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Russian Weekly News: #21

A few years ago, I used to post a weekly news update to Siberian Light – basically a series of bullet points with the main headlines from the past week. You can see the weekly news archives here.

I’m thinking about starting up another weekly news series (provided I can find a way to compile it that isn’t too time consuming).

The first edition is below.  As you can see, it’s a lot different – the bullet points have been replaced with short summaries of five or six stories from the past week.

I’d really like to hear back from you – do you think a weekly news roundup is something you would find useful in today’s world of instant news access?  And what about the format – do bullet points work best, or short roundups? How about another format entirely?  If you have any thoughts, please let me know in the comments below.

Anyway, enough questions – on with the news.

Russia demands NATO cancel Georgia exercise
Saakashvili in front of NATO flagIn a move that will surprise precisely nobody, Russia condemned NATO’s decision to hold a military exercise in Georgia.

There’s very little Russia can actually do to prevent the exercise from taking place, but Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian Ambassador to NATO has hinted that Russia could walk away from an agreement to resume full co-operation with the Alliance if it goes ahead.

NATO is officially expressing surprise – they claim that the exercise only involves 1,300 soldiers and was planned a year ago, before last August’s brief war between Russia and Georgia.

Leaving aside the current war of words, I can’t figure out why NATO hasn’t abandoned this exercise. It does little more than remind the world of how little NATO did during the war, and carries great risks. What happens if the current anti-government protests in Georgia escalate, and at the same time trouble flares up in South Ossetia or Abkhazia and Russia begins to make threatening moves? What will NATO do with its troops then?

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev plead not guilty

Mikhail KhodorkovskyFormer Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev both pleaded not guilty to charges of embezzling more than $25 billion from three Yukos subsidiaries, and then laundering the money.

The charges, as others have noted, are remarkably similar to the charges brought against Khodorkovsy and Lebedev in their 2005 trial, leading many to question whether Russia is breaching Council of Europe rules on double jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Khodorkovsky’s former lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina has been released from jail after serving half of her six and a half year sentence for embezzlement and tax evasion. Bakhmina is a young mother of three – her daughter was born while she was while in jail – and has attracted a great deal of public sympathy – 96,000 people recently signed a petition calling for her release.

Russia’s Richest Men are much poorer, says Forbes

forbes-100-april-2009Forbes published its annual list of Russia’s richest 100 people. As expected, it showed that Russia’s billionaires are taking a hammering – of 110 Russian Billionaires in 2008, only 32 remain members of the club today.

Mikhail Prokhorov is now Russia’s richest man – he’s worth $9.5 billion (down from $19.5 a year ago), closely followed by Roman Abramovich who holds $8.5 billion of assets (was $24.3 billion).

The biggest loser is Oleg Deripaska – Russia’s richest man last year has lost $24.5 billion dollars in just 12 months. His only consolation? He’s still about $3.5 billion richer than you or I.

Chechnya: Russia officially ends counter-terrorism operation

Map of ChechnyaRussia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee announced on Thursday that counter-terrorism operations in Chechnya were no longer necessary and would cease in order to allow “the further normalization of the situation in the republic and for the development of its social and economic spheres.”

Naturally, within hours a gun battle involving Interior Ministry troops broke out in Southern Chechnya.

No word on troop withdrawals yet, but I assume they’ll follow slowly but surely, leaving Chechnya’s oddball hardman (sorry – President) Ramzan Kadyrov in total charge. What’ll happen now is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, officials in Ingushetia (right next door to Chechnya) announced that the insurgency there has claimed 49 lives in the past three months. Anyone want to take a bet on how many of the Russian troops leaving Chechnya will simply move 50 miles to the West?

Russia / China War Games in Central Asia

Shanghai Cooperation Organization LogoAround 1,000 Russian, Chinese, Kazakh, Tajik and Kyrgyz soldiers took part in a Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) military exercise in Tajikistan.

The soldiers were responding to a supposed attack by Al-Qaeda terrorists who had crossed over the Afghan border and captured a Tajik chemical factory, taking workers hostage.

The exercise was a success and the hostages were freed. RFE/RL, though, were more interested in the Tajik soldiers culinary tastes: “During the exercises, Tajik soldiers demonstrated their ability to tear apart a live rabbit with their teeth and hands. Another soldier bit off the head of a small snake and ate it.”

Sochi Mayoral election gets underway after court bars candidates

Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic logoEarly voting has begun in the Sochi Mayoral election, but the vote has been overshadowed by a Russian court’s decision to throw a couple of candidates off the ballot – most notably Alexander Lebedev, candidate of Just Russia and owner of London newspaper the Evening Standard.

The election is being closely scrutinized because of the upcoming 2014 Olympics – the Russian Government want to showcase Russia’s democratic principles, whereas the candidates want to get control of billions of dollars of construction money.

The court’s decision to throw Lebedev off the ballot was based on a technicality, and now that the two main candidates remaining in the race are the incumbent mayor (who has the backing of Putin) and a deeply unpopular former Deputy Prime Minister who plays well outside of Russia, it’s hard to imagine that the image of Russian democracy will be boosted in Sochi.


  • I have recently started to follow your blog so that I can stay updated with current events in Russia. I found that reading or other sites didn’t really cut it but I haven’t found any Western media that focus on Russia. I would appreciate it if you could continue this series, and I think your current format is fine. I probably won’t be reading the details of each story, so you could shorten them if it is easier for you. Thanks for the great work!

  • Well, I check your Russian news/blogs online aggregator almost daily, so I don’t find this roundup terribly useful, though if others do, that’s super. I think “in today’s world of instant news access” I’d benefit from more in-depth analysis. It’s pretty easy to get a snapshot of the issues du jour from any number of sources.

    As always, I appreciate your blog round-ups and entertaining curiosa. That Stalin zombie video, for example. Rocked. Won’t get that from a newsfeed… 🙂

  • My 2 cents:
    1) If my example is anything to go by, this is horribly tedious work. When I started my blog, I went from covering the “news” daily, to weekly, to monthly, and then gave up on it altogether.
    2) As poemless says, there are already news aggregators that do this work much more efficiently and, well, better. Your own site. Google News. Google Reader when subscribed to many Russia blogs. Johnson’s Russia List. Etc…

    IMHO a much better idea would be to revive your fine tradition of a) high-lighting interesting posts in your Monthly Blog Roundups, and b) reviving the practice of Interviewing Russia bloggers – I think those were always very popular.

    Da Russophile´s last blog post..Grenade Fishing on the Potomac

  • “During the exercises, Tajik soldiers demonstrated their ability to tear apart a live rabbit with their teeth and hands. Another soldier bit off the head of a small snake and ate it.”

    Essential skills, when removing al-Qae’da terrorists from a chemical factory.

    Tim Newman´s last blog post..Unrealistic Job Advert #3

  • Thanks everyone, for your comments.

    The reason I stopped doing the weekly news roundups a few years ago was, like Da Russophile discovered, it becomes a chore after a while.

    Perhaps I should stick to my strengths, and go for a short roundup of the best blog posts about Russia each week. (Each month is insane, because I forget to keep up daily, and then end up churning through a thousand or more blog posts in one day just as I write the post!)

    Interesting idea about the interviews. I’ve been thinking on and off about reviving the idea, although I’d probably go for a shorter set of questions this time – the last set ran to 18 questions…

    Da Russophile – are you volunteering for the first interview?

  • “Each month is insane, because I forget to keep up daily, and then end up churning through a thousand or more blog posts in one day just as I write the post!”

    Why don’t you just make a folder in your Bookmarks called “Best Russia Blog Posts Feb”, favorite the best posts at your own leisure, spread them out over your munificent table at SL like caviar at the end of the month, delete said folder, and make a new one called “Best Russia Blog Posts Mar” and repeat?

    (Reason I’m saying this is that I’m a lazy ass and even doing it weekly would be a chore for me!) 😉

    Da Russophile´s last blog post..Grenade Fishing on the Potomac

  • This is a fine and sensible suggestion, with one tiny flaw. I’m often too lazy to keep up with my reading in the first place!

  • I’ve the complete opposite problem. I read daily and bookmark everything I find interesting, and then end up with a large amount of material to sort through, and I don’t even know where to begin, and get overwhelmed, and walk away. If something is so noteworthy I’m compelled to tell the world about it, I just post it on facebook now. Lame. But I keep saving links. So the piles grows larger, and more intimidating… A vicious circle. It’s why I haven’t written for 6 months, and may never write again. 🙁

    poemless´s last blog post..Friday Open Thread

  • Sorry about the wrong last post – it’s a problem with group blogs and I haven’t figured out how to avoid it.

    Mike Averko has the same problem, as you can see by his conversion to funeral director above!

  • By the way, I miss your writing – you should definitely start again. Have you considered just deleting all your bookmarks?

  • Andy, thank you. I’ll try. But it’s going to be tough going since my muse VVP has suddenly become frighteningly boring. As a start, I’ve begun the bookmark deletion process. It’s hard, letting go… But really, what’s left to say about Masha Sergeyeva?

    It never occurred to me Averko wasn’t writing about funeral planning…

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