SNOWDEN. Despite Washington’s promise that it would neither execute nor torture Snowden (!!) Russia granted him temporary asylum for a year. Obama has cancelled the bilateral meeting with Putin at the St Petersburg G20 meeting. Meanwhile, Ilyas Akhmadov remains in the USA. What goes around, comes around. Also, see Browder. Why should Russia cooperate? By the way, there is some body of opinion that holds that espionage charges are normally not extraditable offences, being “political”. (Strongly argued here).
BROWDER. A Russian court found Browder guilty of tax evasion and asked Interpol to put out a “Red Notice” on him. Interpol refused, citing “a predominantly political nature” of the case. Ah well, the Khodorkovskiy trial was political too. Until it wasn’t. Unsurprising: Browder as a crook would obliterate the foundations of the Magnitskiy Bill. But what difference does a “Red Notice” make? See Andrey Borodin.
RATINGS. A recent Levada poll shows that the ratings of both Putin and his pedestal party are up. The trend – Levada’s been at this for a long time – shows that Putin’s approval rating has crashed from the dizzying heights of 88% in 2008 to the abyssal depth of 64% in May 2013. Or so you are told: “wanes” “Katrina moment” “weaker” “lowest” “booed”. Few Western politicians can imagine 64% after a few years in office. If anything the anti-Putin campaign and continual booming of “democratic leaders”, one after forgotten other, increase his popularity among Russians, who don’t like being told what to think any more than anyone else.
NAVALNIY. I highly recommend that you take the time to read Alexander Mercouris’ analysis of the trial; long, but he covers a lot of points. (summary here). Agree or disagree, but you’ll be much better informed than by the Western coverage. Meanwhile Navalniy’s out campaigning for Mayor of Moscow; likely to come second but the question is whether he’ll get more than 10% of the vote as the incumbent romps to victory. A Levada poll shows that his popularity does not increase with familiarity. .
THE LATEST ANTI-RUSSIA CAMPAIGN. The famous law is actually an amendment which prohibits “propaganda of homosexuality among minors”. But already we are told that “homosexuality is against the law” and that it’s just like Hitler. Anybody smell an organised campaign here? By the way, American Stoli comes from Latvia. Watch this video; you’ll figure out what’s happening (not what you’ve been told to expect. Warning: it might be a put-up job to manufacture some anti-Russia “evidence”; if so, it backfired.). Also check out this story as an indication that there are – as usual – more nuances than you’re told. While in Moscow, have a Russian Stoli in one of these places.
ANOTHER RUSSIA. They say about a million people paid their respects to an important religious relic in Russia; certainly eyewitnesses spoke of enormous lineups in Moscow.
MARKETS. Last week a policeman, attempting to arrest an accused rapist was severely beaten by a mob: one arrest has been made. A clampdown has begun. Moscow’s markets are notoriously gang-ridden and hideouts for illegal immigrants and sweat shops. A tent camp has been set up to house people to be deported – several hundred already and hundreds of arrests have been made. At least one sweatshop depending on exploitation of illegals has been uncovered. This activity has only a temporary effect of course but a longer lasting one may be found in an examination the Investigative Committee has begun on the possible (likely actually) corrupt relationship between police, bureaucrats and traders at these markets.
PIKE. Putin caught a fish the other day. An absurd amount of coverage showing how far Putin Derangement Syndrome has metastasised. It’s always hard to pick the worst but I nominate Yulia Latynina (an official Freedom Defender): “The huge pike is right out of Freud, or to be more exact, from Jung. It is the archetype of the Russian soul.” On the other hand, it might just be a big fish. I often wonder whether Putin does these things (he does, after all, take a cameraman) in order to get a good laugh at the reactions.
ANNIVERSARY. What a lot has changed. A new government in Tbilisi; Saakashvili soon to be gone. But what remains is mistrust in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the declaration. Be a long time, if ever, until that stops. IF the new government apologises sincerely for attacks since the late 1980s; IF arrests are made of the guilty; IF Georgia becomes the sort of country that you might want to be a part of; IF enough time goes by; THEN maybe. Meanwhile a poll says nearly half of Russians have good feelings towards Georgia.