Russia Update: Condition of Opposition Journalist Kara-Murza Remains ‘Critical’

May 28, 2015
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. (R) in Kazan with Prof. Andrei Zubov, whose lecture Kara-Murza had arranged as the first in a series by Open Russia, the civic movement where he serves as federal coordinator. This is the most recent picture taken of him, on May 23, 2015. Via Facebook

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has now joined Sen. John McCain and others in calling for FIFA president Sepp Blatter to resign amid the corruption investigation of 9 sports officials. A new leadership could put in jeopardy Russia’s hosting of the World Cup in 2018.

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:

Is ‘Novorossiya’ Really Dead?
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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Condition of Vladimir Kara-Murza Worsens; Israeli Toxicologist Has Arrived to Examine Him

Friends and family continue to be concerned that opposition journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. is not improving after he suffered what appears to be a poisoning on May 26.

Bloknot and
have a report from his father. The Bloknot site is not currently
accessible. The following is a complete translation from

Vladimir Kara-Murza’s Internal Organs Have Failed

condition of Vladimir Kara-Murza, journalist, member of the political
council of the party RPR-PARNAS and coordinator of Mikhail
Khodorkovsky’s project Open Russia, has worsened sharply.  Bloknot writes that the question is being decided about the transport of Kara-Murza to Israel.

Kara-Murza has become worse, he was transferred to the sixth department
of the emergency wing of the Pirogova Hospital. As his father told Bloknot, he is on the border between life and death.

is very bad,” said Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr. “A doctor has flown to us
from Israel, and he will evaluate his condition and make a diagnosis

In the event that the doctor acknowledges that the
patient can be transported, he will be moved to a foreign clinic, added
his father. If not, he will be left in a Moscow clinic, and his
treatment will be under the oversight of the invited specialist.

Israeli toxicologist, who has examined the severely-ill patient, came
to the conclusion that the reason for his poisoning are tablets:
supposedly Kara-Murza took an incompatible combination of medications.

“I don’t believe that,” his father emphasized to a journalist in an interview with Bloknot.

news agencies have reported citing a close friend of Kara-Murza, all
his internal organs have failed. He is hooked up to life support. His
relatives are waiting for another doctor to arrive from France.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Journalist Warns That In Putin’s Russia It’s Not Safe To Eat, Drink, or Walk

Journalist, author, and activist Masha Gessen has written an article in The New Yorker today warning that in light of the suspected poisoning of opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza and the recent assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, it is no longer safe in Russia for those who speak out against the Putin regime:

Indeed, the larger message of the Nemtsov assassination and the apparent attempted assassination of Kara-Murza is that no one is safe. Both men are sufficiently well-known to attract the attention of Russia’s dwindling oppositional minority, but neither has the superstar status that would preclude identifying with him. If Litvinenko’s murder made one think, “Well, but who’d be interested in me?,” these attacks put many more people on notice. Don’t walk the streets. Don’t eat the food. Don’t talk.

Speaking of talking, in the past few months, people who work at two Moscow restaurants have warned me, separately, about the precise locations of listening devices at the eateries. The warnings came unbidden. The food at both places was, incidentally, not only very good but also apparently safe. That, along with the springtime sun, helps maintain the bizarre sense of normalcy that has a way of going hand in hand with the mortal danger that has become a fact of everyday life.

James Miller

Father of Kara-Murza Says He Remains in ‘Serious’ Condition on Ventilator; Colleague Hopes to Evacuate Him to London

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr. the father of opposition journalist and federal coordinator of Open Russia has made a statement about the condition of his son, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., who was rushed to the hospital yesterday with suspected poisoning.

The Interpreter has a translation:

I want to express enormous gratitude to the Russian doctors. They have selflessly treated him, and have placed the most modern equipment around him. But he cannot remain for long on an artificial kidney, artificial ventilation, and artificial heart and liver. Therefore we are thinking of what to do next. Doctors are even suggesting bringing Israeli equipment here and installing it, and treating him here. They say that if Volodya [Vladimir] cannot be transported, let them come here and treat him here. That is one of the options, when everything is helping one another. I won’t outline any other options.

Since I am with him every day, it seems to me that it is dangerous to put him into a car and take him somewhere. He is so dependent on these machines which they have placed around him from all sides that it is simply risky to turn them off, it seems to me. But our entire family is discussing the options. Thank God, they are all available.

The Interpreter also spoke this afternoon to Ilya Yashin, a colleague of Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Yashin is a leader of the RPR-PARNAS party where the slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was once co-chairman.

He is in the US this week for the presentation of the English translation of Putin.War, the report which Nemtsov was working on before his death and which has been completed and issued by his friends.

Yashin said he was in touch with a lawyer for the family of Kara-Murza who had in turn arranged for an independent assessment of Kara-Murza’s medical chart and diagnosis.

The doctors have made a preliminary diagnosis of toxins in Kara-Murza’s bloodstream and “do not rule out” a diagnosis of poisoning.

The level of toxins is such, says Yashin, that they could not be from “spoiled yoghurt or chiburekki or shishkebob” or some other food Kara-Murza might have eaten during a trip May 23 to Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan.

Yashin said his state was “worsening” because “his organs cannot cope with the toxins”; this is the reason for his kidney malfunction.

He said that doctors have also induced “medical sleep like an artificial coma” because he has also been put on a respirator.

Yashin declined to speculate how Kara-Murza could have been poisoned and what the substance was, noting that he was not in Moscow and that an independent diagnosis has not yet been completed.

As Kara-Murza has British citizenship, Yashin is hoping that he can be evacuated to London for medical treatment if he is well enough to travel. Earlier Kara-Murza’s wife said her husband’s condition was “very grave”  indicating that the family did not trust Russian doctors and hoped to arrange treatment abroad.

Yashin also cautioned about Russian state media reports and discounted the claim made by LifeNews that Kara-Murza had taken anti-depressants.

“All information in LifeNews has to be treated as disinformation,” he explained.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Kara-Murza’s Wife Urges His Evacuation to Europe or Israel As Condition Not Improved

Evgeniya Kara-Murza, the wife of opposition writer Kara-Murza, has urged that her husband be evacuated to a hospital in Europe or Israel, saying his condition has not improved despite dialysis, the New York Times reported.

The activist, Vladimir V. Kara-Murza, collapsed and lost consciousness on Tuesday. He is the federal coordinator of Open Russia, a civic group founded by Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former chief of Yukos Oil and critic of President Vladimir V. Putin who served 10 years in prison in Russia.

condition has not changed,” Mr. Kara-Murza’s wife, Evgenia, who lives
with their three young children in the United States, wrote in an email
to reporters. “The hemodialysis treatment he is undergoing has no
effect, and his condition remains very grave. He has not regained

an interview on Wednesday, Ms. Kara-Murza said she feared her husband
had been poisoned and that he remained in danger as long as he stayed in

As we reportedly earlier, doctors have given widely different diagnoses since his hospitalization, including a heart-valve problem, pancreatitis, food poisoning from spoiled yoghurt or shishkebob, or double pneumonia. But until now the cause of his kidney failure has still not been determined.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Nemtsov’s Fellow Party Co-Chairman Interrogated in Murder Case; Two Female Witnesses Sought
Vladimir Ryzhkov, co-chairman of the RPR-PARNAS party, was summoned for interrogation in the case of the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who himself was co-chair, Novaya Gazeta reported.
Translation: I spent 1.5 hours at the Investigative Committee. At the group to investigate the murder of Boris Nemtsov. I was questioned as a witness. I was surprised when they summoned me.
Translation: They need to interrogate completely different people, and it is approximately known who and where. Even so, I replied to a wide circle of questions. I described everything I knew...

Translation: …and everything I thought about that case. If only there were a result – that’s the main thing. All the perpetrators and organizers and also the contractors need to be identified.

Police are looking for two women who may have followed slain opposition leader Boris Nemtsov from the Bosco Cafe at GUM department store a half hour before his death, Kommersant reported May 26.

Yet law-enforcers claim that the two women were not from the Federal Security Service (FSB), who followed Nemtsov routinely, according to his colleagues’ testimony. Investigators also claim that there was no official tail on him that night; they made formal inquiries to the FSB and Interior Ministry (police), both of which claimed they had placed no hidden surveillance on Nemtsov at all on February 27.

Roza Magomedova, the lawyer for Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, one of the five Chechen defendants suspected of the murder, said that she questioned the manager of the Bosco Cafe regarding the night of the 27th. He stated that at about 23:00, before closing, there were only four patrons in the restaurant: Nemtsov, his companion Anna Duritskaya, and two middle-aged women. When Nemtsov and Duritskaya left the cafe at about 23:05, he said the two women immediately followed him after a minute. The manager was unable to provide a description.

But according to a witness of the murder, whose first name only was given as “Yevgeny,” he also saw two middle-aged women on the bridge at about 23:30 who then quickly went down the side stairway to the parking lot below by the Kremlin wall.

Yevgeny said he was about 150 meters behind Nemtsov and looking at his iPhone and had on headphones so that he did not hear or see the moment of the shooting. But he said he saw three women including Duritskaya by Nemtsov’s body after he was shot.

Yevgeny had also given a description of the killer said to differ from
the lead suspect, Zaur Dadayev, who allegedly fired the gun and then
jumped into a car that pulled up alongside the murder scene.

Russian journalists are skeptical of his story because certain parts of it do not line up with the one videotape of the crime scene available.

The two women were widely believed to be the FSB agents trailing him, and dropped out of the news quickly after the murder.

Magomedova has called on investigators to establish whether the women in the restaurant and on the bridge were the same women.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Condition of Opposition Journalist Kara-Murza Remains ‘Critical’

Doctors are characterizing the status of opposition journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza as “extremely severe,” or critical, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported. A doctor at the Pirogova City Hospital No. 1 told Moskovsky Komsomolets (translation by The Interpreter):

“He has now been transferred to the sixth department of the emergency wing. His condition is extremely severe.”

Yesterday as we reported, Kara-Murza was rushed to the hospital from the RAPSI legal office in Moscow and was diagnosed with kidney failure. The reason for his collapse has not been identified, but poisoning is suspected. He had just returned from Kazan where he arranged the first in a series of lectures for Open Russia, the organization created by exiled businessman and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, where Kara-Murza served as federal coordinator. Friends say he had felt fine over the weekend.

The doctor was quoted as saying his condition was “without change, it remains severe,” reported, citing Interfax.

LifeNews, a pro-Kremlin TV channel close to intelligence and law-enforcement, says Kara-Murza may have been poisoned, according to doctors, although his father said yesterday he “ruled out” this possibility.

Yesterday, Kara-Murza was brought at first to a cardiology unit with tachycardia (slowing of heart beat), and at first doctors suspected aortal insufficiency and brought him to the Bakulev Cardiology Center, says LifeNews.

But then doctors ruled out any heart problems, and as he was growing worse, began to suspect non-alcoholic “intoxication,” which is poisoning.

Yesterday he underwent dialysis and is currently on a ventilator, says LifeNews, although the claim about the artificial respirator was not confirmed by his family.

LifeNews also claimed that on a recent trip to the US, Kara-Murza was advised to take anti-depressants, and that before falling unconscious, he managed to tell doctors that he had begun to take such a prescription.

Yet the family has not made any such statement, and cite doctors who are still trying to establish the reason for his condition. According to a source close to the family, Kara-Murza is currently sedated, but stable and a meeting of experts has been called to discuss his condition.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Would a New Leadership of FIFA Be A ‘Friend of Russia’?

The US Department of Justice announced yesterday that it has indicted 14 officials of FIFA ( Fédération Internationale de Football Association),
the international soccer federation, under the RICO Act (Racketeer
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations):

A 47-count indictment was unsealed early this morning in federal
court in Brooklyn, New York, charging 14 defendants with racketeering,
wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in
connection with the defendants’ participation in a 24-year scheme to
enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer.  The
guilty pleas of four individual defendants and two corporate defendants
were also unsealed today.

The defendants charged in the indictment include high-ranking
officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association
(FIFA), the organization responsible for the regulation and promotion of
soccer worldwide, as well as leading officials of other soccer
governing bodies that operate under the FIFA umbrella.  Jeffrey Webb and
Jack Warner – the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the
continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States –
are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery
offenses.  The defendants also include U.S. and South American sports
marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and
agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain
lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.

The news immediately sparked discussion about the fate of Russia’s
FIFA World Cup in 2018 and a renewal of the call, led by Sen. John
McCain and now David Cameron to elect a new president and move the 2018 games from Russia due to its war on Ukraine.

As we reported yesterday,
the Russian Foreign Ministry said it had “nothing to hide” in the FIFA
scandal, but nevertheless slammed the US and Swiss arrests of FIFA
officials as “illegal exterritorial use of US law” and

Today, Putin has characterized the arrests as an attempt to
“meddle” in FIFA and block the re-election of Sepa Blatter as FIFA head.

But Putin has also claimed “this will not affect us,” reported.

Russian sports official Vitaly Mutko said there was “no risk” of Russia losing the championship, the Guardian reported in its ongoing live coverage of the scandal.

Today, prosecutors will question 10 FIFA executive committee members, among them Mutko, AP reported.

Sepp Blatter himself has called for “unity” amidst the calls for a Russian boycott, the Daily Mail reported.

As Vladimir Mozgovoy noted in Novaya Gazeta today, Russia was trying to “put a good face on” despite the scandal (translation by The Interpreter):

Several times in various statements made in the very first stormy day, it was reiterated that the positions regarding the host countries of the two future world championships remain immutable, and nothing threatens the holding of the competitions in Russia and Qatar.

But that’s today and with the previous leadership, which may not last. How the new bosses will behave, no one can even guess yet — but it is not necessarily the case at all that they will be “friends of Russia.” A change of position in favor of radical sanctions cannot be excluded — that is in addition to the known political risks from which no one is insured. There are three years before the championship and anything can happen, God forbid.

One thing is clear — FIFA, and with it all of international football on Wednesday entered a zone of particularly dangerous turbulence.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick