Tag Archives: Russians

Goa: Russians taking over local tourism trade

MORJIM, India – Russians are present in almost all businesses related to tourism in the northern beaches of Goa such as Morjim, Mandrem, Ashvem and Arambol.

First, they paid as tourists; slowly, they captured the businesses, killed the competition and now monopolize the economy in the beach stretches of Morjim, Mandrem, Ashvem and Arambol.

One can find them in all businesses; be it providing SIM cards or DJs or designing flyers and advertisements, taxi arrangements, arranging night parties, dancers, hosting shows, lighting and fireworks, running hotels or shacks or restaurants. Most are illegal though.

“First, they came as guests and paid the normal payments for the goods and services they utilized. It was around 8-10 years ago, when the Israelis were dominating the drug business and were a majority among the tourists in Arambol,” said a local, requesting anonymity.

It was in Morjim (the quiet village with agriculture and fishing as main activities), where Russians slowly realized that they could dominate if they poured in some rubles and made the village their second home away from home.

“Russians started hiring houses to stay in. They started giving business to the shops. The face of Morjim village slowly started changing. Locals started welcoming Russians as they were able to see currency moving in and out of their hands.

 

Russians became partners in local businesses like shacks, hotels, restaurants. The advantage for locals was that they were getting more business as they (Russians) use their contacts to attract business,” said a local villager.

“They came as visitors, then they realized ‘Why be a guest and pay when there can be earnings, while also being a tourist?’ They understood the business, ventured into businesses and are now ruling business. The situation is almost that of a monopoly,” said a villager.

Russians first started living in houses and locals started to welcome them, especially in Morjim, as the village’s economy was very weak then. “Russians started taking houses on rent and letting them out to their Russian friends. They book houses prior to the beginning of the season and then rent them,” explained a local.

The Russians next ventured into the restaurant and hotel business in partnership with locals. “The Russian funds the business which is registered in the name of a local. The advantage, here, is that Russian tourists are directly diverted to these shacks, restaurants or hotels because of the Russian connection.

Then, they also started the tourist taxi business and tours, operating through direct online contacts with Russian tourists.

Currently, the situation is like this: Russians are there in every business and the locals can feel their dominance. But, if they say that Russians are not wanted in the business, who will give them business?

 

For instance, a late loud music party is organized. Though illegal, it is the order of the day during tourist season in Morjim and Ashvem.

Now, if there are no Russian DJs, there will be no crowd. No crowd means loss for the organizers and the local taxi businessman and for the locals who do some odd jobs at the party venues,” the local elaborated.

Presently, more Russians come to Morjim because it resembles a mini-Moscow; with the Russian people and environment (menus, music, people, language, and lifestyle) and the business cycle continues. In Morjim and Ashvem, the Russian New Year parties are much bigger than the ones held on December 31.

If there is no Russian partner in any tourist-related business in Morjim, Mandrem, Ashvem and Arambol, the entrepreneur is at a loss as majority of the tourists in this stretch are Russians and you require Russians to attract them.

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The Kremlin Kids love the West

The rulers in Moscow demonize the West because of moral decay and loss of culture. But exactly where they let their sons and daughters to train and live. President Putin is the best example.

Vladimir Putin may have many bills with the West. Remains the collapse of the Soviet Union the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” for the former KGB officer. The Western democracy model considers the Kremlin rulers as a threat to his authoritarian leadership style. Reject all does not, however, want the West Russian power elite.

Especially not when it comes to their own children. Neither in Russia nor in Phantom Empire Noworossija (“New Russia”) would like Putin and his confidants send their kids to school, but in the West. Ie where Putin assumed a value decomposition, where supposedly moral decay and perish national cultures.

Putin saw the end of the Soviet Union with his family in Dresden – as a KGB agent. After returning to his hometown of St. Petersburg’s two daughters Putin visited the German-speaking elite high school Peter School.

When his father moved to Moscow to become intelligence chief, his daughters were also in the Russian capital in a German school. The elder daughter Maria Putina now lives with her Dutch boyfriend in a luxury penthouse near The Hague.

Three daughters of the elite school in Switzerland

After the launch of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 called for the expulsion of the Dutch angry 29-year-olds. Most of the victims of the tragedy in eastern Ukraine were Dutch.

