Sep 30, 2009

Eternal Remont will not harm your computer

Dear readers, Eternal Remont is hosted by Google's and will not harm your computer.

Working to have the problem resolved, ASAP.

Ukrainian Cosmonaut & Soviet Hero Passes Away

According to BBC Ukrainian Service, a decorated Soviet hero and the first Ukrainian Cosmonaut Pavlo Popovych died last night in the Crimea.

He was 79 years old. Popovych's first flight was on the "Vostok-4", August 12-15, 1962. This was the first mission that experimented with radio communications between ships. The Vostok-4 was communicating with the Vostok-3. The crews on each ship also took photographs of each other. He went on to other missions, went into politics briefly, and penned a number of books.

Thank you for your service, sir, I hope you weren't offended by the Anti-Soviet restaurant.

Sep 29, 2009

ER readership to go down in Russia

According to the Moscow Times, "Internet providers operating in the Russian segment of the web will be forced to give information about their users to law enforcement agencies, according to a bill posted on the Justice Ministry’s web site."

Of course there are a number of high-priced fines for not complying with the law, which can probably only be circumvented through the usual lines of corruption, but really what's the companiess' incentive not to hand over personal information of their customers?

I know there was no Internet in the first half of the 20th century, but what is this, Russia? Vichy France?!

Note to our Bulgarian Readers: Don’t Die least, if you want to be buried in Sofia.

According to city officials, Sofia will run out of graves in six months thanks to a lack of funding for expansion. In the meantime, undertakers will “decompose the bodies…for up to two years” then place the earthly remains in wall-mounted niches.

Alas, the grave shortage isn't the only problem facing Sofia's homes of eternal repose. Two competing security firms are also fighting over a public tender to guard city cemeteries. As a result, all graveyards will be unguarded “for at least 5-6 months” during the appeals process.

Like we said, don’t die.

"Anti-Soviet" Supporter in Hiding

Earlier this month, we covered the story of the "Anti-Soviet" restaurant, which was forced to rename itself as "Soviet", because the name "Anti-Soviet" offends veterans and widows (that's the official version).

Well, it appears that Russian freelance journalist Aleksandr Podrabinek wrote an editorial about the name change of the restaurant and now is being threatened by everyone's favorite nationalist youth group - Nashi (pictured above). Oh yeah, the Nashisti are none too pleased. Nashi has organized a protest and is demanding an apology from Podrabinek for defiling the honor of veterans.

Podrabinek has gone into hiding, claiming he has been threatened. The group well known for harassing opponents denies threatening the journalist. That's right, Nashi, it's not a threat if you intend to follow through. Then it's a promise.

Side note: All this over the naming of a restaurant? I'm curious to know what they serve at this former anti-soviet now soviet restaurant. My guess is the menu then and now mainly offers delicacies drenched in sunflower oil and/or mayonaise. Really, did the name have anything to do with anything in the restaurant?

Are victims allowed to extradite suspects?

So accoriding to the New York Times, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko wants Russia to turn over 3 men who he suspects were involved in poisoning him with dioxin during his 2004 presidential campaign...I remember the orange revolution. I remember hope...Yushchenko believes that the testimony of the the 3 men is crucial in closing the case.

I mean, he's the president, who else is going to call for an extradition? But he's directly involved in the case. And, if I was that good looking and someone made me that ugly, I don't know that I would be rational or abide by the law entirely. Is there a precendent for this? Seriously, international law students, I want some answers. Get to posting comments.

Pigs Gone Wild, Hillarity Ensues

It's hard to say what's more awesome about this video: the droopy speedo, the high heels and mini-skirt, the random chaos...or hamming for the camera at the end.

Run pigs, run!

(Thx Amicka.)

Sep 28, 2009

Postcards from Baikonur

Moving a Soyuz TMA-16 to the launch pad at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. Obviously, the sign budget could use a little love.

(Thanks BGNES.)

Is Obama a Robot?

When he wasn't exchanging high-fives with Medvedev at the UN last week, President Obama posed for some pictures. The State Department was kind enough to post them on its fliker stream (props to the Public Diplomacy kids) and someone figured they'd compress the collection into a 20 second movie.

One explination: Obama does not like to improvise when it comes to his smile. Or maybe its the "Obamabot," part of a secret government project to protect the president from swine flu.

Sep 25, 2009

The G-20 in Pictures


Carla Bruni to Svetlana Medvedeva, "A lot of people don't have the courage to wear gold-dipped pearls during an economic crisis. I admire your subtlety."

What does the shadow say about U.S.-German relations?

Kadyrov's Defamation of Character Trial Opens

According to the New York Times, Ramzan Kadyrov's defamation of charcter trial against activist Oleg Orlov held its first hearing. Mr. Orlov stood by his accusation that Kadyrov was complicit in the murder of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova. He also accused Kadoucheov of creating an atmosphere in which Chechen officials, whether under orders from the president or not, can torture, kidnap and murder with impunity.

Ka-do-you-really-want-to-hurt-me-ov is seeking more than $300,000 in compensation for harm done to his reputation. Oh, and there's more. Earlier this week, Kadurak accused Estemirova of fabricating charges of rights violations, saying “she played no role in Chechnya.”

1. I didn't realize shaved apes could take people to court in Russia?
2. What good reputation did you have, Kadyrov?
3. How many golden guns can $300,000 buy?
4. The idea of Kadyrov and role playing scares the bejesus out of me!

Sep 24, 2009

When Game Theory Goes Horribly Wrong

Remember the Doomsday machine in Dr. Strangelove? Remember how Kubrick’s fictional Soviets kept it secret to hilarious, world-ending effect? Funny fact: such a device actually exists.

Wired Magazine has a great article on Russia's very real Doomsday device, code named “Perimeter.” In theory, the mechinism would allow the “dead hand” of the Soviet Union to retaliate against a surprise nuclear attack. And yes Kubrick fans, the real life Kremlin also kept it a secret.
"By guaranteeing that Moscow could hit back, Perimeter was actually designed to keep an overeager Soviet military or civilian leader from launching prematurely during a crisis."

Cold War aficionados will note that many of these details have been exposed over the last two decades. But the best part: “Dead Hand is still armed.”

By the way Lavrov, how are those START negotiations progressing?

Not Playing Volleyball is Bad Behavior in Azerbaijan

According to Reporters Without Borders, a judge has rejected a request for the early release of Ganimat Zahid, the editor of the opposition daily Azadlig, on the grounds that he refused to take part in a volleyball game in prison. Describing the decision as “illegal and devoid of any basis,” Zahid’s lawyer, Elchin Sadyhov, said he was determined to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

My legal advice to Zahid: telling the judge you didn't play because you had cramps might work. It always worked for me in gym from 6th to 8th grade.

My question to the judge: Really?

Do Zionists Love Bulgaria That Much?

Irina Bokova of Bulgaria has been elected as Director General of UNESCO after five controversial rounds of voting. Our congratulations go out to Bokova, the first woman and the first Eastern European to head the UN body.

Meanwhile, Egypt's Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosny is still smarting from the defeat. After saying in May, "I'd burn Israeli books myself if I found any in libraries in Egypt," Hosny blamed his loss to Bokova on "Zionists" and the United States.

Maybe next time Hosny.

And just before we veer dangerously out of area…Mohmmar Qadaffi, after yesterday’s UN address, you are welcome to move to Eternal Remont any time.

Sep 23, 2009

Mikhail Prokhorov: The Nets Are Mine!

Self-declared Russian “Snob,” alleged human trafficker, and part-time aluminum smelter Mikhail Prokhorov is now the proud owner of the erstwhile New Jersey Nets (or at least 80% of the Nets), pending league approval.

Don’t worry, NBA commissioner David Stern is more than willing to oblige. He is desperate for somone with deep pockets to pay the bills at the Nets’ new arena, or as they say in the NBA, safeguard the city's “rich sports heritage.”

"We are looking forward to the Nets' move to a state-of-the-art facility in Brooklyn, with its rich sports heritage," Stern said in the release. "Interest in basketball and the NBA is growing rapidly on a global basis and we are especially encouraged by Mr. Prokhorov's commitment to the Nets and the opportunity it presents to continue the growth of basketball in Russia.”
Because that’s what Russia really needs right now, basketball franchises.

Corruption is high, freedom is low, the economy just suffered a nervous breakdown, 90% of all Russian drug users are addicted to heroine, everyone in Tver has just been declared an extremist and the NBA wants to sell all the kids in Rostov a Kobe Bryant t-shirt. (We dare you to find someone in Chelyabinsk who can name anyone on the Nets' current bench).

/high five Jason Kidd

Nationalism and Facebook

All right, I know many of us who studied East Europe and Eurasia at some point had to read about Brubaker's "triadic nexus" for nationalism, which includes "dynamic interdependence," a newly emergent "nationalizing state," and an external "national homeland" state of the expatriate "national minority." And while some have argued a quadratic nexus, I don't believe such term has ever been published or attributed to any scholar. So today, whether you support the triadic or the quadratic nexus, I'm going to blow your mind. There's another field to consider in the nexus: Facebook.

According to CNN, the "Where do you live?" field on Facebook has caused some contraversy, because it seems Facebook recognizes states and not nations. This is causing a problem for people in disputed zones and oppressed regions worldwide - Palestine and Tibet, for example. How does it affect our region? You guessed it. Let's go to the Caucasus.

Abkhazia is not a country option on Facebook, and the Abkhaz capital Sukhumi is listed as being in Georgia. As a result, two pro-independence Abkhaz Facebook groups have about 1,200 members between them. Thanks for intensifying nationalism, Facebook. What are your thoughts on Rational Choice Theory?

Russia Calls for Air Raid on Poppies

According to the New York Times, Russia’s top drug enforcement official, Viktor Ivanov is calling on the US to take a stronger approach to poppy field eradication in Afghanistan. Ivanov believes the US should use the methods it used recently in Colombia, where vast coca fields were sprayed aerially with the herbicide glyphosate.

Why so determined to destroy the poppies? Well, Ivanov claims 30,000 young Russians die every year from drug use and 90% of Russian addicts use Afghan heroine. Holy Moses, that's a high percentage.

So the US should be on board for that, right? Oh wait no. Richard Holbrooke and others fear that poppy eradication alienates poor farmers and drives people into the hands of the Taliban. So stepping up the war on drugs could set back the war on terror.

The most upsetting thing about this is that Television lied to me. What other PSAs should I not believe?!

Sep 22, 2009

Blame Tbilisi! Blame Tbilisi! seems that everything's gone wrong since Saakashvili came along. Blame Tbilisi! Blame Tbilisi! Saakashvili eats ties anyway...I might have taken that too far. I just love South Park so much, though.

Anyway, according to Der Spiegel, an EU expert commission has put the blame for last summer's South Ossetia war on Georgia. However, The report also concludes that Moscow escalated the conflict through its massive deployment of troops.

The report is supposedly still "under wraps", so why we know the outcome, I'm not sure. But until she's unwrapped, there is nothing available in the news as to why Georgia gets the lion's share of the blame. As soon as it is unwrapped next week, I'll be sure to agree with it though.

Kremlin Inc: Now on Sale?

Yesterday, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov met with the White House's economic team. It now looks like much of Kremlin Inc. is going on sale to raise cash.

“Now is the time that we can return” to privatization, Shuvalov said..."When it was very good, the market, we were collecting money for our reserves and we didn’t talk much about privatization. It was almost dead.”
Seeing how everyone who remembers the last time Russia sold state assets to raise cash is now A) in prison, B) managing a football club in England, or C) living under the name "Platon Elenin" and having his offices cleaned of polonium-210, we're sure the Kremlin can be trusted to keep its word this time around.

Also, anyone else notice the creepy similarity between Rafe Fines and Igor Shuvalov?

End of an Era

According to the New York Times, Elizaveta Mukasei, a Soviet spy who was half of one of the most famous husband-and-wife duos in the history of espionage, died at age 97 in Moscow on Saturday. He husband died last year at age 101.

"From the 1940s until the late 1970s, Ms. Mukasei worked with her husband, Mikhail, on a string of undercover operations abroad. They used the code names Zephyr, which was Mikhail’s, and Elza, which was Elizaveta’s, and such was the delicacy of their work that the modern successor to the K.G.B. has yet to disclose the full details of their operations."

One thing is clear: whatever Russia gives it's spies, it should try giving to it's general population. They lived to 97 and 101. He doubled most Russian males' life expectancy. What what?!

Sep 21, 2009

Boris Yeltsin, In His Underwear, Hailing A Cab we have to mention he was drunk?

According to a new book, that's how Bill Clinton describes the scene which greeted Secret Service Agents late one night along Pennsylvania Avenue during Yeltsin's legendary visit to Washington in 1995.

[Clinton] relayed how Boris Yeltsin's late-night drinking during a visit to Washington in 1995 nearly created an international incident. The Russian president was staying at Blair House, the government guest quarters. Late at night, Clinton told Branch, Secret Service agents found Yeltsin clad only in his underwear, standing alone on Pennsylvania Avenue and trying to hail a cab. He wanted a pizza, he told them, his words slurring.

The next night, Yeltsin eluded security forces again when he climbed down back stairs to the Blair House basement. A building guard took Yeltsin for a drunken intruder until Russian and U.S. agents arrived on the scene and rescued him.

God bless you, Boris Yeltsin. (And Igor, for sending a link to the story.)

The babushki win again

Is there no limit to their powers? Together, I think they're stronger than Putin.

According to YahooNews, a Moscow restaurant called 'Anti-Sovetskaya' has changed its name to 'Sovetskaya' under pressure from local authorities who said it offended Russia's older generation, especially veterans and the widows of veterans.

How is that even a compromise? They changed their name to the opposite of the original name. Come on!

Update: Here's a pic of the offending restaurant, thanks to an alert reader! Probably not going to open as soon as predicted.

OSCE: Open Society is for Central Europeans

(Not Central Asians.) So seriously, the Kazakhs are just throwing it in everyone's faces now. Kazakhstan to the world: Yeah we imprison human rights activists and shut down independent newspapers, and yeah, we're taking over the OSCE in 2010. Keep writing letters to our ambassadors, and we'll keep promptly shredding them.

On Friday, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Kazakh authorities confiscated everything in the Almaty-based independent weekly Respublika-Delovoye Obozreniye. Authorities also froze the bank accounts of the weekly and its publisher. Why?

Court officials reportedly cited a September 9 verdict from the Medeu District Court in Almaty that ordered the weekly to pay 60 million Kazakh tenge (about US$400,000) to the state-owned BTA Bank in damages. BTA Bank filed a lawsuit last month against Respublika-Delovoye Obozreniye, claiming that an article in the March issue of the weekly led to 6.7 billion Kazakh tenge (about US$44 million) in withdrawals

Postcards fom Yakutsk

The Lena River is also a fan of Eternal Remont.
Thanks Google Maps!

The Reset Button Gap

Note before I start: I will never ever stop referencing Dr. Strangelove. But I promise never to use "From Russia with ________" ever again.

According to the New York Times, "Russia Tries to Control the Reset Button." How could the US let this happen? They obviously need to build a bigger button and put it on Mars, and the first country there then owns the reset button!

"The Americans can insist that scrapping plans for a ground-based missile shield on Moscow’s borders is all about Iran and not Russia, and that the Obama administration has traded away nothing to the Russians in the process.

But the Kremlin has made clear its will to extend what it considers a triumph. It’s talking up a plan that Russia sees as containing an alliance-splitting downside for the United States whichever way it turns."

Is Obama the US Gorbachev? Inadvertently destroying the country by trying to reform its policies?

Sep 20, 2009

Life on Planet Medvedev: Low Corruption and a Free Press

Medvedev to CNN: "Today, the situation, as it is towards corruption, is not as bad as it used to be."

Oh really?

Russia in the Corruption Perceptions Index

(lower is better)
2001: 79th place
2002: 71th place
2003: 86th place
2004: 90th place
2005: 126th place
2006: 121th place
2007: 143th place
2008: 147th place

...and apparently Russia also has a free press, according to Medvezhonok.

Freedom of the Press Index

(lower is better)
2002: 60 Partly Free
2003: 66 Not Free
2004: 67 Not Free
2005: 68 Not Free
2006: 72 Not Free
2007: 75 Not Free
2008: 78 Not Free

It must be nice to live on Planet Medvedev. Too bad he won't let anyone visit.

Sep 19, 2009

"I'm a Hooligan Too!" T-shirts Now Available

A lot of readers were interested in getting their own "I'm a Hooligan Too!" T-shirts. Now you can. If you want to show your support for Emin and Adnan, you can order the shirt above from here.

Warning: The Azeri government is absolutely terrified of this T-shirt. You might get you arrested for wearing it in public if you live in the country. (Then again, we couldn't get it in Russian, so maybe you'll be safe.)

Note: We don't make a penny from this, know someone who works for the company, or otherwise make any guarantees. However, the company was well reviewed and has good customer ratings...Caveat emptor, etc.

Medvedev's Quotation of the Week

"In our country, where there's so much red tape, nobody would even lift a finger without me signing a paper first, even if they have different opinions about who's in charge."

This quotation, courtesy of CNN. Now let's disect it.

1. Look at my little bear openly talking about the amount of red tape in Russia to a CNN reporter. What?

2. Russian politicians only lift a finger to order another drink. Don't confuse laziness with respect.

3. Different opinions about who's in charge...I cannot WAIT for the 2012 "election"!

Sep 18, 2009

We Are All Hooligans

By popular demand.

Sep 17, 2009

After MD: How Many Polish Vegetable Gardens Have to Die?

Today's reversal on Missile Defense has lit up the board from Azerbaijan to Prague.

"Obama hands Russia a gift," writes Reuters. Other headlines have been equally pithy.

Either way, the Poles are going to want more overt assurances over Article V and increased contingency planning from NATO. This means a return to old school "Reforger" (Return of Forces to Germany) exercises and Cold War-syle maneuvers across Polish backyards and vegetable gardens. Back in the day, the Germans absolutely loved the annual NATO romp over their carefully manicured countryside.

If the Poles do get their wish, then we hope that NATO will at least change the naming convention because "Depforpol" (Deployment of Forces to Poland?) just doesn't sound as cool. It sounds like a prescription mood stabilizer, which after today, seems rather appropriate.

Update on Azeri (Donkey) Bloggers' Trial

Our loyal readers of course know about the case of Azeri bloggers Emin Milli (Abdullaev) and Adnan Hadji-zadeh.

Here's an update from Reporters Without Borders: Journalists and NGO representatives were barred yesterday from the hearing, in which two of the three “victims” of the bloggers’ alleged assault gave evidence, delivering identical testimony, while Zadeh and Milli denied all the charges.

Supporters of Zadeh and Milli who were outside the courthouse wearing T-shirts with the words “I’m a hooligan too” were arrested and taken to a nearby police station.

To be fair, they were admitting to being hooligans.

Gorky was totally an extremist

According to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, a Novorossiysk Prosecutor has labeled the phrase “Freedom is not given – it’s taken” as extremist and claims the phrase serves the interests of those who would like to undermine the socio-political system of contemporary Russia, in particular the interests of the USA. “Freedom is not given – it’s taken” is a rephrasing of a quote from a play by Maxim Gorky (“Rights are not given, rights are taken”).

Um, what?! So, it seems to me, that in Russia the word "extremist" and the letters "USA" are pretty much thrown around now to frighten the idiotic/non-thinking segment of the population. You know, in the dreaded "USA", the rabble-rousers reach the ignorant by using "death panels" and "secret Muslim". I'm thinking of moving to Norway.

Turk strips Ukrainian of "World's Tallest" title

YahooNews: A towering Turk was officially crowned the world's tallest man Thursday after his Ukrainian rival dropped out of the running by refusing to be measured. Guinness World Records said that 8 foot 1 inch (2.47 meter) Sultan Kosen, from the town of Mardin in eastern Turkey, is now officially the tallest man walking the planet. Although the previous record holder, Ukrainian Leonid Stadnyk, reportedly measured 8 feet 5.5 inches (2.57 meters), Guinness said he was stripped of his title when he declined to let anyone confirm his height.

Stadnyk refused to be measured because he wants to stay out of the public eye. How does someone 8'5.5" stay out of anyone's eye?

Sep 16, 2009

Medvezhonok's Manifesto for Change

Medvezhonok remains an enigma to me. Today, according to the Wall Street Journal, he outlined a manifesto for changing Russia, often slamming Putin's policy. What what? And "manifesto for change"? I prefer my title: "Medvedev can, if his overlord Putin allows him to"

Anyway, some plans Medvezhonok will never see to fruition:

-Get corruption under control in 15 years
-Wean Russia off her reliance on oil and gas revenues
-Promote greater international integration for Russia

Oh, my little bear, I wish you could. I really wish you could. Meanwhile, how's eliminating Russia's alcoholism going for you?

Bulgaria: Show Me the Money, Russia

Yesterday, Bulgaria’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Traicho Traikov announced that the government would “demand from Moscow economic profits” from joint energy projects like South Stream and the Burgas-Alexandroupulis line. But the kicker:

“Bulgaria is also going to further insist that the country's participation in the Russian projects is in compliance with the European Union plans for boasting the security of supplies.”
Seeing how any increase in Russian energy dependence is in opposition to EU energy security goals, the Energy Charter and – of all things – the G-8 St. Petersburg Principles, we can’t see how future deals with GazProfit et. al. could meet this requirement.

The Belene nuclear plant is probably safe, for now. But Bulgaria needs Russian financing to finish ths job. Thus, Borissov’s new government might soon see some A) pushback from Moscow, or B) magic suitcases of Euros. (A and B?)

During the campaign, Borissov had pledged to fight corruption and resist Russia’s overt influence in the country. Judging by the reaction, we might just see how well Bulgaria's former-wrestler turned feng shui aficionado turned prime minister can govern.

Sep 15, 2009

For the Love of...

Putin, you're fine. Borderline, but fine.
Medvedev, over here. It's time for an intervention.

President Medvedev, I wrote this poem to express how I feel when you dress like a nightclub owner...

(Cheers, Igor.)

Belarus Free Theatre Takes a Roadtrip

It's the guerilla theatre company that Alexander Lukashenko doesn't want you to see. Today and tomorrow, the Belarus Free Theatre will be performing at Georgetown University's Davis Performing Arts Center. Our friends at the WashPost were kind enough to set the stage:

So in Minsk, the company's home city, actors perform in tiny apartments, texting their location at the last minute to avoid harassment by government officials. They perform in bars and tell the authorities the gathering is a holiday party; they perform in the woods and say it's a wedding. Many of the actors have lost their day jobs, some of the audience members have been arrested.
If Mick Jagger is a fan, it has to be good.

End of the World Notice: Russia's Northeast Passage Now Open

For the first time, two commercial shipping vessels have completed a journey along Russia’s Northeast Passage without the need for icebreakers.

"The two merchant ships belonging to Beluga Shipping Gmbh were able to make the cost-saving voyage by the fabled Northeast Passage because of the reduction in the polar ice cap due to global warming, the company said."
The good news: the Northeast route cuts the 11,000 nautical mile trip from Asia to Europe down to 7,000. The bad news: Beluga claims (without any hint of irony) this will "yield substantial savings in fuel costs and reductions in CO2 emissions,” thus reversing the process which made the whole trip possible.

Sep 14, 2009

The Thrill is Gone

New Europe is too successful for its own good. That’s the take-away from CSIS’ New European Democracies Director Janusz Bugajski on the dying love between Central Europe and the United States. The GMF story is really getting legs. (Thanks to everyone who sent along links.)

"These countries may be victims of their own success," Bugajski said Monday. "They're fairly stable. There's no major social unrest or political instability, no real security threats. The more successful you are, the more you tend to slide down the agenda of U.S. foreign policy," said Bugajski.
Even The Economist is getting on the bandwagon (pictured).

But we must ask, why is our beloved region always represented by a babushka? Yes, the babushki secretly run the place. But have we no time to consider the ways in which we shamefully neglect beautiful gold-diggers and the morally bankrupt businessmen who's gold they dig?

And for the record, the existence of a babushka in fishnet stockings has never been scientifically verified [by an alert reader].


Yulia to run for president...

...and blame the world for her failure to improve Ukraine. Straight from Pani Yulia's blog:

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko plans to run for president in 2009, she said during today’s meeting of the National Trilateral Social and Economic Council. She also said that the increase in social standards in 2010 will be very moderate due to the global financial and economic crisis.

Russian-Ukrainian relations deteriorate

So, outside of the language wars (see previous post), Russia and Ukraine continue to not agree on most other issues.

According to the Washington Post today, Russia is intensifying pressure against Ukraine. Recent examples?

- Russia has accused Ukraine of sending troops to Georgia last year to kill Russian soldiers
- Russia claims Ukraine has been disrupting the operations of the Russian fleet in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol
- and Medvezhonok issued a letter last month that denounced Yushchenko (at least the letter wasn't covered in dioxin)

Meanwhile on September 10, the Ukrainian intelligentsia issued an open letter asking for protection Russia. Interesting point, the letter is in Russian.

Shouldn't Russia be focused on ending violence in the Caucasus? And should Ukraine be concerned with actually forming a government that can survive? I'm cool with open rhetoric. I just don't want things to escalate.


Almost a century after the Soviet policy of korenizatsiya or "nativization", Ukraine seems to be reinitiating the policy to make Ukrainian the language of the nation, which was until quite recently split almost 50/50 between Ukrainian and Russian

According to the NY Times, the Ukrainian government is increasingly requiring that the Ukrainian language be used in all facets of society, especially schools, as it seeks to ensure that the next generation is oriented toward Kyiv, not Moscow. The most recent development: children are reading Pushkin in Ukrainian. You can imagine the horror back in Moscow. I can just imagine literature professors sobbing by his monuments.

The Russian response: The Kremlin is setting up foundations to promote the study of Russian abroad and castigating neighbors (the Baltics) who shove the language from public life.

We really need to push for Esperanto. These language wars are just not contructive.

Look out, Jolie, the Rocket Man is adopting a baby

Wow, a lot happened over the weekend, and me with a busted computer...Sorry for the overposting. Let's start with some celebrity news. According to YahooNews, pop legend Elton John and his partner are looking to adopt Lev, a Ukrainian toddler they met recently at an orphanage that houses children who's parents have died from AIDS.

Elton John acknowledged bureaucratic hurdles may make adoption of a Ukrainian child impossible, citing the lack of a formal adoption protocol between England and the Ukraine as a serious potential problem. He did not acknowledge the fact that any bureacratic procedure in Ukraine is in fact a hurdle only surmounted with lots and lots of money, but I'm doing that for him right now. Meanwhile EJ hopes his partner will be able to make some headway as a Canadian citizen, since Ukrainian-Canadian relations are much better than Ukrainian-British relations.

Update: Ukraine's minister for family affairs said today that Elton John will not be able to adopt a 14-month-old Ukrainian child because the pop star is too old and isn't traditionally married. Not shocking.

Sep 12, 2009

1999 Apartment Bombings: Still Asking for the Truth

Remember the 1999 apartment bombings that pulled Russia into a second war with Chechnya and secured Putin's place in the presidency? So do twelve heroic Russian citizens. And they want answers.

VOA: In an open letter, the activists say the bombings brought on a period of "official propaganda and lies" and created "unceasing terrorist threats" from rebels in the North Caucasus.
To this day, David Satter's investigative work on the FSB's involvement in the murder of Russian citizens remains some of the best reporting in English on the topic. "Suspicions only deepened when a fifth bomb was discovered in the basement of a building in Ryazan and those responsible for placing it turned out to be agents of the FSB." Then there's that unanswered question about the hexogen.

Either way, we can only applaud the actions of a few brave souls who only ask for the truth from a government that is supposed to protect them.

Sep 11, 2009

Is Russia still calling itself a democracy?

So something we've known for a while: Putin wants the presidency back. Today, speaking to a group of scholars and journalists, the big bear got OBVIOUS about it. Putin said that he and Medvezhyonok will jointly decide which one of them would hold the post next in 2012. Said Putin:

"Was there any competition in 2007? No. Then we won't have this in 2012...We will agree because we are people of one stamp. We will take all these things into account and then decide."

So much for elections...

"Mr. Putin rejected any suggestion that such a process would be undemocratic. He compared it favorably with the recent transfer of power in the United Kingdom, where then Prime Minister Tony Blair handed over to Gordon Brown without an election." (Had to add this gem.)

Sep 10, 2009

Is President Obama the New Berlin Wall?

GMF has finally made public the findings from their "Transatlantic Trends" survey (which has been quietly whispered in Washington for weeks now). The headline?

"Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, new fissures are emerging between Western and Eastern Europe — this time over President Obama’s policy toward Russia."

The good news: 77 percent of EU respondents support Obama’s handling of international affairs (four times higher than under the last administration). Now the bad news: that number drops to 60 percent in Eastern Europe, where respondents are skeptical of America's policy towards Russia.

Many have pointed out that 60 percent is still pretty high. Yet, the survey points to a larger problem just below surface -- one which is poorly understood in some circles.

Русский Хор Sings Best Beatles Cover, Ever!

Big thanks to Leopolis, who has time to find these things.

The "Empire of the Yanks"

Regular visits to Moscow by Venezuelan blunderbuss Hugo Chávez are a gift from the heavens to ER. His latest visit did not disappoint. According to the NYTimes:
“Mr. Chávez began his visit with a two-and-a-half-hour speech to Moscow students in which he berated the United States for seeking to control the world with what he called a ‘terrorist’ empire…The United States wants to dominate the entire world, he told about 1,000 students. ‘The empire of the Yanks will fall this century, and I am not talking about the end of the century but in the next decades.’"
Has a gauntlet been thrown? Well then Sr. Chávez we’ll be happy to take that bet. But should the Bolivarian revolution fail before "the next decades" are over, how will we collect?

Turkish Women Rescued from Fake Reality Show

According to Yahoonews, Turkish military police stormed an Istanbul villa today to rescue nine women (8 women and one teenager) held captive after being tricked into believing they were reality show contestants. The women were made to believe they were being filmed for a Big Brother-type television show, but, instead, their naked images were sold on the Internet.

The women had responded to an ad searching for contestants for a reality show that would be aired on a major Turkish television station. They were made to sign a contract that stipulated that they could have no contact with their families or the outside world and would have to pay a 50,000 Turkish Lira fine (US$33,000) if they left the show before two months.

The women quickly figured out that they had been had, and tried to leave, but were held against their will in the villa. The police got involved when parents complained that they were unable to contact their daughters.

Boo these scam artists. Boo reality TV for ever existing.

Well Shut My Mouth

You may have noticed that I often mock the government of my beloved Russia for changing its history through editting school history books and school curricula. Well, a rare kudos to the Russian Ministry of Education who, according to the Kyiv Post, recently made Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago required reading for high school students because of its historical and cultural relevance for learning about 20th century Russia. If any of the students actually do their required reading do you think a couple heads will explode?

Sep 8, 2009

Turkey Bans Justin Timberlake

Turkey is really on a banning rampage these days. First it was the smokers. Now it's Justin Timberlake. Is there no end?

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey's state broadcasting watchdog has banned the music video for "Love Sex Magic," a duet between pop star Justin Timberlake and Ciara, due to its sexually explicit content."

Apparently the sight of Ciara licking Timberlake's ear was somehow offensive to the sensibilities of the country that immortalized the harem and the bathhouse.

What's that Pastor Niemöller?

First they came for the smokers, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a smoker. Then they came for Justin Timberlake, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t Justin Timberlake. Then they came for me, and by that time, there was no one left..."

Anyway, you (and 6 million others) can watch the "explicit video" on YouTube and ponder the state of free expression in Turkey, officially a candidate for EU membership.

[Edit: link to smokers story now fixed.]

Nazarbaev on Emerging Democracies

Swinging past his knees it is.

So, seriously, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev submitted an op-ed to the Washington Times, which ran today. The title? "The promise of emerging democracies" And yes, he considers Kazakhstan an emerging democracy, this on the coattails of the most recent example of complete disregard for the rule of law and human rights in Kazakhstan. Ridiculousness that stands out:

Emerging democracies like Kazakhstan...have a responsibility and role to play on the global stage that is far more consequential to the welfare of freedom-loving nations.

A dedication to democratic values, the rule of law, transparency, tolerance and open trade has led to stability and a strong, well-educated middle class. This increasingly firm foundation at home enables us to play an important role among nations abroad...

Pragmatism is necessary in nation-building and more likely to evoke a positive response from allies than an ideological crusade.

I would love to hear Nazarbaev's full definition of pragmatism.

Sep 4, 2009

Reunited and it feels so good...

...the ratings aren't too shabby either.

According to Global Post, Serbian broadcasting company B92 has been filming a new reality TV show "Portraga" or "The Search" that attempts to reunite friends and families got separated or just lost touch during the war. The show highlights different individuals, who tell their stories about how they got separated from loved ones during the war, and then the viewers are asked to contribute by providing any information that could help reunite these lost souls. The show is doing pretty well, drawing about 400,000 viewers per episode. And, out of the 470 cases covered, 8 people have been found. Not bad.

Destroying History

I must say, while the Russians revise their history text books every other week it seems, it's somehow refreshing that Azerbaijan just destroys any history book it doesn't like.

According to IFEX, the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan recently upheld the decision of the Sabail District Court not to go forward with a law suit initiated by jailed journalist Ganimat Zahid. While in prison, Zahid wrote A Modern History of Azerbaijan. The head of the prison used flattery to get the manucript from Zahid, and once he read it, claimed it included statements against the government, and so he destroyed it. Zahid tried to sue for US $1,200,000. Would have been a nice chunk of change if he had won or even been allowed to pursue the case. What was he going to do with all that money in prison, anyway?

The Problem with “Good Cop, Bad Cop”...

…is that both cops have to be consistent.

Speaking with state-owned Rossiya TV, Medvedev threw down his own personal gauntlet over the World War II blame game, but created a fantastic inconsistency in the process.

“You cannot label someone who defended himself an aggressor,” Medvedev said, unloading his wrath at the 'Divided Europe United' resolution recently introduced by the OSCE. “Excuse me, but this is a cynical lie.”

Too bad Putin just denounced the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as "immoral," Should we also include that part where, sorry Medvedev, Russia was the aggressor against Poland?


And while we fully agree that Putin has demonstrated fits of cynicism and mistruth in the past, we’re pretty sure Medvedev meant to say that the OSCE was a liar, not his boss.

Too bad. We were just warming up to the guy.