After a weekend in which anti-Putin protestors united in a ring of defiance around the Kremlin, truly wacky reports have surfaced of a potential assassination plot against Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, stymied by Ukrainian security forces:
The Russian prime minister’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the BBC “this was absolutely a plot to kill the prime minister.”
It seems not outside the realm of possibility that Ukraine’s government, which is currently controlled by pro-Russian factions under pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, could be convinced to help legitimize the gravity of the plot. Certainly, the Kremlin ploy helps to distract, in part, from anti-Putin protests just six days in advance of the first round of Russia’s presidential election.
In a piece in The Guardian yesterday, Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was jailed by Putin a decade ago and removed as CEO of Yukos Oil, advocates a vote for any of the four opponents to Putin, thereby forcing Putin into a second-round runoff vote. He compares the recent grassroots protests against Putin to the Arab Spring protests of 2011 that toppled dictators in Tunisia and Egypt:
By forcing a second round we will push our country down the path of positive change. Presidential power that previously answered to no one would have to start listening to the people it serves. The state that until now took the monopolistic presidential power for granted would be more wary of its hold and start moderating its behaviour. The politicians who gathered the opposition votes could become a force to be reckoned with, a voice for articulating the thoughts and views that have been ignored before. The establishment would have to start negotiating with the opposition and an evolutionary transition could meaningfully begin. Continue reading Kremlin Kops or Keystone Kops?→
In my ongoing series of odd campaign video from Russia’s upcoming presidential election vote, here’s ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky flogging a donkey from earlier this month. It’s unclear what exactly the point is here.
Zhirinovsky is one of the truly scary clowns of Russia’s political scene. In 1995, he threw a box of juice at an opponent on television. In 1996, he called for recreating the Russian Empire and expanding it to the Indian Ocean and reclaiming Alaska from the United States. He once promised free vodka to all Russians if elected. He’s anti-Zionist, anti-Caucuses, anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-Western, anti-African, and you really could fill a book with outrageous Zhirinovsky quotes. Much, much more here, and that’s just for starters.
In numerous speeches and articles, Zhirinovsky has promised to bury radioactive waste on the borders of the Baltic states, turn Kazakhstan into Russia’s back yard,” provoke internecine wars between the clans and the peoples of Russia’s so-called near abroad (the former Soviet Union) and occupy what will remain of it when the war is over. The masthead of his movement’s magazine, Zhirinovsky’s Hawk, displays a map of Russia that includes Finland, Poland and Alaska, in addition to all of the former Soviet republics.
Of course, his importance as a figure in Russian politics has long since ebbed from its high-water mark in 1995-96. But I’ve considered him for over a decade the personification of Russia’s nationalist id, which can sometimes be quite ugly and dark indeed.
Not to be outdone by Putin’s sexy ads targeting younger Russian voters, Mikhail Prokhorov campaigns in rap yesterday in Russia. If neither the New Jersey Nets and the presidential election don’t work out for Prokhorov, maybe he should team up with Jay-Z?
With the latest survey showing that Putin will win the first round of the March 4 presidential election with 66% of the vote (with Communist Party rival Gennady Zyuganov picking up just 15% of the vote for second place), it’s becoming clearer than ever that Prokhorov is not the serious candidate he perhaps once claimed.
Reuters today profiles the man it calls the brains behind the Putin campaign: Vyacheslav Volodin, currently Russia’s deputy prime minister.
The profile provides a wealth of information on Volodin, who is sure to remain a key player for the foreseeable future in Kremlin politics — the profile goes so far as to compare him to Stalin’s key aide Vyacheslav Molotov.
With Putin all but sure to win the “election” on March 4, and with the length of the presidential term extended to six years, I wouldn’t bet too many rubles on Volodin surviving the Kremlin gauntlet until 2018 (or longer). Until August 1999, no one had even heard of Vladimir Putin, who served as Boris Yeltsin’s prime minister for five uneventful months before Yeltsin announced his resignation and tacit support for Putin’s candidacy in the presidential election to follow in May 2000. So file this one alongside those speculation pieces on the 2016 US presidential race. Continue reading The new Putin (or maybe, the new Medvedev)→
Mikhail Gorbachev is speaking out on the Russian “election”, advocating for a transition from the Putin era to a new, more democratic era. Gorbachev, in speaking to Moscow students earlier, called out the upcoming election for what it is — a sham affair with only window-dressing opposition. Gorbachev predicted a Putin win, but implored for a transition to democracy from a regime that is “exhausted.”Continue reading Glasnost ghost→
Vladimir Putin has penned an article in Kommersant today outlining his vision of Russian democracy. Just try to make it through the opening lines and not laugh:
Real democracy cannot be created overnight and cannot be a carbon copy of some external example. Society must be completely ready for using democratic mechanisms. The majority of people must see themselves as citizens of their country, ready to devote their attention, time and efforts on a regular basis to taking part in the process of governance. In other words, democracy is effective only when people are ready to invest something in it.