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.
Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has denounced the leader of Civic Platform, the party he founded, because he decided to join the Anti-Maidan march in Moscow last weekend.
See also our Russia This Week stories:
Ultranationalists Angry over âCapitulationâ of Minsk Agreement,
âAnti-Maidanâ Launched by Nationalists, Cossacks, Veterans, Bikers
The Guild War â How Should Journalists Treat Russian State Propagandists?
Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo: âIt is Seen as Correct to Initiate Annexation of Eastern Regions of Ukraine to Russiaâ
Former Russian Intelligence Officers Behind Boisto âTrack IIâ Talks â and Now the Flawed Minsk Agreement.
Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costsâ.
When the authorities of Arkhangelsk, a town 980 kilometers to the north of Moscow, initially gave permission for an LGBT rally, it seemed to good to be true — and then wasn’t, Novaya Gazeta reports. It was going to be the first such gay parade in the history of this conservative town, but then after the media attention that gave with this unprecedented move, the mayor’s office backed down, says FlashNord.
As GayRussia.ru reports, in a letter to the parade organizers, Irina Orlova, deputy mayor for social issues, invoked some technicalities. Originally, the LGBT group had filed for a permit for February 25 and said they wanted to discuss at the rally a recent Constitutional Court decision regarding a Russian law banning distribution of gay literature. They were granted permission but then told another mass charity action which had been previously scheduled for the same place meant the LGBT action had to move.
Orlova then said she didn’t receive a response back in time to this request and had to withdraw the permit, although organizers said they had sent a telegram accepting the offer to move the march. Orlov said she couldn’t identify the author of the telegram.
Nikolai Alekseyev published the correspondence on his VKontakte page.
The group plans to appeal the rejection, which is the 6th they have received in attempts to gain permission for a gay parade in Arkhangelsk.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Russia and Cyprus have signed a military agreement that will allow Russian ships to call into ports in the EU member state, according to Tass news agency.
Independent Russian news service Interfax also confirmed the agreement,
describing it as a “memorandum on cooperation in the naval area between
the defence ministries of countries and an agreement between
governments on military cooperation.”
Part of the deal is a postponement of a repayment of a €2.5 billion loan from Russia used in the bailout of Cyprus in 2013.
As Business Insider explains, “the country frequently plays host to Russia’s jet-setting super-rich,
earning the Cypriot town of Limassol the nickname LimassolGrad.”
Many Russian business people have registered companies in Cyprus because procedures are simpler — and more secure — than in Russia itself. When Cyprus was hit by a financial crisis, Russia helped out for self-interested reasons, and got controlling shares in the Bank of Cyprus. Russians continue to register their companies there, although President Putin has launched a crackdown on “offshorization” of the Russian economy.
This military agreement seems to stop shy of permitting Russia to set up an actual base on Cyprus; it is merely permission for Russia to call at Cypriot ports.
Earlier this month when the agreement was being discussed Business Insider reported that President Nicos Anastasiades was going to allow Russia to “install bases” on the island. But as Foreign Minister said, there was no question of actual bases.
As Cyprus, an EU member that Russia calls “its best ally in the EU” is also home to two of the largest British naval bases in the Mediterranean, Akrotiri and
Dhekelia, often used by NATO forces en route to the
Middle East, it will be interesting to see how Cyprus gets along with both Russian and British naval bases at the same time in its country. The Cypriot parliament voted unanimously in 2012 to remove British bases from their country, saying they are used to attack neighboring countries.
While it does seem as if technically Russia will not actually have a base, it will have a presence and that may prove awkward. When Kyrgyzstan found itself with both Russian and American bases, used to supply troops in Afghanistan, eventually Russia prevailed and the Americans were forced to leave.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Observers of the Anti-Maidan march on February 21 were surprised to see a contingent of demonstrators from Civic Platform, the party founded by oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov. It seemed like this would be quite a move to the right even for this unabashed Putin loyalist.
Prokhorov is a billionaire and owner of the Brooklyn Nets who ran against Putin the 2012 presidential elections attracting 7.9% of the vote. His pro-business party stressing the need to invest in Russia’s infrastructure avoided nationalist rhetoric. He had the support of some liberals, such as widely-acclaimed Russian author Ludmila Ulitskaya, and his sister, Irina Prokhorova, joined the Congress of Anti-War Intellectuals who opposed the annexation of Crimea.
In a LiveJournal blog entry yesterday, Prokhorov criticized his fellow party members who participated in the Anti-Maidan action (translation by The Interpreter):
On February 21, Civic Platform took part in the Anti-Maidan action. The decision about this was made unilaterally by the party leader without holding any consultations with any members of the political or civic committees. Moreover, participation in such events has little in common with the ideology of the Civic Platform which initially was the basis of a party uniting millions of people. In that connection, I believe it is necessary to hold an emergency session of the Federal civic committee of the party.
Rifat Shaykhutdinov is the acting party leader.
Aleksandr Mikhailov, a blogger at dni.ru says the party is slipping away from Prokhorov, however — just as another party effort called “Right Case” did in its day, when Prokhorov ended up denouncing it as a creature of Kremlin “grey cardinal” Vyacheslav Surkov.
Andrei Makarevich, the popular rock singer from the band Mashina Vremeni, one of Prokhorov’s key supporters who has been targeted by Russian state media for his anti-war expression, has already announced that he is prepared to leave Civic Platform. Makarevich believes that party has “discredited itself and hopelessly undermined its reputation” by joining the Anti-Maidan movement.
Shaykhutdinov responded to the rock musician’s protest by saying “Makarevich’s position is only Makarevich’s position, and he won’t be held in his party.”
The party’s web site carried a notice last week about the Anti-Maidan march saying the party “opposed so-called ‘color’ revolutions which lead to civic strife and the death of civilian population and impoverishment of the country.” Until Makarevich made an issue of it, it didn’t attract much attention, says Mikhailov, “taking into account the virtually zero current popularity of the billionaire’s party.”
Civic Platform has been upset by scandals in the past such as bribery charges against Evgeny Urlashov, mayor of Yaroslavl, himself an anti-corruption activist who ran on the party’s ticket. Prokhorov came to his defense at the time, saying his arrest “was staged with one purpose: to intimidate Yevgeny himself as well as
all independent political figures and simply active citizens.”
Civic Platform, like other parties and organizations in Russia, has been split by the war on Ukraine. Prokhorova, who has been more outspoken than her brother against the war, was eventually forced to leave the party, while retaining a position as a member of the party’s civic committee, essentially as an “observer.” Mikhailov points out that in the last year, Prokhorov has been tending to his business and travelling abroad and not keeping track of the party.
Meanwhile, Shaykhutdinov is planning a tour of Russia’s regions to promote the party.” He is bringing with him other prominent figures associated with the party including Evgeny Royzman, mayor of Yekaterinburg and Elizaveta Glinka, a physician known as “Doctor Liza” who gained prominence caring for children in Donbass. Glinka was among prominent figures who appealed on behalf of Svetlana Davydova, a mother of 7 children charged with treason over reporting troop movements to the Ukrainian Embassy.
Readers at Novaya Gazeta had a number of sarcastic comments and humorous poems to contribute in reaction to the scandal of Prokhorov once again denouncing a party he had founded. Many could not forget the scandal of Courchevel, when the billionaire was accused of hiring prostitutes for a lavish party, although it happened in 2007 and Prokhorov was cleared of the charges in 2009.
Translation: While we were busy here with crap, Prokhorov returned to politics. Summarizing quickly, until he leaves. Will we keep up?
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick