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Nemtsov: The Luckiest Man in the World

Today in the Moscow Times, Boris Nemtsov has a scathing op/ed arguing that Russia’s approval of the president is mostly based on high commodity prices – just luck. Nemtsov, who is a founder of the Union of Right Forces, originally published the column in Vedomosti.

But if we consider the above-listed achievements more closely, it becomes clear that they resulted not from Putin’s leadership, but from the high price for raw materials. Putin must be the luckiest person on Earth. Oil prices are exceptionally high, and thanks to this, the state was able to raise pensions and salaries. It was also able to give subsidies to families that have more than one child. About 80 percent of the population think that life has improved. But there is another 20 percent that thinks differently. That minority is a mixed group. It includes freedom-lovers and independents, non-conformers and those who have suffered from the current regime. They would describe life in Russia as “awful.” It is disgusting to watch the “Vremya” nightly news on Channel One, which reminds me of the broadcasts during the Brezhnev era. It is appalling how all of the famous journalists who disagreed with the Kremlin were fired. It is disgusting that the St. Petersburg clan in the Kremlin controls billions of dollars in wealth. It is offensive that the level of corruption is now twice what it was under Boris Yeltsin, which has earned Russia shamefully low marks in international corruption ratings every year. It is reprehensible that police beat people with truncheons, not because they are guilty of crimes, but because they have taken to the streets to demand justice. It is offensive that Putin’s portrait hangs in every public office. It is disgusting that the Kremlin spends millions of dollars to bring students to Moscow by bus and train from all corners of Russia to participate in pro-Putin meetings. It is simply nauseating to see how Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s best friend and likely successor, was promoted to first deputy prime minister despite the vile gangsterism that is rampant in the nation’s army barracks; the tragedy of Andrei Sychyov; and the embarrassing failure of the Bulava missile launch. It is offensive that Moscow is swimming in wealth while the rest of Russia lives like a poor colony. It is offensive that under Putin the state has taken on the role of plunderer and racketeer, with an appetite that grows with each successive conquest. It began with the break-up and expropriation of Yukos, then the questionable purchase of a majority share in the Sakhalin-2 project and now Gazprom’s purchase of the Kovytka gas field in East Siberia. The country’s great size and wealth only means there will be much more for the Kremlin to grab. But the greatest calamity is that nobody is allowed to utter a word in protest regarding all of this. “Keep quiet,” the authorities seem to say, “or things will go worse for you. This is none of your business.”

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