed him out the door.

"It is very difficult to make Sochi an Olympic city," an unidentified official said according to RIA-Novosti.

What? That’s not what the video shows.

World Democracy Movement Makes the News

Way to go Ern!

Some Things Are Also Illegal in Russia

The next time you are disrobed and probed at the airport, remember this man: Pastor Phillip Miles of South Carolina.

Yesterday, a Moscow court sentenced Pastor Phillip to three years in a friendly Russian prison for attempting to board an aircraft with 20 cartridges of .300 rifle ammunition in his carry-on luggage. The best part is that our good old TSA screeners didn’t catch on to this minor detail when Pastor Phillip sent his bag through the x-ray machine for his outbound flight from the States.

Unfortunately for Pastor Phillip, you've got to get up pretty early in the morning to pull the same stunt with the Kontrol agents in Perm, Siberia. They immediately arrested him. Amazingly, it’s also illegal to have ammo in your carry-on when flying on a Russian airliner.


Pastor Phillip admits the ammo was his, but claims he was bringing the bullets for a friend. You see, he didn’t know you couldn’t do that kind of thing in Russia.

It took Eternal Remont a whopping 20 seconds and an internet connection to determine you can't do it in the US either. Then again, the crack team of $10.50/hour TSA screeners are more worried about ferreting out nefarious safety lighters than looking for Pastor Phillip's bullets.

Apr 21, 2008

Dissecting Putin’s Duma Gambit

Eternal Remont has long held that Putin’s move to Prime Minister is a tactical play designed to maintain his hold on the leavers of power. This will, of course, require some delicate maneuvering by way of in-coming President Medvedev. But with a constitutional majority in the Duma, all things are possible.

However, a counter argument is emerging which does not view the Duma gambit as a cunning tactical move, but rather an act of defensive desperation. As Russian commentator Vitaly Portnikov argues, “…Putin’s decision to head [the Unity Party] without even becoming a member of it is, in fact, more of a demonstration of his uncertainty about his future and, even more [a demonstration of] the uncertainty of his inner circle about its future.”

By comparison, Boris Yeltsin’s endgame was far less complex, since Putin’s first act as president was to grant his predecessor blanket immunity from prosecution. Unlike Yelstin, soon-to-be-former President Putin is not threatened with an angry mob at the Kremlin walls. Nevertheless, his siloviki courtiers could be growing sensitive to the possibility that their personal and political fortunes may undergo a marked reversal.

Apr 20, 2008

The ‘Golden Hundred’ Goes Platinum

For the first time, Russia’s hundred richest people are all billionaires. “The combined fortune of the ‘Golden Hundred’ [rose] to $522 billion, or more than one third of the country's economy” (Bloomberg).

That's correct: more than 30% of Russia’s entire GDP is owned by 100 people.

Sitting atop his $28.6 billion fortune (according to Forbes), Oleg Deripaska dethroned Roman Abramovich for the top spot this year. High export prices for energy and aluminum are driving Deripaska’s wealth. Also, Deripaska was a key benefactor of the Yukos hijacking.

Meanwhile, Yelena Baturina (pictured) remains the only woman on the list. Baturina is the wife of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Her fortune comes from a lucrative construction company and a Moscow city administration which has conveniently muscled out her closest competition over the years.

Indeed, Russia's industrial titans teach us that honest business practices, a level playing field, and just a little hard work can make anyone a billionaire in Russia. Now that's capitalism!

Apr 18, 2008

Putin's "Private Life"

Some rumors are too good to be wrong. This is likely the reason why Putin was quick to hush the whispers he’s set to marry Alina Kabayeva: "There is not a single word of truth," he said.

Either way, someone is going to get their heart broken. If not Kabayeva, then at least Ludmilla Puin, who may or may have been divorced from her husband. We may never know, since the soon-to-be-Prime Minister said, “…there are certain limits…There is a private life that nobody has the right to interfere with."

How cute.

Meanwhile, it has all gone south for Moskovsky Korrespondent editor Grigory Nekhoroshev, who initially stood by his story of the pending nuptials. Shortly after, the FSB raided his offices. Why is the foreign intelligence service raiding the offices of a local tabloid? We can only assume that Nekhoroshev was harboring dangerous spies and counter-revolutionary wreckers from the British Council.

After a visit from the FSB, Moskovsky Korrespondent retracted the whole thing, saying "there is no factual base for our publication."

There you go. Absolutely no truth to the story. Everyone agrees. Please move along. Nothing left to see here....

Apr 17, 2008

Another Gem

"A Russian man trying to sleep off a night of after-work drinking failed to notice a six-inch knife in his back." Yuri Lyalin arrived home, "had some sausage from the fridge and lay down to sleep, after a couple of hours, his wife noticed the handle sticking out of his back and called an ambulance."

"We were drinking,"said Lyalin.

(Thanks James!)

The Future Mrs. Putin?

The Moskovski Korrespondent, Italy's La Repubblica, most of the Russian bloggosphere, and Eternal Remont's very own inbox are alive with flagrant rumor mongering that Putin will marry 24-year-old Uzbek gymnast Alina Kabayeva (pictured).

This, however, presents one small problem, since Putin is (was?) kinda, sorta, в принципе - да, married to 50-year-old Ludmilla, the mother of his two children.

Then again, we bet Ludmilla can't scratch her nose with a pinky toe. Ha!

More here.

Update: Here's a video of Kabayeva at the Athens Olympics, where she demonstrates her ability to look sprightly and bend in impossible ways. Talk about an upgrade.

(Thanks to Chalmers and James!)

Medvedev: Professed Headbanger

This week, The New Republic casts its broad eye towards Russian politics, saying that Medvedev will struggle to break free of Putin. While none of this is new, it is definitely worth a read.

"Medvedev--a professed headbanger who had had a box reserved at the Led Zeppelin reunion show in London on the day Putin named him his successor--got to live out a rock 'n' roll moment. He grabbed the mic and yelled "Privet, Rossiya! Privet, Moskva!" (the Russian equivalent of 'Hello, Cleveland')...This episode is likely to repeat, in one form or another, throughout the first months and even years of Medvedev's rule."

Azerbaijan's Military Spending Spree Continues

Recently, a number of Azerbaijan hands have been quietly raising yellow flags over the run-up in Baku’s military spending. Lacking a diplomatic resolution to N-K, as the argument goes, Azerbaijan will be tempted to solve the standoff with its newly-purchased army. Even if it is possible to mute the chatter, it is not possible to overlook President Aliyev Jr.’s recent spending spree on weapons, or his desire to buy more.

"In the past 4-5 years the military and defense budget of the country has risen from $150 million to $1.3 billion. However Azerbaijan's state budget over this period has risen ten-fold," Aliyev Jr. said, signaling a additional 53% increase in military spending.

On second thought, Armenia might want to take a closer look at the plans for Azerbaijan’s new Deathstar hotel.

Apr 16, 2008

US & Turkey: BFFs, Sort of....

Yesterday, Secretary Rice attended the 27th Annual Conference of the American Turkish Council on US-Turkey Relations. Eternal Remont was on the scene for every self-congratulatory session.

Some high-level Turkish officials declined to attend, in a huff. Otherwise, both US and Turkish representitives did everything possible to paper over their differences.

In one rare exception, Minister of National Defense Vecdi Gonul only briefly let slip his frustration that the US would not grant Turkey export licenses for some of America's latest high-tech weapons. Even more, the US would not explain why.

The Turks also noted with frustration that the Senate is poised to give the UK and Australia access to these weapons by way of a special new treaty. Why not Turkey? Well, apparently the Administration wants to recognize America's special “historic, cultural, and military” ties with the UK and Australia.

Eternal Remont would be horribly cynical if it noted that the UK contributed 45,000 soldiers for the initial phase in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Australia sent 2,000. Meanwhile, Turkey blocked the US from staging in the North in the last hour of the pre-invasion and declined to contribute a single soldier to the ground war. Certainly, this has nothing to do with the treaty.

Absolutly nothing.

Also, there was no mention of Turkey’s intention to flagrantly violate the Iran sanctions through new energy investments in that country. This will force the President to formally recognize America's closest NATO ally in the region as an official supporter of terrorism and WMD proliferation under US law.

But, in the echo of applause for her keynote address, Secretary Rice only noted that, “The United States and Turkey will from time to time disagree on how best to pursue our goals on all the issues I have mentioned today. It happens among friends.”

How true. Now, who wants more yaprak sarma?

World Movement for Democracy Held Assembly in Kyiv

From 6-9 April 2008, over 500 democracy activists, practitioners and scholars from 112 countries gathered in Kyiv, Ukraine, for the Fifth Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy under the theme "Making Democracy Work: From Principles to Performance." The Assembly was opened by Ukraine's First Lady Kateryna Yuschenko. Key-note speakers were Peru's former President Alejandro Toledo and Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko (http://www.unian.net/eng/news/news-245253.html).

And the poor divchina working got sexually harassed, spent several hours in an old soviet hospital (hospital #12, photo included), and basically got exploited almost to death. All for democracy.

Apr 15, 2008

Postcards from Azerbaijan

Last year, Azerbaijan posted a jaw-dropping 37.1% rise in GDP, the highest on the planet.

Now, the eXile reports back on the bizarre underside of the oil bonanza: “…the Caspian felt like several planets away as I surveyed a deathscape of trash fires, abandoned oil derricks, ghost processing plants, and crumbling concrete structures with no obvious purpose. In every direction, garbage, oil pipes, and the decaying carcasses of Baku street dogs and other mammalian vermin who came here to scavenge and never left.”

More photos from Balakhani, one of the most polluted cities in the world.

Oh, Thank God

Russia Today, that bastion of truth and accuracy in reporting, gives us today's ray of hope.

"Moscow plans to ban billboards from the Kremlin, Red Square and other historical sites in the capital. The prohibition would cut much-needed advertising revenues, but authorities say good looks are worth the price."

Apr 14, 2008

Smile, You're in Serbia

Reuters reports that Serbia's civil servants must now "answer queries with a smile." Oh yes, and "short skirts, tops with revealing decolletage or narrow straps, short or see-through blouses and short pants" are no longer allowed for all 250,000 government employees.

This was a problem?

Wal-Mart Eyes Russia

Karl Marx once opined that capitalism, if left unrestrained, would reshape the world in its own image. Eternal Remont ponders this wisdom following WalMart's announcement to enter Russia's "growing consumer nation."

Ever since the “супермаркет” became ubiquitous, and no civilized Moscow apartment was complete without an ÄNGA modular shelving solution from Ikea, we assume it was only a matter of time before Russians learned to love their friendly neighborhood “вал-март.”

Now that we think of it, the doomsday cultists may be on to something.

Apr 11, 2008

“Уроки демократии”

It looks like political education starts early in Russia. Take for example the Kremlin's nifty website for kids, complete with “lessons of democracy.”

Make sure you take the quiz: “Is This Democracy?”

Alas, Eternal Remont scored very poorly.

(Thanks to Razuman Aga Pashazade for this awesome site!)

Putting the "Prime" in Prime Minister

Time is ticking down for President Putin’s final term. But the transition to Prime Minister is already taking shape.

Last month, a Levada Center poll found that 61% of Russian’s believed “power in the country will remain in the hands of [Vladimir] Putin and his entourage.”

How astute.

Days later, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov confirmed that the out-going president will indeed be made head of United Russia. Soon after reports began to surface that Putin would keep control over all, or some, of the power ministries. Just to be safe, Putin will also keep his authority over federal envoys to the regions -- formerly answeable to the president.

If the current trend holds, then Putin is firmly on track to fundamentally alter the structure of state authority. Vremya Novostei has already noted that, “After May 7, we will have a president very limited in his actions and a premier very powerful in the sphere of realpolitik (Jamestown).”

Indeed, this new order will more closely approximate the former Soviet model of federal governance, whereby the presidency is relegated to a symbolic office, one party dominates the legislature, and the party general secretary – in this case Putin – will exercise true state power.

For Medvedev, the writing should be on the wall.

But hell, viva democracia!

Apr 10, 2008

May Day Gets its Mojo Back

Remember the good old days of the Cold War, when waves of Soviet tanks and missiles would parade past Brezhnev on May Day?

Yeah, it’s back.

Only now, the tanks must have rubber pads on their treds since Red Square is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Apr 9, 2008

"Как не надо танцевать"

Holy crap, Mr. Bean has a Russian nephew!

By the way, you might want to turn your volume waaaay down. The video could also be tagged, "how to loose your hearing."

Keep in mind, this is from the same civilization which once produced Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky.

Sergey Lavrov: Quote Machine

These past few months, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been a one man quote machine. However, his comments yesterday on missile defense have definetly raised the bar.

AP reports: “Lavrov also warned that a U.S. failure to respond to Moscow's concerns on missile defense would prompt Russia to deploy weapons capable of piercing the missile shield in order to protect its security. ‘Russia would respond with military-technical measures,’ Lavrov said.”

For everyone keeping score at home, Lavrov just threatened to attack NATO if Moscow doesn't get its way.

