Russia Update: UK Scrambles Two Typhoon Fighters To Intercept Russian Long-Range Bombers

May 14, 2015
Bank of Russia, 2014. Photo by PhotoXPress

The ruble has taken a tumble again at the news that the Bank of Russia is going to buy up foreign currency.

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

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

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Is the Transfer of Alibek Delimkhanov, Commander of Suspect in Nemtsov Murder Case, a Promotion or Demotion?

News of the transfer of Alibek Delimkhanov from the position of
commander of the Sever battalion in the Chechen Interior Ministry
regiment to the federal Interior Ministry troops indicates something
happened with a figure in the Nemtsov murder case — but it’s not clear

The story of a 57-year-old village police chief marrying a
17-year-old village girl with the blessing of Chechen leader Ramzan
Kadyrov has preoccupied the Russian independent news media for the last
two weeks with multiple iterations and side stories as we reported.

The story seems to have become the main vehicle for people to
express their concerns about the backwardness of Chechnya and human
rights concerns promoted by liberals in Moscow.

But meanwhile, the coverage of the investigation of the murder of
opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has fallen silent since April 30, with
only a few stories about the efforts of his colleagues to keep flowers
laid at the site of his murder on a bridge near the Kremlin, and
fruitless appeals to the mayor’s office to get permission for a memorial

Even with the release of a report Nemtsov was working on at the
time of his death regarding Russian military presence in Ukraine, there
hasn’t been any further questions raised about the five suspects
currently in custody or any aspect of the investigation. Ten weeks after
the murder, Nemtsov’s colleagues from among independent reporters and
opposition members have been unable to wrest any new information about
the case and are concentrating on continuing their friend’s legacy., which has provided a lot of coverage of the investigation and has a special section of its web site
devoted to Nemtsov’s murder, has not covered the investigation since
April 30 — likely because there have been no new leaks by the FSB and
the site has already covered every angle possible regarding theories of
the case, torture of the suspects, and the possible interrogation of
them with a lie detector.

Novaya Gazeta which has published both leaks and investigations has not had any new materials in its special section on Nemtsov’s murder since April 21., an independent web site that is blocked by the censor
but active on Twitter and viewed on mirror sites and through
circumvention software, published a video on May 5
from the youth section of the RPR PARNAS party which called for
interrogation of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, his influential relative
Senator Adam Delimkhanov, and his cousin Alimbek Delimkhanov, commander
of the Sever battalion where Zaur Dadayev, the chief of the five
suspects, served. and to declare an international search for Ruslan
Geremeyev, another member of the Sever battalion who is rumored to have
fled Chechnya for the UAE.

The Investigative Committee has been unable to interrogate
Geremeyev despite requests to the Chechen authorities, and interviewed
Alibek Delimkhanov only after persistent requests when they came in
person to Chechnya, and the personal intervention of Kadyrov, his

Putin has ducked specific questions about the investigation even as he appeared to answer them.

The scrap of news about Alibek Delimkhanov’s transfer could be a
further indication of efforts by central authorities in Moscow to
placate Chechens, just as Kadyrov himself was given various medals and
high-profile visits.

Translation: Alibek Delimkhanov, commander of
the Sever special regiment, has been appointed deputy commander of the
46th Brigade of the Interior Ministry Interior Troops.

The news originated from a message on Ramzan Kadyrov’s Instagram account:


Translation: Under army regulations, he could
have received this assignment long before the Nemtsov murder; now it
isn’t clear, is this a promotion or departure?

The 46th brigade is a federal unit and not one of the Chechen divisions under direct control of Kadyrov (known as the Kadyrovtsy)
though nominally under federal command. That could mean, in the tug of
war between Moscow center and Kadyrov, either that Delimkhanov is being
put under more Kremlin control, or the opposite, that he has gained a
promotion that gives him and his network greater power.

Kadyrov’s further description on Instagram makes it sound at one
level as if there was a retirement party for Demlikhanov, complete with a
decree from Putin, but at another level, that he is going to continue
as an Interior Ministry (MVD) officer.

From the moment of the creation of the Akhmat-Khadzhi
Kadyrov Regiment he was its commander. During that time, the regiment
became one of the most battle-capable units in the Interior Troops.
Under the command of Alibek Delimkhanov hundreds of special operations
were conducted in the neutralization of the most dangerous terrorists.
Dozens of servicemen were killed and wounded in battles. Today a solemn
ceremony of farewell of Alibek Sultanovich took place with the regiment
and the Battle Banner. I awarded him the first-degree medal of the Order
of Merit Before the Fatherland, which he was awarded by order of RF
President Vladimir Putin.

