Prison riots in Nizhny Novgorod Region and Bashkortostan in the last week have left one convict dead and more than a dozen injured.
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:
– 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
– 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 costsâ.
At the time of his assassination, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was working on a report he titled “Putin.War.”
After his death, a group of his friends and colleagues decided to take his notes and interviews and finish it. The result is being released in Moscow today at noon. The 64-page report covers a number of topics related to the war in Ukraine, from the Russian soldiers who have died there even as their country refuses to admit its military presence to the numbers of refugees who have fled to Ukraine to the cost of the war for Russia’s state budget.
Boris conceived of the report with his co-chairman Ilya Yashin in the RPR PARNAS party to be similar to other reports he and his colleagues had done on Russian economic issues; the insider contracts and over-spending on the costly Sochi Olymipcs and the downing of MH17. His print publications, web sites and videos had all been fairly popular in Russia where the independent press is increasingly under pressure.
Others who worked on the report are former vice premier Alfred Kokh; journalists Ayder Muzhdabayev and Oleg Kashin; members of PARNAS Leonid Martynyk and Olga Shorina, executive director of the party. Yashin said that the initial
print run is only 2,000, just enough to give out copies at presentations planned in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Chelyabinsk and other cities.
The report contains both accounts that have already appeared in the media as well as Nemtsov’s own information about Russian military men who fought under contract in Ukraine.
RBC.ru obtained a copy of the report and has a summary. As media reports already indicated, a group of relatives of
soldiers who had been killed in the Donbass, in particular from Ivanovo, appealed to Nemtsov to help them get compensation payments. According to Nemtsov’s information, about 70 soldiers from Russia were killed outside of Debaltsevo, at least 17 of whom were paratroopers from Ivanovo. Technically, they were not members of the regular army. Before being sent into combat in the Donbas, they would resign from the Russian armed forces at the demand of officers, then be turned into contract fighters. This was a technique of “hybrid war” to hide the Russian imlitary involvement. Commanders assured soldiers they would get compensation if wounded or their relatives would get assistance equal to the sums paid to them in the summer of 2014. But then there was no compensation given.
RBC identified five theses from Nemtsov’s report:
1, At least 150 Russian soldiers were killed in August 2014 according to estimates from Nemtsov’s sources during the battle of Ilovaisk. Relatives were given compensation of 2 million rubles a piece and were forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the soldiers’ deaths.
2. About 70 Russian soldiers (including 17 paratroopers from Ivanovo) died in January-February 2015 near Debaltsevo.
Compensation was not given to their relatives as originally pledged. These soldiers were discharged from the army first and then passed off as volunteers.
3. About 53 billion rubles (about $1 billion) have been spent on the war in the southeast Ukraine in the first nine months, says Sergei Aleksashenko, who is director of macro-economic research for the Higher Economic School. He said 21 billion rubles ($412 million) were required to maintain 6,000 volunteers; 25 billion rubles $490 million) to maintain 30,000 local “militia” or Russian-backed militants and 7 billion rubles ($136 million) for operation,
servicing and repair of vehicles.
4. 80 billion rubles were spent by authorities in the Russian regions to support refugees from Donetsk and Lugansk regions since July 2014.
5. Russians have paid 2 trillion rubles ($39 billion) from their paychecks and 750 billion rubles ($14 billion) from their savings to cover the annexation of the Crimea. In connection with Western sanctions and the retaliatory produce embargo prices rose an additional 5.5%
The relatives of the soldiers were afraid to give their names. As Yashin told RFE/RL, the fact that Nemtsov himself was killed didn’t inspire confidence in their ability to stay safe if they spoke out.
RBC.ru contacted the Defense Ministry, which categorically denied the claims in the report. RBC also contacted various groups that have traditionally worked on the issues of soldiers’ rights such as the Soldiers’ Mothers but they said Nemtsov and the others involved had not approached them.
The main explanation the report authors give for events is Putin’s fall in ratings in 2012; he was able to move them by 29% to 74% by March 2015. Putin said in a new film, Crimea: Path to the Homeland that he personally took charge of the movements of Russian troops in Crimea.
RBC.ru asked several political analysis if they thought the report would have any effect. Valery Khomyakov, a former colleague of Nemtsov’s said the purpose was not to break news with these report s but rather education people with know facts. Another analyst Aleksandr Pozhalov said the purpose of such reports is to draw attention in the West and he did not see it having any reaction from the Kremlin.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The most impressive scenes from the 70th Anniversary of Victory Day
in Moscow this past weekend weren’t the shiny new tanks on Red Square,
but half a million people marching with pictures of their relatives who
served or were killed or injured in World War II.
The “Immortal Regiment” as it is called provided a graphic
representation of the terrible impact of the war on people in the Soviet
Union; nearly every family was affected. President Vladimir Putin led
the march with a photograph of his own father, an NKVD officer who was
As Aleksei Malashenko of the Carnegie Center in Moscow wrote in a blog post on Ekho Moskvy, the Immortal Regiment made the holiday more intimate again, more of a family holiday as it had been in the past — although a family government holiday as well, as he noted, with Putin seeming to blend in as “one of us” without even his security visible.
For many people on social media, praising this event was a way of
acknowledging the sacrifices of the Russians and other peoples of the
former Soviet Union without glorifying Putin’s current military cult
associated with Russia’s war on Ukraine.
But like many aspects of state propaganda, there is more than meets the eye.
@max_katz Now the Immortal Regiment is really something cool.
Translation: the history of the appearance of the action of the Immoral Regiment directly demonstrates how important organizations independent of the government are for the country.
TV-2 in Tomsk ws one of most respected media organizations in Russi. In February 2015, TV-2 went off the air when its broadcast license expired and authorities would not renew it.
Much of the attention on the increasing crack-down on the independent media in Russia has been drawn to the Moscow
media outlets, notably TV Rain, which lost its cable operators when it
broadcast a controversial poll about the Siege of Leningrad in World War
II, and then was forced out of its studio. Some of its journalists have
been beaten by unidentified men after they published information about
Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.
But TV-2 in Tomsk was another independent station in the provinces
that was forced out of business this year, even as TV Rain managed to
So far from
being yet another “Surkov propaganda” stunt, the Immortal Regiment was
conceived of by journalists in a station the Kremlin has now shut down.
As Meduza reports, the Tomsk journalists call the cooptation of the
event, which is now in the hands of the state-created All-National
Popular Front “a soft takeover.” They point out that what began as a
voluntary and non-political initiative is now losing its original
meaning as people are turned out on assignment, and schoolchildren are
compelled to carry the pictures of heroes of the USSR they know nothing
Originally Sergei Lapenkov and his colleagues Sergei
Kolotovkin and Igor Dmitriev, the employee of an advertising company who
now lives in St. Petersburg had the tradition of gathering at the
Eternal Flame with their families. They had the idea to come with
portraits of their relatives who had taken part in the Great Patriotic
War, as it is known in Russia, in 2012.
As Lapenkov told Meduza (translation by The Interpreter):
“There are fewer and fewer
veterans, and truth on Victory day also becomes less and less. It’s a holiday for bureaucrats and for some volunteers in
military uniforms. All of this was somehow lacking in life.”
they went to get permission from the mayor’s office in Tomsk, their request for a permit for 1,500 people was turned down and they
were told they could have space for only 500. In the end, 6,000 people
came. They brought all kinds of stories, for example about the 166th Division of
Tomsk, nearly all of whom were lost in the battle of Smolensk.
the Immortal Regiment project is being run from a web site managed by
members of the Communist Party with ANNA News,
which is a pro-separatist propaganda station.
In another twist,
it turns out that TV-2 was supported in part by Internews, a
non-profit organization promoting media development around the world
which is now largely funded by USAID. This fact led a pro-government
blogger named Patriotka to denounce the station.
She was also outraged that in Vologda in 2013, the Immortal Regiment
march banned Stalin portraits and Soviet banners. As Patriotka
commented, perusing Lapenkov’s Facebook page,
“References to TV Rain,
Meduza, RBK and Navalny, anti-Stalinist and anti-church posts leave no
doubt that we have before us a typical liberal. There are very many
posts about pickets and rallies against the closing of the Tomsk TV-2.”
The mass, state-organized aspect of the Immortal Regiment now has prompted some to ask if it is still authentic. If people are able to throw out posters of the World War II heroes so easily after the event, are they really carrying cherished pictures of their own relatives they brought down from the attic?
Many on social media shared this photograph:
Translation: Immortal Regiment. Parade is over…Photo by Denis Bezgachin.
This blogger made a joke about US President Barack Obama who is often
castigated at state rallies as the cause of Russia’s problems.
Translation: Last night on the 9th of May Obama cunningly threw away all the ribbons and veterans’ portraits in the garbage. And that’s how it is all over Russia.
Translation: The Olgino bots [Kremlin troll farms] explain clearly that it was visual agitation that was thrown in a heap, not the participants in the Great Patriotic War.
Slon pasted a screenshot from a debate on the social media network VKontakte:
Aleks, where is the place where you can throw in a heap the participants in the war like the posters from all the rest of the pro-government rallies?
Slon United, volunteers turned in the visual agitation, and what of it? To those they had received it from…that’s it…is it different at the oligarchs’ marches?
Aleks, did I imagine it, or did you, a snot-nose, just called the faces of defenders of the Motherland visual agitation?
Slon United, and in this concrete instance, why not? It’s a good cause, after all these are not losers from Bolotnaya.
Aleks, is your grandfather an agitation, too?
Slon United, and what of it? We among others have shown you with its help the futility of your hopeless cause.
Aleksandr Samoilov indignantly posted a blog claiming the portraits were piled neatly to be taken away until next time, although this was in dispute as some did look like they were thrown away. He dug himself in deeper by discussing the “infrastructure of the holiday” and bashing liberals who protested what it had become, claiming they were “far removed from ordinary people.” He even characterized them as “Martians” who “have a rich inner life and not the slightest idea of surrounding reality.” Except the march was conceived by just such creative liberals as he denounced.
There was further evidence that government offices had gotten busy
making up signs with Soviet heroes — in this case the notorious secret
police chief Lavrenty Beria, Stalin’s executioner.
Translation: Department of Culture of Moscow came out to the Immortal Regiment with a portrait of Beria. Beria, Karl!
Translation: Damn, that’s not a photoshop, this really was posted on the Facebook of the Department of Culture.
The photo has now been removed from the Department’s Facebook page but we could still retrieve it here.
The photo shows the new head of the Department of Culture, Aleksandr Kibovsky, walking with Aleksandr Zaldostanov, known as “Surgeon,” the head of “Night Wolves,” Putin’s favorite bikers’ club.
Photos from Департамент культуры города… – Департамент культуры города Москвы | Facebook
Департамент культуры города Москвы posted this photo on 2015-05-10. 57 likes. 23 comments. 171 shares.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
All of Russian state TV and many Western outlets had the stills and the video yesterday May 9 of President Vladimir Putin on Victory Day, carrying a portrait of his father in a naval uniform. The event was the “Immortal Regiment” march, a popular action now coopted by the government which once began as a grassroots action conceived by the now-closed independent TV-2 in Tomsk.
Putin has had very little to say about his father — there is only one line in the biographical section of his home page on kremlin.ru, that his father was “a participant in the war.”
A book of interviews by Russian journalists made of Putin early in his first term in office called First Person: An Astonishingly Frank Self-Portrait published by Public Affairs in 2000, which we translated, has more detail. He describes how his father was drafted into the army in 1932 after marrying his mother at the age of 17, and served in a submarine fleet. But that was before World War II.
When war broke out in 1941, his father “went to the front as a volunteer,” said Putin in this version. His mother was left then in the blockade of Leningrad, where his brother died.
The following is an excerpt from First Person, in which Putin describes his early life to journalists, and an excerpt from his school teacher’s memoir is also included.
I know my father was born in St. Petersburg in 1911. After World War I broke out, life was hard in the city. People were starving. The whole family moved to my grandmother’s home in the village of Pominovo, in the Tver region. Her house is still standing today, by the way; members of the family still spend their vacations there. It was in Pominovo that my father met my mother. They were both 17 years old when they got married.
Why? Did they have a reason to?
No, apparently not. Do you need a reason to get married? The main reason was love. And my father was headed for the army soon. Maybe they each wanted some sort of guarantee… I don’t know.
Vera Dmitrievna Gurevich (Vladimir Putin’s schoolteacher from grades 4 through 8 in School No. 193):
Volodya’s parents had a very difficult life. Can you imagine how courageous his mother must have been to give birth at age 41? Volodya’s father once said to me, “One of our sons would have been your age.” I assumed they must have lost another child during the war, but didn’t feel comfortable asking about it.
In 1932, Putin’s parents came to Peter [St. Petersburg]. They lived in the suburbs, in Peterhof. His mother went to work in a factory and his father was almost immediately drafted into the army, where he served on a submarine fleet. Within a year after he returned, they had two sons. One died a few months after birth.
Apparently, when the war broke out, your father went immediately to the front. He was a submariner who had just completed his term of service…
Yes, he went to the front as a volunteer.
And your mama?
Mama categorically refused to go anywhere. She stayed at home in Peterhof. When it became extremely hard to go on there, her brother in Peter took her in. He was a naval officer serving at the fleet’s headquarters in Smolny. He came for her and the baby and got them out under gunfire and bombs.
And what about your grandfather, the cook? Didn’t he do anything to help them?
No. Back then, people generally didn’t ask for favors. I think that under the circumstances it would have been impossible, anyway. My grandfather had a lot of children, and all of his sons were at the front.
So your mother and brother were taken from Peterhof, which was under blockade, to Leningrad, which was also blockaded?
Where else could they go? Mama said that some sort of shelters were being set up in Leningrad, in an effort to save the childrens’ lives. It was in one of those children’s homes that my second brother came down with dyptheria and died.
How did she survive?
My uncle helped her. He could feed her out of his own rations. There was a time when he was transferred somewhere for awhile and she was on the verge of starvation. This is no exaggeration. Once my mother fainted from hunger. People thought she had died, and they laid her out with the corpses. Luckily Mama woke up in time and started moaning. By some miracle, she lived. She made it through the entire blockade of Leningrad. They didn’t get her out until the danger was past.
And where was your father?
My father was in the battlefield the whole time. He had been assigned to a demolitions battalion of the NKVD. These battalions were engaged in a sabotage behind German lines. My father took part in one such operation. There were 28 people in his group. They were dropped into Kingisepp. They took a good look around, set up a position in the forest, and even managed to blow up a munitions depot before they ran out of food. They came across some local residents, Estonians, who brought them food but later gave them up to the Germans.
They had almost no chance of surviving. The Germans had them surrounded on all sides, and only a few people, including my father, managed to break out. Then the chase was on. The remnants of the unit headed off toward the front line. They lost a few more people along the road and decided to split up. My father jumped into a swamp over his head and breathed through a hollow reed until the dogs had passed by. That’s how he survived. Only 4 of the 28 men in his unit made it back home.
Then he found your mother? They were reunited?
No, he didn’t get a chance to look for her. They sent him right back into combat. He wound up in another tight spot, the so- called Nevsky Pyatachok. This was a small circular area [like a 5-kopeck coin or pyatachok]. If you stand with your back to Lake Ladoga, it’s on the left bank of the Neva River. The German troops had seized everything except for this small plot of land. And our guys held that spot through the entire blockade, calculating that it would play a role in the final breakthrough. The Germans kept trying to capture it. A fantastic number of bombs were dropped on every square meter of that bit of turf — even by the standards of that war. It was a monstrous massacre. But to be sure, the Nevsky Pyatachok played an important role in the end.
Don’t you think we paid too high a price for that little piece of land?
I think that there are always a lot of mistakes made in war. That’s inevitable. But when you are fighting, if you keep thinking that everybody around you is always making mistakes, you’ll never win. You have to take a pragmatic attitude. And you have to keep thinking of victory. And they were thinking of victory then.
My father was severely wounded at the Pyatachok. Once he and another soldier were ordered to capture a prisoner who might talk during interrogation. They crawled up to a foxhole and were just settling in to wait, when suddenly a German came out. The German was surprised, and so were they. The German recovered first, took a grenade out of his pocket, threw it at my father and the other soldier, and calmly went on his way. Life is such a simple little thing, really.
How do you know all this? You said your parents didn’t like to talk about themselves.
This is a story that my father told me. The German was probably convinced that he had killed the Russians. But my father survived, although his legs were shot through with shrapnel. Our soldiers dragged him out of there several hours later.
Across the front line?
You guessed it. The nearest hospital was in the city, and in order to get there, they had to drag him all the way across the Neva.
Everyone knew that this would be suicide, because every centimeter of that territory was being shot up. No commander would have issued such an order, of course. And nobody was volunteering. My father had already lost so much blood that it was clear he was going to die soon if they left him there.
Coincidentally, a soldier who happened to be an old neighbor from back home came across him. Without a word, he sized up the situation, hauled my father up onto his back, and carried him across the frozen Neva to the other side. They made an ideal target, and yet they survived. This neighbor dragged my father to the hospital, said goodbye, and went back to the front line. The fellow told my father that they wouldn’t see each other again. Evidently he didn’t believe he would survive in the Pyatachok and thought that my father didn’t have much of a chance either.
Was he wrong?
Thank God, he was. My father managed to survive. He spent several months in the hospital My mother found him there. she came to see him every day.
Mama herself was half dead. My father saw the shape she was in and began to give her his own food, hiding it from the nurses. To be sure, they caught on pretty quickly and put a stop to it. The doctors noticed that he was fainting from hunger. When they figured out why, they gave him a stern lecture and wouldn’t let Mama see him for awhile. The upshot was that they both survived. Only my father’s injuries left with a lifelong limp.
The neighbor also survived but his name was not given. Putin said in this earlier version that his father went to work at the Yegorov Train Car Factory after the war, and they were given a room in a communal apartment in a fifth-floor walk-up on Baskov Lane. It was here that Putin had his indelible experience of cornering a rat and having it attack him, and also encountering a Jewish neighbor chanting prayers which first intrigued him but then when the Talmud was explained to him he said he “immediately lost interest.”
Just recently, as Hanna Thoburn reminded us, on April 30, Putin gave an account of his early life and his father’s war-time service, evidently for the first time since the 2000 interviews, in a column for the magazine Russkiy Pioner.
There are some important discrepancies between the two accounts.
The Interpreter has translated an expert:
Father did not like to even touch upon that topic, to be honest. Most likely it was like this. When the adults talked among themselves and remembered something, I was just nearby. All the information I have about the war, about what happened with my family, appeared from these conversations of adults among themselves. But sometimes they spoke directly to me.
Farther was drafted into the service in Sevastopol, in a submarine detachment, he was a sailor. He was drafted in 1939. And then, when he returned home, he just worked at the factory and lived with Mama in Petrodvorets. They even built a little house there of some sort, I think.
War broke out, and he was working in a military plant, where there was so-called “armor,” and was exempt from the draft. But he wrote a statement about joining the Party and then another statement that he wanted to go to the front. They sent him to the diversionary detachment of the NKVD. This was a small detachment. He said there were 28 people in it, they were dropped behind enemy lines to conduct diversionary acts. Blow up bridges, railroads…But they almost immediately were ambushed. Someone betrayed them. They came to a town, then left it, and then came back to it in a little while, and the fascists were waiting for them there. They hunted them through the forest, and he stayed alive because he crawled into a swamp and for several hours sat in the swamp and breathed through a reed. I remember that from his story. In fact he said that when he sat in the swap and breathed through that reed, he heard how the German soldiers passed nearby, literally a few steps from him, and how the dogs barked…
Furthermore, likely it was the beginning of autumn, that is, it was cold…I remember well how he told me that there was a German at the head of their group. In fact, a Soviet citizen. But a German.
And what is interesting, a few years ago, I was brought the file on this group from the archive of the Ministry of Defense. I have a copy of that file at home in Novo-Ogaryovo. The list of the group, the last names, the first names and patronymics and brief references. Yes, 28 people. And at the head, a German. Everything as my father had described it.
Out of the 28 people at the front line, 4 returned home to us. Twenty-four were killed.
Then they sent them to be integrated into the acting army – and to the Nevsky Pyatachok. This was likely the hottest spot in the whole blockade. our forces were holding a small beachhead. Four kilometers wide and two and a little bit more in length. It was supposed that this beachhead was for a furture breakthrough of the blockade. But it didn’t turn out to be used for these purposes. The blockade was broken through in another place. Nevertheless, they held the Pyatachok, they held it for a long time, and there was heavy fighting. Very heavy. They surrounded him from the commanding heights , and they shot him straight through. The Germans also, of course, understood that a breakthrough could come from here and tried to wipe the Nevsky Pyatachok from the face of the earth. There is information how much metal lies in each square meter of that land. It is filled with metal there to this day.
And my father described how he was wounded there. His wound was severe. He lived his whole life with shrapnel in his leg; they did not take it all out. His leg ached on and off. He was unable to straighten his foot. They preferred not to touch the small pieces of shrapnel so the bones would not fall apart. And thank God, his leg was saved. After all, they could have removed it. He happened to get a good doctor. He had second-group disabled status. As a wounded war veteran he was given an apartment finally. It was our first separate apartment. A little two-room apartment. True, before that we lived in the center, and we had to move. Not completely to the outskirts, to be sure, but to a new apartment complex. This happened of course not immediately after the war but when I was already working in the KGB department. And I was not given an apartment then, and my father finally was allotted one. This was a great happiness.
And as for how he got the wound. He and a comrade made a small raid to the rear of the Germans, they crawled and crawled…And then it was both funny and said: they got up to the German pillbox, a big German guy, as my father said, came out of there, looked at them…and they couldn’t get up because they were in the target sights of a grenade. “The guy looked at us attentively,” he said “he took a grenade, and then a second one and threw them on us. Well and…” Life is such a simple thing, and cruel.
And what was his main problem when he came to? The fact that it was already winter. The Neva was frozen solid with ice, they had to somehow get to the other side, to help, to qualified medical help. But he himself naturally couldn’t walk.
To be sure, he could get to his family on that side of the river. But there were few who wanted to drag him to the other side, because the Neva was exposed and there was shelling with artillery and grenades. There were almost no chances of getting to the other side. But completely by coincidence, a neighbor was nearby from Peterhof. And without a second thought, that neighbor dragged him to the other side and reached a hospital. Both of them reached there alive. The neighbor waited for him at the hospital and after he wsa assured that they would operate on him said, “Well, that’s it, now you will live, but I’m off to die.”
And he went back. And then I asked my father, “Well, then, did he die?” And he returned to this story several times. This tormented him the most. They lost touch with each other and my father thought after all that the neighbor had died. And some time in the 1960s, I don’t remember exactly, I was still little, but some time in the early 1960s he suddenly came home, sat down on a chair and broke down crying. He had met his savior. In a store. In Leningrad. By accident. He went to the store for groceries and saw him. Imagine, both of them went at the same moment into that exact store. One chance in a million…They they came to our house and met now and then…But Mama told how she visited my father in the hospital where he lay after he was wounded. They had a little child, three years old. And there was hunger, and the blockade…And my father gave his whole hospital rations to her. In secret from the doctors and nurses. And she hid it and brought it home and fed the child. But then he began to fall into faints from hunger in the hospital, the doctors and nurses realized what was happening and stopped letting her through.
Putin then describes how after his brother died and his parents fled the Germans, they lived at the Vodnoy Canal, he said, more correctly called the Obvodny Canal in Leningrad — a different address than he gave in the earlier version.
There are some clear discrepancies between the version told in 2000 and the version told 15 years later:
o In the earlier version, Putin says his father was married at the age of 17 which would have been in 1928 and that he was “headed for the army soon.” Putin’s teacher said that he was drafted soon after moving to St. Petersburg in 1932 in the earlier version. So in the same earlier version, there are two possible years, and in the later version Putin says his father was drafted in 1939.
o In the earlier version, according to Putin’s school-teacher, his father first is drafted in the navy “almost immediately” after coming to St. Petersburg in 1932; he served his term and returned home, then went back to the front when war broke out, which was June 1941. In the later version, he was drafted in 1939, served his term, then returned to work in a factory, then went to the front when war broke out.
o He does not mention that the diversionary group was thrown behind enemy lines in Estonia in the later version.
o In the earlier version, he does not mention the Soviet citizen who was an ethnic German at the head of their diversionary group, but says somebody betrayed the group. In the later version, he mentions the German and also says that someone betrayed them.
o In the earlier version he mentions that he waited in the swamp while the dogs passed; in the later version he waited in the swamp while both the Germans and dogs passed.
o in the early version, he says his mother was laid out in the morgue with dead people while still alive and she is discovered to be alive while there; in the later version, his father sees the medics taking her away from the house, barely alive, and urges them to take her back home.
It’s possible that these tales were embellished, but in his account for Russkiy Pioner, Putin makes a point of emphasizing the corroboration of his father’s story with documents from the archives:
Everything that my parents described about the war was the truth. They did not think up a single word. They did not move a single date. About my brother. About the neighbor. And about the German who was the commander of the group. Everything was exactly the same. And all of this was later confirmed by incredible means. And my father, when his child was taken away and my mother remained alone, and he was not allowed to walk, he got up on his crutches and went home. When he got to the house, he saw that the orderlies were carrying corpses out of the doorway. And he saw Mama. He went up and it seemed that she was breathing. And he told the orderlies, “But she’s still alive!” “She’ll make it there,” the orderlies told him.”But then not live.” He told how he threw himself on them with his crutches ad forced them to take her back to the apartment. And they told him, “Well, as you say, we’ll do that but keep in mine that we will not come here again for another two-three-four weeks. You are on your own then.” And he took care of her and she lived.
Perhaps Putin did get the true story from his parents about the war, but he himself decided to move the dates around about the time before the war — possibly because his father went to work for the NKVD for longer than Putin admits, or some other unknown reason.
It’s possible that Putin was mindful of the Russian attitude toward the NKVD, which was a secret police even more hated than the KGB, and preferred to associate his father’s time in the NKVD with war service.
There’s also the ignominy of being betrayed to the Germans; in the first version of the story he doesn’t say where they are or that they had an ethnic German in their group; this becomes a central in the later version of the story.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
As you may know, Russia celebrated a major holiday on Saturday, May 9, marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis during World War II. What many may not realize is that while most in the West celebrate the defeat of the Nazis on May 8, Stalin wanted the Nazi powers to surrender to Russia specifically, an event which transpired in the last hours of May 8. Since this surrender took place when it was already May 9 in Moscow, Stalin got to have a Soviet Holiday that he did not have to share with his capitalist allies.
Victory Day faded in the post-Soviet 1990s when massive state-organized military parades were frowned upon, but Putin has brought them back, and in style.
The Interpreter has written several features about how old Soviet symbols, and the May 9th holiday itself, have been twisted to suit the propaganda objectives of Russian Presient Vladimir Putin:
Now War Is Boring has written about how Putin has bent the
historical holiday to serve his own aggressive needs. In his latest
analysis, Paul Huard interviewe The Interpreter’s managing editor, James Miller:
James Miller, executive editor of The Interpreter,
an online magazine that presents English-language translations of
Russian and Eastern European news sources, told War Is Boring that Putin
emphasizes the eye-popping scope and splendor of Victory Day to stir up
patriotism and intimidate Russia’s neighbors.
“Putin has also
introduced a new ideological theme to the Victory Day events — that the
West is ideologically corrupt, Nazis are rising again in Ukraine, and
the Russian military is the last line of defense against resurgent
fascism,” Miller said.
“Putin is hoping that the people who
attend the event will miss the irony, since Putin is the one cracking
down on minorities, outlawing free speech, and filling the media with
state-controlled militaristic propaganda.”
— James Miller
Moscow police detained three journalists at a demonstration in Moscow in support of jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadiya (Nadezhda) Savchenko, Slon.ru reported, citing the police monitoring group OVDInfo reported.
Philip Kireev, a freelance photo-correspondent, and Andrei Novichkov, journalist of Grani.ru, were detained on Lyubanka Square in front of FSB headquarters and taken to the Kitai-Gorod District police station. OVDInfo says it is checking reports that Kireev was beaten.
Translation: This is how things are for me now )
Activist Vera Lavreshina was detained along with him, and there was no contact with the detainees for some time.
Also detained was Anastasiya Ringis, a journalist from Ukrainska Pravda, although she was released within a few hours.
Kireev was not heard from for 3 hours but has tweeted just now:
Translation: Me, Belkin and Novichkov were released from the police precinct; four activists remain behind bars. We talked with the police from E Center, on the whole everything is ok )
“E Center” is the Anti-Extremism Center of the Federal Security Service (FSB) which is increasingly used to detain and investigate demonstrators of
Kireev said he was not beaten, and did not know where the story came from.
Translation: It’s a lie. No one beat me.
Translation: Belkin had all his photos erased from his flash card.