Putin’s younger daughter Ekaterina should have a permanent residence in Munich. She is married to a Korean. Meanwhile, her father repeatedly complained that the “differences between nations and cultures washed out” are.

According to the Russian website “Open Town” there is virtually no family under the Kremlin rulers that can not be educating their children in the West. Accordingly, visited three daughters of the Vice President of Parliament Sergei Schelesnjak an elite school in Switzerland.

The cost per school year were about 50,000 francs. Schelesnjak to earn the equivalent of 71,000 francs a year, according to his tax return. Two daughters of high-ranking politician apparently now live in London.

What upset me the teachings of his father?

Also the sons of the Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak see their future rather in the West. Alexei, that’s the name of the elder son, is according to the “Open Town” known as Contractors in Russia and as a partner of international companies. His younger brother worked at Credit Suisse.

Against Dmitry Kozak, the EU imposed a travel ban shortly after the annexation of Crimea in the spring. The Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov daughter studied in the United States when her father was ambassador to the UN in New York. It is unclear whether she has since returned to Moscow.

The most vocal critics of the West heard in Moscow Putin adviser and head of the Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin. He says the West is a “vulgar ethno-fascism” back into fashion.

Yakunin vehemently defended the crackdown by the Russian authorities against homosexuals and finds it outrageous that the Austrian travesty artist Conchita Wurst was chosen as the winner of the Euro Vision Song Contest.

“The ancient definition of democracy had nothing to do with bearded ladies, but democracy is the rule of the people,” grumbled Yakunin.

His children and grandchildren seem to think nothing of such teachings: A son to work as a real estate agent in Switzerland, the other had long lived in London and now work as an investor, a British company, announces “Open Town”. Jakunins grandchildren study therefore in “elite education” in England and Switzerland.

Every five Russians want to emigrate

The Commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Russian President, Pavel Astakhov has 2013 banning the adoption of Russian orphans to the US prevailed after cases of abuse had become known. For Astakhov and other Russian politicians of the so-called adoption scandal was a welcome opportunity for a cheap anti-Western polemics.

But so dangerous, the West seems also not to be Astakhov: His older son studied in New York and Oxford, a child was born in a villa in Cannes to the world. It is not only Putin’s closest confidant who let their young family members benefit from the Western education system. Many parliamentarians of the Kremlin United Russia party pay large sums to accommodate their children in western elite schools.

And the children of powerful politicians who are studying in Russia, want to get away one day. The son of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he wanted to attend a further education after graduation – in the United States.

A study conducted by the renowned Levada Center poll found that one in five Russians to emigrate. Among students, it is even half. In contrast, Putin struggles with Forbidden: Ministers and senior officials may not have accounts abroad.

The parliamentarian Vladimir Pechtin must have mandate to return after it became known that he had property worth two million dollars in US sunshine state of Florida. Pechtin was chairman of the ethics committee in the State Duma. (Tages-Anzeiger)

Ukrainian Bessarabia – Towards the unknown region

A little-known place that interests both Ukraine and Russia

The isolated region of Ukrainian Bessarabia, which is also known as Budjak, has become one of the latest places for Ukraine-watchers to worry about. Many of the inhabitants fear a spread of the war from eastern Ukraine. Geography gives their region great strategic importance, especially if the Russians were ever tempted to try to carve a land corridor across to Crimea, Odessa and the Romanian border.

Ukrainian Bessarabia is bounded by the Black Sea, the Danube and Moldova. The Russian-controlled breakaway region of Transdniestria is to the north. There are no roads, bridges or ferries across the Danube to Romania and only two roads connect the region to the rest of Ukraine. If the bridges over the Dniester were blown up, it would be cut off.

Fewer than half of the region’s 570,000 people are Ukrainian. The rest are Bulgarians, Russians, Moldovans, Gagauz or Albanians. Many have a benign view of Russia, which gave their ancestors land and freedom 200 years ago. Almost everyone speaks Russian and many complain that Ukraine has done little for them. Ivan Rusev, a local ecologist, tracks illegal buildings in the Dniester Delta National Park. This was a problem before Ukraine’s 2014 revolution, he says, but it is worse now.

The result is a contradiction. For pro-Ukrainians such as Mr Rusev, too many fellow Bessarabians hope vaguely that “Putin will solve all their problems.” Few have any faith in the government in Kiev. Yet according to Anton Kisse, a local politician, at the same time as many feel sympathy for Russia, they also favour Ukraine’s unity. Sergey Dibrov, a journalist in Odessa, believes that, given the region’s ethnic make-up, any declaration of independence would see the region splinter into bits.

In the autumn there were rumours of plots to proclaim a pro-Russian Bessarabian People’s Republic, along the lines of the separatist republics in Ukraine’s Donbas region. Possible leaders included former Soviet army officers living in Bolgrad, which is mostly ethnic Bulgarian. Yet war in the east has dampened enthusiasm for separatism. A tragedy last May which saw dozens of pro-Russian activists killed in a fire in Odessa has also chilled any desire for revolt against Kiev. Pro-Russian leaders have fled and opportunistic politicians have shifted towards supporting the unity of Ukraine.

The question is what Russia wants. State power has changed hands nine times in Bessarabia in just over 200 years. Locals report seeing drones, some perhaps from Transdniestria and some that may have come from ships of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, based in Sebastopol. Even so, Ukraine’s flag looks likely to fly over Bessarabia for some time to come.

US Coast Guard chief: We are ‘not even in the same league as Russia’ in the Arctic

Russian President Vladimir Putin and defense minister Sergey Ivanov visiting military exercises in Russia’s Arctic North on board the nuclear-missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky in 2005.

The US is lagging far behind other nations, especially Russia, when it comes to planning for the Arctic region as ice melts.

“We’re not even in the same league as Russia right now,” Newsweek quotes Coast Guard Commandant Paul F. Zukunft as saying. “We’re not playing in this game at all.”

The Arctic is stocked with valuable oil, gas, mineral, and fishery reserves. The US estimates that a significant proportion of the planet’s untapped resources — including about 15% of the world’s remaining oil, up to 30% of its natural-gas deposits, and about 20% of its liquefied natural gas — is stored in the regions seabed.

The US has only two heavy diesel icebreakers and one medium icebreaker, among the main measures of Arctic capability. While not a direct military tool, these vessels play a multifaceted role in any nation’s Arctic strategy.

The vessels allow a range of other merchant, survey, and military vessels to ply through the Arctic ice safely and in a year-round manner.

In comparison, Russia has six nuclear-powered icebreakers already in service. The Russians also have at least a dozen other diesel icebreakers in service. In 2017, Moscow is expecting the delivery of another new nuclear-powered vessel.

Polar Start icebreaker

Of the US’ two heavy icebreakers, only one, the Polar Star, is in functional condition, according to NPR. Its sister vessel, the Polar Sea, has been languishing at port for years after a major breakdown.

The Coast Guard also has a medium icebreaker, the USCG Healy, but the service branch is petitioning to acquire more assets for its fleet.

“The Polar Sea had a major engine breakdown in 2010, had to be towed into its home port of Seattle, and it’s basically been … just rusting in the docks in Seattle,” Shiva Polefka, of the Center for American Progress, told NPR.

This forces the US to rely upon a single heavy icebreaker in the Arctic as the region takes on unprecedented levels of economic and geopolitical significance. The US also deploys its icebreakers to the Antarctic, placing strain on its current fleet.

arctic ice northwest passage map

Shipping throughout the Arctic will also become critically important. A proposed Russian Northern Sea Route could eventually rival the Suez Canal in economic importance.

The route would connect shipping from Europe to Asia in 35 days, as opposed to the 48-day journey via the Suez Canal.

Without the needed investment, the US will most likely continue to trail Russia as the Arctic becomes a pivotal geopolitical region.

In addition the disparity in icebreaker strength, Moscow has undertaken a construction blitz across the Arctic to establish military superiority in the region. Russia is constructing 10 Arctic search-and-rescue stations, 16 deepwater ports, 13 airfields, and 10 air-defense radar stations across its Arctic coast.

Russia Militarization Arctic

Simultaneously, Moscow has created Joint Strategic Command North (JSCN) from components of the Northern Fleet in order to maintain a permanent military presence in the region. This command will most likely become a fifth Russian military district.

Now Russia and Ukraine are at war over the ownership of St Vladimir the Great

A millennium ago, grand prince Vladimir of Kiev cast a civilisational fault line across Eastern Europe – one that divided the states of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine from the rest of the continent.

Vladimir’s decision to ditch a pantheon of bloodthirsty pagan gods for eastern Christian Orthodoxy was meant to unite the peoples of Kievan Rus, a territory along the waterways between the Baltic and Black seas.

But on the 1,000th anniversary of the death of Vladimir the Great – later to become Saint Vladimir – two of Kievan Rus’ successor nations, Russia and Ukraine, appear to be tussling over his legacy.

Announcing a national programme of festivities around the 15 July anniversary, Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian President, called Vladimir the founder of the “European state of Rus-Ukraine”.

Many in Russia, whose government is also celebrating the jubilee, were incredulous:

“It’s hard to call that an opinion. It’s easy to call it a fantasy,” said Andrei Nazarov, director of the state-backed Russian Military-Historical Society.

Mr Nazarov and many Russian politicians claim Vladimir as a symbol of Russia.

“Thanks to him, Russia became what she is – a mighty state with a strong, Orthodox Christian base,” Mr Nazarov said.

The tug-of-war over Vladimir mirrors a struggle between Moscow and Kiev that heightened last year with Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the subsequent separatist war in eastern Ukraine.

The conflict highlighted Ukrainian efforts to carve out a historical identity separate from Russia’s, and Moscow’s efforts to stop it flying the Russian coop.

Historians and church figures have stressed that Vladimir is common property and defies nationalisation by any one country.

But according to some, the past is being weaponised:

“We are seeing that archives can also shoot,” said historian Oleg Ulyanov.

A planned 24m statue in Moscow of Vladimir bearing a sword and holding aloft a cross has become a symbol of Russia’s anniversary celebrations. Standing atop one of the city’s few hills, the monument would dominate Moscow’s skyline.

Not everyone thinks the statue is innocuous. Its purpose is to enthrone Moscow as “the mother of Russian cities,” author and poet Dmitry Bykov wrote in a blog post for radio station Ekho Moskvy.

That status has long belonged to Kiev. It was Kiev that Vladimir, then still a full-blooded pagan with a well-stocked harem, reconquered from his brother, Yaropolk, after fighting his way back from exile around 980, according to the histories.

Vladimir in Kiev drove his people into the Dnieper river for a mass baptism. A monument to the prince has overlooked the river since 1853.

Though Kievan Rus controlled the territory around Moscow during Vladimir’s reign, the city had not yet appeared on the historical record.

Vladimir’s association with Russia is doubly helpful for Vladimir Putin – the prince accepted Christianity in the Crimean city of Khersones, adding sheen to Mr Putin’s already popular seizure of the peninsula last year.

Yet ultimately Vladimir, and the common Christian cultural heritage to which he laid the foundation, is a uniting force for Russia and Ukraine that will outlast the current political crisis, says Andrei Zubov, a historian and philosophy professor at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations.

“We’re talking about two very close peoples that want to be culturally – not politically, but culturally – together,” he said.

But stressing unity may not be risk-free.

“The thesis that we are all one people and brother folk may sound peace-loving but it is one of the key reasons for the current war,” said Vladimir Vyatrovich, head of the Ukrainian National Memory Institute.

“The idea that we are one nation with the Russians provides a basis for lots of Russian politicians to sound off about Ukraine’s past and future. Relations between our countries will only normalise when we will respect one another’s desire to be independent and independently assess our own past and future.”

Ukraine crisis: Rebel ‘status’ row threatens truce deal

Rebel tanks in Luhansk, file pic

Ukraine’s MPs have approved changes to the “special status” law for parts of rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine.

The law will now come into force only after local elections monitored by international observers are held in the areas according to Ukrainian law.

The amendments also envisage the pullout of “all illegal armed groups” from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Pro-Russian rebels and Moscow accuse Ukraine of introducing new terms that threaten last month’s ceasefire deal.

Following the agreement in Minsk, Belarus, the ceasefire took effect on 15 February and has largely held despite sporadic shelling.

Both Ukraine and the rebels claim to have withdrawn heavy weapons from the line of contact.

