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Excerpts from Politkovskaya’s Diary

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Below is an extract from Anna Politkovskaya’s “A Russian Diary: A Journalist’s Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin’s Russia“, a stunning, must-read book was just recently released in the United States. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be doing some more blogging and discussion on this book. From Part II, Russia’s Great Political Depression, April-December 2004 (pp. 153-155):

July 27 Igor Sechin, the éminence grise of the Kremlin, a deputy head of Putin’s administration, has been appointed chairman of the board of directors of the state oil company Rosneft. Sechin personally oversaw the dismemberment and destruction of Yukos and the arrest of Khodorkovsky. His appointment to head Rosneft, which claims the choicest parts of Yukos, proves the Kremlin destroyed Yukos for its own benefit. Its ideology requires the formation of s “state economy,” supposedly run on behalf of the people. In reality, it is a bureaucratic economy whose principal oligarch is the government official. The higher the official, the bigger the oligarch. This ideal of state oligarchy appeals to Putin and to an exclusive coterie around him. The underlying concept is that Russia’s major revenues come from the export of raw materials, so the state should control natural resources, and “L’état, c’est moi.” They suppose they are the cleverest people in the country, know best what is good for the rest of us, and accordingly what those revenues should be used for. In order to service the supermonopolies of Rosneft and Gazprom, monster financial conglomerates like Vneshtorgbank are being enlarged and are conquering new territories with the aid of the presidential administration. These supermonopolies are generally controlled by former secret policemen who are now oligarchs. Putin trusts only these Chekist oligarchs, believing that, because of their common origin in the intelligence services, they understand what is in the best interests of the people. Everything must go through their hands. Putin’s immediate circle and, seemingly, Putin himself believe that whoever controls the natural resources markets has a monopoly of political power. While they are in business, they are in power. There is some truth in this. Many Latin American military juntas remained in power by ensuring that the institutions of repression and the government – which was part of those institutions – controlled all major business. The detail overlooked by the Putin regime is that such juntas were invariably overthrown by other juntas, and often quite soon. There is no place in our junta for the youth wing of Yabloko or the young National Bolsheviks. In Moscow “Youth Yabloko” have mounted a demonstration lasting several seconds outside the FSB building in Lubyanka Square. The young people are increasingly independent of the “old” democrats. The demonstration was not officially sanctioned. The young people threw ball bearings with red paint at the memorial plaque on the building depicting Yur Andropov (the new cult of Andropov, as someone who planned to reform the Soviet system without destroying it, is being meticulously fostered by Putin’s administration) and wore uniform black T-shirts with a portrait of Putin crossed out and with the slogan “Down with Big Brother!” They carried placards reading “Down with the police autocracy!” They chanted, “Demolish the Lubyanka and smash the regime!” and “Down with the power of the Chekists!” The demonstration was rapidly broken up; there are always plenty of militia around in Lubyanka Square. Nine activists were taken away to the FSB before being moved to the Meschansky militia station. At about 8:00 in the evening, eight of them were released. Two are in the hospital: Irina Vorobiova, twenty-one, and Alexey Kozhin, nineteen. They were taken away in an ambulance summoned to FSB reception. The chairman of the youth wing of Yabloko, Ilya Yashin, stated that Kozhin had been beaten up during interrogation by FSB Sr. Lt. Dmitry Streltsov. The activists said that when they began to disperse after the demonstration, they were trapped in the side streets by people in civilian clothes who assaulted them. A number of journalists from NTV, Echo TV, and Nezavisimaya Gazeta were also detained, and the militiamen threatening to confiscate their cameras. The journalists were released only after everything they had filmed had been taken from them.