Russia's oligarchs illegally acquired their billions when the Russian state had been brought to its knees in the 1990s. But simply massing wealth was not enough for them. Many of them joined forces with Western interests and conspired against the Russian state. Russia's powerful oligarchs (overwhelmingly of Jewish ancestry) were virtually untouchable until Vladimir Putin and company managed to liberate the Kremlin from them. Today, billionaire Berezovsky is in hiding in London... billionaire Khodorkovsky is rotting in jail... Last fall, FSB agents raided billionaire Alexander Lebedev's offices. What did Lebedev do in response? Lebedev is joining forces with Putin's powerful political party!
These are the ways with which Russia has tamed its oligarchs; making them subservient to the Russian state. This is Putin's brilliance at work. I wish the same for Americans. But we all know that such a thing would never happen in America simply because in America it's the other way around: America's mighty oligarchs (the nation's mega-corporations, Wall Street banksters and Jewish interests) raid American organizations and institutions and the American people is powerless against them.
Texas Blogger’s ‘Man Crush’ on Putin Leads to Lengthy Heart to Heart
Nonetheless, last week Mr. Young scored a journalistic coup, publishing a lengthy written interview with Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir V. Putin. Mr. Young approached the Russian government last year after blogging repeatedly about his “man crush” on Mr. Putin, and the questions he sent the Russian prime minister were, shall we say, softballs. They included, “Are there Yetis or Russian ‘wood goblins’ in the taiga?” and “Are you the coolest man in politics?”
The decision to grant the interview appears to be part of an attempt by Mr. Putin to soften his image in the West. During the three years since Mr. Putin entered a power-sharing arrangement with President Dmitri A. Medvedev, the president has been cast as the smiling face of a “reset” in the relations with the United States. In the eyes of Western observers, that has left Mr. Putin as the bad cop, which could pose a problem if he decides to return to the presidency next spring.
“There is some truth in this argument, and I think Putin has realized he needs to care about his image in the West,” said Alexander Rahr, a Russia specialist at the German Council on Foreign Relations. “The only argument which really speaks for Medvedev is this Western thing. That is his trump card. Putin has to counter it.”
The Outdoor Life interview — at times an exercise in mutual back-slapping — is not likely to have much impact, especially since it was released the same day as a much-anticipated news conference by Mr. Medvedev. But it does show Mr. Putin trying to present himself in a softer, more friendly light. In between discussions of tiger poaching, Ernest Hemingway and the fragility of human existence, Mr. Putin tells Mr. Young that the United States and Russia have been powerfully drawn to each other since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The recent improvement in relations “seems to point to the fact that the vast majority of barriers between our peoples were unnaturally and artificially forced upon them,” Mr. Putin said. “Ordinary people always want to live in peace rather than in war and to be able to freely socialize, interact and make friends, if you wish. For too long, we had been cruelly held apart from each other, so it was only natural that the fall of the Iron Curtain generated a huge wave of interest toward Russia.”
Mr. Putin also plays up his image as an avatar of manliness, which has been established by photos of him riding shirtless on horseback, shooting a tiger with a tranquilizer gun or offering judo instructions. Asked about an episode last summer, when he shot a dart at the exposed back of a gray whale from a rubber dinghy, Mr. Putin drifted into Hemingway territory.
“All that surrounded me — the low sky, the stormy sea and, of course, the whales — was magnificent,” he said. “Besides, these elegant giants showed us a real performance, leaping out of the water in front of our boat.”
On that occasion, a reporter asked Mr. Putin whether it was dangerous, and the prime minister responded, “Living in general is dangerous.” In the Outdoor Life interview, he elaborated, saying that a human being is “still one of the most vulnerable creatures on earth,” barraged by disease, disaster and criminality.
“However, this is not a reason to hide away from life,” he said. “One can truly enjoy his or her life only while experiencing it, and it is inevitably related to a certain level of risk.”
It was the gray whale episode that especially captivated Mr. Young, 42. After he began writing about his “man crush,” his blog hits grew so high that his editors asked him for more, and he published an open letter to the prime minister proposing that the two men go hunting together.
Before long, Mr. Young was communicating with the press attaché in the Russian Embassy in Washington and with Ketchum, a public relations firm that represents Russia. “My editors were like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ ” Mr. Young said. But early in the spring, he was told that Mr. Putin was in the process of answering Mr. Young’s questions — at considerable length. The draft originally sent to Outdoor Life was almost 8,000 words long and had to be edited down by almost 3,000 words, Mr. Young said.
“I got to tell you, I’m more in love with the guy than ever,” he said. In an interview from his home in Texas, Mr. Young said Outdoor Life was hoping to send him to Russia to go fishing with Mr. Putin, who is not a keen hunter. It seemed Mr. Young’s ardor does not extend to Mr. Medvedev, since a mention of the Russian president’s name was met with silence on the other end of the line. “You’re going to have to remind me who that is,” Mr. Young said.
Lebedev's decision met immediate suspicion from skeptics that he was trying to protect his business interests, although Putin's spokesman quickly welcomed it. Lebedev said on his blog that Our Capital, a little-known movement that he founded to oppose former Mayor Yury Luzhkov, would join Putin's front to strengthen its anti-corruption dimension. "Our Capital has ample experience in uncovering graft, including at the federal level," he wrote. He also said harassment from the Federal Security Service, or FSB, had made it impossible to continue his banking business. "Why engage in business when it exists only under the condition of fighting the FSB?" he asked in an interview with Gazeta.ru.
Lebedev on Thursday uploaded a video to his site in which he accused FSB officers of money laundering. He removed the video shortly afterward, saying it was a preliminary version published by mistake. The 15-minute film has since surfaced on YouTube. Lebedev, himself a former KGB official, has accused corrupt FSB and Interior Ministry officers of orchestrating a police raid on his National Reserve Bank last fall. In February, he published an open letter to Putin, saying he believed that a mafia group was raiding his business "under the guise of 'carrying out orders from above.'" Putin, who rose from the position of KGB agent in the 1980s to head of the FSB in 1998, is seen as the leader of the country's security agencies.
Lebedev has styled himself as a liberal Kremlin critic, although he has never seriously challenged Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev. In 2006 he teamed up with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to buy a 49 percent stake in the country's leading opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta. (The remaining controlling stake is held by the newspaper's journalists.) In 2008, the two founded the Independent Democratic Party of Russia. While the party has remained defunct, Lebedev, who is worth $2.1 billion according to Forbes magazine, has expanded his foreign media interests by buying London's ailing Independent and Evening Standard newspapers.
Ilya Yashin, co-leader of the Solidarity opposition group, was stunned by Lebedev's plans to join Putin's front. "I know Lebedev is a decent man, and I do not understand why he would tarnish his reputation by joining a front of crooks and thieves," he told The Moscow Times.
"The party of crooks and thieves" has recently become a catchphrase used by Kremlin critics to describe United Russia. The people's front was assembled two weeks ago by clustering interest groups around it. Its 16 founding organizations include trade unions, business associations and veterans' groups that are all largely pro-Putin. Putin has said the front will allow candidates to enter the Duma in the December elections without joining United Russia.
Ilya Ponomaryov, a Duma deputy with the Kremlin-friendly Just Russia party, suggested that Lebedev was probably just trying to protect his business. "An extravagant businessman like him will switch sides whenever its suits him," he said by telephone. Lebedev referred callers Friday to his spokespeople, who declined to comment. But the businessman has made several seemingly opportunistic political decisions in the past. After unsuccessfully running against Luzhkov in mayoral elections in 2003, he won a State Duma seat the same year with Rodina, a Kremlin-backed party formed just two months before the elections to take votes from the Communists. Once in the Duma, he joined United Russia but later left it for A Just Russia, which was created by a merger of Rodina and two other parties for the 2007 Duma elections.
He did not return to the Duma after the 2007 vote and announced the creation of the new party with Gorbachev the following year. Also in 2008, Lebedev closed another newspaper he owned, Moskovsky Korrespondent, after it published an article alleging that Putin had an affair with an Olympic gymnast half his age. He regained political office in March, when he was elected as an independent deputy to a district legislature in the Kirov region. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov reacted positively to the 51-year-old businessman's plans to join the people's front. "We can only welcome any new members to the front," he told Interfax, adding that there were similar applications from "practically every region" in the country.
Peskov said any organization could join if it shared the basic goals "to push forward the country's development as formulated by Vladimir Putin and United Russia." But not everyone was so welcoming. Boris Titov, a founding member of the people's front who heads the Delovaya Rossia business association and co-leads Right Cause, cautioned that Lebedev's application would have to be "studied very carefully." Titov characterized Lebedev's decision to join the front as suspicious and suggested that it meant he was facing financial troubles linked to the National Reserve Bank.
"I do not know the financial conditions of the bank, but I know how it was created and what were its main assets," he said on Kommersant FM radio. "It's not so smooth and maybe that is why he decided to try out being a politician," he said. Whatever Lebedev's political motives might be, they won't affect Novaya Gazeta, the paper's deputy editor-in-chief Andrei Lipsky said by telephone. "There has never been a case where he meddled with our editorial policies, and there never will be," he said.
Israeli 'spy' sought info on Russia-Arab arms trade: FSB
The Israeli military attache expelled from Moscow was trying to obtain details about Russia's arms trade with the Arab world, the country's powerful Federal Security Service (FSB) said Friday. Russia's foreign ministry said that Soviet-born Colonel Vadim Leiderman was "caught red-handed" while trying to receive secret information on May 12. RBC television channel later aired footage of a man identified as Leiderman being approached by several men while he was dining with another man in a Moscow restaurant.
The Israeli official was then shown being interrogated in a Russian office, with his various accreditation and bank cards being laid out on a table for the camera. His expulsion sparked protests in Israel and was the first such incident to occur between the two countries in nearly 20 years. An unnamed Russian security official told news agencies on Thursday that Leiderman had engaged in industrial espionage. But the FSB issued an official statement Friday saying the attache was trying to collect details about Russia's arms trade with its Soviet-era partners in the Arab world.
Leiderman had approached "a number of Russian state workers for secret information about ... Russia's military and technological cooperation with -- and assistance for -- a number of Arab nations," the FSB statement said. It added that Russia had decided to keep the expulsion secret as a "gesture of goodwill." The information about Leiderman's expulsion initially appeared in Israel and was sourced to local defense officials. The FSB said the Israeli media leak left it "seriously perplexed".
Israeli media reports said the brief detention and search prior to Leiderman's expulsion appeared to breach his diplomatic immunity. Channel One television said he was the first Israeli military official to be expelled from Russia since the early 1990s. Russia and Israel now enjoy close economic ties based on the Jewish state's vast ex-Soviet diaspora. But Russia is also a key arms supplier to the Arab world and continues to sell advanced missile systems to Syria that Israel fears make their way to the Shiite Hezbollah movement in neighbouring Lebanon.Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g9XD-32-lAzfTHltN8aDB5rS14Wg?docId=CNG.7602363c8bb4354a67bdb6ce8a264e86.4a1