The report slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was working on before he was assassinated in February is to be released today in Moscow at noon. It has accounts of Russian military in Ukraine.
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
The previous issue is here.
Russia This Week:
– From Medal of Valor to Ubiquitous Propaganda Symbol: the History of the St. George Ribbon
– What Happened to the Slow-Moving Coup?
– Can We Be Satisfied with the Theory That Kadyrov Killed Nemtsov?
– All the Strange Things Going On in Moscow
– With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin
– Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
– Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
– Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo
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Yesterday on the birthday of imprisoned Ukrainian pilot Nadiya
(Nadezhda) Savchenko, 12 Russian activists were arrested for staging a picket
with signs in her support and wishing her a happy birthday. In addition, three
journalists were detained and released as we reported.
The Tverskoy District Court of Moscow sentenced Olga Terekhina to 15 days of jail, Novaya Gazeta reported. Judge Alesya Orekhova rejected an appeal from Terekhina’s lawyer to postpone the proceeding until Terekhina could gather the birth certificates of all her children to make the case for leniency, Kasparaov.ru reported.
Terekhina also pointed out that she had not held a poster or sparkler in her hand during the picket but had just shouted “Happy Birthday”.
Five other activists were sentenced to 10 days for “repeated violation of the procedure for conducting public events.”
Vera Lavreshina also was fined 15,000 rubles ($300).
Serge Shavshukov, a disabled man, was also ordered to pay a fine of 16,000 rubles ($320) for the action.
Other activists are still awaiting trial in Preobrazhensky District Court for the arrests yesterday as their hearing was postponed.
Philipp Kireev, a photocorrespondent who was among those detained, published photos from the event on his LiveJournal blog.
Photos by Philipp Kireev
Kireev also asked that the record be corrected on a number of points:
1. Despite a number of media and social media reports that he was beaten, he was not beaten during detention. He noted that police grabbed a camera from another journalist, Andrei Novichkov of Grani.ru, and apparently stepped on his foot.
2. He is a freelance journalist and not a photocorrespondent for Open Russia, which is only one of the outlets for which he has worked. (We have corrected this point in our earlier report which was taken from Slon.ru.)
3. Police erased all the memory cards on the cameras but he managed to keep some copies.
4. He does not wish to be ascribed as supporting any figure or action that he is just reporting on.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Anatoly Zhuravlev of United Russia, and Dmitry Gorovtsov and Anatoly Greshevnikov of Just Russia submitted the draft amendments to the Family Code under Art. 114, “circumstances that prevent the contracting of marriage.”
The deputies also said that if transgendered persons were allowed to marry, this could have negative consequences “including the acquiring of the right to adopt a child.”
The draft law appears to be driven by a high-profile case in St. Petersburg where on November 7, 2014, a woman and a transgender male in the process of changing his gender to female were able to register their marriage. Authorities found no legal grounds to prevent the marriage.
Irina Shumilova and Alyona Fursova were registered at the Palace of Weddings No. 4, say LGBT activists in St. Petersburg. Irina is a biological male in the process of changing her gender, they said. As an activist told Interfax:
“They were registered because Irina came to the ZAGS [marriage bureau] with a male passport. She also had a notice that Irina is transgender, and that this is an illness under which a person requires a medical change of their gender.”
Currently the conditions that exclude marriage in Russia under Art. 14 are: if one of the parties is already married; between close relative; between an adopter and adoptee; or if the prospective parties are pronounced unfit due to psychiatric illness. Art. 12 of the law already specifies that marriage is between a man and a woman.
In an explanatory memo to the draft, the deputies say they want to add a fifth article to the law “connected with the indefensibility of marital relations from a situation emerging in connection with the change of gender of a person as defined at birth.”
The deputies also explain that the law on civil acts allows Russians the right to register civil acts and to change their passport and birth certificate in the event their gender is changed. In this way, a transgendered person could get around laws against same-sex marriage, say the deputies.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
According to a report by RBC.ru, colleagues of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov spent a month going to 14 printing presses in Moscow trying to find a publisher of a report on Russia’s military presence in Ukraine titled Putin.War released today in Moscow.
Only one printer agreed to perform the job on condition of anonymity, which is why no publisher is indicated on the document.
Nemtsov’s colleagues also placed the report on line on the same page where all of the reports by Nemtsov and his associates have been published in the past, but this is still down now due to a DDoS attack.
Vsevolod Chagayev, an activist involved in the logistics of the report told RBC.ru that 10 printers in Moscow and suburbs said they would not take the job due to “the situation in the country.” Another four at first agreed to print the job and even took money in advance, but then decided to back out. These included some presses that in the past had agreed to publish the works of Nemtsov and other opposition figures such as Alexey Navalny.
Agata Chachko, head of Mayak, a Moscow printing firm said that she went to five printers about the Nemtsov report and all five said that they would agree to the deadline and the payment, but did not like the content. “That’s the first time in my memory,” said Chachko.
Tatyana Rud, manager of Buki Vedi, another Moscow printing press declined to say if they had been approached to publish the report, although Chagayev said they had, but said some jobs are turned down “for technical reasons.”
Another printer who declined to supply a name said the job was turned down after seeing the contents. “Several years ago, when we printed a report by Nemtsov, there a different situation in the country, and views, but even then there was pressure on us on the part of the authorities,” she said. First tax inspectors came to the office then police came to search the premises after the last printing. “My phone was even bugged,” said the manager, who asked that neither her name or the name of the press be mentioned.
The job was finally done in a small run of 2,000 on conditions of anonymity. Supporters are raising funds to publish more copies.
The fear of getting involved in such publications show the continuing impact of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov on the intelligentsia in Russia. Generally it has been the case since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 that even controversial works can be printed. Even in the years of Putin’s rule, while it has been harder to get opposition books published, there have been smaller presses willing to take on the job. Now that time may be coming to an end.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
A criminal case has been opened in Astrakhan Region regarding a juvenile local resident who posted commentary on a social network which allegedly approved the invasion by German forces of the territory of Poland on September 1, 1939, which became the start of World War II.
The name of the 16-year-old minor is not given under Russian law. The notice says the suspect is a girl who used her personal computer at home to place a picture of German soldiers during WWII on her personal page and appeared to place positive commentary under the picture despite the fact that “the invasion of German forces on the territory of Poland is recognized by the International War Tribunal [Nuremberg] as a crime.”
The case is being investigated under a Russian anti-Nazi law, Art. 354-1, part 1 of the Criminal Code, “approval of crimes established by the sentence of the International War Tribunal for the trial and publishment of main war criminals of the European countries of the Axis, committed publicly.”
The case is interesting because it acknowledges the Western view of the start of World War II as the invasion of Poland. Traditionally, the Soviet government and now Russian government have officially acknowledge the start of the war in June 1941 with the Nazi invasion of Russia.
It also indicatives the efforts of Russian officials to make an object lesson about what is and isn’t to be condemned about the war, and to discourage neo-Nazism among youth even as adults in the Kremlin make common cause with Europe’s far-right.
In August 1939, the Soviet Union concluded the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, named for the Soviet and German foreign ministers of that era, which enabled both the Nazi and Soviet invasions of Poland and later the Baltic occupations and the division of Eastern Europe. Putin recently expressed support for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which has always been condemned in the West, with the claim that it was the only option for the Soviets at the time. This is a disturbing justification, as Paul Goble points out today in a post about a call by a Russian commentator for “preventive occupation” of the Baltic states.
As the blogger Andrei Malgin quipped about the case:
Why isn’t a criminal case opened against Putin who recently approved the parallel invasion of Poland by Soviet forces, which also started World War II?
Obviously that won’t happen, and in part it’s because there was never an analogue to the Nuremberg Tribunal to try the Soviet Union’s mass crimes against humanity under communism.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
President Vladimir Putin has now joined Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry for talks in Sochi.
Translation: Putin engages in negotiations with Kerry in his Sochi residence, Bocharov Ruchei. Thanks to Maria Zakharova for the photo.
— Pierre Vaux
Opposition leader Ilya Yashin of the RPR PARNAS party reports that a website is under attack which contains the report released today on the Russian military in Ukraine prepared by Boris Nemtsov and other colleagues.
The site putin-itogi.ru where the Russian language “Putin.Voina” (Putin.War) was uploaded earlier today has the report which Boris Nemtsov was working on at the time of his assassination.
The Russian original of the report is also available here on Open Russia’s site.
Nemtsov’s colleagues put together all his notes and interviews and added materials to show how the Russian military first invaded Crimea, then using contract soldiers, took over the Donbass.
Yashin and the other authors held a presentation of the report in Moscow today. They plan releases in St. Petersburg and other Russian cities in the coming week. An English-language edition will be released later this month.
RBC.ru summarized the report which we have covered here, indicating that 220 Russian soldiers have died in Ukraine who were made “contract fighters” before they deployed. Of these, 150 died at the battle of Ilovaisk in August 2014 and 70 died at the battle of Debaltsevo in January-February 2015.
Presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said he had no comment on the report and was not familiar with it.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Talks between US Secretary-of-State John Kerry and the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, have begun in Sochi.
Dmitry Smirnov from Komsomolskaya Pravda reported on the formalities:
Translation: Kerry also received a t-shirt with the Victory symbol as a present from Lavrov. Thanks to Maria Zakharova for the photo, the foreign ministry is on fire.
Earlier, the two foreign policy chiefs participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Zavokzalny war memorial:
Russia’s state-owned TASS news agency reports that Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, said (translated by The Interpreter):
“The issues that will be discussed concern the global situation in broad terms and Russo-American relations with all of their problematic points.
There will be time for going point by point, systematically and in depth, through all of the challenging and tough order of business which is not getting any better.”
TASS also reported that Alexey Pushkov, chairman of the Duma International Affairs Committee, regards the meeting as a conciliatory move by the USA:
“It is obvious that if state secretary comes to meet the president of Russia, the American side wants to tell us something,” Pushkov said. It is possible that the US “came to a conclusion that it everything should not be brought down to Ukraine,” he added.
Kerry’s visit to Sochi will not just have “concrete practical consequences,” but will rather “lead to a shift” in bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington, the lawmaker noted.
Washington has recently decided to give up “categorical rhetoric towards Russia,” Pushkov said. “I think that US decided that it is not beneficial for them to follow the path of total confrontation,” he added. “If the visit confirms that the US decided to make a shift in cooperation, it will already be a positive result,” the lawmaker stressed.
— Pierre Vaux
At the time of his assassination, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was working on a report he titled “Putin.War.”
his death, a group of his friends and colleagues decided to take his
notes and interviews and finish it. The result is being released in
Moscow today at noon. The 64-page report covers a number of topics
related to the war in Ukraine, from the Russian soldiers who have died
there even as their country refuses to admit its military presence to
the numbers of refugees who have fled to Ukraine to the cost of the war
for Russia’s state budget.
Boris conceived of the report with his
co-chairman Ilya Yashin in the RPR PARNAS party to be similar to other
reports he and his colleagues had done on Russian economic issues; the
insider contracts and over-spending on the costly Sochi Olymipcs and the
downing of MH17. His print publications, web sites and videos had all
been fairly popular in Russia where the independent press is
increasingly under pressure.
Others who worked on the report are
former vice premier Alfred Kokh; journalists Ayder Muzhdabayev and Oleg
Kashin; members of PARNAS Leonid Martynyk and Olga Shorina, executive
director of the party. Yashin said that the initial
print run is
only 2,000, just enough to give out copies at presentations planned in
Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Chelyabinsk and other cities.
report contains both accounts that have already appeared in the media
as well as Nemtsov’s own information about Russian military men who
fought under contract in Ukraine.
RBC.ru obtained a copy of the report and has a summary. As media reports already indicated, a group of relatives of soldiers
who had been killed in the Donbass, in particular from Ivanovo,
appealed to Nemtsov to help them get compensation payments. According to
Nemtsov’s information, about 70 soldiers from Russia were killed
outside of Debaltsevo, at least 17 of whom were paratroopers from
Ivanovo. Technically, they were not members of the regular army. Before
being sent into combat in the Donbas, they would resign from the Russian
armed forces at the demand of officers, then be turned into contract
fighters. This was a technique of “hybrid war” to hide the Russian military involvement. Commanders assured soldiers they would get
compensation if wounded or their relatives would get assistance equal to
the sums paid to them in the summer of 2014. But then there was no
RBC identified five theses from Nemtsov’s report:
At least 150 Russian soldiers were killed in August 2014 according to
estimates from Nemtsov’s sources during the battle of Ilovaisk.
Relatives were given compensation of 2 million rubles a piece and were
forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the soldiers’ deaths.
2. About 70 Russian soldiers (including 17 paratroopers from Ivanovo) died in January-February 2015 near Debaltsevo.
was not given to their relatives as originally pledged. These soldiers
were discharged from the army first and then passed off as volunteers.
About 53 billion rubles (about $1 billion) have been spent on the war
in the southeast Ukraine in the first nine months, says Sergei
Aleksashenko, who is director of macro-economic research for the Higher
Economic School. He said 21 billion rubles ($412 million) were required
to maintain 6,000 volunteers; 25 billion rubles ($490 million) to
maintain 30,000 local “militia” or Russian-backed militants and 7
billion rubles ($136 million) for operation, servicing and repair of vehicles.
80 billion rubles were spent by authorities in the Russian regions to
support refugees from Donetsk and Lugansk regions since July 2014.
Russians have paid 2 trillion rubles ($39 billion) from their paychecks
and 750 billion rubles ($14 billion) from their savings to cover the
annexation of the Crimea. In connection with Western sanctions and the
retaliatory produce embargo prices rose an additional 5.5%
The relatives of the soldiers were afraid to give their names. As Yashin told RFE/RL, the fact that Nemtsov himself was killed didn’t inspire confidence in their ability to stay safe if they spoke out.
contacted the Defense Ministry, which categorically denied the claims
in the report. RBC also contacted various groups that have traditionally
worked on the issues of soldiers’ rights such as the Soldiers’ Mothers
but they said Nemtsov and the others involved had not approached them.
main explanation the report authors give for events is Putin’s fall in
ratings in 2012; he was able to move them from 29% to 74% by March 2015.
Putin said in a new film, Crimea: Path to the Homeland that he
personally took charge of the movements of Russian troops in Crimea.
asked several political analysts if they thought the report would have
any effect. Valery Khomyakov, a former colleague of Nemtsov’s said the
purpose was not to break news with these reports but rather educate
people with known facts. Another analyst Aleksandr Pozhalov said the
purpose of such reports is to draw attention in the West and he did not
see it having any reaction from the Kremlin.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick