Russia This Week: Strelkov’s Followers in ‘Prostration’: Interview with Gubarev (August 11-17)

August 16, 2014
Igor Girkin (Strelkov) (L), former commander of 'Donetsk People's Republic' and Pavel Gubarev, 'people's governor' of DPR in 2014.

Updated Daily. Prime Minister Medvedev’s Twitter account was hacked with a claim he was resigning in shame and protests against the Crimean annexation and robbing of pensions to pay cost of forcible annexation. Following confusion and wishful thinking that new regulations regarding Internet access will not be so restrictive, Russia’s Minister of Communications clarifies that ID of some form if not a passport will be required to access wi-fi and will be recorded.

Last week’s stories: Ultranationalist Zhirinovsky threatens annihilation of Poland, Baltics if West retaliates against Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev sprang two restrictive Internet decrees on providers and users this week, one requiring presentation of domestic passports to use public Internet cafes or wi-fi, and the other mandating operators of social media to collect more user data and make it available to Russian intelligence agencies. Russian leakers’ site blocked after hackers exposed hardliner’s emails. Russia offers bounty for cracking Tor, Snowden’s favorite tool. Snowden’s resident permit was extended, but it’s not political asylum and he must rely on the kindness of strangers. Mysteriously, a group calling itself the “Initiative Group of Moscow Students” gained access to the heavily-guarded area by the US Embassy in Moscow — and also got on the roof of the Kiev Station — to unfurl racist and obscene banners against President Obama and Ukrainian President Poroshenko. Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes installed two Russian businessmen as “honorary citizens” by a city council decree, sparking concerns of instability as Russian troops mass nearby on the border. A Moscow ultranationalist who tried to join the separatists in the “Donetsk People’s Republic” was jailed and tortured on suspicion that he was a spy, but still supports the cause. Aleksandr Prosyolkov, a long-time Russian ultranationalist activist from Rostov-on-Don was killed outside Krasnodon in Lugansk Region by separatists he was trying to help with a load of humanitarian aid. The roots of the pro-Russian separatist leaders fighting in southeastern Ukraine actually go back to ultranationalist groups in Russia active in the last 20 years, says Russian expert Vladimir Pribylovsky.

Stories in the previous week’s issue: A group seeking greater autonomy for Siberia found its web page, VKontakte community and Twitter account censored as well as an interview with its leader in A rally organized by Russian ultranationalists in support of the separatists fighting in southeastern Ukraine had a very low turnout. Young Russian men cheered a Russian tank convoy on its way to the Ukrainian border. Opposition leader Alexey Navalny expressed intolerance for Muslim labor migrants in Russia. Muslims in Russia celebrated the end of the holy fasting period Ramadan, with plenty of police in attendance. The British government announced the opening of a Public Inquiry 31 July into the poisoning death of defector Alexander Litvinenko.

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Siberian Activists Denied Permit, Interrogated; Opposition Party Granted Permission to Picket

Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov reported in a Facebook post that authorities in Novosibirsk, Siberia have turned down a request for a “March for the Inviolability of the Constitutional Order” by a group that has been trying to find a way to get authorities to let them exercise their right to assembly.

Since their request for approval of slogans about Siberian autonomy, or affirming the federative nature of the Russian Federation didn’t work, they tried out “Constitutional Order” — but officials weren’t buying it.


Translation of banner: “We’ll show Moscow Siberia!”

The activists were then summoned to the police, FSB, and prosecutor’s office and threatened with reprisals,, the police monitoring group reported.

Aleksey Baranov, one of the march organizers, was interrogated at the police and then for two hours at the prosecutor’s office. In between interrogations, four plainclothesmen approached him and warned him that he might experience “problems with his health and life” if he pursued plans for the march, OVD-info reported. Since they mentioned the names of his relatives and his address while threatening him, he believes they are related to the authorities.

Another organizer, Konstantin Yeremenko also got warning a phone call from the FSB about “problems” he should expect and that “drugs might be found” in his possession. The parents of a third organizer, Aleksandr Atabayev and his girlfriend’s parents also got warning calls.

A journalist trying to cover the efforts of the Siberian group also got caught up in the repression (translation by The Interpreter)

Journalist Maksim Sobesky, who traveled to Novosibirk and was detained on the highway at night in Altai Territory and brought to the Talmensky District Interior Ministry Department (police) told OVD-info that he was interrogated there about another organizer of the march, Mikhail Pulin, and was told that they were breaking apart Russia using money from the US State Department. Sobesky tried to convince the OVD officials that federalization and separatism are different things, and that Pulin was not an extremist.

Currently, no one has been able to get in touch with Pulin and his wife, Mariya Katynskaya, although, according to Sobesky, they had gone ahead of him and should have reached Novosibirsk by now.

On 14 August, Pulin, Katynskaya and Sobersky were interrogated at the Center to Combat Extremism in the village of Mayma, not from from Gorno-Altaysk, in connection with the march preparations. Earlier, in a similar office in Novosibirsk, Baranov, Yeremenko and also the applicant for the march, Stanislav Karakovsky were interrogated.

Meanwhile activists from RPR-Parnas (Republican Party of Russia/People’s Freedom Party) led by Yegor Savin managed to obtain permission for a picket “For Rights in Siberia.” It will take place at 16:00 local time on 17 August.

Local press is afraid to write about even the authorized picket, says Nemtsov. “And then they are surprised why Siberia and the regions live so poorly,” he added.

In saying this, Nemtsov is drawing the connection between a free press and the ability to speak freely and assemble with grievances and the improvement of the economy — which is beset with corruption and mismanagement.

Nemtsov also posted a photo of the activists with a provocatively-drawn map of the Siberian region. “And they are right to do it. F**k you, and no unitary thieves’ state,” he said — and got 1,840 likes and 443 shares for his comment.

Are There Chechens Fighting in Southeast Ukraine?

Are there Chechens and other Caucasians from the Russian Federation fighting
in the southeast Ukraine? This has been one of the recurring themes of Russia’s
war against Ukraine, but it has also been a story that is among the hardest to
pin down.

Today there was a tweet reporting a Chechen-Russian battalion fighting in
Snezhnoye (Snizhne)

This seemed to match with some videos posted today to YouTube of a man narrating his dispatch
from the war, claiming to be in Snezhnoye, the same town in the area where the MH17
was shot down and a Buk was spotted.

He speaks with a Russian southern accent, and then later talks to some other men with Caucasian accents. Some have speculated that he
and the others shown in the video are Chechens or others from the North
Caucasus. The blogger @djp3tros of Ukraine@War has identified him as Aleksandr Ivin from Rostov-on-Don.

(By the way, the tune playing in the video is a popular Russian soldiers’ song, “Ozone Layer” (2004) by Sergei Nagovitsyn with a refrain “the sun won’t shoot us with rays in the heat of the day,”
and lyrics about a soldier mourning his
friend killed in war who faces death, imagining his daughter will look at his photograph.)

A tweet has also appeared interpreting the scene, which appears to be filled
with heavily-armed snipers with sophisticated equipment. We can’t geolocate the
area, although it looks like Snezhnoye’s terrain. (Update: the videos have been geolocated to Snezhnoye.)

Earlier today, we reported on our Ukrainian LiveBlog a video uploaded with
the title “the militia heads out to cleanse the highway from Dmitrovka to

The same narrator is glimpsed in this video at 1:00 as in the previous
video above. In both videos, the soldiers are wearing white leg-bands to help
recognize each other in battle; this could indicate a spetznaz group.

Yet another video of the same crew with the narrator was uploaded today
labelled “Militia cleansing the highway from Dmitrovka to Snezhnoye
together with volunteers from the Caucasus.”

The narrator with the southern accent says, “This is war!” and his buddies who appear to be Caucasians cry “This is war! Allahu Akbar!”

On 14 August, a post appeared (a copy of the original can be seen on this
tweet) at the Facebook page for a group called “Donbass Volunteer Battalion for Donetsk Region Territorial Defense” regarding the alleged capture of 46 Chechens
fighting on the separatists’ side. The post was made by a Ukrainian soldier
named Evgeny Shevchenko with this battalion (translation by The Interpreter):

“Good News:

1. A large group of terrorists form Pervomaysk decided to attack us in
Popasnaya. It is hard to say what they were thinking. Or whether they were
thinking anything at all…? And there were quite a few of them —
approximately 600 people, which still and all was really strange, somehow). I
will not run ahead of myself here, but those who get it, get it : )

BTW, what journalists are already saying now for the third day that
Pervomaysk is free? why are they putting out this nonsense? When we liberate it
— everyone will learn about this at once. […]”

Was the soldier implying that this represented an infusion of fighters from the Russian Federation?

He then went on:

2. Gorlivka is under the careful supervision of our ‘best in the world’
paratroopers. Today’s result: 46 Caucasians voluntarily surrendered – All representatives
of the Chechen republic.”

This post quickly spread and was taken over by numerous Ukrainian news
sources, but was retracted the next day (15 August) on the same Facebook

“The Donbass Battalion reports:

We are refuting the information concerning the capturing of 46 fighters of
Chechen nationality [ethnicity]. This information is incorrect.

Dear colleague journalists, to ensure that you do not misinform the public,
we remind you that the official sources of information are the Donbass Commander Semyon
Semchenko and the Battalion’s official press service.”

Distancing himself from Shevchenko’s report, the group’s moderator added that the
information has been posted as part of a “Diary of the Donbass battalion”

Some Ukrainian sources later retracted or deleted the news from their page, but
not all, thus allowing the report to linger and potentially influence public

Shevchenko himself also posted a retraction and apologized:

“Information is a dangerous thing.

My post yesterday, the part about 46 persons of Caucasian ethnicity surrendering and being taken into
captivity by our paratroopers around Gorlivka, please consider that this does
not entirely reflect the real state of affairs. From now on, I will try to
spread such public information only with photo- and video evidence. All in all,
please don’t judge too harshly. […]”

So the episode is a mystery. We
can’t tell whether it was entirely made up out of whole cloth — although it had so much specific detail that would be odd — or whether maybe
some Caucasians were captured or perhaps they escaped. Or perhaps Shevchenko’s superiors for some reason didn’t want the information to get out about how much intelligence they had on Russian and pro-Russian separatists’ movements. Even though it did get out, by retracting it, they could create doubt. Was the story in fact true, and now this battalion is in Snezhnoye? We can’t tell.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the
Chechen Republic has not made any fresh threats to send troops into Ukraine as he has done frequently throughout the war, but
he did mention on 11 August on Instagram, his
communication tool of choice that he sent some humanitarian aid to the “Lugansk People’s Republic”:

Translation by The Interpreter:

Dear friends! Another batch of humanitarian help has been prepared for the People’s Republic of Luhansk. In the name of the Hero of the Russian Federation Akhmad-Hadji Kadyrov [late father of Ramzan Kadyrov] we send everything for first-responders, first aid, treatments for people with severe shrapnel and gunshot wounds. As well as the essentials for a population caught in a war zone. The residents of PRL and DPR need urgent help, without having to wait for The United States and Europe to agree on some sort of ‚corridors.’ #Kadyrov #RF #Europe #Ukraine. 

In June, Kadyrov had threatened to
sent “74,000” Chechens
to the southeast of Ukraine, but claimed he
hadn’t sent any yet, even as he admitted 14 Chechens had taken part as
volunteers. He implied he had to “hold them back” and there would be
“4,000” there if he didn’t.

In May, after the battle for the Donetsk airport, there were reports that some of the bodies of those killed in battle turned out to be Chechens. As we reported at the time, Caucasian Knot found a source who said “dozens of those killed in battle in Ukraine have been delivered to the republic.” But it was hearsay, and journalists could never pin down names and towns.

A widely-televised threat he made at the time has now been re-uploaded to YouTube this week, but it’s actually from May:

In his address on LifeNews, he gave 72 hours to “stop the genocide of Russians” in Ukraine, and that if his ultimatum was not fulfilled, he would send in troops.

“From the Ukrainian city of Slavyansk there is
alarming news. The illegal government of Ukraine has begun in this city a
wide-scale military operation against its own people. It is using
armored vehicles and military helicopters. […]

We cannot
look on calmly when civilians are dying. I am confident that the
President of Russia, Supreme Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin in
accordance with the powers granted him by the Federation Coucil will
take concrete measures for the purpose of defending civilians in
Slavyansk and other cities. At any time of the day we await the order of
the president of Russian and are prepared within short time periods to
fulfill it completely.”

(Reporting and translation assistance by Simone Peek.)

Strelkov’s Followers ‘In Prostration’: Russian Interview with Separatist Leader Gubarev

Back in July, Pavel Gubarev, the self-declared “people’s governor” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” told the AP that he was “losing
hope” about the separatist struggle and said their leaders were divided
and Russia wasn’t helping “we are realists and understand that’s
impossible.” But that was a long time ago in the life of the DPR, before
Russia began to inject significant new levels of armor and weapons — which
then lead to the downing of the MH17 and the reversal of the DPR’s fortunes

In an interview 14 August with Neuromir.TV — a public
Internet TV run by ultra-nationalists and transhumanist futurists of the type
to admire Ray Kurzweil and worry about the white race dying out — Gubarev was
so positive about the future of the separatists that he sounded nearly goofy.
At times Igor Boshchenko, co-author of a book on the future of humanity, seemed
incredulous — as much of a clear supporter of the “Novorossiya” movement he himself is.

“I’m a little bit in shock like everyone here who
supported us,” Gubarev said about the news of Strelkov’s resignation.
“They are in somewhat of a prostration from this news,” he said of
Strelkov’s followers.But he added, “I think everything will be

About reports of Strelkov’s severe wounding, he said, “according to the information I have, that does not correspond with
reality.” That’s the first sign of trouble — Gubarev does not appear to
have been directly in touch with his long-time comrade-at-arms Strelkov.

“Yes, he’s a hero of Novorossiya, he’s our hero, he’s
my hero,” said Gubarev reverently — but he couldn’t say when his hero
might return, only confirming that he had left Donetsk. Strelkov has been rumored to go to Sevastopol to receive medical treatment or simply to have a rest.

Gubarev said that due to concerns of security during
war-time, he didn’t want to divulge his own theory for why Strelkov was

The interview included a canned fund-raising pitch from Col.
Igor Strelkov, who urged listeners to donate to the separatist cause through the fund of Ekaterina Gubareva,
Pavel’s wife.


Strelkov and Gubarev earlier this year.

Gubarev gave a very upbeat account of the separatists’
prospects and stressed how the DPR was busy constructing a state, creating civilian
agencies, and hoping to transfer functions now in military hands into civilian
hands. The DPR now gives out food rations and people line up for them in yet
another practice reminiscent of the Soviet Union. Gubarev envisioned “500
bureaucrats” to manage the several-million strong population of Donetsk
and environs, and saw that the corrupt Party of Regions would have to be sent

He described the new appointees, including Vladimir Kononov,
who has the nick-name “Tsar,” a judo trainer for many  years. Gubarev
describes him as a short, wiry man, he was not formally in the military but
“has military experience” as Gubarev put it vaguely, saying he had
already been awarded the “Order of the Cavalier of St. George.”

“He has a large number of people under him, he has
authority,” said Gubarev of “Tsar,” adding that he was a native
of Slavyansk who was devoted to defending his turf. Among his accomplishments
were the recent  battles in Shakhtyorsk and Torez, and the destruction of Ukrainian
armored vehicles.

Gubarev explained that Strelkov was “energetic”
and “a believer,” but it was a strategic initiative to transfer the
leadership role to these other combatants. Boshchenko mentioned that according
to Strelkov’s advisor Igor Druzhin, “he can’t be bought out” — a reference to constant rumors that various oligarchs in Russia (Konstantin Malofeyev) and Ukraine (Rinat Akhmetov) support the separatist movement.

Asked about the prospects for the war, Gubarev told
Boshchenko, “I’m very optimistic, even from these recent days, from facts
I saw first-hand.” He said there was no panic, and “Novorossiya will
not allow anyone to dump us.”

One of the words that the separatists and
their ultra-nationalist backers in Moscow use frequently is slit’ a term which means
“to pour off” or “dump,” and is also slang used by gamers
to mean “betray” or “kill.”

Boshchenko asked about the Russian humanitarian cargo which is now
waiting outside the Izvarino crossing, but two days ago at the time of the interview was in Voronezh Region, headed toward
the border.

“If it goes through Ukrainian territory, that is, the
territory under the control of the junta, of course I am worried about that
humanitarian cargo,” he said. “If it goes through Izvarino, we can
assure that it will reach recipients, the people of Donbass,” adding that
the situation in Lugansk was much worse than Donetsk.

Then came a veiled threat at 10:24 — no doubt one of the
stark factors that contributed to the Ukrainian decision to accept this manipulative Russian operation at the
other crossing (translation by The Interpreter)

“If it goes through Ukrainian territory, something will
definitely happen to it, I have that feeling. Therefore this cargo has to come
through Izvarino and reach its recipients, that is, the people of

Gubarev believes the Ukrainian army “will not manage to
cut off Lugansk from Donetsk”; the battle continues.

Trial of Opposition Leader Navalny Resumes in Yves Rocher Case

The trial of opposition leader Aleksandr Navalny, famous for his anti-corruption blogging, resumed today in the Zamoskvoretsky Court, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

Navalny and his brother are charged with embezzlement and money-laundering in a case which many see as an effort to trump up the kinds of charges against Navalny himself that he makes against corrupt government leaders.

Navalny brothers in front of the court house 14 August 2014. Photo by Dmitry Katorzhnov

Navalny and his brother are accused of allegedly taking 26 million rubles ($722,000) from Yves Rocher Vostok [East], a French company. As we reported earlier this year, Bruno Leproux, the former head of Yves Rocher Vostok who accused Alexey Navalny and his brother Oleg of abuses, thereby opening the way for the case, no longer works at this company.

According to his LinkedIn information, Leproux left his position in June 2013, four months after his company withdrew its claims against the Navalny brothers, and sent a formal letter to the Investigative Committee, stating that Navalnys did not cause any damage to Yves Rocher, and they had no claims against them.

Yet the Russian government continues to press the case, which the Navalny brothers’ lawyers say is “fictitious.”

The court turned down a request from Navalny’s lawyers to enable Internet transmission of the proceedings, and also closed-circuit video for an overflow room.

The prosecutor has also charged the Navalny brothers with allegedly embezzling 4 million rubles (about $111,000) from another company called Mnogoprofilnaya Protsessingovaya Kompaniya (Multi-profile Processing Company) and laundering 21 million more (about $583,000). The claim is that Navalny created a company called Glavnoye Podpisnoye Agentsvo, also known as GlavPodpiska) [Main Correspondence Agency] which obtained support from Russia Post, where Oleg Navalny then worked, and handled the contract for delivering cosmetics from Yves Rocher Vostok. This supposedly led to Yves Rocher East suffering a loss, according to the prosecution.

The charges under Art. 159, part 4, and Art. 171.1, part 2 (embezzling and money-laundering), could lead to imprisonment for up to 12 years.

Letters from Yves Rocher have been published on Navalny’s support site, in which a director, Christian Melnik, says there was no real loss from the relationship with Navalny’s company, and that the cost for the services was an “average market price.”

Oleg Navalny said their company was originally created to enable Russians to subscribe to periodicals via the Internet, and then he made the acquaintance of Zhanna Chikova, who complained about the cosmetic company’s problems with logistics in Russia. Oleg found a company to do the deliveries; Glavpodpiska was the middle-man in this relationship. As Navalny’s defense lawyer pointed out, if Yves Rocher found anything wrong with this arrangement or was unhappy with its cost, then why did they keep extending the contract year after year?

Alexey Navalny said the relationships of the companies involved “normal business processes” and the reason the company was registered in Cyprus — a common practice for Russian companies — was to avoid political pressure. In his testimony, Navalny stated (translation by The Interpreter)

“I do not plead guilty. The case is fabricated in order to stop my political activity, and intimidate not only me but my family. You yourselves know that — otherwise why did you forbid the broadcast?”

The prosecutor asked to further question the witnesses and examine evidence. Navalny’s lawyer objected because this would prolong the proceeding, and in fact the plaintiff was right in the courtroom.

It turned out this would involve bringing in more witnesses. “You have 50 drivers from Ukraine among your witnesses. Most likely some of them are even from Donetsk!” quipped Navalny, alluding to current armed separatist conflict in the southeast of Ukraine supported by Russia.

The representative from Yves Rocher East appeared not to understand the joke. “What so funny?” he asked as the audience erupted into laughter.

The trial was adjourned to 21 August.

Russian Hackers Access Medvedev’s Twitter, E-mail

The Russian hackers’ group Shaltai Boltai (which means “Humpty Dumpty” in Russian) says it hacked into Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s email early this morning at the same time as they made unauthorized access to his Twitter account to post protests about Ukraine.

The group is now suspended on Twitter.

In a post on their Blogspot account, the group says that they discovered Medvedev’s e-mail correspondence on three Apple devices was “boring.” It consisted of chat with his colleagues about the state budget.

They also found that the prime minister was using a credit card with a different name to buy gadgets on Amazon. He ordered a $99 Casio  G-shock standard men’s watch, but got a refund when it was undeliverable.

The hackers advised Dmitry Anatolyevich to change the passwords on all his e-mail accounts.

A message appearing to be from Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the Investigative Committee, claimed the hackers were already apprehended.

But then the account noted that it was the “unofficial” account of Markin and was revealed as a fake.

Translation: People who hacked Dmitry Medvedev’s Twitter have already been brought into the IC [Investigative Committee].

As far as we know, the hackers are still at large.

Hackers’ Group Shaltai Boltai Takes Responsibility for Medvedev Twitter Hack

The Russian hackers’ group Shaltai Boltai, which means “Humpty Dumpty” in Russian, took responsibility for the hack of Prime Minister Medvedev’s Twitter account for some 40 minutes this morning.

We translated the hacked tweets here.

Within 41 minutes, Twitter administrators “withheld” or locked Medvedev’s account until the “offending” tweets protesting Kremlin policies regarding annexation of Crimea and stifling of the Internet could be removed.

President Putin is in Crimea today to make a major speech.

The account of b0ltai, which is what the hacker’s group called themselves on Twitter, was also suspended when viewed with “Moscow” as a location.


Earlier this month, Shaltai Boltai hacked into the Russian parliament’s e-mail system and exposed the correspondence of hard-liner Robert Shlegel, who had supported the “Bloggers’ Law” requiring bloggers with more than 3,000 readers to register with authorities and face more restrictions. It turned out he was organizing an “information war” and was also behind orchestrated pro-Kremlin troll campaigns on Western sites.

Shaltai Boltai sometimes calls itself “Anonymous International” but appears unrelated to the Western hackers’ movement by that name. Anonymous tends to avoid criticism of the Kremlin and is not known to have ever claimed credit for a hack in Russia that exposed the government.

The trending tweet on Twitter this morning for Moscow was about Medvedev’s account.


Has Prime Minister Medvedev’s Twitter Account Been Hacked?

President Dmitry Medvedev had a startling tweet today:

Translation: I am resigning. I am ashamed of the actions of the government. Forgive me.

Medvedev’s account, which was made for him during his historic visit to Twitter headquarters in Silicon Valley in 2010, has a verified blue check, so it is indeed his account.

But the statement is so out of character for a top Kremlin official — even one whose modest reform efforts have been sidelined as he castled roles with President Vladimir Putin — that everyone assumes the account is hacked.

A parody account of presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov (whose name in Russian means “sandy”) thought it was an ominous sign:

Translation: They’ve hacked the Twitter account of Medvedev. Now they will definitely close Twitter in Russia.

Medvedev’s account continued to tweet some shocking messages:

Translation: I have long wanted to say: Vova! You’re wrong!

“Vova” is a nick-name for “Vladimir” in Russian.

His comment harkens back to a meme in Russian culture, “Boris, you’re wrong!” said by Yegor Kuzmich Ligachev, a hardliner in the Politburo in the 1990s, who famously said this to Yeltsin about his reforms. After the failed 1991 coup, people began to say “Yegor, you’re wrong!”

The Prime Minister’s Twitter account then re-tweeted a critical journalist who complained about the government’s raiding of citizens’ pension savings fund to pay for the forcible annexation of the Crimea. Sechin is the former deputy prime minister and current chair of Rosneft, the state oil company and a close association of Putin.

Translation: Let me be specific – this is NOT a joke, our future pensions (FNB) which Sechin had his eye on, have already been given to the Crimea and other projects.

The frivolity of the subsequent tweets seemed to indicate it was hacked.

One tweet said Medvedev planned to become a freelance photographer; another said “I like reading @navalny” — the prominent opposition blogger under house arrest. These tweets were then deleted, but the one about the resignation and other criticisms remained.

Translation: Do you think they will say something important in Yalta today? I doubt it. I’m sitting here and I myself am thinking, what the f**k?

Translation: Russian citizens shouldn’t suffer from the problem of perception of common sense in the top leadership of the country.

Translation: #CrimeaNotOurs request RT

This tweet turned on its head a popular patriotic slogan “Crimea is Ours”.

Translation: We can return to the 1980s. This is sad. If this is the purpose of my colleagues in the Kremlin, then it will soon be achieved.

The Russian-language Twitterverse was watching in amazement.

Translation: Throughout the entire world, when they hack the accounts of politicians they start writing nonsense — only in Russia do they write the truth that everyone has long been waiting for.

That was a fun 41 minutes, but the party’s over, as the Twitter administrators have now put up a notice that the account has been withheld — which means it truly must have been hacked.


The Twitter administrator’s announcement links to a policy page that explains how tweets can be withheld on a country-by-country basis if there are government objections — exactly the policy used on Russia to remove from domestic view the account of the ultranationalist Ukrainian group Right Sector.

What’s interesting about this hack is that the hackers didn’t shout “Stop the Invasion of Ukraine!” or for that matter “Glory to the Islamic Jamaat of Dagestan!” but did say “Crimea is Not Ours.” And 3,800 people immediately re-tweeted it; this account has 2.51 million viewers!

The hackers also singled out what has been likely the most widespread economic issue for ordinary people — the raiding of the pension funds.

Interestingly, though these anonymous hackers had free range at least for three-quarters of an hour, they even self-censored, first putting up a tweet “I like to read @navalny” and then deleting it.

A few of the other absurd tweets.

A reference to a soccer scandal:

Translation: And of course we were wrong about those songs. Only Belyakov spoke out against it. The rest s**t themselves.

Translation: Well, we’ll think about a ban on electricity. That’s more reliable.

Since the tweets we’ve linked to here are likely to be removed, here is a set of screen grabs of all the tweets made by hackers of Medvedev’s account:


Moscow Peace Demonstrators Brought to Court
At least six people who took part in an March of Memory and Grief to commemorate victims of the war in Ukraine arrested yesterday were taken today to Presenensky District Court,, a police abuse monitoring NGO reported.

Ekaterina Maldon, Irina Kalmykova, Olga Kurnosova, Pavel Shelkov, Sergei Zakharov and Ildar Dadin are facing charges for conducting an unauthorized demonstration, as the Moscow mayor’s office did not give a permit for the action. But the proceedings were postponed until tomorrow, and now the three men have been taken back to an unknown police precinct.

Meanwhile, the three women remained in the courthouse. Yesterday Maldon was beaten by police and her arm was injured, and an ambulance has been called for her.  Both Maldon and Kalmykova are the mothers of minor children which means they should have been released pending trial under the law.  Maldon is also a member of a local election commission which is supposed to mean that she should enjoy immunity from administrative arrest without the sanction of the prosecutor’s office.

Police Break Up Anti-War Action in Moscow

Yesterday about 200 Muscovites gathered in front of the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow to express condolences for those killed in the war.

They did not have a permit for a rally — the mayor’s office denied it — but assembled peacefully at Pushkin Square and then proceeded to the Ukrainian Embassy, where they laid flowers, letters, and poems.

Independent videographer Sasha Sotnik interviewed some of the participants, who said that they felt they had to do something to display their objections to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine; several said they believed others shared their sentiment but were reluctant to express it publicly.

Anti-Maidan activists also showed up to heckle the peace demonstrators and
staged a number of loud and aggressive arguments, waving “Novorossiya”
banners and St. George ribbons.

One protester was doused with zelyonka, an indelible green disinfectant used to shame opponents, even before he got to the march.

A large number of OMON riot
police turned out and urged the crowd to stay on the sidewalk. Then they
began arresting about a dozen people, treating them roughly and dragging them to police vans, reported.

If Russian Convoy Trucks Not Re-Loaded, Russian Military Presence in Ukraine Validated
Russian and Ukrainian bloggers and social media commentators have been nervously following and joking about the progress of the Russian government’s controversial convoy of “humanitarian assistance” for Ukraine. It is due to arrive at the Ukrainian border this morning.

The default of skeptics of the Kremlin’s intentions — given its misuse of the concept of “peace-keeping” and “humanitarian action” in the past in the Georgian war and in the current Ukrainian conflict — is to assume that there will be some sort of manipulation of the contents of the convoy for lethal purposes.

Hence these kind of tweets:

Translation: hahaha

Translation: Putin came out of the fog/Pulled aid out of his pocket.

A State Department propaganda meme in Russian had some traction on social media:

“But in Ukraine, urgent humanitarian assistance should be delivered by
the international humanitarian organizations that have the expertise,
experience, and independence to provide it. It should not be delivered
by Russia.” Speech by Amb. Samantha Power to UN Security Council 8 August 2014.

But as Russian bloggers also noted, it wasn’t likely that Moscow would actually try to conceal weapons in among the sacks of sugar or grains.

What was more likely is that Russia would use the fact of its army convoy’s presence in Ukraine with a “positive mission” of humanitarian aid to further entrench its military might in Ukraine. (There has been only a thread-bare fiction that the Emergencies Ministry is involved in the convoy.)

In fact, by playing up the West’s paranoia and distrust, the pro-Kremlin commentators were ensuring that they’d be able to gloat if in fact nothing untoward happened with the convoy.

In fact, as we saw, it’s how Russian bloggers themselves saw the convoy, not merely “the West.”

Right now there is lack of clarity about what will happen at the border and whether the Ukrainian authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross will be able to take charge of this convoy.

Already the Russian Foreign Ministry manipulated the situation by declaring that the Ukrainian government dropped its original objections to re-loading the trucks and will let them through as long as they are inspected and have Ukrainian license plates. Yet we don’t have a clear statement from the Ukrainian government that they have in fact dropped this requirement. The ICRC meanwhile is saying it lacks information about the contents and modalities of the convoy.

Russian state TV is cynically declaring that the convoy flies the flags of “the International Committee of the Red Cross” although states are not authorized to use the flag in this manner and it is only for the organization’s own use.

Moscow is sure to say that it is time-consuming and nonsensical to re-load a 3-kilometer long convoy involving some 270 trucks when people are said to be in dire need in areas of fighting. 

Yet the same could be said about the inefficient logistics and grand-standing of sending a convoy 600 kilometers on a three-day drive from an army base in Moscow, when the convoy could have made up with leased commercial trucks in Rostov Region right next to Ukraine with the on-site participation of the international community — and hey, followed the very same shorter routes that Russian army convoys and pro-Russian separatists follow when they bring in armor, weapons and troops across rebel-held border posts. They’re not serious.

Yet Kiev will appear churlish if it doesn’t drop the demand for a re-load, and the ICRC may be out-maneuvered as well. And what we will get then is a very specifically military convoy, that got its start on the army base of the Tamanskaya Division in a Moscow suburb, and consists of army vehicles painted white, cynically waving the Red Cross flag. That will constitute a validation of Russian military presence in Ukraine and an undermining of international humanitarian principles that we have not had before, and will fuel rather than end the conflict.

South Stream Pushes Forward As EU Dependence on Russian Gas Makes it Hard to Act on Ukraine

South Stream, the international project to bring more Russian gas to
Europe is inching forward — and will not be derailed by sanctions against Ukraine which
have increased since the downing of MH17 but have stopped short of gas purchases.


As the Financial Times reports, Austria’s gas giant OMV is defying the sanctions trend in the EU and pressing ahead with South Stream:

However, as east-west tensions have mounted over
Ukraine, the EU Commission has raised objections. In June, Brussels
pressured Bulgaria to stop construction of its leg of the pipeline until
it decides whether it complies with EU law.

Despite the
issues, Gerhard Roiss, chief executive of OMV – which in June reached a
deal with Gazprom to extend South Stream from the Hungarian border to
OMV’s gas hub outside Vienna – said he did not expect the project to be
undermined, and that any delays would be manageable.

can tell you not to build a pipeline. It’s a matter of national
law … Everybody can decide for themselves,” he said. “A pipeline is a
50-year project, so one should look at things realistically … A few
months is not an issue.”

This has always been the problem with the EU and sanctions — the
EU is split because some of its members, namely Germany, Austria and
Italy, have considerable financial stake in gas pipeline projects and
because the EU as a whole gets 30% of its natural gas from Russia. It
depends on natural gas even more since shutting down nuclear power
stations in the wake of the Japanese nuclear disaster.

And we now see visibly a key reason for Russia to forcibly annex the Crimea — to bypass Turkey, as Natural Gas Europe reports:

The South Stream pipeline project faces tremendous difficulties ahead, notwithstanding the European Commission’s objections. Nevertheless, another set of events points to a positive path ahead, judging by the number of countries that are pushing onwards.

First of all, the Turkish authorities have recently approved the environmental impact research needed for the pipeline to go ahead through the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) offshore and en route to the Bulgarian shores. The construction of the part traversing Turkey will commence in first quarter of 2015 and will be composed by four lines of 930 km each reaching a maximum depth of 2,200 meters.

Turkey’s decision to fast forward the pipeline is related to the fact that after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Gazprom could shift the route directly to Bulgaria’s EEZ, without needing to pass through Turkey. Moreover, Ankara is eyeing to have the entire pipeline ending in its territory in case Bulgaria backs off at the last moment. Should that happened Turkey would become the primal gas hub in Europe, by taking into account the TANAP project and its various gas links already with Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan.

Of course, Turkey’s plans are contingent on another project, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) in which a BP-led consortium will invest more than $45 billion to bring gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz fields to Greece, Italy and Southeast Europe.

While approved, construction has not actually started and Russia could still prove a spoiler — because the project is decidedly about reducing dependence on Russia. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is an advisor to the project, as is former German foreign minister Hans-Deitrich Genscher and the chairman of Goldman Sachs International, Peter Sutherland. This contrasts with Blair’s consulting to Kazakhstan, another Russian ally and Caspian Sea power, and former German chancellor Gerhard Shroeder’s participation in Gazprom.

Analysts such as Ilya Zaslavskky of Chatham House are increasingly speaking out against the pipeline’s prospects mindful of punishing sanctions:

“If Gazprom builds the offshore part of the pipeline by the end of
2015 as planned, it could end up with a stranded asset, because there is
no way Bulgaria will let gas flow before the EU has decided on how new
capacity should be treated.”

But the determination of Austrian and other European businesses may trump such concerns, as they believe existing gas flows such as through Opal, which runs despite lack of EU approval, and the EU’s dependency will mitigate against sanctions.

Meanwhile, Russia’s LUKOIL has seen the hand-writing on the wall, and sold its assets in Ukraine to another Austrian business, AMIC Energy Management.

Translation: LUKOIL has sold its gas stations in Ukraine.
Pro-Government ‘Anti-Fascist Committee’ Formed by Nationalists to Fight Western Influence


The Stop Maidan movement has been active in Crimea; now conservatives want to launch similar actions in Russia. Photo via

A new pro-government activist group and propaganda outlet has been created in Russia, the Anti-Fascist Anti-Maidan Committee, made up of spetnaz military officers, Orthodox Church supporters, Cossacks, bikers and other nationalists, reported 4 August.

The group will inform citizens about the “methods of Western propaganda aimed an unlawful overthrow of the constitution order of the Russian Federation and incitement to internal conflicts.”

The committee reflects both paranoia about the West and hatred of Ukraine’s democracy movement fueled by Russian state media. It draws on both Soviet history, when anti-fascist committees were used as Communist fronts to influence politics abroad, and on modern anti-fascist committees in Europe, some of which are pro-Communist or pro-Kremlin, as in Finland, where a former KGB agent has supported an anti-Estonian effort. In a statement given to Izvestiya, the group said:

“We, the social-political, religious organizations of the Russian Federation realize the real threat, and know about the opening of headquarters and committees to conduct  ‘Orange, Maidan’ actions of ‘protest’ on the territory of the RF after the regional elections 14 September 2014, organized and paid for by Western ‘human rights’ foundations, therefore we announce this unification of efforts.”


Maj. Gen. Leonid Shershnev, president of the Fund for National and International Security, a specialist on information wars.


Valentin Lebedev, chairman of the Union of Russian Orthodox Citizens

It’s hard to know where this group got the idea that some Western organization was going to launch all these “Maidan committees” in Russia; no such plans are known to be afoot.

Organizers of the group include figures active in pro-government and nationalist causes: Yury Kalitov, co-chairman of the city council of United Russia supporters and deputy representative of “Spetsnaz-Army Spetnaz,” a civic organization of veterans of military intelligence; Maj. Gen. Leonid Shershnev, president of the Russians Fund and the Fund for National and International Security; Valentin Lebedev, producer and leader of Sorok Sorokov (“40 Times 40”), an all-Russian Orthoox association and the chairman of the Union of Orthodox Citizens; Andrei Kormukhin, coordinator of the Night Wolves, a motorcycle club, Dmitry Voronov, advisor to Viktor Vodolatsky, the ataman of the Great Troops of the Don and a State Duma deputy and others.

President Putin with “The Surgeon” (Aleksandr Zaldostanov), head of the “Night Wolves” biker club. A coordinator of the club, Andrei Kormukhin, is joining the Anti-Fascist Committee.

The members of the group, who will hold their first meeting in late August, believe the West has already unleashed an information war on Russia, so it has to organize and fight back:

“If you look closely at our media, all the internal problems of Russia today have receded into the background. That is, the events in Ukraine now are a key topic which concerns absolutely everyone. We understand perfectly that this is not just their internal conflict, but actually a point of application of all the world’s forces that have already have announced an undeclared war,” Vladimir Lepekhin, general director of the Institute for Eurasian Economic Community, who was invited to join the board, explained to Izvestiya.

He believes that the world has turned against Russia with sanctions and an information war over accusatoins of supplying armed resistance in Ukraine.

“Russia didn’t didn’t think up Maidan and the bombing of cities in the southeast. But when war was declared, the question arose of the mobilization of the population. This mobilization has three levels: mobilization of the state — that is the wok of our border guards, the Emergencies Ministry, the help to refugees; the second level is the public, which cannot remain uninvolved with the ongoing events; and the third level — military,” Lepekhin explained as to why the council was relevent.

He said that with the new US ambassador John Tefft coming to Russia, “the information war would start on the territory of our country.”

Lepekhin said the group’s members had a lot of experience organizing regional elections and supporting veterans and saw their mission as preventing a revolution in Russia, given that the “party of war” in the US helped state “a coup d’etat in Ukraine” and “doesn’t conceal its desire to do the same in Russia.

Sergei Markov, who once served in the KGB border guards and was a well-known Carnegie analyst and National Democratic Institute consultant for years in the US, also weighed in:

“Their plans include a military strike by the Ukrainian army, headed by ultranationalists and neo-Nazi command, against Crimea and the south of Russia. Also in the USA’s plans are massive terrorist attacks in major Russian cities and simultaneously a policy of worsening sanctions with the purpose of economic and political isolation of our country. Under these conditions, the rating of the government may significantly reduce and a revolutionary situation could emerge,” said Sergei Markov, head of the Institute for Political Research.

It’s extraordinary that Markov would actually believe the hype that the US was planing “massive terrorist attacks” in Russia.

Markov also added that anti-Maidan organizations should analyze public figures in Russia, and if they do not denounce the “coup” in Ukraine and the “terror of the ultranationalist junta against civilians,” then they should be seen as ideologically close to those prepared to stage a coup in Russia.

Political consultant Andrei Bogdanov told Izvestiya that with the new law on “foreign agents,” it was harder for the West to fund subversive NGOs and more difficult to conduct clandestine financing. Since he believed it would be difficult for the West to recruit any people in the regions for any kind of “Maidan” activity, there wasn’t a need for the Anti-Fascist Committee. He believed that the FSB should be the ones to track and put in jail any such Western-sponsored agitators.

Moskovsky Komsomolets called the committee a “Black Hundreds” type organization and said that Putin advisor Sergei Glazyev, while he would not formally join the group, would advise it behind the scenes. Others to be included in a future organizing committee included United Russian deputy Evgeny Fyodorov, famous for his anti-American speeches in the State Duma, Kirill Frolov of the Association of Orthodox Experts and Konstantin Beremesh, an official of the Synodal Department of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Navalny Analyzes Internet Decree; ID Will Be Required to Access Internet

The blog of opposition leader Aleksey Navalny, himself on an Internet gag as a condition of his house arrest, has an analysis of Prime Minister Medvedev’s new Internet law. The text of the law indeed can apply to any place for public Internet access, not just a post office — and as he points out, your data will be harvested through the device you use to access the Internet:

“In fact, the government is creating a data base with: last name, first name and patronymic – device – place and date of log-on to the Internet of everyone who logs on in a public place.”

Cafes that provide wi-fi will be obliged to retain the user data for six months and make it available to the FSB (intelligence). Says Navalny (or those maintaining his blog for him):

“Taking into account that the recently passed decree under which the intelligence agencies gain unrestricted access to messages on social networks, before our eyes, a real Big Brother is being created about which everyone only joked for a long time: a system knowing who wrote, what they wrote, when and from where and with what device.”

Navalny noted that the regulations were hard to comply with for operators and therefore wouldn’t likely be complied with — therefore, as often happens with overly-restrictive laws in Russia, opening up space for abuse, i.e. bribes.

“This, of course is a colossal blow for
development of the Internet in Russia and in general a significant
barrier for development of the country and its infrastructure. Here, 1.8
billion rubles were just invested in the Moscow metro to develop wi-fi.
Now what? Of course, some users will register with their passport, but
far from all. The direct losses of businesses that must comply with
these regulations will be counted in the billions of dollars. And just
think, this all because one or two thieving bastards don’t want to be
cursed on the Internet.”

DC890A28-DDD4-4BA6-A4C9-A84F38220338_w64Navalny with an iPhone in 2013. Photo by AFP.

Navalny added a few updates reflecting the attempted walk-back from the decrees (as we reported below) and said it all looked “rather strange”:

“First a massive injection of information, then several hours of silence, then a rebuttal. All of this looks like the classic testing of public opinion.

Well, ok. So we can consider that public opinion has reacted corrected and now such trash with the Internet will not occur in the near future.”

Except then Navalny posts a series of tweets from Nikolai Nikiforov, Minister of Communications, who reaffirms that access to wi-fi will indeed be by passport or other form of ID. It’s bizarre, as Nikoforov seemingly argues with the tweet of his own Ministry’s news service — but just specifies the fine print. (The Internet has provided a translation):

Translation: Ministry of Communications of Russia clarifies: a passport is not required for gaining access to Wi-Fi in public places.

Translation: Identification of users (by bank card, cell number etc.) in accessing public Wi-Fi is a world-wide practice.

Translation: the necessity of identification of users, including Wi-Fi, proceeds from the passage of “anti-terrorist” federal laws.

Translation: But the operators of public Wi-Fi
don’t necessarily have to demand your paper passport. This could be an
SMS-code to the cell phone number.

Translation: Also for millions of citizens of Russia a convenient form of identification in public Wi-Fi may be their password from the Gosuslugi [State Services] portal.

Translation: I don’t recall that in international airports in recent years it was possible to go on a Wi-Fi network completely anonymously.

Translation: Presentation of a passport may be required only, for example, if you went in a village to a collective access point at Russia Post.

But that’s just the problem. Moscow hipsters may get by with their iPhones and cafes with Internets. But out in the provinces — most of Russia — people rely more on the post office or Internet cafes to access the Internet. They may have SMS messaging capacity on their phones, but not Internet access. One survey found that 37% of Russians had smart-phones; another survey said 51% of Russians had feature phones, i.e. with messaging but only limited or no Internet.


Nikiforov promises to bring Internet to rural areas via Russia Post. Photo by

Confusion and Attempted Walk-Backs on Medvedev’s Restrictive Internet Decree

After Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued decrees further restricting the Internet, requiring ID for public access to wi-fi and further controls by the FSB over social media, officials, Internet service providers, and commentators appeared to claim that the decrees were misunderstood, that they weren’t so draconian. Or even if they were, could be fixed somehow.


Medvedev in 2013 with iPad.

This is a frequent pattern with terrible laws in Russia — for example, with the “foreign agents’ law,” there was debate about how it was fixable, there was a prolonged period where it didn’t seem to be applied, there were assurances that it wouldn’t be applied unjustly or in widespread fashion — and then oops, all of a sudden, a dozen of the main human rights groups were registered against their will as “foreign agents,” subjected to public ostracisim for that status, and either subjected to far more scrutiny or suspended.

Matvei Alekseyev, director for external communications of Afisha.Rambler.SUP, believes that Internet users in Russia will be able to use Wi_Fi without obligatory presentation of their passport, Ekho Moskvy reported. He believes the problem of the new Medvedev decree is just an inaccurate formulation, and that it was “just about Russia Post getting up some steam.”

The Moscow mayor’s office said that passports would not be required in public spaces, but only to use certain government online services, TV Rain reported:

“This [decree] does not concern Wi-Fi spots in parks, the metro, universities, schools, and hospitals in the city of Moscow. […] It’s a question in fact of collective access point, and when that document was released, they had in mind precisely these as well as the universal communication services. No one intends to restrict Wi-Fi in places of public use. This is in regard only to the collective access places which are essentially financed within the universl communications services.”

In other words, as TV Rain explains, people going to the post office to use the Internet to scan or print documents will have to show an ID. This procedure was envisioned when a program called “Electronic Russia” was installed with terminals at post offices.

“The media interpreted the decree as a ban on anonymous log-on to Wi-Fi in all public places, including parks, cafes and restaurants,” said Rain — as if they had unfairly characterized the law.

Several commentators pointed out that you wouldn’t physically present your paper passport as you walked into Gorky Park, but given that you have to supply ID to get an iPhone in the first place, your passport was already registered and your access to wi-fi would be recorded and the information kept by operators for at least six-months. We could also note that VKontakte, the most popular social media, and other Russian social media service require you to provide a cell phone number to register your account. So your passport information — required to get the phone itself — is also accessible in this fashion anyway.

Alexey Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy had a debate with Maxim Ksenzov, the deputy head of Roskomnadzor, the state censor, pointing out that the text of the decree did in fact imply more blanket requirements than seemed to be indicated.

Translation: “@mksenzov: @aavst it’s not about Ekho” I realize, but the requirement for FIO [name, last name and patronymic] on the basis of a form of ID is nevertheless present in the decree.

When Kzenzov complained about bloggers over-reacting and claimed the decree didn’t specify “passport,” Venediktov corrected him:

Translation: “@mksenzov: Even any analysis…Some on food, some on wi fi…but where is there anything about passports???” Addition to par. 3-1.

Some commentators pointed out that the hub-bub about the wi-fi issue was drawing attention away from the even worse decree on increased FSB surveillance.