Opposition Member Dmitry Nekrasov Forced to Flee Russia Due to Threat of FSB Prosecution

May 27, 2016
Campaign poster of Yabloko opposition party member Dmitry Nekrasov, May 23, 2016

LIVE UPDATES: Opposition member Dmitry Nekrasov has fled Russia, fearing that that the Federal Security Service (FSB) will prosecute him on vague charges of “terrorism.”

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:

NATO Got Nothing From Conceding To Russia In the Past, Why Should It Cave To The Kremlin Now?
Who is Hacking the Russian Opposition and State Media Officials — and How?
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


Opposition Member Dmitry Nekrasov Forced to Flee Russia Due to Threat of FSB Prosecution

Dmitry Nekrasov, a member of the Yabloko opposition party and the secretary of the opposition’s one-time Coordinating Committee, has fled Russia, fearing that that the Federal Security Service (FSB) will open an ill-defined case of “terrorism” against him, Ekho Moskvy reports.
Translation: Yabloko candidate for the State Duma Dmitry Nekrasov fled abroad.

As recently as May 23, Nekrasov had announced that he was going to run in the elections and supported Grigory Yavlinsky, the former head of the Yabloko Party, as president.

In a blog post for Ekho Moskvy today, May 27, Nekrasov explains first his decision to run in the elections, then his reasons for fleeing to Latvia (translation by The Interpreter):

“Like many ‘firey revolutionaries,’ I don’t like the regime. And I believe that in the next 5-15 years it will collapse or it will be forced to transform itself significantly. But even so, I am certain that this will happen hardly from the result of the actions of opposition forces and not even as the result of a socio-economic crisis but as the consequence of an accidental set of circumstances, ‘black swans,’ which we cannot affect and which are impossible to predict.”

He believes it is better to take part in elections, even if they are a farce, in the hopes of having a formal presence in parliament, than to be marginalized.
But Nekrasov then explained that a series of incidents had compelled him to go abroad.
At one time he was a staff member for former finance minister Aleksei Kudrin in the government. After leaving government office, Nekrasov was active in the big opposition protest marches of 2012-2014
He was considered a moderate and asked to serve as secretary of the opposition’s Coordinating Committee which has basically ceased to function now. He says that while he associated with opposition members “unacceptable to the government,” he was within the law and “never subscribed revolutionary scenarios.”
But then he alludes to “some problems with the FSB related to my opposition activity” without providing details, but said after Boris Nemtsov was murdered it seemed he was noticed more by authorities — seemingly in a positive way.

“Suddenly in our strangely constructed state some sort of tumblers clicked and I (and not only I but others) began to be named nearly every day on federal TV channels. No one ever got my consent, no one ever asked me for anything but suddenly I began to be named literally everywhere and the danger signals ceased.”

Kudrin himself was brought back in the government recently as an adviser to the economy. But Nekrasov says that he “drew conclusions from the military games in the fall of 2014” and “ceased to associate with people and attend events that could (in my subjective judgement) irritate the comrades in epaulets”. Basically, he decided that while he would speak his mind, he would not “climb the barricades,” i.e. go to demonstrations.

“After a year of television appearances and round tables, I thought that I was once again respectable, and here from all the cracks was leaking information that the Kremlin supposedly wanted legitimate elections. As if to say the percentage that United Russia got was not so important, it was all under control anyway, but legitimacy was a priority, especially in Moscow above all.”

And I, fool that I was, believed. If all the signals testified that the elections would be as in 2011, I would not have started accumulating tens of millions of rubles in the zero chance of election. And I thought, well, they want to show legitimacy, if not a faction, then a few moderate liberal talking heads for image’s sake will be let through and with a certain luck I could wind up in their number.
But then “certain strange things” began to happen, says Nekrasov. First, a former classmate and close, long-time friend of nearly 25 years who had served for 14 years in the Federal Protective Service (FSO) which guards the president, top Kremlin officials and the Kremlin grounds was dismissed. He had reached the rank of major and had all kinds of awards. The reason seemed a formality — he had skipped a lecture on a Saturday. But then it developed that when the friend tried to find a job in another law-enforcement agency, he learned that the word had gone out not to hire him, because he was friends with Nekrasov.

“I’m glad of course that my election campaign led to my great recognition at least in these circles but that’s simply 1937, for ‘friendship with an enemy of the people.'”

Nekrasov refers to the height of the Stalin persecution .

Then various other friends who still remained in government service began to leak to him that a decision had been made to put me in jail. That they were going to incriminate me with “financing extremism and terrorism.” He got the exact same message from different channels from people he trusted who were well informed.

Nekrasov thought this was just to scare him into not running for the elections:

“Usually in Russia the custom with such bourgeois liberals as me is to have a different type of relationship: risks are created for your business, then they come to an agreement with you. Like the searches at Oneksim, then the sale of RBC (with a corrective for the scale, of course). I was prepared for such risks and knew how to deal with them but terrorism — that’s total delirium.”

On May 24, Nekrasov returned from a trip to Vnukovo Airport and was detained and questioned by the FSB regarding “his ties with terrorist organizations”:

“This was approximately the conversation. ‘Tell us about your tie to terrorism?’ ‘I don’t have any, what can I reply.’ ‘We have information that you are linked to terrorism.’ Well, you should ask specific questions’ — and complete answer of concrete questions.”

Nekrasov said the FSB took a great interest in ear plugs found in his bag and asked how they were used and then pressured him for a long time to provide the password to his laptop. Then he was suddenly released without signing any statements. The next day, two different sources in the government told him that an arrest warrant would be issued and he would be threatened with a five-year sentence.
With this kind of warning, he decided to leave the country, but was bewildered by the claims.

“The unreality of the story that between appearances on federal TV and writing analytical articles, I was involved in TERRORISM along the way was so obvious that I believed they would really fabricate such a case. I believe in human stupidity. The leak seemed realistic.”

Nekrasov said he considered going to Ukraine via Belarus, as other opposition people had done successfully, but was told he had enemies there. So he decided to fly to Latvia. He believes the threats came not from the presidential administration or mayor’s office which had seemingly approved his candidacy in the elections but from the silovoki (law-enforcement, army, and intelligence) who were decided who to let into the elections, and who not. 
Until the situation clarifies in Russia, I do not plan to return to Russia. I am not a revolutionary and unlike my good friend Ilya Yashin and simply not “prepared to go to jail.” If needed I have a place to live abroad. And I will find some sort of job.
He asked parliamentary member Dmitry Gudkov to send an inquiry as to what specific case the government had against him to try to find out more details. But in general, he concluded it was a case of “making enemies of the fatherland out of ordinary people” as the character put it in the Soviet film  about the tsarist era, “Say a Word for the Poor Hussar“:

“The system is multiplying its enemies and losing qualified cadres.”

A number of people noted Nekrasov’s departure with concern.

Translation: My close friend Dmitry Nekrasov was forced to go abroad: he was threatened with imprisonment for terrorism.
Translation: The prominent secretary of the Coordinating Committee of the opposition Dmitry Nekrasov left the country supposedly due to a case of terrorism. OY!
Translation: The opposition member Dmitry Nekrasov left Russia, flying to an EU country. Yet another one has been squeezed out.

Translation: Dmitry Nekrasov has made his European choice. Have you?

But not all bloggers were positive, and an account like this indicates he had enemies:

Translation: Panic-stricken flight of liberals from Russia. Opp Dmitry Nekrasov has dumped. A feather to him. Minus 1 bastard from the television screen.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick