By Gabriela Perdomo - Monday, March 5, 2012 - 0 Comments
Just hours after a weeping Vladimir Putin claimed victory in Sunday’s presidential election in…
Just hours after a weeping Vladimir Putin claimed victory in Sunday’s presidential election in Russia, monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) said the ballot had been “clearly skewed” in his favour. The BBC reports that election monitors witnessed irregularities and received complaints of fraud.
A press release on the front page of the OSCE’s website is titled: “Russia’s presidential election marked by unequal campaign conditions, active citizens’ engagement, international observers say.”
The release goes on to say:
(…) all candidates had access to the media, but the Prime Minister was given a clear advantage over his competitors in terms of media presence. In addition, state resources were mobilized at the regional level in his support. Also, overly restrictive candidate registration requirements limited genuine competition.
(…) Voting on election day was assessed positively overall, but the process deteriorated during the vote count which was assessed negatively in almost one-third of polling stations observed due to procedural irregularities.
The count so far has Putin on top with 63 per cent of the vote.
After serving two terms as president, Putin was sworn in as prime minister in 2008; he was constitutionally barred from serving a third consecutive term in office. His ally Dmitry Medvedev occupied the presidency while Putin prepared his comeback.
By Michael Petrou - Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 12:07 PM - 0 Comments
Michael Petrou is in Russia to cover Sunday’s election, which Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win. He’ll be posting all the latest from the celebrations and/or protests below. Follow him on Twitter: @michaelpetrou. Continue…
By Gabriela Perdomo - Friday, March 2, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
With pollsters predicting he will secure 66 per cent of the popular vote, Vladimir…
With pollsters predicting he will secure 66 per cent of the popular vote, Vladimir Putin is expected to win this Sunday’s presidential election in Russia following his four-year stint as prime minister. He will replace Dmitry Medvedev, whom he had hand picked to keep his seat warm while he could pretend he wasn’t president for a full term.
The election itself might be a breeze, but recent public demonstrations against Putin’s shameless comeback indicate people could mobilize in post-election protests. Putin is well aware of that. The Associated Press quoted him saying Wednesday that his opponents could be plotting to kill an opposition figure after the election just to blame it on the authorities and have an excuse to protest:
“They are looking among well-known people for a sacrificial victim,” Putin said during a televised meeting with campaign activists. “They could, I’m sorry, knock someone off and then blame the authorities.”
While Russians might be in for another four years of the same, international consensus is building around a Putin-in-decline narrative. This week, The Economist titles one of its main articles “The beginning of the end of Putin.”
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 8:10 AM - 0 Comments
International fur buyers are snapping up pelts at record prices. Nicholas Kohler went inside the auction house.
When lot No. 19002—a polar bear skin more than 10 feet in length—came up for auction in North Bay, Ont., a few Saturdays ago, Zhiqing Xu lifted his hand in the air and just left it there. The unorthodox manoeuvre forced Mark Downey, the auctioneer at the time, to belt out the skin’s rocketing price in one long, voice-destroying tear. Beside Xu sat his 21-year-old son Jason, who acted as interpreter and whispered a running translation of Downey’s rapid-ﬁre patter into his father’s ear: “$53 is here, fiftythreefiftyfourfiftyfiveandfiftysixandfiftyseven, $57 is left, $58 is Billy, $59, and $60’s there—HOOO!!!—$60’s right, it’s on the right at $60—HOOO!!!—your bid’s sixtyoneandsixtytwo . . . ”
Even as the dollar figure soared, that arm stayed ﬁxed, raised in a gesture that told competing bidders: back off. Xu, who moved to Vancouver from Beijing several years ago, went on to capture lot No. 19002. The price: $8,400. He spent thousands more on a second polar bear hide and a timber wolf skin. “Polar bear is a rare animal,” Jason, translating for his father, later told Maclean’s. “Not a lot of other places sell them—only Canada.”