Rakhman Abdulkadirov has been appointed as acting commander.
He was a battalion commander. He has two orders of Courage. After the
solemn procession of the regiment’s divisions around the square we laid
bouquets of flowers to the memorial of the First President of the
Chechen Republic Hero of Russia Akhmat-Khadzhi Kadyrov and the
servicemen who were killed. I wish Alibek Sultanovich successes in the
cause of defense of the Fatherland!

The presidential decree does not appear to have been published yet.

The Nemtsov case is in fact no different now than many other
assassination cases before it where often Chechens were arrested as
common scapegoats and a lengthy pre-trial wait ensues. The real
perpetrators or masterminds are often not found.

Oleg Kashin was among the few bloggers to notice the story on Delimkhanov and quoted Kadyrov.

Translation: Under the command of Alibek
Delimkhanov hundreds of special operations to neutralize the most
dangerous terrorists have been conducted.

The received wisdom about the relationship between federal
law-enforcers and the Chechen Interior Ministry is that whatever their
frictions, Moscow center needs the Chechens or they would be unable to
track down terrorists in the forests.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Wedding Is Back On Between Chechen Police Chief, Age 57, and 17-Year-Old Girl

The Russian media has been roiling for weeks with the spectacle of a 57-year-old village police chief planning to marry a
17-year-old Chechen girl.


Luisa Goylabiyeva and Nazhud Guchigov. Photos via Novaya Gazeta

Accusations and denials have been flung
back and forth between the Russian independent media and the Chechen
government and it seemed as if the story was that no wedding was planned or at least was now cancelled.

On May 10, the Chechen government press secretary said that no marriage had taken place.

Now today comes the news from Novaya Gazeta that
the wedding is in fact scheduled. According to a report in Novaya
, Kadyrov has confirmed the plans on his Instagram account
(translation by The Interpreter):

Luisa Goylabiyeva and Nazhud Guchigov decided to hold
the wedding. The difference in their age is 30 years. The parents of the
girl have blessed this union.

As an argument in favor of the marriage, he cited examples from
famous Russian public figures, such as Viktor Yerofeyev’s wife, who is
40 years younger than he; the wife of Andrei Konchalovsky, 36 years
younger; and Alla Pugacheva, the singer who is 27 years older than her
husband. When these famous figures were married, he said (translation by
The Interpreter):

No one was outraged and no one demanded inspections from the Investigative Committee or the Prosecutor’s Office.

Recently, our media dug up some news from the mountain
village of Baytarka. They forgot about the price of oil, the events in
Yemen, the earthquake in Nepal, the pensioner murdered by teenagers in
Moscow, the forest fires, and the birth of an heir to the British


Kadyrov quoted the line from Eugene Onegin, “To love all ages yield surrender.”

insisted that the human rights issue was not the girl’s consent, but
the intrusion into the private life of Chechen families. He said he
believed that someone was paid to discredit Chechnya.

also discounted media accounts that Shaid Zhamaldayev the minister of
the press in Chechnya was dismissed over the publication of the wedding
story. He said he was transferred to the parliament at the minister’s
own request.

Under Russian law, a person can get married at the age of 15  with
the consent of a municipal body and are legally able to marry at 16,
although it is discouraged.

Goylabiyeva, known as Khedi, was visited by Novaya Gazeta correspondent Yelena Milashina today in her home town of Baitarka.

was warned by a policeman in the Siberian Federal District who had
served in Chechnya that the Chechen police were very interested in her
movements and she should not go to Khedi’s village. Milashina made the
trip anyway, accompanied by another journalist and a human rights
activist. The three immediately acquired a tail and noted the license
plate of the car following them. Their story will be published soon.

As Milashina reported yesterday,  the scandal which has run two weeks now already began with an appeal to Novaya Gazeta
by Khedi’s fellow villagers saying they wanted to publicize the
information that neither the girl or her family wanted the marriage to
take place. They said Kheda was already engaged to another man closer to
her age and had planned to be married when she turned 18. Her
girlfriends tried to place posts about this situation on social media
but they were all removed.

There were also appeals to Kadyrov,
who had outlawed bride-stealing in 2010, and in 2012, marriages to
minors. On May 2, when the wedding was supposed to take place, Guchigov
was reached by telephone by Novaya Gazeta and said he knew of
the law and had no plans to marry. He also said he was already married.
“Right next to me is my first and only wife, whom I love very much with
whom I want to live my whole life!” he said. He claimed that news that
Baitarka was blockaded so that Kheidi could not be carried away was not

Kadyrov then said at a government meeting that the wedding would take place and sent a representative to Baitarka.

story galvanized many critics of Kadyrov’s human rights violations,
already outraged by Kadyrov’s orders to burn down the houses of
relatives of suspected terrorists and his stalling of the investigation
into Chechens allegedly involved in the murder of Boris Nemtsov. Mikhail
Fedotov, head of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights as well as
the Ella Pamfilova, the Ombudsperson for Human Rights appealed to
Kadyrov. Pavel Astakhov, the Children’s Rights Ombudsman at first said
“the rights of minors are not enforced by force” seemed to have a change
of heart and later said he would visit Chechnya to discuss the issue of
child brides.

Meanwhile the story took some more odd turns, including a claim that in fact Guchigov had his divorced his wife

A scandal like this wouldn’t be complete without a feature from LifeNews,
a pro-Kremlin TV station close to law-enforcement and intelligence. In
the broadcast, Khedi can be seen looking at the floor and repeating
answers that her aunt whispers to her, and repeating “I don’t know” to
the question of why her girlfriends made the appeal. She said she had
known Guchigov for a year, and she knew he was married and had children.
“But it just happened that now I am going to marry him.”

As Milashina pointed out, it was odd that no journalists could reach
Khedi for two weeks, and now all of a sudden LifeNews had a feature.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
UK Scrambles Two Typhoon Fighters To Intercept Russian Long-Range Bombers Near Scotland

This just in:

Reuters reports:

“The aircraft were identified as Russian Bear aircraft which were escorted by the RAF Typhoon fighters until they were out of the UK area of interest. At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace,” a Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said in a statement.

This fits a pattern regularly seen over the last year — Russian aircraft and naval vessels operating close to international borders.

James Miller

PayPal Refuses Donations for Nemtsov’s Report Citing Russian Restrictions on Use for Political Parties
Pay Pal Reportedly Blocking Donations to Nemtsov Colleague for ‘Putin.War’ Report
Russian Media More Focused On Fringe Ukrainian Political Group Than Russia’s Ruling Party
We’ve been covering the new report on the Russian war in Ukraine which Boris Nemtsov was working on at the time of his assassination. Will Stevens, the spokesperson for the US Embassy to Russia, points out one data point that emerged from the report — the Russian media has spent significantly more time talking about Pravyy Sektor, or Right Sector, a Ukrainian ultranationalist party, than it has about (from left to right on the graph) United Russia, Russia’s ruling party; the Communist Party (KPRF), Russia’s second largest political party; and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Russia’s own ultranationalist party led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky:
What’s even more ridiculous about this fact is that while the LDPR has 56 seats in the Russian Duma (more than 12% of the Duma), Pravyy Sektor has one seat in the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada (0.2% of the Rada). Furthermore, when The Interpreter’s editors James Miller and Michael Weiss spent 8 days in Kiev last summer, they did not see a single person representing Pravvy Sektor on the streets of the capital, and only saw two people wearing the insignia for Azov Battalion, another volunteer group which has received significant attention from the Russian government:
James Miller
‘Blowing up Russia’ by Litvinenko and Felshtinsky Added to Federal Extremist Materials List in Russia

Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror by Alexander Litivnenko, the former spy believed to have been poisoned with polonium by Russian spies, and Yury Felshtinsky, an expert on Russian intelligence, has been declared “extremist” and put on a list of banned books, Media Zone reports.

Sova Center, a Russian NGO which monitors extremist movements in Russia as well as the misuse of extremism laws said the popular book on the explosion of the apartment buildings in Russia in 1999 was entered into the Federal List of Extremist Materials when it was updated May 12, although the decision to ban the book was made earlier by the Khorol District Court in Primorsky Territory on January 12, 2015.

The book had been included in an online library called Al’debaran, and has now been removed.

Hard copies of this book have been repeatedly confiscated, says Sova, as well as films based on the book. In June 2003, a criminal case was opened regarding “disclosure of state secrets” in the book.

The Federal List of Extremist Materials on the Justice Ministry’s web site has hundreds of entries.

It has everything from a dissertation submitted for a Ph.D. in Adygei Republic about the Hanafi to the article by Boris Stomakhin, “Untermenschen”  which was among the items that led him to be sentenced twice on charges of incitement of hatred and extremism, most recently last year to 6.5 years in prison.

The list also has numerous videos, from jihad messages including from the Caucasus Emirates to satires of Russian patriots.

Links to the banned material now appear with notices like this one from VKontakte, which says “The user who uploaded this video has been blocked or removed.”


A number of items like the satire on the patriots can be found simply uploaded again to new accounts. Some sites like “Stop the Occupation of Karelia” might be blocked from inside Russia but if they are hosted abroad they are still visible with circumvention software.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

DNR Expels Five of Limonov’s National Bolsheviks Back to Russia

Eduard Limonov, leader of the National Bolshevik Party, has complained on his LiveJournal blog today that five of his comrades were detained in Donetsk and then deported back to Russia.

The ultrnationalist groups such as his have been supporting the Russian-backed militants in the Donbass although the relationship between Russian Federation citizens who want to join the insurgency and pro-Russian rebels is not always smooth.

Limonov gave the mainly the last names only of the individuals: Milyuk, Krylov, Chernov, Vorontsov, and Mankov. He said they were detained at various times from May 1 to May 6, taken to the Russian border and then released. They were interviewed by the Russian border guards and Federal Security Service (FSB). All of the five are now free in Rostov Region.

Andrei Milyuk gave the following account (translation by The Interpreter):

For the whole time we were in one of the basements of the Ministry of State Security (MGB) of the DNR. The conditions of detention for such a place were fairly comfortable. The guards treated us well.


During the interrogations, we managed to learn the following. The MGB does not want to see us in the DNR in any form — neither military, political or humanitarian. They say three parties are enough for them, and they don’t need a new ungovernable and incomprehensible force. In the military sense, the presence of the Natsbols in the Novorossiya Armed Forces (VSN) were directly compared to Right Sector in the dillweeds [Ukrainians] (in the context that it was a little-governed radical group).


Apparently the noise you raised worked. They didn’t lay a finger on us during the interrogations. During deportation, no official papers were handed us (that is, no official claims were presented) and essentially they just drove us to the border, handed us over through the DNR part, and warned us that they do not want to see us again in the republic.”

The reaction of the DNR leaders to what has happened, and my open letter, have not been forthcoming. They are silent. Although the dead and wounded Natsbol volunteers give us the moral right to get an official explanatoin.

Limonov commented:

“I think that the deportation of the five Natsbols will not end with this. That there will be more detentions and expulsions. God hope I am mistaken.”

The parties that evidently are still in the DNR’s good graces including Serge Kurginyan’s Essence of Time and Aleksandr Dugin’s Eurasian movement and possibly Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) but it’s not clear.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Ruble Value Declines Again to 50 at the News Bank of Russia Will Buy Up Foreign Currency; $8 Billion Added to Reserve Fund

The ruble took a tumble again today after rallying for some weeks. The value was 50 rubles to the US dollar this morning when trade opened. It’s currently as of this writing back to 49, with the euro at 56 and Brent crude at $67 a barrel.

After the Bank of Russia or Central Bank announced yesterday that it would buy up foreign currency — approximately $100-200 million daily — the value dropped. Yesterday the ruble closed at a bit lower than 50 rubles and it reached a high of 50.63 this morning, says By 10:00 am Moscow time the dollar was at 50.12.

Yaroslav Podsevatkin, head of training for Aton, said (translation by The Interpreter):

Apparently the Central Bank is not waiting for further strengthening of the ruble. The budget was compiled on a calculation of the price for oil at $50 a barrel and the rate of the dollar at 61.5 rubles. Both oil and the ruble strengthened.

Oleg Kuzmin, the chief economist of Renaissance Capital said the Bank of Russia is concerned about the significant strengthening of the ruble.

“It is trader higher than the fundamentally grounded levels which creates risks for development of import replacement,” said Kuzmin. At first the Central Bank raised the cost of hard currency repurchase agreements, and now is beginning to buy foreign currency in small volumnes — since the Central Bank is reacting to an excessively strengthening ruble, says Kuzmin.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that additional oil and gasa revenues for the state budget of Russia from last year in the amount of 402 billion rubles ($8 billion) will be moved to the Reserve Fund until October 1, 2015, reported.

Sberbank chief German Gref has proposed putting a limit on the receipt of insurance payments for depositors, and the Bank of Russia is currently studying it, says The idea was outlined in a meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev yesterday. Gref proposed a limit on the total volume of insurance payments for one depositor for the entire history of his transactions with the bank to 3 million rubles ($60,000) (now one-time insurance is 1.4 million rubles [$28,000]). He also proposed that the payments be made no more than once in five years or to allow the receipt of an insurance payment no more than one time.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick