News of the world resumed

July 21, 2007 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

A litany of world events caught my attention today. These include the following stories courtesy the Associated Press and Reuters.

In theory I really should go through each story in the order of posting but I’m burning to write about this latest incident in Russian-British relations. Just remember again that I’m still a little rusty…. In the early 1990’s, shortly after the fall of communism, it would appear that Russia’s emerging democracy rapidly transformed into a kleptocracy, whereby “oil barons” and corrupt officials pocketed money at the expense of the general populace, but that doesn’t mean all of Russia’s self-made billionaires were guilty of stealing and there is in fact a difference between outright theft and taking advantage of an opportunity. Although I don’t like The Guardian‘s at-times extreme left-wing slants, the following article’s writer does a colourful yet comprehensive job at explaining the nature of many of these oligarchs, including two that are particularly famous now, Mikhail Khodorkovsky (The man who defied Vladimir Putin and ended up in a Siberian jail. Luke Harding) and Boris Berezovsky (Brainy former mathematics professor and former Kremlin kingmaker who has morphed into Putin’s enemy number one. Luke Harding).

If you’ve just read the article, you’ll know that a variety of these oligarchs obtained their billions through various means, but mostly through collusion or at best a type of semi-collusion with former president Boris Yeltsin. Personally, I have a place in my heart for Khodorkovsky; he is by no means a hero but he is a type on anti-hero and he certainly does not deserve to be literally rotting away in a Siberian jail for exercising his democratic right to form a tangible opposition to Putin (and let’s face it, that’s exactly why he’s in jail, otherwise he would have been tried and sentenced long before he became politically active). If this is the way that Khodorkovsky is being treated, is it any wonder that the UK is refusing to hand over Berezovsky? After all, what are his chances of getting even the facade of a fair trial?

This is how this issue connects with this original Associated Press article. You’ll notice how confident and smug Andrei Lugovoi sounds. When he asserts that the British government expelled four Russian diplomats to distract the world from the fact that they have no evidence linking him to Alexander Litvinenko’s radiation-poisoning death, and that Britain has “always hidden con men, swindlers, adventurists and defectors,” he is in fact playing to the Russian crowd and their nationalist fervour; Russia now more than ever in recent history has become an increasingly xenophobic and racist society. Of course the evidence against him must be succinct; there are only so many places a rare radioactive isotope like polonium 210 can come from (for all intents and purposes just about only one place) and Scotland Yard was able to connect the dots based on following the radiation trail, noting who Litvinenko had last spoken to, and especially the video recorded a few years before his death where he fingered Lugovoi directly. Plus as an aside, this video of Litvinenko’s accusations pertaining to the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya is especially telling. Lugovoi has also made the even more implausable accusations that Scotland Yard, Boris Berezovsky or combination thereof orchestrated Litvinenko’s murder to blacken Russia’s reputation–something only a guilty person would say, but is likely to be widely believed in his home country by citizens fearful and hateful of “the West.” To most Russians, confident fervour is much more preferred to modest humility.

I ‘m going to have to end this here because my parrot will not leave me alone and because I still haven’t gotten my spark back for writing, so I apologise for that last again. But next entry I should be back in my pre-hiatus form.



1 Comment »

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  1. It boggles my mind how knowledgable you are on certain subjects – like this British-Russian story emerging. I’m surprised you don’t read mystery novels (you’re aunt Judy Shizgal is hooked on them) because this whole episode reads like a real mystery novel!
    Well done, Eric!

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