Only Canada and, but for the small handful of polar bear pelts available each year at a competing auction house in Toronto, only at the Fur Harvesters Auction in North Bay, a town of 54,000 a few hours north of Toronto perched on the frozen lip of Lake Nipissing, a Group of Seven winter postcard come to life. The auction, which specializes in wild rather than ranched fur—from beaver to bobcat to muskrat to raccoon and coyote—has operated here in one form or another since 1947 and has long attracted international buyers. In the past, those fur shoppers came mainly from the U.S., Italy, Greece and other traditional fur-buying nations.
By Jen Cutts - Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
Cypriot officials let a Russian ship loaded with ammunition sail on to Syria
A Russian ship’s clandestine cargo has made plain the country’s cosy relationship with Cyprus, says the U.K.’s Guardian. The MS Chariot was carrying 60 tonnes of ammunition bound for Syria when it made an unplanned stop at the Cypriot port of Limassol. Cyprus, a member of the European Union, should have held up the ship; the EU has banned arms sales to the Syrian regime, to hamstring its brutal backlash to its citizens’ calls for change (Russia is unwavering in its support of Syria, a key ally). Instead, Cypriot officials skipped inspections and allowed the Chariot to refuel and set sail, after its captain gave his word he would alter his course and head for Turkey. The ship then fell off radar screens. It docked in Syria on Jan. 12.
It’s all evidence of Cyprus’s “embarrassing subservience” to Russia, says an anonymous columnist in the Cyprus Mail. The Guardian points to the many Russians now living in Limassol, a resort town offering all the comforts of home. There’s also the siren call of Cyprus’s low corporate tax rate for Russian businesses. And, last but not least, there’s the 2.5-billion-euro loan Russia has promised to boost Cyprus’s flagging economy. The second instalment was delivered on Jan. 26.
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
A new generation of Russians is saying, enough is enough
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s memories of public protests against an established order are long and—likely for him—disconcerting.
In 1989, Putin was working for Russia’s KGB spy agency in the East German city of Dresden. His tasks included recruiting agents. Shortly after the Berlin Wall was breached, an angry crowd of Germans besieged the KGB office, which was located next to an office of the Stasi East German secret police. They wanted files on informants. Putin took it upon himself to confront them. He said the office didn’t belong to the Stasi but to the Soviet Union, and armed men inside would defend it. Some reports say Putin himself carried a weapon. When some in the crowd grew suspicious and questioned Putin about his excellent German, he told them he was a translator.
Putin managed to calm everyone down. The crowd dispersed. But Putin—who earlier in the evening telephoned a local Soviet army unit and was told it could do nothing—must have known the gig was up. East and West Germany were reunited within a year, and the Soviet Union itself collapsed soon after. A seemingly unshakable political order had dissolved, in large part because ordinary citizens had filled streets and public squares to demand its end.
By macleans.ca - Monday, December 12, 2011 at 12:41 PM - 0 Comments
Former finance minister calls for new party, Russian billionaire to run for president
A long-time ally of Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Valdimir Putin has proposed the creation of a new liberal party, Reuter’s reports. Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin says there is a need to counterbalance Putin’s United Russia, especially after the flawed parliamentary elections of Dec. 4. Since then, tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in solidarity against the Putin regime, seeking accountability for rigged election results. There is some concern, however, that Kudrin’s new part would merely be a political decoy for for Putin, providing only a semblance of democratic opening. Some even believe Putin and Kudrin may be working together. After serving as finance minister for Putin for eight years, Kudrin was forced out of government after arguing with President Dimitry Medvedev over excessive military expenditures. As well, the New York Times reports that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who owns the New Jersey Nets basketball franchise in the U.S, among other assets, said he intend to challenge Putin in the upcoming 2012 presidential elections.
By Alex Ballingall - Monday, November 14, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Victor Bout’s native Russia is heaping scorn on his Nov. 3 conviction on four charges of trying to sell weapons to Colombia’s FARC rebels
When Heather Hobson read out the final lines of the jury’s verdict to the Manhattan courtroom where Viktor Bout stood trial, she turned to look squarely at the accused arms dealer. “Guilty,” she said, directly addressing the craggy-faced, mustachioed former Soviet army officer. “It was really, really emotional,” she later told the New York Times. “He’s a very scary man.”
Bout’s native Russia is heaping scorn on his Nov. 3 conviction on four charges of trying to sell weapons to Colombia’s FARC rebels, a band of leftist militants who allegedly intended to use them against Americans. Russia is arguing that the U.S. government illegally pressured the jury into delivering a guilty verdict. They claim his 2010 extradition to the U.S. from Thailand was illegal, and the manner in which he was arrested—a Bangkok sting operation in which American agents posed as FARC rebels—was nothing less than entrapment.
Speaking with Russian state TV, Bout’s wife shared what she told him in jail, where he is now expected to stay for at least 25 years: “No matter what happens, don’t give up, because this is not the end of the story.”
By Jen Cutts - Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 8:15 AM - 0 Comments
Russian authorities found mafia bosses serving time in three secret, pimped-out rooms
Fish tanks, sofa beds, wood panelling—not quite what you’d expect from a Russian jail cell. So when authorities dropped by prison number 12 unannounced earlier this month, and found mafia bosses serving time in three secret, pimped-out rooms, the prison’s governor was quickly out of a job.
The head of the facility in the Volgograd region had allegedly been collecting rubles for allowing the luxurious cells, and for providing comforts like plasma TVs, imported liquor and Internet access. Framed photographs of notorious Russian criminals were hung on the wall, and a collection of handmade knives was also found. The region’s prison service tried to quiet the scandal with a statement claiming the rooms were for counselling, and that the alcohol discovered was in fact nothing but aftershave.
But Russians have heard it all before. A similar scandal played out in April, when photos were posted online of toga-wearing prisoners celebrating a fellow convict’s birthday with caviar and McDonald’s. For prisoners without connections on the outside, Russia’s penal system—recently likened to Stalin’s gulags by the country’s justice minister—is much tougher to endure. The fact that Russia is second only to the U.S. in how many of its citizens are jailed likely isn’t helping.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 15 Comments
The Russian leader is now clear to be president until 2024, but many Russians are voting with their feet
In most official democracies, citizens must wait until an election is held to find out who will be running their country. Russia is different.
Last month, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president and its supposed head of state, told a congress of the ruling United Russia party that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would run for president in March, returning to a job he held from 2000 to 2008. At the same conference, Putin proposed that Medvedev lead the United Russia party list in parliamentary elections, and assume the position of prime minister.
The announcements confirmed what many had long suspected: Putin, forbidden by Russia’s constitution from running for a third consecutive term, had simply appointed Medvedev to keep his seat warm for four years until he, Putin, could return to power. Despite claiming earlier this year that he would like to continue as president, Medvedev admitted the two had cooked up the deal “several years ago.” Putin is now clear to hold the presidency until 2024.
Someone will run against Putin, for appearances’ sake. But the election results are not in question. Putin is far and away the most liked politician in Russia. “If there were a genuinely free and fair election—which there won’t be—then Putin would win it. You can’t get around that,” says James Nixey, a research fellow at Chatham House, a British think tank. “The fact that they rig it anyway is a source of continual amazement for me.”
Putin’s popularity owes something to timing and to luck. His presidency coincided with a steep rise in global energy prices that benefited Russia and allowed it to reassert itself in the former Soviet sphere, using oil and gas as a weapon to bully countries like Ukraine and Georgia that sought closer ties to the West.
By Erica Alini - Monday, October 10, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
Jaroslaw Kaczynski has been rallying Poles against Russia, which he accuses of being involved in his brother’s death
Since his brother, Polish president Lech Kaczynski, died last year, Jaroslaw Kaczynski has been trying to translate that personal and national tragedy into political victory. Last year, the former prime minister and current leader of Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice Party ran to fill the post left empty by his twin, who died with 95 others when a military airplane he was travelling on crashed in Russia on April 10, 2010. Jaroslaw tried to ride the spirit of national unity that had seized Poland by toning down his polarizing views and populist rants, but lost.
