Sunday, April 30, 2023

For Russia to Become a Democratic Federation, Elites in Regions Must Be Transformed, Golosov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 27 – Russians opposed to Putinism are nearly unanimous in believing that for Russia to become genuinely democratic, it must create genuine federalism, Grigory Golosov says. That is undoubtedly true, but most of those who support that idea fail to recognize the problems that must be addressed in the regions, focusing on Moscow alone.

            Such people, the St. Petersburg political scientist says, think that if the center expands the autonomy of the regions and guarantees that in the constitution, everything necessary for a democratic federation will have been put in place. But that is not the case (

            Instead, there is a great danger that if the problem is approached in that way alone, the regions will once again become seedbeds for a recrudescence of authoritarianism in Russia, just as was the case in the 1990s, leading to something like the “authoritarian” federalism that now exists in Russia in the case of Chechnya.

            According to Golosov, “authoritarian tendencies began to emerge in Russia in the 1990s both at the federal center and in the regions. But in the regions, it may be that they were even stronger. Many elected governors effectively usurped power, eliminated all local opposition, and seemed intent on ruling forever.”

            It is important to keep this in mind, the political scientist continues, because much of the support Putin received for his recentralization came from people who were angry about the destruction of democracy by regional leaders. “Many of them,” Golosov says, “saw gubernatorial arbitrariness as the greater evil.”

            Since the 1990s, of course, a great deal has changed; and both federalism and democracy no longer exist. “All this must be corrected,” he says; adding that he is “certain that it will be corrected in the process of democratization.”

            But “the realities of regional political life now ar such that in each of the regions there are now close-knit rulings groups which control all spheres of life and support local authoritarianism.” Their power is limited only by the occasional dispatch from the center of a new governor, although that individual, to be effective, must “find common ground” with them.

            It is worth asking “what happens if the demand for ‘deep federalization’ is formulatd and implemented at an early stage to the transition to democracy? Will these ruling groups disappear on their own? Will they leave the country? Or will they arrange to win free elections if such are called?” There are few grounds for optimism about any of the answers.

            “The degree of control these groups currently have over the region sis such that their de facto leaders will remain in power, if not personally than through their representatives. And thus a new authoritarian decentralization will become a political fact: do we really want that to be constitutionally guaranteed?”

            The answer should and must be no, and that in turn means that “a return to federalism should be preceded by a fairly lengthy transition period during which the central government will retain serious powers regarding the regions.” Golosov suggests that the provisions of the 1993 constitution are fine in that regard, with the only change being a ban on an end to elections.

            In a comment at the end of this essay, the St. Petersburg political scientist argues that it was “the lack of effective self-government that was one of the main causes for the lack of democratic government in Russia in the 1990s. But “this problem has nothing to do with federalism.”

            “In reality,” he says, “it was the governors who enjoyed federal guarantees who played a rather significant role in reducing local self-government in Russia to its current miserable state.”

Putin’s Cult of Masculinity and His War in Ukraine Preventing Russia from Closing Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, Scholars Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 27 – Russia has long been notorious for having one of the largest gender gaps in life expectancy of any country in the world, with Russian women today living on average more than ten years than Russian men. Many experts had expected declining alcohol consumption among men and rising alcohol use among women would change that.

            But although those social changes have had some impact, two Putin policies are preventing Russia from closing its enormous gender gap in life expectancy: his cult of masculinity which is only encouraging Russian men to drink more and take less care of their health and his war in Ukraine, scholars say.

            Russian men suffer from hypertension at far high rates than Russian women do but are less likely to monitor their health and take medicines that would reduce the impact of the problem. Putin’s cult of masculinity has only made both drinking and neglect of medical monitoring greater (;-nigde-v-mire).

            That “toxic cult of masculinity” under Putin has had a far greater impact than even the war in Ukraine and its consequences, experts say. The number of deaths of young men there will depress life expectancy of among men overall, but the bigger impact will come when veterans return, engage in criminal activities, or act with little regard for their lives.

