Archive for the ‘Inside Russia’ category

Russians celebrate cucumber festival

July 19, 2009

Updated July 20, 2009

From BBC

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Window on Eurasia: What Could the Kremlin Do If Kadyrov was behind Estemirova’s Killing?

July 18, 2009

July 18, 2009

By Paul Goble

Vienna, July 18 – If as many believe but no one has yet proved, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov was behind the murder of journalist and rights activist Natalya Estemirova, Moscow would face a serious dilemma, according to “Yezhednevny zhurnal” commentator Leonid Radzikhovsky.

If it attempted to bring Kadyrov to justice, he writes, it could do so only at the risk of starting a new Chechen war, given that Kadyrov has a personal guard of several “tens of thousands” of armed men and given that anyone Moscow might impose on that republic would likely behave in much the same way to provide the “stability” the center wants.

But if it attempted to suppress or ignore evidence linking Kadyrov to this crime, then the consequences would be almost as bad: Moscow would in effect be “yet again LEGALIZING this ‘order of things’” and “yet again showing Kadyrov his COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE from the Center” (

“What is the way out?” Radzikhovsky asks his readers, and then suggests that the Russian government would do what most governments would do in such a situation: follow the principle of political expediency and do nothing. But while that likely reflects the attitudes of most in the Russian government, their feelings appear likely to be tested in the coming days.

Prosecutors have opened a murder investigation, but in Chechnya itself, Kadyrov, who has disclaimed any responsibility, has announced that he is taking direct control of it, something that those who suspect he had a role in the journalist’s death and thus has something to hide do not find reassuring.

Moreover, the Chechen president has announced through his lawyer that he will bring suit against Oleg Orlov, the head of the Memorial Human Rights Center for his statement that the Chechen president had threatened to kill Estemirova and was responsible for her death (

Orlov says he welcomes the chance to respond and to lay out the evidence he has – in much the same way some in other countries have used wrongful death suits in cases where a murderer has gotten away with it either because charges were not brought or the jury decided not to convict.

And rights activists have pledged to support Orlov and Memorial in this.  But as Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group put it, there is only one way to find the truth: “Let Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin stop protecting Kadyrov … let the  investigation against Kadyrov go forward” (

“Perhaps then,” the dean of Russia’s human rights activists said, “I will believe that sometime with us will appear a just court and organs that defend the law rather than violate it.”  Given these passions and this court case, questions about Kadyrov are not going to go away quickly or easily, and that creates a serious problem for Moscow.

In Munich yesterday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev felt compelled, while rejecting Orlov’s charges that Kadyrov was behind Estemirova’s murder, to promise a careful investigation of the crime and to express his conviction that the guilty parties will be identified and punished “according to Russian criminal law” (

Meanwhile, in an interview with, Geidar Dzhemal, a prominent left-wing Muslim activist, underscored just how high the stakes have become.  According to him, the attacks on Kadyrov are in fact attacks on Putin, intended to unsettle and possibly rearrange the political scene in the Russian capital (

While Dzhemal’s views may be extreme, there is a recent Russian precedent for what he says.  Putin did everything he could to save Murat Zyazikov as president of Ingushetia after the latter was accused in the court of public opinion of being behind the murder of one of his political opponents, but Medvedev successfully sought his removal.

In place of Zyazikov, the Russian president appointed Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who now lies in a Moscow hospital recovering from an assassination attempt – a concatenation of events that cannot be comforting for either Medvedev or Putin as they are forced to contemplate the much bigger problem posed by the violent, often thuggish Kadyrov.

Supporters hold rally to honor slain human rights activist

July 17, 2009

July 17, 2009

RIA Novosti

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Helsinki Commission condemns murder of Russian human rights activist Natalya Estemirova

July 16, 2009

July 16, 2009

U.S. Helsinki Commission

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Remembering Natalia

July 16, 2009

July 16, 2009

Lucy Ash, of BBC News

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The START Follow-on Agreement: Prospects and Implications

July 16, 2009

With Stephen Blank, Professor of Russian National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania and Olga Oliker, Senior International Policy Analyst, The RAND Corporation
Moderator: Ambassador Bill Courtney

Stephen Blank

STEPHEN BLANK is Professor of Russian National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania.  Dr. Blank has been Professor of National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute since 1989.  In 1998-2001 he was Douglas MacArthur Professor of Research at the War College.

He has published over 600 articles and monographs on Soviet/Russian, U.S., Asian, and European military and foreign policies, testified frequently before Congress on Russia, China, and Central Asia, consulted for the CIA, major think tanks and foundations, chaired major international conferences in the USA and abroad In Florence, Prague, and London, and has been a commentator on foreign affairs in the media in the United States and abroad.  He has also advised major corporations on investing in Russia and is a consultant for the Gerson Lehrmann Group

He has published or edited 15 books focusing on Russian foreign, energy, and military policies and on International Security in Eurasia.  His most recent book is Russo-Chinese Energy Relations: Politics in Command, London: Global Markets Briefing, 2006.  He has also published Natural Allies?: Regional Security in Asia and Prospects for Indo-American Strategic Cooperation, Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2005.

Dr. Blank is also the author of a study of the Soviet Commissariat of Nationalities, The Sorcerer as Apprentice: Stalin’s Commissariat of Nationalities, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994 and the co-editor of The Soviet Military and the Future, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992.

Prior to this appointment Dr. Blank was Associate Professor for Soviet Studies at the Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research, and Education of Air University at Maxwell AFB.  He also held the position of 1980-86: Assistant Professor of Russian History, University of Texas, San Antonio, 1980-86, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian history,
University of California, Riverside, 1979-80.

Dr. Blank’s M.A. and Ph.D. are in Russian History from the University of Chicago. His B.A is in History from the University of Pennsylvania.


Olga Oliker is a senior international policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. Oliker’s research focuses on political and security issues affecting Russia, Central Asia, Ukraine and the Caucasus.  She has also written extensively on international efforts to advance political, economic, social, and security sector development in countries in conflict as well as in those undergoing peaceful political and economic transitions. Her interests also include the implications of transition for development, including questions of displacement and transnational threats. In early 2004, Oliker served as a special advisor for national security affairs to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, where she assisted in the creation of Iraqi national security decisionmaking structures. Before coming to RAND in 1999, Oliker worked as an independent consultant and held positions in the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy. Recent RAND publications include Russian Foreign Policy: Sources and Implications; Guidebook for Supporting Economic Development in Stability Operations; Improving Capacity for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations; Women and Nation-Building; Making Liberia Safe: Transformation of the National Security Sector; U.S. Policy Options for Iraq: A Reassessment; Securing Tyrants or Fostering Reform? U.S. Internal Security Assistance to Repressive and Transitioning Regimes; andU.S. Interests in Central Asia: Policy Priorities and Military Roles.

Russia Claws at Rule of Law

July 16, 2009

July 2009

Lynda Edwards, for American Bar Association Journal

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