Now he’s aiming to reconquer the PM title—with the exact opposite strategy. Ahead of an Oct. 9 parliamentary election, the conservative leader has been rallying Poles against Russia, which he accuses of being involved in his brother’s death. He has also recruited several family members of the victims of the crash, all of them political neophytes, to run for Law and Justice. It’s unclear how well the volte-face is faring with the public, as different polls put voter support for his party as low as 20 and as high as 32 per cent, a mere four percentage points behind the leading Civic Platform party. Moscow must surely be watching closely.
By Alex Derry - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 9:55 AM - 0 Comments
Europe’s highest court bans the hammer and sickle from being trademarked
The Cold War is long over, but a recent intellectual property ruling by the European Union’s highest court shows Communism and capitalism are still at war, even in the world of contemporary fashion. The EU’s Court of Justice has ruled that a Russian designer cannot trademark the coat of arms of the former U.S.S.R. in the EU, on the grounds that it is “contrary to public policy and to accepted principles of public morality.” The decision looked at the case of Hungary, where the hammer and sickle is considered a symbol of despotism, with consideration for “the relevant public living in the part of the European Union which has been subject to the Soviet regime.”
The court’s decision was met mainly with accusations of historical revisionism in Russia, where the coat of arms is considered an unavoidable symbol of Russia’s past. But Oleg Smolin of Russia’s Communist party agrees with at least part of the ruling. “I believe it’s incorrect to exploit the [emblem] as a trademark,” Smolin told Voice of Russia. “A person has to earn money using his or her intellectual capabilities rather than those of the creators of the Soviet emblem.”
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 12:04 PM - 0 Comments
Medvedev angrily decries minister’s open talk on disagreements
Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is no longer in government after an open row with President Dmitry Medvedev. Kudrin angered Medvedev when, citing spending disagreements, he publicly stated that he would refuse to serve once Vladimir Putin is reinstated as president next year. Medvedev called Kudrin an “irresponsible chatterbox,” calling on him to consider resigning immediately. It is unclear whether Kudrin ended up being fired or if he resigned from his post as finance minister. Kudrin was seen as an economic liberal who oversaw Russia’s recovery during its oil boom years, and spearheading tax policies that are credited with attracting foreign capital.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 2 Comments
Russia re-visits plans to build an underwater railway line to North America
It’s that time of the year again, when Russia announces it will build a tunnel all the way to America across the Bering Strait. The ultimate public infrastructure project “is already under way,” an official from the Russian Ministry of Economic Development recently told a local English-language TV station.
In the last couple of months, reports that the Kremlin endorsed building a $90-billion transcontinental railway line linking Siberia to Alaska appeared everywhere from Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper to the U.S.’s Business Insider blog. According to a recent opinion piece in the London Times, “the Russians, Canadians and Americans seem confident that they can muster the political will, technical know-how and massive funds to complete the project.” Washington, however, knew nothing about it, according to the U.S. State Department, and Ottawa gave no comment.
That’s hardly surprising. The Bering Strait tunnel has been a pie-in-the-sky fixture of Russia’s public debate since 1905, when Czar Nicholas II first approved a blueprint for the project. After the Cold War, then-Russian president Boris Yeltsin vowed to build the tunnel to increase transportation links to the U.S., Russia’s new-found friend. This taste for megaprojects is a residue of “the penchant for gigantism that characterized the Soviet Union,” says Aurel Braun, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Soviet officials, he adds, loved to dazzle people with enormous public developments, such as reversing rivers, vast hydroelectric dams, or Magnitogorsk, the largest steel city in the world.
Now, as President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia’s top political duo, gear up for next year’s presidential election, talk of ambitious below-the-sea excavations to connect the world’s two largest continents has resurfaced. With the country drifting further and further away from democracy and the Russian public sliding into political apathy, Braun says, a newly authoritarian Moscow seems to be borrowing a page from Soviet Russia in an attempt to please the masses.
By Colby Cosh - Friday, September 16, 2011 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
The Lokomotiv Yaroslavl tragedy was devastating, but not unpredictable
The catastrophe that annihilated Russian hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl last week was terrible—but not unthinkable. Every top athlete with any significant service time has air-charter horror stories, and while the major North American pro sports have been spared, it is by the narrowest of margins.
In 2009, litigation surrounding the bankruptcy and aborted sale of the Phoenix Coyotes led to the NHL’s hitherto closely guarded bylaws being put on the public record. Those bylaws include an “Emergency Rehabilitation Plan” (ERP) that activates if an NHL club loses five or more players to death or disability in a single incident. Each team is required under the bylaw to carry a catastrophe-insurance policy of $1 million per lost player. The plan foresees an initial, voluntary effort to bring the affected team back up to playing strength, with the insurance money being used to bid for players in outright sale.
Remaining roster holes would be filled in an “ERP draft,” with the other teams protecting one goalie and 10 skaters. Only one player per contributing team could be sold or claimed, and the drafting club would be allowed to replace its losses only on a position-by-position basis. It’s a fascinating exercise for hockey fans to imagine—and one they hope never to see performed.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, July 25, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 1 Comment
We used to think it was ours. But Russia has staked a claim, and the Danes will be next.
The ancient Norsemen believed the mountains and oceans were made from the remains of Ymir—an unlucky “frost ogre” whom the gods slaughtered for the purpose of creating the world. Odin and company were not known for tenderness, but they must have had a sense of humour. The undersea mountain range they left at the top of the planet makes that much clear.
Known as the Lomonosov Ridge, this towering, silt-covered furrow on the ocean floor begins from the nexus of Ellesmere Island and Greenland, then runs some 1,800 km beneath the polar ice cap to an archipelago called the New Siberian Islands. About halfway across, there is a single jag that sticks a couple of hundred kilometres toward the Barents Sea. And there, just below the point of the elbow, under about 4,200 m of frigid water, lies the geographic North Pole.
If they’d had degrees in international boundary law, the creators of the Lomonosov Ridge hardly could have concocted a surer recipe for 21st-century trouble. The Russians laid claim in 2001 to a section of it that includes the pole, and a glance at a relief chart would suggest their claim has merit. By all appearances, the ridge is an extension of the Eurasian continent. Then, last month, leaked documents revealed Danish plans to put dibs on the range based on Greenland’s proximity and apparent geological connections to it. Not to be outdone, Canada is preparing its own claim on territory we’ve long romanticized but historically ignored: this summer, our scientists will take the last in a series of Arctic research voyages intended in part to prove the Lomonosov Ridge is a “natural prolongation” of Ellesmere Island, which it also appears to be. We’re gathering our information with the help of Denmark and the United States—the better to save money and avoid future disputes as to the findings. But make no mistake, we’re in it for ourselves.
The project has amassed an impressive array of data, from the depth of silt across our Arctic shallows to the constitution of the rock going 40 km down. But the geological origins of the Lomonosov Ridge? Well, that’s not so clear. “Russia says it’s a prolongation of their margin, we say it’s a prolongation of ours,” concedes Jacob Verhoef, the federal geologist in charge of Canada’s research mission. “I think the end result is that we both are right.”
That’s a greater level of candour than one hears these days from Moscow, where political leaders speak as though Russia’s Arctic claims require nothing more than the UN’s rubber stamp of approval. But Verhoef’s words are also an acknowledgement that after more than a century of superhuman effort—ill-fated sea voyages, sled-dog expeditions, low-altitude flyovers—we are no closer to answering a question that goes to the heart of any Arctic country’s identity: who, if anyone, owns the North Pole?
We used to think it was ours. Back in 1925, Canada raised eyebrows around the world by declaring as our maritime boundaries the 60th and 141st western meridians, a pie-slice expanse between Alaska and Greenland that converged at, and presumably included the pole. A few months later, the Soviet Presidium passed a law declaring an even larger Arctic domain on its side of the globe, while the recognition of Greenland as Danish territory in 1933 suggested a potential claim for that country between the 60th and 10th western meridians. Both extended in a triangular form toward the pole, as per the so-called “sector principle” countries used at the time to determine polar boundaries.
By Nancy MacDonald, Alex Ballingall, Emma Teitel and Cigdem Iltan - Friday, July 8, 2011 at 8:50 AM - 0 Comments
Prince Harry has a new gal, Thailand elects a woman, and at least one Canadian mayor will march at Pride
They love you, you big hairy ape
A French couple has spent the last 13 years raising a 120-kg gorilla in their home. Zookeepers Pierre and Elianne Thivillon adopted Digit after her mother refused to breastfeed her. Digit spends her days with other animals at the Saint Martin la Plaine Zoo near Lyon, but returns to her adoptive home at night where she sleeps in the Thivillon bed, according to a new BBC documentary. Digit’s brother Ginko used to live there too, but had to return to the zoo after becoming too aggressive. Life with Digit, however, is much more pleasant: she is reportedly gentle with the couple, and has been photographed hugging and kissing them. “We have a very strong bond,” Pierre told Sky News.
Meaghan Blanchard blew every rule of etiquette at once when she seemed to combine “duke” and “duchess” and accidentally called Prince William a “douche,” moments before performing for William and his new wife Kate in Charlottetown. “I can’t believe that just happened,” the red-faced, 22-year-old singer exclaimed. But the royal couple saw the funny side of the gaffe, sharing a hearty laugh, and Blanchard recovered quickly, delivering a flawless performance of the self-penned Waltzing With You. “I felt awful,” Blanchard later said, “but sometimes that’s just life, you gotta roll with the punches.”
By Marni Jackson - Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:25 AM - 0 Comments
Book by Alina Bronsky
This is not a cookbook. And it’s not your average novel, either. Bronsky is a young German writer, born in Russia, whose first novel, Broken Glass Park, was shortlisted for one of Europe’s top literary awards. To judge by this second novel, she’s definitely someone to watch. Her writing is muscular and mordantly funny, and with this book, set in the Soviet Union and Germany, she’s created a magnificently unpleasant and irresistible main character, Rosa Achmetowna. Rosa is profoundly selfish, and doesn’t know it. Her opinion of herself is high, very high. “I stood up elegantly. Not everyone had the ability to gracefully extricate oneself from a soft chair. But I did.” Even when she gives thanks to God before she goes to sleep, she does it so “He wouldn’t feel totally useless.”
Rosa is proud of her intelligence and good looks but despairing of her teenage daughter Sulfia, who is ugly, she declares, and stupid. “And yet somehow she was my daughter.” In fact, Sulfia is a soft-hearted, loving woman who lets her mother ruin her life, drive away her husband and dominate her only daughter, Aminat. All “for her own good,” of course. Rosa is so fixated on the survival of her family and so eager to escape their life in the Soviet Union that she uses her own granddaughter as bait, to snag the affections of a creepy German food writer who is researching ethnic cuisines. Rosa cooks Tartar dishes for him, and the three women leave Russia for the West, where life is hard in a fresh way.
Rosa’s monstrous ability to feed her own ambitions, all in the guise of “caring for others,” would become tedious if Bronsky didn’t manage something impressive as the novel deepens. We begin to feel for Rosa and the profound loneliness she has constructed for herself. And in this comic portrait of a dysfunctional family struggling to survive, we’re also reminded of how capricious our own destinies can be.
By Cynthia Reynolds - Tuesday, June 14, 2011 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Anna Chapman is ready for her next job
Anna Chapman, the New York social climber turned spy babe turned Russian It Girl, has reinvented herself yet again. The 29-year-old beauty has been appointed editor-in-chief of the Russian magazine Venture Business News, tasked with promoting the country’s next generation of entrepreneurs. “I am sure that my knowledge and international experience in the venture capital business will come in handy,” she wrote to her readers, alluding to the online real estate company she ran in New York until last June, when she was busted for spying along with nine other suspected Russian agents operating in the U.S.
Chapman’s ability to use her infamy as a springboard into career opportunities has ignited comparisons to another self-promoter, Paris Hilton. In addition to her new position, Chapman—who holds a master’s in economics—hosts a reality show, is a creative consultant for a Moscow-based bank, and has patented her name for potential lines of clothing, perfume and vodka. She’s appeared on the cover of Russian Maxim, launched an online poker app and rubs elbows with Vladimir Putin. Next? Chapman is expected to run for parliament. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 27, 2011 at 12:02 PM - 25 Comments
“It could come from lack of knowledge of reality,” Vasiliev told The Canadian Press during a major conference on Canada-Norway-Russia Arctic co-operation at Ottawa’s Carleton University. ”I think that time and reality proves that this is all wrong.”
By Jenn Cutts - Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 12:30 PM - 0 Comments
In order to boost Russia’s population, Vladimir Putin is putting big money behind baby-making
What’s Vladimir Putin got on his mind ahead of next year’s elections? Babies. In a speech last month, the prime minister pledged $51 billion for “demographic projects” meant to raise the country’s birth rate by up to 30 per cent in less than five years.
Russia’s population has dropped by 2.2 million people in the last eight years, to just under 143 million. Putin calls the decline Russia’s gravest problem. The billions will fund incentives such as free land for families with three or more children, and increased child-benefit payments. It will also support existing schemes, such as one-time $13,000 payments for mothers of two or three children, and medals for women with many children (a Soviet-era practice Putin rekindled in 2007). In the past, youth roused by Putin’s message set up “sex tents” at summer camps and wore T-shirts declaring, “I want three children.”
Though Russia’s birth rate is comparable to those of many Western countries, it’s compounded by a high death rate. Drug and alcohol abuse has increased sharply since the collapse of the Soviet Union, taking a toll on men in particular.
By Anna Porter - Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 9 Comments
Things are even worse if you happen to be Chechen
The London Book Fair, which ran from April 16 to 18, hardly seemed like the best place for an enthusiastic endorsement of Joseph Stalin’s star-studded achievements. Nevertheless, Russian literary firebrand Mikhail Elizarov told a crowd at a seminar called “Beyond the Headlines: Writing About Russia Today” that Winston Churchill’s murders far outweighed those of Stalin, and furthermore, were it not for Stalin we would all be speaking German. Elizarov, whose novels include Pasternak and The Librarian, was part of the Russian delegation, jointly funded by the British Council and the Academia Rossica. In answer to the question whether journalism in Russia today was a dangerous choice of professions, Elizarov scoffed: “No more so than in the United States.”
While it’s a safe bet that Elizarov belongs to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s new patriotic intelligentsia, it is hard to believe that he would imagine the U.S. is as deadly for journalists as is Putin’s Russia. The International Federation of Journalists has documented over 300 deaths among journalists in Russia, plus hundreds of abductions, disappearances and severe beatings. The 2006 brutal murder of crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and the worldwide protests that followed, have neither slowed the mayhem, nor have there been signs that the authorities are prepared to arrest and prosecute those responsible. Several of her colleagues at Novaya Gazeta have been beaten, threatened or gunned down. In November 2010, investigative journalist Oleg Kashin suffered a fractured skull, broken leg and shattered jaw. There have been no arrests.
While writing about life in Putin’s Russia is dangerous, writing sympathetically about Chechnya must surely be suicidal. The death toll in the Second Chechen War is estimated to be between 25,000 and 50,000. It was her writings about atrocities there that likely killed Politkovskaya. And if journalism is a life-threatening profession for Russians, it must be doubly so for Chechens (two months before the London Book Fair, a Chechen warlord claimed credit for the bomb that killed 37 people at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport).
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 13, 2011 at 10:58 AM - 33 Comments
One cable drafted by U.S. diplomats in Ottawa portrays Mr. Harper as dismissing the need for a military response to Russia over the Arctic. It includes an account from a Canadian official of a January, 2010, meeting between Mr. Harper and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in which the PM said NATO has no role in the Arctic.
“According to PM Harper, Canada has a good working relationship with Russia with respect to the Arctic, and a NATO presence could backfire by exacerbating tensions,” the cable states. “He commented that there is no likelihood of Arctic states going to war, but that some non-Arctic members favoured a NATO role in the Arctic because it would afford them influence in an area where ‘they don’t belong.’ ”
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 10:40 AM - 3 Comments
The wildly popular PM appears to be readying himself for a 2012 presidential run
From China to Tajikistan, the turmoil that has roiled the Middle East in recent months is spoiling the sleep of authoritarian leaders across the world. Not that of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, though. The former president’s popularity held up through both a small war, in Georgia in 2008, and a serious recession, in 2008-2009. Now, with his personal approval rating hovering around 70 per cent, he has said he may run for the presidency in 2012.
Putin has certainly remained front and centre in Russian politics. Roughly a decade after first rising to power in 1999, he still enjoys idol status at home. Admittedly, some of his latest sightings among Hollywood’s glitzy posse may have been a little over the top, even for the Russian public—the PM’s uneasy musical rendering of Blueberry Hill before a beaming Sharon Stone and others at a charity event in St. Petersburg last year apparently didn’t sit well with the home audience. But Putin’s carefully crafted macho-man image, which has seen him hunting in Siberia wearing only green fatigues, whitewater rafting, and even demonstrating judo moves in a popular instructional video, hasn’t tired the Russian public yet.
It projects strength, health and self-discipline. And those virtues are nothing short of inspirational for a nation where a former president, Boris Yeltsin, was drunk in public, where alcoholism and addiction have spread like epidemics, and which came terrifyingly close to social and political meltdown only a decade ago, says Edward Lucas, the author of The New Cold War: Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West. Unlike Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Moammar Gadhaﬁ, whose images as nationalist heroes faded decades ago, Russia observers say Putin is still riding high on political credit for having rescued the Russia of the Yeltsin years from anarchy and near disintegration.
By Julia Belluz - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 6:35 PM - 63 Comments
In his family memoir, The Russian Album, Ignatieff describes his relatives as a group…"My family lost everything in the Russian revolution. They started over again in Canada. They came here with nothing."- Michael Ignatieff
March 20, 2011
Bull Meter score:
In his family memoir, The Russian Album, Ignatieff describes his relatives as a group of privileged, well educated, and well-heeled Russians, who seemed to recover quickly from a tumultuous decade of resettlement following the Bolshevik Revolution. Paul, his grandfather, served as the last Minister of Education in the last Cabinet of the Tsar Nicholas II, and was friends with the likes of Vladimir Nabokov. Paul’s father was a Russian diplomat. Paul’s wife (Ignatieff’s grandmother) was born Princess Natasha Mestchersky on an estate, and travelled to Paris to learn the “rudiments of cooking” at Le Cordon Bleu.
According to the memoirs of Ignatieff’s late father George, The Making of a Peacemonger, when the family fled Russia as the revolution was unfolding, they ended up in London in 1919 with £25,000 in the bank. After living on a country estate for almost a decade, they moved to a rented farm in Montreal, with much of their wealth depleted. But by the time George reached high school, the Ignatieffs had the financial wherewithal to send him to the prestigious prep school, Lower Canada College. They also had connections: a contact of prime minister Mackenzie King fast tracked the family’s citizenship so George could go off to Oxford University on the Rhodes Scholarship in 1936. As Michael Ignatieff notes in The Russian Album, “[My father] presented himself to the world throughout my childhood as the model of an assimilated Canadian professional.”
Alas, it’s a stretch for Ignatieff to say his family came to Canada with “nothing.” To their credit, they made a seemingly successful transition to Canadian life, and rose quickly up the social ladder here.
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