Sunday, June 4, 2023

Moscow Likes to Say It has the Second Strongest Army in the World but It has Now Proven It has the Second Strongest One in Ukraine

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 3 – Vladimir Putin and his regime like to say that Russia has the second strongest army in the world, but many Russians now say that what he has managed to show in recent months is not that but rather that Russia has the second strongest army in the Republic of Ukraine.

            That is just one of the observations Russians are making about their country, its leaders and its wars that Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova has assembled and posted online ( Among the best of the rest which are most indicative of what they are thinking are the following:

·       Putin asked the head of Belgorod what he needed and the latter was just about to say that he needed more buses so that his people could leave “this new Ukraine.” But he got scared and said only that he would share the last of the existing buses out.

·       When Russians travel, they often leave inscriptions behind such as “there were tourists from Russia here.” But now they have become even more concise and just write “Z.”

·       Neighbors of those in a wealthy Moscow neighborhood whose houses were hit by drones have sent messages to the latter telling them to hand over Putin et al. or face the prospect that their neighbors will give them more precise addresses for targeting the next round.

·       Plans for an anti-war protest in Belgorod had to be scrapped after all those who planned to take part fled before it could start.

·       Senior Russian officials are surprised that the new Lada Vesta doesn’t have an automatic transmission. Soon, they will be even more surprised when they find there are no Ladas at all.

·       The Russian prime minister says that his country needs mathematicians and physicist but he didn’t say how to produce them under current Russian conditions.

·       Thanks to disorder in Belgorod, less well off people have been able to loot the stores there. In the past, only oligarchs and senior officials could risk carrying out such open robbery.

·       Moscow Mayor Sobyanin is afraid that the summer will bring a yellow sun and blue skies over his city. Lest the appearance of those Ukrainian colors appear, he has directed that special airplanes feed the clouds to ensure that only dark gloomy one will be over the Russian capital.

·       Russian officials are debating how to make the country’s defenses better, but they have neglected what is the best defense of all – don’t attack other countries and they won’t attack you.

·       For some reason, residents of countries whose presidents are nonentities who are changed off every four years like gloves, live much better than in a country where the president is in office for life and personally lives better than all the other residents combined.

Western Sanctions Affecting Not Only Russian Economy but Russian Environment, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 2 – The economic consequences of sanctions involving both the closing of Western plants in Russia and their replacement by Russian ones have been extensively covered; but a related consequence, the impact of these economic changes on the environment in the Russian Federation, has not.

            That is unfortunate because sanctions and import substitution have had the effect of leading to a serious and rapid decline in the quality of air and water in that country, according to Arina Vasilchuk, an investigative journalist for the Kedr.Media news agency (

            Russian factories involved in import substitution not surprisingly contaminate the environment in Russia far more than did factories in other countries whose production Moscow as able to purchase in the past. But that is far from the only way that the sanctions regime has had a negative impact on the environment in that county, experts say.

            Most of the equipment needed to ensure that factories don’t contaminate the surrounding air and water comes from the West. Now that Moscow can’t import such equipment, Russian firms are being allowed to put untreated wastes directly into the air and water, with consequent harm to the environment and the population.

            Russia’s modest plans for improving environmental protection have been reduced, delayed or cancelled altogether “in connection with the new economic realities,” according to the ministry for economic development; and there seems little likelihood that this trend will be reversed anytime soon.

            As a result, the air Russians breathe and the water they drink is increasingly contaminated. In the city of Nizhny Tagil, for example, residents are six to ten times more likely to have cancer than they would be if the city lived according to Russian environmental rules of the 2010s.

            There are a few cases in which the current standoff with the West has had positive environmental consequences. The most prominent of these concerns the decision to postpone the development of a broad gage rail line across the Russian North. Putin says it will be built, but the Russian government has been cutting its budget and making its completion unlikely.

            That will reduce the chance that Russian firms will despoil the north by mining and processing – and leave the country with cleaner air and water than would otherwise be the case.


Some Russians Fear a Putin Victory in Ukraine; Others, a Loss; but None Expects Any Positive Change Soon, Kuleshova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 2 – Russians are divided not only about Putin’s war in Ukraine but about the consequences of different outcomes for their country, Anna Kuleshova says. Some fear that if Putin wins, he will become even more repressive at home while others are convinced that if he loses, he will nonetheless survive and seek to track down and punish his opponents.

            The sociologist who heads the Social Researchers across Borders group stresse s that she and her colleagues have not heard from any of the Russians they have heard from any “optimistic predictions for the next five to ten years” (

            Instead, Russians in her sample increasingly mention their fears including the possibility that the conflict in Ukraine will lead to nuclear war or that Russian soldiers returning from the front will wreak havoc on Russian society. But almost everyone expressed concerns that whatever happens in Ukraine, more repressions are ahead for Russia.

            According to Kuleshova, Russians also fear a collapse in healthcare and especially in the availability of medications for chronic conditions, their inability to speak to anyone including close family members about the war lest they be denounced, and their uncertainty about what the future will hold for their children if the latter remain in Russia.

            Those she surveyed believe that only 20 to 30 percent of the population supports the war; but they can’t be sure because it is dangerous to talk about the war and many hide their opinions lest they land in trouble. Many say that they fear that anyone who brings up the war may be a provocateur intent on compromising them.

            But according to Kuleshova, “very few Russians who supported the war earlier have ceased to do so,” while the number who back it now has increased because ever more people seem to believe or at least say they believe the official propaganda in support of continuing the fight there.

Some Russian Regions Experiencing Economic Growth while Others Suffering Declines, Russian Central Bank Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 2 – Russian economic figures are usually given and discussed for the country as a whole; but for a country as large and diverse as the Russian Federation, that is a mistake because its regions vary widely, with some growing or declining more than others and with some growing while others are declining.

            This pattern is highlighted in the latest quarterly report on the Russian economy that has been prepared and issued by the Russian Central Bank ( The bank’s experts say the pattern reflects not only the underlying conditions of the Russian economy but also the differential impact of sanctions.

            According to the bank, for the first quarter of 2023, industrial production fell by 0.9 percent for Russia as a whole, but the regions varied widely on that. The Central Federal District experienced 4.7 percent growth, but the Northwestern FD saw a decline of 0.9 percent, the Siberian FD of 1.4 percent, the Urals FD of 1.6 percent, and the Far Eastern FD of 3.7 percent.

            In general, the bank reports that with regard to industrial production, things are better in the West than in the East; but as far as housing construction, retail trade, pay and incomes, the situation in the eastern part of the country is better than in the center and in its western federal districts.

            New housing fell almost 12 percent in the Russian Federation as a whole, while it grew in Siberia and the Far East; and real incomes fell at the center by two percent while they grew almost six percent in the Urals FD. As a result, the number of regions with governments in deficit rose to 50, more than half of all federal subjects.

            In summing up these figures, Nezavisimaya gazeta concluded that “those regions which have seen a stopping of the activities of foreign firms after the intensification of sanctions have suffered the most,” while those without such firms in the past have suffered far less and are even doing relatively well.

Re-Integrating Russians who’ve Fought in Ukraine a Large, Difficult and Long-Term Challenge, Psychologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 2 – Russia faces a serious challenge in re-integrating Russian soldiers who have fought in Ukraine, some because they have been traumatized and sunk into depression and others because they liked the military life of discipline and violence and find it almost impossible to become part of a society not at war, a psychologist who has treated many of them.

            Speaking anonymously, he says that what is needed is a general discussion of their problems and a willingness to commit to helping them. Otherwise, “we will have hundreds of people who have been thrown out of society and are able to shoot and kill”  (

            These veterans must not be thrown out of society but helped to become part of it once again. They must not  be treated as if it is their job to reintegrate on their own and that the broader society can ignore them, the psychologist says. “Under no circumstances should they be treated as something that can be ignored. If that happens, they will resist and we won’t like it.”

            Many soldiers who have suffered physical or psychological trauma sink into depression and turn to alcohol or other drugs. Some seek to overcome the uncertainties of civilian life by joining sects or criminal groups that promise them both discipline and a chance to continue to engage in the kind of violence they practiced in war.

            The current Russian government is acting as if it can ignore this situation; but that is the worst possible choice because if the returning soldiers conclude that society feels that what they did in the war was entirely evil and that they are outcasts, then these men will respond in kind by attacking society.

            The psychologist adds that this should be clear to everyone from the experience with Prigozhin’s Wagner Group which has recruited criminals and used them in the war, only to see them return to their earlier life, perhaps even more radically violent than they were before. But that isn’t some isolated phenomenon; it is part and parcel of what this unpopular war is doing.

            And what is more, the war in Ukraine is taking people who were never disposed to depression or criminality and making them more likely to fall into one or the other after they return from the front.


Changes in Diet Behind 30 Percent Rise in Mortality Rates among Khabarovsk’s Numerically Small Peoples, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 2 – Healthcare officials in Khabarovsk Kray report that mortality rates among the numerically small indigenous nations of that region are up by 30 percent, the result they suggest of problems with access to healthcare, accidents, and poor lifestyle choices such as smoking and alcohol.

            But independent experts say that a major cause is to be found in the change of diets of these populations that has led to an explosion of diabetes, often untreated, even among children (

            These specialists say that the failure to provide fish to populations for whom that food was a major part of the diet has led to “degradation and as a result to extinction,” a useful reminder that in addition to Putin’s optimization campaign, these people are victims of a general trend toward a very different diet than the one these peoples are used to.

            That factor is seldom discussed as lying behind the demise of these peoples; but now their approach to extinction is so obvious that more experts are focusing on it. In the latest census, they note, “for the first time since the 19th century,” the number of all these peoples, with on exception (the Negidals), fell.


Saturday, June 3, 2023

Kremlin Knows Power Corrupts and to Protect Russian People from Spread of this Plague Hires Only Those Already Corrupt

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 2 – The leaders of Russia are well aware that power corrupts; and so in order not to allow corruption to spread into the population at large, they on the most compassionate grounds work to ensure that only those who are already corrupt are hired for the top positions, Russians say.

            That is just one of the anecdotes in the latest collection of stories Russians are telling each other about their lives that has been assembled by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Russian schools shouldn’t start the day with the national anthem and military training but with the repetition of wise sayings from the Russian language such as “what goes around comes around” and “don’t dig a hole for someone else, you’ll fall into it yourself.”

·       Dmitry Medvedev didn’t show up for work today because he is extinguishing a fire at a suburban distillery. Eyewitnesses say he is throwing himself into the conflagration as if he were saving children.

·       Soon the Duma will introduce punishments for those who look into the sky and require that they look only at the ground or at television, which are two things that are essentially the same.

·       If a Russian remains silent, he has already been misunderstood.

·       The singer known as Shaman should now restore his real name, “Dronov,” because that means “of the drones.”