Moscow Police Check 9 Train Stations After Bomb Scares; Kursk Evacuated

April 27, 2016
Train station in Moscow. Photo via

LIVE UPDATES: Moscow law-enforcers inspected all 9 train stations this afternoon and evacuated the Kursk Station after anonymous bomb threats were made by telephone.

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

The previous issue is here.

Recent Analysis and Translations:

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Has Invented A Version Of History To Meet His Needs
Getting The News From Chechnya – The Crackdown On Free Press You May Have Missed
Aurangzeb, Putin, Realism and a Lesson from History
Why the World Should Care About the Assassination of Boris Nemtsov


Russia Holds Vera Savchenko, Sister of Nadiya, at Border, with Ukrainian Diplomat in Car with Diplomatic Plates; Poroshenko Urges Foreign Ministry to Obtain Release

In the latest example of harassment related to the case of imprisoned Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, convicted of killing two Russian journalists at a Russian-backed separatists’ checkpoint in a case many have found to be fabricated, her sister, Vera, who came to visit her in a Rostov prison is being held at the border, RBC reports.
President Petro Poroshenko has urged the Ukrainian Foreign Minister “to do everything for the return of Vera Savchenko to Ukraine.” The Ukrainian consul general in Rostov has departed for the scene.
Ilya Novikov, lawyer for Nadiya, said Russian authorities had taken Vera’s passport claiming she is on a police “wanted” list and blocked her from leaving Russia. Novikov advised Vera to stay in the car.

Savchenko’s other lawyer, Mark Feigin, says the car is being held at the Chertkovo checkpoint on the Russian Ukrainian border.

Translation: Vera Savchenko has been detained on the border with Ukraine. At the Cherkovo checkpoint. They took her passport. She is on the federal wanted list in the Grozny Case.

The “Grozny Case”  is likely a reference to the trial underway now in Chechnya of two Ukrainians, Mykola Karpukh and Stanislav Kyikh, charged long after the fact with fighting in the Chechen wars on the side of Chechen rebels, although the relationship of Savchenko to this case is not known.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Russia’s Liberal Opposition Coalition Collapses As Navalny and Milov Quit in Dispute with Kasyanov

The liberal opposition coalition to take part in the September parliamentary elections appears to have fallen apart, judging from a report from RBC.

This evening Alexey Navalany, lawyer and anti-fraud campaigner and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, and Vladimir Milov, former deputy energy minister, president of the Institute for Energy Policy, an independent think-tank, and head of the political party Democratic Choice, pulled out of the Democratic Coalition after they failed to come to agreement with Mikhail Kasyanov, former finance minister and head of the Parnas party.

The December 5 Party, the Libertarian Party and the Solidarity movement, also members of the Democratic Coalition, appear to have remained. But the two strongest and most influential counterparts of Kasyanov have split off, with about five months remaining until the September parliamentary elections.  

They complained about little public interest in the self-styled “primaries” the opposition had organized; funding shortfalls and lack of organization of the primaries, and the issue of whether Kasyanov should get to keep first place on the coalition’s list for potential placement in parliament when he has been the victim of a state-orchestrated scandal exposing his alleged extramarital affair with another Parnas leader, Natalya Pelevina, and private disagreements with his colleagues.

Konstantin Yankauskas, co-chair of the December 5 Party who convened the meeting this evening to resolve the dispute about the top positions in the list, complained that Kasyanov had been ineffective because instead of providing major funds for opposition work personally, he insisted that expenses be divided equally among the member parties of the coalition, with even the smaller ones like December 5 paying an equal amount.

Kasyanov’s uravnilka or “leveling,” however, didn’t hold when it came to the distribution of the order of the party seats – there, December 5 wanted all members of the coalition to share equally in the seats whereas Parnas didn’t even want to take part in the collective primaries, but wanted to determine the ordering of distribution itself, based on the nominations within districts.

At this point the future is uncertain for both Kasyanov’s campaign and the campaigns of other party members, whether they run as parties or in single-mandate districts in the Russian system.

More analysis can be found here: Does It Matter if the Russian Opposition  Stays United?

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Nemtsov Family Lawyers Urge Indictment of Geremeyev; Critique Investigator’s Failure to Probe Kadyrov Entourage
Attorneys Vadim Prokhorov and Olga Mikhailova who represents the interests of Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov say several more individuals were involved in Nemtsov’s murder who have not been indicted, reports.
The attorneys submitted a statement today to Nikolai Tutevich, the senior special cases investigator assigned to Nemtsov’s case. Nemtsov was assassinated February 27, 2015 and the case has not yet come to trial, although four suspects are in custody on charges of perpetrating or assisting in the murder.
The statement references case files that indicate that Russia’s Investigative Committee believes that Ruslan Geremeyev, an officer of the Sever Battalion within the Interior Ministry Internal Tropos in Chechnya, organized the murder, along with his brother Artur. These troops were recently reorganized into the National Guard, and some have speculated that this restructuring was meant to rein in armed forces that had come to be regarded as “the personal army” of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
According to the Russian registry of businesses, Artur Geremeyev is the owner of one of the apartments that figures in the case, no. 46 Veyernaya Street. (For our complete analysis of the suspects’ movements and locations, see here; see also our translation of Novaya Gazeta‘s “How Boris Nemtsov Was Murdered.
The attorneys’ petition also mentions Alibek Delimkhanov, commander of the Sovet Battalion and relative of the powerful Chechen State Duma member Adam Delimkhanov, as well as two  others not previously mentioned: Aslanbek Khatayev, an officer of the Chechen Interior Ministry and Shamkhan Tazabayev — a person with this name holds a post as deputy director of the Lenin District Center for Public Social Services in Chechnya). Finally, Suleyman Geremeyev, a powerful Chechen senator related to Ruslan Geremeyev, and Vakha Geremekhev, head of the District Department of Interior Affairs [the police] for Shelkovsky District in Chechnya are indicated in the statement as well. The attorneys have repeatedly asked for Suleyman and Vakha Geremeyev to be interrogated. Investigators have refused.
RBC sites sources that say investigators did try to issue charges in absentia against Ruslan Geremeyev, but both times Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, turned down the request, saying there was insufficient evidence.
Novaya Gazeta obtained a screenshot of a surveillance camera at the President Hotel in Moscow, where Chechen assassins with contracts are said to gather, showing Ruslan Geremeyevl, who reportedly fled Russia but may have returned now, and a suspect who is already in custody, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov. 
RBC is currently seeking clarification from the Investigative Committee.
As RBC reported earlier, in January, Tutevich decided to separate out from the main murder case the case of the supposed organizers of the assassination, Ruslan Geremeyev and his driver, Ruslan Mukhudinov, along with six others not named who were said to propose to Zaur Dadayev, a Sever officer designated as the main perpetrator, to kill Nemtsov for 15 million rubles (about $229,000).
The Nemtsov family attorneys have called for keeping the cases together because otherwise it is not clear why the perpetrators had a motivation to kill Nemtsov. As their statement indictates (translation by The Interpreter):

“From the materials of the criminal case it follows that the investigation avoided a proper investigation of Nemtsov’s murder, and did not establish the motives for his murder which guided the organizers. Moreover, a decisions was artificially and unlawfully made by the investigation to end the preliminary investigation on the main, so-called “parent case.”

The attorneys believe the investigators should have kept the cases united and pursued the leads more vigorously instead of closing a case that points to powerful individuals in the entourage of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Basically, to pin the organization of the murder on an officer’s driver in a separate case that won’t be tried (because he has fled abroad), then only focusing on the immediate facts of the perpetration of the murder — as they have done with so many cases involving public critics before — the Investigative Committee is indicating once again that it can’t take on Kadyrov.

Thus speculation that the National Guard reorganization has “reined in” Kadyrov may not have merit unless the Kremlin believes it can control Kadyrov going forward by closing the book on his past crimes.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Moscow Police Check 9 Train Stations After Bomb Scares; Kursk Evacuated

Moscow law-enforcers inspected all 9 train stations this afternoon and evacuated the Kursk Station after anonymous bomb threats were made by telephone, and reported.

A source in law-enforcement said that at 12:50 Moscow time, calls were made claiming that all nine stations were mined: Kursksky, Yaroslavsky, Leningradsky, Kazansky, Paveletsky, Belorussky, Kievsky, Savelovsky and Rizhsky. The stations are arranged in a ring around Moscow and are named for the cities of destination.

No trains were halted.
Moscow is preparing for the annual Labor Day celebrations on May 1 and the May 9 Victory Day parade. Already military vehicles are in Moscow rehearsing for the parade.
Two parliamentary factions, the ill-named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia headed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and Just Russia headed by Sergei Mironov plan rallies in the center of Moscow on May 1.

Six metro stations have reduced service from April 28 through May 5 in connection with the Victory Day parade rehearsals (Revolution Square, Okhotny Ryad, Teatralnaya, Alexander Garden, Borovitskaya, Lenin Library, near the Kremlin and environs), said

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick