Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Ingushetia’s Yevkurov Seen Following Chechnya’s Kadyrov in Another Shameful Way

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 23 – Workers at the Ingush Memorial Complex for Victims of Political Repression say that an ally of republic head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov is seeking to destroy the complex because it helps keep alive memories of the deportation of the Vaynakhs and their subsequent suffering.

            In this, the workers say, Yevkurov is following the shameful path of Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov who demolished an analogous monument in his republic lest it become a rallying point against him and his regime (zamanho.com/?p=9657, facebook.com/notes/мемориальный-комплекс/открытое-письмо/2636388189916130/ and fortanga.org/2019/06/kak-alihan-ozdoev-razrushaet-memorial-zhertvam-politicheskih-repressij/).

            The destruction of the monument especially now will only further raise the political temperature in Ingushetia, already high because arrests continue, new charges keep being filed against those already detained, and the harassment of their relatives and supporters spreads (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/336898/, kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/336958/, mbk-news.appspot.com/news/v-ingushetii-arestovali-eshhe-odnogo-uchastnika-akcii-protiv-soglasheniya-o-granice-s-chechnej/  and https://doshdu.com/2019/06/22/сыну-депутата-парламента-ингушетии-п/).

            Because the Yevkurov regime has arrested so many protest leaders already, has now deployed so much police force in the cities of Ingushetia, and shows itself ready to arrest anyone who engages in any kind of protest, Ingush who oppose his regime are seeking new means to register their anger.

            The latest of these including writing letters to Vladimir Putin complaining about the repression in Ingushetia (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/336877/) and the holding of collective prayers in support of those now under arrest (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/336933/). Organizers say they will conduct such prayers as long as the innocent remain behind bars.

            This may seem like a small thing, but it isn’t.  What it represents is a repetition of what has happened elsewhere in the North Caucasus including most prominently in Chechnya since the first Russian war against Ichkeria. Initially, the Chechens were committed to secularism; but finding no support from outside, they increasingly turned to Islam and Islamic radicalism.

            That provided Putin with the justification he sought for invading Chechnya a second time and largely avoiding criticism in the West for doing so.  But what is has meant is that Chechnya today is far more Islamic and even Islamist than it was in the first years after 1991.  And there is a great danger that Ingushetia may follow the same path for the same reasons.

            The Ingush protests of the last year have been secular to a fault, but now, having had the secular leadership put behind bars, angry Ingush are turning to Islam. No doubt Yevkurov and his Kremlin backers will use this to justify further repression, but their actions and continuing outside neglect will mark another defeat for secular nationalism in the region.

Moscow Patriarchate May Stop Blessing Nuclear Weapons – and Eight Other Instructive Russian Stories

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 24 – One of the most outrageous actions of the Russian Orthodox Church in recent years has been the blessings of Russian nuclear weapons by priests. But now voices are being raised in the Moscow Patriarchate against this violation of Christian doctrine and good sense and it may stop (ahilla.ru/rpts-mozhet-zapretit-osvyashhat-oruzhie-massovogo-porazheniya/).

            That is very much positive news, but not all the stories coming out of Russia are equally positive. In recent days, there have many numerous reports that are anything but good.  Below is a selection of eight that seem particularly instructive about where Russia is now and where it may be heading:

·         Poverty can be cured by not talking about it, Putin spokesman says. Poverty exists in Russia, Dmitry Peskov acknowledges; but he says that it is best for people not to talk so much about it but rather simply get down to work. To help them, those who talk about poverty should be fined. In that way, he says, “poverty in Russia  can be defeated” (1prime.ru/state_regulation/20190618/830082171.html).

·         Rising prices force Russians to buy more vodka in smaller bottles. Rising prices and falling incomes are changing the vodka market in Russia: people are purchasing more vodka in smaller bottles (vedomosti.ru/business/articles/2019/06/19/804494-rossiyane-vodku). The Russian government wants to change the alcohol market in another way. It has proposed requiring Russian restaurants to list Russian wines ahead of imports (meduza.io/news/2019/06/20/v-pravitelstve-predlozhili-obyazat-restorany-ukazyvat-v-menyu-snachala-rossiyskie-vina).

·         Daghestani journalist’s arrest leads to media campaign like one for Golunov in Moscow. One of the most powerful efforts on behalf of Moscow journalist Ivan Golunov was the decision by leading newspapers to run a common first page in support of him. Daghestani media outlets have decided on the same tactic in response to the arrest there of journalist Abdulmumin Gadzhiyev. So far, it hasn’t worked, however (ndelo.ru/novosti/vedushie-dagestanskie-ezhenedelniki-vyjdut-s-odinakovoj-pervoj-polosoj-yamy-abdulmumin-gadzhiev).

·         Roma being attacked across Russia. Penza oblast is far from the only place where Roma are being subject to public attacks and official indifference. Among the many places where they are openly discriminated against, the Roma are suffering in particular in Irkutsk (mk.ru/social/2019/06/18/novaya-tragediya-s-uchastiem-cygan-razygralas-v-irkutske.html).

·         Circassian returnee from Jordan tortured by FSB for more than a year on trumped up charges.  Orkhan Berseiko, an Ubykh who returned to the North Caucasus eight years ago, was arrested and then tortured by the FSB for more than a year because he had made a video calling on his fellow Circassians to return home.  He was kept incommunicado but his family finally secured his release by paying off officials involved (http://circassiancenter.org/permalink/92274.html).

·         Petrozavodsk Friendship Tree to be cut down to make room for War Memorial. Residents and architects in the Karelian capital are outraged that officials plan to cut down a Friendship Tree in honor of the city’s sister city relationships abroad in order to have room to erect yet another memorial celebrating Russia’s military glory.  They are circulating a petition demanding that the authorities cease and desist making military prowess more important than friendship (region.expert/friendship_tree/).

·         Putin further restricts sale of foreign print media in Russia. The Kremlin’s plans to cut off the Russian segment of the Internet from the world wide web have attracted considerable attention, but its actual moves to restrict the sale of print media from abroad have not. Vladimir Putin has now issued new rules requiring additional registration of and thus imposing more restrictions on the sale of anything printed abroad (kremlin.ru/acts/news/60773).

·         Environmental Crimes in Krasnoyarsk Kray Alone Inflicting 50 billion rubles in damages every year. Whie Moscow says that Russia is losing only 12 billion rubles (200 million US dollars) from economic crimes, activists in Krasnoyarsk say that the actual figure is many times that. In there region alone, they put the annual losses from such violations, many by Chinese firms working with Russian oligarchs, at more than four times that amount (afterempire.info/2019/06/19/ecologic_robbery/).

Putin’s Denial Notwithstanding, Kremlin has Decided to Reduce Belarus to Status of South Ossetia, Sivitsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 23 – Vladimir Putin’s declaration that “today, the issue about the unification into one state of Russia and Belarus is not on the agenda” but that work toward “realizing the agreement which was signed many years ago about the establishment of the so-called union state” will continue is nothing more than “a word game,” Arseny Sivitsky says. 

            The director of the Minsk Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies says in fact Putin views the creation of “in some way of a new state with a single center a decision already taken. Undoubtedly, this center will be in Moscow” and it will have “the attributes of this state” (gazetaby.com/post/siviczkij-o-rossijskoj-ugroze-belarus-dlya-kremlya/154278/).

            The Kremlin views Belarus as “easy pickings” and plans will “de facto” mean that Belarus will “lose its sovereignty” perhaps according to “that model which Russia has arranged for South Ossetia and Abkhazia. That is, formally, these territories are considered independent but in reality, they are in ‘a union state’ with Russia’ [and] all main decisions, of course, are taken in Moscow.”

            “Approximately this very model is the one Russia would like to achieve in Belarus,” thereby transforming Belarus “into ‘a gray zone’ on the map of Europe.” Belarusians both in the regime and in civil society “must now think about how to unite their efforts in order not to allow this bad scenario to happen.”

            According to Sivitsky, “the creation of a Union state is one of the priorities for the leadership of Russia” both because it solves Putin’s 2024 problem by creating a new post for the current Kremlin ruler to occupy after that date and because it is the only thing he can do to boost his popularity given that Russia’s economy will continue to stagnate or deteriorate.

            Consequently, the Belarusian analyst says, “Russia’s aggressive behavior in foreign affairs will continue right up to 2024” with “Belarus being viewed by Kremlin strategists as easy pickings.”  Any suggestion otherwise is either outright denial of the facts or “nothing more than word play.”