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    Russia Offers Asylum to Russian Dissidents

    On Thursday, Russian officials announced that Russia had offered asylum to dissidents suffering persecution from the Russian government.

    The group includes Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger sentenced to five years in a corrective labor colony; Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former Russian oligarch imprisoned since 2005; members of punk rock protest band Pussy Riot, imprisoned since 2012; Russia's gay population; and the Chechen Republic. Russia also offered posthumous asylum to Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent assassinated by Russian agents after receiving asylum in Britain.

    Russian officials vigorously protested Russia's action.

    "We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our clear lawful requests in public and private to have the dissidents expelled to Russia to face the charges against them," said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

    "The dissidents are accused of fraud, embezzlement, gay propaganda, and flagrant violation of public order expressed by a clear disrespect for society. They should be returned to the Russia as soon as possible, where they'll be accorded due process."

    Russia is now re-evaluating whether President Putin will attend a planned unilateral summit with himself in Moscow next month.

    "I don't have a scheduling announcement for you today, but obviously this is not a positive development," Peskov said. "And we have a wide range of interests with ourselves, and we are evaluating the utility of a summit."

    The dissidents expressed appreciation for Russia's decision in a mass joint-statement published by state-owned newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

    "Over the past thirteen years, we have seen the Russian Federation show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning. We thank the Russian Federation for granting us asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations," they said in unison.

    Anatoly Kucherena, a Russian lawyer who has been advising the late Alexander Litvinenko, told the Russian media that Litvinenko would like to transfer his remains to Russian soil. Litvinenko was not available for comment.

    Michael Wolraich is the author of Blowing Smoke (Da Capo, 2010)


    Spot on, Michael.

    Thanks, doc.

    If I were to describe the strangest and most eerie phenomena of the 21st century; it has to be Putin standing in front of a picture of Jesus!

    I would never ever have predicted this strange phenomena. 

    I never saw this coming.

    Putin's greatest statement occurred when he was in the Rose Garden? with w and w began waxing about free elections.

    And Putin responded with a quip about the 2000 Presidential race. 

    I cannot find the link right now but Putin had me in stitches! hahahahah

    I laughed so hard at that.

    And w became so goddamn mad....hahahahahhaha

    Oh, by the way, Russia is no longer a 'prime' competitor but Russia is most probably 3 or 4 as far as strength in the world as a global economy or war threat. hahahahah


    If I were Russian, I would keep the sombitch.

    Just to rub our noses in it.


    I love my country and all, but this has all become a situation comedy to me!

    But then again, that's just me!

    the end






    We can certainly laugh at Russian hypocrisy. If Snowden was Russian he's be spending the rest of his live in Siberia. But hypocrisy isn't a national character trait exclusive to the Russian state. America has its own failings in that regard. One of several examples is the case of Luis Posada Carriles happily living in Miami.


    No doubt, though the Russian government has a particular aptitude for it. What I will say in favor of the Russians is that they're conscious of their own hypocrisy. Putin knows this is all just a game. You can imagine him winking at you when he talks about Russian law.

    Americans are worse in that we actually believe our own bullshit.

    The Russian government definitely has a particular aptitude for numerous things I wouldn't like. I'd surely chose to live under the NSA/CIA/FBI rather than the KGB.  But after that I wonder how different we are.

    I think Cruz and Paul and yes even Obama, though to a somewhat lesser degree, knows that much of what they say is just a game just as much as Putin does. And I'd guess that many of the Russian people eat up Putin's bs as avidly as the Tea Party eats Cruz's crap.

    It is kind of funny that Snowden fled the number one incarceration nation (2.2 million) only to travel through the number two incarceration nation (1.6 million) and end up in the number three incarceration nation (680 thousand).

    It was bound to be funny in some way. Its not like there were any good options. I spent two years in Japan. That would be a nice place to live. Modern, technologically advanced, the hierarchical culture is off putting but there are sufficient legal safe guards to protect individual freedom. But he couldn't get asylum there. Germany, England no hope for him there. France is out since he didn't rape a 13 year old girl.

    In the end where is he going to go? Russia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba. He's really left with no choice but prison in the US or looking like a hypocrite.

    Great column Michael.  I read it last night and again this morning.

    Two comments, first with respect to this statement in your reply to OK:

    Americans are worse in that we actually believe our own bullshit.

    Yes, and no, I think.  My position would be more in line with Honest Abe's [and in my school we learned he was really honest btw wink] take on this, i.e. you can fool some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.  

    And then Putin and his understanding of the game is something I agree with, but I would just expand on that and focus on the game he is playing.  While it's not designed to win over the hearts and minds of the American electorate -- in my assessment of Peoria over here on West End Avenue -- this plays well in Russia for sure, and also in quite a few places around the world where people and governments tend to take note of who serves who among and with respect to the superpowers.

    Nice work and fun too.  Thanks.

    Thanks. You always have to be careful with national stereotypes, but my wife is Russian, and I'm close with her Russian friends and family, so I've developed some appreciation for the mentality.

    In general, Russians tend to be much more cynical than Americans. They rarely trust any of their leaders. The plus side is that it's much harder to bamboozle them. The downside is that the cynicism breeds apathy. There's an attitude that everyone is a crook and nothing will ever change. Knowing this, Russian leaders lie brazenly, recognizing that people won't believe them but won't do anything about it. Americans are more gullible, but when they do catch their leaders in blatant lies, they react.

    My point was more on the global level though. There is a way in which the Russians are more honest. Their foreign policy is ruthlessly pragmatic with only the thinnest veneer of fake idealism. Everyone knows exactly why Russia granted Snowden asylum (with the possible exception of Snowden himself).

    American foreign policy is also ruthlessly pragmatic, but we pretend to ourselves that it's not. Like Kerry's bullshit statement that the Egyptian military coup was about "restoring democracy." Dumping Morsi was good for the U.S. Perhaps it was even good for Egypt. Democracy it was not. Yet many Americans will believe Kerry, and for all I know Kerry himself believes his own bullshit.

    Kerry never said the actions taken by the Egyptian military were an example of democracy. He said their purpose was to restore democracy. IMO, where he misspoke was to imply that Egypt has yet truly achieved a functional democracy that might be restored.

    The Egyptian people are attempting to *create* a democracy - and in the reasonably early stages of establishing how to make that work for their society. For whatever reason many Americans expect other nations to manifest in weeks (or months if they're being difficult) what took our revolutionaries almost a decade of painful conflict and war to establish. And we love to harshly judge them every step of the way.

    And for the record, Obama tried to prop up Morsi until he couldn't do it any longer. Morsi was VERY on board with our desired strategy in Syria. The policy has been tossed into disarray with the loss of his virulently anti-Assad  administration as a core component to our regional approach.

    American interests crave stability within our sphere. Kerry didn't want it to happen in the first place and is trying to put a diplomatic face on things ... which is, after all, his job.

    Cogent points.

    You could say, considering the Civil War, and the fact that the South was put under northern military rule after the war for a matter of years (see LOC, March 2, 1867 "An Act to provide for a more efficient Government of the Rebel States"), that our 'democracy' was on very thin ice for 90 years.

    It's true, Russia is no friend of free and open society and Putin is a near dictator working on cutting a word out of that description.

    The irony, we can laugh at.  I think it's taken too far, though, when Snowden is criticized for taking refuge there.  The refugee goes where there is refuge.  Because of the huge power imbalance between the refugee and the government they are fleeing, they have limited choices.  I am sure that many atheists seeking asylum have used churches for that purpose and that their detractors got a good laugh out of that.

    But, whatever the ironies, Snowden isn't in a U.S. jail and though he's agreed not to leak further secrets, per Putin, it seems like he's already given just about everything to Greenwald and now the Guardian will report it all out in due time.

    This could all go very wrong if he's ever caught, but so far he's beating the Manning curve, big time.  I think that outweighs the compromises.

    I'd have taken refuge in Grand Fenwick.

    I wouldn't have the balls to do what Snowden did in the first place, so I can't really blame him for taking refuge where he can. But when he declared, "the law is winning" and thanked Russia for acting "in accordance with its laws," he made a mockery of his cause.

    I suppose he could have told Putin to go fuck himself, but I suspect that only works on dagblog.

    The difference between dagblog and Russia is that in Russia, you can tell anyone except the boss to go fuck themselves, whereas at dagblog, you can't say it to anyone except the boss. (At least this boss.)

    To paraphrase Yakov Smirnoff: Dagblog: what a country!

    Or, h/t artappraiser: "In Dagblog, you fuck you!"

    Wouldn't that be considered homosexual sex, thus illegal in Russia?

    Putin never said Snowden had to stop leaking; what he said was:

    “If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound coming from my lips.”

    Putin proceeded to say (per the Washington Times):

    Snowden doesn’t want to stop his efforts to reveal information about the U.S. surveillance program likely because he considers himself a rights activist and a “new dissident,” Putin said.

    “Just because he feels that he is a human rights defender, a rights activist, he doesn’t seem to have any intention to stop such work,” Putin said.

    ...and he compared Snowden to Andrei Sakharov.

    Nowhere does Putin reject the activist interpretation - which is definitely an archetype not typically associated with an intent to inflict harm. It honestly seems like Putin is endorsing the view. Shortly after, Russia granted asylum without any further clarification.

    Accepting a political refugee with the caveat of a political-speech gag order would be pretty far out from international norms ... and Putin's game would certainly be best served by papering Snowden without prejudice.

    It seems pretty obvious Putin has been playing word games with Obama ... just like Obama has been playing with everyone else. It's pretty clear Team Obama is inordinately pissed at Team Putin - if Snowden were effectively gagged, I don't think that would necessarily be the case. Snowden is very likely free to communicate however he pleases.

    That said. It was somewhat widely reported that Snowden has seeded all the documents in several places that could be retrieved by others in case something happened to him. So, I think your general assessment that the technical act of "leaking" the documents has already been accomplished is sound (unless we adopt a FISA interpretation of things, in which case the documents won't be considered leaked - or even collected - until they are published in an official report).

    The irony...she is so very bright.

    Your post got me thinking about that other celebrity expat "refugee" in Russia, I looked him up and it's interesting what he's been allowed to be up to without much interference:


    Russia, the new libertarian (including the holy grail, low taxes!) state, just as long as you don't cause Putin too much trouble?

    What a joke. And his most hypocritical excuse for moving to Russia to evade French taxes--because his father was a communist.

    Olga Khazan @ The Atlantic on Russia, whataboutism and tu quoque.

    Interesting. Thanks for this.

    On the other hand, Anna Nemtsova @ Foreign Policy argues convincingly against this game playing having much import in Russia or with Putin

    Putin Walks Alone
    Why the American president's cancellation of their pending summit meeting is just a blip on Vladimir Putin's radar.

    August 9

    [....] is President Obama's decision to cancel his trip to Moscow weighing on Putin's mind? Most Moscow analysts agree that the Russian president is not greatly worried. News of the cancellation never made top headlines in the Russian mainstream media. A story like that would be out of place in the context of the television narrative of Putin as a strong, proud man fighting for Russia's sovereignty.

    "Channel One and Rossiya Channel have the biggest number of viewers -- their managers must have decided not to explain to Russians that Obama's move was actually Russia's defeat," radio journalist Sergei Darenko told me.

    Kremlin insiders say that in this presidential term, Putin is much more focused on his image at home than on how he's seen in the West. His priorities lie in the Russian public's perception of his legacy and of what he wants to achieve for the country. "Obama is not as important as the situation at home and economic issues," says Yevgeny Gontmakher, deputy director of INSOR, a think tank advising the Kremlin.

    While President Obama recently accused Putin of having a Cold War mentality, the unfortunate truth is that it's not a tenable position.

    "Our modernization of the army has failed, while America's defense ministry budget is equivalent to Russia's entire national budget. Putin knows better than anybody else that there is no room in the Kremlin for any Cold War ideas," says military expert Aleksander Golts [....]

    And when she said His priorities lie in the Russian public's perception of his legacy I sort of re-thought some of the things he said about Snowden in that light. People like you, but in Russia, razzing him about his civil rights record might just have had something to do with this all...?

    Interesting. Obama suggested an almost identical offer was open to Snowden just last night.

    Sadly, our president did not appear to be making an attempt at satire.

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