Handlers from Yale University May Have Made a Mistake

April 24, 2013
Vladimir Markin

There’s everything here.

From “banal, ouch, that is, I’m sorry, Navalny”, to “his handlers from the Yale University have mistaken Russia for a Third World Country.”

And, of course, the most beautiful and candid revelation: “he shouldn’t have annoyed the authorities.”

In the meantime, Major-General Markin, even in the context of a special interview dedicated to the “Navalny case”, demonstrates that they themselves have lost track of what corpus delicti the Investigative Committee has used to fabricate the case. After all, it was I who, a very long time ago, “forced sales at a price reduced by several million,” and now, according to the Investigative Committee, I am the leader of a criminal group that has stolen the entire sales altogether.

I cannot come up with an answer that would be more accurate, all-encompassing and imaginative than what was provided by a fellow citizen of Markin’s boss to Ministry of Interior staff, so I won’t even bother.

Instead, here’s the entire interview:

On April 17, the Leninsky District Court of the city of Kirov will begin hearings in a criminal case over embezzlement of RUR 16 million, with prominent member of the opposition Alexei Navalny and CEO of Vyatka Timber Company LLP Petr Ofitserov as the principal co-defendants. Thanks to Navalny’s activities as a member of the opposition, a great many eyes are on this trial not only in Russia but also in the West. Head of Media Relations Department at the Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin has granted an exclusive interview to Izvestia to talk about the “political motives” behind the criminal prosecution of Alexei Navalny and why the blogger will never become “Russia’s Mandela.”

— Why was Navalny’s case handled by the Investigative Committee instead of the Interior Ministry?

— It is a legitimate question because, in and of itself, the case does not deserve that kind of attention. The lawyers are known to have guarantees as set forth in the law, including for criminal cases to be instituted against them, but only at the level of Russia’s Investigative Committee. This would serve the interests of society and the defendant.

— If that is the case, is the public outcry linked to the political motives behind commencing a case against a prominent opposition member?

— In this case, politics are only present due to the public persona and the conduct of the defendant. On the part of the investigation, there is only the compliance with the Code of Criminal Procedure due to identified instances of abuse. But for the obsessive linkage to Navalny’s political identity there would be no politics in that case whatsoever. On the contrary, everybody, including the opposition, would be happy that yet another conman has been found out.

— However, if Navalny were not part of the case then probably there would not be a case?

— Possibly it would not have come about so quickly, because the number and capabilities of investigators, alas, are limited. It might have taken time before they could get to routine embezzlement coupled with theft. But where someone who appears in a case goes out of his way to attract attention, one could even say, to tease the authorities – here I am, pure and innocent compared to everyone else– then the interest in his past grew and the process of bringing him to justice, naturally, accelerated. 

— What did he stand to gain by attracting the attention, specifically, of the Investigative Committee?

— It’s difficult to say for sure. There is a suspicion that, at the Yale University, or wherever they train would-be politicians for developing countries, they simply got confused and mistook Russia for Georgia or some other Third World nation. I doubt that his handlers knew that criminal prosecution was likely. That is, they counted on this kind of outcry that, like, a truth-seeker who calls it as he sees it is being victimized.

— But it is true that Alexei has won that reputation. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been persecuted then?

—The matter of reputation is debatable. A closer look reveals that resources named after Navalny feed off of truly functional government mechanisms. First comes the disclosure of information, as required by law, about government procurement at government websites, while the rest of the PR based on such information is secondary. However, I am not in a position to judge how honest the defendant’s political PR efforts are.

Our job is to institute a criminal case and hand it over to a court of law, provided there is evidence and there are facts. Had we failed to do so, it would have been a case of selective political approach. We institute proceedings against law-makers, why should a street opposition activist enjoy immunity? Just because someone in the West is putting in a word for him? It would be possible in some weak country, not in Russia. After all, we are a global power.

— And yet could you explain the charges in greater detail?

— Alas, Banalnyi [the interviewee misspoke – Izvestia], I’m sorry, I mean Navalny is charged with what constitutes extremely ordinary abuse. Our investigators are always running into that fraudulent scheme being used in the regions. Taking advantage of his status as advisor, he forced the CEO of the state-owned unitary enterprise to sell timber to an intermediary at a price understated by a few million rubles. So, they didn’t come up with anything original. Everything is very run-of-the-mill and boring.

— Could it be that, once convicted, Navalny will become the opposition’s rallying point, Russia’s Mandela?

Perhaps this was the idea of those who promoted Navalny while knowing of the sins he committed at a younger age. However, Mandela did not go to prison for abuses while an advisor to a government official; he was jailed for opposing apartheid. Also, we have had politicians in Russia who have done time for extremism, not for embezzlement, such as Limonov. But even he failed to become the rallying point for the entire opposition, only for what is a small sect.

— Why, on the contrary, not use Navalny’s experience in fighting corruption?

— No one is preventing him from engaging in public activities. Even in prison, many convicts write letters and statements, fight the system’s flaws. So, that kind of experience could come in handy even there. I believe that Navalny’s public activities have done at least some good, because he needed to earn his reputation as a fighter. However, of course, the criminal case has further boosted his profile in criminal chronicles. If and when his guilt is proven in a court of law, the latter can objectively evaluate the convict’s character and services, characterizations; some prominent figures may vouch for him that he will no longer engage in fraud and theft like this. In that case, it is possible that his punishment will not involve time behind bars. At any rate, it is up to the court to choose the appropriate punishment. The investigation has done its job, as required by law.