Tuesday, October 8, 2013

They say it's your birthday, Vladimir Vladimirovich!

Vladimir Vladimirovich got a sweet surprise from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who sang him a birthday song at the APEC summit in Bali. There is no video of the said performance, but President Yuhoyono was said to be quite the crooner. (So that was probably not a repeat of the Blueberry Hill snafu.)

I used to send him a birthday email every year, but now I just feel a bit sorry for his staff who have to wade through all that fan mail. But birthday wishes there will be! If not in the Kremlin's overflowing mailbox, then let it be on this blog!

Don't look surprised next year when someone springs a birthday surprise on you, Vladimir Vladimirovich. Some of us actually do like you. A lot. Here's my little present to you:

Update: The video of the birthday surprise finally has made its rounds. Chinese President Xi also brought cake for him later that evening, which they used to chase down some vodka.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sergey Ivanov interview to Russian press on 1 Oct (English translation)

Will it be long before the announcement about bureaucrat’s declarations? It was definite that there were already a few people who were caught falsifying that information.
For the fifth time, I say: we do not know anything until October. We are in the middle of the process of verification, and not everyone who does not declare something are crooks and thieves. Most are not crooks and thieves. Try to understand filling out a declaration for a wife whom you have not seen in ten years…
Are you speaking about someone in particular?
There are such people. The prosecutor, for example, wrote, “I cannot give a declaration on my own wife, for I have not seen her for ten years, and the divorce has not be formalized. But when an attempt to approach her was made, I was sent some obscene words.” Is that life? That’s life. So, this means we have to prove that his wife has not seen him. Or that the husband hasn’t seen her. We have, thank God, a country of equality. Similar situations arise in the case of minor children when the parents are divorced and do not maintain a relationship.
Indeed, and how does one deal with such a situation?
Verify, and prove that they have not spoken in ten years, and that when they see with each other, they are ready to smash each other’s noses.  Then decide that this person does not have to give a declaration on his wife or minor children on objective reasons. Understand, life is a lot more complex than the law. Often it happens that high-level people did not even show something, then we have some questions. Except for that, I want to say right away, that we check a very small circle of people, while a million bureaucrats are checked by another commission, with whom we have no relationship with, unless there were some serious signals…My main thesis is: do not organize a witch-hunt. That can drive you insane. But there are and there have been proven cases where we believe that we have been deliberately deceived.
What punishment awaits such bureaucrats?
The autopsy will tell.
Were there many cases?
A few. I can count them all on one hand. And all will be announced sometime in the end of October, when the president will cold a council to combat corruption.
When was the question on whether Surkov should return to the Kremlin decided?
About a month ago.
And the invitation to work in other positions in the administration was made?
It was made.
Can you name the areas?
Foreign policy. He rejected it.
What responsibilities will Surkov have?
The same as what Golikova had.
And did you remain satisfied with Golikova’s work? They say that there were complaints on about the cooperation with Akhbazia and South Ossetia. 
We cited everything in compliance with the rules of the Russian budget legislation. It is no secret that we spent billions in supporting Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Those are our and your tax dollars, not for the “wishlist” of the republics’ leaders, and we want to show that every ruble is accounted for, where it went and what it was for.
And is there such accountability from Akhbazia and South Ossetia?
There is. Golikova will wring somebody’s neck for every kopeck. I have known her for ten years. I have spoken publicly about her, when she was still First Deputy Finance Minister. I had her when I was Defense Minister, and it was ideal: she would give the money, but only after when I show where it will be put to work, and not use it for someone’s “wishlist”.
Not long ago at Valdai you said that dialogue between the authorities and law-abiding opposition is possible. In what form will such dialogue be and with whom? With Navalny? Roizman?
That is another category. Who is Navalny? Roizman won the mayoral election. Mayor—that is the leader of the City Council, which is completely independent from the regional Duma, where the majority is held by United Russia.
They say that Alexei Navalny is considered to be the consolidated leader of the opposition.
We are a free country. You can say and write whatever you want. We welcome that. But that does not mean that this is true.
Several people say that Navalny needs to lead something in order to bring advantage to the government structure. Is it impossible to discuss whether such a post is possible for him?
Really, why would the authorities discuss something like that? For what reasons? For that you need to show that you can do something. To begin with, you need to get elected. And for starters—you need to win. At least with the head of the municipal council. Then maybe you can talk about, for example, about the municipal budget. But as it is well known, there was none of it here, nor there.
In total he got almost 30% of Muscovites’ votes. Were you expecting such a result in the elections?
Frankly, personally, I was a little surprised at the high percentage. But you have to understand that 27%of those who came to polling stations--it’s all relative. Look, for example, how many votes did Mikhail Prokhorov received in the presidential elections? A little less than 8%, and in Moscow—20%. But you know, that in absolute numbers, he had more votes than Navalny. That’s why it’s all relative. I agree that Navalny has very effectively mobilized his own protest electorate. That I admit unequivocally. And the authorities that represented of Sergey Semyonovich Sobyanin did not mobilize their own electorate effectively. And it doesn’t appear to be an error, in my opinion. In times of stability in any country, the municipal elections have a turnout of 15%. What kind of normal person goes to vote, when he is overall more or less, satisfied with the current situation? Normal people won’t go. That is the standard practice, and, thank God, we are getting close to that. We had nothing different from the municipal elections in Great Britain, or Sweden. In the Vladivostok mayoral elections voter turnout was 18%. What does that tell you? It tells you the health of the society! People will actively vote when they are dissatisfied. When they are satisfied, why waste a weekend on voting? I’d rather go to the dacha, pick apples, and get a good harvest this year. That is normal human psychology.
Why did the old opposition lose at the last election?
The Communists in Moscow got about 10%. Yes, that is less than Navalny, but 10% is a tenth. Overall, I agree with you, the aggregated system received some from the opposition—in total 25-30%. Lets discuss objectively: United Russia is updating more actively than the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, and even A Just Russia. On the other hand, they, like United Russia, failed to attract willing voters. Almost 70% of Muscovites pretty much ignored the elections. But, I repeat, this is normal. There is no need to turn this into a tragedy. On the contrary, in my opinion, this is mostly a positive sign, not a negative one. That means that the state of society is more or less stable.
Five years ago it was difficult to imagine Navalny as a candidate for the post of Moscow Mayor, like Roizman. And after wrapping up the elections, President Putin considers this as the fairest election.
They were sterile.
Can it be considered some sort of ‘thaw’? People trying their hand at politics?
You are complaining all the time that the elections are rigged. Do you agree, that Moscow did everything, the possible and impossible, that one could not find any faults? Again, the opposition is always bowing to the West. But in the West, when a candidate wins 50.1% of the vote, the one who lost congratulates him two hours after the election. What do we get? “We will contest the results.” Even for 5%--will contest the result all the same. This is lack of political etiquette.
In the Federation Council from the Moscow delegate Vladimir Dolgikh who was 40 years ago the secretary of Central Committee of the CPSU. Do you believe he relevant to Russian politics today? What is the logic behind his nomination?
Each person has the right to elect two of their representatives to the Federation Council. Do you believe, that I call every governor and say, “Nominate this person, and not that person.”? But I understand the logic. There is certainly a portion of Muscovites, a number of veterans, who especially trust Dolgikh. Yes, that probably is not the majority of Moscow residents, and generally those who live in Moscow—it’s all relative.  And who are the residents of Moscow? They are janitors, drivers, office plankton, journalists…
Yes, bureaucrats. In the service and trade sector. In extreme cases, bloggers—yes, there is such a profession. Do they produce millions of products? No, absolutely nothing. Intellectual property? That’s debatable. Take Novosibirsk, for example, where high-tech goods are produced—aircraft, atomic reactor parts, goods that are sought after worldwide.  The production of these goods pay the taxes. What is being produced in Moscow—I don’t know.
Russia today is often compared with the USSR. Is this a fair comparison and in that comparison what was good and what was bad?
In the USSR there was a lot that was good, and a lot of things that were bad.
In present-day Russia, the authorities were mostly inherited from there.
I can’t that much of it was. It is simply impossible to say that a much of it was inherited. And what can you bring back from the USSR? The allocation of students in tertiary institutions? No, you can’t. Equal pay? No, you can’t. The Soviet Army? No, you can’t. The KGB? No, you can’t. When you try to take the essential things, you realize that you can’t. Nobody is seeking to do that, including the Kremlin.
A question about your personal career.
What personal career?! I haven’t had a career for a long time. It has already ended. 
At the Valdai Club you announced that you will not run for the presidency.
I have been asked this question for over 13 years. During the USSR period there was such a science—Kremlinology. I consider it  pseudo-science, but I don’t object it. In the Soviet times Kremlinology drew conclusions from who was standing in what order in the Mausoleum. For most part nothing has changed. Now every year you have people asking, will this person or that person will run for president?
Just that periodically, the staff in your office gets shuffled and that gives rise to such questions.
Oh, indeed, you have reason to ask me that question. I agree! There was a president, who was once Chief of Staff and became president. Medvedev Dmitry Anatolevich.  
There is a debate about who in Russia can be called the second most powerful person in politics. Can you name such a person and is there such a person at all? 
 I think he doesn’t exist. How do you become the number two person? What is that, a back-up cosmonaut?  You know, I won’t complain about the lack of personal influence. But for me it is quite enough. Speaking about the 2018 elections seriously, without Kremlinology, I think, there is nothing special. I understand well that you have a job—to write about this intelligently. But, you believe, not me, nor anyone else in the Presidential Administration bothers with questions about who will be president of Russia way off in 2018. There is a good Russian saying, “You need to survive first.” Five more years to go. Do you think that the president sits down with me and discuss, who will it be in 2018? Don’t we have other problems?

The original interview transcript was published on Rossiiskaya GazetaKomsomolskaya PravdaRBC Daily and Gazeta.ru.

End of Part 1. Translation by Cheryl-Ann Tan. Watch this page for updates. Please send corrections and comments to anya@singapore-russia.org