LIVE UPDATES: The homes of relatives of terrorists who attacked a checkpoint in Grozny have been torched. A criminal investigation has been opened into top managers of independent news site RBC.
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.
Recent Analysis and Translations:
– Does it Matter if the Russian Opposition Stays United?
– Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Has Invented A Version Of History To Meet His Needs
– Getting The News From Chechnya â The Crackdown On Free Press You May Have Missed
– Aurangzeb, Putin, Realism and a Lesson from History
Russian Olympic Doping Operation Detailed by Lab Chief on the Run
Pressure to Win Dr. Rodchenkov's revelations, his first public comments since fleeing, come at a crucial moment for Russia. In November, in the wake of the WADA report, the country was provisionally suspended from international track and field competition; in the coming weeks, leaders of the sport's global governing body will decide whether to lift a ban ahead of this summer's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko denied the story, calling it “so-called exposes based on fabrications” and adding “Stepanov is just getting on his hobby horse,” referencing former anti-doping official Vitaly Stepanov, who also publicized accusations of doping last week covered by CBS 60 Minutes.
Russian doping at Sochi Winter Olympics exposed
The following script is from "Russia's Dark Secret" which aired on May 8, 2016. Armen Keteyian is the correspondent. Guy Campanile, Andrew Bast and Michael Radutzky, producers. With the Summer Olympics in Rio less than 100 days away, Russia finds itself embroiled in a doping scandal unseen since the days of the East German sports machine back in the 1970s and 80s.
The case follows weeks of speculation about whether Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokorov, owner of RBC may be forced to sell his company to business people more compliant with the Kremlin.
As we reported last month, the offices of Oneksim, Prokhorov’s company, were searched and a number of sources said President Vladimir Putin, angry with RBC’s critical coverage of his family and his policies, was ordering that the company be sold. It’s still not clear whether Prokhorov himself, who was rumored to be in negotiations about sale of Kvadra, his energy company and possibly RBC, will be making any changes.
Meanwhile, news has surfaced that the Interior Ministry has opened up a criminal case on April 29 on charges of large-scale fraud involving some of RBC’s top managers.
The probe was launched against Bayt-Telekeom, a company owned until last April 2015 by Aleksandr Panov, Yaroslav Karetsky, and Aquarius Market, Ltd., a company found in the ICIJ offshore data base in the British Virgin Isles connected to Stone Capital, Ltd., which was owned by the former owner and founder of RBC, German Kaplun. Panov filed a complaint to the prosecutor’s office that he and Karetsky were defrauded of their shares, 25% of the company or $14.4 million.
Panov says that investigators will now be probing Nikolai Molibog and his deputies and associates in RBC’s management: Yekaterina Kruglova, first deputy; Aleksandr Kononenko; deputy for technology; Igor Seilivanov, financial director; Aleksandr Zhgut, head of security for RBC; Derk Sauer, deputy chair of the board of directors and Faird Karimov, former director of Investproyekt.
The case has been transferred from the Prosecutor General’s Office to the Interior Ministry (police). The Interior Ministry established that Panov and Karetsky owned 12.5% of the shares of Bayt-Telekom and the rest were owned by an offshore company, Karuta Investments.
“He’s been living in our country for 25 years. You have to wonder: Why are you living in a foreign country? I couldn’t live in the Netherlands for five days. He has latched on like a boil. His leadership of RBC is having a negative influence,” Zhirinovsky was quoted as saying, complaining that RBC frequently cited Russian analysts who have moved abroad and voiced opposition to the current regime.
“It [RBC] is an extremely important media outlet that defines the position of business. And it is headed by a citizen of NATO, whose main task is to organize crises and sanctions in Russia,” Duma Deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov, who was present at the protests, was quoted as saying in the report.
“On what everyone is interested in: We have not seen any sort of statement, we do not know what is written in it, we don’t even know if RBC or any of the employees of RBC are mentioned in that statement. We understand that any hint of news about us is ‘hotcakes’ now but let’s see the statement, and we will understand whether RBC has a relationship to this and then we will give our commentary.”
But New Times reports that various sources have said the investigations are tied to the content of what is published on rbc.ru.
As we noted last month, Meduza has reported a source as has Gazeta that the order for the searches of Prokhorov’s companies came from Putin himself because of publications RBC had run critical of people said to be Putin’s family members, Katerina Tikhonova and her husband Kirill Shamalov. Some of this material quoted an investigative report by Reuters about the shadowy empire of Putin’s family. Presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov has denied claims that the Kremlin is putting pressure on RBC. Meanwhile the editor-in-chief took an early sabbatical abroad.
The rate of the ruble to the dollar is 65.00 and to the euro 74.12. Brent crude is at $47.40 per barrel.
The following headlines were taken from 7:40 na Perrone, Slon, Kommersant, RBC, Gazeta, MediaZona, New Times, Delfi.lt, Ekho Moskvy