Archive for September, 2010


Russia ex-spy Sergei Tretyakov mysterious death in Florida

Former Russian spy Sergei Tretyakov, who defected for the United States in 2000, has been reported dead in Florida by a local newspaper. The way he died raised many speculations: he choked to death on a piece of meat.

Tretyakov defected to the US while in a espionage operation at the United Nations in New York in 2000. Since then, he was living in Florida where he died on June 13 according to local media.

A Florida medical examiner’s report shows that Sergei Tretyakov also had a cancerous tumor in his colon.

At this point, no evidence indicate that Tretyakov could have been murdered but as usual many speculations arise over Russian secret services methods.


Medvedev turns 45: such a discreet birthday!

Happy birthday Mr. President!” Who will forget a glamorous Marylin Monroe singing during John Kennedy’s birthday celebration? Not every head of State has been as lucky as JFK, but a presidential birthday is always an important story… Well, not for Dmitry Medvedev who claims he wants to keep it private.

We all know that privacy is still politics (especially in Russia) and Medvedev’s shaded birthday is a strong political sign. As the Pravda mentioned in its online edition, “Medvedev still is not a political animal”.

And once again, the Great pupeteer Vladimir Putin is enjoying the show…

Beneath, sonme extracts of the Pravda article:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev celebrated his 45th birthday on September 14. Medvedev spent his birthday with his family in Sochi. The president was not planning any large-scale events for his special day, Vesti reports with reference to the press service of the Kremlin administration. In the meantime, Russian officials and politicians found themselves in an awkward situation: many of them do not know what to give to the high-ranking birthday man in light of Medvedev’s recent anti-corruption activities.

In one of his interviews, Medvedev said that he considered birthday a family holiday and added that he was hoping to give more attention to his family members on his special day.
“My work does not allow me to spend much time with my family, and this day (birthday) would be a good reason to get together,” he earlier said.
The president also said that he likes to receive presents, although he values attention more.
“The attention from the people dear to me is most important. If you realize that your closest person tries to make your birthday special – this is what makes you the happiest man,” Medvedev said.
Dmitry Medvedev was born on Septebmer 14, 1965 in Leningrad. He graduated from the Leningrad State University and started working at a professor there afterwards. At age 34 Medvedev became deputy chairman of the administration of the government of the Russian Federation. Some time later, he became deputy chairman of the presidential administration. In October of 2003, at age 38, Medvedev chaired the administration of the Russian president.

Two years later, Medvedev became first deputy chairman of the government. In March of 2008, at age 42, he took the office of the Russian president and became Russia’s youngest leader during the recent 100 years. Medvedev is included on the top five list of the youngest leaders in the world. The presidents of all post-Soviet states are at least eight years older than their Russian counterpart. As for G-20 and G-8 leaders, there is only David Cameron, the British PM, who is one year younger than Medvedev.
Speaking about his character, Medvedev once acknowledged that he had not become a “political animal” during his career in politics.

Russia Today: Medvedev: Democracy crucial for Russia’s development
“I don’t have a feeling that I have turned into a person for whom publicity has become a drug. There is this category of politicians, who are referred to as “political animals.” I do not feel that I have become one. Even if my last name is Medvedev [a derivative from the word ‘medved’ which translates from Russian as ‘bear’ – ed.], I have not become an animal at this point. It’s not one of my physical needs – to constantly be in the spotlight,” Medvedev said in an interview.
“At the same time I have definitely changed, for I would not be able to do what I’m doing otherwise. I can be cruel, but criticize myself for it afterwards. I have become more loyal and tranquil to some things, but it happened because of the things that I have to do,” he said.
Medvedev also said that he did not even think that he would become the president when he came to work in the White House. He recollected the words, which then-president Vladimir Putin said to him: “You can’t even imagine how it would change your angle of sight.”
He repeated Putin’s words when he was speaking about being tough in politics.
“When they now urge Russia to show more flexibility, I guess I would take this piece of advice some ten years ago. Now I can not. It’s not because I became a big boss. My angle of sight has changed. If we had not taken tough positions on some issues, we would have still be treated as a third-rate country,” he said.
Speaking about his predecessor and their current teamwork, Medvedev said:
“I would not like people to eventually perceive me and Valdimir Putin as elderly leaders of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, who would appear on the Mausoleum tribune wearing identical coats and hats, making it impossible to distinguish who of them was Leonid Ilych and who was Mikhail Andreyevich.”
Russian politicians and officials found themselves in a confusing situation. On the one hand, the president declared war on corruption and took efforts against expensive gifts and bribes on duty. That is why it would be provocative for officials to give something pricy to the president. On the other hand, it is impossible to ignore such an important anniversary. Many Russian officials decided to simply send telegrams to Medvedev.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the Liberal and Democratic Party of Russia, believes that it is not nice to give any gifts to president.
“We will send him a telegram on his birthday. A gift is a vestige of corruption! I am in the opposition in the long run, so what kind of gift can there be?” Zhirinovsky said.


John Helmer : the death tsar of Russian political journalism

Interesting article about an interesting (and yet controversial) guy!!!

“The force is strong with him”, and he has clearly chosen the dark side. Controversy and criticism are two key elements of John Helmer’s investigative work. Helmer, 64, is the most feared and ferocious business blogger in Russia. Every post he writes is a lethal bullet shot to the reputations of top Russian companies and executives. A controversial journalist and an ambiguous man of mystery.

Three decades in Moscow
John Helmer, an Australo-america citizen, is one of the few international journalists to have actually lived in Russia for decades (he first settled there in the 1980s). According to fellow journalists based in Moscow, Helmer has some of the best political and business insights in the country, especially for a foreigner.
According to the same sources, it is how Helmer uses his insights that is questionable. The majority of his articles are written with the sole purpose of pointing out misconduct of companies’ executives or highlighting the difficulties they face, most notably in the steel industry.
Helmer is a journalistic sniper, shooting down reputations and credentials. His stories are markedly one-sided and rarely balanced, even when they are based on facts. Although he mostly attacks businessmen, he also regularly goes after Russian officials.

Close to Russian security services?
Helmer’s craft raises many questions in Russia, a country where freedom of speech remains an illusion and where people who speak up are usually silenced quickly.
“Why is he still around?” For the average Russian, there is a simple answer: if a man criticizes some of the most influential people in Russia on a daily basis and yet can live in plain sight in Moscow without being tried, harassed or threatened, that man must be under the protection of the right people.
Two theories exist to explain Helmer’s shady side. The first is that he has strong “acquaintances” among Russian security services (notably the FSB) and that he is used by the Russian government to launch reputational attacks on people and companies prior to official investigations or prosecutions, in order to lay the groundwork for international public opinion. The soviet KGB used the same method to discredit “liberals”.

“Black image maker?”
The second popular  theory about Helmer among Russian journalists is that he conceives his journalistic work as “black PR” used by companies to spread biased information regarding their competitors. This is a common practice in Russian business, of which Helmer would only be one international example.
“He is a mercenary, a black image maker”, a Russian journalist said of Helmer. In other words, Helmer is a paid-for mouthpiece who operates far outside the realm of objective journalism and trustworthy reporting.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s American lawyer and lobbyist Robert Amsterdam is even harsher on Helmer, insisting on the fact that he “is much gentler with Vladimir Putin” than with any Russian businessmen he writes about.
Amsterdam notably doubts Helmer’s version of an assassination attempt he claims he has been a victim of from businessman Oleg Deripaska’s hitmen. “The only problem is that all of this information comes only from Helmer himself (…) All I am saying is that it would be good to see the police go on record or some other third party statements on the incident”.
The lawyer, as many people close to Russian business circles, seems to believe Helmer is biased when he talks about Deripaska and Rusal, and about many other Russian businessmen.