‘Temporarily occupied territories’

The changes to the “special order of self-government” in parts of the two eastern regions were adopted after heated discussion in parliament in Kiev on Tuesday.

The law itself was approved last year.

Self-government for the pro-Russian rebel areas is a key part of the Minsk deal, and Mr Poroshenko’s new legislative proposals are aimed at furthering that agreement.

Map

But a Russian Foreign Ministry statement (in Russian) said the proposals put before Ukrainian MPs included “additional terms never previously discussed”.

The ministry said President Poroshenko had “totally ignored” Minsk provisionscalling for dialogue with the pro-Russian rebels on arrangements for local elections and the regions’ future status.

A statement from a Donetsk rebel leader, Denis Pushilin, also castigated Mr Poroshenko over the “non-agreed amendments”, which he said “breach the spirit and letter of the Minsk accords”.

Mr Pushilin said “the Minsk process is in fact interrupted” because Mr Poroshenko “does not respect the Donbas [Donetsk and Luhansk] people, he does not want peace”.

Mr Poroshenko’s bill says special status would have to follow local elections held in accordance with Ukrainian law and under international observation.

In addition, he says the elections would have to take place without any presence of “mercenaries” and with open access for Ukrainian media.

Separately, Ukrainian MPs adopted a resolution describing as “temporarily occupied territories” parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The Kiev government, Western leaders and Nato say there is clear evidence that Russia has helped the rebels with troops and heavy weapons. Russia denies that, insisting that any Russians on the rebel side are “volunteers”.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in clashes since the rebels seized large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions last April – a month after Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula.

Russian MP Ilya Ponomarev: ‘I think it was somebody very close to Putin’

Ilya Ponomarev

Russian MP Ilya Ponomarev

The Russian lawmaker kicked out of the country speaks out about Putin, Snowden, and a Russian collapse

In Vladimir Putin’s quest to amass more power, the Russian government has become increasingly corrupt and ever more dangerous for critics and political activists.

Case in point — the suspicious murder of Boris Nemtsov as he walked home across a busy bridge in Moscow almost two weeks ago.

We recently sat down with Ilya Ponomarev — a representative in the lower house of the Russian Parliament who has been banned from Russia for his opposition to Putin — and got his take on what’s going on in Russia today.

Ponomarev believes that the people who killed Nemtsov were affiliated with one of Russia’s state security forces, and says that his murder was meant as a “message to Russian elites… and a message to the West.”

Yet, he thinks that in general Russians are closer aligned to Americans than they are to Europeans and that change will come to the country as early as 2017:

“The actual uprising might start in 2017… We will have major elections in 2016, and that is when economic and financial resources might get depleted by that time because of sanctions and issues with financial liquidities. All the problems will mount and be at their height in 2017. We need to be ready and we need to present Russia with a clear program, with a clear vision of Russia after Putin.”

Ponomarev is a former president of Yukos Oil, the former oil and gas giant that was effectively shut down in 2007 by the Russian government, which redistributed its assets to state companies.

He was elected to the Russian State Duma in 2007, and was the only member who voted against the annexation of Crimea last year. The final vote in Russia’s lower house was 445 to 1. Colleagues warned him beforehand, saying things like “Putin will crush you,” and “Don’t ruin your career.”

The year before, he was the only member of the Duma not to support Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law. Eventually, in August 2014, Ponomarev and several of his aides were banned from Russia (along with several of his aides) and falsely charged with funneling money out of the Skolkovo Foundation — an organization that supports high-tech startups — to finance protests against Putin.

Though he has been banned from Russia, he is still an active member of the Duma. He says that since his constituency voted him in, they are the only ones with the power to revoke his mandate.

Speaking before an audience at the Commonwealth Club, the bearded and battered politico spoke about Putin with disdain. He believes that Putin “wants people to negotiate with him and he wants to have the tradeoffs here and there and spheres of influence.” To Ponomarev, Putin is a creature of the last century.

However, throughout the night, Ponomarev talked with a glimmer in his eye — his wife, whom he had not seen for months, had finally reunited with him after clearing up a visa problem in Bulgaria.

We talked to Ilya Ponomarev before his presentation. Here’s what he had to say:

The following is a transcript of our conversation with Ponomarev; it has been edited for clarity and length.

BUSINESS INSIDER: Who do you think killed Boris Nemtsov?

ILYA PONOMAREV: I think it was somebody very close to Putin. I have doubts that it was his direct order, although he has created this very system which killed [Nemtsov]. I think it was one of the clans who are fighting for influence on Putin. And they want to trigger instability and be those saviors to offer a solution to everything.

BI: Are you worried that what happened to Nemtsov might happen to you?

IP: We have a Russian proverb — “Those who are doomed to be sunk will never be hanged.” I think that you shouldn’t run away from what is in front of you. You should do what you have to do, and leave to it. What can you do? Hire bodyguards? Stop doing anything? It will not save you either.

russia march

BI: Are politicians scared of Putin? Are there people looking at what you and Nemtsov have done and being inspired, in that sense?

IP: Some politicians are scared and some are extremely apologetic, actually. And I feel very sorry for this because some people who are like my friends from the left flank, they praise Putin because they see him as the fighter against American imperialism — which he is not. You know, why would you select between American imperialism and Russian imperialism?

To my mind, it’s exactly the same thing. Others — conservatives — they say ‘Oh, Putin is a real leader, he’s a true man, he stays [firm] on his position, he’s not like this weak Obama.’ And also they are very much wrong. Because Putin is not a strong man, he is actually a man that put himself into a corner, and he’s fighting and biting from that corner, being very weak.

BI: Has anyone else you know been fined, kidnapped, or murdered?

IP: We have a lot of people – journalists – that were murdered in Russia. But my own situation is pretty unique. I haven’t seen my wife for half a year. She lives now in Bulgaria and couldn’t get her here because of visa [problems].

[Editor’s note: Since 1992, there have been 56 journalists killed in Russia.]

BI: How would you best describe your political ideology?

IP: The best description would be that I am a progressive libertarian.

BI:  Which political figures do you look up to, people that you base your ideas upon?

IP: I think that my political position of course is very much influenced by thinkers of the left, and those are different people. I pay a lot of attention to what was written by Marx and by Lenin, but also by modern leftists like Wallenstein. I very much pay a lot of attention to what has been written by Noam Chomsky. We have such thinkers in Russia as well, like Boris Kagarlitsky, who is a good friend.

My political tradition is one the left, but I think that more modern leftists, they sometimes get stuck with this vision of large government and social benefits and everything and that’s against what is my position, because I think that the ultimate vision of Marx, Engels and those people was to eliminate government entities and to give as much power to the people.

And in modern standing that means direct democracy, that means all the power to the communities, it means gradually eliminating all government oppression on the society. And 100 years ago, leftists’ major allies were labor unions.

In the world of today, I think that entrepreneurs are the new emerging ruling class — I identify it as the startup class. That’s the new proletariat of the 21st century. These are the people that are the drivers of that change.

BI: How is it that you’re still an active member of Duma?

IP: From the point of view of legislation of the Constitution, my mandate has been given by my constituency. So it’s only my constituency that can revoke my mandate. So until the next election, nobody is supposed to do anything. The next election is in 2016.

BI: When was the last time you were elected?

IP: Last time in 2011. The first time I was elected was in 2007. Originally it was a 4-year term and now it’s a 5-year term. If I would not be able to campaign, I would lose my post.

They can use such reasons like if I’m doing business, then they could justify that I am violating my status. But I’m cautious not to do it. They are looking through a magnifying glass from the outside.

I have a group of very loyal people. We are in the minority very much, basically 10 to 15% of the population that supports what we do. It’s temporary. I think that the high numbers for Putin, they will pass as soon as economic tensions mount.

And then the whole situation will be flipped. It’s important not to alienate people, not to receive negative reaction on yourself but we have to wait a little bit. Bolsheviks in 1914 were a dying sect, the only ones against the war, but just two and a half years later, they came to power.

Ilya Ponomarev escorted out of Bolotnaya Square
Ilya Ponomarev escorted out of Bolotnaya Square by police officers

BI: Russia is obviously a surveillance state. That being said, America has its own conundrums: NSA phone tapping, Edward Snowden, CIA torture tapes. How is the United States different from Russia in this regard?

