Updated Daily. This week’s issue:
– Further Peace March Arrests: 7 in St. Petersburg; 2 in Yekaterinburg; 2 in Barnaul
– Peace March of 26,000 in Moscow Finishes Without Incident; A Few Arrests Reported
– At Least 10,000 in Peace March in Moscow – AP
– 5,000 March in St. Petersburg Despite Ban
– ‘If We’re the Fifth Column, Then You’re the Sixth Ward’
– Peace Marcher in Feminist Column Arrested in Moscow
– Arrests Reported in St. Petersburg at Unauthorized Peace March
– Moscow Peace March Proceeds Despite Harassment from Ultranationalists – Live Feeds
– Tens of Thousands Marching in Moscow Against Russia’s War in Ukraine
– Opposition Peace March Begins in Moscow, with Counter-Demonstrators
– Yevtushenkov Temporarily Released from House Arrest; Could Face Large Bail Payment Next Week
– Moscow Peace March to Proceed Despite Claims of Cancellation; Ad Claimed Illegal
– Russians Concerned About Government Plans to Disconnect Russian Internet from World
– US Amb. Tefft Receives Liberals as Well as Hard-liners, and Deftly Parries Insults
– Shake-up — Again — in ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ Military Leadership?
– Ukrainian News Site Gordon Confirms More Russian Soldiers’ Deaths – and Military Presence in Ukraine
– Russians Satirize Rosneft’s Sechin and Yevtushenkov Arrest
– Russian and Ukrainian Analysts Theorize on Arrest of Oligarch Yevtushenkov
– Russian Billionaire Arrested on Money-Laundering Charges
– New ‘Novorossiya’ General Korsun Vows to Install Harsh Soviet-like System
– Rights or Revanchism? Russian Human Rights Commissioner Blasts Ukraine, Baltic States
– TV Rain’s Chief Producer Assaulted in Moscow
– In Moscow City Legislature Race, United Russia Leads with Close Vote Between Independent and Nationalist
– Low Turnout in Moscow Municipal Elections, Difficulties for Opposition Candidates
– Gay Tango Instructor Found Murdered in St. Petersburg
– Leading Russian Human Rights Group Declared ‘Foreign Agent’
– ‘There Are Things More Important Than the Stock Market’
– Putin Lights Candles in Church ‘For Those Who Gave Their Lives to Novorossiya’
– Consumer Agency Opens Up 80 More Cases Against McDonald’s Restaurants
– Opposition Gearing Up for Peace March, but Polls Show Apathy about Protest
– Russian Parliamentarian Calls on Gazprom to Halt Deliveries to Europe
– Russian Journalist Describes Detention, Torture of Detainees By Russian-Backed Separatists
– Moscow Court Overturns Decision for Election-Monitoring Group Golos to Register as ‘Foreign Agent’
– Moscow Legislator Calls for Ban on Apple Even as Russian Tech Blogger Previews iPhone 6
– Anti-War Picket in Nizhny Novgorod
– First Russian State TV Show about Paratroopers Killed in Ukraine, Packaged with Lies
– Local Russian Media Report More Paratroopers’ Deaths in Combat in Ukraine
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OVDinfo.org has reports on those arrested today in St. Petersburg at the unauthorized Peace March.
One man was detained for not showing his passport on demand, but only a
copy. He had a poster that said “Try Volunteers from Novorossiya as
Under Russian law, serving as a mercenary is in fact
illegal, and in principle the ‘Novorossiya’ volunteers could be arrested. Art. 359 of the Russian Criminal code bars “recruitment,
training, financing or other material support of a mercenary, and also
his use in armed conflict or military actions” and is punishable by 4-8
years of prison.
Six others have been brought to the 28th Precinct in St. Petersburg.
Two took part in the peace march; they are Igor Andreyev (charged with trespassing on a lawn) and Aleksandr Mashanov (charged with “petty hooliganism” for swearing). Three pro-war provocateurs were also charged with “petty hooliganism.” A girl whose name was only given as “Inna” and whose affiliation was unknown was released from the precinct without charge.
The organizer of the Peace March in Yekaterinburg, Irina Skachkova, was detained and brought to the 5th precinct right from the rally on Oborona [Defense] Square. Police claim Skachkova had earlier committed an administrative infraction for “not appearing on time at the police station to fill out an administrative report.” After completing the report, Skachkova returned to the rally.
A man named Artyom Kosaretsky was detained by police in Barnaul for holding a one-man anti-war picket. Some unknown persons ripped the poster out of his hands and informed on him to the police.
Another man standing neraby, Viktor Rau, a member of the Public Observers Commission, was also detained.
Moscow times reports a number of other demonstrations:
Activists in more than 30 cities around the world, including Kiev, St.
Petersburg, Paris and New York, also staged protests against the Russian
government’s approach to the crisis in Ukraine on Sunday, coinciding
with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace. Similar protests
in the Russian cities of Saratov, Perm, Petrozavodsk, Syktyvkar, Barnaul
and Yekaterinburg each attracted dozens of protesters, Gazeta.ru
The Peace March in Moscow has finished, with organizers estimating 26,000 people participating. Marches also took place in other Russian cities.
Translation: @SvobodaRadio According to the data from @sonar_russia, 26,000 people passed through the metal detectors.
SONAR is an election-monitoring group.
The Moscow event generally took place peacefully, although there were
reports of some clashes between anti-war marchers and
counter-demonstrators from ultranationalist groups who came to harass
In Moscow, at least one person was detained by police and taken
away in a police van, and another detained briefly and released. There
are reports of more arrested in St. Petersburg, where demonstrators did
not have a permit.
Vadim Novikov was arrested along with two provocateurs who were
nearby. Novkov was released from a police van 5 minutes after his
detention, OVDInfo.org reported.
Translation: The Peace March has finished. People are dispersing.
Translation: Panorama view from a street-lamp.
Translation: Teacher today at the Peace March in Moscow.
Sign: “I don’t want to lie to my students.”
Translation: picket of supporters of Novorossiya against the opposition action Peace March. Photo by Maksim Blinov.
Translation: Peace March.
Banner: Crimea is Ukraine, Russian Federation is Occupier
A photo from before the march:
Translation: RT @kesni_mk 4 hours, 30 minutes left until the Peace March. The creative class is breaking out in the center of town.
Peace marches were also held in a number of other Russian cities.
Translation: Nizhny Novgorod is with us.
Translation: the anarchists are cooking at the Peace March.
Translation: Organizer of Peace March: authorities did not permit some posters, we will appeal in court.
banner was prohibited that said “War with Ukraine is a Disgrace and a
Crime of Russia”. All of the agitational materials of the organizations
were subject to censorship.
Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov says “tens of thousands” are taking part in the Peace March in Moscow now.
The banner says “Putin Stop Lying and Fighting.”
Nemtsov said in a post on Facebook that he went to the march with Mikhail Kasyanov, former Russian prime minister in the Yeltsin administration.
“People are chanting ‘Ukraine – Peace, Propaganda in the Trash!’ and flags saying ‘Putin – Trial in the Hague!’ and ‘Ukraine -Peace, Russia – Freedom!”
AP reporters estimated 10,000, others more:
Actually, AFP reported back in March that 50,000 had turned out to protest the annexation of the Crimea.
But that estimate seemed generous — there were visible at least several tens of thousands, however.
The rally against the re-election of Putin, which many viewed as fraudulent, was said to attract anywhere from 25,000 (police) to 50,000 (organizers) in December 2011.
The number of people diminished as protests continued to be held in subsequent years after authorities arrested and sentenced to heavy prison terms a number of organizers and participants in what was called the “Bolotnaya Case,” named for the square where they held the rally.
Journalist Masha Slonim told TV Rain she said she believed there was a higher turnout than in March. She was surprised there were as many because of the disinformation campaign against the march, where numerous reports of its cancellation were planted in state media and social media.
Western reporters are saying “thousands” have turned out for the peace march in Moscow and the organizers are saying “tens of thousands” — thousands are clearly visible in pictures from the march in Moscow, and there are still people joining the march more than an hour after it begun.
Reporter Yevgeny Feldman has estimated “30,000” – which is less than the 50,000 reported by AFP in March when Russia forcibly annexed the Crimea.
They have faced long lines at a police checkpoint with metal detectors at the assembly area on Pushkin Square.
The false news that the march was cancelled was still circulating in some cities.
Translation: The Peace March in Moscow was cancelled in connection with a lack of turnout.
Translation: Party of Progress at the Peace March.
Translation: there are a loooot of people at the Peace March.
In St. Petersburg, despite lack of a permit, 5,000 were reported to turn out, although there were reports of some arrests.
Translation: I am proud of our city! We are against the war!
Translation: And the main thing — the Peace March in St. Petersburg was not approved, but 5,000 people were not afraid of coming out.
As the coffins of Russian soldiers killed in the war continue to
return to Russia, despite efforts to stop independent press reports,
anti-war sentiment has increased.
Translation: There were those who were for the war at the Peace March. This same flag was on the zinc coffin in which we buried Vova Komynin the other day.
The Twitter account @marshmira which means “Peace March” in Russian is the account for the demonstration today in Moscow.
Here’s a translation of some of the tweets by The Interpreter
Translation: Anton Nosik and his yarmulke.
Nossik is a popular blogger and founder of web sites who has written frequently about the danger to the Russian Internet from state censors.
Translation: Sretensky Boulevard.
Translation: Rozhdestvensky Blvd. They are chanting: “The Junta’s in the Kremlin! Brothers are in Kiev!”
Translation: Muscovites speak out.
Signs: “Hitler Kaput” “Mad Vova Lie War” “Someone Wants Everything to Be Like North Korea Faster”
Translation: Peace March – at the March
Translation: Bol’shaya Lubyanka Street.
Translation: Muscovites speak out.
Sign: “If we’re the Fifth Column, then you’re the Sixth Ward.”
The opposition is repeatedly called the “fifth column” (traitors) by the state media and ultranationalist blogs. The term was taken from the Spanish Civil War.
“Ward No. 6” is a well-known short story by Russian writer Anton Chekhov about an insane asylum.
Anatoly Ignatyev, a marcher in the Peace March in Moscow was arrested after an unknown assailant attacked him, OVDInfo.org, the police monitoring group reported. Ignatyev says he was marching along Petrovka Street with a rainbow flag in the feminist column when he was attacked, and he was arrested along with his attacker.
He has been taken behind the police line and his current whereabouts are not known.
Follow @ovdinfo for more information (in Russian).
Translation: Peace March participant detained.
There are some reports of “a thousand” arrests in St. Petersburg, where a peace march also got under way today but without a permit, unlike the action in Moscow.
We are waiting to get more information on the arrests.
The live feed is continuing to show hundreds of people marching along the Neva River peacefully with balloons, although a lot of police vans and cars have also pulled up on the river embankment.
A Facebook group to support the march in St. Petersburg has been formed.
The live feed for the march in St. Petersburg is here.
The Peace March organized by the opposition in Moscow continues to draw participants; the march got started at 16:00 Moscow time.
Despite hecklers an anti-protesters from ultranationalist groups supporting the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, thousands have continued to peacefully assemble.
Western reporters say thousands have turned out, and a crowd is backed up at the metal detectors through which demonstrators must past before joining the parade.
The route is from Pushkin Square to Sakharov Avenue.
A live feed can be seen here:
Another feed can be seen here:
Marchers in Moscow protesting against the war in Ukraine are chanting
“No to War!” but counter-demonstrators are shouting “Russia!” and
“Crimea is Ours!” and “Poroshenko is a Cannibal!”
allowed groups of “Novorossiya” protesters supporting Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine who are opposed to the peace march
through metal detectors placed at the beginning of the march on Pushkin
A large banner saying “March of Traitors” has been
hung on a building along the peace march route, showing portraits of
Andrei Makarevich, the rock musician of the veteran band Mashina Vremeni
(Time Machine), who has been vilified by the state media for his
statements against the war in Ukraine and for staging a concert in
Ukraine. Others in the poster include poet Dmitry Bykov, who has been
among past protester leaders.
say about 10,000 to 15,000 have already set off on the march, and
thousands more are still waiting in the line at the metal detectors.
number of slogans for the march, including “No to Fascism in the
Kremlin” were not approved by authorities in the mayor’s office,
although lawyers say that even under Russian law, officials are not
supposed to clear the text of posters.
Organizers are discussing now whether to ask police to prevent large numbers
of hecklers with flags from the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s
entering the metal detectors at the entrance of the march. They are from pro-separatist ultranationalist groups who have come in
large numbers to interfere with the peace march.
The OMON [riot police] have been deployed in large numbers.
Ilya Yashin, head of the RPR-PARNAS
(Republican Party of Russia/People’s Freedom Party) said that
pro-separatist marchers should be allowed to join the march as the
opposition has been open to debate, but they should not be allowed to interfere with the procession or use
Asked by TV Rain about his opinion of the Minsk agreement that
brought a ceasefire and ultimately a demilitarization zone, he said “A
bad peace is better than a bad war.”
The marchers have been denounced by pro-Kremlin political figures and commentators, and accused of treason:
Translation: If the Peace March does not appreciate the
role of the USA, the coup d’etat, the ATO and does not mention the
crimes of the National Guards and battalions, it is not worth a penny.
Ultranationalists and pro-Kremlin commentators have reiterated the
false themes that the United States is behind the Russian opposition as
well as protests on Maidan, often citing a fake meme that the US pumped
“$5 billion” into anti-government protesters, although this is the figure for 20 years of US support of Ukraine, including under the administration of deposed president Viktor Yanukovich.
They also believe that a “coup” was staged to remove Yanukovych,
although he himself fled Kiev after his ordering of violence against
demonstrators and considerable corruption were uncovered by the
The anti-peace marchers also believe that the opposition should
take up the human rights violations of the Ukrainian government itself
in its “anti-terrorist operation” (ATO), which has involved the shelling
of cities where Russian-backed separatists have taken over with armed
force, committing numerous atrocities along the way as the UN has
documented, which overshadow those committed by Ukrainian
Russian opposition groups started a peace march today at 16:00 Moscow time (GMT+4).
Thousands of people have gathered with anti-war signs and Ukrainian flags to protest Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Banner: Together Against the War
The banner is from the Party of Progress, headed by Aleksey Navalny, who is under house arrest and unable to participate in the march under the terms of his parole in various criminal cases fabricated by authorities to prevent his anti-corruption activity.
The live feed for the march can be seen here:
The hash tags in Russian are: #МаршМира #НетВойне
Translation: “Peace March” and “No to War”.
Marches are taking place in Moscow and other Russian cities such as St. Petersburg.
Translation: St. Petersburg
Counter-demonstrators from ultranationalist groups who support the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the Russian-backed separatists in southeastern Ukraine are already harassing peace marchers.
Translation: observers see in the area of the Pushkin Movie Theater a group with DPR flags, the People’s Militia of Donbas and Limonka [followers of Eduard Limonov], about 30-40 people.
Translation: Kirill Frolov has caught up with the DPR.
Translation: The DPR-ites are stamping on and tearing the Ukrainian flag, have poured “blood” over it.
On Twitter there are counter-marchers, too:
Translation: a lot of people with Ukrainian flags are being met by girls with wreaths and ribbons.
On Friday 19 September, a disinformation campaign was unleashed against the march, where some media claimed it was cancelled due to a lack of permit, and this false story was repeated by top Kremlin web propagandists.
But in fact the march is authorized by the mayor’s office and organizers worked to dispel the rumors.
The Peace March, scheduled for 16:00 through 18:00 today, 21 September has
been organized by the following Russian opposition groups: Solidarity, RPR Parnas [Republican Party of
Russia/People’s Freedom Party], Party of Progress, Yabloko, 5 December
Party, Libertarian Party of Russia, Demvybor [Democratic Election] and
also a number of civic groups. Public figures who have announced their
participation include Leonid Parfyonov, Oleg Basilashvili, Yury Ryzhov,
Lev Rubinshtein, and Ludmila Ulitskaya.
Russian oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov, owner of Sistema, was temporarily released from house arrest on Friday, gazeta.ru reported this evening Moscow time. [Update: this news was later refuted by other Russian media on the basis of Yevtushenkov’s own statements–The Interpreter.]
Photo by Aleksei Topalov/ITAR-TASS
But then he was put back under house arrest again until next week when a court will determine his measures of restraint. Lawyers say that the best option for the government is to demand a bail, based on a similar case involving the company Uralkaliya.
Aleksandr Shokhin, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs said the appeal by Yevtushenkov’s lawyers will be reviewed 24 September.
Yevtushenkov was arrested 16 September on charges of money-laundering related to the purchase of Bashneft, the oil company in Bashkortostan, a subject of the Russian Federation. He faces up to 7 years of prison if found guilty.
Igor Trunov, head of the Russian Union of Attorneys said either Yevtushenkov ‘s lawyer or the investigator of his case could ask for house arrest; he says that the government would prefer to use more liberal measures of detention.
Trunov said that while a pledge not to leave town or obligation to appear in court could be signed, the government would prefer a large bail amount.
“If we’re talking about the bail amount, it could proceed from the
judicial practice of the Uralkaliya case, when Vladislav Baumgertner,
head of the company was released on 15 million rubles’ [$390,263] bail.
This is a precedent, that’s the sum that could be a starting point.”
Earlier sources close to Sistema told gazeta.ru that Yevtushenkov was released, but then Yevtushenkov himself could not confirm his release. Then there were conflicting wire reports, and the Basmanny Court itself said it had not released him, but that investigators themselves could have made a decision to release Yevtushenkov temporarily to go to his office.
Yevtushenkov’s case has been compared to the YUKOS affair when businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested. Khodorkovsky himself said he believed Putin’s close business associate Igor Sechin was behind the arrest.
(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for Modern
Russia, whose president is Pavel Khodorkovsky, son of Mikhail
Sberbank’s German Gref said today that he viewed Yevtushenkov’s arrest as a “personal tragedy,” gazeta.ru reported.
“This has a negative effect on the business climate,” Gref emphasized.
Former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin protested the arrest saying that the purchase of Bashneft was approved at all levels of the government. “The investigation of this case provokes major questions,” said Kudrin.
Sistema’s stock fell by 36% on the Moscow stock market, from 36.55 rubles to 23.27 rubles a share, with a capitalization lost of about 128 billion rubles [$3.3 billion]. Stocks rose again at the news of Yevtushenkov’s release closing at 23.42 on Friday.
As we reported on our Ukraine LiveBlog, despite
earlier press reports that appear to have been part of a disinformation
campaign, the Russian opposition’s Peace March is approved and will
Pyotr Tsarkov, co-chair of the Solidarity movement told Afisha, a
popular Russian news and entertainment site.
The Kremlin’s top web propagandist Konstantin Rykov spread the false news, trying to discourage people from attending and ridiculing the marchers as wearing ribbons in the Ukrainian flag colors and “getting cookies.”
This is based on a famous Russian propaganda meme of Assistant State Department Victoria Nuland supposedly handing out cookies to Maidan demonstrators in Kiev in December 2013. Some extremist US sites have called this matzo in an antisemitic slur, but what Nuland actually distributed were rolls of bread.
Translation: Moscow Mayor’s office has not approved the Peace March in support of the war in Ukraine.
But organizers, who were in meetings at the mayor’s office, discounted the report.
Translation: Peace March will take place! Definitely come, there have to be a lot of us!
Translation: Despite press reports, the Peace March will take place. Afisha apologizes.
The Peace March is approved and will take place, Pyotr Tsarkov, co-chair of the Solidarity movement told Gorod [City], the city news section of Afisha, a popular Russian news and entertainment site.
Tsarkov posted a picture of the march’s permit on Twitter this evening, Moscow time:
Translation: 21 September is the Peace March. The prccession will go along avenues from Pushkin Squre to Sakharov Avevenue. Start is at 16:00. The action is approved.
Gorod, one of the highest-traffic web sites in Moscow, had earlier published news, based on a reports in Versiya [Version] citing an unnamed source in the mayor’s office, that the march wasn’t authorized. As Gorod reported, citing Tsarkov:
“We ourselves learned from the media that the march was supposedly cancelled. We have been very closely communicating with the mayor’s office this entire time, and if somebody had decided to cancel the march, they would have informed us. This morning together with the traffic police we went over the route of the rally to ensure safety, and coordinated all the details, said Tsarkov.”
Gorod apologizes for the dissemination for incorrect information.
Meanwhile, Moscow officials have inspected an ad on a billboard in the Moscow metro and found it illegal, says the Moskva ad agency, citing Vasily Oleynik, first deputy of the Moscow department of regional security.
At the Okhotny Ryad metro station, a video ad began running Friday September 19 calling on people to take part in this Sunday’s Peace March, Ekho Moskvy reported.
“We will find out who placed the information in this form, who signed a contract for advertising,” said Oleynik.
Sergei Davidis, one of the march’s organizers said organizers had paid money for the ad and it was legal.
Translation: Route of All-Russian Peace March in Moscow.
The marchers are calling for settlement of the conflict in Ukraine.
“Russian soldiers are dying on Ukrainian soil and winding up as POWs;
this is a direct, uncamouflaged military invasion which has no
justification,” says the march’s call on Facebook.
The Peace March, scheduled for 16:00 through 18:00 on 21 September has
been organized by Solidarity, RPR Parnas [Republican Party of
Russia/People’s Freedom Party], Party of Progress, Yabloko, 5 December
Party, Libertarian Party of Russia, Demvybor [Democratic Election] and
also a number of civic groups. Public figures who have announced their
participation include Leonid Parfyonov, Oleg Basilashvili, Yury Ryzhov,
Lev Rubinshtein, and Ludmila Ulitskaya.
An article in the independent publication Vedomosti about plans to implement an “Internet kill switch” has put some Russians fearing an Internet crackdown into a panic.
Translation: The Constitutional Court has turned into a total disgrace.
The link is to an article on how the Constitutional Court refused to hear the case of Vladimir Kharitonov, director of the Association of Internet Publishers, filing a complaint on a recent Internet law on blacklists of web sites which enables Roskomnadzor, the state censor, to limit access to IP addresses.
Next week several events will take place with high-ranking Russian officials devoted to how Russia’s segment of the web will work “in extreme situations,” says Vedomosti.
Several Internet companies, NGOs, and communications operators have told Vedomosti of the meetings, including one next Monday, 22 September where President Vladimir Putin is expected.
Ministry of Communications officials will report to the president how tests went in July for coping with prevention of hostile “targeted assaults” against the Russian Internet. Igor Shchegolev, the presidential aide in charge of “information security” may speak, said a Vedomosti source.
Possibly a procedure to shut Russia off from the global Internet may be put in place, say officials.
We note that the question of whether to turn of cell phones and Internet connections have arisen in the West, for example in 2010, when riots in London led to deaths, injuries, and destruction of property. Prime Minister David Cameron contemplated at the time whether he should have ordered Blackberry, a popular texting system, to shut off in certain neighborhoods to prevent looters and violent assailants from coordinating criminal actions.
The issue also arose in 2011 in San Francisco with the BART transportation system, when rioters protesting a police killing stopped traffic and managers shut off cell phone service in the area to prevent further coordination of unrest.
In the Russian context, the concern is that Putin — who doesn’t need examples from the West, good or bad, to pursue his authoritarian policies — will incite hypothetical claims of “mass unrest” to shut down cell and Internet communications that would help with organizing even peaceful rallies that have been given permits, such as one planned this Sunday 21 September to protest the war in Ukraine. Says Vedomosti (translation by The Interpreter)
There is no question of turning off access to the international network permanently, emphasize the officers of a major communications operator and non-commercial organization. But Russian operators must be able to set the equipment such that in the case of an emergency situation, the Russian Internet can be efficiently turned off from the global Internet. An emergency situation can be considered both military actions, for example, serious protest demonstrations inside the country, believes one of Vedomosti’s sources. He recalls that in 2011 during the unrest in Egypt, local authorities shut off the Internet and cell communications throughout the whole country.
The world protested vigorously, seeing it as an obstacle to democracy.
Another idea to be discussed will be handing over to the government the functions of administrating domain names, which currently is managed by the Coordinating Center for National Internet Domain. The Federal Agency for Communications (Rossvyas’), subordinate to the Ministry of Communications, would likely take over.
The Russian Security Council will convene 22 September to discuss the Internet issues. They plan not to isolate the Runet, as it is called, from the rest of the world, says Vedomosti, but protect against an action they see as possibly coming from the US, when it would decide to shut Russia off from the system of IP addresses. No such plans in the US are known.
Russians would like the ability to withdraw from the international system of domain names, which they see as dominated by the US, and make “mirrors” that could divert user requests to certain IP addresses to specific domain names in the event the Runet is shut off from the global system. This is all consistent with a notion of a “sovereign Internet” which Putin has promoted for years.
Dmitry Marinichev, the Internet ombudsman, says that completely shutting the Runet off from the global Internet is difficult, as from the outset the Runet differed from the Chinese model and had more integration with the outside world. Many Russian operators are not hooked up to Russian traffic exchange hubs and exchange, for example, through Western Europe,” says Marinichev. Many sites are also hosted abroad.
Natalya Timakova, press secretary of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had no comment; nor did the Ministry of Communications, Rostelekom and the domain and other computer network operators. The FSB also had no comment, said Vedomosti.
Anton Nossik, a popular blogger who was involved in the creation of many Russian Internet websites, also had a dire warning in a blog post on Ekho Moskvy:
Technically, no problem exists, don’t believe the experts who claim that this is insanely difficult, that you’d need hundreds of millions to invest in additional filtration equipment, and a bunch of months to install it. In fact, all the trunk lines connecting Russia with the outside world are the property of communications operators operating under license from the Ministry of Communications.
The violation of the terms of the license entails a recall of the license, and it is a criminal offense to provide access to the Internet without a license, punishable under Art. 171 of the RF Criminal Code. So absolutely any Russian Internet provider who receives from the Ministry of Communications an order to shut off this or that channel will fulfill it within minutes, simply so as not to lose his license. Moreover, there is absolutely no need to cut off the cable of each Russian provider — it’s enough to give the instruction to a dozen federal operators. Egyptian President Mubarak handled the task of turning off the Internet throughout the country in one day, and his Syrian colleague also, I recall, didn’t do so badly, as breaking is not building and it’s not clever to do a stupid thing.
So it’s just a question of one thing: political will.
The new American envoy to Moscow Amb. John Tefft is already making a splash in Moscow, and earning begrudging respect from hardline Russian nationalist publications and bloggers.
Even before Tefft was formally nominated by President Barack Obama to replace Amb. Michael McFaul, who left Moscow in February, the pro-Kremlin propaganda mills began cranking up the volume, recycling the “cookies” meme which became popular when Assistant Secretary of State Department Victoria Nuland handed out cookies to demonstrators during Ukraine’s protests on the Maidan.
By the way, whenever we see the “cookies meme,” we pull out this reference to “cookies for the militia” — the Buk from Russia.
Translation: Kupol Anti-Aircraft weapon – detection
radius 150 km. ZRK Buk – target kill radius 20 km. Some excellent
cookies have appeared with the militiamen for the Ukrainian Air Force.
Amb. Tefft held his first reception at the US Embassy in Moscow this week, and was handed a cartoon of himself made by RIA Novosti artist Vitaly Podvitsky, RIA Novosti reported.
Translation: The new USA ambassador to the RF was handed a cartoon of himself from the ria.ru site.
The Soviet-style cartoon shows Tefft starting on a path in 1991 called “collapse of the USSR” with a suitcase of dollars and spy apparatus, walking from Latvia in 2004, where neo-Nazis are shown with the word “NATO,” to the Orange Revolution period of Ukraine in 2004-2005 with the phrase “color revolutions”, to Georgia in 2008 with the word “war,” where President Saakashvili is shown as the war-monger with tanks to Ukraine in 2013 with EuroMaidan and the phrase “regime change” and a bloody “EuroMaidan” with an armed demonstrator in rubble and a pool of blood, finally reaching Moscow where he is “shown the fig,” a rude gesture which in Russian as in other countries means “screw you”.
Amb. Tefft immediately turned the lemon into lemonade.
“When I studied at Georgetown University, I wrote a paper on the political caricature of Honor Daumier, who was a great French artist and carcicaturist. Caricature is very dear to me and I appreciate how you have portrayed me,” Tefft told RIA Novosti.
A nationalist news site covered the reception, which featured liberal opposition and civic figures as well as nationalists and hardliners, with the headline “Clever Tefft: Meeting of ‘Civic Figures’ Instead of Hang-out with ‘Fifth Column.'”
The Kremlin and its cheerleaders were always incensed that McFaul met with critics of the regime, but they exaggerated the number of meetings, made them seem sinister when they were not, and failed to mention other meetings he had that would balance this picture.
Ruposters.ru contrasted McFaul, who was believed to “only invite representatives of the Moscow liberal opposition” to the US Embassy — itself a caricature, which came about because of McFaul’s first meetings in Moscow.
Among the people invited were liberals like Mikhail Prokhorov, Irina Yasina, Gennady Gudkov, Andrei Makarevich, Grigory Melkonyants and other “permanent visitors” as the site called them but others they described as “neutral” — although “conservative or “hardliner” might be the more appropriate expression.
These included Sergei Markov, formerly of the Carnegie Moscow Centre of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former State Duma deputy, now at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) and political analyst Dmitry Orlov.
Markov, a former co-author with McFaul (The Troubled Birth of Russian Democracy: Parties, Personalities, and Programs (Hoover Institution Press, 1993) became a Putin loyalist.
Pictures of Markov, Melkonyants and others arriving at the US
Embassy visible earlier today have been removed from Ruposters.ru and
are not in caches.
Prokhorov, a billionaire and owner of the Brooklyn Nets, once a rival presidential candidate to Putin, has muted his criticism in the last year and heeded Putin’s call to register his businesses in Russia and pay Russian taxes. But he declined to take an “ice bucket challenge” from the notorious ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
Makarevich, the front man for the veteran rock band Mashina Vremeni, has been the target of a massive witch hunt on state TV for his criticism of the war against Ukraine. A concert scheduled in Novosibirsk this week was cancelled.
Melkonyants, deputy director of Golos, an election-monitoring
group, was for a long time the Russian government’s poster boy for an
“NGO sponsored by Hillary Clinton” because of a grant from the National
Endowment from Democracy. But recently after intercession from Human
Rights Ombudsperson Ella Pamfilova, a court ruled that the designation of his group as a “foreign agent” should not apply. The designation remains on the web site of the Ministry of Justice to date, however.
“It’s clear that Tefft will try to cause the Russian authorities
much more problems than his predecessor McFaul. And he will operate just
as he did with the reception in the Embassy — more subtly, cleverly,
and more effectively,” said Ruposters.ru.
Translation: Today USA Amb. John Tefft was at the opening of a film festival.
The conspiracy theories are likely to continue regardless of what the ambassador does.
Translation: USA Amb. to RF Tefft first day at work. The director of the Russian propaganda LifeNews has been fired. Coincidence?
LifeNews, a sensationalist news agency close to Russian law-enforcement and intelligence, indeed made some leadership changes recently, but it had nothing to do with Tefft. Ashot Gabrelyanov, former director of LifeNews, the son of Aram Gabrelyanov, founder of News Media, the holding company of LifeNews, announced he was leaving the company to start a new video service called Babo. This hardly seemed to be any “firing” but in fact was likely a move to compete with RT.com, which started the video service Ruptly.
Unlike his predecessor, Amb. Tefft will not use Twitter, the Washington Post reported.
NTV evidently has decided to behave with the new ambassador and his contacts the way it did with Amb. McFaul.
NTV already has a nasty broadcast singling out for harassment Makarevich, calling him “a great friend of the [Ukrainian] junta,” and other visitors. NTV claimed that the opposition was “drawn” to “bowing before” the US Embassy, and claimed that the people at the reception were “those repeatedly found in mass disorders” — which is untrue, as these people who attended were not even accused falsely under over-broad Russian law of any “mass unrest.”
The broadcast also claimed falsely, as a scene of Makarevich entering the Embassy appeared on screen, that these people were there to “organize funding for the Peace March” scheduled for 21 September. The march, planned some weeks ago, is not funded by the US.
NTV also focused on Melkoyants, accusing his organization of receiving US funding, although he no longer receives such grants — and when he did, they were used for lawful purposes and he has not been found guilty of any crime even under Russian law.
Gennady Gudkov, a leftist opposition leader who has been involved in the Coordinating Council of opposition rallies that in fact had permission to assemble, remarked to NTV that the new ambassador hoped the representatives of civil society would help to “stabilize US relations with Russia.”
NTV claimed falsely that Amb. Tefft was a “coordinator of color revolutions in the post-Soviet space” and was involved in Sunday’s planned peace march.
Dmitry Zemin, founder of Vympel, the telecommunications company, and a philanthropist who founded the Dynasty Foundation, was also singled out as a “far from not rich” person, and his son mentioned as a funder of anti-corruption blogger Aleksei Navalny. Zemin was also charged with “deciding to fund the opposition.”
Asked about his impression of the new ambassador, Zemin said he had only just started; “He seems nice; he loves jazz, by the way.”
NTV concluded with footage of Zemin accompanying opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Kasyanov on a visit to the offices of Ludmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, in a typical example of how they hound critics of the regime, even putting their meetings under surveillance. Zemin, here, too was accused of funding the Peace March, “making an offer that couldn’t be refused,” and supporting an “expensive event,” but first “getting guarantees” and supposedly gaining from Alexeyeva’s connections abroad.
Asked by the aggressive camera crew what he was doing at Alexeyeva’s office, he said “I have no idea. She asked me to help with some medical care.”
Kasyanov, asked if the Peace March was “an attempt to organize a new Bolotnaya, a coup” simply declined to answer.
The Kremlin propaganda channel deliberately left out of its broadcast the fact that nationalists and conservatives supportive of Putin were also invited to the reception.
Judging from a flurry of tweets and news in the pro-separatist press
in the last day, there is another shake-up going on in the “Donetsk
On 16 September we reported the news that the DPR and its twin
“Lugansk People’s Republic” had supposedly formed a join “United Army of
Novorissya.” It was not clear how such a formation would fit under the
new Ukrainian special status law for certain districts of Lugansk and
Donetsk regions, as that law specifies the establishment of “militias” or
police, but not an army.
Of course that hasn’t stopped the “militia” from continuing to
shoot off heavy artillery, for example in Stakhanov, which supposedly
broke off into its own “people’s republic.”
This morning 19 September, news was circulated that Igor Bezler,
known as “Bes” or “Demon,” had arrested Gen. Ivan Korsun, who had been
made commander-in-chief of the “United Army of Novorossiya” with a
document that had contained Bezler’s own signature among five commanders
of the DPR and LPR.
Translation: A little humor to start the morning: Bezler
has arrested the ‘commander-in-chief of the army of Novorissya” says
Sergei Petrovsky, “deputy minister of defense of the DPR for
But another report discounted this news:
Translation: “Santa-Barbara” DNR-style. Igor Bezler did not detain
Korsun. At the present time, Korsun is holding negotiations with field
commanders of the LPR and DPR.
This account is not related to Col. Igor Strelkov,
whose real name is Girkin, but is a fan account related to the separatists.
Bezler has recently been given a promotion within the ranks of the DPR.
Translation: Bezler has been made “DPR major-general”.
Translation: Major-General Igor Nikolayevicn Bezler #EuroMaidan #AntiMaidan #Novorossiya #Ukraine #ATO.
Translation: There is a coup among the terrorists. Gen. Korsun, has become the Defense Minister of ‘Novorossiya’ and his deputy is “Bes” [Demon] Bezler.
been a lot of speculation about what Bezler has been up to since the
flight from Slavyansk 5 July and the re-grouping of the Russian-backed
militants in Donetsk and other towns. According to some reports he went
The independent Russian news site Grani ru (blocked by the Russian censor and using mirror sites) reports, citing Aleksandr Briginets of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada, that Bezler fled his stronghold in Gorlovka. Timur Olevskiy, a correspondent from TV Rain said he was rumored to be in Russia, and that another person was put in his place, with the nom de guerre Botsman, with means “Boatswain” in Russian.
Zoryan Shkiryak, head of the Ukrainian Interior Ministery, said that
for nearly a week “Bezler has been in the building of the Main
Intelligence Director of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of
Russia,” i.e. the GRU or military intelligence. “We will see and hear
what his future destiny will be…very soon,” said Shkiryak.
Naturally, one wonders if it is the DPR that awarded Bezler his
promotion, or whether, if it is true he is in the GRU and visited the
GRU, that the GRU gave him the promotion.
Then there was no word for awhile and on 7 September, the pro-separatist site rusvesna.ru quoted Bezler as saying that “Ukraine had violated the ceasefire.”
Then DPR Today reported
his signature on the “United Army of Novorissiya” press story 16 September which
included an upload of the signed document — but these items have now
been removed from the site, although they can still be found in Google cache and we translated excerpts.
The pro-separatist site newsinmir.com explained yesterday 18 September that Bezler was “purging the ranks of the DPR”:
will recall that on 16 September, the creation of a United Armed Forces
of Novorossiya was announced. However, the event did not suit a large
number of commanders of the militia. They were outraged not by the fact
of the unification, but that it was done without holding a military
In that connection, it was not clear on what
basis the decision to appoint Korsun as commander was made. It is
necessary to note that Korsun has already won for himself ill fame long
ago. For example, at first, when he was in Kramatorsk, he announced that
he was a representative of the Russian GRU, but when people began to
take an interest in his figure, he suddenly left.
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) believes Bezler to be an intelligence officer in the Russian GRU and intercepted his conversation with other Russian-backed fighters involved in the downing of the MH17 flight.
Gordonua.com, an independent Russian-language site in Ukraine, has taken up the investigation of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine.
In a story published 6 September, Gordon noted reports from Ukraine’s Center for National Security and Defense that as many as 2,000 Russian soldiers could have been killed in Ukraine, and also claims by a Russian activist, Yelena Vasilyeva, at the time, of reports adding up to as many as 2,000 as well (later she increased this to 3,500). These high numbers really have no verification at this time.
But Gordon did follow up on the work begun by the independent Russian channel TV Rain, which verified cases of soldiers killed (24) or taken as POWs (10) in Ukraine. Gordon came up with a list of a total of 35 confirmed cases in 17 Russian cities, 12 of which did not overlap with TV Rain, and an additional 4 they were verifying, as well as reports of POWs and injured soldiers.
Grave site of Sergei Seleznyev, Russian soldier killed in Ukraine. Photo by progorod33.ru
TV Rain’s list here contains cases that were researched by independent newspapers Novaya Gazeta, Slon, and Pskovskaya Guberniya — but their journalists were repeatedly physically attacked. Most recently Lev Shlosberg, a local legislator who is the director of Pskovskaya Guberniya was assaulted and hospitalized with serious injuries. Ksenya Batanova, chief producer of TV Rain was also beaten and hospitalized, and a civic group that raised the cases, the Soldier’s Mothers of St. Petersburg, were slapped with the designation “foreign agent.”
Relatives who have tried to get answers from military officials have also been threatened with loss of pensions or subsidies for relatives of soldiers’ killed, and warned not to speak to the press.
17 Russian cities where Gordon was able to find confirmation of cases of soldiers killed in Ukraine.
BBC journalists were also beaten and had their equipment and tapes destroyed when they tried to follow up in Astrakhan on a case uncovered by Russian blogger Oleg Kashin — himself a victim of assault for his reporting some years ago who is forced to live abroad now.
With this amount of heavy violence and discouragement of Russian journalists and civic activists; threats to relatives if they speak to the press or protest publicly themselves; and stone-walling by Russian military officials, the work of a Kiev-based news site becomes all the more important, as they are able to work in the region but under relatively safer conditions.
In many of the cases, Gordon was able to call relatives or speak to local journalists who in turn had reached relatives and confirm the cases. They were also able to get testimonies from army buddies, documentation, and photos in some cases from social media pages of the soldiers — and most important, keep all this material on line, even as other Russian outlets had their pages blocked by censors.
Here are excerpts of some of their research, translated by The Interpreter.
In the case of Konstantin Kuzmin, a death certificate was obtained, although the text says merely that he died on 12 August “performing his military duty. Kashin cites Anatoly Salin, a military expert with the Astrakhan Committee of Soldier’s Mothers, who said Kuzmin was age 29, from the village of Ikryanoye Astrakhan Region, who had served in Shali. From fellow servicemen, he learned that commanders had interrupted Kuzmin’s vacation, and sent him to Rostov Region — from where he never returned.
Death certificate of Konstantin Kuzmin, via Oleg Kashin.
Kashin reported on 3 September that according to Salin, another soldier from Astrakhan, Ildar Maskutov, who had served in unit no. 41450 was transferred to Novoshakhtinsk, where he died from gunfire 28 July. Gordon confirmed from a friend that just as he had posted on his VK page, he had told his relatives that he was going to the Donbass.
Gordon also reiterated a story of another soldier covered by Kyiv Post from Novaya Gazeta’s account, that of Anton Tumanov that on 12 August, he was with a convoy of 1,200 men who fell under Grad fire near Snezhnoye and was killed 13 August; 120 were said to be killed and 450 wounded, his mother said later. Her son’s body, legless, was returned 20 August in a sealed coffin.
Here is the telegram received from the military board, which merely says Tumanov died “fulfilling his military duty.”
That account matches with a number of other, separate reports we have published of the “convoy of 1,200” from the Russian Federation here, here and here.
This story also matched the reporting of Yuriy Butusov of Censor.net who said that on 13 June, the 18th Motorized Rifle Brigade fired on a vegetable warehouse in Dobropole in Donetsk Region with Grad missiles. This was one of the earliest confirmations of the Russian Federation troop presence in Ukraine. Documents found on the battle field from army unit 27777 — the same one Tumanov was in — was confirmed by Information Resistance.
Photo by sprotyv.info showing manual with stamp from army unit 27777.
Dmitry Skvortsov, a Russian soldier who served in 76th Pskov Guards in Ukraine posted a picture on 1 September made in Vasilyevka in Amvrosievka District of Donetsk Region. He later deleted his account, now only in Google cache on 1 September, but the tell-tale picture is missing even from the cache. This is what makes trying to track such cases using only social media in such cases frustrating.
The Ukrainian photographer Vlad Sodel was able to get a screenshot which he published on his Facebook showing the geolocated Ukrainian city of Vasilyevka.
Such screenshots might still be discounted by skeptics as “photoshopped,” but we can see ourselves in another case, that of soldier Vladislav Viktorovich, that he has posted a photo with a geolocation of Krasnodon, which is a city in Lugansk Region, Ukraine. Here’s our screenshots:
The chat is also interesting as a friend asks, “Where is he going? He was just there,” and another friend replies “It’s a trade secret.”
Yet another soldier, Temur Isakov, uploaded a photo 2 September of a group of Russian Federation soldiers with whom he served next to a sign of a town in Ukraine, Chervonoselskoye (Chervonosil’ske in Ukrainian) in Amvrosievsky District of Donetsk Region.
When it got attention, he, too, deleted his account, although it remains in Google cache — with this picture.
Here’s our screenshot:
And here’s yet another photo of Russian soldiers in a Ukrainian town, Vasilyevka, which Vlad Sodel has published on his Facebook with a Google map.
All in all, this follow-up with relatives, local journalists, social media, and fellow servicemen, building on the work of Russian bloggers and journalists, has helped keep the record of the reality of the war in Ukraine denied by the Kremlin leadership: that Russian tanks and troopers have been deployed there for months, and Russian soldiers have died in battle on Ukrainian soil.
Russians have been putting out a number of memes on Twitter to satirize what they see as the involvement of Rosneft head Igor Sechin’s request for a bail-out from Western sanctions by raiding the state Fund for National Welfare — which is supposed to go to pensions.
And they’re also hinting at Sechin’s involvement in Yevtushenkov’s arrest on fraud charges regarding his acquisition of Bashneft, an oil company five years ago, because it is believed Sechin wants to acquire the company himself now.
Grigory Alburov, the head of the investigations department at Aleksey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund, was charged with “art theft” this week in a trumped-up criminal case for taking a street artist’s sketch and presenting the work to Navalny. The flimsy case, which involved pressuring the artist to press charges on Alburov which he later retracted, is seen as retaliation for Alburov’s anti-corruption work, and he says it is a badge of honor. He tweets about the planned bailout of Russian corporations hit by Western sanctions:
Translation: At the Ministry of Finance, they say they are sending the pension funds in particular to support major corporations.
Alburov then attaches a picture that is meant to look like the pleas for help sick children that Russian newspapers routinely run in the margins, seeking donations from readers. The diminuitive forms of the name “Igor” are used to convey sentimentality.
ATTENTION! HELP NEEDED!
This nice bright boy is named Igoryok, he
is only 53 years old. Igoryok needs help. He has a severe, possibly
hereditary disease — he has is totally f**ked.
If every one of us gives Igoryosha his salary, perhaps we can save him.
Translation: On Igor Sechin: The “Khodorkovsky” suit; make-up by Bashneft; interior design by Sistema.
Sistema is the company run by Yevtushenkov which had purchased the oil company Bashneft, which now the government claims was a swindle. Sechin is rumored to want to purchase Bashneft.
In this picture we see a famous scene from the American TV series “Breaking Bad,” showing Huell Babineaux, the bodyguard of Saul Goodman, who was the chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-dealer Walter White’s crooked lawyer. Huell is lying on the hidden stash of Walter’s drug business to guard it.
The reference to the “Khodorkovsky suit” implies a similarity in cases: Sechin was believed to be behind Khodorkovsky’s arrest, as he eventually acquired Yukos, just as he is now said to be getting Bashneft.
This account “Sandy Mustache” is a parody of Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for the presidential administration; Dmitry’s last name comes from the word “sand” in Russian.
Translation: Igor Ivanovich Sechin at a carnival in honor of the falling of the shares of Bashneft.
This is a parody account of the Russian Defense Ministry:
The arrest of Russian oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov continues to draw huge press coverage and discussion in Russia.
The Investigative Committee, Russia’s investigative agency for
high-profile crimes, placed the oligarch under house arrest with an electronic ankle bracelet pending investigation, saying he was involved in money-laundering
schemes involving oil assets in Bashkortostan. Sistema owns the Bashneft
Meanwhile, there was speculation that Igor Sechin, head of Rosneft, Putin’s lead ally in the military-industrial complex and negotiator with China on a major pipeline for Russia, had his eye on Bashneft and wanted to acquire it to solve his own company’s problems — that would explain a possible motivation for trumping up a criminal case against Yevtushenkov to get him out of the way. Sechin and Rosneft are under US and EU sanctions over Russia’s war on Ukraine, which has evidently caused some hardships.
The independent channel TV Rain has run a number of stories from economic and market experts.
Aleksandr Shokhin of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) says that Yevtushenkov bought Bashneft with Putin’s approval.
“Such deals do not go through without political approval. And I don’t understand why suddenly five years later it turns out this deal was illegal,” says Shokhin.
“Yevtushenkov claims that he acquired these shares lawfully. If a charge of unlawful privatization is made against him, that’s not a question for him. These questions should be asked of the Rakhimovs’ fund. In the case of Yevtushenkov, a private organization bought from another private organization. It’s inappropriate to speak of a discounted cost. Even if it turns out that Bashneft would have been valued at a higher price, we don’t have a procedure in this country that would enable someone to press charges of this sort under these articles. Then all of privatization would come under questioning in our country. That’s a complicated process.”
Shokhin said the move undermined trust in Russian business which worsened things, given existing sanctions and the poor climate for Western borrowing.
TV Rain also interviewed slon.ru’s economic correspondent Georgy Neyaskin regarding the prospects for Sechin getting 1.5 trillion rubles from the Fund for National Welfare to bail him out from the effects of Western sanctions on Rosneft.
Georgy Neyaskin said the lower limit of the request was 500 billion and upper limit 1.5 trillion, which would be nearly half of the fund’s existing balance, which he said was about 3.15 billion rubles.
This was disturbing, as the Fund for National Welfare was meant to balance the pension system and co-finance pensions of Russians, said Neyaskin, so it seemed the fund was going now to help oligarchs reduce their suffering from Western sanctions.
“This is half of all the money investment projects could expect in Russia from that source,” said Nyaskin.
At the end of March, there was enough money to cancel debts in Rosneft, but they needed money for investments, now that they cannot get it abroad due to sanctions. That is why they turned to the government for a handout.
“Everybody needs money, but Rosneft apparently gets most of the money,” commented Neyaskin.
He said many officials in ministries spoke out against lending such a large sum as the fund was not intended for this purpose.
Putin and Yevtoshenkov at the Kremlin in 2010.
Vedomosti columnist Andrei Kolesnikov posted an article, “Party of Evil Prevails and Picks up the Bucks,” which was even more sweeping in his indictment of Russia’s state oligarchic sytem:
Russia is a land of political surrogates. The system of division of powers in it was replaced at some point by two weights: the “party of bucks” and the “party of evil”. “Bucks beat evil” as a political formula was born in 1998 at the seminars of Club 2015 and entrepreneurs tried to forecast scenarios for their existence beyond 15 years. The worst scenario has been realized.
The encouraging formula of those years, according to which money, the market, correct commerce should soften political mores (from many thinkers from Montesquieu to Albert Hirschman) worked to a very small extent. In its place in 2003, after the defeat of liberals in parliamentary elections and the arrest of Khodorkovsky, someone put into circulation another formula: “Trash beats bucks.” But essentially, a certain fragile balance between the “party of bucks” and the “party of evil” was established.
The system of checks and balances, meanwhile, didn’t function on its own, but in the conditions of an institutional deficit, with a sole measuring device. We know it by its name, patronymic and last name. V.V. Putin worked the scales. In this system, those who believed that the market economy was capable of eliminating the aggression of the “party of evil,” with its state capitalistic interests, imagined themselves to be a serious political force, not united in a party and not represented in parliament, but capable of influencing the main political decisions.
Kolesnikov says that after the Bolotnaya Square anti-Putin demonstrations, there was a new formula: “Trash acquires bucks,” and political channels “worked only in one direction, from the top down, without feedback and the principle of “taxation without representation”.
The slogan for such an arrangement, says Kolesnikov, was “We give you the Crimea, and you support us in everything. And by the way, no one has cancelled tax payments.” Kolesnikov coins the word “propaganda-tainment” — a combination of entertainment and brain-washing — which prevails now. And the system of checks and balances has broken down.
He describes the Putin-managed economy now as like a Christmas tree:
“…a single vertical with a red star at the top and little televisions in the form of shiny bulbs. Only the market economy gives light. At any rate, until its resources are finished.”
Screengrab from TV Rain broadcast. Igor Sechin, center, after approval by the government of Rosneft’s investment program in August.
TV Rain cited Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who said that Rosneft needed Bashneft to fill a gap due to a fall in extraction, and was therefore the main force behind and the main beneficiary of the attack on Yevtushenkov and main beneficiary.
Mikhail Serov, Vedomosti‘s correspondent on industry said Rosneft did have a shortfall in extracts despite forecasts, and then had problems with supplying foreign contracts, i.e. delivery to China. And that’s why Rosneft needs more investment to do more drilling. Serov said Bashneft was doing well and had experienced growth recently. If the sanctions hadn’t occurred, and if Rosneft didn’t start having problems with investors and foreign partners and so on, then things would have been better. Said Serov:
“When an oligarch of such a level is put under house arrest, it’s not for no reason.”
But he declined to speculate whether Rosneft was behind Yevtushenko’s arrest.
Ukrainian journalist Vitaly Portnikov believes Yevtushenkov could be a “bridge” between Kontsantin Malofeyev, who sponsored the Russian-backed separatists in southeastern Ukraine, and ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, gordonua.com reported, citing liga.net.
“The arrest of one of the Russian oligarchs friendly to Yanukovich could mean that Putin has ceased to need the services of sponsors of the war in Donbass.”
Portnikov believes that Yevtushenko was a patron of Malofeyev’s, and served as a link between him and Yanukovych, who secured the funding and loyalty to Moscow of Donetsk power structures.
It would be interesting to find out more about how that worked, since the separatists have never seemed to embrace Yanukovych, and often speak of how they wish to remove oligarchs from their economy, openly speaking of nationalizing industry. Says Portnikov:
The wider public learned about Malofeyev only after the appearance on the map of Ukraine of Girkin’s fighters and the separatist boil. The media claimed that the “Orthodox Oligarch,” devoted to the idea of restoring the empire, generously finances the self-proclaimed republics and is the main sponsor of purchase of arms and payment of services of Russian “volunteers.” However Malofeyev is no oligarch, and moreover in Russia, businessmen of such a level are never independent figures — especially in contacts with the government.
The oligarch is Yevtushenkov. Furthermore, it is Yevtushenko and his friendly ties to the family of Yanukovych who could become a kind of bridge between Malofeyev and the former Ukrainian president, also providing the financing and loyalty of Moscow of the Donetsk security and government organizations. In this format, what was required from Malofeyev was rather operational funding rather than the role of inspirer of the project. In fact, I wouldn’t called Yevtushenkov the real inspirer either. The name of the real inspirer is also known — it’s Vladimir Putin.
The Investigative Committee, Russia’s investigative agency for high-profile crimes, says Yevtushenkov was involved in money-laundering schemes involving oil assets in Bashkortostan. Sistema owns the Bashneft oil company.
In June, Rosneft, which is now under US sanctions along with its head, Igor Sechin, considered buying Bashneft, but a Moscow court frozen Bashneft’s stock in the money-laundering probe, says AP.
Sechin is a powerful longtime ally of Putin, who was involved in negotiating the Chinese oil pipeline deal.
He is also seen as “the mastermind behind the 2003 arrest of Russia’s then richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky,” former head of Yukos, says AP. Many are finding this arrest to be analogous:
Even Alexander Shokhin, the head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Enterpreneurs who usually never crosses the Kremlin’s path, said that Yevtushenkov’s arrest “undoubtedly looks like Yukos No.2,” according to the Interfax news agency.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov quickly dismissed the analogy as “improper and unfounded,” Interfax reported.
Khodorkovsky, who was pardoned by Putin and released from prison in December and now lives in Europe, was interview by Vedomosti. The Interpreter has translated an excerpt:
I naturally do not possess any insider’s information but I personally have a complete understanding that this is all about Igor Ivanovich [Sechin] again, who in 11 years has not grown smarter at all, but perhaps has grown even greedier. He cannot stop himself from this greediness any more. He has a completely obvious problem — an oil company still and all has to be managed, and managed professionally.
But he is clearly not capable, in my opinion of managing professionally. And apparently he had the threat of a fall in profits. And the threat of a fall in profits has to be covered up. Covered up, naturally, not from the perspective of investors, that doesn’t interest him, but covered up in the eyes of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. And covering up Putin’s eyes is simple — you just have to show that the profit increased, and the fact that it increased at the expense of the addition of Bashneft, those are just details.
But as we know, Vladimir Yevtushenkov dug in his heels, he did not want to sell his property on the terms which apparently he was offered. Well, so it was decided to act in the long-known method. I think there’s nothing else here — it’s all very simple and understandable.
The only problem which really concerns me in this case as a citizen of Russia — well, naturally, besides the fact that in human terms I feel sorry for Vladimir, he is no longer a young man — is that I see in this the complete loss of governance on the part of the president who simply doesn’t see what is going on under his nose. I have no doubt that if he did see this, that he evaluated it inappropriately, given that he gave such a command and make such a decision. He is busy with other things. And that’s all very bad.
(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for Modern Russia, whose president is Pavel Khodorkovsky, son of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.)
The arrest has been discussed avidly on social media.
Translation: Vladimir Yevtushenkov lost about 60 billion rubles in 10 minutes.
This RT.com commentator believed the arrest was a great way to solve the challenge of losses over Western sanctions — and restore the kind of communism “Novorossiya” would like to re-enact.
Certain state press unchanged in its line since the Soviet era was taking a certain glee in the arrest:
Translation: An electronic bracelet was put on the oligarch Evtushenkov.
Translation: Experts: either Yevtushenkov will sell everything quickly or he will go the route of Khodorkovsky: Entrepreneurs and politicians are tense…
Translation: On the whole, Yevtushenko was always loyal. So what is this now, there are no guarantees at all if Sechin has his eye on a business?
Translation: the house arrest of Yevtushenkov is like the story of Serdyukov. Yevtushenko is not just an oligarch but a “man with connections.” It’s a question of loss of trust.
Serdyukov was the former defense minister caught in a corruption scandal.
The announcement of the new “United Army of Novorossiya” as we reported on our Ukrainian LiveBlog has prompted a lot of questions about who the new faces are and what has happened to some of the old faces in the Russian-backed insurgency in southeastern Ukraine, following a shaky ceasefire 5 September.
State border of Novorossiya. Photo via Slavyangrad.
Of the five commanders who signed the statement announcing the new army, two are known from the much-publicized story of the separatists’ Buk that shot down MH17 — Igor Bezler, commander of Gorlovka, who was heard on an intercept to discuss the downed plane soon after it crashed, and Aleksandr Khodakovsky, head of Vostok Battalion, who told Reuters that he had heard that a Buk was given to the “Lugansk People’s Republic.”
The other three are less known but come from the same milieu as other local and Russian commanders.
Aleksandr Milyushin appears to be one of the armed separatists who took over the Central Bank of Donetsk in June. A Marxist site with a lot of background information on the separatists claims he is a neo-Nazi and member of Ruskiy Obraz [Russian Image], a Russian-based ultranationalist group involved in violent attacks.
A statement said to be from Col. Igor Strelkov, the deposed military hero of Donetsk, has circulated on numerous pro-separatist blogs and forums, and is posted on the VKontakte group “Novorossiya Militia Dispatches” (formerly “Col. Strelkov’s Dispatches) under his name. It says the following (translation by The Interpreter):
“Look carefully at the signatures under the document. Bezler and Khodakovsky are on there (the rest I don’t know). So judging from everything, this commander-in-chief [Korsun] (I can’t say anything good or bad about him because he is completely unknown to me) will command only a group, “opposing” Zakharchenko, Kononov, and ‘Khmury” [Grumpy]…
On the face of it, it is an open schism between groups of ‘field commanders’ of Novorossiya which has come out in the public field. That is, it is everything which I had strove with all my efforts not to allow even through the most candid personal concessions. It is frustrating. Very frustrating! Today I saw Mozgovoy. I think he has the intelligence to stay on the side from all these internal settling of scores as he had managed to do earlier.”
Fyodor Berezin, a science-fiction writer and former deputy to Strelkov, has a video posted to Tomsk.fm commenting on the new unified army. He says that the unification was made because of lack of coordination on the front which was harming their cause;
“On the front with fascist Ukraine, various units on various fronts were acting in their own interests, not supporting each other or acting uncoordinated which very much interfered with our final victory and our offensive.”
There is a Lt. Gen. Ivan Korsun, formerly in the Interior Ministry and known to have cracked down on opposition deputies and journalists, but he has a different patronymic. The separatists have been known to change their patronymics, e.g. Strelkov uses “Ivanovich” and “Vsevolodovich” but it does not appear to be the Korsun of Cherkasy is the same person.
The new “United Army of Novorossiya” Gen. Korsun recently gave an interview to a local news site, news-portal.dn.ua from which we get a definite impression of a determined hardliner.
He indicates his aspirations to grow Novorossiya by mentioning the cities of Kharkov, Odessa, Nikolayev, Kherson, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhe and other potential “capitals of people’s republics” which could appear if “fascistic zombies” were destroyed and a referendum like the 11 May referendum could be held throughout Ukraine:
“It is not ruled out that following the new, fashionable tradition, Ukrainians will try to hold yet another Maidan, which this time will be brutally suppressed by the junta. Then even the most ‘enlightened’ will realize that Maidan was never the popular expression of the will of the people, wa snever self-organized and never would have achieved anything without the money of oligarchs and force by neo-Nazi radicals. The only salvation will be Novorossiya.”
Gen. Korsun said to achieve these goals he would start by controlling the borders, particularly to ensure “humanitarian convoys by fraternal Russia.”
He also said top priority would be to re-start industry, starting with Donetsk, halted due to the war.
The general also said he would crackdown on corrupt, criminal channels between Russia and the Donbass where criminals were exploiting the need for humanitarian aid. He mentioned that funds were being gathered in Russia for humanitarian aid under a “phony Orphans of Lt. Schmidt Foundation” which had transported aid over the border but then sold it in stores and markets:
“This is disgusting and low. All those who take part in ‘kick-backs’ of humanitarian aid will be executed without right to clemency under the laws of military time, regardless of the post they hold. Full stop.”
The reporter interviewing asked him why he had such a brutal position, and the general replied that it was “necessary to save civilians” and that “there are such people prepared to clean up the ranks of Novorossiya from traitors and criminals.”
He cited as an example Bezler, who he said maintained the strictest order in his ranks:
“He demonstratively punished looters, murderers and extortionists in front of the line-up, after which there was practically no one left who desired to cross the line of the law in Gorlovka.”
Asked if he didn’t think such harsh practices discredited the “militia,” the general said the reporter was mistaken because he didn’t have sufficient information.
Gen. Korsun then cited some fighters in the Opolot Battalion who kidnapped businessmen and ordinary citizens for ransom, robbed banks and stores and ran extortionist schemes. He proceeded to recite their names, birth dates, addresses, make of cars and and license plates. Some of the names, like “Greek” have been mentioned in intercepts by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) in the past as targeted to be assassinated presumably by their masters unhappy with their behavior.
The reporter asked where he had gotten all of this information, but Korsun declined to explain.
Asked to be more specific on plans for the industrial rebirth of the Donbass, the general said exports would go to Russia. He said Novorossiya would be run as a socialist system.
“Despite Western propaganda, there is nothing bad in socialism. Moreover, the most advertised Western countries are proud precisely of their social orientation. Sweden, Switzerland, and so on.”
He said industry would be nationalized and a state purchase plan system would be installed, and singled out oligarch Rinat Akhmetov for condemnation, claiming he “violated the labor code” “merely to buy himself another soccer team”:
“Akhmetov from the very outset put sticks in the wheels of Novorossiya. All the facts of the interference of this oligarch in the affairs of the young republics have been recorded. It is known precisely who from the leadership of the DPR and LPR fulfilled his orders or the orders of his accomplice [Governor Serhiy] Taruta. The person is known to whom Akhmetov transferred $1.5 million, so that he supported decoy forces, engaged in populism, robbing the state and private property instead of directly fulfilling his functional duties. It is no secret who the armed group is that has been involved in defense of his interests for specific pay, and which emerged thanks to the sponsorship of [oligarch Ihor] Kolomoyskiy. And this will not be forgiven.”
Gen. Korsun did not name this figure. There have been frequent rumors about Aleksandr Khodakovsky, head of Vostok, taking payoffs from Akhmetov, yet if he signed the agreement naming Korsun as the head of the new united forces, it does not seem likely that Korsun means him.
Gen. Korsun makes no bones about the kind of Soviet system he plans to install:
“The main thing is that the citizens of Novorossiya understand clearly that there should never be oligarchs, corrupt people and lobbyists in the government. otherwise, we will never crawl out of the pit of economic slavery. The country must be ruled by heroes of labor and combat, merited scientists and representatives of the arts. On the whole, there must be professionals and not businessmen who know how to earn themselves a Mercedes.”
The pressures and infighting among the Russian-backed separatists caused by the Minsk agreement and “Law on Special Status for Certain Regions of Eastern Ukraine,” which at first was declared “not relevant” by some separatist leaders but then later was “being studied” may lead to further shake-ups in the leadership of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic.”
Colonel Cassad (a blog run by separatist supporter Boris Rozhin, editor of pro-Russian Golos Sevastopolya) reported that Viktor Antyufeyev, the seasoned security officer who worked in Transdniestria for many years and was then put in charge of security in the “Donetsk People’s Republic” may be falling into disfavor — like other “Novorossiya” leaders before him who have been removed, have resigned, or been reported as assassinated.
Pro-separatist blogger Dmitry Dzygovbrodsky writes on his VKontakte page that Antyufeyev is believed to work for the “party of peace” or the “dump party,” a reference to theories of separatists in Donbass and Russian ultranationalists that high-ranking officials in the Kremlin surrounding Putin constitute lobbies of “peace” — accommodation and compromise with the Ukrainian leadership and dumping of the “Novorossiya” forces as no longer necessary versus a “party of war” which will continue to defend pro-Moscow Russian fighters in southeastern Ukraine.
As we have reported before, the “party of peace” theory is attached to Kremlin “grey cardinal” Vyacheslav Surkov and a theory of turning the Donbass into a kind of “Transdniestria” region. Surkov recently travelled to Kiev to meet with President Petro Poroshenko 8 September after the Minsk ceasefire was declared 5 September, further fueling the conspiracy theories. No information was available for the meeting; Surkov was last in Kiev to meet with ex-president Viktor Yanukovych before he fled to Moscow.
Dzygovbrodsky believes that the “fur-bearing creature” — a reference to Surkov, whose name in Russian means “marmet” was behind the Minsk peace talks. He then concludes “judging from everything, the appreciation of Antyufeyev as the personal man from VVP [Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin] was exaggerated, proceeding from his past merits and list of services.”Antyufeyev has denied that he ever met with Putin.
Perhaps the blogger is trying to preserve Putin as still possibly a “party of war” supporter but he hints at possible large sums of money, and the belief by “major forces of the militia” who think they were betrayed by the Minsk talks. The rumor is that Antyufeyev, who replaced Aleksandr Boroday as “acting prime minister” for a time and was by his side during the MH17 press conference, had now absented himself to Moscow, “because a lot of unpleasant questions have arise from the Militia about his activity.”
“Forces in Moscow and Kiev who think that they can continue to play with the people as they did the last 23 years, have not yet understood that historical processes have begun working as in 1917, and as in 1789.”
This is a reference to the Russian revolution and to the Russo-Swedish war.
Colonel Cassad added regarding a rumored “attempted coup” among the separatists in Donetsk that the position of Antyufeyev and those who favored a peaceful solution leading to a Transdnestria-like status “was weakened.” The “cease-firers” were rejected by most soldiers and the army commanders of “Novorossiya,” who opposed the Minsk agreement and any talks with “the Kiev junta.”
“They have to concede that, because real power in Novorissya is not with civilian administrations but people with guns,” he commented.
But as Colonel Cassad notes, even these people with guns depend on supplies of both armaments and humanitarian aid — the Moscow suppliers can threaten to cut this off, as they are said to have done with Strelkov — a claim he appears to confirm himself in his recent press conference.
Colonel Cassad believes that Antyufeyev, representing a lobby for “a separate peace” with Kiev was unable to gain support from fighters in Donetsk and he may also resign soon.
A number of comments on Twitter seemed to reinforce this:
Translation: On orders from Surkov and the sixth column, Antyufeyev began the persecution of the popular, patriotic forces of Novorossiya.
The “sixth column” is a theory espoused by ultranationalist Aleksandr Dugin and others “Novorossiya” ideologues that not only opposition figures in society, “the fifth column,” but officials within the government — “the sixth column” — are undermining the separatist cause.
Translation: While the Minsk talks were underway, Antyufeyev was arresting supporters of the DPR in Donetsk.
Translation: Novorossiya Agency: Report from blogger Dzygovbrodsky: Antyufeyev has been removed.
Translation: Transdnestria ‘GENERAL’ Antyufeyev has fled…to Moscow on vacation.
Translation: the government of Novorossiya has succumbed to the influence of Mozgovy, Bezler and other field commanders: the Surkov man and dumper Antyufeyev has been sent packing.
Mozgovory and Igor Bezler are commanders of DPR units who have continued to fight but have not been heard from much since the retreat from Slavyansk.
Translation: They say Antyufeyev f**ked up.
An interview with Antyufeyev by Pavel Kanygin in Novaya Gazeta caused many Westerners to see him as a wing-nut. Antyufeyev blamed “the fact that the banks, stores and airports aren’t working, no one is to blame but the fascists of Ukraine and the Masons of Europe and the USA.”
Startled, Kanygin asked if he was serious or using a figure of speech:
“But didn’t we know what influence the Masonic lodges have in the West!”
“I didn’t know,” says Kanygin.
“Then study it, I don’t want to enlighten you now. Although I myself studied this issue as a scholar and a political scientist.”
But it’s important to remember that it is precisely Antyufeyev and his men, representing the methods and powers of KGB-style security, who have kept the Transdniestria an unresolved “frozen conflict” for years on end, despite intensive Western efforts to resolve it with Moscow.
Colonel Cassad believes there is is a “political crisis” induced by the Minsk talks as there is an “escalation of the crisis inside Russia itself” — evidently because of Western sanctions and the Russian response. Yet it’s also likely we are seeing a “managed war” just as we saw “managed democracy” for many years.
A speech from Konstantin Dolgov, the Foreign Ministry’s Commission for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, published on mid.ru, the official web site of the Foreign Ministry, has provoked alarm in the Baltic countries by exaggerating the kinds of claims of mistreatment of the Russian minority that led to war in Ukraine. The inflammatory speech was made at the Regional Conference of Russian Compatriots of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in Riga on 13 September and was designed to stoke unrest among Russians in the Baltics.
Robert Coalson has provided an English-language translation here.
The speech is a recitation of the chief propaganda points that the Kremlin has hammered home for years about the “Russian World” — Russians and Russian-speakers in the “near abroad” or former Soviet republics where the Kremlin believes it has a special mission to protect its people who are hysterically portrayed as victims of supposed massive human rights abuse.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world — from the European Union to the United Nations to Human Rights Watch — may find violations here and there but never at anything like the level claimed by Moscow in the interests of information warfare.
What’s different now is that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine means that such rhetoric can rapidly become deadly action.
It should have been expected. Long before the forceful annexation of the Crimea in February and March, Russian state television broadcast the news in April 2013 about a new Special Operations Force that would “defend Russia’s interests abroad.” General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, outlined more than a year ago his theories of new kinds of warfare blurring the distinction between covert and overt war, when “war is not declared but simply begun” and exploits new information technologies.
Now that we have seen these intentions — never hidden — made real in Russia’s war on Ukraine, the context of Dolgov’s speech becomes more alarming:
The defense of the rights and lawful interests of our compatriots abroad is one of the priority fields of activity of the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation — on which we work actively and proactively.
Unfortunately, it is necessary to state that an enormous number of our compatriots abroad, entire segments of the Russian World, continue to encounter serious problems in the context of securing their rights and legal interests. One of the most obvious and vital reasons for this is the unrelenting growth of xenophobic and neo-Nazi tendencies in the world and their consequent, deep penetration into the consciousness of the political establishments in many foreign states. It is symptomatic that the most clear manifestations of this shameful disease are characteristic of the European continent, in particular among the countries of the European Union who are directly familiar with the possible consequences of “the struggle for the purity of the nation.”
Among the main concerns in the context of the growth of manifestations of neo-Nazism and xenophobia in Europe, according to international experts and human rights advocates, is the tendency to legalize ultraright parties and the general growth of xenophobia and intolerance in regard to national minorities and migrants with the connivance of law enforcement agencies. Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks agrees with this. He recently published a commentary with the title “Europe Must Fight Against Extremism And Defend Human Rights,” in which he cited the opinions of several independent observers about how the growth of xenophobia in Europe “has reached the level of an early form of far-right terror.”
We think it is unacceptable to justify marches of former SS legionnaires
in Riga, meetings of veterans of the 20th Waffen SS division in
Estonia, or ceremonial, with state honors, funerals for
legionnaires/Nazi war criminals from the World War II era. We consider
it a shame for Europe and an insult to the memory of those who died
defending the world from “the Brown Plague.” Elevating Nazi criminals
and their collaborators, responsible for the intentional murder of
millions of peaceful Europeans, nearly to the status of “freedom
fighters” is the peak of cynicism.
It is necessary to clearly recognize that such actions, carried out by
many political forces, can have far-reaching, unfortunate consequences.
Is this a threat?
In this distorted concept, the “neo-Nazis” and ultranationalist groups aren’t those in Russia with extremist and violent views, some of which have supported the Russian-backed separatists in southeastern Ukraine. Dolgov, like other Kremlin officials, maintains a perverse myopia about the groups within his own country using Nazi-like insignia and spouting hateful views, even calling for the killing of Ukrainians.
No, he means Ukrainian groups like the ultranationalist Right Sector, which indeed has alarming extremist views — although the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) captured and killed one of the most notorious Right Sector activists who had been a staple of Kremlin propaganda. Right Sector is notorious for its hard-line attitudes but its actions pale compared to the widespread phenomenon of violent extremists and numerous hate crimes within Russia in many cities, some of whom have been prosecuted by the Russian government itself.
Or he means the Aidar Battalion — another staple of Russian propaganda — which has been cited for some cases of human rights abuse by Amnesty International, including, for example, a miner who had his jaw broken and his bank cards stolen, but who was released. These are dwarfed by the rampant abuses committed by Russian-backed separatists in southeastern Ukraine.
To cite but just one set of victims found in mass graves in Slavyansk after the retreat of Col. Igor Strelkov, whose written authorizations of executions were found, four Protestant men were kidnapped, tortured, murdered and had their cars stolen by separatists. Such cases were the subject of an extensive briefing by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the UN Security Council, which also noted that the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner MH17, killing all 298 persons on board, also could constitute a war crime.
Each year, dozens of Central Asian workers are murdered, numerous people of Caucasian and Central Asian background are harassed, beaten and sometimes expelled from big cities even if they are citizens of Russia, antisemitism is making a comeback.
Eight thousand extremists in Russia turn out for the annual “Russian March” which has been growing every year with hateful and xenophobic posters; some of these people collected funds for “Novorossiya,”; were killed trying to bring in humanitarian assistance; or even went to fight in the Donbass. These groups repeatedly demonstrate throughout the year, often heckling LGBT protesters or intimidating migrants.
Yet the obsession for Dolgov is only on a thousand old men who show up once a year for an SS Waffen march in Riga who aren’t representative of the country.
The article Dolgov invokes from Muiznieks, “Europe must Fight Against Extremism and Defend Human Rights” — was primarily about intolerance of Muslims. On this subject, too, Dolgov is terribly myopic — in the last 18 months, in a ruthless backlash after some terrorist attacks, Russian forces have assassinated outright 330 suspected Islamist terrorists mainly in Dagestan and Chechnya, and arrested and interrogated thousands more, often employing torture in the process.
In fact, the conveyor belt of arrest and torture — and the backlash of murders of policemen — has reached such epic proportions that the Dagestani police themselves have implored Moscow central authorities to protect them and to curb their terror. Even a presidentially-appointed police general proved unable to cope with the challenge of rampant human rights abuse in Chechnya under the rule of strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.
Yet hate campaigns against Muslims in Russia, which have led to race riots such as one last year in the Moscow suburb of Biryulyovo, are not what concern Dolgov. The “early form of far-right terror” to him are the democratically-elected authorities of Kiev, where the victims of terror this year were in fact protesters on the Maidan murdered by Berkut snipers.
Following the well-trod propaganda trope, Dolgov calls the toppling of the former corrupt and abusive Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych — who fled from Kiev when his crimes were exposed — an “anti-constitutional coup” and “armed seizure of power.” The reality is that the acting government organized orderly and fair elections which have culminated in the election of President Petro Poroshenko.
Dolgov reiterates a garden perennial invoked every time anyone questions why Russia has launched its war on Ukraine, claiming that a July 2012 law on the status of the regional Russian language — in fact ultimately repealed — was installed “under the advice of Western handlers.”
In fact, Western leaders cautioned Ukraine about the wisdom of the law. Even when it was issued, southeastern regions immediately passed laws giving Russian the status of a regional language. The Russian language and Russian education and culture were never endangered in the Donbass, and there are no cases of discrimination; the fears of some putative undermining of the ubiquity of Russian — spoken in Kiev — could hardly justify a war.
In the same way, the invocation of “Ukrainian ultraradicals and neo-Nazis” — groups that poll at most 2% and have not won posts in recent elections — are a distortion and a distraction. The Maidan movement was diverse and democratic, and Russian propagandists slamming Ukrainians in this fashion fail to acknowledge the far right in their own midst with actual seats in local and national legislatures and an out-size presence on national TV. Nor can he admit the odious nature of the far-right European parties Putin has befriended, visible at the recent Yalta conference of the Russian-backed separatists and invited to monitor the rigged Crimean referendum and repeatedly seen conferencing with notorious Russian extremists.
Most disturbing in Dolgov’s speech is a paragraph that accuses Ukrainians essentially of “ethnic cleansing,” though there is no policy or practice of this nature regarding the Donbass:
The desire of the Ukrainian ultraradicals and neo-Nazis, which were the driving force of Maidan, and after that of Kyiv’s punitive operation against the citizens of the southeast of the country, to build an “ethnically pure” Ukrainian state were always unconcealed. Many concrete examples and confirmations of this can be found, including in the two editions of the “White Book” that we prepared regarding Ukraine.
If Dolgov failed to notice the diverse post-Maidan cabinet, he should look at a recent television program featuring the commanders of the very battalions fighting his own country’s soldiers — they are both Russian and Ukrainian.
Tragically, more than 3,000 people have died in the war — Ukrainians as well as Russians and others such as Chechens and Southern Ossetians have been killed fighting. The conflict does not amount to “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing,” however by any stretch of the imagination.
In keeping with the incessant Kremlin revisionist narrative, Dolgov distracts from the fact that first Russia forcibly annexed the Crimea with its armed forces, then mounted a clandestine war in the southeast, enabling Moscow-led insurgents to take over more than 100 administrative building in dozens of towns, beating, kidnapping and killing along the way. This necessitated the Ukrainian “anti-terrorist operation” (ATO) response to defend Ukrainian territory.
By contrast with the concoctions and distortions of Russia’s White Books, we have the well-documented reports of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with alarming trends of abuse such as 812 kidnappings by Russian-backed separatists as of July. And, by contrast Amnesty International’s brief report,
covering in detail the cases of four miners abducted and mistreated by Aidar
Battalion — and only implying there are dozens more cases of beatings, extortion
and robberies — does not document hundreds. Human Rights Watch has also documented the separatists’ abuses.
So absent further revelations, we see the Ukrainian volunteers’ abuses, while serious, are overshadowed by the hundreds of cases of abuse at the hands of Russian-backed separatists, including executions. It is telling that Russians fighting with separatists captured by Aidar say they were well-treated, whereas even those Russians who support the separatists, such as a Moscow ultranationalist who wanted to join the “militia,” and a sympathetic journalist, were mistrusted and kidnapped by them, suffering or witnessing horrible torture.
Tellingly, Dolgov accuses Europeans of criticizing Russia and not attending to problems in their own countries, while he ignores the alarming increase of human rights problems at home, whether suppression of media, draconian new Internet laws, crackdowns on civil groups, brutal physical beatings or even assassinations of critics.
Dolgov then recites the litany of claims against the Baltic states, from complaints of discrimination which are exaggerated or fail to acknowledge real progress, to the invocation of the “Nazi criminal and their collaborators” — exaggerating fringe groups and failing to acknowledge the Soviet rulers’ own complicity in imprisoning, exiling or murder millions themselves in the Baltics.
He invokes what he calls “the mass deprivation of citizenship in Latvia and Estonia” although there is no international “right to citizenship.” If there were, concerned OSCE leaders might be able to raise the need to address fairly the plight of tens of thousands of Russians in Turkmenistan — a cause, by the way, which Moscow has long since abandoned when it gave up gas purchases from Ashgabad. Moscow is selective in its tears for the plight of Russians outside of Russia — many wait for years to move to Russia and adjust their status.
According to the US State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 for Estonia, as of January 2012, in the 2011 census, there were 84,494 persons or 6.5 percent of the population with “undetermined citizenship” in Estonia.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has reported the number of “stateless persons” as 94,235. Nevertheless, the Estonian government said that since these persons were eligible to apply for naturalization, they could not be characterized as stateless; nearly all were ethnic Russians, Ukrainians or Belarusians; of these, 1,155 persons had been naturalized in the first nine months of 2012.
Observers point to the difficulty of learning the Estonian language, a non-cognate language, but in 2012, 62.5% of persons who took the language test passed it. The government funds civics and language courses and simplifies procedures for those with disabilities. This situation, while creating difficulties for some individuals, cannot be characterized as a “gross restriction” or as “worsening”; the Estonian government has dealt with it in good faith.
In Latvia, there are continued tensions for the Russian-speaking population, yet as the Russian mayor of Riga explains, the real issue is political, not ethnic, and this depends a great deal on whether residents watch Russian state TV or European news. Russia exacerbates the problems of the Baltics by funneling money through the Russkiy Mir foundation and other routes to play a disruptive role.
Dolgov also invokes claims that insufficient status for the Russian language as he sees it is a “gross violation of fundamental, universal norms” yet bilingualism is not a right, even if may be a desirable policy.
It’s also important to keep in mind the history of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states, when the Soviets used brutal deportation of hundreds of thousands of Baltic peoples into the Gulag and transfer of Russians into the Baltics, many of them from the armed forces and intelligence agencies, as a means of totalitarian control. The atrocities committed by some Nazi collaborationists in the Baltics against Jews and others are real, but have always been exploited by the Kremlin as an excuse to suppress Baltic independence, just as the atrocities committed by Stepan Bandera, a controversial war hero in Ukraine, are used just to justify war on Ukraine.
Dolgov duplicitiously segues from a demand for citizenship to quoting Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who did not say that everyone deserves citizenship in the country of their choice, but who said something different: human rights are not reserved exclusively for the citizens of states or for those who have visas.
European Commissioner Muiznieks, himself a Latvian, has indeed called for the granting of citizenship to the children of non-citizens in the Baltic countries. Yet both non-governmental and governmental bodies that have addressed issues of discrimination in Estonia or Latvia have not found the violations to be of the massive nature claimed by the Russian government; in any event the remedies exist to resolve them. OSCE, which maintained a mission in Estonia for a time, does not find a pattern of abuses.
These issues have always been ones that Moscow exaggerates and exploits to place political pressure on these countries on its borders which is views as treacherous for joining the EU and NATO.
The Russian government’s amplified and provocative claim of repression of Russians in the Baltic countries is an old story, and the West and the Baltic leaders themselves have accommodated it by keeping the focus on concrete issues and existing remedies. But in the current climate when a language law in Ukraine that was actually vetoed and which never threatened Russian status becomes the justification of war in Ukraine, these claims become alarming.
Russian state media and propaganda have given Dolgov’s speech prominent coverage; Russia’s mission to NATO has singled out its most provocative line.