Things may be looking good to President Putin, but that doesn’t mean things look good for President Putin.
Basically, in his campaign on behalf of the ghost of Nicholas II, which may not be so bad, for where would the world be without its great mansions and museums, it’s breathtaking estates and hunting grounds, in a word its financial, political, and religious aristocracies — there would be no Versailles, for example, or one day, for another perhaps, a palatial estate on the Black Sea, one the property of a former president or, no need to discount the possibility, the seat of the New and Surviving Nobility — but he’s waked the phantoms of the Evil Empire, the Stasi, the KGB, the untrustworthy, the malignant, and the fearfully controlling.
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So far, twenty-eight people have been charged as part of the case, which the state has tried to present as a planned conspiracy—a putsch plotted from abroad and executed from within. Kosenko is the first to receive a verdict, perhaps setting a precedent for others. At the very least, his case sends a signal about the Kremlin’s rapaciousness not just in prosecuting the Bolotnaya defendants but in its desire to clamp down on all those in the opposition or sympathetic to it.
Related: Anti-Putin protester Mikhail Kosenko sent to psych ward in Russia | News.com.au – 10/9/2013 (AFP);
“Back in the USSR” indeed!
And yet . . . .
Prior to his sentencing, Mikhail Kosenko had been treated for a mild schizophrenia, according to News AU. However, as with many other organic conditions in our lives, simplified on/off states belie more complex and nuanced relationships, and that to the effect that a little something-something may need nothing even approaching hospitalization.
Kosenko was diagnosed in 2001 with mild schizophrenia, but his condition was controlled by medication and he had never shown any aggression, according to a statement from Human Rights Watch.
As with Khodorkovsky, who seemed to be doing what come naturally after the dissolution of the USSR, and not all of that perfectly good but at least sensible, the subsequent kangaroo case sent the yellow and red flags flying around President Putin: with Khodorkovsky, the president confirmed his course.
Even so, even the Khodorkovsky saga gets fuzzy.
Putin once dismissed Khodorkovsky’s case by saying thieves must sit in jail. But asked about the ruling on Thursday, he said he bore no grudge against him, saying he had not played any role in the court’s decision.
That day is coming, so we’ll soon see if Khodorkovsky’s release comes to pass, and, if so, whether any kind of real justice will be pursued or pawed aside.
Related: Midas Touch – Those With Putin Ties Glow Brightly – NYTimes.com – 3/1/2012; Vladimir Putin, the Richest Man on Earth – Bloomberg – 9/17/2013.
“I want to make a declaration to everyone who has a role in making the decision to put me in isolation,” Tolokonnikova wrote in her statement, seen by the Guardian. “If you think that without contact with my friends I will become amenable and open to compromise, and go back on the views I have formed about Mordovia’s camps during my time in jail, then you are horribly mistaken.”
Putin will no more return Russia to its imperial age, the age of empire predating the February Revolution than Al Qaeda will return the earth to its 7th Century political construction. Even so, barbarians and dictators may live in their own mirrored bubbles, enjoying, so each may believe, the powerful endorsement of The People and the prestige of glorious high office or equivalent power even while their nation-state hosts dissolve by way of the abuse, corruption, and neglect they have brought them.
Putin’s Russia, tender with the still recent if inter-generational past, today reminds itself of the Soviet Era by way of the ghosts of the Gulag, the visitation of human rights abuse reports that should have stopped years ago, the recollection in the daily news that the United States or other “external forces” are The Enemy (somehow).
Russian President Vladimir Putin likes to preen as a defender of “values embedded in Christianity” and “moral standards,” as he put it in a press conference last month. But for those who associate Christian values with notions such as mercy and integrity, that image is hard to square with his blatant disregard for honest elections, rule of law and civil liberties.
Political Diary: President Putin’s Values – WSJ.com – 10/11/2013.
Related: Russia jails top opposition leader; Putin denounced as dictator | Reuters – 7/18/2013.
I have wondered if dictators on their way to becoming so have not in their zest to acquire power found novel ways of trapping themselves in their own wires.
Consider for Putin what any form of retreat would mean as regards arrangements with Kadyrov in Chechnya, the FSB in Moscow, the happily patronized of the “new nobility”; consider for Russia what effects Putin’s absence from power would have on arrangements around the “vertical of power”.
Putin has weaved a web with himself essential to it.
One worries that it might not let him go even if he should wish to move sideways into some other and more noble life.
Kremlin Crooks: Putin’s ‘Patriotic’ Hypocrites | World Affairs Journal – July/August 2013:
If the level of domestic political repression in Vladimir Putin’s Russia has not yet reached the scale of that in the Soviet Union—though several dozen Russian political prisoners are being held behind bars on fabricated charges—the level of officially sanctioned anti-Western agitation, and anti-Americanism in particular, is certainly comparable to the worst years of the Cold War.
Putin’s Medieval Peace Pact in Chechnya – Bloomberg – 4/26/2013:
Instead of solving the North Caucasus issue, however, Putin created a monster. To end the fighting, he cut a deal with Chechnya’s rebel Kadyrov clan: In exchange for loyalty to the Kremlin, they received power and reconstruction aid.
There is not a single mention in Putin’s article, addressed to the American people, of the egregious crimes committed by the Syrian government and extensively documented by the UN Commission of Inquiry, local and international human rights groups, and numerous journalists: deliberate and indiscriminate killings of tens of thousands of civilians, executions, torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests. His op-ed also makes no mention of Russia’s ongoing transfer of arms to Assad throughout the past two and a half years.
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