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:
– 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
– Remembering Boris Nemtsov, Insider and Outsider (1959-2015)
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Novaya Gazeta has reported further this evening on the scandal around Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who was reported to have ordered his troops to shoot at law-enforcers from other republics who operated on Chechen territory without coordinating with his people.
Novaya Gazeta found a video of the meeting with Chechen law-enforcers where Kadyrov made the statement.
The web cache to the page on Grozny TV was also found.
After Kadyrov’s remarks got wide replay in Russian media, Grozny TV put
the video on “private”.
Kadyrov’s remarks followed an incident where police from the neighboring city of Stavropol, capital of Stavropol Territory pursued a Chechen suspect across regional lines into Chechnya and shot him dead.
Grozny TV has had extensive coverage of the incident, reporting that the Stavropol police didn’t have a proper warrant, that they didn’t coordinate with Chechen police, that the shooting occurred in a residential area which endangered civilians, and that medics failed to save him.
suspect had the last name “Dadayev” which prompted speculation that he
could be a relative of the main suspect in the Nemtsov murder
investigation. But officials said this suspect was wanted in connection
with a private dispute with a Dagestani man, unrelated to politics or the Nemtsov case.
The Interpreter has a translation of the relevant excerpt from the video of Kadyrov’s speech:
are criminals in uniform and out of uniform. Regarding the latest crime
that was committed, I gave a clear assignment to the prosecutor, the
Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry, the FSB that they punish
under the law those who fulfilled the order of rich people. How can it
be that the operations group of Stavropol and the Special Rapid Response
Group (SOBR) and OMON [riot police] and all the structures of Khankala
can be activated for money? I didn’t know that. Such things do not
happen. We will not have this on our territory. Those who think otherwise
are mistaken. And they must know that we have paid very dearly for
peace and order.
Those times, the 2000s, have passed. Someone
felt like “making a result” would grab a Chechen and kill him. This will
not happen. We demand the law. Such people have been punished, and we
take care of that and go on taking care of it.
And everyone must know that on the territory of the Chechen Republic, the law rules.
officially state: if on your territory [someone] appears, without your knowledge,
it doesn’t matter — whether it’s a Muscovite or a Stavropolite — open
fire to defeat.
We must be taken into account. We do not have
the elementary right to go on the territory of Ingushetia and conduct
activities against terrorists and extremists. If they have entered our
territory, they must be controlled. If they come in masks and helmets,
that means they are criminals. It’s the 21st century here.
enough! They have destroyed us, offended us, humiliated us…We did not
pass the Constitution, the laws, in order for them to kill us.
does not have the right without the Interior Ministry of the Chechen
Republic to come out and conduct activities. And they don’t conduct
them, I have not heard of their indicators in a long time.
convinced that they will be punished under the law. They will put the
contractors in prison, the perpetrators will be put in prison. We have
competent agencies for this that know their job.
Khankala is the location of Russian military headquarters in Chechnya, and Kadyrov is using the term to collectively refer to the Russian military. That’s confusing, given that his beef was supposedly directly with the Stavropol police.
Kadyrov said a criminal case had been opened regarding the incident and that the Stavropol police involved had been “used,” implying that the incident was staged by forces higher-up.
The incident is being watched closely because it is believed to reflect a conflict between central Moscow authorities, specifically the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Kadyrov.
Earlier as we reported, Kadyrov volunteered to step down from his position as president of the Chechen Republic if ordered to do so. This implied that perhaps there were conversations with Moscow Center about his statement, although Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied knowledge of the remarks, TASS reported. Kadyrov demonstratively posted on his Instagram feed a picture of himself meeting with an Interior Minister official responsible for the North Caucasus.
In another indication that regional authorities may be trying to smooth things with Kadyrov, Stavropol Territory Governor Vladimir Vladimirov announced that Kadyrov’s words about shooting to defeat the law-enforcers was “taken out of context and incorrectly interpreted,” Interfax reported.
The issue has always been for Kadyrov and Chechnya how much autonomy his department of the Interior Ministry, which is a federal agency with local branches, would have from Moscow and regional authorities.
There has been a growing sense that the Chechen Interior Ministry has become Kadyrov’s “personal army” not answerable to Moscow or regional authorities. Boris Nemtsov called out this growing concern in a post in December 2014 on Facebook, and had also written a letter to the Investigative Committee asking for investigation of the issue of whether Kadyrov’s forces exceeded their authority. Nemtsov’s colleague Ilya Yashin believes this could have been a motive for his murder.
today, Basmanny Court in Moscow has extended until August 28 the
detention of Zaur Dadayev, the main suspect in the murder of opposition
leader Boris Nemtsov. Three other suspects also had their detention extended and a fourth, Temerlan Eskerkhanov will be decided tomorrow.
In a lengthy round-up of the contradictory revelations of the Nemtsov investigation to date, Novaya Gazeta concludes that so many questions remain unanswered, specifically, the motive of these five Chechens for killing Nemtsov, if it was not purely a contract murder.
One issue to clarify is the exact date when Dadayev resigned from the Sever Battalion of the Interior Ministry troops in Chechnya, as he took a 30-day leave. If he took leave on January 27 and notified his superiors of his resignation (a fact that has been disputed by some sources), then depending on how the days are counted, he may still be technically serving in the armed forces on the night of February 27 when he has been accused of shooting Nemtsov.
That means he could be tried by a military and not a civilian court, where procedures would be different, there may be less access to the press, and the issue of the jury trial — which officials said they were seeking in this case — may also be at issue.
The believed contractor of the murder, Ruslan Geremeyev, also an officer in the Sever Battalion, reportedly fled Russia for the UAE.
Novaya Gazeta asks whether the case will be limited then just to the perpetrators where the masterminds will get off with just a rap on their knuckles or whether Kadyrov and/or his top officers will be held to account:
It turns out it’s a dead-end story: the murder of Boris Nemtsov was solved in less than a week, but the Sever Battalion for now looks stronger than all the other siloviki [law-enforcement and intelligence] of Russia.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said he is prepared to step down from his post if necessary, Yod News reported, citing RIA Novosti.
The Interpreter has translated his statement:
“I am a foot-soldier for the commander-in-chief. If I am given the order, I will fulfill it 100%. If I have to go, I’ll go, I’m prepared to die. Therefore to counterpose Kadyrov to the president is simply ridiculous. He is our commander-in-chief.”
Kadyrov claims that “false patriots” and the “gentlemen liberals” are misleading the public and causing Russia to “become a second Ukraine.”
As we reported earlier today, Russia media reported that Kadyrov had issued orders to troops in the Chechen Interior Ministry to shoot any law-enforcement officers that did not coordinate their activities on Chechen territory.
Kadyrov did not make this threat on his Instagram account, where instead he showed himself in a photo with the head of the Interior Ministry for the North Caucasus Federal Region and spoke of cooperation.
But the portal Kavkazkaya Politika at kavpolit.ru quoted Kadyrov as follows, instructing his troops:
“I officially announce that if a Muscovite or a Stavropolite — it doesn’t matter — appears on your territory without your knowledge — open fire to defeat.”
The phrase he used is essentially the equivalent of “shoot to kill.”
Kadyrov reportedly made the statement on an expanded meeting on public issues, in response to an April 19 incident in which police from the Russian city of Stavropol pursued a suspect in Grozny and shot him dead while trying to detain him. They didn’t coordinate their movements with the Chechen police nor did they have a proper warrant for arrest, Chechen officials said.
A video that evidently showed the speech posted on Yod and kavpolit.ru has now been turned to “private.”
Kavkazkaya Politika added the following quote:
“We must be taken into account. We do not have the elementary right to go on to the territory of Ingushetia and conduct activities against extremists and terrorists. If you are masters of your territory, you must control it.
It’s enough. We’ve been humiliated, insulated. We didn’t accept the Constitution of the Russian Federation so that we’d be killed.“
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Kremlin, said he wasn’t aware of Kadyrov’s comments.
Developments with Kadyrov are being watched closely because of a widely-held perception that he is in a conflict with the Federal Security Service (FSB) over the issue of suspects in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and other issues where he has not cooperated with central authorities.
When investigators of the Investigative Committee came to Chechnya to try to interrogate Ruslan Geremeyev, said to have organized the murder of Nemtsov, they were prevented from gaining access to him, and later he was reported as having fled from Russia.
Kavpolit.ru reported that Kadyrov was also unhappy with issues that he wasn’t publicizing.
Kadyrov has been at great pains to show his loyalty to Putin in the last two months, posting pictures of Putin and other Moscow officials frequently and swearing undying loyalty.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Khakasiya is the region in the Siberian Federal District in the mid-southeast of Russia which has been swept by wildfires in the last week, killing 34, wounding 900 and leaving 5,000 homeless.
Mikhail Akinchenko, a correspondent for Russia’s Channel 1, while on assignment to the Shirinsky District in Khakasiya was detained by police during the incident.
According to an unnamed source, a local woman wrote a complaint to the local police, saying that the journalist had stood five meters away from the village of Kolodezny, and threw a lit cigarette butt on the ground to start a fire in the grass.
The incident is being investigated now. Akinchenko reportedly said in a statement to police that he wanted to burn the grass “in order to film the background.”
The investigation materials will be sent to St. Petersburg where the journalist’s residence is registered.
“Do you really have to subject an entire village to danger for the sake of getting a pretty ‘background’? asks the local news service. There was no one to put out the fires. “Even so, he will show that very burning strip of grass that is ‘already creeping up to the village,'” said the service.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has given the order to his own troops to shoot law-enforcers from other Russian republics if they do not coordinate their operations in Chechnya with his own police, Snob.ru reported.
A video has been published about the incident on the official site of the Chechen state Grozny Television and Radio Company.
Kadyrov also posted a statement on his Instagram feed.
The startling notice came after an incident in which a Chechen was killed in the Leninsky District of Chechnya by police from Stavropol in the southwest of Russia who attempted to detain him.
“We will not have such things on the territory of our republic; whoever thinks that is mistaken. Someone felt like it and they took a Chechen, and killed him — this can’t happen.
People must take us seriously, we do not have the elemental right to go on the territory of Ingushetia to conduct activities against terrorists. And if you are master of your territory then you must control it. If they come in masks and helmets — that means they are criminals.”
On April 19, the Stavropol police tried to detain Dzhambulat Dadayev, who was already wanted by federal authorities, and wound up shooting him dead. Kadyrov said the kiling had a major resonance because a soccer match was underway between Terek and Dinamo and there were hundreds of tourists from other regions and business delegations from other countries. Kadyrov was angry that his colleagues outside of the the Chechen Republic didn’t give him a heads up on an operation on his republic’s territory.
Kadyrov wrote on his Instagram (translation by The Interpreter):
The incident in Leninsky District of Grozny had a broad public resonance. Today Sergei Chenchik, head of the RF Interior Ministry MainTemporary Unified Group of Agencies and Divisions Department for the North Caucasus Federal District arrived. We discussed the incident in detail. Sergei Mikhailovich [Chenchik] reported that the issue is under his personal control, and a careful investigation is being conducted, all the circumstances are being determined, and the guilty will be punished. General Chenchik is noteworthy in his work for efficiency and principle, and has a rich theoretical and practical experience and has done a lot so that the North Caucasus is calm situation and not a place for the criminal world.
I thank Sergei Mikhailovich for the objectivity and intention to pursue the truth and take the measures of action stipulated by law. As I wrote earlier, the officers of the Stavropol Interior Ministry without the knowledge of the Chechen Republic Interior Ministry conducted a so-called special operation with unlawful involvement of forces from the Temporary Unified Group of Agencies and Divisions. Furthermore, they operated in masks, opened fire in a populated area, as a result of which Dzhambulat Dadayev, for whom there was not a warrant as required by law, was killed.
Kadyrov’s harsh new policy could have a direct bearing on the efforts of the federal authorities — the Investigative Committee (IC) and the Federal Security Service (FSB) — to pursue suspects in the case of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.
Already the IC was not allowed access to a suspect in the case said at the time to be located in Chechnya, Ruslan Geremeyev, a member of the Sever Battalion where Zaur Dadayev, the chief suspected perpetrator of the murder, once served.
The man killed by the Stavropol police also happened to have the same last name of “Dadayev,” but it is a common name in the region.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Opposition leader Alexey Navalny reported today that he hadn’t received a notice of the court hearing today, and learned about it from journalists.
Translation: this is a good time to recall the letter from Prokopenko regarding the regular checking of the reaction on the possible jailing of Navalny.
The reference is to the cell phone messages of former Kremlin official Timur Prokopenko which were recently leaked by the hacker group Shaltai Boltai. The messages revealed that the Kremlin carefully orchestrated the persecution of Navalny, arranging fabricated criminal cases against him and manipulating the press coverage of him.
Translation: Lawyers Mikhailov and Kobzev.
Photojournalist Philipp Kireev reported the postponement of the hearing.
Translation: The trial will be May 13 at 16:00.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Translation: Alexey @navalny after the court hearing which didn’t take place.
Translation: The next hearing on the change of conditions of punishment for Alexey @navalny to real will be May 13, 16:00. Now on the steps of the court house.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Security has been tightened at the Lyublinsky Court in Moscow today, April 23 as a review of the case of opposition leader Alexey Navalny is expected, Gazeta.ru reported.
The judge will determine whether Navalny’s suspended sentence in the Kirovoles lumber sales case will be changed from a suspended sentence to an actual one, due to the fact that he had a 15-day administrative jail sentence during this period for picketing.
His brother Oleg Navalny has already been sent to prison for 3.5 years in another case involving a contract with the French company Yves Rocher East, which in fact had no claims against the Navalny brothers. Alexey Navalny was given a suspended sentence of 3.5 years in that case.
The riot police are in place by the court house with a bus to pick up protesters should they appear.
Judge Irina Miroshnikov of the Lyublinsky Court said the court has accepted an appeal from the Federal Corrections Service (FSIN) requesting that Navalny’s sentence be converted from suspended to actual.
As usual in facing the ordeal of these numerous trials, widely believed to be fabricated for his anti-corruption activity, Navalny was upbeat, cracking jokes:
Translation: Hahahaha, breaking news
The article is from RIA Novosti, the state wire service, and says (translation by The Interpreter):
The opposition politician Alexey Navalny did not bring items that would come in handy in prison to the court hearing, which will review the question of replacing his suspended punishment with a real prison term. He also didn’t have a briefcase with documents.
Translation: On the other hand I have an important privilege: I often get into the court room, when they don’t let anyone else in.
Translation: The hearing on the replacement of Navalny’s suspended sentence for a real sentence has begun.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick