RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20130131

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RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 20130131
Published 1-02-2013, 15:27

Patrick Armstrong

former political counselor at Canadian Embassy in Moscow

MAGNITSKIY. Yet another one-sided piece of re-typing has hit the West. The posthumous "trial” of Magnitskiy is being described as bizarreKafkaesqueabsurd and so on without any background Here is some. A couple of years ago the Russian Constitutional Court ruled that, in cases where the defendant died before the verdict, a trial could/should be held so that the defendant’s name could be cleared (or not, as the case might be). Unusual perhaps, but there is a certain amount of sense. (For example, many of the people condemned by Stalin have been re-tried and exonerated; see here, for example, from 1988). The process in the case of Magnitskiy began about a year ago. For whatever reason, his family does not like the idea. The trial was immediately postponed at the objection of the family, so maybe that’s the end of it. I am informed that British law has a similar procedure which is called a "judicial inquiry” but otherwise proceeds very like a trial. Given all the accusations that have been slung around in the Magnitskiy case, one would think that an inquiry would be welcomed. Or are there parties who only want one verdict? Where is RT in all this, by the way? Isn’t it supposed to give the Russian point of view? But the shape of the story has now been set and it will be added to the indictment.

NOT WASTING THE MONEY. We hear little about how Russia spends all the money it pulls in because, I suppose, it wouldn’t fit the easy meme of corruption and anti-democracy. In Ottawa we take snow removal seriously (230 cms a year) and I was interested in this film of snow removal in Moscow showing an equally serious and capital-intensive operation. Note how much of the equipment is foreign-made.

CORRUPTION. And yet another scandal in the Ministry of Defence has appeared – embezzlement involving contracts in the Missile Forces. In an interview Medvedev said that about 50,000 corruption cases were currently being investigated. I think we can conclude that something is happening.

TIT FOR TAT. The Russians have created a "Guantanamo list” to counter the "Magnitskiy Bill”. How much longer will this nonsense go on?

ADOPTIONS. The Supreme Court ruled that US adoptions with court approval before 1 January will go ahead.

BEREZOVSKIY. More financial troubles: after losing his last case, a British court has frozen some of his assets in a case brought by his former girlfriend. Less money to fund anti-Putin stories.

STRATFOR AGREES WITH MOSCOW (FOR ONCE!). Western activities in Syria are pretty short-sighted.

US-RUSSIA. The new US Secretary of State, John Kerry said he hoped the US and Russia "can find some way to cooperate”. I hope so too, but given observation over the last decade or so, "cooperation” seems to be Washington’s way of saying "complete agreement with us”.

GAS WARS. The essential facts are that in 2009 then-PM Tymoshenko made an agreement on Russian gas that had a "take or pay” clause in it and the price of the gas was tied to oil prices. Prices are up, Ukrainian consumption down and Gazprom is billing US$7 billion for the gas not consumed. Or did Ukraine activate a clause that allowed it, with advance warning, to cut the volume? As always in these things, two stories and, as always, there are claims that it’s political pressure from Moscow. So, how will this be spun? I believe that, the last time around, Ukraine lost a lot of the credibility that it had formerly been awarded but the anti-Russian lobby is always ready. But the other fact is that Ukraine can’t pay – it’s already trying to get loans from the IMF – and Gazprom is not likely to get much for its claims.

INTERESTING. The head of Israel’s Security Council is in Moscow. Connection perhaps with this? The two countries have quite good relations and many common interests.

GEORGIA-RUSSIA. Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia IIwas in Moscow, meeting with Putin, among others. An obvious sounding-out of chances to improve relations. A Georgian delegation will be there next week to talk about lifting the import bans; successfully I expect. Things are thawing.

BUYER’S REMORSE. One of the principal ambitions of Latvia upon independence was to get into the EU. It did in 2004. President Berzins says adherence to the EU’s directives may threaten its independence.

TYMOSHENKO. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General has accused her of ordering the murder of Yevhen Shcherban in 1996 during Ukraine’s gas wars. Always been rumours of her activities as Ukraine’s "gas princess”.

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