Putin Says Soviet Union Could Have Been Saved

As he does from time to time, President Vladimir Putin today made another ambiguous public statement about the fate of the Soviet Union, this time stating that its dissolution was unnecessary, were it not for the Soviet Communist Party’s policies.

“You know how I feel about the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was entirely unnecessary to do this. It would have been possible to carry out reforms, including democratic reforms, without this [dissolution],” Putin said during a meeting at the Kremlin with the leaders of the political parties represented in the new State Duma. He then faulted the Soviet Communist Party for mismanaging the Soviet Union, blaming it for promoting “ideas of nationalism” and “other destructive ideas that are ruinous to any state.”

Earlier this year, Putin compared Soviet nationalist policies to an “atomic bomb” placed by Lenin and his allies “under a building called Russia” that only exploded later.

From – https://themoscowtimes.com/news/putin-says-the-ussr-could-have-been-saved-55467

Will Ukraine recover its stolen billions?

Ukraine is looking to next year’s Global Asset Recovery Forum as a major opportunity to make progress in reclaiming up to $40 billion it says was stolen from the state when former President Viktor Yanukovych was in office.

So far, Ukraine has recovered next to nothing since Yanukovych fled power on Feb. 22, 2014.
The accounts of Yanukovych and a number of his associates are currently frozen under European Union sanctions. But experts say if Ukrainian investigators do not move more quickly to substantiate their accusations, Yanukovych and others could be removed from the 28-nation bloc’s blacklist.

Stronger cooperation

The Global Asset Recovery Forum is a joint American-British project, set to be held in spring in Washington, D.C.

It was announced in May by the United Kingdom’s then-Prime Minister David Cameron. The initiative, with support from the United Nations and World Bank, specifically seeks to help Ukraine, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Tunisia recover money embezzled by corrupt officials.

In a press release, the U.K. government said the forum will “strengthen cooperation between the countries that have had assets stolen and the countries where those assets are hidden, and help ensure law enforcement on both sides drive forward vital work to return illicit funds.”

Concrete details on what will be offered to Ukraine at the meeting remain sparse, but experts agree it represents an important chance for the country to win more Western assistance in its quest to bring former officials to justice.

According to the latest estimates compiled by the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, during the four years of Yanukovych’s presidency, from February 2010 to February 2014, between $20 billion and $30 billion went missing from state funds. However, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko says the figure is $40 billion.

Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko told lawmakers on Sept. 15 the thefts could be seen “from direct evidence” as well as from irregularities which appeared at the beginning of 2014, when money recorded in the state budget and on the books of local authorities “was, in fact, not there.”

But according to observers, if international partners are to get more involved in the effort to return stolen funds, Ukraine must show that it is serious about bringing suspects to trial.

“There are very good people at the Prosecutor General’s Office who know how to investigate and could do the job properly, if they would be allowed to,” said Daria Kaleniuk, executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Kyiv. “At the very top level of the Prosecutor General’s Office, there are officials who are not interested in getting these cases into court and prosecuting the ‘big fish’ of the former regime.”

Trust deficit

This lack of will to bring past officeholders to court is exacerbating the deficit of trust that has long characterized relations between Ukrainian prosecutors and their Western counterparts.

The independence of Ukrainian investigative officials has before now come into question, as has the credibility of the justice system as a whole. As a result, even if Ukrainian courts convict the fugitive Yanukovych and his exiled associates, it is far from certain that these convictions will be accepted in Brussels and Washington, D.C.

But there is a big precedent for collaboration.

Pavlo Lazarenko, a former prime minister, is wanted in Ukraine on charges of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the state. He fled to the United States in 1999 and almost immediately became embroiled in legal proceedings. In 2000, he was convicted by a U.S. court of money laundering and, between 2009 and 2012, served his sentence in federal prison.

But U.S. officials are still working to seize assets they believe he has hidden offshore, and a court case to recover that money is not expected to go to trial before 2018. Ukraine, meanwhile, has yet to receive any of the money Lazarenko is accused of embezzling, and there are no assurances that it ever will.

Anti-graft measures

Still, such examples of cross-border investigations are the exception rather than the rule. For many critics, rich countries are as much a part of the problem as they are of the solution. They point to financial centers like London and Frankfurt, where stories are rife of banks and estate agents ready to ask too few questions about the sources of funds.

The Global Forum for Asset Recovery appears to be part of the response to these accusations. At the same meeting earlier this year where that summit was announced, the UK also said it would introduce a number of new anti-graft measures, including requiring foreign companies to reveal their ultimate beneficial owners before they can purchase property.

Such steps are essential, according to experts, if countries like Ukraine are to have any chance of retaking cash believed to have been stolen by corrupt officials. At next year’s Global Forum, it is hoped more similar initiatives will be announced and international cooperation will be stepped up to close loopholes exploited by embezzlers.

“If our officials in Ukraine acquire money illegally, if there were sufficient checks in place abroad, in other jurisdictions, that money will stay in Ukraine,” says Yevhen Cherniak, a senior analyst at NGO Transparency International.

Need for progress

In the case of Yanukovych, as long as asset freezes remain in place there is still a chance of recovering money before it is moved outside the EU. But lawyers for the former president say they intend to continue challenging the sanctions.

They have some grounds to believe they will be successful, hav ing recently won a judgement from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which stated the inclusion of their client on the bloc’s blacklist from March 2014 to March 2015 was unjustified because it was based on a lack of evidence.

Yanukovych is set to remain on the asset-freeze list until March 2017, however, as European governments have already agreed to extend the measures against him.

But in order for those sanctions to stay in place, Ukraine is likely to need to show progress in its investigations. This means opening up to cooperation with money laundering experts from abroad, something which prosecutors have so far been unable, or unwilling, to do.

Some would like to see the West take a harder line and perhaps even use aid money as an incentive. “Our international donors the IMF and the EU should ask the Ukrainian government to push forward investigations into asset recovery,” says Yevhen. “We ask for international assistance but we do nothing to get our money from abroad.”

Hope for change

For many, the truth is that recovering anything from Yanukovych and his associates will remain impossible while the Prosecutor General’s Office remains in charge of the cases. Worse still, from the point of view of anti-corruption activists, is that if the former president wins further judgements at the ECJ, there is a chance he could one day successfully sue Ukraine for damages.

If there is hope for change, it comes in the form of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau, a new agency operational for barely one year. Its relative youth means it still has a chance to prove to the West that it is a credible and trustworthy institution. That may be of little consequence as far as past offenders are concerned, but does provide for the possibility of establishing the rule of law going forward.

“I have hope that the new agencies like the National Anti-corruption Bureau will be able to prosecute properly, to collect evidence to prove the illicit origin of funds,” says Kaleniuk of the Anti-corruption Action Center.

“This is unlikely to happen regarding the former regime cases being investigated by the Prosecutor General’s Office, but it might happen with cases involving current officials.

From – http://www.kyivpost.com/article/content/ukraine-politics/will-ukraine-recover-its-stolen-billions-423534.html

‘Caretaker’ of Putin’s Alleged Offshore Wealth Says Secret Service Won’t Leave Obama Alone With Russian President

The U.S. Secret Service is afraid to leave President Barack Obama alone with Vladimir Putin, says the Russian cellist Sergei Roldugin, who investigative journalists call the “secret caretaker” of Putin’s alleged offshore wealth.

“I want to share a little secret with you,” Roldugin told the RIA Novosti news agency. “It’s a certain detail I know, that Obama’s security team doesn’t dare leave him alone to talk one-on-one with Putin.” This, Roldugin insists, “is a very strong indicator.”

Roldugin went on to praise President Putin for his ability to “take responsibility” for government policies. “He says: this is my decision. He’s not afraid of responsibility. Meanwhile, as I understand it, Western and American politicians can’t quite say: now this is my decision, and this is how it will be.” Roldugin then quickly added that Putin’s behavior in no way resembles dictatorship.

Thanks to banking records obtained from the Panama Papers and investigative work by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Roldugin has become known as the “secret caretaker” of vast offshore wealth allegedly owned by Vladimir Putin.

