Aug 29, 2008

Karadzic is a Genocidal Smart Ass

Karadzic's genocide trial is underway, as is the hilarity.

--Judge: "You are charged with genocide, how do you plead...?"
--Karadzic: "I will not plead."
--Judge: "I shall therefore enter on your behalf a plea of not guilty."
--Karadzic: "May I hold you to your word?"
--Judge: "Which word?"
--Karadzic: "That I'm not guilty."
--Judge: (Behind a grin.) "That we shall see in due course Mr. Karadzic."

While it's nice to know that genocidal enemies of humanity still think they're funny, we hope Lord Bonomy will be a bit more expeditious than his previous tenure as a judge in the Milosevic trial. Also, Lord Bonomy replaces Judge Alphonse Orie, whom Karadzic had accused of being too hard on Serbian war criminals.


Why post so much about Yulia Tymoshenko?

Well she's only the 17th most powerful woman in the world according to Forbes Magazine. This lady beat Oprah...OPRAH! Yulia is the only woman from Eastern Europe to make the top 30! Congratulations!

Honorable mentions go to:

Valentina Matviyenko, Governor of the St. Petersburg region made 31.
Gulzhan Moldazhanova, Chief Executive of Basic Element in Russia made 37.

And that's all that made the top 100.

Kanye to Hate on Yulia Tymoshenko

From Yulia's Blog: Yulia Tymoshenko has called the statement by Head of the Presidential Secretariat Viktor Baloha regarding the government’s lack of action in connection with the fire at the 61st ammunitions depot in the city of Lozova, Kharkiv oblast “unoriginal.”

We’re probably also guilty of Hurricane Katrina and all tsunamis in the world. I think that this person (V. Baloha) isn’t original. All he does is shift responsibility to those around him,” said Tymoshenko.

The Prime Minister believes there’s no point in paying attention to Baloha’s statement. Yulia Tymoshenko also emphasized that the government will find out who is responsible for the blaze.

As reported, today the Head of the Presidential Secretariat stated that the fire at the ammunitions depot in the city of Lozova became one more consequence of the government’s unprofessional actions.

Aug 28, 2008

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Says "Nyet"

Immediately following Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we wondered "if other CIS members [would] follow Russia’s lead in recognizing the mini-states, especially Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and the Tajiks.”

It looks like the SCO has given us an answer. Sorry soft power.

In fact, Legal Nihilist notes how the SCO meeting is playing in the press: “China and several Central Asian nations rebuffed Russia's hopes of international support for its actions in Georgia, issuing a statement Thursday denouncing the use of force and calling for the respect of every country's territorial integrity.” A mild rebuff, to be sure, but the lack of international follow-through can't be reassuring.

Did China just bitch slap Russia? Did Russia just lose Central Asia to the Middle Kingdom? Is this a big deal? -- Legal Nihilist

Strange Days, the Sudetenland, and the French

These are strange days: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, rivers and seas boiling, the dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!

Ok, it's not that bad. But this morning, the editors at the Washington Post did invoke Hitler's grab of the Sudetenland to define Russian foreign policy. (See above).
"Mr. Medvedev was asked by more than one journalist whether Russia's aggression might be directed at other neighboring states, such as Ukraine, Moldova or the Baltic members of NATO. He answered by noting that millions of Russians live outside the country, and he asserted the right as 'commander in chief' to 'protect the lives and dignity of our citizens.'" He stated to the BBC: "In certain cases I have no choice but to take these kinds of actions.

"Those in the West who persist in blaming Georgia or the Bush administration for the present crisis ought to carefully consider those words -- and remember the history in Europe of regimes that have made similar claims. This is the rhetoric of an isolated, authoritarian government drunk with the euphoria of a perceived victory and nursing the delusion of a restored empire. It is convinced that the West is too weak and divided to respond with more than words. If nothing is done to restrain it, it will never release Georgia -- and it will not stop there."

And what about responding with more than words? Back in Paris, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (pictured) briefed reporters on the EU's next steps: a really mean letter. "We are trying to elaborate a strong text that will show our determination not to accept [what is happening in Georgia]. Of course, there are also sanctions."

Sanctions on Russian natural gas imports? Probably not that. So really, no sanctions at all.

Back to that "strong text" Mr. Kouchner.

Tymoshenko accused of not loving Ukrainian fat

Thanks to Igor for this story: Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko calls absurd the statements of the Presidential Secretariat that accused her of betraying national interests. According to an UNIAN correspondent, she claimed this to a press conference today, commenting on the respective address of the Presidential Secretariat to SBU [the Ukrainian Security Service].

"Well, they produced seven provisions, love to Ukrainian fat, love to Ukrainian borshch, what else exotic… All this is absurd. I have no desire to comment, I swear, because it is possible to comment on serious things, but to comment on absurd – you may just turn into a participant of that absurd", Yulia Tymoshenko said.

Now for a little background on "the Ukrainian fat" or "salo", provided by Wikipedia: Salo (Russian and Ukrainian: сало, Belarusian: сала, Hungarian: szalonna Polish: słonina, Bulgarian: сланина (slanina) or less often сало (salo), Macedonian: сланина (slanina), Romanian slănínă or slánă, Serbo-Croatian, Czech and Slovak: slanina) is a traditional Central and Eastern European food: slabs of pork underskin fat, with or without skin. As a trend, the Eastern European one is salted or brine fermented, hence the names slonina/slana/szalonna (solonýna in Ukrainian and solonina in Russian mean any kind of salt-cured meat, such as corned beef). The Central European one is usually treated with paprika or other condiments, while the South European one is often smoked.

The Slavic word "salo" as applied to this type of food (it has other meanings as well) is often mistranslated to English as "bacon" or "lard". Unlike lard, salo is non-rendered pork fat. Unlike bacon, salo has little or no meat (however low-meat high-fat bacon is also commonly referred to as salo).

Aug 27, 2008

What do you get when you mix...

Alcohol + Automatic Weapons + Independence?

Answer: some of the best video of all time.

Jesus, these people are armed to the frickin' teeth.

(I love the convertible Mercedes, bristling with AK-47s.)

Wartime Journalism Ethics Under the Microscope

Voice of America recently interviewed a number of journalists and asked them about wartime ethics. Why Remont was not invited to contribute, I'm still trying to figure out. Basically, VOA asked a couple journalists who covered the Bosnian War in the early 90s to retell their experience and compare it to the Georgian conflict.

Bosnian reporter Kemal Kurspahic notes that in Georgia today – as in Bosnia 15 years ago – it is often difficult for journalists to determine just what is going on because of the “conflicting claims” of officials from both sides, which include charges of “ethnic cleansing by the other side.” It is helpful, Kurspahic suggests, that in the case of Georgia there are global TV reports “practically in real time.”

American journalist Roy Gutman notes a similarity with the conflict in the Balkans in the 1990s – that is, the Russians “certainly prepared themselves completely for this intervention,” and they gave strategic warning – as did former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic – months ago that they were planning “something that would affect Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” Furthermore, Gutman notes, the Russians have had “quite a propaganda apparatus at work.” He says the job of the news media in times of conflict is to check out the claims and counter-claims and to “determine what the truth really is.” Furthermore, Gutman says, Western governments “knew what to expect” in Georgia – as in Bosnia – and he is skeptical of their official pronouncements.

Free Užupis Now!

Jen writes, “Okay, if we’re getting back to 'extraordinary politics' then you all must be aware of the situation in Užupo Respublika.”

Excellent point Jen, especially since we're all about the business of slicing countries into ever-smaller (and yes, non-viable) bits. Alas, we should never forget the plight of those yearning to be free of the Lithuanian yoke in the Republic of Užupis. Not only does Užupis celebrate independence on April 1 *ahem* but they’re also the ones who erected Lithuania’s first statue of Frank Zappa.

"Whether you like it or not…”

...That was Medvedev’s take on this independence business.

According to the Kremlin, Russia’s recognition is fully legitimate “under the provisions of the UN Charter...and also the Helsinki Final Act.”

Oddly, these are the same documents which provided the foundation for Kosovo’s recognition in February. Yet, somehow, that event had “no legal basis,” according to Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.

It’s funny how this stuff works.

Meanwhile, Saakashvili is telling anyone who will listen that Russia plans to annex the whole of Georgia. The poor bastard doesn’t seem to grasp his very small role in Moscow’s grand game.

Aug 26, 2008

Welcome to the Party

In honor of today's news we offer a photographic tour of an ERemont favorite, Abkhazia: Vacation to a non-existant country.

The man has done it.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed decrees recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In response, the US is reading from Russia's playbook following the independence of Kosovo. "I want to be very clear," Sec. Rice said, "Since the United States is a permanent member of the Security Council, this simply will be dead-on-arrival" in the UN.

Eternal Remont fans will remember how Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin previously claimed there was “no legal basis” for Kosovo’s independence. Any thought of international recognition should be "disregarded by the international community.''

To be fair, Article 1, Section 2 of the UN Charter should reasonably cover the Kosovo and Abkhazia/South Ossetia declarations, since “The Purposes of the United Nations are: to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples."

The fun part, however, is that UN Resolution 937 (1994) also happens to recognize Russian forces as international peacekeepers in Abkhazia alongside the UN's observation mission. A fact which Moscow, will no doubt, use to parallel Kosovo.

The quid pro quo is rather gratuitous.

Likewise, it will be interesting to see if other CIS members follow Russia’s lead in recognizing the mini-states, especially Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and the Tajiks. There’s been a lot of talk about the influence of soft power in the region. We’re about to see just how much weight it pulls.

How Georgia Ruined a Sweet Jetsons-like Future

YahooNews: The chill left on US-Russian relations by Moscow's military incursion into Georgia could spell problems for future US access to the International Space Station, US experts said. NASA will become dependent on flights to the ISS by Russia's Soyuz spacecraft when it retires the shuttle fleet that has long ferried US astronauts into space in 2010. NASA will only get its successor space vehicle, Orion, planned for a revival of trips to the moon, ready for flight in 2015 at the earliest.

That leaves the needs of US astronauts visiting the ISS vulnerable to the possibility of a new Cold War between Washington and Moscow after Russia's powerful military overran much of Georgia two weeks ago in the dispute over South Ossetia.

I will not be kept from Mars because Georgia wants South Ossetia!

Russian Newborn Tees On Sale

This comes from Slonichka. For those of you who love kitchy, here's a tee for you. It is Blake Suarez's interpretation of a Russian newborn. Available for purchase on And now that I have mentioned it on our super popular blog, they're totally going to send me a free tee right?

I'm back...with hilarious tales from Bulgaria.

It'll take more than a couple seizures to keep me from poking fun at my favorite former Soviet [er, Communist] republic: Bulgaria. The Sofia Weekly offered two "sexy" stories in its latest edition.

First, a 52-yr-old native of the city of Varna was sentenced to 15 days in jail after stripping in a snack bar in the Danube city of Ruse. The man first directed his offensive sexual language (my guess is it went further than "ej, devushka!")at the waitress, and after she rejected his indecent offers, he took off his pants and underwear. The policemen, who arrived shortly tried to talk the man into behaving but arrested him after he started to insult them, and to swear at them. For his offensive behavior he was sentenced to 15 days by Ruse District Court.

And second, on Friday, the Sofia Police arrested 21 prostitutes at the Macedonia Square in downtown Sofia including seven transsexuals. A number of the residents of Sofia's downtown quarters have complained repeatedly about the impudence of the transsexual prostitutes (the regular prostitutes were just fine) there offering their services literally on the pavement before their windows.

Aug 25, 2008

"A World Without Romania"

Eternal Remont has always pondered the question, what would the world be like without Romania. Go figure, someone was nice enough to make an informative video. Aside from the poor sound quality, the Vlad Ţepeş part is priceless, “a Romanian medieval ruler, who had the bad luck of becoming a bloodthirsty ruler of modern time."

Not that we’re ones to throw around words like “bloodthirsty” or “demonic psychopath” freely, but it is a kind of hard to beat the rap when you impale 20,000 Turks as part of a “negotiating tactic." Then again, we do love our nationalist death narratives.

Isn’t that right Armenian Genocide?

Who Says the Olympics Aren't Political?

The 2008 Beijing Olympics gave us several memorable moments in both politics and sport.

However, the 2008 Eternal Remont Award for "Best Geo-Political Commentary As Captured By A Mildly Erotic Athletic Event" goes to US Greco-Roman wrestler Jake Deitchler (in red) and Ukraine's Armen Vardanyan (blue).

These world-class athletes offer us their unique perspective on the current state of US-Ukraine bilateral relations.

