This week’s big story in Russia has, of course, been the heat, and the forest fires. There’s been lots and lots written about it, and I’m going to ignore it completely, because it’s raining here in England as I write this, and I’m grumpy about it.
(Other than to say that this is the link to where I found the Russian forest fires map you can see above. Lots of great maps there.)
Instead, I’m going to focus on the “will he won’t he” shenanigans in Chechnya’s rebel leadership. If you’ve been focusing on fires, you may have missed it, but the basic story as narrated by In Moscow’s Shadows is:
So, on 24 July Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov names Aslanbek Vadalov as his deputy and successor. On 1 August, he then announces that he is stepping down, a fact duly reported on rebel mouthpiece websites. And then a couple of days later they are posting his retraction, and his claim that the initial video message from him was completely fabricated. What on earth is going on?
What on earth, indeed. The best place to get an overview is from Mark at In Moscow’s Shadows, the Russian security blog, which has great coverage and analysis:
- First he breaks the news that Umarov has resigned.
- Then, once the dust settles a bit, he asks “Who is Aslambek Vadalov?”
- And, finally, Umarov’s decision to step back from stepping down.
Other interesting reads on the Chechen rebel leadership sage are
- Paul Goble’s article suggesting that the who affairs shows that the Chechen rebels are driven by nationalism, rather than Islamism.
- Vadim Nitkin at Foreign Policy blog, who in response to Akhmed Zakayev’s statement that new (temporary) leader Vadalov is a moderate, points out that “the only really moderate thing about Vadalov appears to be the level of his success as a field commander”.
- Vadim also has a great mockup picture of indecisive Umarov reprising Boris Karloff’s role in The Man Who Changed His Mind.
Other great blog posts from the past seven days that I recommend reading are:
- Another great translation from Anatoly Karlin explaining who’s who in the Kremlin Clan Wars.
- Tim Newman returns to Russia, and explains in excruciating detail the 42 steps he needed to buy a Russian lightbulb.
- Windows to Russia writes about a Moscow skyscraper that didn’t get proper planning permission. The penalty – the top few floors are being taken disassembled. Windows and all 🙁
- Also at Windows to Russia, Vinni Puh and Day of Troubles!
- The July edition of Pravda on the Potomac is out.
- Streetwise Professor would “sooner listen to a mollusk orate on quantum mechanics than pay attention to a Putin disquisition on freedom and democracy.”
- Russian Life notices a Russian under every bed. Even Chelsea Clinton is now Russian – sort of – her new surname is Mezvinsky.
- Russian Navy Blog is now on twitter. Grudgingly.
And, finally, Hot For Words explains how to fake a Russian accent, Pavel Chekov style. Who knew it was called Scat Russian? Everyone after me – Weekter, Weekter.