IP: I think that there are excesses that exist in all societies. I won’t say it’s normal to have them, but it’s natural to have them. I’m watching very closely…what Snowden has done. I don’t know him personally. I wanted to talk to him, but all of the security people didn’t allow me to. But I think that he took the wrong approach to a very right thing which he was doing. Just the implementation was wrong. There was a clear platform to what he was doing, although of course that there were some mistakes made.

I think that it’s inevitable if society will be run by old-timers who are still in the paradigm of the past, so I think the real way to resolve this is if the entrepreneurs go into politics and gradually take over and push for their agenda. You named a bunch of privacy issues which are at this stage secondary to me.

The primary issue is the competition between Uber and traditional taxis, or contradictions between FDA and 23 and me. That, I think is most important. And I think that we are right now — the society — is living in the Facebook era and the political system is still in the 19th century prior to the Industrial era.

Why for God’s sake do you need to be socially liberal and economically conservative? Or to be economically market-oriented but at the same time socially, extremely conservative? Why can’t you be free in both dimensions?

russia soldiers

BI: Now let’s bring our conversation to a global scale. Especially now with ISIS looming large close to Russia, what is Russia’s end-goal in the Middle East?

IP: I don’t think there is a conscious and strategic play there. Putin is not a strategist at all. He has brilliant tactics, but he is a very bad strategist overall. And I think he is acting very opportunistically there, just to play the cards with America. He was very proud of himself when he convinced us to give up on chemical weapons so that it could be played down and prevent an invasion and that was very helpful for Obama because Obama saved his face and didn’t order airstrikes at that very moment.

Putin was extremely proud. That’s the kind of thing Putin does. Generally, he thinks of himself as Christian. I don’t think he is, but he pretends to think that he is. In terms of his ideology he’s more like Bush Jr. But he’s less ideological. He’s [thinking] more ‘how to stay in power.’

BI: What is it about Putin then?

IP: He’s just maneuvering. He wants to be respected. He wants to be an important player in global politics. He wants people to negotiate with him and he wants to have the tradeoffs here and there and spheres of influence. He’s very much a person of the 20th century in the global and geopolitical space.

putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a joint news conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest February 17, 2015.

BI: Stratfor predicted in its recent decade report that the Russian Federation will disintegrate into an archipelago of loosely-connected and more localized entities over the next decade as the ruble plunges, the price of oil declines, and  the country’s politics get crazier. Do you think Russia is essentially falling apart? What will be of the Russian Federation in the next 10 years?

IP: Russia can fall apart. It’s not because of the oil prices…. It’s because what sticks a country together is a common interest of people. It has to be economically and socially profitable — beneficial — for people to be together. They should understand how they benefit from a large country. And if they start to feel like a large country is a source of problem, then the country collapses as the Soviet Union collapsed.

And right now, I see a lot of alarming trends inside Russia, especially in Siberia, which I represent in the Parliament. People start to ask questions: If we mine all the natural resources — if we have all the oil, all the gas, all the coal, all the gold, all the diamonds — why the hell do we need central Russia?

They are just eating at our resources. Without Moscow having a response for this, it would face very nasty questions such as one that was asked during my recent reelection campaign — it actually became a slogan of my campaign — “Stop feeding Moscow.”

BI: This mindset is similar to that of the Tatars. How is it different?

IP: With Tatars, the situation is a little bit more complex. They are geographically very isolated so they need the rest of Russia. When they pump oil, they need pipelines to deliver it so they need those connections. We in Siberia don’t need those connections. The only thing which actually sticks us together is the cultural similarities and the relatives that are on both sides of the Ural mountains.

BI: Last question — if Putin were standing in front of you at this very moment, what would you say to him? The first words out of your mouth are…

IP: There is nothing I can say. “Goodbye, Mr. Putin,” that’s the only thing I can say.

We need to convince him that if he makes the decision to go, that we are ready to trade his personal security for peaceful resignation. That’s very important because we’re all afraid that he will stick to power to his deathbed and just kill a lot of people along the way. If he is willing to go, we shall buy him an island in the Caribbean or in the Pacific Ocean with nice girls —  like a separate country for him.

He’s very much afraid of leaving. Because he is formally right now in his first term, so has another 8 years from now. Legally, he has created all the mechanisms for himself. He’s a lawyer.

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