Saturday, April 20, 2013

Vladimir Putin’s intelligence service knows Chechnya: The Russian president may be able to help the United States understand the origins of the Boston Marathon bombing. - Slate Magazine

Vladimir Putin’s intelligence service knows Chechnya: The Russian president may be able to help the United States understand the origins of the Boston Marathon bombing. - Slate Magazine

The Russian president offered to help in any way he could. Actually, he could do a lot of good.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 8 in Germany

Photo by Ronny Hartmann/AFP/Getty Images
Just hours after the Boston Marathon bombings, Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the act as a “disgusting” crime and offered to help in any way he could.
Now’s his chance.
The Tsarnaev brothers appear to have Chechen roots; the older, now-deceased brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, may have touted radical Islamists on his YouTube site. (The only question is whether the site’s holder is the same Tamerlan Tsarnaev.) There is no doubt, then, that Putin has a big interest in helping out with the FBI’s investigation—a much bigger interest than he did on Monday, before the Chechen link was suspected. More to the point, there is very little doubt that he also has the means to help out.
Putin’s popularity, in the early years of his presidency, stemmed largely from his hard-line tactics against the Chechen rebels, who were waging a separatist insurgency in their southern province and, to that end, launching terrorist attacks in Moscow. During that era, in the mid-to-late 1990s, the rebels, though mainly Muslim, were motivated largely by nationalism—as were the leaders of Chechen rebellions dating back to the 19th century. But as Putin put down the insurgency with increasing force, the survivors grew more and more radical, and in the past few years, the movement has taken on explicitly Islamic colors, including an alliance with al-Qaida. This has only hardened Putin’s determination to defeat them.
One result of this: Russian intelligence services are all over Chechen radicals. That means that if—and this is a very big if—the Tsarnaevs had ever been in touch with Chechen radicals or with Islamists elsewhere who have ever been in touch with Chechen radicals, then Putin’s spy agencies have a record of it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Putin orders officials to shape up or “leave” – video | NEWS | The Moscow News

Putin orders officials to shape up or “leave” – video | NEWS | The Moscow News

by Anna Arutunyan at 17/04/2013 13:05

President Vladimir Putin has told ministers and regional officials to shape up or “leave” according to a video of a closed part of a meeting posted Wednesday by the tabloid Life News, in a report that was promptly contested by the Kremlin.

The video, made public on the day when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is speaking at Russia’s lower house of Parliament, the State Duma, consists of edited recordings of Putin addressing a meeting of ministers and regional officials in Kalmykia over his pre-election promises to improve housing.
“The quality of the work is worthless, everything is being done superficially,” Putin was shown telling officials after asking that the cameras be turned off. “If we don’t do this, we have to admit that either I’m not working effectively, or you all are working badly and you all should leave. I want to draw your attention to the fact that today I am leaning towards the second option.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The top 20 sexiest Russian politicians from Generation Putin (Part 3)

We've done the Top 10 in our previous posts, Part 1 and Part 2... so who's left standing? We continue down the list of Top 20 Sexiest Politicians in Russia as drawn up by the Russian magazine "Sex in the City". (Note: this is not a translation of the article; this is just our opinion on their choices of candidates.)

11. Valery Draganov. Duma deputy and United Russia party man. Don't know much else about this guy. Was said to have the nickname "Al Pacino" in Yeltsin's cabinet where he served in the State Customs Committee--not an name normally attributed to integrity. We don't even know what that committee does. We don't even know why he made it to this list.
They called him "Al Pacino".

12. Vladimir Gruzdev. This businessman-turned-politician probably is the only one who will come close to upstaging Vladimir Vladimirovich with his extreme PR stunts--and he probably isn't doing it for PR. He's been in space. He was part of the Arktika 2007 expedition to the North Pole. He too was an ex-intelligence officer. And the former supermarket tycoon is loaded too. Word has it that he went in Donald-Trump style on the Tula government when he first came in, firing people on the spot. Ladies, the governor of the Tula region:

Are you in the Tula government? You're fired!

13. Dmitry Zelenin. You'd secretly hope that he were a history professor with a secretly badass life like Indiana Jones... but well, he's not. Better to leave those archeological finds to Vladimir Vladimirovich. Like Medvedev, he is a geek who broadcasts his life out on Twitter... and this was what caused the demise of his political career when Kremlin officials didn't find his posting a photo of a worm in his salad during a Kremlin dinner all that tasteful. That's also something you do not want him to be doing on your dinner date.
Pointing out that there are earthworms in your Kremlin dinner? Bad move.

14. Eduard Limonov, one of the most radical old-timers in the opposition's flanks. Sexy, but only if you like them gritty, radical, beat-up, left-wing, outdated, and powerless.

Punks don't age gracefully... yet they don't grow up, either.

15. Sergey Lavrov. Other diplomats describe the tall, impressionable envoy as a "rather noble, masculine figure with rugged good looks". Russia couldn't have asked for a better Foreign Minister--a tough, sophisticated negotiator--one who commands authority in and outside of Russia, charismatic, and tactful (a rare quality in Russians, evidently). He has other talents too. "Happiness is..." he quips, "doing a good job and going white-water rafting with friends." He also plays the guitar, and writes poems.

He seems to know what buttons to push.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The top 20 sexiest Russian politicians from Generation Putin (Part 2)

We now continue contesting the legitimacy of the Top 20 Sexiest Politicians in Russia as drawn up by the Russian magazine "Sex in the City".

Read Part 1 here, if you missed it, where we covered the top 5.

6. Former Emergency Ministries minister and Putin ally Sergey Shoigu, now recently dubbed the "Russian Batman", has come to rescue the Defence Ministry ship from sinking in his predecessor's corruption scandal. Oh, did we mention that he speaks nine languages, and collects samurai swords? If you're badass enough, nobody cares how you look... hmm, really? We're not so sure.
"Rescue you? Yes m'am!"

7. Dmitry Medvedev. Former President, current Prime Minister, forever in Putin's shadow. But if you like them soft and cuddly, this gentle bear cub is all yours. He's so non-threatening that he will win your heart without a fight. After all, he has troves of fan girls lining up to kiss him without him even trying! You'll even forgive him for awkward dance moves.
Cuteness overload!

8. Dmitry Gudkov: this pedigreed opposition politician (son of opposition heavyweight Gennady Gudkov) may not sweep up enough votes against the ruling party, but may very well sweep you off your feet. His political position may be shaky now, but he might save himself by jumping on the anti-corruption bandwagon, and it might just work if he holds his ground.

Who's your daddy now?

9. German Gref. One of the "liberal reformer" economists from Putin's clan from St. Petersburg. Former Economics and Trade Minister. Current Head of Sberbank. Sure looks like a million bucks. We almost could not forgive him for shaving his cute little goatee, but could not forgive him for losing the glasses!
No, no, no, take everything but those glasses off!

10. Pavel Astakhov. If you like them slick, this devilish advocate might be right on the money. Described by The New York Times as "Thin, impeccably dressed and telegenically handsome with perfectly coifed hair that occasionally glints with an unnatural shade of bronze, Mr. Astakhov delivers nearly every statement that he makes with the silver-tongued flair of a courtroom closing argument." We'll leave it as that. He seems to be flinging himself at every controversial case, the latest being the US child adoption ban scandal... but is that sexy? You be the judge of that!

"Trust me. I'm a celebrity lawyer."

Stay tuned for the next instalment. Coming soon, I promise.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The top 20 sexiest Russian politicians from Generation Putin (Part 1)

A Russian women's magazine "Sex and the City" (how's that for an original title?) has published a list of the Top 20 Sexiest Russian Politicians, and oh no, Putin has fallen into second place! Are heads gonna roll?

Well, here's their list:
  1. Boris Nemtsov
  2. Vladimir Putin
  3. Anton Sikharulidze
  4. Sergey Yastrzhembsky
  5. Andrei Kovalyov
  6. Sergey Shoigu
  7. Dmitry Medvedev
  8. Dmitry Gudkov
  9. German Gref
  10. Pavel Astakhov
  11. Valeriy Draganov  
  12. Vladimir Gruzdev
  13. Dmitriy Zelenin
  14. Eduard Limonov
  15. Sergey Lavrov
  16. Mikhail Kasyanov
  17. Aleksndr Lebedev
  18. Razman Kadyrov
  19. Ilya Yashin
  20. Aleksandr Tkachev
OK, lets evaluate their choices. A sexy politician can't just rely on good looks alone, or only on political power, you got to have a tandem (sorry, but it was a fitting word!). So, who's got a good thing going on in our list, and who are the ones who have fallen off their bikes?

Here is the first in a series of blog posts where we will evaluate each candidate whether they are worthy title of Russia's Top 20 Sexiest Politicians.

1. First, Boris Nemtsov, opposition veteran, still fighting strong. I'll let him have a spot. But instead of seeing this, which I admit, is sexy...
Go ahead, rip that shirt off!
...I am more likely to remember the young Nemtsov in this little TV appearance with Zhirinovsky that has been immortalised into Russian political folklore...

2. Next, no argument with Vladimir Putin. The man is just the epitome of political-sexy, and leaves everyone behind in the dust. I'll spare you from too many photos. But as far as Generation P(utin) is concerned, he's the rightful list-topper. Do you really think we'd let him settle for No. 2?

As I promised, just one photo:
The Chuck Norris of Russia.

3. Anton Sikharulidze, figure-skating champ-turned Duma deputy. Got the looks, but does he have the power--which is ultimately the biggest attractor? We're not so sure about that one.
He has a brother named Josh Lyman.

4. Sergey Yastrzhembsky: photographer, journalist, diplomat, politician, and now, filmaker. I guess those in to the Sean Connery silver fox types might be into him. Of all politicians, he probably has chosen the most elegant way to retire from politics. Now, that's class.
If elegant is your favourite flavour and classy is your favourite colour...

5. Andrei Kovalyov, former Duma deputy and frontman of the band, Pilgrim. Rates high on the looks, but low on power... and that was years ago.
Now? Meh.

Stay tuned for Part 2 for the next 5 contestants... and for all you know, it's probably all downhill from there... but hey, who's counting the votes?

What do you think of the list? Send in your comments!

Wouldn't YOU be a dictator?

Here's an interesting opinion piece on The Moscow Times:

A Dictator's Guide on Ruling for Life | Opinion | The Moscow Times

Will President Vladimir Putin ever relinquish power voluntarily?

This is one of the most important questions in Russian politics today. The entire political system is built around a single individual, and the system will undergo radical change when somebody else finally comes to power. But nobody, and perhaps not even Putin himself, knows the answer to when he will step down. In fact, history shows that entrenched leaders almost never have a plan for leaving office.  They are either overthrown or die.

In the 20th century, more than 30 leaders, not counting monarchs, held onto power for more than 30 years. Of those, only a very few stepped down voluntarily or left office after losing elections. They include: Senegalese President Abdou Diouf, who lost the vote in 2000 and handed over power without challenging the election results; Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, who voluntarily resigned in 1987; and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who handed over much of his authority to his chosen successor, Goh Chok Tong, in 1990, although he retained the title of senior minister for another 21 years.

When people are asked about their political orientation, most aren't going to say they favour dictatorship. Of course, which ordinary citizen would, if they could choose?

These days, I write on my Facebook profile that my political views are leaning towards Authoritarian, and occasionally swinging into Dictatorship and Despotism. Of course, you could say I was joking.

But hear this: I think it's so easy for everyone to say they favour democracy, because it is the only system that gives people power. However, would that truly reflect someone's core beliefs? I suggest this test: put that person in the seat of power for a few years. What would he/she do?

I bet most people would be dictators. Hell, I would. Why else would I squander that opportunity to have a bit of fun? Or maybe for once, I could get things done because people would actually obey my orders? 

But then again, I won't be ruling over any country, so don't you worry.

Meanwhile, however, I'm kinda liking Putinism.