From – https://themoscowtimes.com/news/secret-caretaker-of-putins-alleged-offshore-wealth-says-secret-service-wont-leave-obama-alone-with-russian-president-55445

Ukrainians ask British PM to punish Graham Phillips for tormenting a mutilated PoW

British videoblogger Graham Phillips, known for his cooperation with Russian occupation regimes in Ukrainian Donbas staged out a crooked provocation at an exchange of hostages, tormenting and humiliating a mutilated prisoner of war. Ukrainians are now addressing UK officials with a demand to punish Phillips for psychological torture and cooperation with terrorists.

ED: This guy is a total coward, I cannot stand him.

Mocking an armless PoW

“Who brainwashed you? You speak like a brainwashed zombie… Who needs you now, with no arms?” These are not the phrases a maimed prisoner of war is supposed to hear minutes before reuniting with his family after almost a year of captivity. Neither could such questions be qualified as a part of an interview by any war correspondent working on a story about the release of hostages.

However, this is exactly what Ukrainian soldier Volodymyr Zhemchugov had to go through as he was waiting for his release by the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LNR”) on 17 September in Russia occupied Donbas.

Odious British blogger Graham Phillips, known for cooperation with the Russian-backed separatist “republics” in Donbas, was deported from Ukraine back in 2014. On 17 September, he found himself in an ambulance that brought a seriously ill soldier to exchange of hostages. In a five minute video uploaded to Phillips’ YouTube channel the blogger repeatedly addresses the soldier as a “zombie,” claims he is “no intelligent man,” and insults Ukrainian journalists present at the exchange. Zhemchugov, who has spent almost a year in captivity, states he is an educated man, a patriot, and assures that “Ukraine doesn’t leave its own people.”

For Phillips, such an approach to “journalism” (as he calls it) is no exception. For instance, on 22 January 2015, he was filming a “parade of prisoners” of the military personnel of Armed forces of Ukraine, with a couple of “active citizens” shouting and throwing something at the POWs. In fact, the scene turned out to be a plot – the few “active citizens” were driven in specially to be filmed by the Russian media, and filmed at angles to make their number appear larger than they were.

The video with Zhemchugov, however, doesn’t seem to have received an expected reaction from YouTube audience. As of 21 September, it received 3,829 “dislikes” compared to 1,341 “likes” and got bombed with pro-Ukrainian comments. “What a miserable ‘journalist,’ I think he will be prosecuted as a terrorist after the liberation of Ukrainian territories, in case he won’t be eleminated by Russian terrorists, or it will run away terrified by punishment for its crimes,” a comment by Kolya Shcherbina states.

Suicide attempt to avoid “LNR” captivity

On 28 September 2015 Volodymyr Zhemchugov, who calls himself „a Luhansk partisan of Ukrainian underground” got injured due to an accidental tripwire detonation. A local of Luhansk with Russian citizenship, he decided to join Ukrainian Armed Forces as an intelligence agent and later went on as a partisan fighting Russian soldiers in an occupied Luhansk oblast.

After detonation, Zhemchugov started crawling towards the road nearby hoping to get run over by a car. There he was found by “LNR” militants who put him into reanimation, under interrogation and under arrest.

“There is a route Krasnodon-Luhansk there, and at night Urals [freight vehicles – ed.] from Russia carrying shells for… [separatists’ – ed.] warehouses follow that route. At night those convoys are being redeployed further here, to Luhansk, to Stakhanov. Indeed, when I realized I wasn’t dying, I decided to commit suicide. I crawled to the road not to be saved, but to be killed. I didn’t want to be taken captive,” he explained in an interview for TSN.

In captivity, both of Volodymyr’s arms were amputated, he almost lost sight after a retinal detachment, was suffering a damaged eardrum, part of his intestine was removed, and shrapnel still remained in his body. As a hostage, he only received emergency treatment and was constantly under psychological pressure such as threats with a gun or threats of killing his family.

Volodymyr’s wife pleaded to the European court of Human Rights, the EU delegation to Ukraine, to the heads of the Normandy Four, President Poroshenko, and even to the Pope and Queen of Great Britain to help her husband be exchanged while still alive and finally on 17 September 2016 the exchange was arranged.

Zhemchugov will now undergo medical treatment and rehabilitation. However, his slim chances of regaining vision are severely undermined by nearly year he spent in “LNR” prisons without treatment. Had the exchange taken place on 17 November 2015, as it was planned before the arrangement was disrupted from the side of the “LNR,” those chances would be much higher, Gerashchenko said.

Punishment for Graham Phillips

“When Zhemchugov came out of an ambulance and leaned on our guys from Security Service of Ukraine, a humanlike creature jumped dancing towards him,” Ukraine’s First Vice Speaker of Parliament Iryna Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook after an incident with Phillips. According to Gerashchenko, “’LNR’s’ negotiator was happily laughing at the scene behind Phillips’ back, and OSCE monitors present at the exchange didn’t intervene in the provocation. The Vice Speaker stated that Phillips’ goal was to disrupt the exchange.

On 19 September, Ukrainian parliamentarians and journalists presented Phillips’ video at a PACE session. According to Gerashchenko, such behavior of Phillips can be classified as forbidden methods of influence, mockery of a hostage, and psychological torture. Volodymyr Ariev, Ukraine’s MP and the chairman of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE, is of the same opinion. Gerashchenko has suggested filing an appeal to the British Court regarding torturing of a war prisoner.

A similar initiative came also from outraged Ukrainian citizens. On 18 September, Ukrainian activist Ludmila Elbourne living in London addressed the new British prime minister Theresa May, commenting on a post on May’s Facebook profile.

“Given that Mr. Phillips is proud to identify himself as a UK journalist, and that the UK Government is providing support to the legitimate Ukrainian Government, maybe it is possible to withdraw Mr. Phillips’ travel documents? His avowed support for terrorism in East Ukraine alone surely makes this possible?” Elbourne requested.

Within three days, the comment collected up to 20 thousand likes and sparked further angry comments by Ukrainians demanding punishing Phillips for his behavior, serving Russian propaganda, and shaming the British Crown. May has not yet addressed this issue neither on Facebook, nor in an official statement.

One more call for bringing Phillips to responsibility came from a Pentagon officer David Jewberg. On 20 September, he posted a letter addressed to the British officials urging them “to investigate and prosecute Mr. Phillips to the full extent of UK laws for his terrorist ties and unlawful activity in the occupied Ukraine.”

On 21 September, Ukrainian police reported that 1,5 thousand people went missing since the beginning of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. In the beginning of September, Gerashchenko said that 498 people still haven’t been found. According to official information of the Security Service of Ukraine, as of 14 September, 112 Ukrainians remain in captivity of the so-called “LNR/DNR.”

From – http://euromaidanpress.com/2016/09/22/tormenting-mutilated-pow-ukrainians-ask-theresa-may-to-punish-graham-phillips/

Peering Into the Crystal Ball: Russia After the Elections

The Duma elections are over. They are no longer a restraining factor, but a stimulus to change.

Prior to the State Duma elections, everyone was talking about the imminent dismissal of Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee. Media reports said the decision had already been made, with the dismissal delayed until “after the elections.”

Bastrykin’s departure is in keeping with the major restructuring of security and law enforcement bodies that began back in March.

But his dismissal barely changes the larger picture: Both Bastrykin and his department were significantly weakened in the current restructuring process, and later by the high-profile arrests of senior investigators.

Bastrykin’s was not the only security structure to have been weakened. Some, such as the Federal Guard Service and the security services for the president and customs, saw a change in leadership. Others such as the Federal Security Service, Interior Ministry, and now the Investigative Committee, underwent a cleansing of second-tier management. The Federal Migration Service and Federal Drug Control Service were eliminated altogether.

The restructuring of the siloviki — loyal strongmen from the security services — is nearing an end, with the final chords set to sound after the elections. At the same time, the remaking of the political bloc has only begun. It is not so much that President Vladimir Putin has a grand plan for renewing the ruling elite, as much as he is responding to what the situation demands.

Russia’s leaders have unwittingly driven themselves into two traps.

The first is the trap of political legitimacy. The Kremlin is running out of ways to maintain the military-autocratic legitimacy of the ruling authorities. It cannot play the “Crimea card” a second time, and opinion polls indicate that the people care little whether Russia achieves a real or alleged victory in Syria. They are far more concerned about the standard of living at home, and the public mood is becoming increasingly isolationist.

This means the Kremlin must somehow restore its legitimacy. But the only way the national leader can stand for elections without compromising his hold on power is if nearly 100 percent of the voters turn out and vote for him — as autocratic Central Asian leaders orchestrate their elections. Otherwise, Putin becomes a weak ruler, and not a strong leader who can boast a mandate from the people.

Unfortunately, Central Asian-like results are difficult to achieve in Russia. Both the people and their government remember the mass protests of 2011-2012. Furthermore, the political machines which might have achieved sky-high voter turnout and support have been largely dismantled in the regions.

There are two ways out of this dilemma: either Putin puts forward a hand-picked successor to run in the next presidential elections, or he turns the elections into a plebiscite, thus enabling him to combine autocratic with electoral legitimacy.

The second trap is the excessively long interval between the current Duma elections and the presidential elections in 2018. If leaders wait another 18 months before implementing essential but painful economic reforms, they will exhaust the government’s financial reserves — something they would like to avoid.

Here, too, the authorities have two options: end the confrontation with the West and borrow money there to buy time until 2018, or hold early presidential elections.

In the latter case, Putin would have to either carry out modernization in some form, even authoritarian. Or he could finish building his authoritarian system, replete with a cleansing of the elite.

Either option would ruin the status quo, which would inevitably provoke serious resistance from the ruling elite. The cleansing of the elite over the last several months is an attempt to weaken any potential center of resistance to the course Putin ultimately chooses, giving him more room to maneuver.

The siloviki have undergone the most radical cleansing, but the cleansing process began with state-owned companies and government agencies, many of which saw their entire management replaced back in 2014-2015.

So, before the year is out we can expect to see a number of major changes — not only to staff, but also to the very structure of the presidential administration, government and political bloc, including both houses of parliament and the party system.

The Duma elections are over. They are no longer a restraining factor, but a stimulus to change. The election results have significantly changed the political balance not only in the regions, where new, strong, and relatively independent political figures have entered office, but also in the center. The elections have given added political weight to the Duma itself and augmented its legitimacy. In fact, against the backdrop of the impending shakeups, the Duma is looking like an island of stability.

And now no one and nothing can get in the way of the Kremlin if it wants to resurrect the Soviet Union. Especially if it seriously wants to resurrect the holy Soviet trinity of KGB-MVD-Army, as the Kommersant newspaper revealed just hours after the first election results began to trickle in.

From – https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/peer-into-the-crystal-ball-russia-after-the-elections-55406

Russia Moving From Recession To Stagnation, EBRD Economist Says

As Russia touts signs of renewed growth after a long recession, the self-exiled former Kremlin adviser who is now chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says his homeland’s prospects for recovery in fact remain bleak.

Senior Russian officials have said they expect the economy to start recovering from recession next year, with the Economy Ministry predicting 0.8 percent growth in 2017 after a projected decline of 0.2 percent this year.

But Sergei Guriyev, a prominent economist who left Russia in 2013 amid fears of a politically motivated criminal prosecution, says the country’s economy is not in a process of recovery but of “transition from recession to stagnation.”

“The drop in gross domestic product [GDP] has ended, moving now to zero or very slow growth,” he told RFE/RL’s Russian Service in a telephone interview in London, where the EBRD is headquartered. He predicted that, if there is positive growth, it will be only about 1 percent a year.

“That is a process economists call stagnation,” Guriyev said.

Guriyev, a former rector of Moscow’s respected New Economic School, served on Kremlin advisory bodies during Dmitry Medvedev’s 2008-12 presidency and has been a member of state lender Sberbank’s supervisory board.

He left Russia for France in 2013, amid concerns he could be targeted for prosecution during a crackdown on liberal-minded members of the Russian elite critical of President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian policies.

Budget Cuts

In a sweeping review of Russia’s economic situation, Guriyev also told RFE/RL that conditions for ordinary Russians are likely to remain difficult in the months ahead as the government continues to cut spending in an effort to cope with loss of revenues due to low world prices for oil, a key export. The spending reductions mean less money is injected into the economy through government contracts, contributing to the sluggish pace of economic activity.

“Russian authorities are forced to make budget cuts in real terms, affecting almost all areas of the budget, including defense spending,” Guriyev said. “[There is even] currently discussion of large-scale reduction of the state program of armaments modernization” — a multibillion-dollar plan to overhaul much of the military by 2020.

