Russia Update: Opposition Journalist Kara-Murza, Jr Remains in Serious Condition

June 1, 2015
(R-L) Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., Sergei Mitrokhin, Grigory Yavlinsky, Mikhail Kasyanov at an opposition meeting in Moscow on March 5, 2012. Kara-Murza, Jr. is wearing the white ribbon symbolizing the anti-Putin movement.

The condition of Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., the opposition journalist and coordinator for Open Russia, founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, remains serious but stable condition in Pirogova City Hospital No. 1, the chief physician said. Friends and colleagues are concerned he could have been poisoned.

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.


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

Special features:

With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin
Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs‏.

Russian-backed Separatist Commander Givi Tries To Recruit Fighters at Airport; A Woman Tells Him Such ‘Defenders’ Are the Problem

A video was uploaded to YouTube on May 29 by the account Free Donbas which shows the Russian-backed separatist Somalia Battalion commander known as
“Givi” (Mikhail Tolstykh) aggressively recruiting fighters at the

We found this video was actually uploaded earlier on May 20 by
Yaroslav Voyansky, whose Russian initials can be seen in the right-hand
corner of the film. But Free Donbas has added the English sub-titles.

The video may have been intended as a propaganda reel in the genre
of previous videos where Givi and other fighters attempt to shame men
leaving on buses with their families to Russia or in other settings,
complaining that they don’t have enough recruits to protect the
self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DNR).

This particular video backfired, however, as the people talked back.

The video has subtitles that are more or less correct  but we have slightly edited the translation:

Woman: If it wasn’t for your weapon, we’d tell you a thing or two.
Givi: What would you tell me?
Woman: If people like you…
Givi: What?
Woman: If people like you would stop defending us, and I don’t understand from what! From whom!
Givi: Alright, let me take you to Kiev if that’s what you want!
Woman: That’s where I’m going!
Givi: Oh, great!
Woman: If you didn’t “protect” us, they wouldn’t have a reason to bomb us!
Givi: Alright, let me take you there!

calls the men “cowards” for leaving the country for Russia. He demands
to know why they aren’t staying and fighting for the DNR. Givi’s comrade
demands to know why one man he confronts isn’t digging trenches. Givi
cries “He’s a coward.” The man says he has a bad back. A woman says that
another is taking his son to Russia and then returning.

“Are you
asking for help from Russia? Here, Russia has helped you!” he says,
pointing to himself, in an acknowledgement that the “local self defense”
is aided by Russia.

In the comments, some people dispute whether this person is in fact
Givi. But he has an unmistakeable voice and lisp and his face can also
be seen at 0:29.


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Kremlin’s ‘Troll Farm’ Representatives Fail to Show Up in Court in Response to Journalist’s Lawsuit
The Kremlin troll farm in St. Petersburg — one of the favorite stories of the media — was back in the news again when a former employee, Ludmila Savchuk, told her story and said she wanted to take former employer to court for labor violations, Novaya Gazeta reported.

Russian internet 'troll' sues former employer

A former Russian internet "troll" hired to promote political views online is suing her ex-employer in an attempt to draw attention to the country's "information war" , a news report said on Friday.

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Jun 01, 2015 22:51 (GMT)

Paid as a Pro-Kremlin Troll: 'The Hatred Spills over into the Real World' – SPIEGEL ONLINE

Lyudmila Savchuk speaks quickly. She also uses two phones at the same time — they've been ringing nonstop since a news agency ran a feature about Savchuk and her experiences working as a professional Kremlin Internet troll. Savchuk, who hails from St.

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Jun 01, 2015 22:52 (GMT)

we reported last November and again in January 2015, this story has been covered in depth by Russian journalists. A company called Internet Research,
said to be run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the “Kremlin chief” who provided catering to the Kremlin and also supplies
paid pro-government commentary, had expanded to a new office in St.

Today, June 1, Savchuk had expected her suit would be
reviewed at a hearing in Petrograd District Court in St. Petersburg,
concerning failure to provide a labor contract and dismissal order,
unpaid wages, and compensation for moral damages, said Novaya Gazeta.

