ON MY MIND
Before being hauled off to jail after being sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison, former Yaroslavl Mayor Yevgeny Urlashov was defiant. “This is a political set-up,” he shouted, according to The Moscow Times (see story featured below). “All revolutionaries were sent to jail, it always has been like this.” An anticorruption crusader, Urlashov rose to prominence during the protests of late 2011 and early 2012. He won a landslide election for mayor in 2012, defeating the United Russia candidate. And he remained popular. And he was planning to run for governor. From the Kremlin’s point of view, he had to be stopped. So in the summer of 2013, he was charged with corruption in a case widely seen as fabricated.
Urlashov’s story is as tragic as it is typical.He is among dozens of mayors so charged since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012. But sadly, it probably won’t be those unjustly charged and jailed on corruption charges that will prove to be this regime’s undoing.
No, in all likelihood, if Russia has a revolution, it will be a revolution of the corrupt. It will be a palace coup of the kleptocrats. It will be a revolt of the elites who, in the current or in some future shake-up, lose their access to the feeding trough and turn on their former patrons.
IN THE NEWS
Russians have defiantly hoisted their flag at the Olympic village in Rio de Janeiro amid signs of softening in the bans imposed by Olympic sport federations on Russia athletes suspected of doping.
FIFA has opened an investigation into 11 Russian soccer players suspected of doping.
A court in Moscow has approved the arrest of Denis Nikandrov, the first deputy head of the Moscow branch of the Investigative Committee. Nikandrov was arrested in July on charges of taking a bribe from an organized crime kingpin.
The Russian military has charged that Syrian militants used a toxic agent against civilians in Aleppo, killing seven and sickening another 23 people. The Russian claim came a day after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 24 people suffered breathing difficulties in rebel-held Saraqeb, a town south of Aleppo, after a barrel-bomb attack. Residents said chlorine gas had been used in the attack.
According to the independent election monitor Golos, one-third of the companies donating to the ruling United Russia party received state contracts.
WHAT I’M READING
Revisiting the ‘Lisa case’
NATO Review has a report unpacking the infamous “Lisa case,” one of Russia’s most extensive — and ineffective — disinformation campaigns in Germany.
“The media storm surrounding a fake story about a Russian-German girl, who had reportedly been raped by Arab migrants, was a wake-up call for German political elites earlier this year. For the first time, they clearly saw the links between Russian domestic and foreign media campaigns against Germany and Russian politics at the highest level,” the report says.
“The ‘Lisa case’ also shows not only the failure of Germany’s partnership for modernization with Russia but also the dysfunctionality of Russia’s attempts to use personal ties and informal networks to influence German decision-making and policy when it comes to the current crisis and, in particular, the person of Chancellor Merkel. While the German government remains strongly committed to keeping channels for dialogue open, we see a complete loss of trust in relations, which will be very hard to rebuild in the foreseeable future.”
Turkey Between Russia and the West
Carnegie Europe’s Marc Pierini has a piece asking whether Russia couldplay Turkey off against the West.
“Will Russia’s long game of undermining the EU’s cohesion, the U.S. status as the major superpower, or the role of NATO find fertile ground in post-coup Turkey?” Pierini asks.
“One hypothesis is that Russia may go for a long-term game-changing move and lure Turkey away from the West as part of a broader geopolitical reconfiguration.”
Unwitting Kremlin Enablers
Peter Dickinson, publisher of Business Ukraine and Lviv Today, and editor-at-large at The Odessa Review, has a piece in Stop Fake on how the international media enables Russian aggression in Ukraine.
“If anyone had attempted to report on ‘German-backed forces’ in Nazi-occupied France or ‘pro-Soviet forces’ during the Prague Spring, they would have been dismissed as either hopelessly misinformed or deeply disingenuous,” Dickinson writes.
“While local collaborators and convenient euphemisms were plentiful in both instances, there was never any doubt as to who was really in control. This common-sense approach seems to have been lost in Ukraine, where the international media has played a key role in creating the ambiguity that has allowed Russia’s hybrid war to succeed.”
Assessing Shock Therapy 25 Years Later
The Cato Institute has a report out looking at the results of 25 years of economic reform in the former communist world.
“The transition from socialism to the market economy produced a divide between those who advocated rapid, or ‘big-bang’ reforms, and those who advocated a gradual approach,” the report claims.
“More than 25 years have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, providing ample empirical data to test those approaches. Evidence shows that early and rapid reformers by far outperformed gradual reformers, both on economic measures such as GDP per capita and on social indicators such as the United Nations Human Development Index.”
Political analyst Vladislav Inozemtsev, a professor of economics at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics and director of the Center for Post-Industrial Studies, looks at Putin’s Flirtation With Fascism in a piece for Project Syndicate.
“If anything, the Russian system should be characterized as proto-fascist — tamer than European fascist states during the 1920s and 1930s, but still featuring key elements of those regimes. These include the structure of Russia’s political economy; the idealization of the state as a source of moral authority; and Russia’s particular brand of international relations,” Inozemtsev writes.
Requiem for a Reformer
In the Moscow Times, Mikhail Fishman looks at the rise and fall of former Yaroslavl Mayor Yevgeny Urlashov, who was given a 12 1/2 year sentence this week on corruption charges widely seen as political.
Russia’s Beautiful Launderette
Gangsters Inc., a website focusing on global organized crime, has a post on how Russian oligarchs turned Latvia into a “money-laundering machine.”
The Case of Valentin Vyhivsky
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has a piece looking at the case of Valentin Vyhivsky, a Ukrainian national who was abducted in Russian-annexed Crimea in September 2014, “held incommunicado, tortured and twice subjected to mock executions.”
Will the Purge Continue?
According to a report in Znak by Yekaterina Vinokurova, last month’s shake-up of regional and federal elites wasn’t the last. Another one is coming in September.
Pokemon Go — Enemy of the State
Historian and journalist Sergei Medvedev has a piece in Slon.ru playing off the Russian authorities’ campaign against the game Pokemon Go and asking, “Why are the authorities afraid of virtual reality?”