Snowden. Putin made an offer that brilliantly solved everybody’s problems: Snowden could stay in Russia but he would have to keep his mouth shut. But Snowden rejected it: he will not keep quiet. But he seems to be running out of options on where to go: thus far no other country has volunteered. So he may have to take Putin’s offer yet. I believe Putin when he says there has been no collaboration between Snowden and Russian intelligence structure: I doubt very much that Snowden has anything to tell Spetssvyaz that it does not already know. Meanwhile I can’t see that this behaviour benefits the USA much.
Corruption. Last Sitrep I wondered whether the anti-corruption drive had bogged down with too many cases on the go to properly finish any one. But here is some evidence that the investigators are still working away: another facet of the OboronServis case has been exposed. And a brand-new case of embezzlement at the Baykonur Space Centre.
White collar crime. The Duma, after Putin’s request, has overwhelming passed an amnesty for white collar crimes. It will apply to first-time offenders convicted under financial laws who have compensated their victims and did not use violence. It will come into effect over the next 6 months and is expected to apply to about 13,000 in prison and another 70-80,000 under other penalties. Somewhat overdue: too many of these cases were cooked up as a bizness struggle. In another pro-business move, the Duma has voted to lift foreign ownership restrictions on small and medium-sized businesses.
GLONASS. More bad luck for the program when a PROTON rocket carrying 3 satellites crashed on launch. GLONASS never seems to be able to get the last few satellites up there for world-wide coverage (although I notice that Garmin receivers can pick up the signals). This is also a blow to the very successful and remunerative Russian satellite launch business which relies on PROTONs.
Sentence. A few years ago there were protests over a plan to put a highway through a forest north of Moscow; a number of protesters were beaten up. A former official has just been jailed for “masterminding” an especially brutal attack.
Chechnya. Levada has published a poll showing that nearly two-thirds of (Russia-wide) respondents wouldn’t be very upset if Chechnya were independent; 12% think it already is (rather astute of them I would say). A spokesman for Kadyrov condemned the very idea of the question. Could it be because it gives the game away? Chechnya these days is run pretty much by people who fought Moscow in the first war and I have always thought that their eventual aim is to tip-toe their way to independence – even if that particular word is avoided. In the meantime Moscow pumps enormous sums of money into Chechnya which are, how shall I put it, astutely spent. Moscow is stuck with Kadyrov. But a lot of Russians are starting to resent this and wonder what the point is. But a question that is probably better not raised at this time.
Russian SAMs to Syria. Remember that fuss a couple of weeks ago? Russia missiles never showed up but US ones did. Complete with their crews. Obama just confirmed that about 700 US troops including Patriot SAMs and fighter planes are to remain in Jordan. The Russian story was just a bit of prestidigitation.
Did Saakashvili support jihadists? More evidence from a disinterested source – a must-read.
China. Rosneft has announced an agreement with Beijing to supply 365 million tonnes of oil over the next 25 years and jointly develop several fields with the China National Petroleum Corporation. I guess Moscow is tired of reading about its “energy weapon” and “energy blackmail”.
Latvia symbols. Latvians, like the other Balts, have difficulty deciding who their war heroes are: those who wore Soviet Army uniforms and defeated the Nazis, or those who joined the Nazis to fight the Soviets; citizens of little countries caught in the middle don’t have any happy choices. Every year this wound is re-opened with the SS veteran parade. Parliament has just passed a law banning the public display of both Soviet and Nazi symbols, which is a solution of sorts. The Russian Foreign Ministry was again dumb enough to react: “blasphemous attempt to rewrite the history of World War II”. Calm down: it’s Latvia’s problem, not yours.