‘Cloud Atlas,’ Russian style

Moscow News

A story needs a beginning and end, but what has become the main narrative of Russia’s current political era doesn’t seem to have either. And the weak are meat the strong do eat, as David Mitchell coined in his novel “Cloud Atlas.”

Sometime in 2005-2006, William Browder, an American investment fund manager, ran afoul of someone close to the Kremlin. He had thought that his friends in high places would support him as he greenmailed their enemies, but as an outsider he overestimated his standing, and Russian authorities revoked his visa. When he went to the top for help, help was refused, and his capital fund suddenly became fair game in a tax-fraud racket run by a group of tax officials.

When a lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, blew the whistle on the racket, he was himself accused of tax fraud, jailed, and, in a maliciously lazy form of torture, denied medical treatment until he died.

Still barred from Russia, Browder (“I’ve spent every day thinking what I could have done that could have saved [Magnitsky’s] life,” he told me in November 2011) started lobbying hard in Washington to avenge Magnitsky’s death. American lawmakers, many of them desperate to appear hawkish during a presidential campaign, linked the bid to blacklist 60 Russian officials implicated in Magnitsky’s death to the longawaited repeal of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a 1974 trade restriction with the Soviet Union.

In December 2012, the Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012 were passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law. President Vladimir Putin, who had pushed for the Jackson-Vanik Repeal for years, was furious over the blacklist, as intended. Within days, Russian lawmakers came up with a tit-for-tat blacklist, adding a clause that banned the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans.

Journalists confronted Putin about the ban – and how, given that hundreds of adopted children died in Russia compared to America’s now notorious statistic of 20, the ban was hurting us more. But Putin said that the adoption ban was appropriate retaliation for the Magnitsky Act.

The following month, 3-year-old Max Shatto died in Texas while in the care of his adoptive parents, Alan and Laura Shatto. Although there were some bruises on the child’s abdomen, an autopsy has yet to determine the cause of death. In Russia, Children’s Rights Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov pounced on the incident, calling the death a murder. The State Duma, meanwhile, took up the case as proof that it had been right all along when it came to banning American adoptions.

And then last week, Max’s biological mother, Yulia Kuzmina, who was reportedly an unemployed alcoholic in the Pskov region when Russian child services took her two infant sons in 2011, begged Putin to help restore parental rights over Max’s younger brother, Kirill.

Astakhov and certain Duma deputies backed Kuzmina, although the Kremlin urged toned-down emotions. On Thursday, Kuzmina was invited to a talk show, where she insisted she had mended her ways and was ready to be a parent. But on the train journey home, apparently emboldened by the TV appearance, Kuzmina and her boyfriend hit the whiskey and started a brawl. They were removed from the train by police.

Kuzmina likely didn’t know anything about William Browder, Sergei Magnitsky, or the high-stakes political battle of wills that was playing out in the Duma as she waved banknotes and threatened passengers on the train. Nor was her boyfriend, who had reportedly served seven years in prison for raping an elderly woman, intentionally exposing the ulcers of society to be used in further political battles.

The actors in this never-ending story – from Browder to the prison officials responsible for Magnitsky’s death, from Pavel Astakhov to Duma deputies – did not intend for any of this to happen. Normally, when we speak of political decisions, whether misguided or not, we are presuming that the White House or the Kremlin are trying to achieve a set of rational objectives. But this story doesn’t seem to be about rational objectives anymore. Whatever has inadvertently been set in motion has gone out of control. 

Anna Arutunyan is the politics editor of The Moscow News займы онлайн на карту срочно займ на карту zp-pdl.com https://www.zp-pdl.com hairy woman

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