Patrick Armstrong is a former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow
BEREZOVSKIY. Suicide after the loss of the rest of his money seems the most likely theory although his "friends” are being as suggestive as possible (See Dunkerley on these nebulous suggestions). But I notice that this time, the Western MSM, ever ready in the past to uncritically re-type an anti-Putin handout, is holding back: maybe the judge’s opinion of Berezovskiy’s veracity has persuaded them not to be so credulous. And so the Western media has lost one of its favourite sources for anti-Putin stories. Perhaps we will now learn more about the many mysteries surrounding Berezovskiy. The murder of Paul Khlebnikov (the ur-source of the "journalists murdered in Russia” theme), connections with Chechen slavers and kidnappers between the wars,funding for Shamil Basayev, the apartment bombings, the shaping of the Litvinenko story (every character in it worked for, or had worked for, him), the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the shaping of the Pussy Riot story. Then there’s the story that he wanted to go back to Russia. Lots of rumours, few facts. I am amused that this obit by Masha Lipman manages to avoid all these questions.
LITVINENKO INQUEST. Postponed until October – that will be about the seventh anniversary of his death and still no official finding on what happened!They say that MI6 was paying him. Not the open and shut story we were sold and getting less so by the moment.
MAGNITSKIY INQUIRY. This investigation lumbers on (as far as I can see the Russian words used do not have to be translated as "trial”; as in "outrageous trial of a dead man”). It is also looking at Browder, who is not dead. One would think that the opportunity to investigate the whole matter would be welcomed but the West has already decided, on nothing much more than Browder’s assertion, that the charges are utterly false. Here’s the essence of the charges of tax evasion and an interesting side case (Karpov) that may surprise conventional views.
INTERNET. Russian use continues to grow: the latest finding by thePublic Opinion Foundation poll is that 43% of Russian adults go on it every day and 55% monthly. And the Russian Internet is the same as ours: including a site that translates selected Western news outlet products into Russian. So they know what’s going on.
CHINA. A happy meeting between Putin and the President of China and then onto the BRICS meeting in South Africa. Some frissonin the USA about the possibilities of Moscow and Beijing getting closer. Well, what can I say? It was fun to kick Russia around over the past few years, but could it really last forever?
IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR. Latvian SS veterans march in Riga;Moscow hyperventilates. I wish Moscow would stop falling for this every year: it’s part of Latvia’s neuralgic past (Lenin’s bayonets in the Bolshevik coup as well as two SS divisions), and, in a few years, it will be gone.
GEORGIA. An interesting war of letters. Some European Parliament members wrote a letter to Ivanishvili claiming a "democratic backslide” by the new government and intimating that this would "close European doors for Georgia”. It is probably not a coincidence that Saakashvili was speaking to MEPs about the time they wrote the letter. Ivanishvili replied that they were praising a "façade democracy” and the Parliament Chairman warned them not to take the "former regime” as their "standard” ("police regime”, said he). The Swiss Ambassador has weighed in on Ivanishvili’s side. A lot of people placed a lot of bets on Saakashvili and it’s hard to lose and be made a fool. But this attempt by Saakashvili to work the old magic has failed: see below.
GEORGIA DUAL POWER. As readers have known, I have been apprehensive that Saakashvili would attempt a coup rather than depart the scene; perhaps fearing this too, former PresidentShevardnadze urged him to resign early for the good of the country: "That’s enough, you’ve turned the country upside down”. But perhaps I can relax: the Georgian Parliament unanimously (ie including his party) passed a Constitutional amendment stripping him of the power to appoint a new government without Parliament’s approval. He, to his credit, (or is it Washington’s?) signed it yesterday. So, dual power tensions between now and the end of his term in October are much reduced and we get closer to the miserable, failed terminus of this last "Colour Revolution”.
CYPRUS. It’s evidently OK to steal depositors’ money if they are Russians. But maybe (very likely – let’s face it) the big guys got out in time.