Thousands Protest Against Putin Result

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev dismissed US criticism about alleged fraud in the parliamentary elections. Close Advertisement Russian Communist Party supporters gather together to protest against official results of the parliaments elections in Manezh Square near the Kremlin in Moscow. Source: AP

AROUND 8000 people protested in Moscow and Saint Petersburg against what they say were rigged parliamentary polls that handed victory to Vladimir Putin’s ruling party.

An opposition activist, Sergei Udaltsov of the Left Front, was meanwhile in critical condition after he went on hunger strike since being detained early this month, his lawyer and wife said.

The new rallies came on the heels of a wave of protests that swept Russia the previous weekend after the opposition and independent observers said Putin’s United Russia party had cheated its way to a slim majority in December 4 parliamentary polls.

More than 3000 people attended a rally onManezhnaya Squarenear the Kremlin walls organised by the Communist party, the runner-up in the parliamentary elections.

Yury Molodkin said he joined the rally because he was “outraged” by Putin’s claims that protesters were in the pay of a foreign state and compared a symbol of the protests against his rule – the white ribbon – to condoms.

“I came to listen to people who are ready to fight these liars,” the 46-year-old told AFP.

In a live televised phone-in beamed acrossRussiaon Thursday, Putin claimed he wasn’t troubled by the largest protests of his 12-year rule and said he first thought the rallies were an anti-AIDS campaign and that its participants had pinned condoms to their lapels.

“He talked like a crime boss,” said Molodkin, who noted he had not been to a rally since 1993.

Police put the turnout at theMoscowprotest at 3300 people.

InRussia’s second city ofSaint Petersburgprotesters chanting “Russia Will Be Free!” and holding signs such as one reading “Give Back My Vote!” also said they were offended by Putin’s claims they were hired to protest.

“It’s a ridiculous idea that people get paid for coming here,” said Sergei, a student and one of some 5000 protesters who gathered in the central Pionerskaya square.

“Clearly everyone is tired of the lies coming from the authorities,” said Sergei, who held a sign reading “I Was Asked to Stand Here for $10”.

More than 50,000 people gathered inMoscowthe previous weekend in the biggest show of popular anger since the turbulent 1990s. The next major opposition protest inMoscowis scheduled for Saturday.

The leader of one of the opposition groups that organised the largeMoscowrallies was earlier in the day hospitalised and fighting for his life in an intensive care unit, his wife and fellow activist Anastasia Udaltsova and his lawyer said.

“Udaltsov was examined for several hours,” his lawyer Violetta Volkova said on Echo of Moscow radio. “Doctors decided to put him into an intensive care unit.”

Udaltsov has been on hunger strike since being detained on December 4 for participating in an unsanctioned rally.

Both Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have rejected the protesters’ claims of mass violations during the vote, with Putin also accusing US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of sparking the rallies by questioning the vote’s legitimacy.

The newly elected lower house of parliament, the State Duma, is scheduled to convene for its first session on Wednesday.

The protests come less than three months before March presidential polls in which Putin is widely expected to reclaim his old Kremlin job.

Amid the worst legitimacy crisis of his rule, Putin’s approval ratings have however taken such a dive that, according to most recent opinion polls, he will not be able to secure victory in the first round.

Australian December 19, 2011


IMF chief warns Russia against complacency

IMF chief Christine Lagarde has warnedRussiaagainst complacency given the budget crises in euro zone states, saying the Russian economy is still vulnerable due to domestic weaknesses.

Russiahas proudly boasted that its budget deficit and public debt are far lower than most EU countries and it is even in a position to help the euro zone out of trouble, along with other big emerging economies likeChina.

After meeting President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday on her first visit toRussiasince taking office, Lagarde describedRussiaas a “survivor” but said it had to address its fiscal situation and over reliance on energy exports.

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“Russiasurvived many crises.Russiais a survivor in many ways but it still has some important vulnerabilities,” she said in comments to students at theRussianFinanceMinistryStateUniversity.

She warned against high spending ahead of parliamentary elections later this year and a presidential poll in 2012, and reaffirmed warningsRussianeeded to diversify its economy away from oil and gas exports.

“A key priority is to rebuild fiscal policy and it must diversify its resources,” she said. “Public spending is not healthy, especially in the time of election.”

“WhatRussianeeds is a higher, more sustainable growth.”

Lagarde and Medvedev earlier met for talks just days after attending a G20 economic summit inCannes,Francelast week.

“Our economies in the world are so bound to each other and it’s a time for bold collective action,” Lagarde said.

“I count onRussiato continue to play this bridge role between Europe andAsia,” she added.

Moscowhas been looking to increase its profile within the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and has said it was ready to contribute to an EU bailout package through the global financial institution.

The Kremlin has saidRussia’s contribution being negotiated with the IMF would be limited to $US10 billion ($9.66 billion). By comparison,Chinahas dangled the possibility of contributing $US100 billion ($96.64 billion) toEurope’s bailout fund.

Medvedev has repeatedly said the world’s largest emerging economies likeRussia,Brazil,ChinaandIndiashould have a greater say at the IMF and that countries should be represented in proportion to the strength of their economies.

Following talks inRussia, the IMF chief will visitChinaandJapan. All three countries have expressed interest in providing financial assistance toEurope, under the IMF’s guide or oversight.

Lagarde has been criss-crossing the Atlantic on trips to Europe since taking the IMF helm in July, participating in negotiations on the euro zone debt crisis and G20 meetings organised by France.

WithRussia’s 18-year bid to join the World Trade Organisation apparently enjoying a decisive breakthrough last week, Lagarde said membership of the global trade body was a strong signal, even if it would not bring radical change in itself.

“I am very pleased thatRussiais about to join the WTO,” she said.

“There are not massive gains to obtain forRussiabut there is a very vibrant and significant message to the international community thatRussiasatisfies the standards of the WTO.”

The AGE   November 8, 2011


Russia takes Cold War tone with US on European missile defence

“I have given the armed forces the task of drawing up plans to destroy the information and command and control systems of the [US/NATO]” … Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Photo: Reuters

MOSCOW: The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has embraced the fiery rhetoric of the Cold War as he threatened to target and if necessary destroyAmerica’s European missile defence shield once it is built.

In what may be the most serious blow to US-Russia relations since President Barack Obama came to power, Mr Medvedev raised the prospect ofRussialaunching missile attacks on European Union member states such asPoland,RomaniaandSpainas well asTurkey, a NATO member.

”I have given the armed forces the task of drawing up plans to destroy the information and command and control systems of the [US/Nato] anti-missile shield,” Mr Medvedev said.

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”Our NATO partners are not for now showing any readiness to take our concerns about the architecture of the European missile shield into account, something which convinces us that their plans are aimed atRussia,” he said.

Upping the ante further, he saidRussia’s anxiety was so great that it would reserve the right to tear up existing nuclear arms control treaties and halt talks about new ones.

Mr Medvedev said Russiacould withdraw from the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty if the United Statesmoves forward with its missile defence plans, The New York Times reported.

He said time hasn’t run out for an agreement, but he accused theUSof failing to take into account Russian concerns.

His declaration, in a televised national address, comes a year after he met the heads of NATO states in Lisbon and said Russia was willing to consider joining in on missile defence if it could be an equal partner.

The White House immediately rebuffed Mr Medvedev. ”We will not in any way limit or change our deployment plans inEurope,” a National Security Council spokesman said.

The shield is designed to shoot down missiles from rogue states such asIran, but it is years away from being operational.Turkey,Poland,RomaniaandSpainhave all agreed to join what is a diluted version of a controversial plan first proposed by George W. Bush.

The Kremlin has dismissed US assurances as meaningless and initially demanded – and been refused – the right to be an equal partner in the project.

Telegraph, London; The Washington Post November 25, 2011


Russiadangles euro zone aid offer at EU

Russia has dangled a $US20 billion ($20.24 billion) offer of IMF-run aid for the euro zone, as President Dmitry Medvedev enters his last summit with EU leaders split on energy,SyriaandIran.

Russiasaid it is willing to pump up cash into an emergency euro zone rescue, as the two sides cheweed over European demands for clean elections to replace Medvedev in March.

As Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said back inRussiahe was “pleased” byRussia’s outburst of protests, Medvedev adviser Arkady Dvorkovich saidMoscowwas ready to contribute as soon as the IMF calls in its help.

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He said after talks that began overnight that $10 billion due to be returned from the IMF next year could remain with the IMF “today” for special euro zone aid as soon as the Fund calls.

“Ten billion dollars is the minimum commitment,” Dvorkovich said. “We are ready to contribute our portion of financial assistance… when the IMF tell us it’s time.”

EU states have pledged to boost IMF crisis defences with loans of 200 billion euros. At a summit on Friday, EU leaders set a deadline for pledges or ideas of Monday 19 December.

Dvorkovich saidMoscowwould “consider” giving another 10 billion dollars, depending on “the size of the gap” in European efforts to raise overall rescue funding to a targeted one trillion euros.

“If the gap is half a trillion and we don’t know where other 490 billion are coming from, that would not be much point,” he said.

“What we need to do is make markets believe,” he said, adding thatBrazil,China,IndiaandSouth Africa, the other so-called BRICS emerging giants, “will not object” to the IMF channelling money to the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).



After Medvedev joined EU leaders for a private dinner the previous evening, he said “European leaders seem to be more optimistic than before.

“InCanneswhen we had the same discussion during G20 meetings, they were silent on everything.

“Now they were able to say very specific things.”

The summit proper gathered EU president Herman Van Rompuy, executive head Jose Manuel Barroso, foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger.

Medvedev was joined by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov plus Economic Development and Trade Minister Elvira Nabiullina, and was due to hold a press conference.

He was also due to speak at a subsequent round-table with business leaders from giant industrial corporations such as Siemens or Deutsche Bahn.

The money aside, which remains conditional and dependent on IMF decisions, will focus on “deliverables” including the first tentative steps towards a cherished Russian goal of visa-free travel in and out of the bloc.

Some short trips will be made easier once biometric passports are introduced alongside other changes.

Ahead of Friday’s signing in Geneva of Russia’s World Trade Organisation accession, 18 years in the negotiation, talks will also explore whether an EU-Russia agreement covering trade and political cooperation can cross leaders’ radar.

Before that EU leaders were to press Medvedev on “democratic development, the rule of law and human rights,” an EU official said, following parliamentary elections that sparked mass street protests and left Putin’s ruling party with a reduced majority.

Russianonetheless remains a “critical partner” for the West in moves onSyriaandIran.

Ashton herself hinted on Tuesday at a less strident tone when she said that “large demonstrations over the weekend inRussiawere peaceful — and the authorities in my view generally handled it very well.”

The EU andRussiawere also far apart on a Trans-Caspian pipeline whichBrusselsis now negotiating withAzerbaijanandTurkmenistan.

AFP  December 16, 2011


Brimbank weekly

Voters back in theUSSR


The posters of the ruling party, United Russia, show silhouettes of families against an urban background and promise conservative and creative policies “for people, for life”. Tickets for the metro are printed with the same silhouettes and background, minus the slogans. The subliminal message is that wherever you go, United Russia, the party of Vladimir Putin, is with you, whether you like it or not.

Here is a classic example of the use of what Russians call “administrative resources”, when public facilities paid for by the taxpayer are hijacked to support the ruling elite. When challenged about the metro tickets, city authorities said they were not identical to the political posters and in any case, were not the city and the party, the country and the party, one?

This winter, Russians have woken up to find themselves back in a version of the USSR, with less social welfare, more conspicuous wealth and the right to travel, certainly, but otherwise with all the old traits of the corrupt, dictatorial, one-party state. It’s as if the dream of the KGB leader Yuri Andropov had come true. He once said that if only the borders were open and Soviet citizens could go abroad, communism and theSoviet Unionitself could be preserved.

The new reality is quite a shock for those who naively thought that strongman Putin was going to allow his protege, Dmitry Medvedev, to have a second presidency or even perhaps to run against him in open competition. But Medvedev’s announcement in September that Putin, who has sat out the last four years as prime minister, was coming back as president, potentially for another 12 years, has put paid to such fanciful ideas. Looking awkward, almost giggling before delegates at the United Russia congress, Medvedev admitted this had been the tandem’s plan from the beginning. He was only ever a lame-duck president, keeping Putin’s seat warm.

“I am disgusted,” said a young man called Yegor, who was queuing at a post office to resolve some bureaucratic problem. “We have been had. How can they just announce in September who is going to be president next March?”

“Don’t be daft,” said his friend. “It was obvious all along.”

The scope for choice is now extremely limited but Russians do have one last chance to make their voices heard at State Duma (parliamentary) elections which will be held this weekend.

On paper, these are multi-party elections but in reality, all the parties, with the possible exception of the liberal Yabloko (Apple) party, are cardboard cut-outs, created by the Kremlin to give the illusion of opposition to United Russia. All genuine opposition has long been relegated to the streets, prison or exile. It’s a dark achievement of Putin that he’s made it look as if there is no alternative and he is the only viable politician in the country.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent deputy in a past Duma, saysRussiais about to hold “the dirtiest, most fraudulent and dishonest ‘elections’ of its entire post-Soviet history”.

True, United Russia has many supporters, who see Putin and Medvedev (the latter is likely to be prime minister in the next government) as the best guarantors of stability and steady development. But if they are so confident, why the dirty tricks?

There are reports, for example, that at some places of work, employees are being told to vote for United Russia, photograph their ballot papers on their mobile phones and bring evidence of their loyalty to their bosses or face dismissal. Technologically, this may be an advance but the thinking is entirely Soviet.

And Nashi, the Kremlin youth organisation that has been compared to the Hitler Jugend, is planning to camp in the centre ofMoscowon the eve of the vote to scare off street protesters.

Opposition figures are divided as to how voters should express their discontent with United Russia, which they call “the party of crooks and thieves”. The anti-corruption whistleblower Alexei Navalny is urging the electorate to vote for any party that isn’t United Russia, even if that means ticking the box for the Communists, extreme nationalist LDPR or Yabloko, a rather tired party from the 1990s.

“We always spoke out against the criminal oligarchs, the war inChechnya, corruption and violence, and bureaucracy that strangles business and literally torments ordinary people,” says Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinksy in his election brochure.

The Nakh-Nakh movement, led by former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, who was briefly jailed earlier this year, says voting means taking part in the charade and the best strategy is a mass spoiling of ballot papers in the hope of invalidating the election. Nakh sounds very like a Russian expletive meaning “to hell with it” and kh in the Cyrillic alphabet is X, so those who agree with Nemtsov will put a huge cross through all the parties. Another possibility is to stay at home, thereby helping to lower the turnout, but that carries the risk of the unclaimed ballot paper being used in rigging.

“I shall go to the polling station, take my ballot paper, bring it home and put it in my own bin in the kitchen,” said one man, determined to make his non-vote count.

As political analyst Boris Kagarlitsky wrote in the Moscow Times, the paradox is that “those who are most interested in politics tend to get the most disgusted in government as a whole and, as a result, don’t vote. Conversely, the less Russians are interested in politics, the more likely they are to vote. For them, the act of dropping their ballot in the box is a perfunctory ritual, like decorating the Christmas tree or giving flowers to women on Women’s Day.”

The general, cynical view is that however Russians vote or don’t vote, the massaged result will be a majority for United Russia, perhaps slightly reduced for decency’s sake, but enough to support Putin when he returns to the Kremlin next year.

The regime will take quiet note of the real result, just as Putin could not have failed to notice that crowds booed him recently at a martial arts tournament inMoscow. Despite or perhaps because of his action man cult of personality, Putin, who will be 60 next year, has seen his popularity ratings slide.

TheMoscowmayor, Sergei Sobyanin, wrote in a letter delivered to all households: ”For me, the results of the vote will show to what extent you support us and the things we have together started to change in our city.” Sobyanin, a close Putin ally, was brought in last year to secure the capital’s support for the regime. He replaced the outspoken mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, who is now being troubled by prosecutors to explain his financial arrangements.

This is how the system works: avoid rocking the boat and you can get away with monstrous money-making, even murder. Dare to criticise and you will be sidelined, smeared or treated as a criminal. If you don’t like it, you can leave which is precisely what 150,000 Russians did last year, according to official migration figures. They voted with their feet and went toBritain, Europe, theUSandAustralia.

Since Putin came to power 11 years ago 1.25 million have migrated. Many more have gone into what Russians call “internal migration”, living deeply private lives and ignoring politics altogether.

AFP   03 Dec, 2011


Moscow targets Hindu’s holy text

by: Robin Pagnamenta

A RUSSIAN effort to ban the Bhagavad Gita – revered as the word of God by nearly one billion Hindus – and brand it as extremist literature has provoked a diplomatic spat between Delhi and Moscow.

The External Affairs Minister inIndia, S.M.Krishna, yesterday condemned the attack on the book as “patently absurd, ignorant and misdirected”.

Ajai Malhotra,India’s Ambassador toRussia, said that the matter had been raised withMoscow”at senior official level”.

The controversy was prompted by a court case in the Siberian city ofTomsk, in which prosecutors are seeking a ban on a Russian translation of the Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse poem which forms part of the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata.

They want to place it on a list of books that includes Mein Kampf.

They claim that the translation, by A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is offensive to Russian culture and traditions.

Professors of philosophy say the book expresses religious hatred and prejudice on the basis of gender, race, nationality and language.

A verdict on the case is due on December 28. Mr Malhotra rejected the claims and called forRussia’s government to have the case dropped.

“The translation by Swami Prabhupada is one of the best that you can find, because he gives you the words, the meanings and the options to understand it as it was written,” he said.

The spat comes three days after the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, visited President Medvedev for talks designed to forge closer trade ties between the countries.

The Bhagavad Gita, composed as a battlefield address by Lord Krishna, was written between the 5th and 2nd centuries BC.


The australian   December 21, 2011 11:40AM

As Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said back inRussiahe was “pleased” byRussia’s outburst of protests, Medvedev adviser Arkady Dvorkovich saidMoscowwas ready to contribute as soon as the IMF calls in its help./p

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