Savchuk, a
journalist and activist, says she had deliberately got a job at Internet
Research in January in order to expose the troll farm. After her first
published interview about the trolls’ planting of commentary and blogs to counter Kremlin critics in March, she was fired, but not given back pay. She decided
to start the lawsuit as part of an effort to expose the operation.

a hearing had been scheduled for June 23, but Savchuk’s lawyer, Darya
Sukhikh, asked for an accelerated proceeding and got the date moved to
June 1, notifying the respondents. But the troll farm representatives
then didn’t show up in court, so they are now expecting them at a
hearing on June 23.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Lavrov Says Leaking Of Blacklist Of EU Figures Is A ‘Violation Of Ethical Standards’

Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reports that the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has confirmed the veracity of the “blacklist” of European politicians and officials barred from entry to the Russian Federation, but considers the leaking of the list to the media “a violation of ethical standards.”

The Interpreter has translated an excerpt:

According to the Russian minister, the European Commission asked us to send them the blacklist of European Union citizens banned from entering the Russian Federation “exclusively for our attention in confidence, so that we in Brussels can inform the concerned parties of this list.”

“We passed this list on at the request of the European Union on a confidential basis, and it immediately became the subject of leaks in the press, but the EU, which usually refrains from commenting on leaks, enthusiastically commented on it. So I too perceive this as a violation of ethical standards,” said Lavrov.

The list, a copy of which was leaked on Saturday, contains 89 names.

Amongst those are: the general secretary of the EU Council, Uwe Corsepius; the former British deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg; the former Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg; the former minister for EU enlargement , Stefan Fule; German MEP Rebecca Harms; and the director-general of MI5, Andrew Parker.

— Pierre Vaux

Gay Parade, Anti-War Protest Broken Up by Ultrarightists; Police Make Arrests

Perhaps it is the warmer weather or perhaps it is the increasing number of things to protest, but there were a number of liberal demonstrations in Moscow over the weekend with violent opposition from ultrarightist forces in some cases, ending in arrest of the demonstrators.

The annual gay parade in Moscow on May 30 ended in arrests and sentences to 10 days in jail including for the organizer, Nikolai Alekseyev and also two other LGBT activists, Vadim Grizdneva and Yevgeniya Gerasimova, Novaya Gazeta reported citing OVDInfo, the police monitoring group. The are charged with “insubordination to the lawful instruction of police officers” under Art. 19-3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses for holding an unauthorized demonstration. Alekseyev also faces additional charges for organizing an unauthorized rally (Art. 20-2).

About 20 others arrested in connection with the LGBT parade were let go.

Alekseyev came to the mayor’s office on a quadrocycle and lit sparklers.  Several others stood with a banner at the monument to Yury Dolgoruky, founder of Moscow, nearby.

The ultrarightist Russian Orthodox activist Dmitry Tsorionov, who goes by the name Enteo and heads a group called Bozhya Volya (“God’s Will”), led an attack on the gay demonstrators with his supporters, who wore St. George ribbons and chanted “Christ has risen”. They pushed Alekseyev to the ground, then dragged him along the street by his hands and feet, and punched the other demonstrators. They also threw eggs at the LGBT activists.

In this photo a Russian Orthodox activist slaps a gay demonstrator in the face.

Photo by Philip Kireev.

Translation: Tverskaya District Court declared me guilty under Art. 19-3 and jailed me for 10 days. The trial was a farce!

Translation: According to @n_alexeyev, during the scuffle at the mayor’s office his finger was possibly broken!

Alekseyev called an ambulance but the police did not let it through, Novaya Gazeta reported earlier.

Enteo was detained as he and another activist were attempting to rip an LGBT flag, but then let go by police after a “preventive talk.”


Photo by Philip Kireev.

For more photos of the demonstration and arrests see Kireev’s LiveJournal blog.

As can be seen in this video uploaded by Igor Shevchuk titled
“Fight Between Gays and Russian Orthodox Activists,” several dozen men
with backpacks charged the gay demonstrators, then police pull some of
them away.

At another picket by the movement Solidarity against the war in Ukraine, Anti-Maidan activists were on hand to beat the demonstrators, throw eggs at them, and also throw zelyonka, a green indelible disinfectant.

Василий Петров – Пикет против политики Путина (войны) по… | Facebook

Пикет против политики Путина (войны) по отношению к Украине. Сухаревская 31.05.2015 г.

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Jun 01, 2015 21:34 (GMT)

Translation: Vasily Petrov – Picket against Putin’s policy (war) regarding Ukraine on Sukharevskaya Street, 31.05.2015.

Translation: And another three SERBs or NOD [National Liberation Movement].

NOD is headed by Federal Council member Yevgeny Fyodorov and is an ultrarightist group which supports Russia’s war against Ukraine and believes in conspiracy theories, including that the CIA has already taken over Russia and runs the opposition.

ROD-SERB  is not related to Serbia; “ROD” are the first letters of the words for “Russian Liberation Movement” and SERB are the first letters of the words for “South East Radical Bloc” (see their Facebook page.) It was founded by a retired actor from Dnepropetrovsk who goes by the name Gosha Tarasevich (whose real name is Igor Beketov) who recruited fighters for the Donbass last summer and supported Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin).

ROD-Serb has been at pains to make the distinction between their group and NOD. SERB was involved in clearing away the Nemtsov memorial on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, and putting up this sign:

“ROD SERB states: Some find it symbolic that Nemtsov was murdered at the walls of the Kremlin, but we find it symbolic that at that moment a garbage truck came…it is the clean-up of the garbage of Russia.”

Nikolai Starikov of the Anti-Maidan movement has publicly disassociated from SERB apparently because they do not want to be associated with the murder of Nemtsov, says Vedomosti.

Translation: NOD got zelyonka on the square, and glass from broken bottles, and eggs.

Anastasia Zotova posted a video to Facebook of Tarasevich spraying pepper in the face of activist Mikhail Kriger:

Translation: now the Solidarity activists, covered with zelyonka, are cleaning up after NOD their stinking shards.

Translation: Now, as in the Donbass, there are “little green men” going around Moscow who can beat up anybody, and nothing will happen to them for that. Lawlessness.

Another protest concerned a new law permitting the use of physical force on prisoners. Ludmila Alexeyeva, 87, the chair of the oldest human rights group in Russia, the Moscow Helsinki Group, was among those holding up signs.

Translation: A picket by Ludmila Alexeyeva against the law that allows the use of physical force against prisoners. Sign: “I Oppose the ‘Sadists’ law’.

Veteran human rights activist Sergei Kovalev, former political prisoner and former deputy, also came to protest the law:


Photo via

Families with many children also conducted a picket, Novaya Gazeta reported; these are people not associated with the organized opposition.


Photo by Pelagiya Belyakova. Signs: “Multi-children families are victims of pre-election deception by party of power?!” and “Bureaucrat? You promised? Fulfill it! Or let’s go, good-bye.”

The demonstrators signed a petition to the mayor’s office.

One of the picketers, Tatyana Skvortsova, a mother of three, told Novaya Gazeta that in 2012, after the president decreed that better housing should be provided for large families, officials collected statements from the families and promised them subsidies. Some immediately got a payment for 3 months, and then nothing after that in 2013.

Skvortsova said that they changed the rules and put all people who were to get such benefits in one line, which means they wait longer for apartments.


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Video Shows USS Ross Buzzed By Russian Fighter Jet On May 30 During Dueling Drills

Russia may not be breaking international law with maneuvers like this one, but that does not make them any less dangerous.

The US Mission to NATO has tweeted out a video which it says shows a Russian jet buzzing the USS Ross in international waters in the Black Sea yesterday:

“USS Ross (DDG 71) observes the overflight by a Russian SU 24 aircraft while both were operating in international waters and airspace. Ross continued on her mission after observing the aircraft return to base. At no time did Ross act aggressively nor did she deviate from her planned operations. The conduct of her crew has been and continues to be professional. Ross’ Sailors observed that the SU 24 carried no weapons – wings were “clean.” 

The U.S. Navy operates ships in the Black Sea on a routine basis, consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law.”

The Russian media took the opportunity to brag that the actions of this aircraft forced the American Navy ship to change course, but this story was denied by the US Navy.

Stars and Stripes reports:

Russia’s state-run media agency RIA Novosti reported Saturday that the country’s navy scrambled Su-24 fighter jets when the American guided-missile destroyer USS Ross allegedly approached Russian territorial waters after departing port in Romania. It quoted an unnamed source as saying the ship’s crew was acting “provocatively and aggressively.”
According to the report, the ship changed course after detecting the aircraft.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa denied that account in its statement, saying the ship was operating in international waters and never altered operations. The release said the ship observed the Su-24 aircraft in routine operations but did not interact with them and that ship crewmembers acted professionally.

“Ross continued on her mission after observing the aircraft return to base,” the statement read. “At no time did Ross act aggressively nor did she deviate from her planned operations.”

This incident occurs at a time when NATO is holding pre-announced drills in the Baltics and Poland.

AFP reports:

More than 6,000 troops from 13 NATO countries are participating in the Saber Strike 2015 drills in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, all EU and NATO members.

“This is one of the biggest exercises in Lithuania since we joined NATO” in 2004, Major General Almantas Leika, commander of Lithuania’s land forces, told reporters in Vilnius.

“The huge allied presence demonstrates solidarity with the countries of this region,” he said, adding that Lithuania is hosting the command centre for the drills.

Last week the Russian military held unannounced snap drills which, according to the Russian state propaganda outlet Sputnik, included the movement of nuclear-capable Iksander Missiles to Kaliningrad and the nuclear-capable Tu-22M3 (Backfire) strategic bombers to Crimea. Sputnik reports:

“Fighter and bomber aviation is to be redeployed to the Kaliningrad Region, and ground troops on the Baltic will be reinforced with Iskander missile complexes in the Western Military District that will be delivered on large landing ships from the Baltic Fleet,” the source said.

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin gave the order to bring Russia’s Northern Fleet, separate units of the Western Military District and the Airborne Troops to full alert in snap combat readiness exercises. The drills involve a total of 38,000 troops, 3,360 military vehicles, 110 aircraft and helicopters, 41 ships and 15 submarines.

NATO condemned the snap drills, branding them as dangerous since unannounced drills could trigger misunderstandings or even accidents:

“We urge Russia not to…do these kinds of snap exercises. Every nation has the right to exercise its forces, also Russia, but they should do it in a more transparent and predictable way to avoid any misunderstandings,” Secretary-General Stoltenberg to CBS News Chief White House correspondent Major Garrett.

On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry ordered a “surprise combat readiness inspection” of its air forces. More than 12,000 servicemen and 250 aircraft are taking part in the exercises over Southern Russia. In recent months, the Kremlin has conducted several unannounced air defense exercises near NATO-member airspace in the Baltics.

James Miller

Source Provides Further Information About Testimony in Nemtsov Murder Case; New Forensics Ordered reports of additional information that has come to light about the movements of suspect Zaur Dadayev the day before the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a source familiar with the situation revealed.

Dadayev has retracted his initial confession of the murder of Nemtsov, saying it was made under torture, but authorities say evidence ties him to the crime. Another suspect, Anzor Gubashev has apparently provided further information, but investigators have suppressed it fearing that the suspect may withdraw his confession. This he may do in the next few days, said the source.

Gubashev denies his involvement in the murder, saying he was used “blind,” saying that Beslan Shavayev, a relative of Dadayev’s and his acquaintance, asked him to provide various favors — to drive him to various places and make pick-ups. He said he was not aware that a murder was being prepared. Gubashev has testified about the involvement of Ruslan Geremeyev, a fellow member of the Sever Battalion of the Chechen Interior Ministry forces where Dadayev also served. He said he saw Geremeyev at the apartment on Veyernaya Street where Dadayev stayed for a time.

Dadayev himself has not made any statements about Geremeyev as such, but has talked about a figure nicknamed “Ruslik” who could be the same man. According to Nemtsov’s colleague opposition leader Ilya Yashin, who spoke of the case at a meeting in New York on May 31, Dadayev and Geremeyev came to Moscow together three days before the murder and left together afterward on the same flight, seated next to each other. Dadayev stopped in Nazran, the capital of Ingushetia, where he was ultimately arrested and Geremeyev proceeded to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, where he evaded arrest.

The Investigative Committee wanted to question Geremeyev, but Chechen law-enforcers kept them away and he has now rumored to have left the country. The Chechen forces under the personal control of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov have not been subordinate to central command.

Robalt’s source also speaks of the existence of video surveillance cameras from the airports on the dates of February 28 and March 1 where all the suspects are shown. Gubashev and Shavanov arrived at the airport together and then left for Grozny. The next day Ruslan Geremeyev, Zaur Dadayev and a third person, Ruslan Mukhudinov (AKA Abdurakhman or Chyorny [Black] arrived at the Moscow airport. Mukhudinov then said good-bye to the other two and left in a Mercedes with the license plate “007,” which has been mentioned before in news reports about the murder.

According to his initial confession, Dadayev said that on February 27, he, Shavanov and Gubashev tailed Nemtsov, Dadayev on foot and the others in a car near Nemtsov’s home. They kept in touch via cell phones with sim-cards which they bought second-hand and then used only for communicating with each other in the Chechen language. Shavanov confirmed that Nemtsov was at the Bosko Cafe on Red Square and then Dadayev headed to meet Gubashev in the ZAZ Shans car, who had driven to a place “between Nemtov’s home and office.” According to his now-retracted testimony, he said (translation by The Interpreter):

“I got into the car with Anzor, Beslan followed Nemtsov and was supposedly to give the command that Nemtsov had come out and he could be safely killed.”