The Russian economy has been hit hard by low oil prices since 2014, when the price of oil plunged to under 50 dollars a barrel, just half the price Moscow traditionally has counted upon to fund the national budget. The price of oil, which fell again to under 40 dollars a barrel in 2015, hovers around $46 a barrel today.

Guriyev said Russia’s economic slowdown has been further exacerbated by a lack of economic reforms within Russia and by Western sanctions imposed in response to Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and its backing for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“The situation, to put it mildly, is not easy,” he commented.

Feeling The Squeeze

Ordinary Russians have felt the squeeze directly in their pocketbooks.

Household income data from August revealed an 8 percent drop in household income in Russia compared to the same time last year, Guriyev said. That comes as prices have moved steadily upward, with inflation regularly hitting the double digits in recent years.

Guriyev said that Russia’s government has managed to keep the economy afloat only by regularly dipping into a rainy-day fund that accumulated from excess earnings when oil prices were high. However, he warned that, if oil prices do not rise and sanctions remain in place, the government will have to dig deep into other savings, too, including a fund created to plug deficits in the pension system.

“In this scenario, the Reserve Fund will be exhausted later this year or in the first half of next year,” he said. “The consequences are that the government will be forced to start spending the National Welfare Fund.”

Guriyev said that the government has already sought to prepare the population for such an eventuality by announcing that pension-system savings could be spent on financing the current account deficit in 2017 and 2018.

Investor Exodus

Amid the gloomy outlook for the Russian economy, the economist sees one sign that might spell at least a little relief for the country’s hard-pressed citizens. He said that while inflation remains high, “the central bank has done a lot to reduce it, and we see that this year’s inflation will not be in the double-digits.”

But he says prospects for economic recovery continue to be dimmed not only by low oil prices and sanctions but by a lack of new investment. Domestic capital has shrunk with the economic slowdown and foreign investors have largely fled the country since relations between Moscow and the West soured over Russia’s interference in Ukraine.

Guriyev said that Putin’s oft-stated goal of curbing reliance on the West by reorienting Russia’s economic cooperation toward China and other countries in Asia does not offer a remedy.

“There are lots of signed letters of intent, summits, state visits and statements,” he says. “But slimmed-down Western investment has not yet replaced by the East. Unfortunately, the total foreign direct investment in Russia has decreased significantly.”

From – http://www.rferl.org/a/russia-economist-guriyev-interview-stagnation/28005119.html

Russia ‘to revive the KGB’ after Vladimir Putin wins biggest majority

Russia plans effectively to revive the KGB under a massive shake-up of its security forces, a respected business daily has reported.

A State Security Ministry, or MGB, would be created from the current Federal Security Service (FSB) , and would incorporate the foreign intelligence service (SVR) and the state guard service (FSO), under the plans.

It would be handed all-encompassing powers once possessed by the KGB, the Kommersant newspaper said, citing security service sources.

Like the much-feared KGB, it would also oversee the prosecutions of Kremlin critics, a task currently undertaken by the Investigative Committee, headed by Alexander Bastrykin, a former university classmate of President Putin. The Kremlin has not commented.

The MGB is expected to be in operation before the 2018 presidential elections, which could see Mr Putin secure a fourth term of office that would keep him in power until 2024.

Mr Putin served as a KGB officer in Soviet-era East Germany, and is also thought to have been responsible for keeping tabs on dissidents in his hometown of Leningrad, now St Petersburg.

He headed the FSB from July 1998 to August 1999, before becoming prime minister, and has often quipped that there is no such thing as a former KGB officer.

“The KGB was one of the strongest special services in the world – everyone recognised this,” Sergei Goncharov, who served in Russia’s now disbanded Alpha counter-terror unit in the 1990s, told state media. Mr Goncharov also said the creation of the MGB would provide Russia with a “strong fist” overseen by a unified leadership.

Kremlin critics were horrified by the possible rebirth of an organisation synonymous in Russia with political oppression. “It’s time to get out [of the country],” wrote Elshad Babaev, a Twitter user. “Anyone who can should take the opportunity.”

The KGB was just one of the many incarnations of the Soviet Union’s feared secret police service, which was founded in 1917 as the Cheka.

The MGB is not a new designation. It was the name of the state security apparatus for eight years during Joseph Stalin’s bloody rule. It was renamed the KGB after Stalin’s death, and disbanded in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, when its powers were distributed among a number of newly-created security services.

The Kommersant report came less than 24 hours after Mr Putin’s ruling United Russia party strengthened its grip on the Duma, the lower house of parliament, taking three-quarters of its 450 seats, its largest ever majority.

The two anti-Putin parties on the ballot – Parnas and Yabloko – failed to overcome the 5 per cent threshold to enter parliament.

Dmitry Gudkov, the only liberal opposition politician to hold a seat before, was defeated by a United Russia candidate.

“The question now is … how to live with a one-party parliament,” he said.

The election was marred by allegations of vote-rigging and widespread apathy. The turnout in Moscow was just 35 per cent, the lowest since Mr Putin came to power in 2000.

“A record low turnout. Democrats get less than 3 per cent. The MGB is to be recreated. Welcome to the brave new world,” said Vladimir Kara-Murza, the deputy leader of Parnas.

From – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/19/russia-to-reinstate-the-kgb-under-plan-to-combine-security-force/

KGB, In From the Cold

Newspaper reports plans to re-integrate security agencies into a superstructure resembling the old KGB.

Early in the morning of Sept. 19, just as the first landslide results of Russia’s parliamentary elections began to trickle in, the Kommersant newspaper published an eye-catching report. The Kremlin was to embark on a major restructuring of its security agencies, it said. Plans were already afoot to create a “State Security Ministry,” essentially elevating the Federal Security Service (FSB) to the position it enjoyed in its Soviet heyday as the KGB.

According to the unverified report, several smaller agencies, including the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and most of the Federal Protection Service (FSO) were to be rolled up into the new security behemoth, and the Investigative Committee (SKR) was to return to its previous home in the General Prosecutor’s Office. All would be implemented in time for the 2018 presidential elections.

The idea of recreating an overarching security ministry is not new. Almost from the day President Boris Yeltsin moved to split the KGB up into constituent parts, the spooks have pushed to regain their former status. Serious proposals to reconstitute old KGB functions were put forward in 2004 and 2012. In both cases, President Vladimir Putin reportedly acted as a block.

“He wanted to maintain competition within the intelligence community,” says Vladimir Frolov, a foreign policy expert.

That dynamic may have changed, and several experts told The Moscow Times they believed consolidation within the security bloc was plausible, especially following the introduction of a new National Guard. Tellingly, the Kommersant leak has been reported in several loyal government media, and Putin’s spokesman has refused to deny the plans.

A source close to the government, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Moscow Times that he believed further security consolidation was imminent. It was, however, unlikely to be in the form suggested by Kommersant: “The boss is quite rational: Why would [Putin] push everyone into the same spot? They are supposed to rat on each other.”

Gennady Gudkov, an opposition politician who worked in the KGB’s counter-espionage section between 1982 and 1993, suggested the removal of mutual interagency control was the most dangerous part of the proposal.

“We’ve been here before, whether that be the 1930s during the Great Terror, after the war and the time of [infamous security chief Lavrenty] Beria, or during Brezhnev’s era, when the KGB was a monster,” he said. If imposed, the changes would result in “further politicization” of law enforcement and prosecuting bodies, “conveyer justice” and “more repression of the opposition.”

Gudkov does not discount the possibility that the Kommersant leak was an attempt to gauge a reaction. “The FSB is empire building, and trying to persuade Putin to impose the iron fist and expand their remit,” he says.

The proposals are likely to be met with resistance by both the FSO and SKR, both of which would be merged into the FSB and Prosecutor’s Office respectively. There would be many redundancies and much blood-letting; relations between prosecutors and officials of the Investigative Committee are, for example, already terrible.

According to the Kommersant report, the changes are being made to streamline government, and control government corruption.

Analyst Mark Galeotti suggests the proposals instead indicated “elite paranoia,” and were likely to fail on both advertised fronts. “No corruption case inside the Russian security services has ever been brought about internally; it is always about competing agencies,” he says. “If I were a corrupt security officer, I would think life is about to get just great.”