Kremlin Tries to Pre-Empt Critical Report on Putin, His Family and Cronies

March 29, 2016
President Vladimir Putin. Photo by Andrei Rudakov/Bloomberg

LIVE UPDATES: The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is seeking comment on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his entourage, which has led to media speculation that a new investigative report on Putin’s wealth may appear.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

Recent Analysis and Translations:

Getting The News From Chechnya – The Crackdown On Free Press You May Have Missed
Aurangzeb, Putin, Realism and a Lesson from History
Why the World Should Care About the Assassination of Boris Nemtsov
How Boris Nemtsov Was Murdered: Investigation by Novaya Gazeta
How Stalin Returned to Russian Contemporary Life – Meduza


1 Russian Policeman Killed, At Least 2 Injured in Bombing of Convoy in Dagestan

Unknown attackers blew up a convoy of police cars outside Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, killing one officer and wounding others, Novaya Gazeta reported, citing TASS. A source told TASS that on the Kavkaz Highway on the outskirts of Makhachkala, in the direction of the Uytash Airport, an explosion was heard in a convoy of law-enforcement vehicles (translation by The Interpreter):

Today at 20:30 in the area of the town of Novy Khushet an explosion occurred of two cars from the temporary operations group [VOG] of the Russian MVD, using an unknown device. Information on the casualties is being checked.

A home-made explosive was believed to have been used according to preliminary information.
Two police cars were damaged, an UAZ and an Ural. 
Interfax reported one officer was killed and two were wounded at 20:15 at the turnoff to the airport.
Later, the Dagestani Interior Ministry confirmed that the explosions had taken place, killing one officer and wounding two, Interfax reported.
A source told TASS that four were wounded.

At least 10 policemen were travelling in the convoy, going from a post in Makhachkala back to their base in Kaspiysk. They were said to have been sent on assignment from Krasnoyarsk.

The deployment of police in a “temporary operations group” from outside of Dagestan (from Krasnoyarsk, the third largest city in Siberia) suggests more effort by the federal Russian Interior Ministry to back up (or keep an eye on?) local Dagestani forces. Of course it is common for federal forces to be made up from recruits all over the Russian Federation.

The regional news site Caucasian Knot went with the headline “Target of Explosion in Dagestan Was Law-Enforcers from Krasnoyarsk,”  and added that the incident occurred 10.5 kilometers from the airport, and 4.5 km from their base in Kaspiysk.

The explosive devices went off directly under the cars; one has already burnt up and the other was still burning late this evening Moscow time.

Police have roped off the region and experts are analyzing the scene.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Kremlin Tries to Pre-Empt Critical Report on Putin, His Family and Cronies
Yesterday, March 28, the Russian media began to say that a critical report was soon to appear about President Vladimir Putin and his relatives and associates.

Translation: Western media are preparing for the publications of materials that will concern Vladimir Putin and his entourage.

In fact the way the Russia media found out about this was not from an actual report covered by the Western media as such, but the Kremlin’s pre-emptive blast against such a report, itself noted by Bloomberg and others:

The Kremlin accused a group of international journalists of preparing an “information attack” on President Vladimir Putin’s wealth and his ties to billionaire oligarchs in Russia.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is seeking comment on dozens of questions concerning “Putin personally” as well as “information about his family, childhood friends,” and business allies including Yuri Kovalchuk and Arkady Rotenberg, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Monday. There are also “questions about some sort of offshore companies,” he said.
Other “amusing” requests include whether Putin has more than $40 billion and if he owns yachts, Peskov said. Russia has “available the full arsenal of legal means in the national and international arena to protect the honor and dignity of our president,” he said.

Bloomberg said the ICIJ didn’t immediately response to a request to comment, and since then ICIJ hasn’t said anything. Since ICIJ has issued critical reports in the past, notably a study of post-Soviet oligarchs in London, the report seems credible.

Political theorist Fyodor Krasheninnikov told Ekho Moskvy that these possible “plants” against the Russian leadership were “not intended for the citizens of the country but the West.” He also noted that Peskov had recently invoked imminent “information attacks” on the Kremlin but in fact nothing came of it.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick