About: This is the bread we’ve baked this week, in our World, and I’ve cut it down for you, also adding a slice of history, on what was before us.


Pressure in Russia: From Russia Without Love

I’m tired of climbing hills in the US and my eyes have moved to what’s happening beyond the mountains, in Russia. Yes, it’s about Alexei Navalny, the Russian Opposition Leader who is having a very tough time out there in the awfully cold Russian winter. Arrested, jailed, poisoned, arrested, jailed. Repeat.

Navalny, a lawyer-turned-activist came out of the cold in 2008, when he began exposing high-level corruption in Russian politics through his blog. He has since spearheaded many anti-corruption rallies, is considered to be the face of the Opposition in Russia, and has been arrested numerous times. He was barred from challenging current President, Vladimir Putin, in the 2018 Presidential Elections because of a previous conviction for fraud in a criminal case said to be politically motivated. The conviction was overturned by Russia’s Supreme Court, but he was found guilty in a re-trial, which earned criticism from the European Court of Human Rights.

Russia is known to eliminate dissidents and political activists by poisoning them, and Navalny too had a taste of this when in August 2020 he was poisoned with the soviet-era banned lethal nerve agent Novichok, which almost knocked him off. Of course, it will be hard to prove it in Russia. He managed to get himself on a plane to Germany where he was treated and recovered from the poisoning effects. And this was not the first instance: two years before, he had a bright green liquid dye sprayed upon him in Barnaul, Siberia, by an assailant who pretended to shake his hand, resulting in considerable damage to an eye.

In the current upturn of events, Navalny was arrested, on return from Germany, on the bizarre rule-break that he violated a suspended criminal sentence by remaining in Germany for further treatment after being released from Hospital – following his treatment for poisoning. The suspended sentence was from a 2014 trial termed as ‘arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable’ by the European Court of Human Rights for which Russia was ordered to pay Navalny and his brother near 76,000 Euros in compensation. Instead of finding out who poisoned the victim, Russia is running after the victim?

Now you get the picture? Having grown really big as a country and lived this long there are many Laws & Rules, but legalities don’t really matter in Russia where the rules of the game are changed and the goal posts are shifted for any curling shot to become a goal. Look at what a man fighting the system is up against!

A very tough road ahead for Navalny, and he has unstinted support coming his way, with spontaneous protests against his arrest, erupting across Russia.

Let’s delve into history to understand the ‘coldness’ of Russia and its ‘Iron Curtain’ (coined by the then British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill) calling. The explosive Russian Revolution of 1917 – actually consisting of two cataclysmic revolutions, both happening in that one year, the February Revolution, and the October Revolution, changed Russia like never before.

In the first, the last Tsarist regime, represented by the Romanov dynasty, which celebrated a spectacular three centuries in power (Peter the Great and Catherine the Great were Romanovs), was overthrown, forever ending Imperial Rule, and in the second, the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks and Red Guards led by Vladimir Lenin staged a coup and established communist rule leading to the formation of what we all knew as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the Communist Party.

Nicolas-II, the last Romanov Emperor, abdicated soon after the February Revolution, and his family, Empress Alexandra, and their five children were taken prisoners. On a July night, in 1918, the family and four servants were ordered to dress quickly and go down to the cellar of the house in which they were being held, on the pretext that they are to be moved to a new location for their own safety. They were told to wait while the truck meant to transport them arrived. A few minutes later an execution squad of the secret police was brought in and the order of their execution, for countless crimes on Soviet Russia, was read out.

The armed men then gunned down the imperial family in a hail of gunfire. Those who were still breathing, when the smoked cleared, were stabbed to death. The bodies were disposed off in a chaotic manner and remained undiscovered for decades leading to speculation that someone from the family might have survived and actually be alive. It is said that the royals had diamonds and jewellery secretly sewn into their corsets, which had a bullet-proof effect, resulting in bullets not making their mark.

In later years, the remains of Nicholas, Alexandra, and three of their children were excavated in a forest near Yekaterinburg, in the year 1991, and positively identified two years later using DNA fingerprinting. The Crown Prince Alexei and one Romanov daughter – Anastasia– were not accounted for, fuelling the persistent legend and fantasy that Anastasia was alive and had escaped: countless stories and movies have been made on Anastasia. In subsequent years, scientists were able to confirm the deaths and the Romanov family was finally put to rest in St. Petersburg. The Crown Jewels became the property of the Soviet Union and a large portion is held in museums in the Kremlin. Given those tumultuous times, some of the fabulous jewels went missing – unable to be traced, to this day.

To further thread the story of Russia, after Lenin, it was Dictator Joseph Stalin, then Nikita Khrushchev over to Mikail Gorbachev until dissolution of the Soviet Union, on 25 December 1991. Russia then held its original name, with Boris Yeltsin as President, who hands over to Vladimir Putin – with Dmitry Medvedev stealing some years in between, due to term limits. Putin has been President since 2012 and in January 2020 modified the Russian Constitution in a way that would scrap term limits for Presidents, paving the way for him to remain President indefinitely. Sounds typical African style ruling, doesn’t it?

I’m breathless…this is the perhaps the briefest history you can get on Russia.

Back from the past to the present, Russian police have detained more than 4,000 people – and counting – in a crackdown on protests in support of the jailed Alexei Navalny. Tens of thousands of people defied a heavy police presence to join some of the largest rallies against President Vladimir Putin, in years.

Russia is one hard country to crack and President Putin, with his KGB secret service background holds the aces, the iron, the jewels, and the aggression to controlling Russia. Who can poison that? Alexei Navalny needs all the bravery and smartness he can muster to melt this iron rule.

Wonder Women of Estonia

Women leaders are rising-up in many countries and are proving to be better rulers than men – watch out! On 26 January, 43 years old Kaja Kallas was sworn as Estonia’s first female Prime Minister since Estonia ‘regained’ independence in 1991. Estonia was an independent country until it was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940. On the break-up of the USSR, Estonia restored its independence on 20 August 1991, which is celebrated as ‘Day of Restoration of Independence’. For a change we have a tame ‘Restoration of Independence Day’ rather than the fiery Independence Day most Countries in the world celebrate.

Kallis leads the Reform Party which was founded by her father, Sim Kallas, who was also Prime Minister in 2002-2003. Kaja Kallis studied to become a Lawyer specialising in Estonian and European competition law, and also holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Economics. She will need every letter of her education to stay competitive and administer well.

There’s another woman in the Estonian hierarchy, with the President also being a woman, Kersti Kaljulaid. She achieved that at the age of 46. In the year 2016. That makes Estonia one of the few countries where both the head of State and head of Government are woman.

In 2018, President Kaljulaid ran the New York City Marathon, during a working tour of the United States, and finished in just over four hours.

I’m sure both Women know how to run Estonia. For a start, one is a marathon woman.

Larry King (is) Dead: the Art of Conversation Lives On

After hosting ‘Larry King Live’ on CNN for over 25 years and retiring in 2010 to host ‘Larry King Now’, the legendary American talk-show host Larry King, 87, died on 24 January at Cedars Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles due to COVID-19.

Larry King had diabetes and suffered from a series of medical issues over the years including several heart attacks and a quintuple bypass surgery. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer and successfully underwent surgery to treat it. He also underwent a procedure to address angina.

Larry King married eight times (twice to the same woman) and has four children. Last year he lost two of his children who died within weeks of each other: a son of heart-attack, and a daughter of lung cancer.

King interviewed countless newsmakers and every-day people. He interviewed every sitting President from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama doing more than 30,000 interviews and listening-in to thousands of phone calls from viewers of his Call-in Show(s).

Larry King had a distinctive, unmistakable appearance in his Talk Shows: oversized spectacles and ever-present suspenders. He was known for not spending time preparing for interviews, preferring instead to let his natural curiosity guide the conversation. He read all day long and watched news which made him really well-informed. He would allow his guests to talk and then spring up the questions, with the flow. King adopted an affable easygoing demeanour and perfected a casual approach to the Question & Answer format, always leaning forward and listening intently to his guests, rarely interrupting. He treated every guest the same – Presidents, famous people, and the common man. And he loved being in front of the camera.

“I just love what I do, I love asking questions, I love doing interviews” said Larry King.

We would love him to do an interview with God and allow us a phone call to ask God a question? Rest in Peace Larry King.

COVID-19 Vaccination Updates

The biggest vaccination campaign in history is on a roll with more than 90 million doses in 62 countries have been administered, averaging 4.3 million doses a day.

Israel is on track to probably becoming the first country to achieve herd immunity (70% required) – expected in about 45 days – with about 26% of the population already vaccinated.

India has vaccinated near about 2.92 million (Source: Ministry of Health) people and the vaccination drive is gathering momentum after an initial tardiness, finding about 6 lakh arms per day. On the coronavirus infections front, India is counting about 13,000 downhill positive cases per day and Schools have been opened for Class 10 and Class 12, at least in my region. Getting back to normalcy for sure.

Nearer Home, in Attur, Tamilnadu, a good medical doctor friend of mine was one of the first to receive the Covishield Vaccine -made by the Serum Institute of India – and I’m sure she will frame the photo for the History records. I did share that photo-shoot within my Group, to inspire. And to dispel any doubts, the nay-say people might have. We should roll up our sleeves, when the time comes. We are not safe until everyone is safe.

Please Yourself

Planning to buy a car? Go Toyota, or go electric?

This week Japanese Company, Toyota drove up the ramp to wear the Global Crown of the World’s best-selling automaker. The one runner-up sash went to the German Volkswagen Group.

Toyota sold 9.5 million vehicles around the world in 2020, which includes its Daihatsu and Hino lineups. Volkswagen did 9.3 million units, which includes its brands of Audi, Skoda and Porsche.

Meanwhile, electric car-maker Tesla has set up shop in Bengaluru, India. The future is electric, and we need to keep looking out for the electrifying offers we can get to use clean energy, to clean-up the mess we made of relying on greenhouse gas-emitting petrol and diesel.

More interesting stories, coming-up, in the week(s) ahead


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