Friday, October 2, 2015

A Baker’s Dozen of Neglected Russian Stories This Week – No. 4

Paul Goble

Staunton, October 2 -- The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and often strange as the Russian Federation often appears to be is far too large for anyone to keep up with. But there needs to be a way to mark those which can’t be discussed in detail but which are too indicative of broader developments to ignore.

            Consequently, Windows on Eurasia will present a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the fourth such weekly compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.

1.      NASA Planned Announcement about Water on Mars to Upstage Putin, Duma Deputy Says. A Putin loyalist in the Russian parliament said that the US space program decided to announce that it had found evidence of water on mars on the same day that Putin was giving his address at the UN in order to distract attention from the Russian leader (

2.      Will Putin Really Stay Away from the US Forever? After Vladimir Putin’s meeting with President Barack Obama and speech to the UN General Assembly, some in his entourage indicated that the Kremlin leader never wants to come back to the United States (

3.      Putin is Changing Russian the Way Hitler Changed German. A Russian linguist says that Vladimir Putin is changing the definitions of key words in much the same way as Hitler did, draining familiar ones of meaning and giving new definitions to others (

4.      Moscow TV Obscures Photos of Putin and Medvedev in Story about Corruption.  Photographs of leaders are something found on the walls of officials in almost all countries, Russia in particular. But when state-controlled Russian television featured a story about the arrest of a corrupt official, it felt the need to obscure pictures of Putin and Medvedev lest Russians draw all too obvious connections (

5.      Russian Incomes Can Rise Only if Oil is Above 65 US Dollars a Barrel. A Moscow economist says that Russian incomes can go up only if oil rises above 65 US dollars a barrel. It is now at 40, suggesting why Putin may be intervening in Syria and also why Russians can expect more hardship ahead (

6.      Pawn Shops Becoming Life Savers for Hard-Pressed Russians. Ever more Russians faced with falling incomes and rising prices are pawning their valuables in order to raise money to prevent their standards of living from falling any further (

7.      80 Percent of Cheese in Russian Stores Adulterated.  One of the consequences of  Western sanctions and Moscow’s counter-sanctions and destruction of foods the center has prohibited the importation of is that the shelves of many stores in Russia are increasingly bare and what is there is of low quality or even adulterated as is the case with most cheese at present (

8.      Russians Who Can Afford It Increasingly Seek Medical Treatment Abroad.  Faced with Putin’s “optimization” of the health care system, a euphemism for serious cutbacks, those Russians who can afford it are engaging in what Russian outlets call “medical tourism” and going abroad for treatment. The overwhelming majority who can’t afford to do so are increasingly doing without (

9.      Replacement of Komi Head Shows This Case Wasn’t about Corruption.  Vladimir Putin has named the former head of construction projects for the Sochi Olympiad to replace the ousted leader of the Komi Republic who is accused of leading a criminal group. Given the new man’s history in Sochi, one of the most corrupt enterprises in Russian history, the Komi case clearly was not about fighting corruption, however much the Kremlin has tried to suggest otherwise (

10.  Russia Passing More Laws and Arresting More People But Crime Continues to Rise.  Over the past several years, the Duma has passed ever more laws ( and prosecutors have demanded that ever more of those charged with crime be arrested, but this has not slowed the growth of crime in Russia (

11.  Crimean Occupation Official Goes to Warsaw as ‘NGO’ Leader.  Last year, Russians demonstrated that they have problems with geography as Russian soldiers supposedly wandered into Ukraine because they did not know where the border is. Now, a senior official in the Crimean occupation has demonstrated he doesn’t know what an NGO is, having portrayed himself as the leader of one in order to attend a Warsaw conference (

12.  Russian Courts Extend Extremism Charges to Gay Rights and Ecological Activism.  Russian courts are now accusing an LGBT activist in Khabarovsk and an ecological one in the North Caucasus of “extremism,” another example of the elasticity of Russian legislation ( and Meanwhile, Yevgeny Vitishko, another ecological activist, continues to languish in prison after another Russian court rejected his most recent appeal ( and

13.  Russian Court Says No One Can Make Fun of Nazi Symbols. Meanwhile, however, a Krasnodar court has fined a man who caricatured the swastika saying that such actions are impermissible, an indication that no one should ever assume that Russian jurisprudence doesn’t have room to become ever more perverse and absurd (

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