            Those things will continue to prevent Russia from reducing its current gender gap of more than a decade anytime soon, and they are likely to have a larger and more negative impact the longer Putin is in power and the longer he continues his aggression in Ukraine or elsewhere, the data suggest.   

Fergana Valley Heading toward an Explosion, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 27 – In the 1990s, few discussions of Central Asia in the West took place without reference to the situation in the Fergana Valley, the region where Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan come together, and without speculation that that densely populated place would likely become the site of future geopolitical explosions.

            More recently, given the problems in southern Kyrgyzstan and along the borders of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, attention to the Fergana Valley has ebbed even though population density and water shortages in the region have continued to intensify. Now, scholars from the region are saying it is time to focus on the Fergana once again.

            At a recent conference in Moscow, Aleksandr Knyazev of MGIMO lamented that in recent years, the problems of Fergana and their potential to lead to explosions across Central Asia have been “on the periphery of expert attention,” something that must change (

            The populations of all three nations in the Fergana have continued to grow, and none of them have shifted from agricultural to industrial production. As a result, conflicts over access to land and to the water needed to irrigate that land have intensified – and there is every reason to think that these will soon exacerbate ethnic and religious divisions.

            The observations of two Uzbek scholars at that meeting are especially noteworthy. Ravshan Nazarov of Tashkent’s Institute of State and Law says it is important to recognize that in the Fergana a certain “Fergana super-national identity” has emerged, one in which people from the different nationalities there feel they have much in common.

            “For residents of the Fergana Valley,” he continues, “a Fergana Tajik and a Fergana Kyrgyz are much closer mentally to one another than an Uzbek born in Khorezm. I can say this with authority if only for the simple reason that I am a Khoremian from my father’s side and a Fergana person from my mother’s.”

            According to Nazarov, “the ethno-socio-cultural difference between Khorezm and fergna Uzbeks is greater than the difference between the Spanish and the French.” Similarly, “the difference between north and south in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan is also quite clear.” That means that many conflicts listed as ethnic are in fact not.

            Bakhtiyer Ergashev, an independent Tashkent scholar, is much less optimistic. He sees Islam making inroads in the Fergana largely because the official Islamic hierarchy is weak and the radicals are able to move from one ethnic group to another there more easily than almost anywhere else in Central Asia.

            For that reason and as a result of demographic and economic changes, he continues, the Fergana continues to have “a very serious potential” for triggering conflicts across the entire Central Asian region, conflicts that outside powers because of their activities may make even more likely.

            Ergashev notes that he “was born and grew up in the Fergana Valley and therefore if I say something then this is not only an expert opinion obtained via the Internet but also by personal experience in the region. He says he is glad that other speakers are more optimistic about the future of the Fergana than he is but has his doubts.

            He says that as for himself and those in the region he knows, he no longer has such optimism and fears that the Fergana is going to prove as explosive as many predicted only a few decades ago.

Moscow Seeks to Play Down Problems of Ethnic Kazakhs in China

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 26 – As in Soviet times, Moscow is seeking to downplay the problems ethnic Kazakhs face in China lest their problems lead to more outmigration of Kazakhs from China and increased tensions not only between Kazakhstan and China but also between Kazakhstan and Moscow.

            In the 1960s and 1970s, approximately 11,000 ethnic Kazakhs came from China to Kazakhstan every year, although Moscow seldom said anything about that. Since 1991, approximately one-third of the 1.1 million ethnic Kazakhs who returned to Kazakhstan from abroad came from China.

            So far this year, the share of ethnic Kazakhs who have returned to China is running at only half the rate it was, with 16.3 percent of all returnees to Kazakhstan coming from there. But that dip may be seasonal (

            However that may be, Moscow is concerned about signs that the situation of ethnic Kazakhs in China is having an increasing impact on Kazakhstan because of concerns that their co-nationals in China are being subject to intense pressure to learn Chinese and other forms of Sinification.

            The latest manifestation of this Russian concern comes from Moscow commentator Aleksey Baliyev who says that any fears Kazakhstan has are the product of Western efforts to drive a wedge between Kazakhstan, on the one hand, and China and Russia, on the other (

            Baliyev concedes that the ethnic Kazakhs in China are being subject to Sinification but argues that their language rights are nonetheless being protected and that Kazakhstan should not view what Beijing is doing as a threat to itself but rather as a means to further integrate the ethnic Kazakhs into Chinese society.

            That argument is unlikely to impress many Kazakhs, but it may impress many who analyze what is going on in Central Asia with regard to China – and, indeed, it is entirely possible that Baliyev and other Moscow writers are more concerned about their judgments than they are about those of the Kazakhs.

Ingush Independence Committee Forms Ingush Liberation Army, Says Its Getting Volunteers

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 26 – The Committee for Ingush Independence, formed earlier this year ( says that it has formed an Ingush Liberation Army (ĞALĞAY KORTAMUQ̇ALEN ESKAR) and that volunteers are now signing up.

            The announcement, which appeared on the group’s telegram channel (, has been picked up by other Ingush outlets but cannot be independently confirmed ( and

            The Committee says it has taken this step to be prepared for “the coming disintegration of the Russian Federation which will inevitably lead to conflicts within Russian elites and the formation of all kinds of PMCs and ban formations that have been and will be created by the powers in the Kremlin.”

            Its specific goal, the Committee says, will be “the restoration of the territorial integrity of Ingushetia (GIalgIaiche) and the defense of its borders from possible aggressive actions by Russian satellites,” a clear reference in the Ingush case to Chechnya, which has taken part of Ingushetia, and North Ossetia, which occupied another part.

            According to the declaration, the new force will oppose efforts by Moscow to deceive the Ingush people and draw them into conflicts with all others. “We cannot allow that since Russia has frequently demonstrated its inability to keep to anything it agrees … The Ingush people is capable of defending its interest and rights … and the creation of the Ingush army is one of the means to achieve that goal.”

            The new force has announced its table of ranks and also created a flag which “consists of five equal horizontal stripes: two green, top and bottom and three white in between. The ratio o fthe height of the banner to its width is 3 to 5, and it carries an inscription in Arabic which reads “none is worthy of worship except Allah; and Muhammed is his messenger.”

            What is most striking about all this is the increasing role of Islam in Ingush thinking as tensions there rise, a pattern that may extend to other regions as well and that Moscow can be counted on to exploit against these republics in their hopes to gain support from governments in the West. 

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Russians Feel Less Connected to But More Responsible for Former Union Republics than They Did 30 Years Ago, VTsIOM Polls Show

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 25 – The VTsIOM polling agency, which is closely linked to the Kremlin, says that over the course of the last three decades, Russians have seen their links to the people of the other union republics decline; but at the same time, they have increasingly come to believe that Russia and Russians bear responsibility for stability and security across the region.

            Over the last 30 years, the share of Russians who feel connected by family ties or friendships with people in other former union republics has dropped to the point that 74 percent now say they don’t have such ties, up from 52 percent in 1993 (

            But over the same period, the share of Russians who believe that their country is uniquely responsible for peace and stability across the former Soviet space has risen from 65 percent in 1993 to 80 percent now – although the percentage saying the opposite has also risen from 10 percent 30 years ago to 14 percent now.

            Presumably these last two figures include the three percent in 1993 and the 11 percent now that VTsIOM found who believe that Russia is pursuing an imperialistic policy with respect to its neighbors.

Kremlin Now Seeking to Block Not Just Critical Russian-Language Outlets but English Ones as Well, Soldatov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 25 – In the past, the Kremlin focused on closing down or otherwise restricting Russian-language outlets critical of Putin and his war, Andrey Soldatov says, now “it appears to be going after those published in English as well,” a significant expansion in the regime’s efforts to “control the narrative about Russian government activities.”

            Soldatov, a longtime specialist on Russian special services and their efforts to control the media, made that observation after Moscow this week blocked the websites of major Western think tanks that had had been available inside Russia to those who can read English (

            Given the ready availability of machine translations, language is less of a barrier than it once was; and it certainly appears that the Kremlin has decided to try to ensure that materials in English and other foreign languages don’t reach a Russian audience if they contain criticism of the regime.

            That constitutes a significant escalation in the Kremlin’s censorship efforts and is likely to be accompanied by attacks direct and otherwise on Western outlets that criticize Putin’s war in Ukraine as part of a still broader effort to control the narrative not only in Russia but beyond its borders as well.


Putin is Bombing Ukraine to Make It Look Just Like Russia Beyond the Ring Road, Muscovites Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 25 – Russians have come up with their own explanation as to why Vladimir Putin continues his brutal bombing campaign against Ukrainian housing blocks. According to them, he wants to make Ukraine look just like Russia beyond the ring road around Moscow does and thus support his claim that the two nations are really only one.

            That is one of the anecdotes Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova offers in her latest collection ( Among the best of the rest are the following:

·       Russians say that degradation may have a definite beginning, but it has no end in sight.

·       Having learned on Moscow television that the earth is flat, Russians say that people are lucky in that the earth lies horizontally and not vertically. Otherwise, everyone would fall off.

·       A Putin official asked a magic goldfish to grant him his wish of restoring the Russian Empire. The magic fish asked if he had thought that request through but then granted it after the official said that he already had everything else he wanted. The Putin man was returned to 1831 where he was a serf being beaten by his masters.

·       Kremlin propaganda makes no sense, but it doesn’t have to. After all, those who want to believe will; and those still capable of thinking won’t.

·       Wagner commander Prigozhin says that Putin’s plan includes daily lists of street corners and traffic lights in Bakhmut that his men have to take.

·       Foreign Minister Lavrov says the world has approached a line even more dangerous than the ones it reached in the Cold War. Russians respond by suggesting that since he approached that line, he should now crawl away.


Approaching End of Today’s Russia More Likely to Resemble 1918 than 1991

Below is the text from which I spoke to the Sixth Forum of Free Peoples of PostRussia, Washington, D.C., this past week. A Russian translation is available at

 Approaching End of Today’s Russia More Likely to Resemble 1918 than 1991

            Ever more people around the world recognize that the Russian Federation is on its way the dustbin of history, but most of them assume that the coming disintegration of that country will resemble what happened in 1991. While there are some elements likely to be in common with the events of 30 years ago, the future disintegration of the Russian Federation almost certainly will be like not the remarkably quick and easy divorce of 1991 and resemble instead the vastly most complicated, difficult, and in part quickly reversed results of the events of 1918 when Russia earlier fell apart along ethnic and regional lines only to have much of its territory reunited under Moscow’s yoke because of divisions among its opponents and the facility with which the Bolsheviks exploited them.

 Understanding why the events looming on the horizon are going to be fundamentally different than those of 1991 and fundamentally similar to those of 1918 is critical not only for the peoples involved and the strategies they should adopt but also and perhaps especially important for outside governments who are again going to face a greater challenge than three decades ago, one that they need to meet in radically different ways, lest the gains of disintegration be lost by a reintegration made possible as was the case a century ago by the outsiders doing just enough to contribute to the rise of a new kind of patriotism but not enough to achieve what the outsiders in fact hoped for then or now.

 Obviously, these differences between now and 1991, the similarities between the present situation in 1918, and the consequences for both those immediately involved and those who want to help them are numerous and ramified, far too large to cover in a single comment. But there are at least five major reasons in each case that deserve to be mentioned and may serve as a warning against fighting the wrong war as all too often happens with politicians as well as with generals. At the very least, even these can serve as a cautionary notice to those who now assume that what they hope for will be achieved easily and quickly.

 Among the reasons that 2024 will not be like 1991, the following five are especially important:

 ·       First, in 1991, almost everyone knew what the prospects were as far as the numbers of countries that would emerge from the disintegration of the USSR and what their borders would be. There were 15 union republics, if one counts the occupied Baltic states among them, and thus there would be 15 countries. And the administrative borders they had would become state borders at the insistence of both Moscow and the West. Now, no one has any idea how many states will arise from the demise of the Russian Federation, with numbers running from one – the Kremlin’s preference – to more than a 100; no one knows what their borders will be; and no one knows who will be in charge of particular places. That very complexity and its dangers leads many to adopt a status quo approach but such an approach by definition only lays a delayed action mine under the entire situation as Putin’s moves in Ukraine and elsewhere show.

 ·       Second, ethnicity is not going to be the only factor in the future as it was in 1991. Regions and sub-ethnic groups are going to play a role, either by separating or uniting; and that means that no one can say in advance what the principles will be for state organization – unless and until outsiders declare certain ideas such as democracy and non-aggression as fundamental. State structures are going to have to be built from the bottom up rather than simply rechristened as was the case after 1991. Again, that makes the entire situation more uncertain and more complicated and will dispose many to favor the status quo as perhaps the lesser evil.

 ·       Third, at least in principle, the disintegration of the USSR took place according to the Soviet constitution. The future disintegration of the Russian Federation will not have that advantage – or alternatively that constraint. Because what happened could be presented as “legal” and hence “legitimate,” it was far easier for those who rechristened themselves as democratic and national leaders to win out than it will be for those without that asset but at the same time, the new leaders who do emerge likely will be more genuine than many of those who held on to power between soviet times and the aftermath.

 ·        Fourth, in 1991, Russia had a leader committed not to using massive force to preserve the status quo. Gorbachev was guilty of using force on occasion, especially in the Caucasus and the Baltics; but he was not prepared to drown opposition in blood. Does anyone think that Putin is the same?

 ·       And fifth, and perhaps most important, in 1991, the non-Russians had an ally in Boris Yeltsin who wanted to escape from Kremlin control and was prepared to have the non-Russian republics leave in order for the Russian Federation to be on its own. Obviously, there are some Russians who think the same way now; but there is absolutely no one in a position of power in Moscow who does. Moreover, there are too few even among those who are called the Russian opposition to change this balance quickly.

 Among the reasons that 2024 will resemble in some critical ways 1918, the following five are especially important:

·       First, in 1918, the Russian state had disintegrated and various groups small and large sought a place in the sun, forming their own republics and armies and both cooperating and competing with each other. The situation in the future is likely to be far more similar to that than was 1991.

 ·       Second, 1918 was about regions not just ethnicities, with regional identities far more important in much of the country than ethnic ones. That is also true now, and I stand by my argument that regionalism is going to be the nationalism of the next Russian revolution.

 ·       Third, like in 1918, Moscow remains committed to recapturing the entire periphery; and outsiders, including the West are divided between those who favored a weak but single state and those who feared a strong state that had gotten rid of what for many was ballast.

 ·       Fourth, because outsiders were divided, they collectively did just enough to tar those Moscow opposed as “foreign agents” and to develop a Red patriotism which ultimately allowed Moscow to defeat most but not all of those who sought to form their own countries.

 ·       And fifth, the diversity of the structures first created from below and then destroyed by Moscow’s reoccupation was so daunting that many outsiders viewed the restoration of order as more useful than it was, failing to see that the restoration set the stage for repression and imperial revenge.

 And among the reasons that those outsiders who want to help the peoples of northern Eurasia achieve freedom, peace and democracy need to recognize, the following five are especially important:

 ·       First, the West needs to recognize its mistake in 1991 when it proclaimed just about everyone a democrat and assumed privatization of the economy would solve everything, including weaning leaders from aggressive and repressive tendencies. If one wants democracy, rule of law, and obedience to international law, one must work to promote those things; if one assumes the economy will do that as all too many in the West did 30 years ago, the results will be what they have been.

 ·       Second, for all the problems that disintegration of the Russian Federation will inevitably involve, if the goal is to eliminate repression and imperial revanchism, that is the only way forward in the case of many areas. Hence being for what some call secession is in fact the best way to achieve what are the most important goals of the West now. Short of that, the West must promote genuine federalism for those parts that don’t go their own way. That will require a far more interventionist approach but there is again no other way.

 ·       Third, the West, as well as the non-Russians and many regionalists, must recognize that there will be some Russian state left at the end of the decolonizing and de-imperializing effort. That state must be a democracy and a federation. Otherwise, it will be a threat.

 ·       Fourth, the West must recognize that its role will have to be far larger than it has ever been in the past and far more invasive as far as many in Russia will view it. Managing that will not be easy; but failing to adopt that strategy will only postpone problems rather than prevent their reemergence. Had the West insisted on genuine federalism in the Russian Federation, there would have been no Putin and no war in Ukraine.

 ·       And fifth, the West must promote cooperation among Russians and non-Russians rather than assuming that this is impossible; and it must take the lead in having them talk to each other. If that doesn’t happen, then there is a very real danger that 2024 will end not as 1991 but as 1918 – and that will be a tragedy for everyone.



Friday, April 28, 2023

Domestic Air Ticket Prices Likely to Soar Unless Moscow Extends Massive Subsidies, Industry Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 24 – In 2022, the Russian government provided national air carriers with 100 billion rubles (1.4 billion US dollars) in subsidies to cope with the costs imposed by the Western response to Putin’s decision to expand his invasion of Ukraine. But it considered that a one-time deal, something it would not have to do again.

            But the carriers, including Aeroflot and its daughter company Pobeda, allocated those subsidies in ways that suggested they expected such subsidies to continue; and their leaders have warned the government that unless that happens, prices for domestic air tickets may go up by as much as 30 percent before the end of the year (

            In the short term, that would likely kill the Kremlin’s program to boost domestic tourism at a time when many foreign countries are off limits to Russians. But in the longer term, it will have far more fateful consequences, leading to a radical decline in contacts among the far-flung regions of that country.

            More than almost any other country on earth, Russia relies on air travel to compensate for its lack of highways and railways in large parts of the country. Historically, Moscow has subsidized flights and smaller airports to hold things together. But financial exigencies created by the Ukrainian war are making that increasingly difficult to sustain.

            For background on Russian regional air travel, the history of Moscow subsidies, and the decay of Russian domestic air transportation which was in trouble even before Ukraine, see,, and

VPN Helps Russian Internet Users But Hasn’t Become the All-Powerful Defense Some Expected

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 21 – In the battle between the Russian government which wants to control the Internet access of its population and Russians who want to be free to visit whatever sites they want, many expected the virtual private networks (VPNs) to give an overwhelming advantage to the latter.

            VPNs, which allow an individual user to portray himself or herself as located in a different place or even different country, certainly give users advantages; but for those to be effective, people have to know about VPN technology and actually put it in place. The results from Russia so far are mixed.

            The independent Levada polling agency has just released the results of a survey on the relationship between access to the Internet and the use of VPNs ( The agency’s findings are both encouraging and discouraging.

            According to the sociologists, every fifth individual it questioned has experienced difficulties in the past month alone in gaining access to digital services. Every fourth of all who turn to the Internet already use VPNS, but these are primarily young people, those opposed to the government and residents of the Russian capital.

            The share of all users who experience difficulties in access has declined over the last year. Last month, five percent said they regularly encountered such problems, 11 percent said they did so several times, six percent said they faced them once or twice a month, but strikingly 76 percent said they did not encounter such problems.

            A quarter of those questioned said they use VPNs for acess 12percent regularly and 13 percent sometimes. An additional 30 percent said they knew about such technology but didn’t use it. But a whopping 43 percent said they were hearing about it for the first time when surveyed by Levada.


Ban on Annexations Putin has Now Violated Allowed the Cold War to Remain Cold, Skobov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 27 – The international order which arose after 1945 was based “on the idea of limiting rivalry between states,” an idea that “followed naturally from the principles of liberal democracy which are based on limiting domestic political struggles to non-violent forms,” according to Aleksandr Skobov.

            The Russian analyst concedes that “it wasn’t possible to completely eliminate violence from international relations at that time. The contradictions between ‘the players’ were simply too great. But some propositions were agreed to and were respected by all parties” (

            Among the most important of these was the ban on territorial annexations, Skobov says. That ban “was observed throughout the years of the Cold war, and it is precisely that ban which allowed that conflict to remain generally ‘cold.’” That is the ban that Vladimir Putin has concluded he can violate with impunity despite these broader implications.

            “History has shown,” the commentator concludes, “that over the course of long-term rivalries in which interstate violence is at least partially limited by legal norms and prohibitions, despotic social models lose out to democratic ones.” That is why the West assumed after 1991 that the demise of the remaining autocracies was inevitable, “a done deal.”

            Western leaders “assumed that the remaining autocracies would abide by the existing legal restrictions on violence and that when the latter lost within these restrictions, they would have no choice but to accept their historical defeat.” These leaders failed to understand that new autocrats had no intention to suffer defeats or to put up with these restrictions.

            For these autocrats, no one has the right to judge a state for what it does against its own population and “international law is nothing more than a beautiful package in which the strong wrap up their gangster agreements ‘according to their own concepts’ about ‘spheres of domination.’”

            “In short,” Skobov says, “law as such doesn’t exist at all. There is only power, the will to use it, and ‘interests.” And it is this picture of the world that is shared by many Chinese officials as the statement of the Chinese ambassador to Paris shows that Beijing has only partially denied and Vladimir Putin who denies no aspect of it.

        According to Skobov, “Putin’s conditions have long been known: the assignment to him of the occupied portion of Ukraine and the establishment of his actual protectorate over the rest of it, with complete control over Kyiv’s foreign and domestic policies.” Beijing may not be entirely happy by Putin’s timing, but it isn’t opposed to his logic.
               And to ensure that Beijing doesn’t try something along the same lines Putin has, Putin must be defeated in Ukraine and the ban on annexations at a minimum must be restored and maintained.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

No One Believed Putin had a Double Until His Spokesman Denied It, Russians Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 24 – There has been much speculation that Putin has one or more doubles, but Russians say that no one believed that or that he spends his time in bunkers until his spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied both things, a sure sign, people say, that just the reverse of Peskov’s words is true.

            That is just one of the anecdotes people in Moscow are now telling each other that journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova has assembled and posted online ( The best of the rest of this latest harvest include:

·       Russia’s wealthiest gained 152 billion more US dollars last year, an indication that there is no misfortune their country can suffer that the ruling elite will not manage to profit from.

·       Sign on an elevator in a Moscow apartment building: there is no need to deface it with graffiti: after all, no Americans will be riding it; and Russians won’t read anything that is written there.

·       Environmental activist Greta Thunberg is encouraging Russians to stop sitting at home and walk through rural areas near Moscow. Otherwise, the ticks there won’t have enough to eat.

·       One Duma deputy wants to eliminate English from school curriculums so that Russian young people won’t have their heads filled with unnecessary things and instead will be ready to die in Ukraine.

·       The St. Petersburg legislative assembly wants to ban advertising of sex services because at present, people are spending too much on them and not making contributions to victory in the special military operation.

·       The real surprise after it was announced that Peskov’s son is in the Wagner forces is not that he is fighting at Bakhmut but that his car, without any obvious driver, is still circulating through the streets of Moscow. A technological miracle courtesy of Elon Musk.