Staunton, April 23 -- The flood of news stories from a country as large, diverse and 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 presents a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 28th such compilation. It is only suggestive and far from complete – indeed, once again, one could have put out such a listing every day -- but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.
1. Putin Names MVD General Human Rights Ombudsman. In a move that recalls the story about putting the fox in charge of the chicken coup, Vladimir Putin has selected an interior ministry general to be the Russian government’s human rights ombudsman (rufabula.com/news/2016/04/22/police-rights).
2. Nearly Half of Russians Say Putin Created National Guard to Protect Himself Not Them. A new poll finds that 46 percent of Russians think that Putin created the new national guard not to defend them but to protect himself and his cronies (novayagazeta.ru/politics/72797.html?print=1).
3. Russians Beginning to Laugh at Putin. According to Andrey Piontkovsky, Russians are beginning to laugh at Putin, yet another parallel with the stagnation period of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and an indication that his support may be even softer than many imagine (news.online.ua/740041/andrey-piontkovskiy/).
4. ‘I Wouldn’t Be a Member of Any Club that Would Have Me.’ Marx – Groucho, not Karl, is an increasingly accurate guide to Putin’s Russia. Now, Moscow is saying that there is no need to restore the G8 from which Russian was dropped because of Putin’s aggression (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5715EC54886DA).
5. No Rest for Lenin. The 146th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Lenin this week again became the occasion for calls that the founder of the Soviet state be buried and other appeals that he be celebrated and not hidden away when Russian leaders use Red Square. An interesting new theme in these fights are complaints that it is just too expensive to maintain Lenin and the Mausoleum in the current economic crisis (themoscowtimes.com/article/565557.html, nakanune.ru/news/2016/04/18/22433695#sthash.FWy9C8lI.dpuf and echo.msk.ru/blog/varlamov_i/1752600-echo/).
6. Lavrov Finds a New Way to Offend. With his scowl and bombast, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has offended leaders around the world. But now he has come up with a new one: he got off his plane in Ulan Bator and walked past a Mongolian honor guard tieless and in blue jeans (thediplomat.com/2016/04/how-russian-blue-jeans-created-a-diplomatic-incident-in-mongolia/?utm_content=buffer73657&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer).
7. Moscow Police Looking for Russians Who Borrowed Books on Ukrainian Famine. Moscow has little money for taking care of Russians but it does have enough to launch investigations to identify those Russians who have been incautious enough to check out books from public libraries on the Ukrainian famine (themoscowtimes.com/news/article/investigators-searching-for-moscow-readers-who-borrowed-books-on-ukraine-famine/565746.html).
8. Russia has the Medals for the Occupation of Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa. While Moscow lacks the forces to do so at least at present, some Russian firms have begun stamping out medals to be distributed to Russian soldiers for occupying Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa (obozrevatel.com/crime/94820-marazm-krepchal-okkupantyi-nashtampovali-medali-za-vzyatie-kieva-lvova-i-odessyi.htm).
Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency Stripped of Its Accreditation. The WADA has stripped Russia’s national anti-doping agency of its accreditation, the clearest indication yet that in this area as in so many others, Moscow is not playing by the rules (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57112D4A82882
12. Russia’s High Court for First Time Rejects Strasbourg Decision. For the first time, Russia’s Constitutional Court has declared that Moscow is under no obligation to obey a decision of the European Human Rights Court and will not do so (rbc.ru/politics/19/04/2016/5715db289a7947a96e774faa?from=main). And in another indication of the state of Russian jurisprudence, a judge there who accepted a suit against Vladimir Putin has been forced off the bench (slon.ru/posts/66744).
13. Duma Call for Banning Discussion of Suicides Raises Questions about Anna Karenina. Many ideas in the Russian Duma are absurd on their face but none is perhaps more ridiculous than the Russian legislature’s latest call for banning any discussion of suicides in the media. As one commentator asks, does that mean there can be no talk about Dostoyevsky’s “Anna Karenina”? (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=571529C79623A).
And three more from countries neighboring Russia:
14. Russian Occupiers Prepare to Block RFE/RL Site on Crimea. Russian prosecutors say they will seek the blocking of the RFE/RL site about Crimea under the terms of Moscow’s anti-extremism law, the latest indication that jamming is coming back (nazaccent.ru/content/20372-prokuratura-kryma-potrebuet-blokirovki-sajta-krym-realii.html).
15. Latvia Makes It a Criminal Offense to Take Part in Hybrid War. The Latvian government has introduced criminal penalties for anyone who takes part in hybrid war, although it does not precisely define what that Putin term means (rufabula.com/news/2016/04/21/latvia).
16. Turkmenistan Expands Its Attacks on Dissidents Living Abroad. As lawlessness expands across the post-Soviet space, Ashgabat has expanded its attacks on dissidents who have been forced to flee from Turkmenistan (habartm.org/archives/4905).