..........The draught beer may be proletarian, but the watch is a $25,000 A. Lange & Sohne 1815,
..........confected from silver and white gold with a crocodile skin wrist band.
... Russia’s President lists on his official statement of personal assets three vehicles, all antique Soviet cars, and a trailer hitch inherited from his father.
Dmitry Peskov, Mr. Putin’s long-serving press secretary, has dismissed the allegations of wealth, charging that “attempts at pseudo-revelations are associated with oppositionism here.” He said that all the palaces, cars and yachts belong to the Presidential Administration, the modern name for the Kremlin.
But many Russians fear their nation is stuck in the 18th century, where the richest man in a European country was, inevitably, the King.
Louis XIV was the French king who famously blurred the state with himself, saying: “L’etat, c’est moi” – or “The State, it is I.”
Few Russians think their country needs the kind of bicycle riding leader seen in neighboring Scandinavian democracies.
But a sizable portion of Russians think their president has gone way too far. They say he is surrounded by sycophants and favor seekers, men who shower baubles on the Czar, hoping to win lucrative business concessions.
“His lifestyle can be compared to that of a Persian Gulf monarch or a flamboyant oligarch,” write the authors of “Life of a Galley Slave,” Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynuk. Annual upkeep on the Sirius, they write is “the equivalent of the average annual pensions for 1,200 Russian retirees.”
...Not only is the “Galley Slave” report racing around Russia’s internet, but it is racing around the world at a speed not seen since the Kremlin helped to make “Pussy Riot” a global brand. A quick Google check of the phrase “Putin galley slave” demolishes the Kremlin’s myth that only the Western press is skeptical of Mr. Putin.
Sept. 8, 2012.
The latest worry is the EU investigation, which targets Gazprom pricing policies in Poland and seven other former Soviet-bloc countries where it supplies as much as 70 percent of gas used by some utilities. The allegation is that Gazprom overcharges customers by linking gas prices to the price of crude oil—rather than to spot gas prices, which are lower—and by hindering customers from trading among themselves and finding alternative suppliers. Gazprom uses “an unsustainable price formula which makes its gas the most expensive in the market,” analysts at Credit Suisse (CS) wrote in a recent research note.
In an e-mail to news organizations after the EU announcement, Gazprom said its pricing policies were “in full conformity with legal standards.” Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told Bloomberg News that the company had applied a widely used pricing formula for many years... .
MOSCOW September 10, 2012— Losing my job as editor of one of the world’s oldest popular-science magazines, Vokrug Sveta (Around the World), was faster and less painful than I had imagined. And I had spent a couple of months imagining how this might happen.
Early in the summer my publisher entered into a partnership agreement with the Russian Geographical Society. This innocuous-sounding event was actually part of a creeping takeover of the sort that businesses in Russia always fear and often face. The Russian Geographic Society’s board is chaired by President Vladimir Putin, which means the nongovernmental organization can have anything it wants — like a four-story building to house its offices a stone’s throw from the Kremlin.
So when earlier this year, the group’s leaders decided they wanted to take possession of Vokrug Sveta, Russia’s highest-circulation quality monthly, the magazine’s publisher obediently placed the words “Magazine of the Russian Geographic Society” on the cover. He retained nominal ownership of the magazine — and full financial responsibility for it — but it now had an obligation to print at least one RGS-related story in every issue. Our journalists would go along on RGS expeditions, which were many, exotic, and lavishly funded.
I worried. On the one hand, these expeditions afforded us opportunities to go places few journalists can get to, like the New Siberian Islands. On the other hand, RGS representatives were usually hard-pressed to explain the actual purpose of their expeditions, which made me suspect that RGS functioned like any Russian bureaucracy, spending money just because it can.
I also had another concern — or, rather, fear. Putin himself had been taking an increasing interest in RGS activities and in nature-preservation efforts in general. In 2008, for example, he was shown personally placing a satellite-transmitter collar on what appeared to a wild Siberian tiger. In fact, environmentalist bloggers later reported, the tiger had been taken from the Khabarovsk Zoo.
As Vokrug Sveta reporters started going on RGS expeditions, they brought back more tales of such make-believe. There was the time, in 2010, when Putin placed another satellite collar, this time on a wild polar bear on Franz Joseph Land Island. But locals told our reporter earlier this year that the bear had been captured several days in advance and heavily sedated in anticipation of Putin’s visit.
The same reporter brought back another story, about the time when Putin wanted to be photographed deep in the wilderness of a national park in Russia’s Far East. His security service plotted a route through a part of the park that had been clear-cut. Inventive park rangers procured tree trunks and tied them to stumps for the photo op.
Putin’s nature-preservation efforts had little to do with science of any sort; that much was clear. But the evidence was hearsay. Our reporters had not witnessed any shams themselves, and as a popular-science magazine, we were under no obligation to investigate these allegations.
I hated taking this position, though. I had spent years working as a political reporter and editor, and I had never shied away from investigations, including high-risk ones. One of the reasons I had taken a job as editor of a popular-science magazine was that I felt political reporting in Russia, at least in Russian, had become untenable. I had not expected to face gut-wrenching choices at Vokrug Sveta.
And then, a week ago Saturday, I got a call from my publisher: The president’s administration was requesting that a Vokrug Sveta writer-photographer team accompany Putin on a hang-glider flight geared at reintroducing Siberian cranes into the wild. My heart sank: I was sure the journalist would witness something along the lines of tigers borrowed from a zoo or trees tied to stumps. I would then feel we had an obligation to write about it, and then there would be trouble. At the least I would get fired; at the most the magazine’s takeover would turn hostile.
So I said I would not send a reporter.
And I was fired on the spot.
It was, mostly, a relief. What I had been dreading ever since the magazine became affiliated with RGS had finally happened. What bothered me was that I had missed a great reporting opportunity: I would have loved to go myself.
Two days later, a biology student and volunteer at the preserve where the birds were raised, blogged that two birds in the Putin expedition had died because they had had to be transported to the site where he wished to stage the flight. Her post circulated quickly. Soon she took it down, explaining that she had wanted to cause no controversy — and anyway, the president had not “personally killed any birds.”
I don’t know what really happened: Unfortunately, I wasn’t there.
VLADIMIR Putin invited a journalist who wrote a hugely critical biography of the Russian president to a "very strange" Kremlin meeting after she was fired from her editorial job, she says.
Masha Gessen, well known in the West for her book on Putin The Man Without a Face, said the Russian leader appeared clueless about her anti-Kremlin views and spoke frankly about his publicity stunts involving animals.
Gessen said Putin personally invited her to the Kremlin last week after she was fired by the publisher from her post as editor of Vokrug Sveta, a popular science magazine, because she refused to send a reporter to cover his now notorious "birdman" stunt with Siberian Cranes.
Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed to Russian news agencies that the meeting had taken place and said Gessen had largely reported its content accurately "with the exception of a number of insignificant faults".
At the private meeting with her and magazine publisher Sergei Vasilyev, Putin suggested that Gessen should be re-hired and expounded on his interest in animals, confirming that many of his highly-publicised stunts are staged, she said.
"Yes, I know the (snow) leopard was caught in advance," Gessen quoted Putin as saying in her article about the meeting in the Bolshoi Gorod weekly. "With the urns... of course they were planted in advance!"
... "I think they assumed that the meeting was off the record, but nobody told me this," Gessen said on the Dozhd television channel Thursday, calling the encounter "very strange".
Vokrug Sveta is a general interest monthly that focuses on history and science. Gessen became its editor in January. In August the magazine partnered up with Russian Geographical Society, an establishment Putin chairs that helps organise some of his expeditions.
"Putin wants to own a vast number of things," Gessen said explaining Putin's summons. "He feels that he owns the magazine, and suddenly there was a problem in his household."
The Man Without a Face chronicles Putin's rise to power, starting from his childhood and has been printed in several languages.
It levels a number of allegations, including theft by Putin of millions of dollars while he worked in Saint Petersburg in the 1990s, and involvement of security services loyal to him in various crimes and terror attacks.
She said she believed Putin did not know about her book or her highly critical commentary on current events, which includes a weekly column in the New York Times.
"I have a feeling that he did not know who I am," she said.
The Russian president also reportedly offered Ms Gessen her job back. She edited a travel magazine until she was dismissed, she says, following her refusal to cover Mr Putin's trip to Siberia to fly with cranes.
Mr Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told Reuters news agency that the report represented: "a correct account of the meeting except for some insignificant details".
...She said that the president, alongside the magazine's owner, had asked her whether she really wanted to have her job back or whether she was comfortable in the role of "persecuted journalist".
Ms Gessen has refused the offer of her old role, saying that she does not want to work in a magazine where the editor-in-chief is appointed by the president.
Mr Peskov said she had initially agreed to take her old job back but changed her mind the next day.
14 September 2012. President Vladimir Putin invited Masha Gessen, fired as editor of the Vokrug Sveta magazine for refusing to cover his hang-gliding stunt with cranes, to the Kremlin and tried to help her get her job back, but she refused.
Gessen offered a scathing assessment of the most unlikely of meetings, which she said took place Tuesday.
"It was a momentous occasion for me, but it didn't feel like one," Gessen said by telephone. "It just felt like a meeting with a poorly informed, middle-level bureaucrat."
Gessen, an opposition-minded Russian-U.S. journalist, said the meeting was what she had expected after researching "The Man Without a Face," her biting biography of Putin released in March, and she found that disappointing.
Gessen said Putin apparently did not know about her book or her fierce criticism of his leadership before their meeting.
She was initially suspicious when Putin telephoned her to express regret that he had been the cause of her dismissal from Vokrug Sveta on Sept. 3 and to invite her to the Kremlin to discuss it, she wrote in an article published Thursday on the website of the magazine Bolshoi Gorod.
"I'm not opposed," Gessen told Putin. "But how do I know this isn't a practical joke?"
She went to the Kremlin for a scheduled 20-minute meeting with Vokrug Sveta owner Sergei Vasilyev and Putin, who she said arrived two hours late.
Putin described to Gessen his active role in Flight of Hope, a program to lead endangered Siberian storks south for the winter. He said he personally authorized the funding for the program and bought a motorized hang glider to lead the storks south, Gessen said.
Last week, Putin flew in the hang glider on the Yamal Peninsula in a stunt that made international headlines but was boycotted by Gessen.
In July, Vokrug Sveta became the official partner of the Russian Geographic Society, where Putin serves as chairman of the board of trustees. Gessen was appointed editor of Vokrug Sveta early this year.
Gessen complained to Putin during their meeting that animals lose out to him when he poses with them, mentioning previous encounters with a tiger and a polar bear. "Unfortunately, in our country, everything is set up in such a way that if your personal participation is involved, that becomes the focus, and nature must adapt," she told him, according to her article.
Putin agreed that his projects with animals had downsides but argued that he has still managed to draw attention to problems faced by endangered species, she wrote.
He also took credit for subsequent efforts by other countries to help the animals.
"But it was I who thought up those tigers!" Putin was quoted as saying. "Another 20 countries where those tigers live have also started working on this. And I thought up the leopards!"
Putin also proposed to Gessen and her former employer, Vasilyev, that Gessen return to her job as editor of Vokrug Sveta.
"But at a magazine, there should be discipline," Putin told her, implying that Gessen should have fulfilled Vasilyev's request to send a reporter to cover Putin's flight with cranes.
"It's like in the army: When [Russian soldiers] started choosing their officers in World War I, they immediately lost," Putin said.
Gessen told the president that she didn't think a magazine should be run like an army. Then, she wrote, their meeting ended.
Gessen said in her article that she will not return to Vokrug Sveta, "simply because I cannot work at a magazine where Putin appoints the editor-in-chief."
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed Gessen's account of the meeting. But, he told Interfax, "She wrote that she doesn't want to work [for the magazine] because Putin appoints the editor-in-chief. That's not true."
Hocketing Dad wrote:^^^
Hockey Dad wrote:
You were obviously enjoying your anonymity too much in the Spengler Forum's Current Events.
So the demons in whose jurisdiction you have now descended, have placed this thread in 'Central Asia' !
Changes to Radio Free Europe's/Radio Liberty's Radio Svoboda
... As you may have heard or read, Radio Svoboda will cease broadcasting on MW 1044 as of November 10, 2012 to be in compliance with Russian law. Although we will still be available on short waves and via satellite, our attention will now be focused on providing you with content across all digital platforms.
... On October 1, Radio Svoboda’s new Director, Masha Gessen, will officially join us. Throughout the next several months, she will be working with the Svoboda team to bring a new energy and focus to our content while staying true to the Svoboda tradition of providing a media alternative where it is most needed. We will be introducing new programs and new ways of delivering content to you – and we will be looking for your feedback.
Friends and Foes to Mark Putin's 60th
Opponents and supporters of President Vladimir Putin are preparing to mark his 60th birthday on Sunday with marches, concerts, giant birthday cards and at least one sardonic protest.
... Putin's native St. Petersburg looks likely to be the epicenter of festivities, thanks in part to an exuberantly pro-Putin organization called National Committee 60, which has applied for a permit to stage a 60,000-person march and rally, Fontanka.ru reported.
The rally is expected to feature a speech by everyman-turned-bigwig Igor Kholmanskikh, who was plucked from a tank factory and appointed Putin's envoy to the Urals Federal District in May following his nationally televised offer to rough up protesters.
National Committee 60, created to celebrate Putin's jubilee, earlier asked for 2012 to be declared "the year of Putin" and for Baskov Pereulok, where Putin grew up, to be renamed in his honor.
City officials in St. Petersburg are co-organizing a concert for VIP guests in the Tavrichesky garden on Monday, a spokesperson for Leningrad Governor Alexander Drozdenko told Vedomosti....
.... Pro-Kremlin youth groups are hosting events around the country. The youth wing of the ruling United Russia party, Young Guard, is leading the way, with a campaign titled "We are Russia, Russia is Putin" on Sunday, Putin's birthday.
As part of the campaign, a poetry reading will be held on Arbat, Moscow's main tourist street. Banners celebrating Putin will be hung from a bridge in the city of Rostov, and a huge birthday card will be opened in the Siberian city of Chelyabinsk, where admirers can write personal greetings to the powerful leader.
... State-run television channels will also rejoice. Two programmes on Putin are planned for Sunday night, one on NTV, a channel run by the Kremlin and owned by Gazprom, the national gas monopoly. A trailer of the film that briefly aired on the channel's website on Thursday was titled Putin in a Pool: NTV Exclusive. It showed a giddy interviewer standing poolside as Putin, bare-chested in small black swimming trunks, spoke earnestly from the water about his swimming schedule. He then powerfully swam away.
... Playing on the fact that Putin has reached 60, the pension age for Russian men, anti-Putin activists will hold a flash mob near the presidential administration's office just off of Red Square titled Send Grandad into Retirement. Props are expected to include slippers, eyeglass cases and gardening equipment: things one might need for a happy retirement.
... Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said the president would have "a very modest home celebration with his best friends and relatives. He's not fond of big celebrations." Peskov did not comment on whether Berlusconi or Schroeder would attend. "I don't know the list, but it will be very limited," he said....Link
Homecoming For A Russian Oil Baron
Gennady Timchenko has long been the invisible man in Russia's ruling elite -- the Keyser Soze of the "collective Putin."
He's a Finnish citizen. He lives in Switzerland. And he denies that he even knows President Vladimir Putin all that well.
But Timchenko, who left Russia two decades ago, owns Gunvor, the world's fourth largest oil trading company. At its peak, Gunvor handled approximately a third of Russia's seaborne oil exports, making Timchenko a key player in the country's political-energy complex.
And despite his protestations to the contrary, Timchenko is widely rumored to have a KGB past and a long association with Putin. His name shows up on virtually every list of the top officials believed to be part of Putin's informal "politburo."
And now, according to Russian media reports, he's coming home. And this has led to a lot of speculation about why, and why now.
... In an interview in the upcoming Russian-language edition of "Forbes" -- the first he's ever given to the Russian media -- Timchenko said he planned to form a construction holding company.
But this being Russia, there is a much more interesting backstory.
As John Helmer has meticulously chronicled on his blog "Dancing With Bears," reports that Swiss authorities were targeting Gunvor began surfacing back in July. The latest reports say Swiss investigators are looking into whether Gunvor paid bribes to win Congolese oil contracts and laundered the money through Swiss banks (read Helmer's exhaustive account here).
And it isn't only Swiss law enforcement that is reportedly causing headaches for Timchenko.
According to the "Vedomosti" report, a number of energy insiders say the U.S. Justice Department is investigating Timchenko and Gunvor for manipulating the price of oil. The case investigation is reportedly looking into allegations of price manipulation made in an article by the British weekly "The Economist" in May.
Gunvor officials deny this and, when contacted by "Vedomosti," the Justice Department would neither confirm nor deny the rumors.
But if the United States is indeed going after Timchenko -- admittedly a very big if at this point -- it would not be the first time U.S. law enforcement targeted Russian interests in a strategic sector.
... It's going to take a little while to unpack all this. But while Timchenko is no longer the invisible man of the Russian elite (his picture is on the cover of "Forbes" this week, after all), he will certainly be a player.
"Timchenko has been investing in Russian companies. He has resources here, and it's clear to him how decisions are made, that competitors will think five times before crossing an acquaintance of Putin," an unidentified former Russian official with close ties to Timchenko told "Vedomosti,"
"There is a line forming in front of Timchenko, like in front of the mausoleum, of entrepreneurs ready to do business with him."
-- Brian Whitmore
Political Winter Descends on Russia
MOSCOW — As gray winter skies descend on Moscow, Russians are adjusting to a political winter. Since taking office nearly six months ago, President Vladimir Putin has methodically reduced civic space in Russia by advocating new laws on treason, blasphemy, libel, Internet censorship and curbs on public protest.
Then on Monday, Russians saw a new twist: a well-known opposition activist, Leonid Razvozzhayev, shouting to reporters that he had been kidnapped off a sidewalk in Kyiv, Ukraine, and forcibly brought to Moscow for trial.
Oleg Kashin, a radio analyst for the Russian daily Kommersant, says get used to it. President Putin, he says, is taking Russia down the road of neighboring Belarus, a nation run for 18 years by Alexander Lukashenko, often called "the last dictator of Europe."
What may hold the Russian president back is what analysts in Russia call “handshakeability”: Putin is still welcome in Western capitals, whereas Lukashenko is not.
Back to Soviet era
With the ruling party sweeping all governors' elections two weeks ago and a new "foreign agent" law going into effect next week, Putin seems to be taking a big political step back to the Soviet Union. For now, these conservative new laws seem to be having a chilling effect.
Masha Lipman, an analyst for Carnegie Moscow, says she sees “...a desire to intimidate the tens of thousands of people who have taken part in protests and other forms of civic activism, and indeed push them back where they used to be.” ... continued
By Simon Shuster / MoscowFeb. 28, 2013
It’s an open secret in Russia today that many politicians and businessmen pad their resumes with fake diplomas, either plagiarizing their dissertations or paying someone to do it for roughly the cost of a midsize sedan. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, no real effort has been made to stop this practice, in part because so many of the country’s elite — all the way up to President Vladimir Putin — might have their graduate work scrutinized. But on Feb. 6, Putin’s political underling Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev broke the taboo. At a meeting with government officials and academics, he announced a campaign to ferret out fake degrees at every level of society. The number of “phony” diplomas had “burst through all possible limits,” Medvedev said. “This will be a sort of purge.” So how far is he willing to go?
The man in charge of Medvedev’s purge is Igor Fedyukin, a rookie official with a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and just eight months’ experience as the Deputy Minister of Education and Science. Fedyukin was part of a group of academics who in January exposed the extent of Russia’s plagiarism crisis by reviewing 25 dissertations chosen at random from the prestigious history department of Moscow Pedagogical State University. All but one were at least 50% plagiarized, with some as much as 90% copied from other sources. “That created the impression in the academic sphere that this phenomenon is pretty massive,” Fedyukin told me a few weeks later at his ministry, just up the block from the Kremlin.
When the subject turned to Putin and other high-ranking officials, Fedyukin became jittery. (The government spokesman who attended our interview, at the sound of Putin’s name, glanced up from his smart phone with a look of horror.) Repeatedly asked if Putin’s dissertation might be reviewed amid the purge, Fedyukin, his right leg tapping beneath the table, said, “It’s possible to review any dissertation when there are grounds to do so.” Later he added, “Status has nothing to do with it.”
The grounds for reviewing Putin’s dissertation in economics, which he received in 1996 from the St. Petersburg Mining Institute, stem from a 2006 report by the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington. That year, two Brookings researchers obtained a copy of Putin’s opus, which journalists had for years been unable to find. In poring over the 218-page work, they found 16 pages copied with minor changes from a Russian translation of an American economics textbook published in 1978. Apart from a reference in the bibliography, there were no signs to indicate that Putin was appropriating entire paragraphs without quotation marks. Six diagrams in Putin’s dissertation were also nearly identical to work in the American textbook and appeared without citation.
The Brookings report caused a stir in the Russian press that spring, but not exactly a sensation. State TV networks did not cover the story, even though Russian bloggers were going berserk and a respected independent weekly, Kommersant Vlast, published a cover story, which extensively quoted Clifford Gaddy, one of the Brookings researchers. It also quoted the head of Putin’s alma mater, Vladimir Litvinenko, who said he had “no doubts” Putin wrote the work himself. Since the scandal broke, Putin has repeatedly declined to comment, as did his spokesman when I reached him last week. “The approach has been to simply ignore it,” Gaddy says by phone from Washington. “It’s the elephant in the room. Everybody knows about it, but nobody wants to bring it up.”
Despite the Brookings report and Medvedev’s political troubles, the plagiarism purge is unlikely to implicate Putin himself. “The entire campaign would become null and void,” says Sonin, the economics professor. “The Ministry of Education will immediately sweep it under the rug.” In the West, plagiarism scandals have ended political careers, most recently in Germany, where Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned in 2011 after his alma mater found flaws in his doctoral thesis and revoked his Ph.D. But Putin’s reputation as a leader doesn’t rely on his bookishness; a thorough review of his dissertation would hardly make a dent in his ratings. “For the Russian people, this is not even a tertiary issue. It is way down on the list,” says Petrov. “Nobody really cares outside of academic circles.” Those circles will likely be the only ones affected. It may be more ambitious than chiding freshmen for copying their homework, but Medvedev’s purge will hardly matter for Russia’s most powerful cheats.
…The St.Petersburg Mining Institute is one of the model higher education institutions of Russia. It is a leader in the sphere of education - both in Europe and the whole world…
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