Translation: Novichkov and I also had our flash cards erased but I will upload the photos soon ; )
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Sochi on May 12 where he plans to hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Vedomosti and regnum.ru reported, citing a source in the State Department.
But Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the presidential administration, did not confirm the news, said Vedomosti later.
“We will inform you if such a meeting takes place,” he told press today May 11. He added that a decision had not yet been made.
Earlier reports said the agenda would include Iran, Syria and Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry reported on its web site today that a meeting between Kerry and Lavrov would take place May 12 in Sochi.
The State Department confirmed the plans in a tweet.
The Foreign Ministry released a statement on the meeting (translation by The Interpreter):
At the present time, Russian-American relations are undergoing a difficult period which is caused by the deliberate unfriendly actions by Washington. Groundlessly imposing on Russia responsibility for the crisis in Ukraine, which has largely been provoked by the US itself, the Administration of Barack Obama has embarked on a path of ending bilateral ties, declaring a source of “isolation” of our country in the international arena and demanding support for its confrontational steps from states traditionally following the Washington path.
In accordance with a unilateral decision of the White House, the activity of the joint Presidential Commission consisting of 21 working groups has been frozen. Washington has introduced visa and property sanctions against Russian physical persons, companies, banks and organizations in contradiction to international law. The NATO military infrastructure has consistently advanced toward our borders, including the increase of continents of armed forces in Eastern Europe, the creation in this region of important elements of American anti-missile defense and also the regular appearance of ships of the US Navy in the Black Sea.
The statement was typical of usual myopic denunciations from Moscow which failed to concede Russia’s numerous encroachments on the Baltic and Nordic borders in the last year and of course the initial aggression against Ukraine. US and NATO officials have made repeated statements concerning Russia’s training and supply of militants in Ukraine. NATO has not expanded since 2008, when at Germany’s behest, consideration of membership of Georgia and Ukraine was postponed. The EU Association Agreement signed with Ukraine contains some military cooperation but is not a path to NATO membership
It is also not a violation of international law for any sovereign state to decide not to issue visas, and the use of sanctions to combat international terrorism and crime, including massive human rights violations, is not in itself an illegal tool, as it is accepted by the United Nations which maintains various sanctions commissions. The US has placed dozens of top Russian leaders, business people and companies in sanctions list for their role in the annexation of the Crimea and ongoing aggression against Ukraine in the Donbass.
The Foreign Ministry statement noted that Russia was continuing to work with the US on some areas which met its interests such as the Iran nuclear program and the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. Recently, the claim that Russia had succeeded in this task was subjected to serious doubt.
The statement also noted that American business “was not rushing to leave our market” and that Boeing, Ford, John Deere, Alcoa, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Mars, Exon-Mobile, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips and others remained in Russia.
But Russian authorities themselves have demonstrably cracked down on McDonald’s, which had invested millions in Russia, with inspections many perceived as politically-motivated. Recently Exxon-Mobile demanded that millions of dollars in overpaid taxes be returned. And car manufacturers such as Chevrolet have been cutting back on labor forces due to the economic crisis.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Moscow Mayor’s office has refused a proposal to create a memorial in honor of slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov because officials believe it is too early to make a decision, RBC.ru reports.
State Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov said that in a response from the Mayor’s Office, he was informed that memorial plaques can be placed at the place of work or residence of the deceased.
Gudkov had proposed re-naming the bridge where Nemtsov was murdered but also suggested naming a street in his honor.
The letter, signed by L.M. Pechatnikov, contains a reference to a city regulation of 2009 that says memorial plaques at places of residence must be placed no earlier than 10 years after a death and places of work only two years after a death.
Gudkov said that while he was aware of the time restrictions on the plaques, he believed that a way could be found around them.
Even if the city waived the time factor, it would likely require a significant political decision to depart from the tradition of the plaque on a place of residence to one where a murder took place.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Ramzan Kadyrov, the volatile leader of Chechnya, has come out with another provocative statement on his Instagram account, blaming the West for many of the wars in the world and funding terrorists, yet telling President Barack Obama he should “get over his hurts” in order to jointly solve the world’s problems with Russia.
In a post dated today with a picture and video showing a Chechen military hero on horseback, Kadyrov reprimands the US for supposedly sponsoring ISIS and in the past, ostensibly supplying the very terrorists who killed his father and some 30 other people 11 years ago during a Victory Day celebration in Grozny.