Shavanov then told them by telephone that Nemtsov and his companion Anna Duritskaya had left the restaurant and were walking along the embankment of the Moscow River toward his house.

“We drove up to the parking lot from the side of the Kremlin, I got out of the car with the pistol, which I had push down into my pasts, near my stomach. Nemtsov and his girl friend were walking along the bridge. I followed after them with a quick pace, and caught up with them. I didn’t meet anyone along the way, therefore I had considered the time and place ideal for a murder. Nemtsov was walking to the right, the girl to the left, and holding his hand. Ten meters behind them, I reached for my pistol and put the bullet in the chamber. I then changed the pistol to my left hand since I am left-handed. I took my telephone in my right hand. Five meters behind, I made three shots into Nemtsov’s back, holding the pistol in my outstretched hand. With the first shot, I gave the signal on the telephone to Beslan to drive up. Simultaneously, I noticed a big orange vehicle passing. Nemtsov fell down and pulled the girl with him. But then I saw that he was alive and trying to get up, as a result of which I made 2-3 more shots. I don’t know where the bullets landed. At that moment the car drove up, Anzor was at the wheel, and Beslan in the back seat.”

He said he jumped into the ZAZ Shans which turned toward Bolotnaya Square, went 350 meters and then he jumped out on to the street and took an unlicensed private cab, then changed to several more such unlicensed cabs before getting to Veyernaya Street. He said he made a call to “Ruslik” to make a pick-up, and a thin, young blonde man came and took the pistol away, which Dadayev said should be thrown in the water somewhere.

While human rights activists and a journalist from the Public Observation Commission who visited Dadayev in Lefortovo Prison said he was tortured, the leader of the commission denied this, and the other members and the journalist were threatened with criminal prosecution for disclosing a criminal case. Ultimately authorities rejected any claim of torture. Dadayev’s lawyer has said this will be appealed.

Last week the investigation announced that new ballistics reports were being sought in the case of 9 18-mm bullets found at the home of Dadayev in Malgobek, Ingushetia, Novaya Gazeta reported.

The investigation has also order forensic studies of a hard drive and laptop confiscated during searches of the homes of suspects Tamerlan Eskerkhanov which belong to Gubashev. They intend to see if the suspects did any Internet searches on Nemtsov.

DNK tests have also been done on skin and blood samples of Dadayev to see if they match biological materials found at the scene of the murder.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Opposition Journalist Kara-Murza, Jr Remains in Serious Condition; Reacts to Wife’s Voice

Dr. Aleksei Svet, chief physician of City Hospital No. 1 in Moscow has stated that the condition of opposition journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. is more stable, Novaya Gazeta reported, citing Interfax:

“It is still too early to speak of significant successes, but he is maintaining his blood pressure, his hemodynamics have stabilized”

Kara-Murza, Jr. the federal coordinator of Open Russia, the civic movement founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was rushed to the hospital last Tuesday May 26 after falling ill in the office of RAPSI, the Russian legal society.

He had previously traveled to Kazan on Friday, May 22, where he organized the first of a series of public lectures for Open Society. Kara-Murza, Jr., who is a member of the opposition party RPR-Parnas where slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov served as co-chairman, has been an active participant in anti-Putin demonstrations and activities in recent years.

Friends said he had appeared healthy before his sudden illness and were concerned he was poisoned. A toxicology report did not turn up known drugs or alcohol.

RIA Novosti reported that doctors continue to view the condition of Kara-Murza, Jr. as extremely serious, as he is on a ventilator and kidney dialysis machine, quoting the Dr. Svet as follows:

“There is insignificant positive dynamic. He has a stable hemodynamics, he is reacting to his wife’s voice. But we doctors are superstitious people, therefore I am extremely reserved both in optimism and in pessimism. On the whole his condition is still serious.”

Kara-Murza, Jr. recently made a trip to the US with Mikhail Kasyanov, former prime minister and co-chair of RPR-Parnas, to promote a campaign opposition leaders launched
regarding what they called the “Nemtsov List,” similar to the Magnitsky
List of persons suspected of mass human rights violations.

Kara-Murza, Jr., who had recently returned to Russia to work, is a permanent resident of the US where his wife and three children reside.

(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for
Modern Russia which is funded by Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of Mikhail
Khodorkovsky. Kara-Murza.Jr. is a former staff member of IMR.)

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick