Could Mikhail Prokhorov be the man to take on Vladimir Putin? | David Hearst

On paper, Mikhail Prokhorov has everything it takes to give Vladimir Putin a run for his money. At 46, he is rated Russia‘s third richest man by Forbes with a fortune of £11.5bn. He owns a private investment fund, co-owns Russia’s largest gold producer Polyus Gold, as well as Snob, a Russian-language magazine. In May, he became the first foreigner to own a stake in a National Basketball Association club, the New Jersey Nets.

All this, and yet if you believe him he bears a grudge against the Kremlin. The grudge stems from his first experience of the rough and tumble of Russian politics; the moment when, in September, he was ousted from the leadership of a Kremlin-backed rightwing party Right Cause, into which he had sunk £10.4m of his own money.

As well as wanting his money back, he also sought the head of the grey cardinal of Putin’s inner circle, Vladislav Surkov. The affair caused puzzlement among Kremlin watchers at the time.

Was it a genuine example of the Petrushka effect, when a puppet rebels against puppet master? Or was it part of another, as yet unpublished script? He said at the time that his was a challenge to Surkov, not to the system: “I am no revolutionary.” If he had presented a serious political challenge to Putin as an oligarch, he would be in the same position as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is languishing in jail.

The same questions are being asked now that he has said he will run for president against Putin. One possibility is that Prokhorov is part of an elaborately choreographed political ballet to create the illusion of a genuine opposition. The other is that, having seen up to 50,000 turn out in the bitter cold in Moscow on Saturday, and big demonstrations in St Petersburg, he might sense a genuine opportunity. Either way, Prokhorov’s bid will not be unwelcome to Putin.

The Russian prime minister has several problems, including a population who dares to challenge him, a shrinking wallet with which to buy them off, and an election that has to be won handsomely in just three months’ time.

But even though his personal ratings have taken a dramatic dive, largely as a result of his own mistakes, Putin retains an unassailable lead over all possible pretenders.

Having a young, rich, ambitious and rightwing Russian to challenge him will create a political contest which Putin is still bound to win. And he can always offer the talented Prokhorov a job in his administration afterwards, thus providing the balance that the ruling elite currently lacks after the departure of Moscow mayor Yuri Luzkhov.

Prokhorov’s challenge is the challenge of an insider, a member of the benighted inner circle of the extremely rich. He is not going to challenge the system, and yet this surely is what the thousands of Russians who have been demonstrating want. He lives in a different world from the rest of his countrymen and can spend a lot of money promoting himself, but whether he will be able to speak for the millions who are tired of living poor lives in a “managed democracy” is another matter.

Black Swan star hits beauty benchmark

She speaks Russian with a funny accent but her flawless sex appeal makes up for everything Mila Kunis lacks, including her language skills. Now the star of Black Swan has officially made it to the ranks of the Top 100 Sexiest Women of all time.

­The list, compiled by Men’s Health Magazine, features a range of bombshells, both living and dead, from such icons as Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe to heavyweights like Pamela Anderson and Jennifer Lopez, with Jennifer Aniston named the winner.

By contrast, petite brunette Kunis, with her fresh looks and cheeky smile, could easily pass for a 15-year-old schoolgirl.

The 27-year-old star of Jewish origin who moved to America from Ukraine to escape anti-Semitism when she was only seven, now “couldn’t be more of an American girl,” reports Men’s Health.

“Beauty Number 96,” Kunis recently came to the Russian capital with her Friends with Benefits co-star Justin Timberlake promoting their latest comedy, and fuelling rumors of a budding off-screen love affair.

Another Russian Venus who moved to America more than a decade ago and also figures on the list of all-time beauties is former tennis champion Anna Kurnikova.

“For a few years in the late ’90s, the mere sight of Anna Kurnikova’s long blonde hair, toned upper body, drool-worthy legs, and midriff-revealing Adidas shirts were among the only reasons that men tuned in to watch pro tennis,” the magazine argued in making its case.

The 30-year-old blond has been ranked the world’s “hottest athlete” a number of times. Now Enrique Iglesias’ girlfriend has left Beyonce and Penelope Cruz far behind, coming in at a respectable number 29.

Russians fight Twitter and Facebook battles over Putin election

Russians have flooded Facebook and Twitter as they organise unprecedented protests against Vladimir Putin‘s United Russia party. But they are not alone. Thousands of Twitter accounts appear to have been created with the sole purpose of drowning out opposition voices by flooding the service’s hashtag search function.

The automated attacks have dumped a blizzard of meaningless tweets with hashtags such as #Navalny, on which tweets about Alexei Navalny are collated, making it impossible to follow the flow of news about the arrested opposition leader. Many of the so-called “Twitter bots” have now been shut down.

The flood of fake tweets came after liberal websites, including the LiveJournal blogging platform, the website for radio station Ekho Moskvy and weekly journal Bolshoi Gorod , were shut down by distributed denial of service attacks on Sunday, the day of Russia’s disputed parliamentary vote.

The website for Golos, an independent election monitor, was also shut down. Golos employees complained this week that their email had been hacked and inaccessible for several days. On Friday, tabloid Life News published employees’ private emails, detailing correspondence with the US development agency – presented as “proof” that the group was acting on foreign orders to disrupt the Russian election.

The most interesting hack attack, however, came via a more antiquated instrument – the telephone. On Thursday, the liberal Yabloko party and newspaper Novaya Gazeta said their telephone lines had been paralysed by endless calls featuring a recorded female voice: “Putin is very good. Putin loves you. Putin makes your life happy. Love Putin and your life will fill with meaning. Putin does everything for you. Remember, Putin does everything just for you. Putin is life. Putin is light. Without Putin, life has no meaning. Putin is your protector. Putin is your saviour.” Over and over again.

‘United Russia united enemies’

By having so much power and TV coverage, being the party of the president and prime minister, the United Russia party in a way united their enemies – that is how journalist Ivan Zasursky explains the lower score for the party in Sunday’s vote.

­There has been speculation on what caused the ruling party to attract fewer votes this time than they did back in 2007, when around 64% of ballots were cast in their favor.

“It looked as if they had victory in the bag, so they could not mobilize enough support. They behaved as if they had it already,” Zasursky believes.

“That is why a lot of people chose to vote for Fair Russia or even for the Liberal Democrats. Many, I think, wanted to punish United Russia for having power for so long and, maybe, not doing everything they could have.”

He adds there has been “a kind of flashmob of Facebook and other social networks with people supporting the position that you should go and vote for anybody but United Russia.”

As for more ‘global’ reasons, Dr. Patrick Fullick, founder of Capital Science Connections speaking to RT from London, does not rule out the economic crisis as one of the factors.

“I suspect that as Mr. Medvedev was saying, the international crisis has played its part in this, and altogether people in Russia have seen to some extent a decline in living standards and problems with the cost of living and so on.”

However, he also spoke of a possible “feeling of stagnation in Russian politics and a feeling that some kind of change is necessary.”

­Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Committee for Foreign Affairs in the outgoing State Duma and a member of United Russia, also said that almost 10 years in power seems like “too much” for many people, and that caused a drop in popularity.

“People are fed up with just one party being in power,” Kosachev said. He added that they had started to blame United Russia for things “not related” to politics, like problems in their personal life, for example.

“The ruling authority is responsible for everything and many people just start voting against the ruling power because they are disappointed by what is happening in their life,” Kosachev believes.

We can do it! – Russia’s coach Advocaat

Russia’s football coach Dick Advocaat told RT that he is positive about his team’s draw for Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

­“It could be worse because you see the other group of Holland,” Advocaat stressed. “In this group everything is possible for us to do. We have a possibility to come through – that’s important.”  

The national squads of co-hosts Poland, Greece and the Czech Republic will become the Russian team’s rivals in the Group A, considered the easiest at the tournament by most experts.

“The good thing in the draw is that you don’t know beforehand what you get,”
the 64-year-old said. “So after the draw we knew the opponents. We still have work to do, but as I said it’s a very interesting group otherwise you don’t qualify. We can do it, but probably the coaches of the other teams will say the same.”

Talking of his team’s rivals, Advocaat said that he expects the match against Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland to be a tough encounter.   

“Poland, in my opinion is still the dangerous side, because they’ll have the home crowd, which will be fanatical,” he said. “In the past it was shown that the home team with the home crowd can be very dangerous. We have seen this with South Korea at the World Cup and the same things can happen with Poland as well. But again if you see all our opponents if we do what we have to do we can get a good result.”

“The Czech Republic: I don’t know so much about them, but again before we start we’ll know everything. As for Greece we played against them, but in the tournament like this it’s going to be different than in a friendly match,” he added.

As for Russia’s preparations for the event, the nearest plans are hold a friendly match in February.

“Also maybe we’ll change our [Euro 2012] home base because we’ll be playing three games in Poland,”
Advocaat said. “I think it’s better to stay in [Polish capital] Warsaw.”

Earlier, it was announced that Russia will be training in Ukrainian capital, Kiev during the next summer’s tournament.

‘MI5 shows lack of knowledge about Russia’

Poor intelligence and paranoia about Russia is what drove a case against a Russian woman accused of being a spy in the UK. Katya Zatuliveter spoke exclusively to RT after a court overruled a deportation order against her.

­“I could not have imagined for a second that I could win the appeal going against one on the most influential security services in the world,” Zatuliveter said.

However, she says that she actually became scared only after she understood how unprofessionally the secret service was doing its job.

“From very beginning I realized that they don’t know anything about Russia,” she explained. “The questions they were asking were absolutely stupid.”

One of the questions she was asked several times was: “How come you speak the English language if you are not a spy?”

“That’s when I actually got scared, extremely scared,” Zatuliveter said. “Not because that was an interrogation by MI5 but because they were unprofessional. They lacked any knowledge about the area they were working in, and they were extremely paranoid. And all these three together made such a horrible outcome.”

Zatuliveter was arrested a year ago after claims she was trying to siphon information during an affair with the British MP she worked for – Mike Hancock, a member of a Defence Committee.

To win the appeal she had to disclose all the personal details of her life from the very beginning.

“I won because I put out there everything about my life step by step,” she said.

Zatuliveter had to write her first witness statement before MI5 had even put their case.

”I did not know what they were accusing me of,” she said. “Everything I had was my deportation order that my presence is not conducive to national security.”

After a London tribunal allowed Zatuliveter to stay in the UK, ruling her affair with Hancock was genuine, the British government and MI5 still regard her as a threat to national security. But she believes that they were not prepared for her victory and put themselves in a position where they had to continue calling her a spy.

“It never happened in history,” she said. “My case is the first case in world history of somebody who has been accused of being a spy who actually stayed and fought a legal case against it.”

From the archive, 1 December 1952: Uncomfortable advice for Soviet writers

Soviet writers, castigated by Mr Malenkov in his recent speech to the nineteenth Communist party congress, have received a further jolt in the form of a leading article in “Pravda,” which issued to-day a stirring but unaccustomed call to them: “Write the truth! This must become the guiding principle of those who write prose or verse, of playwrights and literary critics.”

Put thus bluntly, “Pravda’s” injunction hoists Soviet writers on the horns of a dilemma which has been perplexing them for some time, though not as acutely as to-day’s call. They have been instructed to eschew the kind of writing where everything is lovely in the garden they describe, since novels and plays of this type, with which the Soviet literary market has hitherto been flooded, have found little favour with the reading public which knows that the garden is often overrun with weeds. To portray life as it is, however, would be in many cases, to “slander our grand and happy Socialist reality.”

Morals in question

“Pravda” insists the Soviet writer “must … bring out the lofty moral qualities and the positive characteristics of the ordinary men”. But in the same breath the writer is instructed to “sear with the flame of satire everything that is negative,” and in doing so he has found his conception of what is negative often differs from the official party view on this subject. The flame-thrower is an unwieldy weapon; and in using it to fire off satire the Soviet writer runs the risk of burning both the “lofty moral qualities” inherent in the party set-up and his own finger.

