Staunton, June 2 -- 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 each week presents a selection of 13 of these other and typically neglected stories at the end of each week. This is the 85th such compilation, and it is again a double issue. Even then, it is only suggestive and far from complete, but perhaps one or more of these stories will prove of broader interest.
Putin Issues New Non-Denial Denial on Russian Interference in US Elections. Vladimir Putin shift positions on Russian interference in the US elections from a flat denial that Moscow had no role to a Nixonian non-denial denial in which he said that the Russian state didn’t but that “patriotic” Russian hackers might have, although he discounted the notion that hackers and bloggers could influence the outcome of elections anywhere as they certainly don’t in Russia (graniru.org/Politics/Russia/President/m.261359.htmlsegodnya.ua/world/putin-opyat-vstupilsya-za-rossiyskih-hakerov-oni-lyudi-svobodnye-kak-hudozhniki-1026299.htmldsnews.ua/world/putin-reshil-otmazat-svoih-hakerov-oni-dazhe-na-vybory-01062017133500newsland.com/community/129/content/sloboda-sovesti-zachem-vladimir-putin-priekhal-k-staroobriadtsam/5854260ruskline.ru/news_rl/2017/05/29/aktivnymi_uchastnikami_bolshevistskogo_terrora_protiv_cerkvi_byli_staroobryadcy/). In addition, Putin made a number of comments about the world that merit being recorded: He said that cultural multiplicity in Russia is important as long as it does nothing to harm national unity (asiarussia.ru/news/16459/newsland.com/community/7370/content/putin-sderzhivat-rossiiu-bespolezno/5855470echo.msk.ru/blog/day_video/1992398-echo/dsnews.ua/society/dazhe-sobake-protivno-v-seti-vysmeyali-novoe-foto-putina-29052017110000), and a leading human rights activists said that Putin should retire to a monastery in order to reflect upon his sins (ixtc.org/2017/05/sergey-kovalev-pust-putin-pokaetsya-i-postrizhetsya-v-monahi/
The Putin-Trump Bromance Returns. Vladimir Putin said that one of Donald Trump’s most impressive qualities is that unlike most politicians, the US president is “sincere,” something the Kremlin leader says he highly values (ura.news/news/1052291721ruskline.ru/analitika/2017/05/29/amerika_ne_s_nimi_no_i_tramp_ne_nash/). But most Russians appeared this week to be devoting most attention to Trump’s typo in one tweet, with “covfefe” becoming not only a meme in Russia but a brand name there as well (ura.news/news/1052291718profile.ru/obsch/item/117605-covfefe
3. Russian Economy Getting Better, Officials Say, But Russian Incomes Continue to Fall. Russian officials this week repeatedly suggested, picking up on Vladimir Putin’s line, that the Russian economy is showing “positive dynamics.” But improved incomes for Russians aren’t one of them: those continue to fall (kommersant.ru/doc/3313488kasparov.ru/material.php?id=592FD051CCA71newsland.com/community/4109/content/dolgi-po-zarplate-pered-rabotnikami-sibneftegeofiziki-prevyshaiut-60-mln-rublei/5850870rufabula.com/news/2017/05/29/save-money newizv.ru/news/omy/31-05-2017/v-rossii-podorozhali-vodka-sol-karamel-i-kartofelhttp://krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/41329newsland.com/community/129/content/izymat-edinstvennoe-zhile-predlozheno-pri-dolge-bolshe-200-000-rublei/5846480newsland.com/community/4109/content/sredniaia-zarplata-kitaitsev-prevysila-rossiiskuiu-na-tret/5853991newizv.ru/article/general/28-05-2017/demura-zarplaty-i-tseny-v-rossii-v-1913-i-v-2017-nichego-ne-izmenilos). Moreover, there were increasing reports that government subsidies in Russia are hurting rather than helping the economy (rbc.ru/newspaper/2017/05/29/5926b8d89a7947207fb06e9c) and that Russia’s younger generation are condemned to poverty for the foreseeable future (newsland.com/user/1637669351/content/pochemu-nasha-molodezh-obrechena-na-bednost/5846014
Hungry Russians Urged Not to Steal Nuts Squirrels have Buried. Yet another indication of how bad things are in some parts of Russia is a sign in Omsk urging hungry Russians not to dig up for their own consumption nuts that squirrels have buried for their food (bk55.ru/news/article/101433/). More generally, begging is now spreading across the Russian urban landscape, sparking complaints about the Russian Orthodox Church for building new facilities even as people go hungry (forum-msk.org/material/region/13258397.html and newsland.com/community/3550/content/vyvikh-dushi/5850025). Other developments on the social front include: Patriarch Kirill says gay marriage is fascist (dsnews.ua/society/patriarh-kirill-rasskazal-kirgizam-o-shodstve-gey-brakov-29052017111900), post offices are at risk of closing in many rural villages (rosbalt.ru/russia/2017/05/29/1618950.htmlregnum.ru/news/accidents/2282967.htmlizvestia.ru/news/721388politsovet.ru/55471-tret-rossiyan-podderzhivaet-pravo-bit-detey.htmlpolitsovet.ru/55479-v-sverdlovskoy-oblasti-zafiksirovan-rost-semeynogo-nasiliya.htmlecho.msk.ru/news/1991874-echo.htmlnovayagazeta.ru/news/2017/06/01/132084-v-mvd-nazvali-pravomernymi-deystviya-politseyskih-pri-zaderzhanii-rebenka-v-moskve
Moscow Gives Foreigners a Right It Doesn’t Give Its Own Non-Russians. The Russian government has announced that it will allow foreigners studying in Russian universities the right to defend their dissertations in their own language, a right Moscow has not consistently extended to its own non-Russians in theirs (regnum.ru/news/society/2283294.htmloc-media.org/unambitious-state-backed-circassian-groups-hide-a-growing-nationalism-in-young-circassians/), the triumph in Cannes of a film about the love between a Karbardin and a Jew (onkavkaz.com/news/1707-lyubov-kabardinca-i-evreiki-pokorila-kanny-mir-uznal-dushnuyu-tesnotu-adygov-balkarcev-i-cheche.html?fromslider), reports of continuing extremely high infant and child mortality in the North Caucasus (kavkazr.com/a/dinamika-mladencheskoi-smertnosti-na-severnom-kavkaze-i-v-tselom-po-rf/28522702.htmlnazaccent.ru/content/24224-socset-vkontakte-perevedut-na-buryatskij-yazyk.htmlixtc.org/2017/05/kaliningradskie-separatisty-izbity-i-arestovany/afterempire.info/2017/05/30/bars/
Monuments to Solzhenitsyn and Dzerzhinsky Go Up in Same Week. In a perfect reflection of Russia’s problems with its own past, monuments to dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Cheka founder Feliks Dzerzinsky went up in the same week sparking controversy among those who objected to one or the other (newsland.com/community/4109/content/rezonans-v-obshchestve-kak-otvet-na-ustanovku-pamiatnika-a-solzhenitsynu/5854748newsland.com/community/politic/content/v-kirove-ustanoviat-pamiatnik-dzerzhinskomu/5847776 newsland.com/community/6399/content/v-rostove-ustanoviat-pamiatnik-pisateliu-solzhenitsynu/5853241newsland.com/community/3782/content/samaia-bolshaia-lozh-eltsina-pro-stalina/5853722republic.ru/posts/83580nlo-mir.ru/giblzone/52191-ostanki-gulaga.html
7. Entire Russian Village Declares Hunger Strike to Protest Environmental Damage. All the residents of a village near Moscow have declared a hunger strike in order to attract the attention of officials to the actions of a local plant that is destroying the environment where they live (forum-msk.org/material/news/13277391.htmlecho.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1989429-echo/kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/303575/rufabula.com/news/2017/06/01/luzhnikikasparov.ru/material.php?id=592BCD4BC2623), student demonstrations in Kaluga (kp.ru/daily/26684/3708146/), Chelyabinsk protests against the local children’s ombudsman (newsland.com/community/4765/content/v-cheliabinske-roditeli-vyidut-s-aktsiei-a-protiv-detskogo-ombudsmena-kuznetsovoi/5851180ixtc.org/2017/05/voronezh-vystupil-protiv-korruptsii-i-zelenki/nazaccent.ru/content/24211-nacionalisty-vyshli-na-miting-protiv-renovacii.htmlnewizv.ru/news/city/26-05-2017/shag-vpered-dva-shaga-nazad-kak-menyaetsya-proekt-renovatsii-moskvy).
In Supplemental Budget, Putin Allocates Six Times as Much for MVD as for Education. In a clear indication of his priorities and perhaps his fears, Vladimir Putin is allocating six times as much in additional funding for the interior ministry as for Russia’s schools (newsru.com/russia/29may2017/popravki.html). His Russian Guard is also attracting criticism for its restoration of the names “Dzerzhinsky” and “Red Banner” for its subunits (newsland.com/community/politic/content/rosgvardiia-vozvrashchaet-imia-dzerzhinskogo-i-krasnoe-znamia/5852349newsland.com/community/5652/content/minoborony-rf-vzialos-za-akkaunty-v-sotssetiakh/5854470thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2017/05/military-towns-kola-peninsula-are-population-winners
Russia Now a Country Whose Rockets Don’t Work and Whose Cosmodrome is Empty. The Kremlin has long been famous for having a cannon that never fired and a bell that never rang, but now Russia is becoming a country whose rockets don’t work because of a lack of spare parts and whose cosmodrome has dropped working because of back pay disputes, lack of funds for equipment and other problems (zelenyikot.com/vostochnaya-angara/, newsland.com/community/4788/content/rossiiskii-samolet-ms-21-okazalsia-sovetskim-s-amerikanskimi-dvigateliami/5852938novayagazeta.ru/news/2017/05/29/131962-stroiteli-vostochnogo-nachali-zabastovku-iz-za-nevyplaty-zarplaty and kommersant.ru/doc/3305139). Meanwhile, in other defense-related developments, some Moscow analysts say Russia doesn’t have the funds to carry out Putin’s defense plans (forum-msk.org/material/economic/13258694.html), others suggest Moscow’s effort to build helicopter carriers is condemned to failure in advance (svpressa.ru/war21/article/173549/newsland.com/community/7994/content/rossiiskaia-armiia-v-sirii-neset-tiazhelye-poteri/5846333). At home, an outbreak of hepatitis at a Russian base in the Far East has attracted attention as evidence of continuing problems with food for servicemen (khabarovsk.md/news/7779-habarovskiy-kray-prarodina-chuchhe-i-gepatit-v-voinskoy-chasti.htmlsobkorr.ru/news/593114588093A.htmlsiberiantimes.com/other/others/features/russia-sea-tests-white-whales-for-military-purposes-in-arctic-waters-tv-zvezda/
Russians Come Up with Workaround Drug for WADA Banned One. In yet another indication that Moscow won’t play by the rules unless forced to, Russian medical researchers have come up with a drug that has the same athletic ability enhancing properties as one that WADA has banned but that has a slightly different chemical composition and thus should pass muster, Russian officials say (izvestia.ru/news/719291echo.msk.ru/news/1991602-echo.htmlnewsland.com/community/4765/content/severokoreitsy-v-severnoi-stolitse-kak-stroiatsia-obekty-k-chm-2018/5853507http://polit.ru/article/2017/05/27/krestovsky/newsland.com/community/5652/content/rossiiskaia-olimpiiskaia-chempionka-verniot-medali-iz-za-ikh-nizkogo-kachestva/5852232
Political Pornography Comes to Moscow. After a Moscow court ordered Aleksey Navalny to take down his film on corruption (rufabula.com/news/2017/05/31/navalnynewsland.com/community/4765/content/pornhub-opublikoval-na-svoem-saite-film-on-vam-ne-dimon/5853614). That led to two other developments: A Russian parliamentarian proposed classifying pornography as a drug and requiring that all those who want to view it to get a prescription from their doctors (spektr.press/news/2017/05/30/milonov-poprosil-priravnyat-pornograficheskuyu-produkciyu-k-lekarstvam/versia.ru/pornxab-peredal-roskomnadzoru-10-promo-kodov-dlya-premium-dostupa-k-klubnichke
Even Opposition Politicians are Dependent on Kremlin, Kasparov Says. Émigré Russian political leader Gary Kasparov says that even opposition politicians in Russia are one way or another dependent on the Kremlin, an indication of the ways in which Vladimir Putin effectively gelds many of them (nr2.lt/News/politics_and_society/-Kasparov-Dazhe-oppozicionnye-politiki-RF-tak-ili-inache-zavisyat-ot-Kremlya-125529.html
16. An Anniversary Moscow isn’t Marking. Thirty years ago this week, West German pilot Matthias Rust landed his private plane in Moscow’s Red Square on Border Guards Day, embarrassing the Soviet defense system and setting the stage for Mikhail Gorbachev’s purge or it top ranks (snob.ru/selected/entry/125019).
17. Someone is Killing Russia’s UFO Specialists. Russia has many uniquely Russian problems as well as problems that many other countries have. One problem that appears to straddle this divide surfaced this week: a party or parties unknown is killing off that country’s small group of specialists on unidentified flying objects (kp.ru/daily/26684.7/3707180/).
18. One Russian Reaction to Brzezinski’s Death: ‘Why Couldn’t It have Been McCain?’ Russian nationalist commentator Yegor Kholmogorov reacted to the death of Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US National Security Advisor and long-time specialist on combatting Russian expansionism, by saying that his first thought was “why couldn’t it have been [anti-Moscow US Senator John] McCain?” (politobzor.net/show-133263-v-ssha-skonchalsya-avtor-proekta-raschleneniya-rossii.html).
19. Massive Vacancies in Upper Reaches of Russian Court System. While the Russian judicial system is notorious for not being about justice but rather about carrying out the will of those in power (politsovet.ru/55475-sudy-i-vybory-v-rossii-ne-interesno-i-dazhe-ne-smeshno.htmlkommersant.ru/doc/3305138).
20. Moscow Should have 80 Mosques, Russian Muslim Leader Says. Ravil Gainutdin, head of the Union of Muftis of Russia (SMR), says that Moscow should have 80 mosques rather than the six it now does to bring it into line with world cities like Beijing and Berlin which have almost that many despite having far fewer Muslims (business-gazeta.ru/article/347066).
Russia Rated a Greater Threat to the World than Iran or North Korea. The University of Sidney has rated the countries of the world in terms of the threats they pose to world peace. According to its scholars, Russia now poses a greater threat than either Iran or North Korea (politsovet.ru/55473-rossiyu-priznali-opasnee-dlya-mira-chem-iran-i-kndr.html
And 12 more from other countries in Russia’s neighborhood:
One Place Where the CIS Matters. Non-Russian countries in the CIS are rarely able to prepare Russian translations of books published beyond the borders of the former USSR because Moscow companies routinely demand and Western publishers agree to the principle that only publishers in Russia can make such translations for sale in the CIS (dsnews.ua/society/spasibo-russkim-kak-imperskie-zamashki-ukrainiziruyut-nash-31052017220000
Belarusian Authorities Block Nobelist from Meeting with Those in Her Native Region. Regional officials in Belarus took the ugly step of blocking Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Aleksiyevich from meeting with people in her home area on her birthday (charter97.org/ru/news/2017/5/31/251731/
Lukashenka Said Losing Control over Belarusian Regions. No one doubts that Alyaksandr Lukashenka is in control of the Belarusian central government, but there are growing indications, opposition figures say, that he is gradually losing control over the regions outside of the capital (nmnby.eu/news/analytics/6341.html
7. Belarusian Muslims Back Country’s Semi-Legal Christian Democrats. Belarus’ small Muslim community, including both the indigenous Litevtsy and migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus, contributes members to that country’s semi-legal Christian Democratic Party (belaruspartisan.org/politic/381639/).
8. Estona’s Jewish Community Center Marks 10th Anniversary. Tallinn’s Jewish community center, the first to exist since 1940, marks its tenth anniversary, the Jerusalem Post reports (jpost.com/Diaspora/Estonia-celebrates-10-years-of-first-Jewish-Community-Center-since-WWII-494058).
Yandex, Mail.Ru Shutter Operations in Ukraine. After Kyiv pointed out that the Russian-owned and controlled Yandex search engine was giving Moscow’s intelligence services personnel data on Ukrainians and Ukraine banned the use numerous Russian sites, both Yandex and Mail.ru said they were ending operations in Ukraine (unian.info/society/1948451-yandexukraine-transferred-ukrainians-personal-data-to-russian-intel-sbu-says.html, dsnews.ua/future/-yandeks-dopuskaet-svoy-uhod-iz-ukrainy-iz-za-sanktsiy-01062017142100and qha.com.ua/ru/obschestvo/mail-ru-zakrivaet-ofis-v-ukraine/174621/