May 30, 2008

Vik and Julie are Fighting Again

Why can't these crazy kids work together and be nice? "Ющенко попросил Тимошенко не смеяться": Президент Ющенко требует от премьера Тимошенко уважения к решениям Конституционного суда. "Я хочу, чтобы прекратилась насмешки над КС", - сказал Ющенко.

AND "Ющенко просит Тимошенко не доводить Украину до международного скандала из-за Евро-2012": Президент Ющенко обращает внимание премьер-министра Тимошенко на ситуацию, сложившуюся вокруг реконструкции НСК "Олимпийский". "Прошу вашего личного вмешательства с целью немедленного исправления ситуации, недопущения международного скандала, обеспечения своевременной и надлежащей подготовки Украины к Евро-2012", - подчеркнул Ющенко в письме к премьеру.

May 29, 2008

The Democratic Discourse In Russia

Despite all evidence to the contrary, democracy in Russia continues to hit new lows. Take for example the case of Gary Kasparov and the flying penis. One of many indignities which Sr. Kasparov has been forced to endure.

"I think we have to be thankful for the opposition's demonstration of the level of discourse we need to anticipate," said Mr. Kasparov.

Thanks Chalmers!

Oh, and before anyone says it...

What about "Latviania?"

This week, the Czech Republic's soccer federation was forced to issue a formal apology after hosting Latvia in a prep game for the European Championship. The problem: the Czechs were actually playing Lithuania.

The Latvian flag was in the game program along with a photo of the Latvian national soccer team. Before the match, Czech organizers played Latvia's national anthem.

It is for this reason that Eternal Remont is a vocal supporter of Czechoslovenian reunification. Besides, all of these countries are basically the same, right?

It is time to end the madness.

May 28, 2008

So, what about НАШИ?

Now that the Kremlin has successfully dodged the outbreak of an Orange Revolution during the most recent parlimentary and presidential elections, people are begining to ask, 'What the hell are we going to do with Nashi?'

Answer: form an armed "Youth Militia."

"Do you want to realize your plan? Do you want to change the world around you? Do you want to influence your country’s future? Do you want the world to remember you? Are you searching for your place in life? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, don’t despair, there is an answer."

In America, a pitch like that would signal a "Tony Robbins" alert, but in Russia, a far more sinister organization offers the answers to your prayers: the Antifascist Democratic Youth Movement "Nashi," waiting for you with open arms.

Seriously, what's the worst that could happen?

May 27, 2008

Fasten Your Seatbelts

This is why Russians drink so heavily when they fly.

May 23, 2008

Medvedev & Hu Jintao Get it On

On his first foreign visit, President Medvedev has drafted China into the anti-missile defense team. This is opposed to our friends the Poles and Czechs, who are desperate to set up the system before the "use-by" date on their chips with Bush administration expires in January 2009.

Following his meeting with Medvedev, China's Hu Jintao publicly objected to the installation of missile defense systems in "some regions" (read E. Europe). The subsequent joint statement cautioned that:

"The creation of global missile defense systems and their deployment in some regions of the world ... does not help to maintain strategic balance and stability and hampers international efforts in arms control and nuclear nonproliferation."

Clearly, Russia and China are speaking from the moral high ground on this issue, as both have been models of arms control in recent years -- especially in popular tourist destinations like Sudan and the DRC ("Those aren't our AK-47s").

Ultimately the long-term interests of China and Russia are wildly divergent. Yet, in the long-run, we're all dead. So until that time, we're going to see a lot more of this silliness.

Thug Capitalism

The latest issue of Forbes has a cover story on Thug Capitalism in Central Asia: "Without warning, 24 foot soldiers of the Pavlodar Oblast Financial Police showed up, carrying AK-47 Kalashnikov automatic rifles. Their target: the Maikuben coal mine in northern Kazakhstan, owned by the American firm AES Corp."

Yet, despite this unique form of, well, hostile takeover, "'It's a lot easier to do business in Kazakhstan than Russia,' says a Western diplomat in the region."

Even AES was impressed that its Kazakh workers would diligently dig for coal in sub-freezing temperatures. What's more "Kazakh employees always showed up for work on time," said AES exec Dale Perry.

Nevertheless, Perry did have to grow accustomed to frequent shakedowns. Yet, as a US company -- and therefore subject to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act -- AES was forced to regularly pay draconian fines rather than minor bribes "to make a problem go away." One such fine cost the company $2.8 million.

Anyway, Forbes was nice enough to provide us with a nifty little rundown on the extraneous fees which the Kazakh government has levied on Western companies:

--ExxonMobile: $5 billion for "project delays"
--ArcelorMittal: $2.5 billion in tax claims (won court fight)
--Chevron: $310 million for “improperly storing sulfur”
--AES: $200 million in “antitrust fines”
--Parker Drillion: $26 million in “miscellaneous tax fines”

Then again, at least in Kazakhstan the government lets you keep the company. Isn't that right Khordokovsky?

May 21, 2008

The Russians Have Set High Standards for the British Football Fanatics

Thank you, Ellustrator.

Football Madness Update: Red Square Now Equipped with Pitch

Yes, the good people over at "English Russia" have posted pictures of local fanatics playing football on a pitch set up on Red Square. So take that International Community. Red Square is not just a Soviet Stage used to display heavy artillery on Victory Day.

Check out more pictures at

May 19, 2008

"Red Grandmothers" to Receive Free Dentures

alternate title: Capitalist Grandmothers to Steal from "Red Grandmothers"

The Sofia Weekly: The socialist party is preparing to offer free dentures to Bulgarian retirees. This initiative comes almost immediately after the decision to raise retirement pensions with 10,35% instead of the planned 9,5% made this past weekend at the Governing Coalition's meeting in Katarino. The increase of the pensions has been widely criticized in the media since many see it as another "red" attempt to buy the retirees' future vote. At the moment the National Health Insurance Fund sets aside 4% of its total budget for dental care.

May 18, 2008

Who the hell would want a Stalin themed room???

"And who would you like to spend the night with?" asks the receptionist at Belgrade's "Mr. President" hotel. It's not what you think. Guests are asked to choose among Fidel Castro, Margaret Thatcher, Adolf Hitler or any of the 45-odd living or dead world leaders whose portraits grace the themed rooms.

"We were thinking, what does a mature businessman most desire? Power, of course. So, we decided to offer him the company of some of the most powerful people in the world," says hotel owner Dusan Zabunovic.

The selection knows no ideological or geographical barriers. Guests can pick Stalin or Putin; Abe Lincoln, Winston Churchill, or Silvio Berlusconi.

May 16, 2008

Don’t Think We Forgot You, Belarus

Life has been rolling merrily forward for El Presidente Lukashenko.

Back in March, Minsk recalled its ambassador from the US -- and “strongly suggested” Washington do the same. The State Department just rolled its eyes.

All of this comes after Lukashenko briefly grabbed headlines for releasing high-profile political prisoner Alexander Kozulin upon his wife's death. Kozulin was promptly re-imprisoned after the funeral.

His crime? Running for president, of course.

Meanwhile, the US announced new sanctions against three subsidiaries of state-owned Belneftekhim, just as Russia says it will avoid Belarus as a transit country for a new European pipeline project.

Back in the US, a federal appeals court will allow a gay Belarusian businessman to appeal his expulsion back to Planet Lukashenko on the grounds that it could violate the International Convention Against Torture (CAT).

It seems that, back in 1996, said gay Belarusian overstayed his tourist visa then requested asylum for fear of abuse as a homosexual. The US Board of Immigration Appeals denied the asylum claim but the 3rd Circuit Court figures he can at least try again under international anti-torture laws.

By the way, gay-rights groups note the successful completion of a recent Gay Pride Parade in Minsk since the event was free of violence or arrests. Apparently, the “Rainbow Flag” flew over Minsk for the first time.

Hell, civil society is civil society. Nobody bowls alone -- even in Belarus.

May 15, 2008

The CIA's Acoustic Kitties

Razuman Aga Pashazade sends along this awesome story.

It seems that, back in the 1960s, the CIA spent millions to train cats to infiltrate the Kremlin and plant bugs. Hilarity promptly ensued:

"They took it out to a park and put him out of the van, and a taxi comes and runs him over. There they were, sitting in the van with all those dials, and the cat was dead."


May 14, 2008

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

Yes, there really is a band by that name.

On the annaversary of his death, we take a moment to remember the first President of the Russian Federation and the era of 500,000 ruble notes ("just pretend to take off two zeros till we print more"), rusting K-V-A-S tanks, chewing gum instead of change, and the arrival of Фейс контроль.

Good times.

May 13, 2008

More Roma Craziness

Guess today is Roma Day on Eternal Remont...

Jen sends along this story from our beloved Baltic Times: "An influential Vilnius City Council member has called on parliament to put Vilnius Roma in trailer homes and move them out of the nation’s capital to various regions around the country.”

A Roma mobile home park in Lithuania?

Russia and Kazakhstan Are Not Frenemies

Looks like Russia and Kazakhstan are not frenemies, but best friends forever -- kinda.

Last week, Eternal Remont noted Kazakhstan’s drive to cut Russia out of new export routes, via boat, across the Caspian. At $125 a barrel, anything is possible these days.

Now comes word that Russia and Kazakhstan will also double the capacity of the existing Caspian Pipeline Consortium (pictured). If everything goes according to plan, the beast will pump a whopping 67 million tons of oil a year to Russian spigots at Novorossiysk on the Black Sea.

While the new build is vital if Russia is going to supply the planned Burgas-Alexandropolis pipeline in Southeast Europe, the deal will impact just about everyone currently pumping oil out of Kazakhstan. This includs Chevron, ExxonMobil, KazMunayGaz, and Agip of Italy. What's more, Moscow has been openly pressuring western companies to commit their stock of Kazak oil to the Burgas-Alexandropolis line upon completion.

And just in case anyone was under the impression this was a request, the Russian Federal Tax Service has already issued retroactive claims against Chevron and ExxonMobil for “unpaid taxes.”

Suddenly that Kazakh boat brigade to Azerbaijan is looking pretty darn good. How do you say “Aye Captain” in Kazakh?

Cold War Update

Colbert provides us with a nice review of current events in Belarus, China, and Russia.


Everything the Roma does is hilarious, unless, of course, I am directly involved, then it's an atrocity.

The Sofia Weekly: A total of 5 Roma were detained and 8 more - hospitalized after being involved in a mass fight in Bulgaria's town of Dimitrovgrad on Wednesday. The row flared up after a 20-yr-old man refused to give a belt back to another Roma citizen. As the brawl grew into a fight, about 2 dozen relatives got involved. Police came to find the windows of 3 houses broken and 8 people hurt, 1 with a serious head injury. The 5 main participants in the fight have been detained for 24 hrs in the local police station.

May 12, 2008

Postcards from Yekaterinburg

Thanks Russia Blog.

The Plastic People in Bronze

Jen writes, "I love the Lithuanian avant garde..."

AP: "In 1995, a quirky bunch of Lithuanian artists and intellectuals managed to erect a bust of [Frank Zappa] in downtown Vilnius, the capital of the former Soviet republic. Now, they want to place a replica in Zappa's hometown."

Omens and Space

It seems that last month’s botched Soyuz re-entry could have been much worse.

According to the WashPost, "malfunctioning parts or faulty workmanship” was to blame for the dangerous ballistic trajectory which charred the capsule’s communications antenna and temporarily left astronauts stranded in the wastes of Central Asia. In fact, the growing list of Soyuz part failures is getting so bad that "NASA and space experts [are] concerned about the spacecraft’s reliability in ferrying astronauts to and from the international space station.”

Just don't mention faulty workmanship or part failures to Federal Space Agency Chief Anatoly Perminov. Eternal Remont fans remember how, last month Perminov blamed the near-disaster on the presence of women on the spacecraft. According to Perminov, women are a “bad omen” in Russian spaceflight. While he wholly avoided the issue of shoddy parts, Perminov did pledge that “in the future, we will work somehow to ensure that the number of women will not surpass [the number of men].”

There you have it. Problem solved.

Unfortunately, the Russian Federal Space Agency’s reliance on omens and misogyny does quite not measure up to NASA’s standards for flight safety. This is especially true since the US will be entirely dependent on the Soyuz craft once the shuttles are retired in 2010.

For its part, the company that builds the Soyuz (Ракетно-космическая корпорация "Энергия" им. С.П.Королева) is struggling to find the skilled workers it needs to meet safety and production standards; a fact which only the Russian Communist Party is willing to highlight these days.

In his last years as president, Putin embraced a drive to transform Russia into one of the world’s top aerospace manufacturers. But then Russia’s long-awaited GPS system fizzled and its manned mission to Mars (yes, Mars) has languished in bureaucratic obscurity.

Medvedev will likely follow Putin’s lead on aerospace. Howver, it is unlikely that projected increases in state subsidies will fully reverse the lasting damage to Russia's aerospace industry or staunch Russia's declining competitiveness in high-tech manufacturing.

May 9, 2008


It's a mad, mad, mad, world in which only the Communists are making sense.

Prior to the Prime Minister vote in the Duma, Russian Communist Party leader Gennadi Zyuganov noted, correctly, “that under Putin’s rule…Russia’s population declined and many highly educated citizens moved away. Food and utility prices have climbed…and infrastructure, factories and heavy machinery have fallen into disrepair."

All true.

Unfortunately, Zyuganov only plays into Putin's strengths. After the Duma voted 392-56 to make him Prime Minister, Putin vowed to enact "great and grandiose" state spending projects to rebuild transportation, infrastructure, and education, among others. He simultaneously pledged to cut inflation – now at 13% a year and rising.

Never in the history of modern economics, has an oil state cut inflation during a period of record high prices, all while dumping billions in free money into the economy. Quite the contrary.

Still, Eternal Remont is holding to the belif that Russian scientists have discovered a secret economic theory, previously unknown, which will allow them to flaunt the laws of economics. The Russian government certainly wouldn't lie to its citizens. Otherwise, how could they do both?

May 8, 2008

British Football Fans to be Quarantined upon Arrival

Not too long ago, we posted that Russia for the first time in probably ever threw caution to the wind and said Brits could come to Moscow using their football match tickets as visas. Today, we hear that said "visa"-carrying Brits will actually be quarantined upon their arrival in Moscow.

NY Times: "The British fans will be headed for Russia largely aboard charter flights. After they land, they will be escorted directly to a fleet of 700 buses and 300 taxis...It is not clear whether the escort is meant to shield British fans from hooligan supporters of Moscow’s six soccer teams, who are rumored to be preparing attacks on British fans, or whether it is instead meant to protect Russians from the drinking and brawling so beloved by some of the British themselves when they travel abroad."

A friend of Remont had the following commentary:

On the Russian side: Wow, Russia. Wow. I can't think of anything else to tastefully say.

On the English side: Apparently your reputation for drinking and violence is enough to scare Russians. That's, eh, some kind of accomplishment...

Kazakstan: We Don’t Need No Stinking Pipelines

Russia can’t get any love these days, not from the Washington Post, or Sen. McCain, and now Kazakhstan.

While everyone else is busy giving Medvedev unwanted advice on making Russia more friendly for democracy, EurasiaNet reports that Kazakhstan is dutifully working to cut Russia out of the Central Asian oil bonanza.

Et tu, Brute?

After years of paying ridiculous transit fees, the Kazakhs have had enough. “Attention is shifting to an oil transport route after Kazakhstan’s senate in late April ratified an energy export treaty with Azerbaijan…The treaty sets out the conditions for shipping Kazakhstani oil to Western markets via a route that bypasses Russia.”

What about Caspian demarcation, you say? A pipeline can’t be built.

Pipelines...we don’t need no stinking pipelines.

Instead, Kazakhstan will use boats, lots and lots of giant boats. These will be expensive boats with expensive port facilities, storage areas, and transfer points. The new “Caspian Transportation System” will cost $3 billion up front, with an additional $10 billion budgeted to transform Aktau (pictured) into an “energy hub."

While this demonstrate a slight western bias in Kazakhstan’s export priorities, as opposed to competing Chinese interests, Moscow stands to loose considerable revenue if it can no longer maintain a virtual monopoly on Central Asian export routes.

The Kremlin’s response will be telling.

May 7, 2008

Team Tandem

Today, the Russian Federation inaugurated Dmitri Medvedev as its third president in 17 years. Foreign media were not allowed into the event. However, our friends at RIA Novosti were kind enough to share a few snapshots.

For the record, Medvedev said ‘I do.’

Even though the “tandem” government has taken one big step forward, members of the Russian media are rather confused about the actual responsiblities of the new presidential administration (Jamestown).

This is likely because the details have not been fully settled. The Prime Minister will be taking many of the roles, de facto or de jure, which were once reserved for the president. It also means that, for all of the pomp and circumstance, President Medvedev has assumed the constitutional office of the presidency, but the terms of the deal are subject to change.

As far as the future direction of this new tandem government, Putin has offered a hint, saying, “It's very important for everyone together to continue the course that has already been taken and has justified itself.”

Come to think of it, this doubles as a nifty explanation of Plan Putina.

May 6, 2008

Visa Regime Replaced by Football Fanaticism

CNN: All fans traveling to the Champions League final in Moscow on May 21 can use their match tickets as visas. Monday's historic gesture -- believed to be the first time visitors to Russia will be allowed in without a visa -- was made after UEFA president Michel Platini sent a personal letter to Putin. The tickets will be valid as visas for a 72-hour period between May 19 and 23, and must be kept after the match to be shown on leaving the country.

Issue 1: Do you know what you NORMALLY have to do to get into the country?

Issue 2: I can't WAIT to see how many drunken soccer hooligans lose their tickets after the matches. We should be sure to keep track of this one.

May 5, 2008

Elvira, Mistress of the Economy

--One barrel of oil: $120.21
--Gold and foreign-currency reserves: $530 billion
--Sovereign-wealth fund: $130 billion
--Painting youself into an economic “dead end”: priceless

"'This route may lead to a dead end,''' Economy Minister Elvira Nabiullina said at a Finance Ministry meeting last month. 'We no longer have the advantages of a cheap ruble, cheap labor' after a decade of average annual economic growth of 7 percent that pushed up wages and the currency, making Russia less competitive.”

May 2, 2008

No Child Left Behind + Bridging the Digital Divide?

Our good friend Berdymukhamedov, showing again that he has no idea about the Internet, has proclaimed that

The President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, demanded to ensure that internet access in Turkmenistan, striving to get over with self-isolation, becomes readily available even to kids in kindergartens.

The national media report citing the President’s speech that “Schools and kindergartens having no access to internet and Citing the President’s speech the national media report that “schools and kindergartens not equipped with means of access to internet and multimedia technologies will not be set into operation.” [sic]

Well I suppose that’s another way to make sure Turkmens don’t have access to primary education.

Now, there's been a lot of buzz about mobile phones in the developing world giving access to the internet for people who never had landlines in the first place. But does anyone actually believe that Turkmenistan will go straight to 3G services? And exactly how much did MTS tip off Berdy for rights to install infrastructure?

May 1, 2008

Tajiks Get Innovative

Jen asks, "Is this how McCain and Clinton plan to pay for the gas tax holiday?"

AP: "Residents of Tajikistan, Central Asia's poorest nation, were asked Tuesday to give up a month's salary to help build a desperately needed hydroelectric dam. The Tajik authorities' request comes after an unusually cold winter caused widespread electricity shortages and claimed hundreds of victims nationwide.

"Mayor Makhmadsaid Ubaidullayev of the capital, Dushanbe, has calculated that if all the city's residents give up half their salaries in May and June, more than $10 million could be raised for the Rogun dam, his spokesman said Tuesday.

"Ubaidullayev's appeal echoed a similar call made by Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, who said last week that the entire project would cost around $550 million and called on Tajiks to help fund it.

"The Rogun project dates back to the 1970s. It lay dormant after the Soviet collapse until Russian metals giant OC Rusal expressed interest in reviving it as a way to tap the mountainous nation's sizable hydroelectric potential.

"The dam's fate was thrown into doubt last year after Tajikistan canceled Rusal's contract because of disagreements about how the project would be implemented.
Rakhmon said the government had allocated $40 million for the construction and the sum will be doubled in 2009.

"Although the proposed residents' funding initiative has been described as entirely voluntary, there are concerns that workers will be coerced into giving up part of their wages under threat of tax audits or regulatory checks.

"Tajikistan's economy was ruined by civil war in the mid-1990s. It is now among the world's poorest countries, with an average monthly wage of around $50."

Paying for History

Each month DC is treated to a delightful exercise in Russian political spin. This is when the RIA Novosti advertising supplement, Russia: Beyond the Headlines, arrives in the WashPost. This month is no different, especially Vitaly Shlykov and Alexei Pankin’s Op-Ed, “Why We Are Right to Fear NATO.”

It starts with the usual jingoistic gruel, then scoops out this humdinger: “It is important to remember that back at the very end of the 1980s Russia wanted to secede from the USSR no less than any of the Baltic countries or Georgia (and probably a lot more than Ukraine). Additionally, the independence of other Soviet republics was a direct consequence of Russia's own striving for sovereignty.”

Wow. These days, only Ahmadinejad gets credit for this level of historical revisionism.

For the record, the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet was passing laws in a direct challenge to the Russian-dominated Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The Kremlin did everything possible to stop, not encourage, this behavior. According to Shlykov's reasoning, Russia tried to stop constituent republics like Ukraine from leaving the Soviet Union because it also wanted to leave the Soviet Union, a proxy for Russia anyway, so as to promote its own "striving for sovereignty?"

Indeed, Shlykov and Pankin’s argument makes as much sense as begging a judge to let you divorce yourself, rising up in vocal protest as a lawyer for the defendant, then claiming victory when you lost.

Only Gogol could truly understand arguments like this. But Gogol is dead and RIA Novsti can pay to print whatever it wants. It's a shame really, since that last part might have made for a great novella.