The problem is, perhaps, best exemplified by the case of the July issue of the literary magazine “Oktyabr” (one of the magazines criticised by “Pravda”) which published a play about party life that has received savage criticism in the Soviet press. The play has been condemned by the party’s literary spokesman because the author, Panferov, tried to do exactly what “Pravda” says – write the truth and describe, among other things, the moral laxity prevalent in a certain party organisation. One of the impressions he conveyed was that the bonds of marriage were not regarded highly by the leading personages – all party members – of the play, whose promiscuity he portrayed in a most unfavourable light.

His mention of this problem, of some importance in the Soviet Union to-day, earned him the official censure of the press. His play “distorted Soviet reality.” To-day’s call for truth is, apparently, only for the kind of truth that does not hurt the susceptibilities of the Soviet system.

Dancing with bears

Dancing with bears

Local singer-songwriter Jenia Lubich, who rose to fame performing with the French band Nouvelle Vague, is releasing her first solo album.

Published: November 30, 2011 (Issue # 1685)


Jenia Lubich will present her new album ‘C’est la vie,’ featuring songs in Russian, English and French, at The Place on Friday evening.

Jenia Lubich, a St. Petersburg indie pop singer-songwriter whose voice can be heard on Nouvelle Vague’s most recent albums and whose star is in the ascendant in Russia, will launch her debut album with a concert in St. Petersburg this weekend. Called “C’est la vie,” the CD was recorded with French musicians in Paris and contains 11 songs that she wrote in Russian, French and English.

Lubich, whose songs include the ironic “Russian Girl” (who has “vodka in her blood” and “dances with brown bears,”), frantic “Crisis of the Moment (With a Question to the President)” and love song “Galaxy,” has been on the scene for a while, but made a name for herself through her collaboration with Nouvelle Vague, the French band that performs unlikely bossa nova covers of 1970s and 1980s new wave and punk hits sung by various female singers.

Her local breakthrough came somewhat unexpectedly at a Nouvelle Vague concert at Zal Ozhidaniya club in October 2009. The band had asked her to perform as a guest singer, but she ended up singing virtually the entire show when both the band’s vocalists were unable to come at short notice.

“Usually they have two female singers on stage, but both had to pull out for different reasons one or two days before the concert. As a result, [French musician and singer] Gerald Toto sang three or four songs, and the remaining 23 or 24 songs were sung by me.”

“I realized that it could be a complete disaster, because people were expecting French singers, while I had only been working with them for about six months by then, and it was not an established fact for the Russian public that there was a Russian singer working with them. So I was a new face in every sense — because the posters featured the two vocalists who were supposed to come but didn’t.”

Somewhat at a loss, five minutes before the show started, Lubich came up with the idea of speaking in French when addressing the musicians or introducing songs during the show.

“Then, after the ninth or tenth song, which happened to be [Dead Kennedys’] ‘Too Drunk to Fuck,’ I was lying on stage in semi-ecstasy and heard myself saying ‘Zharko u vas’ (‘It’s hot in here’ in Russian). Everybody was stunned, and I heard somebody whispering ‘Wow, she speaks with no accent.’ So I went on through the rest of the show speaking mostly in Russian. But I’d won the audience over by that time and managed to avoid the negative reaction that I was afraid of.”

Before joining Nouvelle Vague and then embarking on a solo career, Lubich took part in a number of projects including Vinyl Underground, a club music collective performing in St. Petersburg.

“We played at the Office pub on Kazanskaya Ulitsa; we had a DJ, a guitarist, a keyboard player and Duser [Tequilajazzz’s drummer Alexander Voronov], who played congas and bongos — and I laid some quatrains, which I mostly composed as I went along, over that,” she said.

“It was quite interesting, but to me it lacked some unity, because at the same time I was writing songs that had concrete structures, harmonies, melodies, lyrics, subjects and titles.”

Lubich says at that time, she mostly sang her own songs in the kitchen for friends. “I was not sure that anybody else would be interested,” she says.

“Of course, I wanted to do my own thing, but somehow an opportunity hadn’t turned up.”

The opportunity came when she attended a concert by Nouvelle Vague at the now-defunct club A2 in 2008.

“I was really impressed, and after the show, rightly or wrongly I snuck into the dressing room and handed a disc for producer Marc Collin — the disc was badly recorded but it had my songs on it,” she says.

“A week later, I got a message from him saying that the recording was horrible, everything was horrible, impossible to understand — but there was something about it and could you come to Paris for a recording session.”

Lubich, who has an MA from the city’s Smolny College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a collaboration project between St. Petersburg State University and Bard College in the U.S., says studying in the U.S. helped to form her as a singer.

She started to write songs in English while spending nearly a year at Bard College, a liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, when she was 16.

“I met students from music departments there, and we started to play and sing jazz,” Lubich says.

There she took part in a musical about the 20th-century history of Germany, created by Bard College’s German department. “I had a song [in German] called “Hunger,” which was originally a march, but we remade it into kind of erotic spy blues with pianist Betsy Wright, who used to say, ‘Jazz is everything, and everything’s possible in it.’”

“It was there that I found out what ‘open mike’ is,” she said. “It’s when you can take the microphone in a club and do something, and the public decides whether it’s decent. If people are bored, it’s a sign that it’s time to leave, and if they start to sing along, wink, clap or snap their fingers, you can go on. It was there that I saw that some people might like what I do.”

One of her first English-language songs, written in the U.S., was “The Rain,” of which she later also made a Russian version.

Born into the family of a professor of English and a psychologist in St. Petersburg, Lubich started performing at an early age.

“It seems to me that I’ve been performing all my life,” Lubich says. “Even as a child, I went with my grandmother on holiday to a sanatorium, and they had an entertainment club there, and they spotted me — I was either dancing outside or singing some children’s song… The stage didn’t pass me by even as a child. But it was nothing serious, an innocent experience.”

When she was about 12, Lubich began training in classical singing, performing with her class in Hungary and Finland and winning local contests. “Then I started writing my own songs, and I realized that my classical voice training was hindering me, so I found another teacher to train me in a modern singing style.”

Nouvelle Vague was formed as a musical project by French producers Marc Collin and Olivier Libaux. The name means “new wave” in French and also refers to the concept of bossa nova, which is “new trend” in Portuguese.

“People who don’t have material of their own don’t get invited to this project on principle; maybe that’s why the songs performed by Nouvelle Vague sound so original and people get the impression that it’s an original band — I know that many people have no idea that it performs covers,” Lubich said.

With Lubich, Nouvelle Vague, whose vocalists mostly sing in English with a French accent, incorporated more French songs into its repertoire.

“One of the aspects of the concept was having a slight accent — as though the singer is discovering new meanings to the words as she utters them,” she said.

“The CD that I gave to Collin included ‘Ville de France,’ a song that I wrote set to a French poem when I was in the fifth form, and he liked how my voice sounded in French. The band’s fourth album was almost entirely in French.”

Lubich, who toured with Nouvelle Vague in a number of countries including France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Italy, Turkey and Finland, features on the band’s albums “3” (2009) and “Couleurs sur Paris” (2010).

Her own album, which was previewed by her five-song EP “Russian Girl” in December 2010, features Marc Collin on keyboards, Olivier Libaux on guitar and Thibaut Barbillon on bass, all of whom are musicians with Nouvelle Vague. It also features Jean Pierre Bottiau and Bruno Ralle.

French singer Nicolas Comment is featured on “Blanc Dance,” a song for which he also helped to write the lyrics, while Lubich sang backing vocals on Comment’s 2010 album “Nous etions dieu.”

Back in St. Petersburg, Lubich formed her own band in December 2010 to make their debut at the local branch of the Moscow-based club Chinese Pilot Jao Da the following month.

With ex-Splean guitarist Stas Berezovsky as the only remaining member of that early lineup, Lubich’s band also features Billy’s Band drummer Andrei Ivanov, keyboard player Denis Kirillov and bassist Dmitry Turyev.

Lubich follows the contemporary French music scene, and says she likes the U.S.-born, Paris-based singer-songwriter Birdpaula and Franco-Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra. She also mentions Nouvelle Vague’s Australian singer Phoebe Killdeer, who now performs as Phoebe Killdeer The Short Straws, and the London band Dark Captain Light Captain as some of her favorites.

Of older international artists, she says she repeatedly listens to and finds inspiration in Joni Mitchell.

“Of course, the school of Nouvelle Vague can be heard in what I do now, but it’s all different,” she says.

Lubich does not remember when she wrote the English-language song “Russian Girl,” but suggests it was probably conceived on a flight between Russia and France.

“It’s both a myth and reality,” she says.

“Perhaps there are no such Russians that I sing about and there are no such bears. But at the same time all this exists. It’s a collection of typical things that are usually associated with Russia. But such spiritual impulses do exist. By and large, it’s a song about the Russian soul, which is a mystery.”

Curiously, the St. Petersburg club crowd reacts to Lubich’s songs written in French and English with the same enthusiasm as to her Russian songs.

“I hope they don’t sound mindless and that people don’t think that I sing in English because I have nothing to say — as I lived for some time in New York and have a lot of connections with France, I think I have the moral right to present them to the public,” she says.

“I use English not to cover up a lack of substance, but because I hear some music of my own in that language.

“If I start writing a song from a melody, sometimes I feel that it should be in English, rather than in any other language. It stems from musical phrases and melodic patterns. I feel that English lyrics will be the most organic for it. Or French lyrics. Or Russian lyrics. Every language has its own notes and rhythms.

Seen as very much a St. Petersburg artist despite her international connections, Lubich describes her song “Chyornoye” (Black) as some sketches of St. Petersburg images and impressions.

“When we perform outside St. Petersburg, people often approach me after the concert and ask ‘Aren’t you from Piter?’” she says.

“I think that this is the song that people can work that out from. I wrote it in St. Petersburg, I was walking over Palace Bridge in the rain, cars were speeding by, and it was cold and dark. It’s true, ‘in this black city only the night is white,’ that’s what I felt.”

Jenia Lubich will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2 at The Place, located at 47 Ul. Marshala Govorova. Tel. 331 9631. Metro: Baltiiskaya / Narvskaya.

Loko eager to make final step to Europa League playoffs

Lokomotiv have everything in their hands to book a place in the knock-out stage, as they host Austria’s Sturm. A draw will do for the Muscovites in their last European home match this year on Thursday.

­Lokomotiv suffered only one defeat in four matches of the Europa League, in a clash against Anderlecht, and comfortably sit second in their Group L, three points behind the Belgian side.

The hosts can book their place in the knockout stage in the upcoming match against third-placed Sturm from Graz.

“We have a very strong will to get to the pitch on Thursday and to win, so that we can be positive about our future in the Europa League,”
Jose Couceiro, Lokomotiv coach, said. “I want to remind you that Lokomotiv alongside Rubin and Zenit are the only three teams still participating in the Premier League, the Russian Cup and European competitions.”

Lokomotiv look to close the door for Sturm and to repeat their success in the opening matchday, where Victor Obinna and Dmitri Sychev netted goals in a two-minute spell in the first half. That saw the Railway Men coming from behind to clinch a 2-1 away win.

“There are no concerns about the match,” Denis Glushakov, Lokomotiv’s midfielder, said. “There is no snow. The weather is good and the pitch is in good condition. So we are eager to win our last home match.”

However, it’s going to be a tough challenge for Lokomotiv as five key players are still injured. And the Moscow side suffered two straight defeats in the domestic league, being edged by rivals Spartak and Zenit.

“It always happens in football,”
Roman Shishkin, a Lokomotiv defender, said. “When you’re on a good run everyone is happy. And you hear only positive comments. But as soon as you start losing everything is vice versa. And manager is blamed for everything. But I’m confident that our team is ready for the clash.”

Sturm Graz have outside hopes of reaching the knock-out stage as – in this match alone – the Austrian side needs two goals and victory to keep their dreams alive, while Lokomotiv can secure their place in the Round of 32, with just a point from their last home match this year.

Maroon Five: LA boys reaching out for Moscow

They have been called everything from a half-baked boy band to crybabies, yet Maroon 5 have been selling out stadiums every since they first set foot on a stage. Now they and in their 30s and heading to Moscow for a long-awaited gig.

The band’s story begins in the 1990s when college students Adam Levine and Mickey Madden met formed a group called Kara’s Flowers. As they outgrew their college passions, they changed the band’s name to Maroon 5 in 1999, got new musicians and defined their musical style with the sophisticated term adult alternative pop-rock.

Maroon 5 can hardly be called prolific, having produced just three studio albums since 1999, yet the boys still managed to earn a fortune, selling over 15 million copies of their albums worldwide.

Having released the Hands All Over CD in 2010, in one of his interviews the band’s frontman announced that having reached its peak, Maroon 5 might soon fall apart. Levine has said he is reluctant to pursue a musical career into his 40s, 50s and 60s “like the Rolling Stones.”

Maroon 5’s first-ever appearance in Moscow at Crocus City Hall on November 27 promises to be the highlight of the weekend for rock-lovers as well as a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Russian fans to hear Adam and his band play live in their capital.

Historama, November 23

Radical changes in the Russian state and symbolism are discussed in tonight’s Historama.

Bolsheviks get rid of the rich and the poor

Classes and ranks were abolished in Russia on this day in 1917.

The Communists appealed to the peasantry by giving people rights. Everyone was called a Citizen of the Russian Republic.

The upper-classes lost everything they owned overnight. All their possessions were confiscated and went to the Soviet state.

Large families would often be forced to live in one room, with strangers moving into their family home.

Wonderful adventures of Russian coat of arms

On this day in 1993, Moscow re-adopted its original heraldic symbol, established in 1781.

It was the image of St. George the Victorious killing a dragon against a burgundy background.

The city’s coat of arms looked slightly different in the 19th century. It had more colours, details and imperial symbols.

Everything changed after the revolution: the red star and hammer-and-sickle then took centre stage.

Read more on this day in Russian history

­Century’s most romantic novel

On this day in 1922, Romantic Russian author, Alexander Grin, finished a novel that took the USSR by storm.

“Scarlet Sails” tells the story of a poor sailor’s daughter. An old stranger tells her that one day a prince will come for her on a ship with scarlet sails. She believes him – and becomes the laughing-stock of the town.

As you can see now in this Soviet film adaptation, the story does have a happy ending.

Russia ready to assist Syrian dialogue – FM Lavrov

Russia is willing to help the opposing sides in the Syrian political crisis to start a reconciliation dialogue, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday.

“We feel the responsibility to make everything possible to initiate an internal dialogue in Syria,” Lavrov said after a meeting of APEC foreign ministers in Honolulu.

Lavrov expressed regret over the fact that certain representatives of the Syrian opposition, especially those residing in the United States and in Turkey, are boycotting any proposals aimed at the talks with the Syrian authorities.

“We will attempt to convince [the opposition] to take a more constructive approach and to care about their country,” the minister said.

A delegation of the opposition Syrian National Council is expected to visit Moscow next week to meet with Lavrov and Russian lawmakers.

Opposition leaders maintain that Syrian authorities continue to use force against “peaceful demonstrations” and many people were killed or injured as a result.

Meanwhile, the authorities say that the troops and police are clashing with militants, who are financed from abroad and attack administrative bodies and ordinary citizens.

According to UN estimates, more than 3,500 people have been killed in Syria since mid-March, when first protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime began.

Russia and China vetoed in October a UN Security Council draft resolution that urged the Syrian regime to immediately stop using violence against protesters or face “targeted measures.”

However, Moscow and Beijing have called on the Syrian government to quickly carry out its commitment of political reform and to resume and promote an inclusive political process that involves the wide participation of all parties in the country.


Russian aid to eurozone to be decided soon

Russia’s financial aid to the eurozone countries may be defined in the next few hours, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.

He said it was too early to speak about precise sums and figures.

“In the next few hours our sherpas and finance ministers will make all the necessary adjustments, and we will prepare the final scheme,” Medvedev told journalists, adding that “everything will be done tomorrow.”

The Russian president said Thursday’s summit focused mainly on the situation in Eurozone and “the extravagant stance” of Greece concerning the future referendum.

“But I still hope that the leadership of Greece – the incumbent or coalition government – will have enough determination to bring the current policy to an end and receive funds to overcome the Greek economy’s crisis,” Medvedev said. “Because eurozone stability and future events on the European continent, maybe even a new wave of financial crisis, depend on it.”

He said he discussed financial aid to Greece with other leaders of the BRICS group of nations, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

He said the leaders agreed to help preserve “one of the key reserve currencies,” but the aid should be done “consciously and with full understanding of existing risks.”

“This aid should be targeted, understandable, transparent,” Medvedev said. “And we should clearly understand on what conditions it would be provided.”

Medvedev also said that Russia may apply to host the G20 summit in 2013.

Russia could join WTO by December

Russia could be a member of the World Trade Organization by mid-December, declared presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich.

“If everything goes as planned, the working group will meet on November 11,” Dvorkovich said. “If the group approves the bid, Russia will join the WTO on December 15, at the ministerial conference. The next step then, of course, is to get all documents ratified.”

Negations got a major boost last week after the EU put pressure on Georgia – the only member of the WTO opposing the bid.

The EU threatened that if Georgia does not change its position on Russia’s bid, the EU will make an exception to WTO rules, which require the full consent of all 153 member states in order to welcome a new member.

As required, Russia has already held successful negations with all WTO countries – aside from Georgia.

Both the US and EU removed the last roadblocks to Russia’s membership after Moscow agreed to change its rules on car assembly, the export of farm products and quotas for wood imports.

Tbilisi, however, pointed out that Russia “refuses to comply with the minimum of conditions required to obtain the WTO membership.” Among the “minimum requirements” are the changes to Russia’s positions on trade in the long-disputed “occupied territories,” Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia is currently the only large economy to remain outside of the WTO. The country first applied for membership in the WTO in December 1994. The number of its negotiating partners has kept growing through the years, and the latest working group had 58 members, making it the largest working group in the entire history of the WTO.

Pyramid schemes reaniMMMated

One of the 20th century’s most notorious get-rich-quick schemes is back. After going bankrupt 17 years ago, and earning a prison term for its founder, the Ukrainian-based MMM financial pyramid has resurfaced.

­Although the project once wiped out the savings of millions, there are still plenty of investors willing to open their wallets once again.

The 2011 Russian hit movie “The Pyramid” depicts a Robin Hood of the 1990s – a businessman who promises wealth for ordinary people and confronts the oligarchs. The real story behind this plot was a sad episode in Russia’s post-Soviet history. The financial pyramid – called MMM – attracted millions who believed its promise to multiply their investment many times over. In the end it went bust, and up to 15 million people lost their life savings.

Its founder, however, feels little remorse. “I do not feel like I am a sinner,” Sergey Mavrodi, MMM creator and pyramid scheme founder told RT.

“What about MMM-94? It was undermined by the government, so a new MMM emerged, with virtually unlimited resources, absolutely uncontrolled. So the situation was not acceptable and everything was done to eliminate it,” Mavrodi recalls.

Sergey Mavrodi, the driving force behind the MMM movement, spent five years in prison for fraud. But now the man often called “the Russian Bernie Madoff” is back.

Seventeen years after his financial pyramid tore through the post-Soviet space, Sergey Mavrodi has a new scheme. And while you are unlikely to come across any commercials for his new enterprise in Russia, the streets of Ukraine are resounding with calls to join in with MMM-2011.

“We can do more!” proclaims the slogan of the new campaign. Mavrodi admits that it is indeed another pyramid and does not deny that it is a risky venture, but still promises people that they will make money.

“There is a virtual currency called MMM dollars which constantly rises in price from 20 to 60 per cent a month. This price only I can set. Some individuals exchange money between themselves, without any obligations, guarantees or conditions – it is a fundamental point,” Mavrodi explained.

When there is no legal entity, no joint account, no office – in other words everything is shared between millions of private accounts – it means no one can put an end to it…

Financial experts in Ukraine are unsurprised at Mavrodi’s latest scheme, given the rough patch the country is going through.

“The national bank is introducing new restrictions in order not to allow the depreciation of the national currency. A lot of people understand that the government machine is against administratively depressing the financial market. And people look for a way out,” stated Andrey Blinov, chief editor of the “Expert Ukraine” business magazine.

Mavrodi claims his actions are legal; Ukraine’s politicians disagree. The ruling party wants current laws tightened to block the MMM from making off with vulnerable people’s nest eggs.

“MMM-2011 is a provision of financial services, and this kind of activity requires a license. And providing financial services without a license is a criminal offense,” maintains Aleksander Misenko, a lawyer from the Party of Regions.

MMM-2011 already has 1.5 million investors – and counting. Mavrodi remains convinced that it is a road to riches. But try telling that to the many millions of victims left with nothing and still reeling from his previous Ponzi scheme.

Moscow’s Bitter Ex-Boss Luzhkov Lashes Out At Kremlin, Says United Russia ‘Shameful’

In September 2010, longtime Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov was removed from his post at the order of President Dmitry Medvedev, following weeks of scandalous accusations against him in the Russian media. His successor, Kremlin-appointed insider Sergei Sobyanin, took office one year ago today. In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service correspondent Mumin Shakirov, Luzhkov describes what happened last summer, giving a rare inside look into the ways of Russian politics. He also speaks candidly about his assessment of the ruling United Russia party, of which he was a founding leader back in 1999.

RFE/RL: It is now one year since you were removed as mayor of Moscow. Can you tell us how it started?

Luzhkov: The whole system of piling on — as they figured it — started working. I returned too late, supposedly. Although the prime minister [Vladimir Putin] said I returned in a timely way, an unidentified source in the Kremlin said it was bad, that I returned late, abandoned the people of Moscow…

RFE/RL: You mean that Moscow was choking in the smoke of the forest fires last summer?

Luzhkov: Smoke and fires, yes. And it was as if it was Moscow’s fault! And then there were a whole bunch of other insinuations about me and about my wife. I understood that all this wasn’t happening by chance. What’s more, I know the background and that background also has its interesting beginnings, moments. I participated in a congress of trade unions, gave a speech. After me, Putin spoke to close the congress. The organizers arranged things so that I was not able to meet with Putin. And then I was invited to the presidential administration, to [see presidential chief of staff Sergei] Naryshkin. And Naryshkin essentially told me directly, “Yury Mikhailovich, the decision has been made. The decision has been agreed to by Putin, the president has made the decision to dismiss you.”

RFE/RL: Tell us what happened when you met with Naryshkin.

Luzhkov: In principle, after this series of provocations by the administration, by the president’s press secretary, I understood why I was summoned to the administration. And I asked Naryshkin what the reason was. But there was no reason: “It’s the president’s decision.” I said, “Tell me the reason. Did I not cope with the work of running the city? Did I not manage the social system? Is there a problem with the development of the city? Did I commit some crime that would disqualify me morally?” “No, Yury Mikhailovich, you have to resign. If you resign voluntarily, everything will be fine. Everything will be OK. Everything will be quiet. There won’t be any more questions for you.” I said, “I don’t understand the reasons. There is very little time until the end of my term.” There was less than a year left. “So I don’t see any basis for making such a hasty decision. When my term is up, I won’t seek another and everything will be settled naturally. Why is there suddenly such a hurry?” “Well, you see, the pre-election work is beginning and so on. And this is important for us.” “Well, fine. Fine,” I said. “And what if I don’t agree with this?” “The decision has been made,” Naryshkin told me in a quiet voice, looking away from me. “I recommend, purely on a personal basis, not to resist.” And I said, “You know, that isn’t my way. Not my way. I am a manager and I always have to understand the reasons and then, according to those reasons…” He didn’t explain anything to me, so I told Naryshkin that I would write a statement. But I asked him for time to celebrate my birthday. It was less than a week later — from the 17th to the 21st [of September 2010].

RFE/RL: It was a personal request?

Luzhkov: Of course. He said, “Yury Mikhailovich, I will talk with the leadership” — and the leadership, as always, made such decisions from afar — “I will talk with the leadership and most likely we will agree to your request — out of human decency.” So we agreed that I would think over this decision and after I returned from a short vacation to celebrate my birthday abroad, I would write my statement.

I warned [presidential chief of staff Sergei] Naryshkin that it wouldn’t be a resignation letter. It would be my statement about all that had happened during the period of piling-on in relation to me.

But I warned Naryshkin that it wouldn’t be a resignation letter. It would be my statement about all that had happened during the period of piling-on in relation to me. He asked me not to discuss this conversation with anyone. I promised and I kept that promise. He said that “on our part, we will make a pause.” I should say that I had a strange birthday. All of it happened against the background of my knowledge that the decision had been made and that 20 years after first running the city as mayor or, before that, chairman of the executive committee, I must leave my post. For me, this was not a tragedy, and inwardly I was calm. Although, as anyone would say, it was a tense calm, calmness under conditions of tension. So I sat down and wrote my statement. Of course, I told my wife about this and asked her not to tell her friends. Then I told my children. In our family, we always consult with our children, and I think that is correct — the understanding of children about what is happening to their parents is no less important than the understanding of parents about what is happening to their children.

RFE/RL What was in the statement?

Luzhkov: I wrote my statement — in fact, I wrote it all out by hand and, strangely enough, practically without changing a word. It is on the Internet and has been published. I showed it to Lena, to my wife [Yelena Baturina]. It was forceful, my statement. It touched on several topics. First, was that the first conflict that happened with Medvedev was public: On television I said that we should return to the election of governors and mayors, and Medvedev the next day said that anyone who doesn’t agree [with the current practice] should resign. I thought he was talking about me, so I wrote another statement — it was about a year earlier — and asked for a meeting. He agreed and I gave him my statement. He said he wouldn’t accept it and told me to throw it away. He said he had confidence in me and that his words were not aimed at me. To be honest, I was quite surprised.

Such declarations by the leaders of the sort that anyone who disagrees and expresses their opinion should resign remind me of the beginning of 1937. And in 1937, the nation was terrified right down to its genes.

But I wrote in my statement that, unfortunately, the situation in the country today is bad. We don’t have discussion. We don’t have consultations. Such declarations by the leaders of the sort that anyone who disagrees and expresses their opinion should resign remind me of the beginning of 1937. And in 1937, the nation was terrified right down to its genes. And that fear doesn’t go away. And it is unacceptable for the leadership of the country to intensify that fear with such declarations. That was the first part of my statement.

The second part was about his personal statements that sounded rather dictatorial, like: “My words are etched in granite.” Remember that? And so on.

The third part was about the lack of media freedom. I said that all our media today unfortunately are almost entirely subservient to the presidential administration and that is absolutely unacceptable in a country that proclaims the principles of democracy. Everything is done under orders, and I saw that in the campaign that unfolded against me.

And, fourth, I said the calls to remove Luzhkov were coming from the mouths of figures like [opposition politician and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris] Nemtsov — and it isn’t that I consider him a joke, I consider him totally weak, a political failure with a demagogic spirit. The president can proceed in one of two ways: Either he can go ahead on the leash of such Nemtsovs, or he can act like a man. In the end, I wrote it is up to you to make a decision, but I don’t intend to submit any letters of resignation.

A monument to Yury Luzhkov in Moscow, where he held unrivaled local power for two decades.
​​RFE/RL: In addition to being mayor of Moscow, you were a leader of the United Russia party, the party of Putin and Medvedev. But you were also a major political player back in the Yeltsin era and, back then, the leader of the very popular Fatherland party. How did you end up joining United Russia?

Luzhkov: I was always a white crow when I was in power. But they tolerated me until a certain time. In 1999, the attacks against me began because it was time for a change of the country’s leadership and they needed to create conditions for me in which I had no prospects for the future.

RFE/RL: Do you now regret that Fatherland merged with the pro-Kremlin Unity party to form United Russia?

Luzhkov: I regret it. Fatherland found itself in a situation where everyone was running to support Unity. We lost our material base. Every party requires not only leadership and public support money, resources so that it can continue working. But everyone abandoned Fatherland. Everyone who promised to support us abandoned us. And we were expected to get about 40 percent of the vote, at least.

RFE/RL: What is your opinion of United Russia now?

Luzhkov: As far as United Russia is concerned, here there are two things to say. The first is the people in United Russia, who are weak — I mean, the leaders of that party are weak and gray in terms of their potential — organizational, intellectual, and so on. And the party itself — maybe as a result of those personal qualities of those people — the party became a party of comfort…. The leadership of United Russia made decisions that were convenient for themselves. It is convenient to be a servant; that is always easier. It is easier than having your own point of view on the situation in the country. The ability to object also must be connected to potential, to strength, personal strength, the strength of a group of people. [Duma speaker Boris] Gryzlov, as the boss of the party — not the leader, but the boss — is a gray personality, a person who has always been a servant and who is incapable of having an independent position. Not only in terms of disputes with the higher leadership — such disputes simply don’t exist because he is weak — but even in disputes with his own colleagues. [Former Federation Council Chairman Sergei] Mironov — several times that Mironov disrespected him, maybe with the help of the higher leadership, so much that it was distressing for us, people in the leadership of the party. All of this is sort of a two-pronged look. The first is a look at the people — and that is sort of a foundation — and the second is what they do — those people couldn’t, not having any leverage or their own positions, couldn’t do anything about the independence of the party.

RFE/RL: But…

Luzhkov: My view of United Russia is extremely negative. It is not a party. It is some sort of structure that does not have its own face, that holds a shameful position.

Joy to the World: Reports the Western Media and Government on Libya…

Keith Harmon Snow, a war correspondent and independent investigator, believes that killing Gaddafi would be an illegal targeted assassination and that there is obviously a hidden agenda behind Hilary Clinton’s apparently spontaneous visit…

“There is a lot of fighting in Libya at present and almost everything we’ve been told, everything we’ve seen, is false. We are getting just a complete propaganda story of what’s going on in Libya,” he said. “Why is she there? Clearly to make it look to the American public like we are in absolute control of Libya. Cover up the atrocities, put a white, clean, shiny, happy, lovely face on the death and destruction.”…

Well – This is a good interview and he really says it like it is. Nothing but the truth and cut to the quick…

It is interesting but since the illegal assassination of an American for extremist views, ordered by Obama himself. I look at other Americans all over the world and wonder who is next. If you express the truth, your demise may be on order. It use to be good fantasy to talk about assassinations and such. But when you become a target because of your beliefs and such…

I am just saying what is going through many minds at the present over a cup of delicious coffee…

Interesting tidbit of information: US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says Washington wants to see the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi captured or killed. (But – but – but – but – I thought we were never in this to just murder Qaddafi.) Have you ever noticed how the truth comes out but it is always much later after we lie for months and months? Then no one listens to the truth because some other new lie is in the headlines…

Wake up world and smell the coffee…

Kyle Keeton
Windows to Russia!

PS: 63000 Libyans killed in NATO Bombing Try the video out. It has been edited for content, but it is still very graphic…

Phelps ‘having fun’ in Moscow

The most decorated still-active sportsman in the world, American star swimmer Michael Phelps, is in Moscow taking part in a World Cup stage. Despite not having had much time to look around, he says he is having fun in the Russian capital.

“For me it’s the first time in Russia. So I was looking forward to taking in everything, being able to come out into the city, see other buildings, check out where the 1980 Olympics were, you know. This was obviously a cool and fun experience for me. Hopefully, I can take in as much as I can,”

Phelps told

“Hopefully with the [US] team we’ll be able to travel around and see Red Square and other big attractions here in Moscow,” he noted.

“Two years ago I swam in a couple of World Cups, but I didn’t swim as fast as I wanted to. Now I think I’m in a lot better shape than I was then, and if come in with some faster times I will be happy and satisfied,” he said before adding, “The last couple of weeks we’ve had good training and I just want to see where we stand right now.”

So far the American star is yet to amaze the Moscow crowd. On Tuesday, he failed to qualify for the 100-meters freestyle final. Then again, the whole tournament is before him.

Putin cautions against wrong steps in Russian politics

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned on Monday that political steps in the wrong direction could throw Russia back to the volatile 1980s-1990s.


Putin brushed off criticism of his tandem with President Dmitry Medvedev in an interview with three national TV channels seven weeks before parliamentary elections scheduled for December 4.


“I would caution against saying that things cannot get worse. If we take two or three steps in the wrong direction, everything that happened then [in 1980s-1990s] could return in the blink of an eye,” Putin said.


The prime minister described the situation in Russia at the end of the 1980s as disastrous and cited a popular joke to stress his point.


“For instance: some people invite their friends to come over for a visit. When they arrive, the hosts ask, ‘Would you like to wash your hands with soap?’ They say that they do. The hosts reply, ‘Then you’ll be having your tea without sugar.’ The idea is that one could not afford to have both. People could only get the essentials – basic food products. There was rationing for everything, to say nothing of the monopoly in ideology and politics,” Putin said.


In Putin’s opinion, the wrong steps taken by the Russian leadership at the time led to the downfall and collapse of the country and created the circumstances that were behind the country’s dissolution.


“It was in this way that we threw out the baby with the bath water – the dirty water of an inadequate political system and an inefficient economy. We allowed the country to collapse. This was also a time when people said that things could not get any worse,” Putin said.


“But then came the 1990s: a total collapse of the social sphere, when we saw not only single enterprises but entire industries grind to a halt, along with delays in pensions, all kinds of benefits, military pensions and salaries (which were delayed for months), and rampant crime. We truly came close to a civil war. We shed blood in the Caucasus, where we sent air power, heavy equipment and tanks. We are still dealing with the problems that remain there – crime and terrorism – but thank God, the situation has changed.”


Putin said that elements of stability in the political sphere were of vital importance for Russia which has been emerging from a deep political and economic crisis for the last two decades.


Putin and Medvedev have backed one another to switch roles after 2012 presidential elections. Medvedev proposed Putin for president at the United Russia congress in late September, saying he was ready to serve as prime minister in case of Putin’s victory.


Putin Warns ‘Mistakes’ Could Bring Back ’90s Woes

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia’s stability remains fragile and suggested that a few wrong moves could return the country to the turmoil of the 1990s.

Putin, speaking in his first lengthy television interview since announcing he would seek a third presidential term, said his opponents’ were wrong when claiming Russia’s situation “could not get worse.”

“I would be careful saying that things cannot get worse,” Putin said. “It’s enough to take two or three wrong steps and everything that was before could overwhelm us so quickly that we would not even have time to look around.”

Putin admitted, however, that Russia had problems in the North Caucasus, saying the region is riddled with “with crime and terrorism.”

Putin also praised himself as Russia’s “most hardworking” leader since World War II, saying that Communist-era leaders were not physically able and did not have “the will” to run the country the way he managed to.

He said that his decision to run again for the presidency still leaves average Russians an opportunity to “make their choice” in the March 2012 presidential vote.

Current President Dmitry Medvedev has already said he was more interested in being prime minister, and is expected to lead the ruling United Russia party’s list of candidates in the December national elections.

Putin, whose planned Kremlin comeback is seen by analysts as possibly dealing a blow to the U.S.-Russian “reset” in ties, said he would pursue “good neighborly, friendly ties with all our partners.”

compiled from agency reports