All posts by ainsleyr

Putin and His Buddies Give Money to the People of Russia? Haha No.

Vladimir Putin became president after Boris Yeltsin in 1991. To get this power he relied on the help of a small group of powerful businessmen and members of the Russian government. These men became Putin’s inner circle once he became a very strong leader. They received many benefits from Putin for helping him win the presidency; like jobs for the Russian government and money. The Kremlin under Putin’s regime leads many to wonder how much influence he has over the country, he has a good amount of influence but does not have full power like a gang.

The United States has recently sanctioned a few people in Putin’s group. These men are the ones who helped Putin get elected and now Putin is repaying them. Vladimir L. Bogdanov is the co-owner and director general of Surgutneftegas, which is Russia’s fourth largest oil company. On paper he owns 0.37 percent of the company, but most of the money from the company is with “noncommercial partners”. He has been friends with Putin for a long time, and there are rumors that Bogdanov hides money for Putin, yet the rumors are not supported with any evidence, since the finance and ownership information is difficult to find. Andrei V. Skoch is a member of parliament and is said to be involved with gangs. Igor A. Rotenburg is the son of Putin’s former judo partner and as Putin has succeeded so has the Rotenburg family business, which is Russia’s largest construction company. Suleiman A. Kerimov is the owner of Polyus, which is Russia’s largest gold mining company. He is a member of the Federation Council, which is an upper chamber of Russia’s parliament. In the past, France has investigated him for money laundering after he bought a few houses in Cap d’Antibes, seemingly, through shell companies. Oleg V. Deripaska owns more than 100 companies, internationally and in Russia, and through family connections is close to Putin. A former contact of Mr. Deripaska, Paul Manafort, offered to testify for Russia’s role in electing Donald Trump. Viktor F. Vekselberg is one of Russia’s richest men. He is the main owner of Renova Group and has put many of his investments in different types of businesses, yet is known as a real businessman who is not corrupt and does not make deals with friends. He is so discreet that there were no obvious links to Putin, he is just very rich and powerful. Kirill N. Shamalov is said to be Putin’s son-in-law. He became a highly ranked executive and a shareholder of Sibur right before marrying Katerina Tikhonova, who is believed to be Putin’s daughter. Then in 2014, Gazprom lent him $1 billion dollars which he used to buy a bigger share in the company. After he and Ms. Tikhonova separated, he sold all of his shares.

Russia has had a large mafia for decades and under each ruler the role of this mafia shifts. Fifty years ago, the mafia was completely separate from the government. They were an institutionalized gang, they were known as the vory, but under Putin’s rule the mafia were given a chance to play a part in the government and work alongside it, those who refused this offer were disposed of by the Kremlin. The mafia became nationalistic, operating under Putin’s rules, and the Russian government picked up a few of the mafia’s tricks of the trade. The mafia now are comfortable working with members of the Russian government and Western financers, they have been immersed fully by Putin’s government. By doing so, members have helped Putin in Ukraine and the United States but none of the trails lead directly back to him.

A recent incident involving Alexander Shestun, a governor of Serpukhov, part of the Moscow district, who used to tape conversations for Putin and the Federal Security Service. When Andrei Vorobyov, a member of Putin’s inner circle, took control of the Moscow region, he requested that Mr. Shestun step down from his position so he could claim it for more power. Mr. Shestun refused. Previous people in this position have been threatened and then, if they still objected, put in jail for not abiding Putin. At first Vorobyov blocked off money to Serpukhov, but when that did not scare Shestun extreme actions were taken. The Federal Security Service searched Alexander Shestun’s house and said they found cash there, which Shestun states was planted. He later uploaded a plea video to YouTube to ask Putin for help, which he knew he would not receive. In the video, Mr. Shestun speaks about how he is getting blackmailed and how the situation seems like a gangster movie.Then on reelection day, the roads to Shestun’s house were blocked off, forty men dressed in black went into his house, and he was taken to Lefortovo jail.

Putin has led the Kremlin to have some ganglike tendencies, such as an elite group and merging the vory and the government, but overall Russia operates as a government and Putin and his oligarchs do not have complete control.

Erasing a Religion: A How-To by China

Currently the Chinese Communist Party is trying to remove the religion, culture, and beliefs away from the Uighur people in Xinjiang. The Chinese government has forced Uiguhrs into “vocational camps” to try to get them to abandon their way of life. Originally other countries overlooked this violation because there had been many terrorist attacks around the globe as ISIS grew in power. However now that the caliphate has lost its power, the world’s attention has turned to question the treatment of the Uighurs. In 2019, China changed tactics and decided to allow reporters and government officials to tour these camps. Except from reporters from countries trying to appease China, the reporters came to a consensus that the Uighurs were not in camps willingly.

Currently, there are about 1 million Uighurs in these camps. Once in these camps there is no telling when the Uighur can leave, and the Uighur has no contact with the outside world. The Chinese government has called these camps “vocational training centers”, but they have been more appropriately nicknamed “reeducation camps” by the media. Outside of the camps many police officers stop people regularly to check their identification and make sure they have a certain app downloaded on their phones. This app allows the authorities to listen in on phone conversations. Each street has a poster of all the residents with points below their names. These points determine the “reliablity” of the citizen, meaning are they doing anything remotely Muslim: such as reading the Quran, giving money to family overseas, or travelling overseas for any number of reasons. A lower score results in more house searches or being put into a camp. Chinese government officials are forced to stay with Uighur families for at least five nights every two months and are forced to be “members of the family”. The children are questioned during school about their parents’ religion, and if their answer has anything to do with Islam, the parents are put into a camp. Many children have been put into orphanages because their parents have been put into camps. In these orphanages and schools, the teachers attempt to extinguish Uighur culture. One article mentions a long ago attempt at “Hanification”. It failed because the teachers could only educate the children during the day, but at night time the parents taught their children the Uighur culture. Currently the Chinese might have a chance to wipe out Uighurs culture because they have separated the children from the parents. In 2016, China began the “Mosque Rectification Program”. They demolished mosques, shrines, cemeteries, domes, and minarets. The author touches on how mosques are seen by the Uighurs as God’s home, and without these places the Uighurs are “religiously homeless”. They have also been destroying the homes of the Uighurs under the pretense that the building construction is unsafe, but winding streets of Uighur neighborhoods were harder to monitor. The Chinese government also persecutes any Uighur critics inside or out of the country. Radio Free Asia devotes a lot of airtime to the situation in Xinjiang. Uighurs who have escaped Xinjiang are trying to spread awareness about the oppression. In return the Chinese government puts their family members into camps, prison, or Uighurs disappear.

The main issue in solving this crisis is the influence of China. Not many countries want to speak up against China and risk losing trade or money from them. So when, at the United Nations conference, twenty-two countries came together to condemn China for human rights violations, no country took the lead. Then China got thirty-seven countries to side with China and argued that China was doing the right thing to eliminate “terrorists”. The United States could pass the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act to combat the treatment of the Uighurs. This act would mean that the region must be reported on yearly and that a new State Department member be added, solely focusing on the Uighurs. This would embarrass China, but it also might make them respond more readily than a quiet discussion would.