While the rest of the world was hyperventilating about Wikileaks, pummeled journalist Oleg Kashin published his first story after his beating three weeks ago.

In the article, called “Gagarin and I” (Gagarin holds a special place in Kashin’s heart), Kashin describes his time in the hospital — feeding tubes, flirting with nurses. He acts like the Kashin we know from his stories: He figures out who the snitch is feeding string to tabloid LifeNews (one of the doctors, who’s lining his pockets with reports of Kashin’s heroic words that he never utters); he is counterintuitive and wry (he asks for a pen — to scratch his arm under the cast).

He also mentions the young journalism students who have taken up his cause, students he mentions again in the far more striking television interview with TV legend Parfyonov. Kashin, who says he doesn’t know with any degree of certainty who did this to him, says he just wants to go back to working instead of becoming a figure, a move he thinks would be a betrayal to those students and all those whose strong reactions helped him get the best medical care possible. The question now, he says lisping through some missing teeth, is how to spend that “symbolic capital,” a question that he says, “stresses me out.”

See below. (In Russian.)

h/t Sean Guillory

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Who got Chuck Norris?

Making up for lost time today, folks.

Today, Russia’s Trust Bank (est. 1995) announced that its new spokesman is none other than Bruce Willis. “The decision to pick Bruce Willis was not accidental,” said a bank spokesman, saying that the bank did exhaustive marketing research and held many a focus group. “Bruce Willis’s image is one of a trustworthy and dependable person.” Thus the bank’s new slogan: “Trust is like me, except it’s a bank!”

via Kommersant

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Ceasefire plan

If nothing else works to calm the North Koreans the fuck down, a reprise of this should. Provided Kim Jong Il is still alive, of course.

Watch for the ponies!

hat tip to Miriam Elder

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Sponsors, sponsors everywhere

Today, Vedomosti published a list, obtained from the Russian Department of Labor, of foreigners working in Moscow and grossing over 1 million rubles ($32,000) a month. (This follows new mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordering the publication of which “specialists” had been invited to work in Moscow for 2011.)

Obviously, this list is full of loaded expat journalists and oil executives. One interesting entry: a general director for Walmart Ru, who would gross 1,083,333 rubles a month. Walmart has long been mulling an entry into the Russian market. And mulling and mulling. Perhaps a sign of what’s to come next year?

More importantly, however, the list gives the company, position, and estimated monthly salary of the incoming expat. This list also provides valuable information to another group of specialists who have come to Moscow seeking success: ladies. Names may not be listed, but given that happiness, a foreign passport, and a lifetime supply of Bergdorf are at stake, I’m sure this poses no real hurdle.

Let the games begin.

via Vedomosti

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Back in the USSHarharharhar

And now we know about the Kremlin office party.

On December 18, just eight days shy of the 19th anniversary (or yahrzeit, depending on how you look at it) of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin will have a holiday party for 350 people (“a tight circle”). The theme? Back in the USSR. Which is, like, so the cleverest.

The event will be held at the Klyazma Resort — which sounds like the Russian word for enema — and will begin promptly at 2:00 pm. Then after a five-hour vomitorium/disco-nap break, will resume at 10:00 pm and go till 5 in morning.

There will be fireworks, a taped, jokey greeting from the President. To inspire the Soviet spirit, doppelgangers of Leonid Brezhnev and Alla Pugacheva (Russia’s Cher-Barbara-Liz amalgam) will regale the crowd with 40 minute acts. There will also be songs from the heady decline of the USSR, from ABBA, Adriano Celentano, Modern Talking, and Mirazh. Also, Winnie the Pooh. He’ll be there.

We know all this, by the way, from a tender posted on the government’s site for such things. The fete’s organizers inside the presidential administration were rather specific about what they wanted: Lambada, the dance craze of the Soviet twilight, is a must, as are the Pussycat Dolls.

All for 500,000 rubles.


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The unfiltered fallout

Here’s a truism: in times of tragedy, people’s real colors show through. In Russia, the Land of No Filters, that process takes no time at all. Also? Them’s ain’t colors; them’s some weird tie-dyed checkers.

Today, four days after Oleg Kashin was beaten into an artificial coma, the story arc — at first full of an uncharacteristic empathy and unity, even on the part of the authorities — has plumb-lined straight into the ground.

In case you missed the unfolding and infuriating shitshow, here’s a quick rundown. Of the shitshow:

  • Yesterday, at a meeting of the President’s Public Chamber (a government body that looks over proposed legislation and monitors parliament), the case of Kashin as well as other put-upon journalists was discussed. Irina Plescheeva, a commissar of the Nashi movement and chair of the Center for the Development of Youth Media, took the opportunity to state that, whatever, Kashin wasn’t even all that talented. Moreover, the way to stop attacks on journalists in Russia was very easy indeed: Just stop “giving people a pretext for murder.” Done!
  • Kirill Schitov, a representative in the Moscow City Duma and member of the ruling council of Molodaya Gvardia, wrote about how unfair it was to point fingers at his youth group. “The attack on Kashin has been most profitable for members of the liberal opposition,” he wrote.
  • Meanwhile, the opposition is trying to make good on Schitov’s claim by, of course, signing petitions and getting into their usual internal squabbles over the petition’s content.
  • Mikhail Beketov, the editor-in-chief of a local Moscow region paper who was an environmental activist fighting to save the Khimki forest, was beaten so badly in 2008 that he’s had a leg and several fingers amputated, is missing parts of his skull, and is barely able to speak (see above or this photo gallery). Beketov’s beating bears a striking resemblance to Kashin’s.Today, finally brought justice for him. He was found guilty of slandering the local mayor, Vladimir Strelchenko. Strelchenko is a thuggish individual thought to have ordered the attack (as well as the killing of Beketov’s dog and the torching of his car) in the first place.Best part(s)? Beketov, who had to be accompanied by a whole medical team into the courtroom (transport costs up to $200 each time he’s dragged to court), kept trying to utter something while Strelchenko delivered a rousing soliloquy, but, obviously, couldn’t; he then felt so ill, that he had to leave before the judge could ever so sweetly wave the $160 fine.The criminal investigation in Beketov’s beating, in the meantime, has been suspended. Again.

  • Speaking of other journalists who don’t have the luck of working for President Medvedev’s oligarch buddies, let’s take a look into what’s happening with Anatoly Adamchuk, a journalist for another local paper who fought the cutting down of a different forest. Adamchuk was also attacked over the weekend and remains hospitalized.This proved very convenient for the local police, who came to interrogate him in his hospital bed. One of the theories they’re going on? Adamchuk beat himself up.
  • Sergei Lopatnikov, a scientist at the University of Delaware for chrissake, has weighed in, too. “The little shit Oleg Kashin has been beaten up,” he wrote on his now-scrubbed LiveJournal. “It was a quality beating. A just one. My wish: may he croak.”

It’s a good thing Kashin has just now regained consciousness, so he can see the stupid, awful shit his countrymen are doing.

UPDATE: Evgenia Milova, Kashin’s wife, has said that Kashin has not in fact regained consciousness. In the meantime, police have accused Adamchuk of paying them 1000 rubles ($32) to beat him up.

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Tone deaf

Journalist Oleg Kashin lay in an artificial coma after a savage beating left everything that could possible be broken, broken. President Medvedev spoke firmly of the need to punish the perpetrators, the investigative foot soldiers of the Interior Ministry were roused from their holiday slumber to try to solve this heinous act. Moscow journalists rallied and wrote feverishly, then drowned their sorrows in various liquids.

What was Supreme Leader Vladimir Vladimirovich doing? Drag racing.

Makes Luzhkov’s summer getaway seem downright appropriate.


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Oleg Kashin: update

As many of you have heard, superstar Kommersant and Forbes Russia Oleg Kashin had the shit beaten out of him over the weekend. What we didn’t know till yesterday was that Kashin’s father was visiting from out of town and was waiting for Oleg upstairs.

Over the weekend, Kashin underwent a second round of surgery. Doctors say it was successful and, after removing the bone fragments in his cranial cavity, that they’ve ruled out brain damage. His broken leg has been set, as has his jaw, which was fixed in the first operation so he could breathe.

Kashin’s friends report that the preliminary investigation was shoddy until a more elite crew was brought in. At first, however, Kashin’s estranged wife, Evgenia Milova, was repeatedly questioned if Kashin was gay. Some of the detectives hadn’t familiarized themselves with Kashin’s writings and seemed clueless about Twitter and LiveJournal, the two lifelines of the Russian chattering class. One detective, said Kashin’s friend, wrote “Blog,” as if it were an actual publication. Another detective wanted to know “if [Kashin] used his head” — i.e., thought of the consequences — when writing his characteristically sharp commentary. Yet another asked if he knew of “Beketov, the vegetable”?

Last night, Moscow journalists gathered in front of the Central Directorate of Internal Affairs to show solidarity with Kashin and sign a petition calling on President Medvedev to, well, protect journalists. The police left everyone alone and the official spokesman told us they view the vigil/protest “with empathy.” For once.

Meanwhile, footage from the surveillance camera that caught the beating surfaced online Monday morning. (Not surprisingly, it came from LifeNews, which seems to have high-ranking security officials as godfathers to their children.)

Warning: the video is really quite disturbing.

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Ratings schmatings

I get the sense that you people don’t care much for ratings. Nor do I, really, except for when they hit on something true, as they often do.

Take today’s release of Forbes Magazine’s Powerful People rankings. The (non) surprise here: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the humble Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, comes in at #4, a full eight slots above the President, Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev — and that in Russia’s super-presidential political system. (In between are non-presidential pissants like the “Pope” and “Ben Bernanke.”)

Quibble all you want about the precision of the numbers, but I dare you to contest the truth this ranking reflects.

via Forbes

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Grumpy Old Men

I’m traveling in Krasnoyarsk now, but wanted to bring my latest piece — on the implosion of the opposition behind the Strategy 31 movement — to your attention.

Eduard Limonov has long been a black sheep in Moscow’s opposition circles. A louche, 67-year-old provocateur, hewrites graphic paeans to anal sex in his novels and runs a fringe political party, the National Bolsheviks, whose ranks are stuffed with young’uns ready to brawl with the police and go to jail for it. So Limonov is generally avoided, or at least spoken ill of, by respectable Russian liberals.

Which is why, in July 2009, it was somewhat odd that Limonov, whose own politics are a combustible mix of old-school socialism, Russian nationalism, and anarchist street theater, approached the queen bee of Russian liberalism and head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, 83-year-old Lyudmila Alexeyeva. Alexeyeva is the idealistic child of the Khrushchev thaw and a decorated veteran of the Soviet dissident movement who has been waging a steady, dignified human rights campaign for the last four decades. Alexeyeva has become the doyenne of today’s opposition, which is why Limonov wanted her — and her cloak of legitimacy — on board.

Read the rest here, at Foreign

via FP

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