Bill Browder’s Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice is a sizzling account of his rise, fall and metamorphosis from bombastic financier to renowned human-rights activist, The Economist reports:
Born into a leftish academic household (his grandfather led the American Communist Party), he rebelled by turning to capitalism. …The book begins with Mr Browder’s surprise deportation from Moscow in late 2005. It was not the first sign that something was awry in Russia, but the first time it affected him. The intervention came directly from the FSB, the state security service. Russian officials then raided his offices, beat up someone who unwisely resisted them and confiscated documents….. But his downfall in Russia was the beginning of the story, not the end. Corrupt officials were interested in the fact that Mr Browder’s companies had been some of the country’s largest taxpayers. Using the stolen documents and a bewildering series of phoney lawsuits, they took over the companies and wiped out the previous year’s profits, allowing officials to reclaim the tax paid. The $230m refund, the largest in Russian history, was paid out in a single day.
All this would have remained a mystery, had it not been for the dogged efforts of Mr Browder’s Moscow tax lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who pieced together what was happening and began to seek redress.
The two central messages of the book are moving and simple, The Economist adds:
The first is that Mr Browder and his team have made Magnitsky’s fate into an international cause célèbre. The second is that the book exemplifies both the corrupt and brutal way in which the Putin regime does business at home and the cynical help it gets from foreigners when it launders profits abroad. RTWT
Contrary to the claims of his Western apologists, the real sources of Putin’s recklessness are to be found not in Western diplomacy but in his terror of democratic revolution, argues Dr Robert Horvath, the author of Putin’s Preventive Counter-Revolution. As an uprising against a corrupt dictatorship, the Euromaidan represented an existential challenge to Putin’s rule, he writes:
The anti-Western hysteria raging in Russia’s state-controlled media is an integral part of the Putin regime’s anti-revolutionary strategy. For more than a decade, Kremlin propagandists have justified the suppression of democracy as the defence of the Russian nation against Western aggression. They have fabricated thousands of conspiracy theories about Western plans to provoke an anti-Putin uprising, dismember the Russian state, pillage its natural resources and enslave its population. They have created an entire literature devoted to exposing the West’s democratic ideals as a screen for global domination, the promotion of sexual perversion, and the crushing of disobedient peoples.
Those in the West trying to figure out how to resolve the situation in Ukraine without Putin losing face should be focusing on precisely how to “help him lose face and break his neck” at the same time, Aleksandr Skobov says (HT: Paul Goble):
A social-economic system has emerged in which “personal success is determined by status in a hierarchy which is in fact feudal and which gives access to the distribution of resources.” …. “This system,” Skobov argues, “is camouflaged by decorative institutions of private property and the market.” …. That means that Russian elites feel threatened by “the very existence of much more successful and attractive societies in which all these institutions really work.”
Such a sense of being threatened underlies Putin’s ideology of anti-modern conservatism, and that in turn means that “the current opposition of Russia and the West bears a more fundamental ideological character that the opposition of the West and the USSR,” both of which offered “modernization projects.”
Freedom of speech in Russia is being defended only by those few who refuse to recognize state censorship, notes analyst Alexander Podrabinek. “Those who really need free speech pay for it. Those who only pay lip service to free speech comply with the demands of the censors,” he writes for The Institute of Modern Russia.
The Institute continues its series of articles dedicated to Russian political prisoners. This article is dedicated to the Krasnodar environmentalist Yevgeny Vitishko (above, left), who in 2012 faced charges in the “Tkachev’s dacha” case.