1) Unless the Czechs and Poles agree to Russia’s terms (monitors)
2) Russia could use its own offensive weapons
3) to destroy the defensive shield
4) so as to prevent said shield from being used to stop Russia's offensive weapons

Now, under some circumstances 'military-technical measures' can also mean spy satellites. But we are pretty sure that's not what he meant by 'deploying weapons.'

Yi So-yeon: Cosmonaut

Korea’s first astronaut, Yi So-yeon, blasted into space today aboard a Soyuz rocket. Just as there are no atheists in a foxhole, it would also appear the same principle holds for the Russian space program.

"I have no religion, but I pray for the success of the flight," said Ko San, the Korean scientist who was Yi's backup for the launch.

Pray to whom, then?

There is still no word if the cosmonauts will attempt any Moonraker experiments in addition to the 19 officially scheduled for the mission. Although it is interesting to note that Yi So-yeon was the back-up candidate for the flight. Korea’s first choice was booted from the program after the Russians accused him of stealing secrets from Star City.

Apr 8, 2008

"Ukraine is not even a state"

It appears now that Putin was not necessarily on his best behavior during the NATO summit, threatening to split Ukraine in two should that country join the alliance.

"'Do you understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state!' Putin told U.S. President George W. Bush at the closed meeting, the diplomat told Kommersant. After saying most of Ukraine's territory was 'given away' by Russia."

While Igor (our in-house mad genius) correctly notes, "We knew this all along," someone really needs to tell the Ukrainians about this. The poor souls are under the impression they have a country.

Thanks to James as well for the heads-up.

No Man's Land, The Party

Lejla tipped us to this story, as Bosnia's Oscar-winning film director Danis Tanovic has formed a new political party.

Reuters reports: "The 38-year-old filmmaker, whose No Man's Land movie about the absurdity of war won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 2001, said he hoped the new 'Our Party' would appeal to those disillusioned people who have not bothered to vote in recent elections."

By Eternal Remont's rough count, this includes nearly all voters in Bosnia.

A Serbian Divorce Gets Ugly

Branko Zivkov must have have been reading up on the stories of King Solomon. Either that -- or he’s a very bitter man.

It seems that Branko decided to follow an order from the local divorce court to the letter, and cut in half all of his earthly possessions.

“Zivkov told Belgrade daily Kurir he had been ready to give his wife Vukadinka her equal share of everything earned during their 45-year marriage, but was furious at being asked to give away half his farming equipment."

"I still haven't decided how to split the cow," he said.

Go get her, Branko.

“Bulgarian Road Carnage”

Today’s Bulgarian papers report that -- last night alone -- there were 13 “heavy car crashes” on the country’s highways, and 152 collisions in the city of Sofia.

For everyone who has ever been forced to ride shotgun at 90 mph with 200 jars of tomato preserves and a skinned rabbit in the back seat, headlines like this do not inspire calm.

Apr 7, 2008

"dih-MEE'-tree med-VEHD'-ev"

As soon-to-be-ex-President Bush finished up his time in Sochi, he took time to meet with soon-to-be-President Medvedev. In honor of the event, the AP was even nice enough to include a wiz-bang pronunciation guide: "dih-MEE'-tree med-VEHD'-ev." Sweet!

At the meeting, Medvedev noted how Bush and Putin "did a lot to advance U.S.-Russian relations" adding, "I would like to do my part to keep up that work."

Prior to his visit, President Medvedev again hinted at his 'liberal' side, "telling a forum devoted to the Internet...that the answer to 'the delicate question of the relationship between freedom of speech and responsibility...is fairly simple: laws must be respected everywhere . . . at the same time, the state should take a calm, fair position' towards Internet users." As Jamestown notes, a recent bill introduced in the Federation Council would require Russian websites with more than 1,000 daily visitors to register as media outlets.

This could also mean that the purveyors of, well, adult material will be officially recognized as journalists, under one reading of the law.

In the World of Photo-Ops...

..it just doesn't get any better than this. The soft light is perfect for eye-gazing.

Très romantique!

Apr 3, 2008

English Russia: Ballot Art

During the Soviet period, defacing ballot was a grave crime, punishable by up to 10 years hard labor. English Russia has stumbled upon a popular trend.

It makes you wonder why people would do such a thing?

Last Stop: Bucharest

The Romanian government pulled out all the stops to make the NATO summit a success. City officials planted new flowers, fixed street signs (which way to Sochi?), rounded up stray dogs, and even banned the sale of alcohol in some parts of the city -- just to be safe. Reportedly, one crisis nearly threatened to tank the entire affair, when Romanian officials discovered the Parliament Palace didn't have enough toilets, prompting a mad dash to install port-a-johns.

In public statements, President Bush didn't mention Ukraine or Georgia by name, but he was especially effusive with President Sarkozy, seeing him as the "latest incarnation of Elvis." But only on background.

Still, the real fun occurred when the Macedonians "stormed out of the meeting," after failing to receive a MAP. This is, of course, exactly the kind of behavior you want to exhibit when attempting to demonstrate just how reliable and stable you are.

But apparently diva tatics work in NATO, as Vladimir Putin had already "threatened to cancel his planned first-ever visit to the NATO meeting on Friday if [Ukraine & Georgia] entered the program for eventual membership."

Thus far, Putin has been especially gracious.

Apr 2, 2008

The MAPs are Official

NATO has announced the official recipients of new Membership Action Plans.

As Heidi Klum would say, Croatia and Albania are in, Ukraine, Georgia and Macedonia are, well, not in.

The Croats would bring to the alliance their nifty Hrvatski Samokres 9mm pistols (below), developed during the last war with Serbia. The Albanians would bring...all the skills they aquired when building the world's most advanced network of anti-NATO fortifications under Enver Hoxha.

To commemorate this historic event, we offer a little Enver Hoxha trip down memory lane, formerly Marx and Engles Avenue.

Now, who wants to going to Afghanistan?

Lavrov is Concerned

Last week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was “convinced.” Now he’s “concerned.” Yes, life in the Russian Foreign Ministry is just one long roller-coaster of diplomatic emotions.

The latest issue is Kosovo. Lavrov noted, "I am concerned that the developing situation in Kosovo is not over...The minorities in Kosovo have the right to express their will and the right to decide whom to live with.” Thus the divergence continues, whereby the Kremlin stands as a champion of self-determination for disenfranchised minorities outside of Russia's borders, and its mortal enemy inside.

But it was all smiles when president Bush landed for the next stop on his Magical Mystery Tour of the Wild East. Speaking in Russia, he noted the "unprecedented level" of cooperation between Russia and NATO on missile defense. "The Cold War is over," he said, "Russia is not our enemy" but, "I've got some convincing to do."

The president will have his chance to do some convincing when he and “Vlad” gaze once more into each other's eyes. The crisp mountain air will make it easy to forget that Putin called him a Nazi less than one year ago.

Ken Lee, Doesn't He Work in Accounting?

God Bless Bulgaria.

Apr 1, 2008

The Internet is a Strange and Creepy Place.

Some jokers at BlogFlux took it upon themselves to rank Eternal Remont alongside several very suspicious interest area blogs.

Hilarity ensued.

Unconscionably, we rank “extremely similar," 91%, to a bunch of Southern nationalist, neo-separatist, state’s rights wackos, professing “Our liberty and the dream for the Republic our forefathers envisioned” (read slavery).


We also get slotted with a bunch of wild-eyed libertarians. For the record, Eternal Remont has never inhaled.

Then there's the Western Hemisphere Policy Watch blog, which if memory serves, is in the wrong hemisphere. But who's keeping track, right Miss. South Carolina?

Now even if our officially stated interest area is broad enough to include "the floor of the Moscow subway with a sweet candy coating," Eternal Remont really has to question the logic behind BlogFlux's algorithm.

Seriously, Irish legal fiction? What does that even mean?

Russian Doomsday Cult Gives Up

After spending most of the winter enjoying the delights of cave living, 21 out of 35 members of our favorite Russian Doomsday Cult have called it quits.

Presumably the world will still come to an end in May 2008. However, most of the members were forced to emerge when spring run-off caused part of their cave to collapse.


Leningrad Cowboys Aren't Dead...

...they're performing "Sweet Home Alabama" with the Red Army Choir?

Amy writes: There are few things in life I enjoy more than bizarre juxtapositions...This video could perhaps be classified as one.

First Stop: Kiev

This week, President Bush began his Tour de' Eastern Europe.

First stop: Kiev, where he sampled the hospitality and reiterated support for Ukraine's NATO membership action plan.

Never willing to miss an opportunity for self-promotion, Ukraine's communists staged a demonstration in protest of the visit. But that's not all. Communist MP Leonid Hrach told reporters that the party also "decided to set up an international tribunal to bring Bush to account for all his crimes against humanity."

And to think, the Albanians just stole his watch.

Ukrainian Communists present their sophisticated and
highly nuanced policy position (photo from Jen).