Russia Update: Opposition Journalist Kara-Murza Leaves Russia for Rehabilitation Abroad

July 6, 2015
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. and his wife Evgeniya.

Opposition journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. was discharged from the hospital yesterday, July 5 and flew abroad with his wife for further rehabilitation

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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U.S. Air Force Intercepted Russian Strategic Bombers Off West Coast On 4th of July

It seems that fireworks weren’t the only unusual things in the sky off of the west coast of the United States on July 4, the anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence from England. 

Fox reports:

The first incident occurred at 10:30 a.m. ET on July 4 off the coast of Alaska, Fox News is told. Two U.S. Air Force F-22 jets were scrambled from their base in Alaska to intercept two Tupolev Tu-95 long-range strategic bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons. 

The second incident occurred at 11:00 a.m. ET also on July 4, off the central coast of California. Two F-15s from an undisclosed location were scrambled to intercept another pair of Tu-95 Bear bombers. 

A spokesman for NORAD would not confirm if either pair of bombers was armed. 

None of the Russian aircraft entered American airspace, though the report says that some of the bombers were only 12 nautical miles off the coast.

The Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” is a four-engine turboprop-powered strategic bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons and cruise missiles.

James Miller

Russia’s Economic Woes Not Easily Fixed

Cheese Will Not Save the Russian Economy

With Russia suddenly unable to access imports that it had grown dependent on, government officials have promoted import substitution as a way to make structural changes to the economy and help the country recover in the short term. Unfortunately, according to IMR analyst Ezekiel Pfeifer, the opportunities presented by domestic production of things like dairy products, chemicals, and naval vessels are limited.

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Jul 06, 2015 21:03 (GMT)

Tensions with Russia could prompt NATO strategy rethink

Insight – Tensions with Russia could prompt NATO strategy rethink

BRUSSELS NATO is preparing for a long standoff with Russia, reluctantly accepting that the Ukraine conflict has fundamentally transformed Europe's security landscape and that it may have to abandon hope of a constructive relationship with Moscow.

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Jul 06, 2015 20:31 (GMT)

Maid of Suspect in Nemtsov Murder Case Provides New Details

A maid questioned by the Investigative Committee who worked for suspects in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has shed new light on the case, Kommersant reports.

The witness, whose first name is Zarema, said last October, upon the recommendation of a waitress friend at the Zinc bar where chief suspect Zaud Dadayev worked, she was introduced to a Chechen named Ruslan who offered her a job as a household worker at his apartment at 3 Veyernaya St. He told her to get in touch with his driver, Rusik, for trips to the store.

“The Chechens asked me to call them in just that way — Ruslan and Risik — so as not to mix them up,” she explained. Later she learned that the man who had hired her was Ruslan Geremeyev, and the driver was Ruslan or Rusik Mukhudinov. This confirms that “Ruslan” and “Rusik” are two different people.

Zarema said Geremeyev was undoubtedly the leader of the Chechen group.

“All the others feared and respected him, although among themselves they usually called him ‘Dobry’ [Kind],” which was his call sign in the service.

Zarema did not know what the Chechens did in Moscow; as she was frequently told, “The less you know, the better you’ll sleep.” Geremeyev seldom left the house except to take trips for a few days to Grozny, or to meet with his Chechen friends at the President Hotel in Moscow. He spent the day watching TV or sleeping, she said. In December, he bought a second apartment at 46 Veyernaya Street.

Zarema said visitors to 3 Veyernaya St. included a relative of Ruslan’s, Artur Geremeyev and also Anzor Gubashev, a relative of Dadayev’s and another friend of Ruslan’s, Temirlan Eskerkhanov. The latter two were also arrested in the Nemtsov murder case.

“I saw that Zaur and Artur were people close to Ruslan, but Rusik in their company was simply a hired worker.” She said that Beslan Shavanov, the suspect who died in a grenade explosion when police came knocking at the door, was also a visitor, along with someone whose first name was Aslanbek, a relative of Ruslan’s who also served in the Interior Ministry troops with the rank of colonel.

She said that while they drove various expensive cars, including an Audi and Bentley, she never saw them with guns nor did she hear them talking about any suspicious plans or about Nemtsov. She said then kept a strict schedule of prayer. In March, the group split up and the suspects were arrested.

In his original testimony, later withdrawn, Dadayev said Rusik brought him a gun and car and said he would be paid well. He then disappeared and is currently in the federal wanted list. Despite reports that he may have been killed, his relatives have not held the obligatory Muslim funeral service so his death was not confirmed.

The effect of the maid’s testimony may be to remove Ruslan Geremeyev from the suspect list, if the driver is found to be the accomplice in the murder. Geremeyev has reportedly fled Russia for UAE, although Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has denied his guilt.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Su-24M Bomber Crashes, Killing Both Pilots, the 5th Military Plane Crash In One Month
There has been yet-another crash involving a Russian military jet, the 5th incident in just the last month:

Interfax reports that the jet crashed in an uninhabited area and no one on the ground was injured.

The Su-24M is a swing-winged, supersonic, twin-engined, front-line bomber which was introduced into service in 1983 and is slated to be replaced by the Su-34.  

A picture for reference:


RIA Novosti reports that one pilot was burned to death in the plane crash while the other ejected, but his parachute failed to open and he was also killed. According to the state-owned news agency, the crater at the crash site has a diameter of no less than 20 metres and is 5 metres deep.

Interfax reports that this latest crash is part of a pattern of recent jet crashes (translated by The Interpreter):

Today’s Su-24M catastrophe is now the fifth air accident involving Russian Air Force combat aircraft over the last month. At the beginning of June, a MiG-29 fighter crashed at the Ashuluk training range; in the Voronezh region a Su-34 tactical bomber crashed while landing; in the far east, a Tu-95 strategic bomber skidded off a runway and caught fire; and, three days ago, a MiG-29 fighter crashed in the Krasnodar region.

The last accident involving Su-24 bombers took place in February, 2015, in the Volgograd region, both pilots were killed. According to the Ministry of Defence, the aircraft crashed while making its landing approach during a scheduled flight.

Previous incidents with this type of aircraft occurred in 2012. In February, 2012, a Su-24M bomber crashed in the Kurgan region. In October of the same year, a Su-24M crashed in the Chelyabinsk region. In both cases, the pilots successfully ejected and survived.

After the latest crash of the MiG-29 on July 3, the Russian military grounded its entire fleet of the aircraft. The Moscow Times reports:

This is the fourth time a MiG-29 has crashed in the past year. On June 4, a MiG-29 flying out of a base in the nearby Astrakhan region “exploded, caught fire and was destroyed,” an unidentified government source told news agency RIA Novosti at the time. The pilot ejected and was unharmed.

Two and a half hours after that crash, a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber aircraft in the Voronezh region, about 500 kilometers south of Moscow, flipped over while trying to land. The crew survived and the plane did not explode, but was heavily damaged.

A few days later, a Russian Tu-95 “Bear” strategic bomber ran off a runway at the Ukrainka bomber base in Russia’s far eastern Amur region after an engine caught fire during takeoff. One airman was killed and another hospitalized. No other members of the crew were injured.

Some distance from Russia, we are watching another incident involving a Russian-designed aircraft in Iraq, where an Su-25, possibly recently delivered by either Iran or Russia or part of Iraq’s aging fleet of such aircraft, dropped a bomb on a residential neighborhood of Baghdad after what was reportedly a mechanical malfunction after a bombing run against ISIS. 

Sky News reports that the bomb did not drop during the bombing raid, but fell on Iraq’s capital while the aircraft was returning to base:

Iraq received Sukhoi Su-25 jets from Russia and Iran last year as it sought to bolster its fledgling air force to combat the Islamic State jihadist group, which overran large parts of the country.

The Su-25s are designed for ground attack missions, but Iraq’s Sukhoi fleet is made up of ageing planes that have seen heavy use as Baghdad’s forces battle to push the jihadists back.

James Miller, Pierre Vaux

Opposition Journalist Kara-Murza, Jr. Leaves Russia for Rehabilitation Abroad

Opposition journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. was discharged from the hospital yesterday, July 5 and flew abroad with his wife for further rehabilitation, Open Russia reported.

On July 5, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr. was quoted (translation by The Interpreter):

“A big thanks to City Hospital No. 1, they did everything that was required. Now there will be rehabilitation, they must be certain of the stability of his condition, and restore some functions. This will take a month or two.”

Earlier on June 25, Open Russia said they had managed to speak to Kara-Murza, Jr. on the telephone and get this statement from him:

“Enormous thanks to everyone! I didn’t know that so many people were worried about what had happened to me. I very much hope that soon I will be with you not just in soul but in body. I really miss people at work. Thanks!”

On June 22, Dr. Aleksei Svet, the chief physician, had said that Kara-Murza, Jr. was stabilized and was talking and able to feed himself.

Kara-Murza, Jr. was rushed to the hospital on May 26 with suspected poisoning. The Russian state media published various disinformation articles saying that Kara-Murza, Jr. had suffered an overdose of depressants. But his physicians and family denied these claims.

Translation: Today Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. woh nearly died from poisoning was brought out of Moscow on a special flight to Germany.

– Catherine A. Fitzpatrick