Staunton, February 26 -- 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 twenty-fourth 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’s Aggression in Ukraine has Cost Russian a Trillion US Dollars. According to a Russian financial analyst, Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and continuing aggression in the Donbas has cost Russia a trillion US dollars so far, with no end of the costs to the Russian people in sight (apostrophe.com.ua/article/politics/2016-02-18/poteri-rossii-iz-za-ukrainyi-ischislyayutsya-trillionom-dollarov---finansist-iz-rf/3394).
2. Moscow Finds Money for ‘Harems’ for Senior Officials and ‘Cures’ for Homosexuality. At a time when basic social services are being cut back and wage arrears now exceed four billion rubles (newizv.ru/society/2016-02-25/235035-skoraja-nemosh.html and sobkorr.ru/news/56CDC47D4A156.html) and when ordinary Russians are fighting bill collectors (lifenews.ru/news/186278), the Russian government nonetheless has the money to ensure that (http://asiarussia.ru/blogs/11308/) and to set up special clinics in the health ministry to “cure” homosexuality (mskagency.ru/materials/2530843. No money is available however to combat the rising tide of impotence among Russian men (http://svpressa.ru/health/news/143034/). As in all things, it is a question of priorities.
3. One Phone Call is Enough to Be Declared a Foreign Agent. One NGO has been declared a foreign agent on the basis of a single telephone call to a foreign organization (http://www.kasparov.ru/material.php?id=56D01AC11E845). And the Duma now wants to equate automobile demonstrations and ban them unless they have official permission (http://kyk-byre.ru/1926-gosduma-priravnyala-avtoprobegi-k-mitingam.html). Bu what is especially worrisome is the increasing use by the Putin regime of groups it can deny any affiliation with to intimidate or engage in vandalism against anyone who takes a position the regime doesn’t like (echo.msk.ru/blog/serguei_parkhomenko/1719096-echo/).
4. Is United Russia a Foreign Agent? The party of power gets money from abroad, Kasparov.ru reports; but it seems unlikely that it will be declared a foreign agent even though it clearly qualifies on the basis of how the regime has treated other organizations and groups (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=56CD5B183D61D).
5. Religious Specialists Protest Government’s Misuse of Their Knowledge. Leading Russian religious specialists have declared that they are no longer prepared to provide “expert” witness services to the government when it wants to crack down on this or that group. Such a use is a misuse of their knowledge, the experts say (sclj.ru/news/detail.php?SECTION_ID=446&ELEMENT_ID=6746).
6. ICG Produces Copy of Kadyrov’s ‘Passportization’ of People by Teip and Wird. Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov denied he was doing this, but International Crisis Group expert Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya has posted a photograph of the questionnaire Chechen officials have been using that shows that Grozny is doing exactly that (facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153938312673610&set=a.420119603609.194496.668718609&type=3&theater).
7. Putin Personally Intervened to Prevent Saving of Hostages at Beslan, Illarionov Says. Andrey Illarionov says that Vladimir Putin personally intervened to prevent steps that would likely have saved the lives of hostages at Beslan in 2004 (inforesist.org/illarionov-putin-ne-dal-spasti-zalozhnikov-v-beslane-v-2004-godu/).
8. In Urals Village, Ten Percent of Population has Committed Suicide. Moscow says suicide rates in Russia are at a 50 year low (rbc.ru/society/10/02/2016/56ba00a79a79474ccbd2bccbpolitsovet.ru/51149-v-uralskom-poselke-pokonchilo-s-soboy-10-naseleniya.html).
9. Belarusians Back Ukrainian Proposal to Call Russia ‘Muscovy.’ An open poll by a Belarusian opposition portal found that more than 80 percent of its visitors support the Ukrainian proposal to restore the name Muscovy for the Moscow-centered state to the east of Belarus and Ukraine (onpress.info/82-3-belorusov-podderzhali-ukraintsev-v-voprose-pereimenovaniya-rossii-v-moskoviyu-69936).
10. Russian Milk and Bread Increasingly Contaminated. As Russians have to cut back on meat and other luxuries, they are discovering that the milk available in many Russian stores is contaminated and that the bread on offer has been adulterated (ren.tv/novosti/2016-02-20/rezultaty-vserossiyskoy-proverki-moloka-shokirovali-naselenie-strany and rufabula.com/news/2016/02/20/bread). Ever more Russians are trying to raise their own food: One piece of evidence of this is that seed sales are up dramatically in Russian cities (ng.ru/economics/2016-02-26/4_money.html).
11. Exotic Hotels Open in Russia. The first igloo hotel has opened in Kamchatka (nazaccent.ru/content/19543-na-kamchatke-otkroyut-pervyj-v-rossii.html), and the first “five-star” yurt hotel has opened in Kalmykia (tuva.asia/news/ruregions/8480-kalmykiya.html). But one place where hotel rooms are declining in number is Sochi. Officials are now tearing down empty housing built for the 2014 Olympics (rosbalt.ru/federal/2016/02/05/1487134.html).
12. More Gerrymandering for Duma Elections. Now that Moscow has restored single-member districts for the Duma, Russian officials have engaged in various forms of gerrymandering, including rural voters in places where urban voters might be against the Kremlin and ensuring that ethnic Russians can overwhelm non-Russians in the Far North. But perhaps the most original form of gerrymandering concerns the Central Election Commission’s decision to allocate various groups of Russian citizens abroad to this or that district (rufabula.com/author/mironova/1032).
13. Non-Russians Go to Great Lengths to Keep Their Languages Alive Outside Their Republics. There are few schools or even school programs for non-Russians who live outside of their own republics, but some of the governments of these republics are working hard to promote Saturday and Sunday language classes or to fight for at least a few hours of instruction in the state schools (izvmor.ru/news/view/2489488).
And six additional neglected stories from countries neighboring Russia:
1. Uzbek Opposition Starts Online Radio Broadcasts. Uzbekistan’s hard-pressed political opposition has organized online radio broadcasts to break through the government’s tight media control (fergananews.com/articles/8894).
2. Ukraine Furious Russia has Demolished Taras Shevchenko House. The Ukrainian government and Ukrainians more generally are furious at Russia for tearing down the onetime residence of Ukraine’s greatest poet (svpressa.ru/culture/news/143125/ and apostrophe.com.ua/news/society/accidents/2016-02-24/v-rossii-unichtojili-dom-ukrainskogo-klassika/50689).
3. Moldova’s Transdiestria Wants Relations with Moscow Like Any Other ‘Russian Oblast.’ The breakaway republic of Transdniestria in Moldova says that it wants its relations with the Russian government to be like any other between Moscow and a Russian province (regnum.ru/news/polit/2084531.html).
4. Mejlis Office Vandalized in Occupied Crimea. Increasingly the Russian authorities seem prepared to use unidentified people to do their dirty work as when vandals broke into the office of the embattled Crimean Tatar Mejlis this past week in order to disrupt that group’s activities (qha.com.ua/ru/politika/vandali-pronikli-v-zdanie-medjlisa/155494/).
200,000 Ukrainian Children Traumatized in Russian-Occupied Donbas. More than 200,000 Ukrainian children are suffering from psychological trauma in the Donbas as a result of the Russian military actions there, psychologists say (charter97.org/ru/news/2016/2/20/191999/