Kasyanov Files Complaint About Kadyrov to FSB; Kadyrov Says ‘Too Early’ To Think About Re-Election

February 3, 2016
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov | Photo: Izvestia

LIVE UPDATES: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov continues to dominate the headlines as the stories of his threats against the Russian opposition and the impending end of his term continue to reverberate.

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 Student Accused of Ties to ISIS Sent to Serbsky Institute for Psychiatric Evaluation

Varvara Karaulova, a student at Moscow State University who ran away to join ISIS and was caught by Turkish authorities and returned to Russia, is being sent to the Serbsky Institute for psychiatric evaluation, her lawyer Sergei Badamshin told RIA Novosti.
The Serbsky Institute became notorious in the Soviet era for sending sane dissenters to maximum-security psychiatric incarceration, and recently has once again been handling cases of people who have been ruled sane in the past but have persisted in anti-government actions.

Karaulova, who followed an online ISIS recruiter who said he would marry her, left Moscow in May 2015. In June she was arrested on the Turkish-Syrian border with a group of 12 other Russian citizens, then returned to Russia. She will spend about a month under psychiatric examination mandated by a December 2015 court order.  In December, her pre-trial arrest was extended to March 27.

While at first investigators said they would call her as a witness in a case about ISIS recruitment, eventually they charged her with attempt to join ISIS herself, and she admitted her guilt.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Russian Police Claim American Military Attache DWI; US Embassy Denies, Says He Was Repeatedly Stopped
Interfax reported today that a U.S. diplomat was stopped by police in the city of Slantsy in Leningrad Region and was supposedly driving while intoxicated.
Police said John Frankley Fravel III, a US military attache, who was driving a rented Volkswagen Tiguan, was violating traffic regulations and was DWUI. Police said a man and woman were also in the car with him, also US citizens, and the woman was asked to drive the car because she was sober.
Police said Fravel refused to explain his actions, go for a medical test or sign the police ticket.
US Embassy spokesman Will Stephens then denied the Russian claims, Interfax reported (translation by The Interpreter):

“We have absolutely no grounds to suppose that this incident was somehow connected to alcohol,” he said.

Stephens said the Embassy considered that it was “no accident that the Embassy official was stopped by GIBDD [traffic] inspectors several times in Leningrad Region” before he was stopped and charged with drunk driving.
The first time the diplomat was stoppped, it was for 25 minutes, and police referred to some “insignificant traffic violation.”
The second time he was held for more than two hours; he was then stopped a third time, his documents were checked, and he was then let go after five minutes.
There were no further details. Stevens didn’t comment on the incident on his Twitter feed, but had this to say:

The stopping of the military attache in Leningrad Region occurs at a time when the US and Russia are in a reciprocity war.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Russia Plans to Privatize Rosneft, Bashneft and Other State Companies – But Cautiously, And With Conditions
One of the ways Russian President Vladimir Putin is thinking about coping with the Russian economic crisis – the ruble is still not recovering and is at 78.11 to the dollar today and Brent is at $34 today – is to privatize some state companies, or at least reduce the government’s shares in them.
Aleksei Ulyukayev, minister of economic development said today at a news conference that the government will begin with the oil companies Rosneft and Bashneft, and ALROSA, the diamond-mining company, Ura.ru and Interfax reported (translation by The Interpreter):

“These are companies, which are already in the plan for privatization. These are public companies that are quoted on the market and by virtue of that, technically and legally best of all prepared and known best of all to the investor. We will start with these companies.”

Bashneft had already been purchased by oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov, when the Kremlin decided to find fault with the acquisition six years after the fact, and placed Yevtushenkov under house arrest on fraud charges and seized his Bashneft shares. A court ruled the nationalization was legal but eventually Yevtushenkov was released and cleared of the charges. He did not seek to regain his property.

Now the government is talking about privatizing Bashneft again.

Reporters also asked whether the government’s decision not to privatize Sberbank will mean that it will not reduce its controlling shares in VTB. Ulyukayev replied that an existing presidential decree requires that the government maintain its control of VTB. He also said that his ministry shares the position of the Russian State Property agency on the need to raise the minimum level of dividends for state companies from 25% to 50% and to move to international standards of financial reporting. He said this issue was now at the stage of being coordinated by the ministries.
At a government meeting on February 1, Putin said that while there was the need to privatize some companies, the state should not lose control over “strategic enterprises,” Interfax reported.
For example, the state is close to controlling Aeroflot with 51.17% of the shares, but there is a presidential decree authorizing the reduction of that percentage to 50% plus one share. But as Putin explained, the sale of Sberbank shares would reduce the government’s control, so there are no plans for privatization.
Perhaps eager to distinguish his plans from Yeltsin’s infamous “loans for shares,” Putin also set demands for the kinds of investors who would be acceptable to the government – which seem to be code words for loyal Russian subjects:

“The transfer of shares into private hands is only possible if the buyer has a strategy for development of the acquired company. The new owners of the privatized shares must be located in a Russian jurisdiction.”

He said it was “impermissible” to take the shares to offshore companies or conceal the owners.

“We have already long spoken about de-offshorization, and under these conditions going into a new privatization, allowing further offshorization of the Russian economy would be wrong.”

Putin’s offer to Russian companies to come back to Russia from abroad has not been going so well, and he has urged officials to redouble their efforts to attract them back.
Putin also said that buyers of state assets must have their own resources or loans that do not involve state banks and that companies should not be sold at fire-sale prices which would not help the budget.
In addition to the companies named by Ulyukayev and Aeroflot, Putin indicated the airline Sovkomflot and Russian Railways could be invited to privatize.

But the existing plan for 2016 only mentions Sovkomflot, although the Ministry of Economic Development has called for privatizing Rosneft. Previous plans going back to 2013 have not been realized; last year the plan talked about the government getting out of Rosspirtprom, the liquor company, as well as Obyedinyonnay Zernovaya (United Grain) and Rostelekom, the telecom company but this did not happen, nor were the amounts of shares reduced in a number of other companies including ALROSA and Russian Railways.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Transgender Woman Murdered in Russia
Anzhela Likina, a transgender woman formerly known as Oleg Vorobyov, was brutally stabbed to death in Ufa, Bashkortistan, a southern republic of the Russian Federation, Radio Svoboda and Ufa1.ru reported yesterday, February 2.
A friend of Likina’s former wife has been detained as a suspect in the murder. Likina had two daughters and ran a car repair shop. 
Investigators say that on February 1, a dispute took place between Likina and the suspect, a 41-year-old male who was said to be intoxicated at the time.
Likina gained fame in 2014 with a YouTube video showing her being stopped by police while driving, and the policemen’s mocking reaction upon seeing the driver’s license with a male name.

Likina wrote on her VKontakte page shortly before her death (translation by The Interpreter):

“Do what you want and don’t let anyone influence your choice and the decisions you have make, take reponsibility for your life. And be drawn in your relations to the strongest and the best. That will give you correct orientations and will definitely bring you closer to your dreams.”

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Kasyanov Files Complaint About Kadyrov to FSB; Kadyrov Says ‘Too Early’ To Think About Re-Election
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov continues to dominate the headlines as the stories of his threats against the Russian opposition and the impending end of his term continue to reverberate.

Kadyrov himself mentioned the expiration of his term on Instagram, adding coyly that he he had “not given thought as to whether he would run for elections again,” that it was “too early” to speak of them and that he “did not want to get distracted.” He then noted that the candidate for the head of Chechnya “must be the choice of the president of Russia” — although according to the Chechen Constitution, the head is no longer appointed by the Russian president but is supposed to be directly elected by the people of Chechnya.

RBC.ru reported that presidential administration spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he was not aware of any decree being prepared regarding the expiration of Kadyrov’s term, but said there was “a fair amount of time” before it expired.

According to RBC.ru, Mikhail Kasyanov, chair of the opposition Parnas party and former finance minister, has submitted complaints to the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Investigative Committee about Kadyrov’s post on Instagram – since removed by Instagram moderators – threatening Kasyanov and Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. with a video clip of surveillance tape while they were in Strasbourg, shown through a sniper’s scope.

Kadyrov claimed they were in Strasbourg to pick up EU money; the two were in fact testifying at a hearing about the case of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. The scope was likely spliced in later; Kadyrov tried to diminish the post, first claiming the opposition were cowards, then saying the crosshairs were only from “a periscope.”

Kasyanov believes Kadyrov has violated a number of articles of the Russian criminal code — attempt on the life of a state or public figure; public calls to extremist activity; and incitement of hatred or enmity. He is referencing not only the Instagram post but the posters and speeches at the January 22 rally in Grozny in support of Kadyrov which featured many attacks on prominent opposition figures.
Sergei Mitrokhin, head of the Yabloko party’s Moscow section, also filed a complaint with authorities noting that Kadyrov was inciting hatred of a certain social group that did not support the current political line of the government. He also cited the posters at the Grozny rally: “Liberals of All Stripes Thirst for Crises, Protests, and Death!” “One Opposition Member Does More Harm Than 100 Friends Does Good!” “Liberals in the Government – Crisis in the Economy”; “Don’t Spare Money for the Russian Opposition-USA State Department”; “Russian Liberal Needs Materiel for Russia”.

The European Union has also weighed in on Kadyrov’s threats. Amb. Vygaudas Ušackas, the EU envoy to Russia, after speaking with Kasyanov, issued a statement saying he was shocked by the “repulsive unconcealed threats of murder” and urged the Russian government to respond. 

The statement said such threats were “unacceptable in a democratic society.”

Interfax reported that the EU statement then evoked a response from Kadyrov’s press secretary, who said the Chechen government was “extremely surprised” and demanded “clarifications” regarding which statements by Kadyrov on Instagram contained “unconcealed threats.” 

“We would also be grateful to know on which linguistic analyses your conclusions about ‘theats of murder’ were based on,” the statement said.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick