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PRISONER TSAR: In weaving together my evidentiary thread: “A Layperson’s Guide to Trump Russia: It’s komprocated”, I encouraged readers to view the @frontlinepbs documentary on Putin’s rise to power. It’s an essential framework, predating Russia’s psych war on America.

A review.
1/ UNEMPLOYED SPY: The film documents how Putin went from “unemployed spy to modern day tsar.”

“There has always been corruption in Russia, but building it into such a meticulous system was something only Mr. Putin has managed to do.”-Andrey Zykov
2/ ABUSE OF POWER: Zykov, a former police investigator, gathered evidence of corruption from Putin’s early years in St. Petersburg, and posted it on YouTube.
3/ STEALING FROM THE VERY BEGINNING: Karen Dawisha, Prof., Miami University, Ohio, discovered Zykov’s evidence: “The summation of it was a detailed account of criminal activities..a whole range of economic crimes.”
4/ “Instead of seeing Russia as a democracy in the process of failing, we need to see it as an authoritarian system in the process of succeeding..if that’s correct, when did that start? And that’s what took me to the ‘90s—they were stealing from the very beginning.”-Karen Dawisha
5/ POWER: Putin was an unemployed KGB officer returning to Russia after a posting in Dresden. He was hired by St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, and he became deputy mayor of the “gangster capitol of Russia.” and crucially, chair of the committee on foreign economic relations.
6/ “KGB MAN”: “Even as his star rose, there was an early example of his ambition. He commissioned a documentary about himself. It was called ‘Power’, made by Igor Shadkhan. ‘Putin had an agenda. He wanted to admit that he had been a KGB agent in foreign reconnaissance.’”-Shadkhan
7/ RECEIPTS: Intense food shortages presented an opportunity.

“I’ll tell you from this document, signed by Putin, all $124 million disappeared without a trace, without a trace, because from this list of materials that I have listed, not a single gram of food came.”-Marina Sayle
8/ HUNGER GAMING: “Fly-by-night companies were set up. Many of his friends..were behind those companies. The goods went out, and incomplete or no shipment came back. So millions, millions were made just in that episode alone.”-Karen Dawisha
9/ DESPAIR TURNED TO ANGER: “In the end, the St. Petersburg city council approved Salye’s recommendation to turn the case over to the prosecutors.”

“We concluded that Putin and his assistant should be fired.”-Marina Sayle, former city council
10/ CASE 144-128: “The case of the missing food would never be prosecuted.”

But Zykov is haunted by another case.

“Funds were supposed to be used for specific building projects but..money was siphoned off by Putin and his friends to build vacation villas in Spain.”-Andrey Zykov
11/ “It was theft. Sobchak and Putin should have been jailed and would be in jail undoubtedly, Putin probably first and foremost, as the greatest number of documents and orders were signed by him.”-Andrey Zykov, former police investigator
12/ FACELESS BUREAUCRAT: “But Putin didn’t go to jail, he went to Moscow.”

Yeltsin needed a loyal thug, and Putin, then just another “faceless bureaucrat” needed to make a name for himself.

Here’s where this story takes a sinister turn.
13/ KGB MAN: “They are the people who prefer to operate in shadow. They are the people who are like state is first, and people are second. I don’t think he can change it..It’s unchangeable.”-Nataliya Gevorkian, Putin Biographer

“He would take a turn as head of the FSB.”
14/ THE APARTMENT BOMBINGS: “In the fall of 1999, bombs obliterated four apartment buildings in Moscow and other cities, all blown up at night while people slept. Hundreds died. This was Russia’s 9/11.”

Putin, by then prime minister, was suddenly everywhere vowing revenge.
15/ REBEL HELL: “Putin would point to rebels in Chechnya.”

“Russian officials said there was a Chechen trail in the apartment bombings—not proof..but it was used in order to justify a new invasion of Chechnya.”-David Satter, Russia Scholar

“Putin’s invasion would be brutal.”
16/ “STRONGMAN”: “The man who waged it was a new national hero.”

“He quickly became the most popular politician in Russia, even though before the apartment bombings, he was believed to have had no chance to succeed Yeltsin as president.”-David Satter
17/ “They needed a set of situations, in which, if they could postpone the elections entirely and make it more difficult for the opposition to focus on ‘unimportant’ things, like the corruption of the Yeltsin family..”-Prof. Karen Dawisha
18/ “The first Chechen war was..provoked in ‘95 in order to have a situation that would allow the government to cancel elections or to postpone elections, claiming that you cannot have them during wartime..the same was done in ‘99”-Yuri Feltshtinsky, co-author, “Blowing Up Russia
19/ “Three months into a new millennium, Russia had a new president. He seemed a modern man, a man for the future, a future all Russians hoped would be better than the past..but shadows from the past haunt this place. It’s a memorial to those who died in those apartment bombings”
20/ “Mikhail Trepashkin, a former KGB officer himself, and a lawyer, was always dubious about the official story, the Chechen connection. His doubts only grew when his former colleagues in the security services reacted to his investigation. ‘They were telling me, ‘Don’t dig..’”
21/ “The Russian government destroyed all the evidence in the case of the earlier bombings. No sooner had the bombings taken place than bulldozers showed up to—to remove the rubble, including human remains..They destroyed the crime scene.”-@DavidSatter author, “Darkness at Dawn
22/ “Troubling questions about the bombings were really fueled by what happened here a few days later, in a town outside Moscow called Ryazan.”

“A fifth bomb was discovered in the basement of an apartment building in Ryazan by watchful inhabitants of that building.”-@DavidSatter
23/ ”That bomb was defused. And the people who had placed that bomb in the basement turned out to be not Chechnyan terrorists. They turned out to be agents of the FSB, the Russian security service.”-@DavidSatter

Tests showed the bags contained an exclusive military explosive.
24/ “People who tried to investigate the apartment bombings in many cases ended up dead—Yuri Shchekochikhin, Sergei Yushenkov, Alexander Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya.”-David Satter
25/ “Apartment bombings saved the Yeltsin system. They saved the corrupt division of property that took place after the fall of the Soviet Union. They cost thousands of innocent lives..They brought to power someone from security services..who had no interest in democracy.”-Satter
26/ RUSSIA HAS NO LAW: “His first act as president was to grant Boris Yeltsin, immunity from prosecution. But Putin’s administration would quickly ensure his own safety, too. Case number 144-128, that corruption investigation in St. Petersburg, quietly went away.”
27/ “It was explained to us that criminal investigations are not pursued in relation to the president.”-Andrey Zykov

Zykov says a prosecution would have changed everything.

“People would respect civil law..the law has to protected. As it now stands, Russia has no law.”-Zykov
28/ “MILD TOTALITARISM”: “Russia’s richest man would serve 10 years in a Siberian prison camp.”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky challenged Putin on live TV to end the old system.

“He started to slide toward mild totalitarianism, and then an increasingly harsh totalitarianism”-Khodorkovsky
29/ CHARM OFFENSIVE: Turns out, the West loved Russian money and Putin’s ‘charm offensive’ worked magic on some world leaders.

“President Bush famously looked into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul. He believed he was committed to the best interests of his country.”
30/ “Putin was trained in the KGB to deceive foreigners. He has a very sharp eye for human weakness.”-@edwardlucas
31/ “Tony Blair was charmed by him. Like Germany, their economies would become entangled. London’s financial center was enchanted by Russian money. High oil prices caused Putin’s Russia to grow like never before, fueling massive corruption & much of that money flowed into London”
32/ “The City of London..has made a huge amount of money out of laundering Russian money over the years.”-@edwardlucas
33/ HAVING A ROOF: “Russian business entirely depends on protection. It is called having a roof, or in Russian, ‘krysha,’”-Sergei Kolesnikov, exiled businessman

He says he used to run one of Putin’s gifting schemes and explains how it works.
34/ ”Kolesnikov’s company, Petromed, took money to buy medical equipment..the profit margin was huge, around 40%. That money was funneled through myriad other companies, ending up in ‘Rosinvest.’ Kolesnikov owned 2 percent of Rosinvest, but he says 94 percent was owned by Putin.”
35/ “Kolesnikov says money raised was for a $20 million retirement home for the president. But then the president decided not to retire..soon the home had blossomed into a palace.Built on state land it’s a $250 million Italianate extravaganza overlooking the Black Sea near Sochi”
36/ “Kolesnikov believes his scheme was only one of many ways to hide money for Putin through proxies.

“Assets (estimated) under Putin’s personal control: $40 billion..that figure reportedly confirmed by the CIA in 2014..if true, making him one of the richest men in the world.”
37/ ARAB SPRING: “Mass demonstrations overthrowing powerful dictators must have been worrying”

“It was the first stage of his coming to understand that he could never quit the post because the destiny of Gadhafi could be waiting for him”—Stanislav Belkovsky, former Putin advisor
38/ AN ARRANGEMENT: Putin solved his “retirement problem” by picking a puppet successor until he could run as president again.

“In 2011, when Putin announced he would run again for Russia’s presidency, the response was mass demonstrations in Moscow’s streets.”
39/ “There’s never been a good succession model in Soviet Union or in Russia, and he’s very worried about how he will leave power. He doesn’t want to leave in a coffin. He doesn’t want to go to a jail cell. He has so many guilty secrets, so much money’s been stolen.”-@edwardlucas
40/ PRISONER TSAR: “So many people have been killed that he doesn’t really trust anyone to keep him safe if he steps down from power. So in a way, he’s both the master of the Kremlin, but also a prisoner in it.”-@edwardlucas
41/ PRISONER OF POWER: “In 2012, Putin moved Medvedev aside and took back the presidency in a Kremlin-controlled election. By now, the presidential term had been extended to two six-year terms. Vladimir Putin could remain in power until 2024.”
42/ THE ECONOMY HAS BEEN PILLAGED: “The country he rules over is in deepening trouble. In Russia’s cities, there is a veneer of prosperity left over from earlier days of high oil prices, but the vast reaches, where the majority of Russians live, deep poverty stubbornly prevails.”
43/ RIOT IN THE STREETS: “Putin’s greatest fear is that the Russians will realize that his modernization project has failed. He came into power promising to make Russia into a modern Western country, and it’s still basically a corrupt, backward country.”-@edwardlucas
44/ “The median wealth for the average Russian is $871, according to Credit Suisse (Median wealth in India, over a thousand dollars)..The other number is 110—110 individuals own 35 percent of the wealth of Russia. They are the most unequal country by far in the world.”-@dawisha
45/ PROPAGANDA MACHINE: “A very powerful tool he’s got is anti-Westernism—blame the West for everything that’s going wrong. And couple that with a very powerful propaganda machine, where all the mass media is under Kremlin control, and he’s in a very good position.”-@edwardlucas
46/ “Putin has invaded Crimea and redrawn the map of Ukraine, claiming he is protecting ethnic Russians. According to his spokesman, it is a justifiable response to Western encroachment on territories the Soviet Union once held.”
47/ SANCTIONED: “In July 2014, Malaysian passenger plane MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine by what was widely believed to have been a Russian-supplied weapon. Two hundred and ninety-eight people were killed. Suddenly, the West was galvanized.”

Russia was sanctioned.
48/ 2014: “Putin arrived at the G20 meeting in Australia and found himself on the margins of the class photo. Putin seemed a lonely figure..He returned to a country in crisis, an economy beset by plummeting oil prices, a ruble in freefall & tough sanctions. What will he do next.”
49/ PUTIN’S PAYBACK: “I haven’t seen any evidence that he’s willing to back down. And it’s not his style at all, ever. He doesn’t back down.”-Karen Dawisha
50/ CORNERED RAT: Putin’s biographer Nataliya Gevorkyan tells a story about a lesson he took from a rat in the one-room apartment he grew up in.

“Don’t try to push somebody into the corner. They will jump..it’s absolutely true about himself. When he’s in a corner.he’s dangerous”
51/ PUTIN’S WAY: These notes were compiled from my 5th viewing of @frontlinepbs documentary “Putin’s Way,” which aired in Jan. of 2015.

It’s a brilliant doc written, produced and directed by Neil Docherty with reporter Gillian Findlay. Here’s proper link.
pbs.org/wgbh/frontline…
52/ WARFIGHTING: The cornered rat scenario from #50 fits in with @KeirGiles brilliant guidebook to Russia’s electronic and information warfare.

We are a target nation and the war is ongoing.

Putin’s big getback was to destroy democracies from within.
53/ RETURN TO SENDER: Each time I watch the documentary it seems clear: we need to return his cash, return the politicians he bot, prosecute the f*ck out of those who launder money for him and assisted him in his war on democratic nations. Follow the data.
54/ DARK DAYS, DARK DATA, DARK MONEY: To free ourselves from the shackles of a nuclear-armed schoolyard bully, we’ve got to expose the money.
55/ THE MISERY OF GREED: Finding unethical losers to buy is easy. Neutralizing the impacts of greed is the thing.
56/ SEEKING SOLUTIONS: Many countries have already beefed up their defenses in battling psych wars. We are not among them but we as citizens can get smart. Pay attention to Sweden and Finland models.
57/ IT’S KOMPROCATED: The GOP is compromised—bot by Putin and domestic infoterrorists such as Cambridge Analytica’s Robert Mercer—and even if you don’t care, their denialism is a global problem.
58/ PRISONER TSARS: The moment Putin is no longer in power, he can be charged for war crimes. The moment Trump is no longer in power, he can be charged with obstruction of justice.

Protesters flood streets in Hong Kong and Moscow.

Protest is patriotic.
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