Kadyrov issued a public appeal “to Barack Obama and his allies” (translated by The Interpreter):
In the spring of 1945, Commander Movladi (Movlid)
Visaitov of the calvary regiment reached the Elbe in battle and was the
first to shake the hand of American Gen. Bolling. President Harry Truman
awarded him with the order of the Legion of Merit. In the center of
Grozny, there is a memorial to Visaitov. The defeat of Germany was our
common victory, the decisive role in which belongs to Russia. On May 9th,
you were not at the Victory Parade in Moscow although you were obliged
to pay your respects to the memory of tens of millions of Russian
soldiers and officers who were killed, and show all the ring-leaders of the
terrorists that we are united in our effort to fight for peace and a just world order.
of this, you let it be understand that you are not prepared for a
united front to oppose the threats of the new world war. In a whole
number of countries, a river a blood has been shed of women, old men and
children. But the efforts of the USA and Europe aimed at restoring
peace are not visible. The peoples are certain that military conflicts
in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen are unleashed through your
It is you who are to blame for the fact that the terrorists of
ISIS receive weapons, funding and human resources. At the hand of
terrorists, among whom were citizens of your countries as well, my
father, Chechen Republic President Akhmat-Khadji Kadyrov, was killed. I
have lost hundreds of relatives and close friends in the battle with
terrorism because I know what war is. there is nothing more precious
than life. And you would sense that if the tragedy concerned one of the
members of your families.
I am certain that you all must forget
past hurts and rise above petty problems and gather the leaders of world
powers together and ask the question of where this world his going.
Maybe something would come of it! But it is not worth it to hope that
Russia can be turned into an obedient semi-colonial country through
sanctions. If in 1945 we came to Berlin on horses, then today, all the
more so, we are capable of resolving a task of any complexity. Let
According to Wikipedia, Col.
Visaitov joked that “we came from the Terek River to the Elbe River”.
He was the first to make radio contact and meet and shake hands with
American forces under the command of Gen. Bolling on the Elbe. Col.
Visaitov was also famous for refusing to execute the Chechen dissident
historian Abdurakman Avtorkhanov who lived in Europe, for which he was
sent to a prison settlement in Kazakhastan where other deported Chechens
and Ingush were settled after 1944 — facts that Kadyrov doesn’t
It is not clear what Kadyrov means when he blames citizens of Western countries for the assassination of his father. The Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev took credit for the murder at the time and said he had paid money for the hit.
Kadyrov has piled on so many false claims and insults to the US president in this message that it’s hard to conceive of his Instagram post as a serious call for reconciliation. Stylistically, Kadyrov has framed his statement this way so that he can appear conciliatory even as he reinforces widespread Russian disinformation about US complicity in terrorism, a theme that President Vladimir Putin has also promoted recently in his speeches.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
More than 20 inmates have been injured in a prisoners’ rebellion in a labor colony in Bashkortostan (Bashkiriya), Interfax reports.
Investigators are conducting forensic medical exams in connection with the beating of a dozen prisoners by their fellow convicts during a riot, the Investigative Committee for Bashkiriya reported today May 11, according to Interfax.
Riots broken out at strict-regimen Corrective Labor Colony No. 2 in the city of Salavat when 11 prisoners were beaten and six of them sent to the infirmary.
According to investigators, yesterday May 10, more than 100 convicts refused to obey instructions from the administration and demanded a relaxation of the regimen (translation by The Interpreter):
About 20 convicts, who had beaten about 23 activists ages 22-59 who had kept to the prison regimen barricaded themselves into a room in one of the sections where they remained until evening, calling on other convicts to cause mass riots, accompanied by violence, pogroms and destruction of property.
Medics recorded lacerations and bruises among those beaten and also skull trauma and bone fractures. Several people who sustained the most serious injuries remain in the prison infirmary.
Forensic medical experts are determining the extent of the injuries and investigators are establishing a list of suspects. Bashkortostan’s Prosecutor Andrei Nazarov has come to the scene and also a commission from the central office of Federal Corrections (FSIN), in order to conduct an internal review and determine the circumstances of the incident.
Two criminal cases have been opened under criminal code articles for “calls to mass disorders” (Art. 212, part. 3) and “disorganization of the activity of institutions providing isolation from society” (Art. 321, part 1). All the prisoners have been returned to their cells.
One of the ringleaders of the riot was reportedly a 30-year-old resident of Stavropol Territory who had been sentenced to 18 years in prison, says Interfax.
The prison press service said that no physical force or “special means” (i.e. mace) were used to put down the rebellion.
Prison riots are fairly common in Russia’s labor colonies, where the conditions are poor and beatings and torture both by the wardens and prisoners are common.
On May 6, riots broke out in a colony in Nizhny Novgorod Region, Interfax reported. About 100 convicts went out on the colony grounds and then ran into a building, beating other prisoners, breaking furniture and smashing several surveillance cameras and windows. They also knocked over one of the fire towers and set it ablaze. As a result, more than 20 prisoners were injured; 14 were hospitalized, two with severe wounds. One prisoner, age 44, later died of his injuries on May 7.
Human rights monitors in the regional Public Observation Commission have visited the Nizhny Novgorod Region prison and took down 55 complaints from the prisoners. They noted that the grievances were not about the administration, but about the prisoners known as “activists” who are sometimes used by the administration to harass prisoners.
The uprising in Nizhny Novgorod occurred when a prison population of 200 was transferred from Labor Colony No. 10 into Labor Colony No. 3, where there were about 300 prisoners already, and the leaders of different groups began to clash.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick