Russia Update: Buryat Editor Likely to Face Surgery for Broken Neck After Assault

July 14, 2015
Deutsche Bank. Photo by Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

New York State’s Department of Financial Services is probing Deutsche Bank over a $6 billion trade involving Russian clients that may involve a bribe and money-launering.

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.

Special features:

‘I Was on Active Duty’: Interview with Captured GRU Officer Aleksandrov
Meet The Russian Fighters Building A Base Between Mariupol And Donetsk
‘There Was No Buk in Our Field’
With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin

Russia This Week:

Is ‘Novorossiya’ Really Dead?
From Medal of Valor to Ubiquitous Propaganda Symbol: the History of the St. George Ribbon
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

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Another Russian Strategic Bomber Crashes

Russian military aircraft are falling out of the skies far faster than any other airforce in the world. In fact, Russia has lost more aircraft in the last six months, despite being “at peace,” than the United states lost in its last two years of war in Iraq.

Today a Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bomber crashed near the Chinese border.

USNI News reports:

The Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear bomber went down during a training flight about 50 miles away from the headquarters of the Russian Eastern Military District, according to the statement provided to the TASS wire service..

“On July 14 at 9:50 A.M. Moscow time [2:50 EST] the Tu-95MS aircraft crashed while performing a scheduled training flight some 80 kilometers from Khabarovsk. The crew ejected,” the ministry said.

“According to preliminary information, after a report by the crew’s commander about an emergency situation, the flight control head ordered the crew to leave the plane by parachutes. The search and rescue groups are looking for the plane’s crewmembers.”

A later update from AFP says that two of the seven crew were killed and the five surviving members have been taken to a military hospital.

“The search and rescue team of the eastern military district has found where two members of the Tu-95 bomber landed,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

“Both pilots were killed,” the defence ministry said in the statement carried by Russian news agencies.

“According to reports from the scene, the pilots were killed during landing,” said the statement.

This is the 2nd Russian military Tupolev Tu-95 to crash recently. A Tu-95 suffered an engine fire on June 8.

This is at least the 6th Russian military plane crash in just six weeks.

The Moscow Times reports that one of the possible causes of the increase in frequency in crashes is the increase in  aggressive patrolling of international airspace:

Russia’s aging aircraft fleet has been called into heavy service over the past 18 months as relations with the West deteriorated over the crisis in Ukraine. The NATO military alliance has said it intercepted 400 Russian aircraft near its borders last year — a 50 percent increase over 2013.

The increased flight rate is taking a toll on Russia’s fleets of MiG-29, Su-24 and Su-34 fighter jets, as well as the Tu-95 long-range bombers, all of which have experienced accidents since the beginning of June.

Janes IHS adds that these missions are especially taxing for the strategic bombers and other older aircraft:

Since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine and the deterioration of relations with the West over his country’s annexation of Crimea and its support of pro-Russian separatists, President Vladimir Putin has relied almost exclusively on his air force in general, and the strategic bomber force in particular, to demonstrate his strength and resolve to the outside world. With the VVS [Russian Air Force, or Voyenno-Vozdushnyye Sily] still heavily reliant on Soviet-era machines despite ongoing modernisation, this rash of aircraft crashes may be the first indication that his capabilities do not quite match up to the rhetoric.

Though it’s a civilian vehicle, another Russian aircraft had problems today, an Mi-8 helicopter belonging to Komiaviatrans, a regional airline:

James Miller
Buryat Editor Yevgeny Khamagan, Opposition Activist Expecting Surgery for Broken Neck After Assault
Yesterday July 13, we reported on a brutal attack on Yevgeny Khamaganov, editor-in-chief of Asian Russian Daily (ARD) and an activist in the opposition Yabloko party. Currently he is listed in serious condition in a hospital in Ulan-Ude.

Now his friend Dorjo Dugarov has provided an update on his condition on his Facebook page (translation by The Interpreter):

“I visited the neurosurgery department of the Semashko Republican Hospital.  Zhenya [Yevgeny] feels better and is even trying to joke. An MRI was made today. Tomorrow they will take further samples and will make a decision about surgical intervention. He asked to send greetings to everyone concerned about him and is sincerely thankful for those who hae send funds for treatment.”

Yesterday, ARD said that Khamaganov’s condition was “of medium severity” but that he was conscious and talking. He recalled being struck from behind and falling unconscious then waking up in the hospital. Doctors said he has skull and brain injuries, lacerations of his face and head, and a comminuted [splintered] fracture of his cervical vertebrae in his neck.

His colleagues were concerned that as of last night, the police had still not opened up a case of assault.

The editors of ARD believe that the attack was related to Khamagonov’s professional work. They said (translation by The Interpreter):

“In the interests of the investigation and out of ethical considerations we cannot divulge all the information known to us. We can acknowledge only that threats of physical reprisals had been made against Yegeniya in the past (and even publically, in comments on our site) — exactly related to his professional and civic activity.”

They hinted that “regular readers of ARD will understand what is referenced.”

Today, ARD added that Khaganov had been returning from a picnic organized by a group called “Voices of Nomads” when he was struck in the head with a bottle by unknown attackers. Doctors have diagnosed him with a broken neck and will makie a decision about whether to intervene with surgery in the next few days.

In recent days, ARD has covered statements by the Tibetan Dalai Lama and Buddhist culture and the national holiday Nadaam as well as Putin’s display of a Buryat national artist at the recent BRICS summit in Ulan Uda.

Today there is an appeal by a group called “Putin’s Battle Buryats” addressed “to the frightened residents of Ukraine.”

The video, introduced by the same music as but with the label “Set'” (Internet) and Buddhist monks chanting in the background, consists of various young Buryat men and women explaining that there are no Buryats in combat in Ukraine.

“You have so succumbed to propaganda that you fear your own shadow,” says one young man. “No one will be surprised if you soon report that our combat divisions have penetrated to Kiev,” says a young woman.

“You keep imagining that now Buryats, then Russians, then Chechens from the GRU have formed a militia of the many ethnic groups of Great Russia,” said a young man.

“The next step will be news that hobbits sent by Putin have been detained,” says one woman.

“If we were in Ukraine, all the oligarchs and junta deceiving the people would come to an end,” said the young man again.

This contradicts the findings of Russian independent media and Western
reporters of Buryats fighting in Debaltsevo and subsequent battles. Just two weeks ago, a video was uploaded to YouTube titled “Our Vakha at War,” about a Buryat fighter with the call sign “Vakha” (“Sentry) often featured in Novorossiya propaganda shows.

tank driver, Dorzhi Batomunkuyev, was severely burned in combat and made
famous by a Novaya Gazeta reporter, Yelena Kostyuchenko, who reported
on his ordeal.

But subsequently Batomunkuyev’s mother began
that he had not been in Ukraine, although he himself had
testified that he was a contract soldier deployed in Debaltsevo.

local news site Novaya Buryatia, inundated with visitors when they ran
an interview with Batomkunkuyev’s mother later removed all materials
about his story

Putin Fires 110,000 Interior Ministry Staff Members, But Plenty of Police and Spetsnaz Remain

President Vladimir Putin has signed an order reducing the number of employees of the Interior Ministry, reported, citing the Russian government website’s announcement.

The reduction of so-called “budget employees” whose salaries are paid by the federal government was planned, and more are anticipated said Aleksandr Khinshtein, member of parliament. The 110,000 included 45,000 security personnel hired outside the ministry who were employed at guard stations.

The Interior Ministry hopes to save 111 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) with the cuts; this was the amount their own overall budget was cut by the government this year in the economic crisis.

The Interior Ministry explained that these dismissals were not made from “territorial, line or agent divisions of the police working directly with the population.” Furthermore, there will be no reductions of the spetsnaz or among the “Crimean Federal District” as Ukraine’s forcibly annexed Crimean peninsula has been renamed by Russia.

This is the sort of news story that can lead some people to think Putin is reducing the elements of his police state or even winding down the war in Ukraine, which are unrelated. But in fact, it appears that many of the uniformed police will remain, and police are likely to get enhanced new powers to shoot demonstrators, in a bill making its way through the compliant parliament.

The actual text of today’s presidential decree says (translation by The Interpreter):

Establish the limit of the number of staff of Russian Federation Interior Ministry agencies (not counting personnel in security and maintenance of buildings) financed by budget allocations from the federal budget in the amount of 1,003,172 individuals, including officers of the Russian  Federation Interior Ministry in the amount of 835,825, federal civil servants at 5,123 and workers at 162,224.”

Russia has among the higher number of police per capita among the nations of the world at 546; the US has 401. In 2013, Wikipedia says Russia reportedly had 782,001 police. After the cuts, and subtracting civil servants and administrative employees, the figure will now  be set at 668,478, which means that the figure cited in Wikipedia 2 years ago may have been low. says the government plans to find jobs for those made redundant by placing them with the forces of regional officials and also sending them to the Federal Labor and Employment Service, trade unions and civic organizations.

It was not know yet if the cuts affected the Chechen Interior Ministry troops personally controlled by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Ultranationalist Ilya Gorachev, Leader of BORN, Found Guilty of Murder by Russian Jury

A Russian jury found Ilya Goryachev, leader of the ultranationalist group BORN (Battle Organization of Russian Nationalists), guilty of creating an extremist association, unlawful possession of weapons, and complicity in murder on grounds of ideological enmity, including the murder of human rights attorney Stanislav Markelov, reported.

Vladimir Markin, spokesman of the Investigative Committee said Goryachev pled guilty to all the charges, which involved giving orders to kill Markelov as well as anti-fascist activists Fyodor Filatov and Ilya Dzhaparaidze; Rasul Khalilo, a student from Azerbaijan and Salokhiddin Aziv, a citizen of Tajikistan.

In March, a jury found 3 other BORN defendants guilty of these murders as well as of the murder of Judge Edward Chuvashov, but decided that two of the defendants deserved lesser of  sentences. A fourth was found not guilty of some of the murders committed by the group but is still serving a 10-year sentence on separate murder charges.

As Mediazone reported
, under Russian law, Goryachev faces life imprisonment, but because he was extradited from Serbia, where the maximum punishment is 40 years, the court could not sentence him to life.

Markin said that the case is still under investigation.

The Russian independent media has published reports indicating that the defendants claimed ties to officials responsible for managing youth groups, including the Kremlin administration’s Vyacheslav Surkov and United Russia’s Aleksei Mitryushin, a leader of Nashi [Ours] and later Mestniye [Locals], pro-Putin movements created by the government, said

Goryachev said he had not created an underground group but had monitored radical youth movements on assignment from Mitryushin and wrote a report, “Activism of Leftist-radical Forces in Russia,” for a consulting fee, said

Mitryushin, once the executive director of the “Russian Project” of the United Russia Party, is currently the head of the Council of Deputies of Vidnoye, a Moscow suburb. He has been repeatedly mentioned in the press as the organizer of Nashi’s security service when it clashed with other groups, and has also been named a leader of a soccer ultras club.

Another figure named as a “Kremlin official” by defendant Yevgeniya Khasis, found guilty of the murder of Markelov and Anastasiya Baburina, a journalist with him when he was killed, was Leonid Simulin. said open sources indicate that Simulin was not a Kremlin employee but worked on the staff of Mestniye in Lyubertsi, a suburb of Moscow. In that capacity, he said he gave only “crumbs” of money to Goryachev for youth activities.

Goryachev was also said to be a leader of Russkiy Obraz (Russian Image) a neo-Nazi magazine where Dmitry Steshin, now a prominent pro-Kremlin war correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda, once worked as an editor.

The evidence for a connection to the presidential administration found so far has not been conclusive but officials are unlikely to probe it further.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

US Investigate’s Deutsch Bank Over Possible Russian Bribe in $6 Billion of Trades
US authorities are investigating Germany’s Deutsche Bank over a possible Russian bribe, the Financial Times reported.

Department of Financial Services [DFS] made the request as part of an
intensifying investigation into whether $6bn of trades made by the
German lender for Russian clients constituted money laundering, according to a document seen by the Financial Times.

June, the German lender disclosed it had launched an internal
investigation into the securities trades and it had placed several
individuals from its Moscow unit on leave. The internal probe is looking
at trades carried out over a period of four years ending in early 2015.

The trades under investigation involve so-called mirror trades, and the DFS is investigating whether this practice allowed Russian clients to move funds illegally out of the country, possibly to avoid sanctions. They’ve been asked to provide the names of the clients.

In June, Bloomberg reported on Deutsche Bank’s own probe of the $6 billion:

The Bank of Russia approached Deutsche Bank in October asking the
firm to examine the stock-trading activities of some clients in the
country, said one person, who asked not to be identified because the
discussions are private.

Benjamin Lawsky’s Department of Financial Services in New York is
looking at unusual trading activity at the firm in Russia, another
person said. Deutsche Bank is analyzing data from 2011 through early
2015, and has alerted Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, the
European Central Bank and Germany’s Bafin of the investigation, two
people said.

“We are committed to participating in international efforts to detect
and combat suspicious activities and we take strong action where we
find evidence of misconduct,” Deutsche Bank said in an e-mailed
statement Friday. “We have placed on leave a small number of individuals
from our Moscow operation pending the results of an internal review. said that Deutsche Bank is among the largest foreign investment banks in Russia, and has more than 1,000 employees in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Translation: on the Goryachev verdict: excellent team work by the defense and prosecution, but now we’d like to see the curators in the dock.

“Curators” is a term used regarding Russian intelligence officers as well as government officials who serve as mentors and managers of agents or pro-government allies.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick