Sunday, April 14, 2024

Appellate Courts Lengthening of Sentences in Political Cases Sends Chilling Message to All Russians, Shlosberg Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 12 – Decisions by Russian appellate courts to lengthen the sentences initially imposed Lilya Chanyshev, Boris Kagarlitsky, and Oleg Orlov are part of disturbing effort by the Kremlin to sent a disturbing and repressive message to all Russians, according to opposition politician and commentator Lev Shlosberg.

            On the one hand, it shows that the powers that be “control the decisions of courts even after they have ruled; and on the other, it highlights the reality that someone on top now has the power not only to direct court decisions but to make them even tougher if the Kremlin wants that outcome (

            The Putin regime has not yet returned to a period of mass executions, Shlosberg notes; and so it is lengthening the terms and worsening the conditions of detention as a surrogate, confident that in the information age, that will work. After all, when “one person is convicted, the fear that inspires will paralyze millions.”

            The cruelty of the regime is thus in clear view because it shows that the regime reserves to itself the right to declare that in this or that case, the courts “didn’t impose” enough of a sentence or severe enough conditions. And that cruelty could easily be extended beyond the political to the population as a whole.

Latent Disloyalty among Russians Now So Great It Could Explode in Kremlin’s Face in a Crisis, El Murid Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 12 – Over the last two years, the number of Russians who refuse to answer pollsters’ questions has soared, a trend that calls into question all claims the Kremlin makes about popular support for the Putin regime and one that means latent disloyalty in the population could explode in a crisis, Anatoly Nesmiyan who blogs under the screen name El Murid says.

            Two years ago, only 30 percent of Russians answered all the questions pollsters put to them; now only six percent do, El Murid continues. “Under conditions of the most severe terror and the threat of imprisonment, the level of self-censorship has literally increased exponentially” (

            Russians are now “reluctant to answer dangerous questions to strangers even when they are promised anonymity;” and that in turn “calls into question the results of all surveys since those who refuse to do so do that not because of their loyalty but rather precisely because of the opposite,” he says.

            And that means that “polls which reassure the powers that be because they show the overwhelming majority supports any adventures of the leadership should not deceive anyone.” Today, Russian “realities are in fact completely different” and in the event of a crisis could have profound consequences “if someone more serious than Prigozhin … completes what he started.”

            In the absence of such a challenge, of course, the state can maintain itself through terror and this latent opposition doesn’t matter very much. But if such a challenger does appear, then all bets are off because the large latent opposition will suddenly come forward and support the insurgent against the existing powers that be.

            That in turn explains both the fears of officials who want to keep themselves in power and the hopes of those who hope to turn them out and bring change to Russia.

Russia Not Finding New Oil Fields where Cost of Production is Less than Sale Price, ‘Vedomosti’ Reports

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 12 – In 2023, Russian geologists identified fewer new oil fields than in any year of the last six; and most of those were either too small or too inaccessible to be profitable, Vedomosti reports. As a result, the production of new fields will amount to only one month of Russia’s domestic needs.

            This failure is forcing Russian oil producers to drill ever more wells in fields first developed in the Brezhnev era, the paper says; but even that has not been able to boost production by more than one percent (

            What that means, experts in the field say, is that Russia has only “nine to 17 years” until there is “a complete exhaustion of profitable reserves of oil” and that any expansion in production will take place only if oil prices soar from their current levels or if Moscow is willing to subsidize such production while taking a loss.

Because of War in Ukraine, Russians with Disabilities Being Offered More Jobs but Many Can't Accept Them, Disability Activists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 12 – The labor shortage in the Russian Federation caused by the mobilization of men to fight in Ukraine and the flight of others to avoid serving there has led Russian companies to be more willing to offer employment to people with disabilities but as yet too few to make a serious dent in unemployment among that category.

            The Russian government hopes that this trend, which saw employment among those with disabilities rise by 10 percent between 2023 and 2024 will continue; but they face the challenge that the number of people with disabilities, some caused by the war, is continuing to rise as well (

            To that end, Moscow has toughened the provisions of laws about quotas for jobs for Russians with disabilities, taking that power away from the regions but not setting quotas above four percent of all employees and not imposing penalties sufficient to force companies to meet them.

            And what is more serious, activists for the disabled say, is that Russian infrastructure is so bad that most people with disabilities can’t get to a job if it is offered and must turn down positions that do not allow distance working, something that isn’t possible in many industries in the Russian Federation.

            As a result, while some Russians with disabilities have benefitted from this fallout of Putin’s war in Ukraine, many may still be suffering, with preferences increasingly going to veterans of this conflict who have been wounded there rather than to this class of people as a whole.

Russian Police Using Torture More Often and Russians are More Tolerant of That, Expert Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 12 – There are no official statistics on the number of cases of torture by police in Russia; and few of their victims are prepared to bring charges against those who abuse them. But a Russian expert in this field says that the amount of torture is increasing and Russians as a whole are more tolerant of that than they were.

            After the Crocus City Hall terrorist attack, Olga Sadovskaya, a lawyer with the Command Against Torture organization, says, “Russians began to consider torture an acceptable method of putting pressure on those arrested.”  Before that, most “condemned this practice” although it was nonetheless widespread (

            According to Sadovskaya, approximately one Russian in ten has been subjected to physical abuse by police; and a study by the Command Against Torture group published last fall showed that it has been widespread, even though officials refuse to talk about it (

Putin Transforming Russia into the Dying Ottoman Empire of the 21st Century, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 12 – If Putin remains continues his current policies, over the next 20 years, Vladimir Pastukhov says, “the result is easy to predict: Russia will turn into the Ottoman Empire of the 21st century, a technologically backward, arrogant pace, vulnerable both militarily and socio-politically,” the new “sick man” of Europe.

            And at that time, less than the life of a single generation from now, the London-based Russian analyst and commentator continues, Russia and the world “will receive from history answers to all those questions about the future which seem insoluble today” (

            Pastukhov says that he “does not believe in the future of the Putin regime” because it is not securing the foundations required for the next stage of the scientific-technological revolution which is taking place online in the world surrounding Russia.” Instead, it continues to rely on what it inherited from Soviet times and has not gone beyond that.

            “Fortunately” for Putin, it has turned out that “there was still something to squeeze out of that legacy,” enough to “wipe out Ukrainian cities from the face of the earth and threaten the rest of the world with nuclear suicide,” the commentator say, things that have “given rise to the illusion of power that so pleases the vanity of average people.”

            But there is a problem: “while eating away at the Soviet legacy,” Pastukhov points out, Putin’s regime “does not create anything in return, literally a hopeless development. Indeed, “Putin’s technological renaissance is like the last sigh of relief of a seriously ill patient before death.”

            In branch after branch, “under Putin, Russia has finally and apparently irrevocably lost the technological race, losing not only to the collective West  but to the collective East as well.” And despite the Kremlin leader’s hype about his short-term victories, losses in these spheres will determine the future.

Putin’s Vision Increasingly Millenarian and Apocalyptic, Arkhipova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 11 – In recent years, Aleksandra Arkhipova says, Putin has become increasingly millenarian and apocalyptic, a view that compels him to try to slow down those processes which are leading to deterioration and destruction around the world and try to create a bastion in which Russia will survive as a saving remnant.

            The independent Russian ethnographer says that for such an individual, “it is important to slow down any development” lest it contribu to catastrophe and preserve what he can “frozen like a fly in amber.” Only a “select few will be saved” and then “only through special efforts” by leaders like himself (

            “Therefore,” Arkhipova continues, the current Kremlin leader “fights new technologies and genetics, sees biological weapons everywhere, looks with suspicion at all new social and gender practices and protects everything traditional, trying to isolate it from external destructive influences.”

            She argues that “this frozen world for him is a mixture of good old Soviet practices of the 1960s and 1970s and some notions about ​​​​Orthodox Rus,” a combination that leads him to want to restore Komsomol organizations but have the youth of Russia attend Orthodox church services.

            And in this attempt “to save the world from what is destroying it,” Arkhipova concludes, Putin clearly believes that “Russia must be mothballed in a ‘patriotic isolationism,’ in which it relies only on itself and on the values of the Soviet Union of the 1970s and of Russia’s Orthodox past.