Washington Times: Nest of Creative Journalism

Igor, our in-house mad genius, sends along this heads-up on "the most worthless op-ed on the Russia/Georgia war" in today's Wash Times, titled:

"Are we all Georgians? Not so fast"

Igor writes, "I think Mr. Davis' question was answered by ER already, no?"

"We're All Georgians, Well Not Really."

While it is kind of creepy to imagine that Eternal Remont and the editors of the Wash Times share the same depth of editorial creativity, we're comforted in the knowledge that the only people who read both are suburban retirees in Northern Virginia, Eternal Remont's parents, the Moonies, and of course Igor – who is working for a higher cause anyway.

Thanks Igor!

The Noose Tightens

The noose continued to tighten today, as Russia’s upper house of parliament voted 130-0 "urging" President Medvedev to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. (Eternal Remont also notes how we’ve returned to the good old days of unanimous declarations by workers, soldiers, and farmers in the Supreme Soviet, err, “Federation Council.”)

Yet, after luring Saakashvili into a fight he could not possibly win, the Russian Foreign Ministry continues to press the advantage.

"...President Mikhail Saakashvili has destroyed the dream for a very long time if not for ever that Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians could live together in one state," said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.

While Putin’s office is clearly stage managing this charade, it has allowed Medvedev to play either the bold national leader -- protecting "Russian citizens" -- or the courageous peacemaker with the West.

On all fronts, Saakashvili is out-matched. It's like watching Muhammad Ali fight a one legged nine-year-old blind girl for the heavy weight title.

Aug 22, 2008

Party of the Regions make a funny

Ukraine opposition to send Georgian leader neckties to chew on
17:38 22/ 08/ 2008

KIEV, August 22 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's opposition party has pledged to send 365 neckties to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was recently caught on camera nervously chewing his garment while discussing the Georgian-Russian conflict.
Saakashvili has caused an internet sensation with his tie-chewing antics, captured during a phone conversation with a top Western official and aired by the BBC, and also over footage of him running in apparent terror after speaking to reporters, believing he was about to be attacked by Russian planes.
Party of Regions lawmaker Boris Kolesnikov told a crowd of supporters in the east Ukrainian city of Donetsk: "We have already bought Saakashvili spiked running shoes, similar to those worn by the Jamaican sprinter who won the Olympic 100 meters. We will also buy him 365 neckties, so that he will have enough to chew on every day of the year."

Welcome to the Gulag, now learn how to sew...

The forces of legal nihilism in Russia’s court system won a notable victory yesterday. Mikhail Khodorkovsky was denied early release from prison -- as is his right under the Russian legal code -- because he would not learn how to sew.

We’re not kidding.

According to the judge who ruled in the case, Khodorkovsky “was ineligible for parole because he had refused to undertake professional training at his prison, which specializes in sewing, and because of an incident in which he flouted prison rules.”

To be fair, not even Khodorkovsky’s lawyers really expected his release. What’s more, it is increasingly apparent that Medvedev's drive to end legal nihilism in the court system is being stalled by the fact that he's president in name only. It can be a bit difficult to fight legal nihilism with legal nihilism.

Sorry Khodorkovsky. Better learn how to sew.

Rice and Poles drink to shield with Georgian wine

Reuters: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski celebrated the signing of a missile shield deal this week with Georgian wine, a choice sure to leave a bitter taste for Russia.

Moscow, embroiled in a row with the West over its military incursion into the tiny ex-Soviet republic of Georgia, is fiercely opposed to the missile shield, saying it poses a direct threat to its own security.

Poland says the choice of Georgian 2005 Kakhetian Royal wine to complement Polish pike-perch at a dinner hosted by Sikorski was not meant as a slight to Russia. [It was meant as a slap in the face.]

Aug 21, 2008

Belarus Frees "Last 2 Political Prisoners"

NYT: Belarus released the last 2 prisoners who the West says were held because of their political beliefs, according to 1 of the prisoners and the mother of the other. The move opens the door to improved ties with the US and the EU at a time when a newly aggressive Russia is causing jitters among former Soviet republics.

Sergei Parsyukevich, a businessman jailed in April after protesting new rules on businesses introduced by President Lukashenko said at a hastily arranged news conference on Wednesday that he believed that Western pressure had secured his release. The other prisoner, Andrei Kim, is also a businessman and had been sentenced to a year and a half in jail for attacking a policeman at the protest.

Last week, Aleksandr V. Kazulin, the most prominent activist in Belarus, was freed. Mr. Lukashenko has tried to improve ties with the West since rows with Russia over gas prices in 2006 and 2007, but had been told that the issue of political prisoners was a key stumbling block.

Couple issues here...odd time to try to strengthen ties with the West. Or maybe it's brilliant. Maybe sneaking in these stories while everyone is interesting in Georgia helps Belarus strengthen ties while mollifying any signs of weakness.

Other issue, I'm not convinced that these are the only political prisoners left. I mean just because "the West" says they were doesn't mean there aren't others they decided to exclude, for example, Emanuel Zeltser (

"If you have something to say Russia, say it to my face!"

...says NATO.

Associated Press: Russia has informed Norway that it plans to suspend all military ties with NATO, Norway's Defense Ministry said Wednesday, a day after the military alliance urged Moscow to withdraw its forces from Georgia.

The Nordic country's embassy in Moscow received a telephone call from "a well-placed official in the Russian Ministry of Defense," who said Moscow plans "to freeze all military cooperation with NATO and allied countries," Espen Barth Eide, state secretary with the Norwegian ministry said.

Eide told The Associated Press that the Russian official notified Norway it will receive a written note about this soon. He said Norwegian diplomats in Moscow would meet Russian officials on Thursday morning to clarify the implications of the freeze.

Um...since when is Norway Russia's buddy? "Hey, Norway, heads up, cause I like you man, I really do, but this NATO stuff is getting too real. But I like you, man! You're good people."

Aug 20, 2008

We're All Georgians, Well Not Really

In case it was keeping you up at night, offers an expliation of the age old question: do white people really come from the Caucasus?

The answer? "It's highly unlikely."

We have the Germans to thank for this dubious racial theory. Come to think of it, for a while, the Germans seemed to specialize in dubious racial theories.

Ukraine Loses Gusiness World Record

YahooNews: So not only was Tymoshenko outed as a Russian sympathizer today (basically), but Ukrainian Leonid Stadnyk has lost his standing as tallest man in the world. Guinness World Records has returned the title of world's tallest man to China's Bao Xishun after Stadnyk refused to be measured under new guidelines.

Bao, who stands at 7 ft, 8.95 in, held the title for a year before losing it in 2006 to Stadnyk, who is 8 ft 5.5 in tall, Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records, told Reuters.

While Bao has been measured by Guinness, which required him to be measured 6 times in 1 day - both standing and lying down - Stadnyk has refused. His title was awarded based on a statement from his doctor.

Stadnyk, who lives with his mother in a tiny village in central Ukraine, told Reuters last year he doesn't "need glory. I just want a normal life under normal conditions." Stadnyk said he sees his height more as a burden than a blessing, saying "the world is built for medium-sized people." He and his mother were living off a pension of about $100 a month and whatever else they earn from growing tomatoes and cucumbers and raising chickens, cows, and pigs.

Pani Yulia Rewarded for Her "Passive Position" in the Conflict?

From the president's office of President Viktor Yushchenko: Заступник Глави Секретаріату Президента України Андрій Кислинський заявив, що, за наявною інформацією, політичне керівництво Російської Федерації з особливою увагою розглядає рішення щодо підтримки кандидатури прем'єр-міністра Юлії Тимошенко на виборах Президента України після виконання умов щодо пасивної позиції Прем'єр-міністра України та її політичної сили у конфлікті з Грузією.

Координація проекту «Вибори-2010» покладена на створений у Москві центр на чолі із Віктором Медведчуком. До центру також входять Сергій Клюєв, Григорій Суркіс та Олександр Задорожній. Гуманітарними проектами в Україні буде займатися Дмитро Табачник.

На реалізацію проекту підтримки Юлії Тимошенко вже зарезервовано близько 1 мільярда доларів США.

Gorby Tries to Set the Record Straight

In a NY Times op-ed, former Soviet leader and dismantler of the Soviet Union explains that Russia never wanted this conflict with Georgia.

"Russia did not want this crisis. The Russian leadership is in a strong enough position domestically; it did not need a little victorious war. Russia was dragged into the fray by the recklessness of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He would not have dared to attack without outside support. Once he did, Russia could not afford inaction."

He goes on, "Mr. Saakashvili had been lavished with praise for being a staunch American ally and a real democrat — and for helping out in Iraq. Now America’s friend has wrought disorder, and all of us — the Europeans and, most important, the region’s innocent civilians — must pick up the pieces."

And most importantly, he states, "Our two countries could develop a serious agenda for genuine, rather than token, cooperation. Many Americans, as well as Russians, understand the need for this. But is the same true of the political leaders?"

Thank you, Gorby, for recognizing that politicians, America and Russia, and Americans and Russians are all very separate things.

Poland Agrees to Open Itself up to Attack

Big news day, so let's get to it. Today, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Polish counterpart signed a deal to build a US missile defense base in Poland, an agreement that prompted an infuriated Russia to warn of a possible attack against the former Soviet satellite.

The deal to install 10 US interceptor missiles just 115 miles from Russia's westernmost frontier also has strained relations between Moscow and the West, ties that already troubled by Russia's invasion of its former Soviet neighbor, U.S. ally Georgia, earlier this month. A separate tracking radar system is to be based in the Czech Republic. The system is expected to be in place by 2012.

Lena Kolarska-Bobinska, director of the Institute of Public Affairs, a leading independent think tank in Warsaw, said Moscow now perceives Poland “as one of the major players against Russia. They feel that Poland is one of their territories and Poland is entering their field.”

Aug 19, 2008

Tajik Boxer Goes Tyson

I've been waiting for a good Olympics story, and here it is:
ESPN: A light heavyweight boxer from Tajikistan was disqualified for biting his opponent on the shoulder during their Olympic quarterfinal bout Tuesday night. Dzhakhon Kurbanov's bout with Kazakhstan's Yerkebulan Shynaliyev was stopped with 17 sec left in the 3rd round when Kurbanov apparently bit Shynaliyev during a clinch. Shynaliyev, who angrily showed the blood on his shoulder to the referee, led 12-6 at the time. Kurbanov had been warned multiple times for shoving and holding his opponent.

Kurbanov is a 22-yr-old fighter who got off to an auspicious start in Beijing last week, beating world champion Abbos Atoev in his first bout. He won the 2005 Asian championships as a middleweight, and was competing in his first Olympics. Odly enough, the evening card at Workers' Gymnasium was watched by Evander Holyfield, who was infamously bitten on the ear by Mike Tyson on June 28, 1997.

/Sigh, Them's Was The Days

Today, Eternal Remont's random President Bush quote generator is particularly appropriate:

"Russia is no longer our enemy, and therefore we shouldn't be locked into a Cold War mentality that says we keep the peace by blowing each other up. In my attitude, that's old, that's tired, that's stale." -- George W. Bush, June 8, 2001

What Could Make a Man Become an Anti-Feminist?

Answer: A Russian Woman. (Thank you, Slonichka, for this gem of a story)

NYT: Roy Den Hollander is a Manhattan lawyer and a self-described antifeminist [I might describe him as a "misogynist" or an "asshole"]. Over the past year, he has sued Manhattan nightclubs for favoring women by offering ladies’ night discounts and has sued the federal government over a law that protects women from violence.

And now on Monday, he filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Manhattan against Columbia for offering women’s studies courses, which Mr. Den Hollander sees as discriminatory toward men. His class-action suit accuses Columbia of using government aid to preach a “religionist belief system called feminism.”

[And why is Mr. Den Hollander so angry?]

Mr. Den Hollander devotes much of his private practice to representing men in civil cases — “antifeminist cases or guys’-rights cases,” as he puts it - and said his bitter 2001 divorce from a woman he married in Russia helped tweak his anger toward feminists and laws he sees as favoring women.

[Way to go, Natasha!]

Aug 18, 2008

Saakashvilli: 'Baltics will be next"

The Baltic Times: A day after the Presidents of Estonia, Lithuania and Poland joined Latvian prime minister Ivars Godmanis in a remarkable show of solidarity with Georgia, President Saakshvilli predicted that the Baltic states would be next on Russia's list of military targets.

Speaking at a press conference held on August 13th, Saakashvilli said: "It’s not about Georgia any more. You know, if Russia gets away with this, I can predict now that the Baltic countries will be next, Ukraine may be attacked.

"We’ve seen them – as ruthless, as lawless, as brutal, as arrogant as they can get. They go unchecked. The world community should speak with one voice. We need a big humanitarian relief operation, like the Berlin airlift, because the capital is blocked from all sides. It’s one and a half million people, it’s a modern European city, and it needs a lifeline. The main thing is that if the West fails, it will have tremendous consequences for the years to come."

Question: Does Saakashvili think making predictions of Eurasian Domination (what I intend to call my softball team) will encourage more support from the international community? And hey maybe it will and maybe it should. Maybe Saakashvili is right that Russia will start invading the other former soviet republics. But given the events that have transpired these last few weeks, I'm not so confident in his prediction making abilities.

Saakashvili Chews on His Tie

Yes, it's a story that's been hitting the interwebs pretty hard today. The BBC has coverage of Georgian President Saakashvili chewing on his tie. BBC asks if he looks stronger or weaker. Your thoughts?

The Italian Stallion to Plug Russian Vodka

Lundgren must be pissed!

Russia Today: American movie star Sylvester Stallone has signed up as the new face of the Russian vodka ‘Russky Led’. The Kommersant newspaper reports that the actor and director will be paid a million dollars for the trouble.

Stallone is best known for his roles in the Rocky series of films, which told the story of a washed-up boxer who became the world heavyweight champion. [Some might remember Rocky IV where he was victorious over the Soviet boxer.]

His latest venture is with Sinegria Holding, Russia’s third largest vodka producer. It has 16 branches in Russia, with an annual turnover amounting to almost $ US 900 MLN.

Belarus Frees Opposition Politician From Prison

NYT: Belarus released its most prominent opposition politician from prison, where he had been serving a lengthy sentence for leading antigovernment protests. The opposition figure, Aleksandr Kazulin, was freed after months of pressure from the US and the EU on Belarus’s president, Aleksandr Lukashenko. On Saturday, Kazulin did not make any remarks upon leaving the Vitba 3 prison, officials said.

Jonathan Moore, the senior US diplomat in Minsk said in a telephone interview that the release of Kazulin “was an important step in improving the human rights situation in Belarus.”

Kazulin, a former Lukashenko ally, turned against him and ran in the presidential election, which was described by election observers as rigged in Lukashenko’s favor. He was arrested and sentenced to 5.5 yrs in prison. He was briefly released in Feb. to attend the funeral of his wife, Irina. He had threatened a hunger strike if he was not allowed to go.

Russia: Besieged Fortress [scary music here]

Today, everyone’s favorite peace maker, Le Président de la République Française Nicolas Sarkozy, offered a outline of his peace plan in the WashPost. Eternal Remont noted this little gem in the fine print:

“If this clause [Russian pullout from Georgia] of the cease-fire agreement is not abided by rapidly and completely, I will be prompted to convene an extraordinary meeting of the European Council to decide about the consequences that should follow.”

And by “consequences,” he means a really stern letter with lots of exclamation points.

Also, in cased you missed it, Lilia Shevtsova over at the Carnegie Moscow Center wins today’s award for Best Take on the Bigger Picture: "NATO encirclement would be a serious threat for a state that defines itself through highly personalized power and a constant search for internal and external enemies. Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev cannot control the country without maintaining this image of Russia as a 'besieged fortress.'"

Actual Headline: Bulgaria to Send Medicine, Body Bags to Georgia

The Sofia Weekly: Georgia has officially asked Sofia to provide humanitarian aid, which includes vital medicine, medical equipment and plastic body bags, Bulgaria's Deputy Foreign Minister Milen Keremedchiev announced on Tuesday. The actual amount of the aid is to be discussed during a meeting of Bulgaria's PM Sergey Stanishev with Georgia's Ambassador to Bulgaria Mikheil Ukleba.

"The conflict in South Ossetia poses no direct threat for Bulgaria's national security," a statement issued by the president's press service after the meeting reads. "Bulgaria supports the efforts of the French Presidency of the European Union to end the military conflict. Bulgaria's institutions state that the military actions must be stopped and a peaceful solution sought after," the statement reads further.

Uzbekistan Gets Involved in the Conflict... not the most expected way.

Uzbekistan, who is known for its dedication to human rights and peace, is offering humanitarian aid to those affected by the Georgian-Russian conflict. President Islam Karimov is offering $250,000 in aid. And well, good for him, and I'm not saying they're aren't people who need that money in South Ossetia or in Georgia, but I am also saying that maybe that money could go towards institution building within Uzbekistan. All the same, good for Islam Karimov for caring.

ТАШКЕНТ, 16 авг — РИА Новости, Абу-Али Ниязматов. Президент Узбекистана Ислам Каримов поручил правительству республики выделить 250 тысяч долларов для оказания гуманитарной помощи гражданскому населению, пострадавшему в результате военного конфликта в Южной Осетии, сообщил РИА Новости в субботу представитель пресс-службы президента Узбекистана.

По его словам, доставку гуманитарного груза, состоящего из различных видов стройматериалов, в том числе цемента, продовольственных товаров, медикаментов, одеял, других постельных принадлежностей, а также прочих товаров первой необходимости поручено осуществить МЧС Узбекистана.

Aug 15, 2008

Colbert Tries to Make It Funny

Russia is the #5 threat in this week's threat down. See what separates Vladimir Putin from Adolf Hitler.

Georgia Files Suit Against Russia

Why didn't they do this before sending tanks?

NYTimes: Georgia has filed a lawsuit against Russia at the International Court of Justice in The Hague for its actions in and around the territory of Georgia from 1991 to 2008, the court said in a statement.

Georgia filed the lawsuit late on Tuesday at the Peace Palace in The Hague, where the court is based, an official said. In its 32-page complaint [I can't believe it's only 32 pages], Georgia said that beginning in 1991 Russia, along with separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia under Moscow’s control, used violent means to caused the mass expulsion of Georgians as well as other ethnic groups and prevented their return home.

As a basis for the court’s jurisdiction, Georgia invoked the 1965 International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which it said Russia had violated.

“It will be a long and tortuous process, but Georgia has no option,” said Payam Akhavan, a specialist in international law and a member of Georgia’s legal team. “Georgia has to assert its right under international law.”

What is Russia driving at?

That has been the question on so many of our minds. Why keep this going so long? Why not honor the cease-fires? Why not try to encourage peace? Why keep the tanks rolling in? What are you driving at?! Well the answer is ... Poland. (the picture might have given it away)

YahooNews: A top Russian general said Friday that Poland's agreement to accept a U.S. missile interceptor base exposes the ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear weapons, the Interfax news agency reported. "Poland, by deploying (the system) is exposing itself to a strike — 100 percent," Nogovitsyn, the deputy chief of staff, was quoted as saying.

He added, in clear reference to the agreement, that Russia's military doctrine sanctions the use of nuclear weapons "against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them." Nogovitsyn that would include elements of strategic deterrence systems, he said, according to Interfax.

So....this is incredibly upsetting.

Aug 14, 2008

Sasha Ovechkin is Looking for a Zhena

And she must be willing to have between 5 to 10 children.

Op-Ed Deathmatch

Yesterday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ran an Op-Ed in the Financial Times. As predicted, it was all about the peacekeepers:

"This is not a conflict of Russia’s making; this is not a conflict of Russia’s choosing...Georgian troops launched an all-out assault on the region of South Ossetia." Russia's "peacekeeping soldiers" where fulfilling their commitment under international agreements.

Meanwhile, back Saakashvili's strategy headquarters (presently located in the editorial department of the Washington Post), Georgia's president did not dissapoint, offering his own Op-Ed. "Russia intends to destroy not just a country but an idea... brutally purging Georgian villages...raping women, and executing men."

Too subtle, we fear.

Saakashvili also answered the question everyone wanted to ask. Apparently he was informed that a massive Russian armor column was idling in North Ossetia. However, "we did not anticipate the ferocity and scale of Moscow's responce."

Not. Anticipated.

Aug 13, 2008

Postcards from Tskhinvali

"It is well that war is so terrible; else we would grow too fond of it." -- Robert E. Lee

When did Moscow get so expensive?

In my new quest to find news that is not on the Georgia-Russia conflict, I went to, and found this troubling bit of information: Центробанк возвращает бивалютную корзину на прежний уровень. Курс доллара США в среду продолжил снижение, в среду он потерял еще 18 копеек, составив 24,15 рубля за $1. Евро также потерял в цене – 8 копеек.

Put simply (and in English) the ruble is doing pretty well, definitely better than it was. And I hear that the per diem rate for Moscow has gone up to US $400/day, which by the way will barely get you a hotel room at the Cosmos, where the sheets might give you TB. What's the point of hanging out in Russia if you can't live and have fun for cheap? Paying more than US $1 for a Baltika 9 is insanity, people. It just is.

Aug 12, 2008

How the Georgia-Russia Conflict May Lose the War in Iraq

A slight exaggeration, however, the Boston Globe reports that basically because of the Russia-Georgia conflict, 2,000 Georgian soldiers got recalled from Iraq, where they were responsible for filling 3 checkpoints along smuggling routes near the Iranian border. It is now up to the US to fill said checkpoints. Georgia was the 3rd-largest contributor of coalition forces after the United States and Britain. The US military said yesterday that the Georgian brigade had searched 175,291 vehicles and 792,859 people at checkpoints and traffic control stops, and had conducted 2,469 patrols in the area since Oct. 30, 2007.

...on the other hand, many Iraqis aren't sorry to see the Georgians go. They say the Georgians were rude, disrespectful, and ineffective. They never respected us," 20-year-old college student Saad Hassan said. He added that Georgian soldiers would hold families at checkpoints for hours even in extremely hot or cold weather.

Putting the "Prime" in Prime Minister, Again

In case anyone missed it, “Saakashvili took note of the fact that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally oversaw the Russian military operation from a command post in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia.”

Does anyone else think it’s odd that a prime minister would head to the front lines while Medvedev is playing golf?

Ok, he probably was not playing golf.

But it still does not answer what Putin was doing in Vladikavkaz. Putin certainly does not have the same authority over the military as say, I don't know, maybe President Medvedev? We assume that the President was at least conferring with his generals.

Since Putin has repeatedly stated that his focus as prime pinister woud be directed towards domestic issues, it is far more likely that he was in North Ossetia to do a little sightseeing and check up on the progress of his national priority projects in health, housing, and education.

Vladikavkaz is beautiful this time of year.

Georgia Association Organizes Demostrations in Washington, DC

This Friday, August 15, the Georgia Association is planning on holding two demonstrations in Washington, DC. The first demostration will be in Lafayette Park in front of the White House at 2pm. The second will take place at 4pm in front of the Russian Embassy located at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Edmunds Street. Georgia Association encourages concerned individuals to make their own signs. No slogan was suggested. What are your ideas, Remont Readers?

BTC and South Caucasus Pipelines Closed, Novorossisk...Open for Business

Today, the Secretary of Georgia's National Security Council, Alexander Lomaia, claimed that "Russians bombed the BTC pipeline south of the city of Rustavi." Apparently, no-one bothered to inform BP. The company was "unaware" of any attack.

Not that it matters much. The BTC already went offline due to fighting in Turkey (unrelated to this Georgian business). Just to be safe, however, BP has decided to also shut down the South Caucasus Natural Gas Pipeline.

Safety first kids.

Still, this is no time to panic, especially for gasoline conscious commuters like Eternal Remont (gasoline conscious commuter car pictured). While the BTC remains closed, BP will now ship its oil by rail from Azerbaijan to the Russia-controlled Novorossisk pipeline.

Thanks Russia!

And for everyone keeping score at home, Turkey is loosing $300,000 a day until the BTC reopens.

A Cease Fire with Exception

After reading several articles, it seems Russian President Medvedev has called for a ceasefire, however, if there are any enemies in South Ossetia, the Russian army has a right to shoot them, apparently. I'm sure the other Remont writers feel the same, when I say, I hope this comes to a speedy resolution and that the violence really does cease.

I must also say, there have been a lot of articles pointing blame at different actors, which is natural, but at the end of the day, everyone had a part in creating this catastrophe.

1. Saakashvili, what have you been thinking each step of this conflict? And if you learn only one thing from this disaster, learn that you cannot surround yourself with "yes men". I find it unbelievable that not one person stood up and said, "Mr. President, this is a bad idea, here's why..."

2. Russia, you won, we got...we got it several days ago. Why the continued pressure? What are you driving at?

3. The international community...protect your investments and before that, invest wisely.

Aug 11, 2008

Georgia Asks for Help from China

Yeah I got some questions:

1. What are (if any) other historical examples of reaching out to NATO and China in the same week or so?
2. If China does something about Russia going into Georgia, will Russia be obligated to do something about China and Tibet, China and its huge influence in Central Asia and Africa, China and its annoying habit of winning the most gold medals?
3. China isn't going to help right? I mean, 1, they are kind of busy. 2, I mean there just are a number of strategic reasons not to help Georgia. 3, does China really care about human rights violations? Pot kettle black.
4. Am I the only one who thinks it's really weird a state the size of Georgia is messing with Russia, "the west", and China? Look at the map!

VOA: Georgia has asked China to use its influence to push for a resolution to a territorial flare-up with Russia. Georgia's ambassador to China, Zaza Begashvili, met with China's foreign minister to seek support in the dispute with Russia.

Afterwards, Ambassador Begashvili held a briefing for a small group of foreign and Chinese journalists. Begashvili would not say how the Chinese responded to the call for help. But, flanked by several embassy staff and supporters wearing red arm bands that read "Stop Russia!" he said he hoped China, as a great power, would make the right conclusion.

The Russian-Georgian conflict goes cyber

Georgian government websites, and much of the internet in Georgia, is down due to denial of service attacks. Hmm, where have we seen this before?

The Foreign Ministry is fighting back by blogging on Blogger, owned by Google. Although I have to call it a smart move to go get Google on your side, are you sure you want to go with the Internet company that thinks your capital is Savannah?

Saakashvili, Quote Machine

“We should be crazy to want to continue this war.” -- President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Monday.

But it wasn't crazy to start it?

Just asking.

Aug 8, 2008

How Babies Are Made: Sexual Harassment

We have to inturrupt our war coverage for this important headline:

"Sexual harassment okay as it ensures humans breed, Russian judge rules..."

"A Russian advertising executive who sued her boss for sexual harassment lost her case after a judge ruled that employers were obliged to make passes at female staff to ensure the survival of the human race...'If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children,' the judge ruled."

This is one sure-fire way to solve Russia's population crisis, have the government encourage people to sexually harass their co-oworkers. Because that always leads to babies! (You're awesome Robert.)

Georgia's Suicidal War

It has happened.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has opted to commit state-suicide. Rather than accept a gradual path towards NATO membership, and a respected role in the international spotlight, Saakashvili has chosen to settle old scores in South Ossitia. Worse yet, he's doing so with equipment and training provided by the United States.

Since 1991, the US has provided over $1.7 billion in assistance to Georgia, much of this in the form of arms and special forces advisors under projects like the Georgian Train and Equip program. In response, Moscow has claimed that the US was destabilizing the region through Georgia's military build-up.

Today, Saakashvili’s has proven the Russians right.

Saakashvili has little moral ground on which to stand when he claims that, "A full-scale aggression has been launched against Georgia" at the hands of Russia. Moreover, he can hope to gain little from this gambit, save increased isolation from the Europe and NATO, a pull-back in US support, and an overtly aggressive Russian neighbor.

Prospective NATO members and close friends of the US do not invade ethnic enclaves or tempt a war with Russia -- no matter how old or frozen the conflict.

We can only hope that Russian tanks stop at the border of South Ossitia.

How to Celebrate the 2008 Olympics Idea #2: Launch a Web Site in Support of Russian

Yes, say hello to It is a site completely devoted to Barack Obama completely in Russian. It contains news, biographies on Barack and several other candidates, opinions, and a countdown clock to the US presidential elections (only a little over 84 days left to decide people). And speaking of voting, you can do that on the Web site too. Enjoy!

How to Celebrate the 2008 Olympics Idea #1: Start a War

There's no better way to celebrate the start of the Olympics than by sneaking in a war. No one's looking. Everyone is entranced with Michael Phelps. He knows like 5 words in Mandarin. That's adorable. So Georgia, you go on the offensive! Take South Ossetia, girl friend!

YahooNews: Georgian troops launched a major military offensive Friday to regain control over the breakaway province of South Ossetia, prompting a furious response from Russia — which vowed retaliation and sent a column of tanks into the region. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned that the Georgian attack will draw retaliation and the Defense Ministry pledged to protect South Ossetians, most of whom have Russian citizenship.

Yeah...not good.

Aug 7, 2008

The Kremlin Wants Your Resume

Today, the FT reports on the Kremlin’s efforts to address the crippling “shortage of talented civil servants, managers and politicians,” which has emerged in Russia. The answer: a really big database.

Even better, United Russia will serve as the Kremlin's HR department and manage the project. Not a party member? No worries. United Russia has stated that non-party members are more than welcome to submit their names for consideration.

"We are discussing which capabilities and leadership qualities the aspiring leaders must have, which ideology they should be guided by in life and, also, do they plan to live in Russia or not?” said project coordinator Yuri Kotler.

Eternal Remont already submitted it's application, but was, alas, elimitated due to a strong sympathy for democratic principles and a wild-eyed -- nay dangerous -- belief in the benefits of a liberal market economy.

Such is life, when you're out with the in-crowd.

Aug 6, 2008

Donskoi Monastery Gets A Writer in Residence

Russians do love a funeral. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's did not dissapoint as it turned into a grand state affair.

The event was all the more telling, since Solzhenitsyn was one of two people to ever be stripped of their Soviet citizenship and expelled from the USSR (Trotsky was the fist). Back in 1973, the KGB was nice enough not to put a garden ax through Solzhenitsyn's forehead (sorry Trotsky), but instead left him on a runway in Germany with 300 deutschmarks and a used coat.

These days, bygones are bygones, and Solzhenityn was lucky to live long enough for his death to become a political event.

President Medvedev even cut short a trip to be front and center as the mourner-in-chief. As it happens, the event was also broadcast live on state television. Reportedly, Medvedev cried as the body of Solzhenitsyn was lowered into the ground.

In the end, Solzhenitysn's earthly remains received the honors of a full military band, an official rifle salute, and a presidential decree renaming an -- as yet unnamed -- Moscow avenue in his honor.

Pasternak must be pissed.

6 machine guns, 25 assault rifles and dozens of smaller firearms...

...not at all sketchy in the Kyrgyz Republic. Not at all. Oh, and the US government is involved.

Reuters: On August 5, Police officers in Kyrgyzstan raided an apartment rented by US officials and seized 6 machine guns, 25 assault rifles and dozens of smaller firearms but then found out that the Americans were training Kyrgyz secret service agents. The American military officers and embassy officials in the apartment at the time of the raid did not have proper approval to possess the weapons, the government of Kyrgyzstan said initially. But on Tuesday the government said the American officials had come to train officers in the national security forces, and it blamed organizational shortcomings for the raid.

Friends Don't Wire Tap Friends...

Yes, it seems that Ron Suskind's new book, The Way of the World, reveals how loyal a friend the W really is.

The New Republic: In June 2001, Bush had the opportunity to bug Putin's hotel room in Vienna, but he wouldn't let the CIA replace the battery in the listening device. Why? Suskind writes on page 5:

When the CIA made its offer, his response was that you don't wiretap a friend. Condoleezza Rice said it was 'too risky, it might be discovered.' CIA said that if it was, it would probably heighten Putin's respect for Bush. Bush settled it--it was a gut decision. No dice.....

Thank you, Andy, for the story. And yes, you have it right. It's okay to wiretap all the Americans you want to make sure they're not terrorists. It's not okay to bug Putin. Have you seen inside this guy's soul? W has, and W has his reasons.

YouTube Hosts TurkmenDissidentTV

And as you might expect, it's fabulous. Packed with political cartoons and interviews with various democracy activists, sure to delight for minutes and hopefully make you care about Turkmenistan all over again.. Check out my favorite clip, Berdoon Episode 3.

And check out more wonderfulness at

Aug 5, 2008

"Ukraine is Not Even a State," Part II

Last week, Eternal Remont was distracted by a highly contentious debate over the mini-sub gap and, of course, Bulgaria. However, amid the chaos, we failed to note an article in the CSMonitor on Medvedev’s efforts to avert a “second Cold War.”

While the article itself is little more than a highlight film of the last twelve months, we do note this quote by Tatiana Parkhalina, director of the official Center for European Security Studies in Moscow.

"Ukraine is felt by Russians as part of traditional Russian lands. To many Russians it's just unthinkable for it to become part of an outside military alliance."

What on earth is Parkhalina talking about? Everyone knows that “Ukraine is not even a state.” Putin stated this very clearly during his April meeting with President Bush. We had assumed this was the final word on the issue.

Sorry Ukraine. But someone really needs to set you right about the facts.

"Russia Today" Needs Your Help!

Not sure if any of my "Zombie Lenin" entries would apply...but I'm sending them in all the same.

The following post was listed on "Help a Reporter Out". Thanks to Slonichka for the tip.

Name: Casey Clark Ney


Media Outlet/Publication: Russia Today

Query: "I am looking for any types of stories or ideas (general, feature, business, politics, etc) that have to do with Russia or Russians living anywhere around the globe. Thanks-CC"

Aug 4, 2008

“I was the man. I suffered. I was there.” – A. Solzhenitsyn

By rights, Solzhenitsyn should have died on the front lines of World War II, like so many of his generation. He should have died on one of the thousand islands of the Gulag Archipelago, or in a Cancer Ward after being diagnosed with near-terminal stomach cancer.

But he survived.

Solzhenitsyn’s samizdat manuscript of SHCH-854, later to be known as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, should have died "in the drawer," on the desk of Novy Mir editor Aleksandr Tvardovsky, or at the hands of Glavlit -- the main organ of Soviet censorship.

But it survived.

Inside the Soviet Union, the Politburo had never encountered a creature like Solzhenitsyn. After his expulsion to the West in 1973, the West soon realized that they had also, had never encountered a creature like Solzhenitsyn.

George Orwell once asked, “Where is Ghandi in Stalin’s Russia?” The answer, of course, is that Ghandi is dead in the snow. Not all tyrants are as kind as the British Empire. The tyranny which Solzhenitsyn opposed turned all of its opponents into obituaries. But not Solzehnitsyn.

In the end, Solzehnistyn the symbol would become far bigger than Solzehnitsyn the man. But that symbol showed the world the titanic power of dissent.

Thus, on the day of his death, his last day on this earth, Eternal Remont is reminded of the final passage in Ivan Denisovich:

“The end of an unclouded day.
Almost a happy one.
Just one of the 3,653 days of his sentence, from bell to bell.
The extra three were for leap years.”

Farewell Aleksandr Solzehnistyn. You have finally been released.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Leaves Us

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize-winning Russian author whose books chronicled the horrors of dictator Josef Stalin's slave labor camps, has died of heart failure. He was 89.

Through unflinching accounts of the years he spent in the Soviet gulag, Solzhenitsyn's novels and non-fiction works exposed the secret history of the vast prison system that enslaved millions. The accounts riveted his countrymen and earned him years of bitter exile, but international renown.

You will be missed, sir.

Aug 1, 2008

Moscow Seizes Grain Export Controls

Financial Times: Russia plans to form a state grain trading company to control up to half of the country’s cereal exports, intensifying fears that Moscow wants to use food exports as a diplomatic weapon in the same way as Gazprom has manipulated natural gas sales. The move by Moscow, the world’s fifth-biggest exporter of cereals, has been sharply criticised by US agriculture diplomats as a “giant step back” to the Soviet era.

The decision to control food exports is the latest sign of how soaring food prices are reshaping the agriculture industry. The recreation of Soviet-style state trading will aggravate anxieties of food-importing countries about their dependence on the international market, which has been severely disrupted this year after exporters, including Russia, imposed prohibitive foreign sales duties or export bans.

Question: What commodity or natural resource do you think Russia will use next in dimplomacy? Because it seems to be a tactic that works for them, and who am I to judge?

Tainted Glory

I may have reported on a certain "Return to Glory" a few days ago ( Well, it looks like the glory has already been tainted.

NYTIMES: A sting operation conducted over the past 16 months resulted in the doping suspension of 7 female Russian track and field athletes, 5 of them Olympians, bringing international embarrassment and dealing a potentially severe blow to the country’s medal chances in middle-distance running and field events at the Beijing Games.

Among those barred were Yelena Soboleva, the world’s top woman this year at 800 and 1,500 meters, and Tatyana Tomashova, who won a silver medal in the 1,500 at the Athens Olympics in 2004. The Russians denied that doping subterfuge had taken place, but unless the barred athletes succeeded on appeal, those chosen to participate at the Beijing Games, which open Aug. 8, would not be allowed to compete.