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Problems and Solutions – Russia Style

grani012108.jpgThe FSB just wants the snooty British to be friends. That seems to be the message of this article from the Grani.ru website, which we offer below in an exclusive translation. Well, actually, it’s not just friendship the chekists crave – Russia’s “new nobility” also don’t want to be subjected to the ignominity of having to fill out UK visa applications and come in for embarrassing interviews whenever they feel like flying in to London for a shopping spree or to catch a show. The Kremlin continues to come up with some breathtakingly incongruous solutions to “problems” it creates out of thin air. Let’s go through a partial list:

Problem – Your independent TV station shows embarrassing coverage of the Chechen war, so the procuracy slaps you with embezzlement charges.Solution – “Voluntarily” sign away your media empire to Gazprom and get out of jail.Problem – After years of being Russia’s biggest taxpayer, your oil company suddenly discovers that the tax authorities hadn’t noticed it owes more in taxes than it’s earned.Solution – The tax authorities freeze all your assets, ostensibly in order to get you to pay your taxes, but of course you can’t pay because the assets are frozen and can’t even be released in order to pay the taxes. You are then declared bankrupt, your assets are sold for a pittance to Rosneft, and suddenly the tax debt disappears.Problem – Your country’s wines and mineral waters are very popular in Russia. The Russian health authorities suddenly “discover” that they are contaminated, and bans their import. The Kremlin also starts encouraging Russians to beat up people who look like they may be from your country, to shut down their restaurants and shops in Russia, and to kick children with surnames from your country out of Russian schools.Solution – Recognize Russian “protectorates” over vast portions of your country’s sovereign territory, and suddenly the harrassment stops and the wines and water meet all health standards.Problem – Your hitherto problem-free oil and gas exploration project is suddenly discovered to have committed massive violations of environmental norms.Solution – “Voluntarily” sell a controlling stake in the project to Gazprom for a pittance, and watch the environmental problems disappear.Problem – You want to see a pluralistic democracy in your country. This does not correspond to the vision the Kremlin has.Solution – They draft you into the army, even though you’ve gone through reserve officer training in college and aren’t eligible for the draft.And now…Problem – Your country’s cultural institutions in Russia are being forced to shut down. Strangely, you are being told it has something to do with an extradition request your country made in a murder case.Solution – Simplify the visa regime for Russians visiting your country and be nice to the FSB again and watch your cultural institutions magically be allowed to reopen.Below is the translation of the Grani.ru article:Diplomat names conditions for resumption of British Council’s workThe situation around the branches of the British Council in Russia may be regularized, if London renews negotiations with respect to simplifying the visa regime with Russia, as well as contacts with the FSB. A highly placed diplomatic source in Moscow told about this, reports Interfax.“As is known, work on an agreement between Russia and Great Britain on cultural and informational centers was interrupted due to the unfriendly steps of London, including decisions to freeze work on a visa agreement and to cease contacts with the FSB”, said the agency’s source. “Therefore, the regularization of the situation around the regional representative offices of the British Council lies on the plane of the repeal by Great Britain of these decisions”, he added.In his words, absolutely the only thing that can “impart a normative-legal character” to the activity of the British Council in Russia is a new agreement on cultural centers. “There is no other way”, underscored the diplomat.In the meantime the ambassador of Great Britain, Anthony Brenton, let it be known in an interview with «Kommersant» that London has no intention of renewing contacts with the FSB. “After Lugovoi was not extradited, we did freeze relations with the FSB. It was a natural reaction. But we are willing to continue ties with other agencies. All other ties in that sphere were frozen at Russia’s initiative”, said the ambassador, commenting on a declaration by the head of the Russian MFA, associating “the story around the council with Andrei Lugovoy and the unwillingness of Great Britain to cooperate with Russia in the struggle with terrorism”.The day before, it was reported that branches of the British Council in Petersburg and Ekaterinburg in the nearest time will remain closed from fears for the safety of Russian citizens working in them. According to the data of the BBC, at the Ministry of foreign affairs of Great Britain they do not intend to adopt harsh measures in response to the demand of the Russian authorities to close all branches of the Council beyond the bounds of Moscow.In the meantime, the minister of foreign affairs of Great Britain, David Miliband, declared that the actions of Russia in relation to the British Council are “not worthy of a great country”. “We saw similar actions during the Cold War”, said he. At the same time, in the words of Miliband, London will not undertake analogous retaliatory actions.On Wednesday, the British Council confirmed that Russian citizens, working in the branches of the Council in Petersburg and Ekaterinburg “on Tuesday were called in for a talk to the FSB, after which late in the evening employees of the MVD came to them at home and called them in for further clarifications on Wednesday” [read here what the British Council actually said – and on Thursday, not Wednesday].Earlier, the ambassador of Russia in London, Yuri Fedotov, was summoned to the MFA of Great Britain. About the content of the conversation is so far unknown, however, as observers suppose, the talk was about the situation around the British Council.