Olga Litvinenko spent the summer of 1997 as a teenager at her father’s dacha outside St. Petersburg. But it wasn’t your usual summer of mushroom hunting and firing up the samovar. She says she spent the summer helping her father, Vladimir Litvinenko, the newly installed rector of the National Mineral Resources University, write a candidate’s dissertation for a political up-and-comer, Vladimir Putin. Olga Litvinenko tells RFE/RL. Accusations that there was something fishy about Putin’s dissertation are not new. A 2006 investigation by the Brookings Institution found strong evidence that most of the dissertation had been plagiarized from just two sources. On March 6, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov deflected requests for comment on Olga Litvinenko’s claims. Despite her background, Olga Litvinenko has been a harsh critic of Putin and of her father for several years. She lives in Poland and has charged that her father is keeping her 8-year-old daughter, Ester-Maria Litvinenko, unlawfully. For his part, Vladimir Litvinenko has filed a police report that Olga was kidnapped.

In January, a St. Petersburg court annulled Olga’s passport, a move she says her father arranged to prevent her from returning to Russia. On January 24 she addressed Lithuania’s parliament about the so-called Magnitsky List of targeted sanctions against alleged human rights abusers in Russia; and on March 7, she was set to give a similar speech to lawmakers in Estonia. In 1994, Putin was first deputy chairman of the government of St. Petersburg, under Mayor Anatoly Sobchak. Olga Litvinenko says of her father. Olga Litvinenko says an entire “criminal group” was formed that included professors, lecturers, and scientists tasked with producing the dissertations and pushing them through the defense process. Litvinenko adds that dissertations for a candidate’s degree — which is roughly equivalent to a U.S. The money, she says, came in cash. At the time, Putin had already moved to Moscow and was working as deputy presidential chief of staff. Litvinenko says when asked if she knew how much Putin might have paid. In addition to his academic work and business interests, Vladimir Litvinenko was the St. Petersburg head of Putin’s presidential campaign in 2000, 2004, and 2012. This year, he is one of four local co-chairmen. In a 2006 interview with the magazine Vlast, the elder Litvinenko insisted Putin wrote his own dissertation.

An example would be the verb “throw” in the sentence “Jane throws the ball.” The action, throwing, is transmitted from the doer, Jane, to a receiver, the ball. When a transitive verb is in the active voice, as in this example, the doer of the action is the subject of the sentence or clause. Jane did the throwing, she does the action, she is the subject of the sentence. When such a clause is in the passive voice, the receiver is the subject of the sentence: “The ball was thrown by Jane.” All of these terms are also defined in any grammar book. Look them up if you need to, as often as you need to, until the meanings become clear. And don’t hesitate to ask questions if you are confused. Most of the time, the active voice is clearer, more informative, and more direct than the passive voice or than clauses using linking verbs (for example, “is” or “was”). But we are sometimes, though very rarely, justified in using the passive voice in writing for variety or emphasis. But when we are writing thesis statements, I think we should always use the active voice when we can.

And we almost always can. We want a thesis statement to express action, not just join topics together. We want a thesis statement to express what we are going to say, not just what we are going to write about. If we try to put every clause in every thesis statement in the active voice it will help us to find out what we really want to say and to write better papers faster. One corollary to the rule that we should use the active voice is that we should never, or hardly ever, use a form of the verb “to be” as the main verb in a clause. So if you find yourself using a verb like “is,” “are,” “was,” or “were” as a linking verb rather than just a helping verb, revise. Ask yourself “Who’s doing what? Who’s kicking who?” And rewrite your thesis statement in the active voice.

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