Vienna, June 16 – Militia officers in Russia’s northern capital reportedly have seized part of a shipment of copies of a new book by Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov, apparently outraged by its sweeping indcitment of Vladimir Putin's rule and possibly setting the stage for similar actions elsewhere around the Russian Federation.
Today, Boris Sharov, a St. Petersburg activist of Yabloko, told Kasparov.ru that the delivery of 100,000 copies of “Putin, Results, Ten Years” had been delayed or possibly blocked for unspecified reasons by the militia, an action Sobkorr.ru described as “the detention of the print run” of the Nemtsov and Milov book (www.sobkorr.ru/news/4C189A4E15F43.html).
This came less than 24 hours after the two opposition figures released this 48-page report on the consequences for Russia of Putin’s ten years in power. The authors said that the report had a total print run of one million copies so that people in every region of Russia would have the opportunity to read it (lenta.ru/news/2010/06/14/report/).
Moreover, the report has been posted on a large number of sites and portals – see, for example, Nemtsov’s own posting of his study at www.nemtsov.ru/?id=706211 -- and a sufficient number of search engines have cached copies making it almost impossible to prevent those who want to read it from gaining access.
According to Nemtsov, the new book is “the largest-scale information and enlightenment project of ‘Solidarity’ and of the democratic opposition as a whole during all ten years of Putin’s rule” although it is not Nemtsov and Milov’s first essay on this subject. They earlier released smaller pamphlets on “Putin and Gazprom” and “Putin and the Crisis.”
The pamphlet makes the following eight points about what Putin and his regime have done to Russia and Russians over the last decade, according to a summary provided by Andrey Polunin of “Svobodnaya pressa” (svpressa.ru/politic/article/26417/):
First, the new book says, “corruption has reached catastrophic proportions,” with Russia according to Transparency International now ranked “among the most backward African countries.” Moreover, the two authors suggest, Putin’s associates have benefited from this with many of his oldest friends becoming “dollar billionaires.”
Second, during the Putin years, Nemtsov and Milov say, “Russia has been losing about 500,000 people annually, become of [factors like] extremely low life expectancies, super-high mortality from alcoholism [among working-age men], and a low level [and poor quality] of health care.”
Third, “over the ten years, Russia’s “dependency on the export of raw materials has only increased,” from 44 percent of all exports in 2000 to 65 percent now. Fourth, the country’s road system, never good, has deteriorated further, with construction of new roads having been cut in half because of corruption.
Fifth, despite Putin’s repeated claims to have pacified the North Caucasus and despite Moscow’s pouring five to six billion US dollars a year into that region, much of which has been stolen by corrupt officials and others, “over the course of ten years, the number of terrorist acts rose more than six times.”
. Sixth, social inequality has increased, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, especially in the crisis years. Seventh, the book notes that despite budget deficits, the Putin regime has wasted money on things like preparing for the Sochi Olympics and building gas pipelines of various kinds.
And eighth, Nemtsov and Milov conclude, Putin and his cronies have raided the pension fund for their own purposes, leaving Russia’s aging population with few prospects for a dignified retirement. Adding insult to injury, they write, Putin wants to increase their taxes and raise the retirement age.
None of these charges is new, but the decision of Nemtsov and Milov to combine them, their collection of compelling data, and their publishing of this book in an accessible format means that it is quite probable that it will not only attract widespread attention but also spark new debates about Putin.
The former president and current prime minister certainly won’t be pleased. But it is unlikely that he will sue as Yuri Luzhkov did when Nemtsov criticized him. That action backfired on the Moscow mayor. But it is entirely possible that some Putin backers may be ready to act in just the same way the St. Petersburg militia appears already to have done.