Saturday, October 27, 2007

The view from Amsterdam...

It's been a few years since President Bush "looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes, saw his soul," then prounounced him a "good man who loves his family." A few years and a few murdered truth-telling journalists, renewed campaigns of violence against Chechnia and power grabs later, that is...I don't think there has been nearly enough coverage of these less sanguine aspects of Putin's Russia. The mainstream media has ooed and ahed about Moscow's nouveaux riches, its proliferation of five-star hotels, its outlandishly expensive housing and restaurants and Putin's high ratings with Russians, which only makes sense since the regime is known for punishing people who insist on presenting a balanced picture.

As an antidote, I urge everyone to visit and bookmark Robert Amsterdam's website. Mr. Amsterdam is a lawyer from Canada who accepted the case of Mikhail Khodorkovskii, an enormously talented and generous Russian businessman and philanthropist, the Bill Gates of Russia. Khodorkovskii was a force for good in Russia after he made his money in oil, lavishing money on funds-starved state schools, giving grants to NGOs, doing the kinds of things conscientious wealthy people should do for their societies. His only mistake was to declare on TV that Putin was corrupt, that he, Khodorkovskii, was thinking of running against him in the next elections. That apparently enraged Putin, who brought in his tax police to raid Khodorkovskii's HQ and "discover" evidence of massive tax fraud, money-laundering, etc. Khodorkovskii and his second-in-command were imprisoned in Moscow's most notorious jail, then put on trial and made to sit in a cage, the kind of display usually reserved for serial killers and the like. Amsterdam and his team bravely defended Khodorkovskii, holding forth on the essential lawlesness and vindictiveness of Putin's Russia, but to no avail--Khodorkovskii was sentenced to 20 years HARD LABOR for his crimes. PERIOD. Not only that, but Amsterdam was rousted from his bed in his expensive Moscow hotel by thugs in special forces uniforms, threatened with AK-47s and told to get the ---- out of Russia(!).

I was glad to see that Mr. Amsterdam didn't go quietly...his website now utilizes his extensive network of contacts in Russia to offer a steady diet of news from the dirty underside of this incarnation of Russia. Don't miss it


Anonymous James said...

Thank you very much for these kind words of support and your interest in raising awareness of Russia-related issues on our blog.

I hope we can continue to keep up the good work and draw more people into the discussion.


4:02 PM  

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