Anna Nemtsova

Stories by Anna Nemtsova

  • Ramzan's World

    Drive down Victory Boulevard in Grozny, and you'd never think there had been a war in Chechnya. Five years ago this broad avenue looked like Stalingrad after World War II. Now it's flanked with new apartments and boutiques selling Italian clothes. Across the city, war-damaged buildings are being torn down; jackhammers roar around the clock. Floating defiantly over the ruins that remain: giant banners bearing the face of the city's conqueror, Vladimir Putin.The rest of the world may not have noticed, but Russia's president has won the Chechen war. He did not start it, but he prosecuted it with the full might of Russia's military. The conflict was as brutal as any Europe has known in the last century. Grozny was bombed flat, along with half of Chechnya's towns. Nearly a million Chechens were displaced; 80,000 were killed, mostly civilians, and thousands more disappeared into a nightmarish network of Russian "filtration" camps, never to be seen again. There were atrocities, mass...
  • Grozny Live

    Sick of war and ruin, young Chechens create dark music.
  • A Russian Woodstock

    Rock and roll and revolution? Not for this generation.
  • Periscope

    When Shamil Basayev was killed last week, Chechen rebels lost their most daring and bloodthirsty leader. Basayev became Russia's most wanted man after his followers seized a Moscow theater in 2002; he also ordered the 2004 school siege at Beslan that left 331 people dead. Basayev died after a truck full of arms and explosives he was riding in exploded--apparently part of a "special operation" by Russia's Federal Security Service.In some ways, though, Basayev was already yesterday's man. For the past two years, Chechnya itself has been relatively quiet as rebels have been ruthlessly rounded up and imprisoned. The new threat is extremist violence flaring up elsewhere in the North Caucasus. Worryingly for Moscow, much of the violence seems motivated by radical Islamism, similar to what Basayev preached. At least two officials and a police chief were slain in neighboring Ingushetia last month, while in the republic of Dagestan, five separatists were killed in a shoot-out with police.The...
  • What's Wrong with Russia

    Peter the Great built St. Petersburg three centuries ago as Russia's window on the West. But for a few days this week, the old tsarist capital will become the West's window on Russia. While the city has always been a showcase, the leaders of the G8 who are gathering there will find it an unusually quiet and tidy place. Homeless people have been relocated. Shopkeepers along the routes of official motorcades have been ordered to buy pots full of flowers (from approved sellers, natch) and 1,500 unsightly drink-and-cigarette kiosks have been bulldozed, without compensation for the owners. Two of the city's greatest and most outspoken democrats, liberal lawmaker Galina Starovoitova and former mayor Anatoly Sobchak, will be honored--but neither is likely to say anything embarrassing. They're both dead, present only as newly commissioned busts.Welcome to Vladimir Putin's Russia. The façades are freshly painted; everything glints with the sheen of new money. In the run-up to the summit, the...
  • Man for the People

    Dmitry kozak, vladimir Putin's special envoy to the Caucasus, speaks passionately from his seat at the head of a long table. Listening sheepishly in this conference room in Kislovodsk, a spa in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains where the poet Aleksandr Pushkin took hot mineral baths in the 1820s, are the presidents of Russia's southern republics, the ward bosses of the country's toughest neighborhood. They're a hard bunch, more used to putting down armed uprisings and mafia turf battles than listening meekly to a man from Moscow. More baffling still, instead of talking about Islamism, rebellion and war, Kozak is banging on about tourism development and Chinese entrepreneurs. He even brings on a Moscow businessman to pitch a Caucasus "investment road show" in London. The presidents laugh uproariously at the very idea. "What's to show?" they call out--and yet they are intrigued.By his own admission, Kozak's job is "mission: impossible." His rugged good looks and deep voice are...
  • Partner, or Bully?

    Vladimir Putin was feeling indignant. Why don't Europeans trust Russia? "I constantly hear complaints" that Europe is "overly dependent" on Russian energy, he griped last week to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Siberian city of Tomsk. "But Russia is a reliable partner. It always has been."Really? Ask the Georgians--or almost any of Russia's former satellites. Rather than a reliable partner, they've found Moscow deeply vindictive toward any neighbor that crosses its interests. Ever since the pro-Western Rose Revolution of November 2003, Georgian leaders say, Moscow's been trying to ruin the country's economy--first by raising gas prices, and in recent months by blocking imports of fruits, vegetables, wine and mineral water. Ditto for Ukraine, hit with a doubling of gas prices, a gas stoppage and a blockade of meat and produce in the wake of its own Orange Revolution. Even poor Moldova, which hasn't had a revolution of any color yet, was hit with a gas hike and a ban on wine...
  • Fear and Loathing in Siberia

    Vladimir Putin, like Russia's double-headed imperial eagle, has two faces. Both have lately been very much in evidence. At a meeting of G8 energy ministers in Moscow last week, the Russian president showed his Western visage, presenting Russia as a reliable energy partner and playing the superpower alongside the big hitters of the democratic, industrialized world. This week he travels to Beijing to cement a growing partnership with Asia's other booming authoritarian-capitalist country, China. There he will sign deals on oil pipelines, sales of sophisticated weaponry and nuclear reactors, and security accords reminiscent of the old days of Sino-Soviet entente.Putin clearly relishes his--and Russia's--newfound clout. But his visit to China raises an interesting question: which of the two nations, in fact, is the real superpower? On the surface, Russia seems to take the laurel, playing an energy-hungry East and West to its advantage. Awash in oil money, Moscow has recently been...
  • A Chill in the Moscow Air

    The scandal broke with all the trappings of a cold-war espionage story--British spies as the villains, the eagle-eyed Russian secret service as the heroes. Late last fall the FSB, the successor agency to the infamous KGB, secretly filmed a British diplomat seeking out and taking home a large rock from a Moscow park. Last week, after a go-ahead from the Kremlin, the grainy footage was aired on Russian state television. Interviews with agents from the FSB revealed that the fake rock hid an electronic device used for communicating with secret agents. rubble 007, declared one British tabloid--and indeed, the kerfuffle might have ended there, with some high-toned recriminations and perhaps a diplomat or two deported.What makes this episode a more disturbing sign of the times, however, was the FSB's attempts to link the espionage to respected Russian NGOs like the Moscow Helsinki Group and the Committee Against Torture. Both groups had received funds directly from Marc Doe, the British...
  • Roiling the Baltic Waters

    In June 1947, Capt.-Lt. Konstantin Tershkov of the Soviet Navy had a serious problem on his hands. He'd been ordered to dump 34,000 metric tons of captured Nazi chemical weapons into the deepest part of the Baltic Sea by the end of the summer. Since most Soviet merchant and military ships in the Baltic were laden with loot from defeated Germany, Tershkov commanded only two small freighters rented from the British and two Soviet Navy trawlers, plus a crew of German civilians press-ganged into duty. "At this rate the job will take us 10 months," he wrote in his diary, frustrated by the distance to his appointed dumping ground in the Gotland Basin, between Sweden and Latvia. Instead, the resourceful Tershkov suggested a closer alternative: a patch of 100-meter-deep water just off the tiny island of Kristanso, east of the Danish island of Bornholm. By December, Tershkov's task was completed.Almost 60 years later, his choice of a dumping ground is turning out to be a fateful one. Last...
  • Russia: Looking Toward a Positive Future

    It's not a beauty pageant that little girls dream of winning. But Svetlana Izambayeva, 24, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2002, felt a need to enter Russia's Miss Positive 2005, an Internet beauty pageant solely for HIV-positive girls. "We will never have any progress until we give HIV a voice and a face," she says. "I thought I could be that face."By winning the pageant last week, Izambayeva now is. Up to a million Russians are infected with the disease, and that number is growing fast--especially among young heterosexual women. The World Bank recently predicted that at current levels of infection, there will be 5.4 million HIV-positive people in Russia by the year 2020.The government is starting to take the problem seriously. Last week it upped AIDS funding twentyfold, to $100 million a year. Some of that will go to treating Russia's 1,500 AIDS orphans, but the bulk will go to raising AIDS awareness. The move is a step in the right direction, says Deputy Health Minister Vladimir...
  • Not Quite Paradise

    You're dropped in by a military helicopter, and off you go, reveling in some of the finest untouched powder skiing in Europe. This isn't France or Switzerland but southern Russia, on the slopes of Krasnaya Polyana, 2,800 meters high in the Caucasus Mountains. President Vladimir Putin is among the aficionados who seek out this "Russian Courchevel." But few foreigners have ever heard of it.And that's the problem. A year after Putin proclaimed the importance of tourism for the country, Russia's travel industry is sinking. The number of foreign visitors dropped by close to 10 percent this year, to under 3 million--fewer than half the 7 million who came during Soviet times. "That's a laughable figure for a country such as Russia," so rich in culture and physical beauty, says Sergei Shpilko, president of the Russian Tourism Industry Union.By rights, you'd think tourism in Russia would be thriving. Communism is long gone; Moscow and St. Petersburg, in particular, sparkle with cosmopolitan...
  • Awaiting The 'Big Fire'

    Ramazan Tembotov hardly cuts the image of a hardened Islamo-terrorist. A soft-spoken human-rights activist, he's clearly more at home with legal briefs than a Kalashnikov. He's also an elected representative of the Kremlin's ruling party, United Russia. Yet none of that kept him from being rounded up in a massive counterterrorism operation in the Russian town of Nalchik, deep in the volatile north Caucasus, where masked militia recently grabbed him from his car at gunpoint and carted him off to jail.What greeted him there was almost Dante-esque: prisoners crowded into small rooms and corridors, "howling like animals" as they were beaten. "Wait, you will be next," a police investigator told him, offering no explanation for his arrest. "They were torturing people like the Gestapo," Tembotov told NEWSWEEK, adding that he was released late that night without physical harm. What saved him, he believes, was a cell-phone call he surreptitiously placed to a high-ranking contact at the FSB,...
  • A Spreading War

    They came early in the morning. More than a hundred, and perhaps as many as 500 armed men attacking the quiet Russian town of Nalchik in the shadow of Europe's highest mountain. A bloody battle over the next 36 hours saw dozens dead and left Kremlin policy in the turbulent region in tatters. Yet another of the poor, volatile republics spread across the North Caucasus had been hit by an event of extreme violence and shocking brutality, and yet again the culprits were Islamic militants. Their numbers are growing, says Alexei Malashenko at the Carnegie Moscow Center. "They can appear and attack anywhere."The war in Chechnya is spreading. Until recently, neighboring Kabardino-Balkaria seemed exempt from the region's turmoil. Its capital, Nalchik, is a stopping point for tourists on their way to climb 5,642-meter Mount Elbrus; residents went about their lives, largely unperturbed by terrorism. But last week, like an army, the militants attacked. Their targets were government offices-...