The New Russia


Back on the 8th I posted this blog about the state of affairs in Russia. Here is a little update.

I’m sure most of you have heard about the protest’s going on there

KHIMKI, Russia, Jan. 15 – Mikhail I. Yermakov, a retired engineer, has never before taken to the streets to protest – not when the Soviet Union collapsed, the wars in Chechnya began, the ruble plummeted in 1998 or President Vladimir V. Putin last year ended his right to choose his governor.

On Saturday, however, he joined hundreds of others in the central square of this gritty industrial city on the edge of Moscow in the latest of a weeklong wave of protests across Russia against a new law abolishing a wide range of social benefits for the country’s 32 million pensioners, veterans and people with disabilities.

Demonstrations were held in at least three other cities in the Moscow region, in the capital of Tatarstan and, for the fourth straight day, in Samara in central Russia. In St. Petersburg, several thousand demonstrators blocked the city’s main boulevard, with some calling for Mr. Putin’s resignation.

Taken together, the protests are the largest and most passionate since Mr. Putin came to power in 2000. They appear to have tapped into latent discontent with Mr. Putin’s government and the party that dominates Parliament, United Russia.

Hmmm, let me see. The arrest of successful entrepreneur, the seizure of public companies, the freezing of independent media into state run media and now he wants to stop the health care for workers. The AP put this out today:

St. Petersburg, Russia — President Vladimir Putin promised a moderate increase in pensions yesterday and blamed federal and regional officials for failing to properly implement Kremlin-sponsored social reforms, seeking to assuage growing public anger over welfare cuts.

Mr. Putin’s first comments on the issue came as lines of police blocked hundreds of protesters from retaking a major intersection in central St. Petersburg, his hometown. Thousands of pensioners occupied the intersection Saturday and Sunday, halting traffic.

The protests, which have spread to numerous cities across Russia’s 11 time zones, were triggered by a law enacted Jan. 1 that gives retirees, the disabled and war veterans cash stipends instead of benefits such as free public medicine and mass transit. Protesters say new monthly payments of about $10 (U.S.) are worth much less than the benefits, leaving them to make hard choices about food, drugs and transportation. AP

Hmmm, kinda funny how these protests work, worked in the Ukraine and now seem’s to be working a bit in Russia. But I digress.

Now there are more and more sign’s that Putin is leading this country away from Democracy to god knows what.

What Russia wants from the United States, increasingly, is less and less.

A much-touted “dialogue” on oil and gas that only two years ago was supposed to open the spigot to American consumers has languished instead, as Russia has turned to markets in China, Japan and India.

President Vladimir V. Putin’s handling of the prosecution of Yukos Oil, once the country’s largest, most-Western-oriented producer, has exposed what can only be considered his indifference to American opinion on matters of transparency and the rule of law.

Even in the war on terror, one area where Mr. Putin and President Bush have found common ground, the scope for cooperation appears to be shrinking, in large part because of concerns about American involvement within what Russia regards as its historical sphere of influence.

Russia, for example, has withdrawn its support for an observation mission on its dangerous southern border with Georgia. The mission, run by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe with American help, has been credited with curbing the movements of Chechen separatists. But in New York last Thursday, Russia’s Minister of Defense, Sergei B. Ivanov, said the presence of American forces in Georgia and in Central Asia was “a very sensitive issue for us.” Russia has countered with a military buildup of its own in the region.

Then there is this tidbit about Putin’s Duma:

State Duma on Wednesday tentatively approved legislation that would allow authorities to deny a visa to foreigners who show disrespect toward Russia, are sick or use illegal drugs.

analysts said the bill falls short of democratic norms and that President Vladimir Putin may reject it in an attempt to flash democratic credentials in the faces of critics worried about a rollback on free speech and human rights.

Deputies passed the amendment to the law “On Exit From the Russian Federation and Entry Into the Russian Federation” in the first of three readings by a vote of 353 to 44 with six abstentions.amendment says foreigners could be denied entry if they “commit actions of a clearly disrespectful nature toward the Russian Federation or the federal organs of the government of the Russian Federation.”of entry could also result from actions that disrespect “spiritual, cultural or public values,” bring about “significant material harm,” or are harming or have harmed “the international prestige of the Russian Federation.”disrespectful or unfriendly actions” could also result in a foreigner being barred from entering the country, the bill says.

Ok, what does that smell like? Even more good news, Syria is gonna stop by on a little window shopping for missiles.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will travel to Russia on January 24 for talks with President Vladimir Putin, sources said, amid reports that he is shopping for a missile that can strike anywhere in Israel.The planned four-day visit has already infuriated the Israeli government, according to Israeli and Russian media reports, and the Russian foreign ministry took the unusual step of issuing a lengthy statement insisting that its relations with the Jewish state remained friendly.

It is denied of course by Russia but this article has a little bit more in depth information:

Last week, news reports originating in Israel and reprinted in the Russian media accused Moscow of planning to sell missiles to Syria. The public commotion that followed was made worse by the cryptic nature of the story. The type of missiles involved was unclear. Was Russia going to sell ballistic medium-range Iskander-E or shoulder-launched anti-aircraft Igla missiles?

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, speaking in Washington during a recent visit, strongly denied that Russia was negotiating any missile sale to Syria. Ivanov suggested that the reports were deliberately released to sour Syrian President Bashar Assad’s visit to Russia next week.

What kind of missile talks is Ivanov denying? Some reports indicate that a deal to sell Syria several hundred of the latest generation of Igla missiles has been already signed.

The Iskander and the Igla are both solid-fuel missiles but are very different in size and purpose. The Iskander is a modified version of the Soviet-built Oka missile, which was scrapped under the terms of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Russian military commanders have lamented the demise of the Oka, which they insisted had too short a range to be included in the INF.

The Iskander has a somewhat reduced range of 280 kilometers to stay clear of INF limitations and not to be subject to international controls that limit the export of ballistic missiles with a range over 300 kilometers. The producers of the Iskander, the Votkinsk Missile Factory, which also makes the SS-25 and SS-27 intercontinental ballistic missiles, believe the Iskander has a good export potential and are promoting the missile on the international arms market, as is the official state arms trading company, Rosoboronexport.

Guess there is still no good news coming from the “new” Soviet Union huh? Check out Siberian Light for more info.

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