Relatives’ Homes of Grozny Terrorists Torched; Investigation Opens into RBC Managers

May 12, 2016
The remains of a home of a relative of terrorists in Chechnya.

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 – The Crackdown On Free Press You May Have Missed
Aurangzeb, Putin, Realism and a Lesson from History


NYT Publishes Expose of Secret Russian Government Doping Program for Sochi Olympics Athletes

The New York Times has published an expose of a state-sponsored doping program to ensure Russian athletes won competitions at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The news isn’t a surprise to those familiar with the long-standing practice of doping in the Soviet era and its legacy in Russia. Even so, the scale and official sanctioning of the program is shocking.
The worst part of the story is that two former antidoping officials who complained about the program, one of whom resigned, died unexpectedly within weeks of each other in February.
Read more here:

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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.

View full page →

May 12, 2016 22:10 (GMT)

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.

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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.

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May 12, 2016 22:15 (GMT)

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Interior Ministry Opens Probe into RBC’s Management on Fraud Charges; Case Viewed as Pressure on Free Media
A criminal case has been opened against top managers of RBC (Russian Business Consulting), owners of an independent news site, New Times reported.

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.

The case highlights the use of offshore companies by Russian businesses trying to keep from being taking over by the predatory Russian government, and may be an example of why Roman Anin, head of Novaya Gazeta‘s investigative department, advocated not opening up all the files in the Panama Papers database because some companies used offshores to keep their independence and were not necessarily involved in unlawful activity.
Derek Sauer, the Dutch citizen who founded the Moscow Times in 1992, has long been a target of the Putin regime.
Last year, Moscow Times reported that the extremist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky advocated that Sauer should be forced to step down, as part of a government campaign against foreign media owners as a new law was passed restricting their ownership:

“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.

Yevgeny Fyodorov, another extremist deputy in the United Russia party who also heads the National Liberation Movement (NOD), infamous for attacking liberal demonstrators, also campaigned against RBC:

“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.

While no Russian news source has made this explicit claim, it appears that now what is happening is that the Russian authorities have succeeded in either creating or exploiting a dispute within the constellation of companies related to RBC as an excuse to open a criminal case. The timing hardly seems coincidental.
In fact, Sauer sold his company Independent Media to the Finnish publisher Sanoma in 2005 but remained as CEO. Sanoma in turn sold its stakes when the media ownership law was passed. 
The Interior Ministry is said to possess documents showing that as of September 23, 2014, 75% of Bayt-Telekom was owned by Karuta Investments, Gattico Holding, Halvertson Holdings and Pintolexa Holdings and that the director was Derek Sauer. RBC’s financial statement shows that the 75% of shares were sold in September 2014, but the buyers are not indicated.
The prosecutor reports that on August 29, 2014, Farid Karimov submitted paperwork to the tax service to reorganize Bayt-Telekom into Investproyekt; dismiss general director Igor Seilvanov and appoint himself to tihs position as the single shareholder. Then Investproyekt was joined to another company named Drok registered in Tatarstan which was run by the Yustas legal firm and then liquidated on March 22, 2016.
This is why the Prosecutor General’s Office is now conducting an investigation regarding fraud and unlawful reorganization of a legal entity, according to a letter from this office to Panov, the one-time owner of Bayt-Telekom, which purportedly reveals a complicated structure.
Farida Karimova was owner of three companies: RBC Reklama [Advertising], Izdatelsky Dom [Publishing House] and SMTP PRESS, all connected to the RBC holding company as co-owners in a British Virgin Isles’ company called Tiogga, Ltd. ICIJ reports that Halvertson Holdings once owned shares in this company, and that Stone Capital, a company owned by RBC founder German Kaplun, served as the intermediary of Tiogga, Ltd. ICIJ also shows that a director of Tiogga, Ltd in 2008 was Mikhail Gurevich, and a person by that name also serves as director of a company called Media Mir which is part of RBC.
Nikolai Molibog has posted a statement about the investigation on Facebook (translation by The Interpreter):

“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.”

In March, Molibog was summoned to the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office to give testimony regarding the complaint by the Bayt-Telekom shareholders.
It’s not clear how this case might relate to reports of another case regarding taxes owed by Prokhorov’s companies. 

But New Times reports that various sources have said the investigations are tied to the content of what is published on

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.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
AM News: Relatives’ Homes of Grozny Terrorists Torched; Investigation Opens into RBC Managers

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,, Ekho Moskvy

Homes of Relatives of Grozny Terrorists Torched

What We’re Reading

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick