Cypriot Justice Minister Releases Navalny Colleague Arrested at Russia’s Request

February 10, 2016
Nikita Kulachenkov of the Anti-Corruption Fund

LIVE UPDATES: A colleague of opposition leader Alexei Navalny who was indicted in the “art theft” case and arrested in Cyprus January 24 at Russia’s request has been released by the Cypriot Justice Ministry.

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.

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Russian Internet Freedom Web Site Banned by State Censor

Roskomnadzor, the Russian Committee for Media Supervision, essentially the state censor, has placed Roskomsvoboda [Russian Committee for Freedom], a web site that made its own name a variation of the censor’s name, on the list of banned sites, reported, citing the city news agency Moskva.
Artyom Kozlyuk, project director for Roskomsvoboda, said his host company told him today that they had received a notification from Roskomnadzor that they were put on the banned list. 
Although he did not yet have details as to the reason for the ban, it is likely related to a decision by the Anapsky Court following a prosecutor’s complaint regarding their site’s advice about Internet anonymizers, which are banned in Russia.
After such notices, the site administration has to either remove the illegal information or Roskomnadzor will have the site blocked. 

Roskomnadzor has been assisting Russian Internet sites that have been blocked and recently provided lawyers to challenge a court order to close Rutracker, but the court ruled against them.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin Says “Robots” Caused Oil Price Drop
Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin claimed robots caused the collapse of the price of oil, Novaya Gazeta and TASS reported.

Speaking at an International Petroleum Week conference in London, Sechin said (translation by The Interpreter):

“Financial technology is such today that decisions are frequently made by robots on trading platforms, and the programs managed by them react impersonally to equally up-to-the-minute changes in the shifting situation during the course of trades or information about the movement of reserves of oil.”

Sechin was referring to high-frequency trading software which some have blamed for stock market crashes.

But the reasons are more complex, having to do with the increase in the US supply of oil in recent years and increasing competition for Saudi, Nigeria and Algerian oil and the unwillingness of OPEC to intervene to stabilize prices.

Sechin added that market players themselves could be to blame, RIA Novosti quoted him as saying:

“We did not appreciate the fact that financial participants in the market do not know any limits in the solving of their purely financial tasks and are ready to test any price levels — $27 dollars in January, for example, and even to the point of $10 per barrel.”

Rosneft has been slated by government ministers for privatization, but Sechin commented that privatization would be “more effective with high prices for oil.” He noted that “other circumstances have to be taken into account, in particularly, revenue for the budget,” Interfax reported.

Brent crude is trading currently at $31.14 today. Oil prices, which have sunk to below $30 in recent weeks rallied in recent days, but the rally is another “false dawn,” says the International Energy Agency.
The Wall Street journal reported that oil sold off “dramatically” yesterday February 9 due to “warnings of oversupply and tumbling stock markets around the world.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

3 Chechen Police Detained in Attack on Kasyanov But He is Unable to ID Them; Kadyrov Publishes Mocking Instagram

Three Chechen policemen were detained in an investigation of the incident yesterday where unidentified men threw a cake at opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov in a cafe, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

Soon after Kasyanov’s complaint yesterday, three officers of the Chechen Interior Ministry were detained: Pvt. Akhmad Soltagiriyev; Sr. Sgt. Mekhdin Ismailov; and Lt. Bekt-Magomed Mulsimov. But Kasyanov was unable to positively identify them as the attackers. 

LifeNews, a pro-Kremlin TV station close to intelligence and police, has published a video of the attack.

LifeNews claimed that an unidentified “citizen journalist” sent the video to their office via their LifeCorr app where two of the men are clearly visible.

Naturally, we have to wonder how this person knew in advance that the cake-throwing was coming, such as to be able to take a long shot of the two men without masks approaching Kasyanov and throwing the cake.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov mocked the attack today on his Instagram account with a photo showing popular singer Nikolai Baskov at a celebration:

2016-02-10 17:30:26

Kadyrov wrote (translation by The Interpreter):

Assalam Alaikum, dear friends! After a cake was thrown at Nikolai Baskov, he has complained ever since, runs around all the international courts and asks for the banquet to be repeated.”

Baskov is an avid supporter of Kadyrov who took part in the #Kadyrovisapatriot social media campaign recently. 

Presidential Administration spokesman Dmitry Peskov once again deflected questions regarding the latest outrage by Kadyrov:

Translation: Mikhail Kasyanov: The Kremlin called for not linking the attack on Kasyanov with the leadership of Chechnya.

Said Peskov:

“On the whole, you can say that an attack on any person, and not only on one under protection, must be acknowledged as impermissible. You don’t have to identify someone with the leadership of Chechnya or the leadership of any other regions. This is a question of hooligan’s escapade and of course must be condemned..”

Other opposition leaders did not think the attack was so funny.

Translation: The incident with the cake flying at Kasyanov reminds State Duma deputy Gudkov of the “funny” attacks on Nemtsov.

Случай с тортом, прилетевшим в Касьянова, напомнил депутату Госдумы "смешные" нападения на Немцова

Депутат Госдумы Дмитрий Гудков не считает смешным нападение на оппозиционера Михаила Касьянова, в которого накануне вечером неизвестные кинули тортом в одном из московских ресторанов. Как пишет политик на своей странице в Facebook, это как минимум означает то, что за ним велась слежка.

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Feb 10, 2016 22:07 (GMT)

Gudkov recalled that while at the time, when a toilet was thrown at Nemtsov’s car it may not have seemed serious, in the end he was assassinated.

“This is a quite a deliberate policy of dehumanization of the opposition. That is, its representatives can be mocked, they can be humiliated and and their outrage can be moked. And when society stops seeing a person behind the cake, then he can be murdered.”

The demonstrative arrest of the three Chechen policeman who were said to be loitering outside the resident; the unabashed publication of the video of Chechens throwing the cake; and Kadyrov’s latest mocking Instagram are all part of an effort to let the opposition know that they are constantly watched — and by Ramzan’s personal army.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Cypriot Justice Minister Releases Navalny Colleague Arrested at Russia’s Request

A colleague of opposition leader Alexei Navalny who was indicted in the “art theft” case and arrested in Cyprus January 24 at Russia’s request has been released, Novaya Gazeta and TV Rain reported.

Nikita Kulachenkov was arrested on January 24, but evidently Navalny did not publicize the case at first, possibly as his lawyer was hoping to resolve it. News of the arrest appeared today in the Russian media with comments that Kulachenkov’s lawyer was frustrated with the long delay in resolving his client’s case.

But earlier today, the Justice Minister of Cyprus announced that he would release him.

TV Rain then reported his release from a statement on Navalny’s blog. Navalny said Kulachenkov had worked on the report about Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and his two sons which exposed among other facts a lavish hotel complex in Greece built by his son Artyom (known as Artem Chayka).

Kulachenkov fled Russian last year, fearing arrest for a contrived case involving charges against himself and another Navalny aide, Georgy Alburov for stealing a street artist’s sketch from a fence.

Kalanchov’s lawyer said that under the European Union’s laws, despite the extradition agreement with Russia, it must respect those with refugee status who face persecution if returned to their homelands.

Sergei Sotov, the artist who drew the sketch, said his statement had been obtained under pressure from the authorities. Alburov was sentenced to 240 hours of community service and then amnestied. Kulachenkov had obtained political asylum in Lithuania, which was confirmed by the Lithuanian government, RFE/RL reported. He is still on an international wanted list in Russia.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick