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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Not Really a 'Friendly Visit'

In his uncompromising crusade against a wayward press, Ruslan Khasbulatov has found a surprise companion. Last week, a couple dozen Pamyat activists stormed into the offices of the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, interrupting their editorial meeting to issue an "ultimatum" demanding that an apology for "anti-Russian" publications be printed, and that "yido-masonic" authors be punished.

For tnose unfamiliar with it, the National Patriotic Front "Pamyat" is a quasi-military nazi organization, with an official Moscow membership of 400 (although they claim 20, 000). It blames everything on the Jews and worships the Romanov dynasty and the late nationalist pop singer Igor Talkov.

Moskovsky Komsomolets is this city's most popular local newspaper, read at least occasionally by half of Moscow's population. It's sensationalist, not always of very high quality, but politically tending to support the good guys -- i. e. the reformists. For the time being both the fascist hooligans and their victims should be happy about the event, which was given maximum media coverage and merited an official response, including Yeltsin's angry statement. Which, of course, means new supporters and new subscribers.

"I don't like your newspaper, but now have decided to subscribe to it, to support your fight against the fascists", said a typical phone call. I'm quite sure that Pamyat gets this type of reaction as well, like, "We've never supported your bunch, but thank you very much for giving this paper a good lesson".

For me, this incident has two important and ominous features. One is the growing impudence and radicalism of the nazis. At the Moskovsky Komsomolets office Pamyat put up posters showing a heavy swastika boot crushing a hydra representing the Jewish press.

Second, there is an obvious connection between the nazis and the security services, although this is denied. Police arrived at the Moskovsky Komsomolets offices 40 minutes after the first desperate phone call, and 20 minutes after the Pamyat people had already left the building. Interior Ministry and Security Ministry (ex-KGB) officials made off-hand suggestions that the attack had been just "a friendly visit" and issued mild warnings to the journalists "not to go too far" with accusations -- because Pamyat could sue Moskovsky Komsomolets for libel. This would seem to show once more the existence of links between Pamyat and the (ex-KGB); it also indicates that nazi views are shared by many people in uniforms.

Alia Pugachova, the greatest Russian pop star, has been through a struggle for life in City Hospital No. 15. Pugachova, described by some as Russia's answer to Tina Turner and Bette Midler, has long suffered from weight problems. Regular diets and occasional visits to a special recreational center in Kemeri, Latvia, have worked only temporarily. Eventually, she decided to undertake drastic measures.

In September, Pugachova had facial and body surgery in a clinic in Zurich -- an operation which cost the national pop diva a cool $100, 000. Back in Moscow, looking much younger and slimmer. Alla developed some complications and was put back in the hospital -- this time a local one, with suspected blood poisoning. After 10 days of treatment and more surgery, she's now at home, hopefully for good.

Throughout the Russian soccer season, which runs here from late March until early November due to the climate, not much was heard of the sport. Eclipsed by political and economic turmoil, further handicapped by inflated stadium ticket prices, abandoned by nearly all the top players (who've signed deals with clubs abroad), the Russian league made a pitiful showing this year. But the championship went on and some games, judging by televised excerpts, were surprisingly good.

Winning over Lokomotiv 4-1, Spartak Moscow won first place in the League two games before the championship ended. But the new champion was disqualified from the Russian Cup quarterfinals because the team refused to play in Grozny -- Chechnya -- with the local Terek team for reasons of security. I think the guys made a sensible move -- no blood for the Cup.

Finally the Russian soccer team played its first official international game in over 70 years, winning 1-0 over Iceland in the 1994 World Cup qualifiers. The only goal was scored by a guest Ukrainian, though.