Thursday, February 15, 2007

Victim of circumstances

Trust the Chinese to screw up what should have been a hilarious news story about a fraudulent investment scam involving the breeding of giant ants by sentencing its organizer to death.

Putin has hinted with his usual subtlety that his successor next year will be Sergei Ivanov, promoting him from defense minister to first deputy prime minister.

The two have worked together since the good old KGB days. His resume isn’t encouraging, and as defense minister he’s often threatened Georgia and other neighboring countries, but I can’t say I know much about him as a person. Two years ago, his son was not charged for running over and killing an old lady while speeding through Moscow and probably running a light (according to a witness who was never seen again). Several other members of the Putin clique, all from St Petersburg, were also promoted.

And Putin fired the “elected” president of Chechnya, Alu Alkhanov, in favor of 30-year old prime minister slash death squad leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Not sure what that’s all about (or whether this changes the date of the next elections from 2008); I’m embarrassed to say I’ve rather lost track of Chechnya. Alkhanov has been given the job of deputy justice minister in Russia.

I’ve just created a new label for posts about Chechnya. I see that in a 2001 post, I quoted Ivanov calling a colonel who raped and strangled an 18-year old Chechen woman a “victim of circumstances.” Lovely.

The London Times reports that, as Spain is beginning a trial for the Madrid train bombings of 2004, the US is refusing to allow Spain access to the Al Qaida leader who was in charge of the ring, Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, currently being held in one of our fine secret prisons. Spain can’t file for extradition, because the US never officially arrested him. Here’s the killer detail: the US used to let Spain question prisoners held in Guantanamo (before the bombings, they were trying to find out about Setmarian), but no longer does so, to punish Spain for pulling its troops out of Iraq by increasing the likelihood that future terrorist attacks on Spain will succeed.

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