Russia Update: Kara-Murza, Jr. in Serious Condition; Toxicology Report Negative

May 29, 2015
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., the opposition journalist and coordinator for Open Russia, Khodorkovsky’s movement, is in serious but stable condition in a Moscow hospital, his father said. Friends and colleagues are concerned he could have been poisoned.

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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Blatter Wins Fifth Term as Challenger Concedes; Russia’s Hosting of 2018 World Cup Now Likely Secured

Novaya Gazeta’s Vladimir Mozgovoy asked yesterday whether the new leadership of FIFA would be “a friend to Russia.”

Now we have the answer — he’s an old friend of Russia, Sepp Blatter, who has just won another term after already serving 17 years.

In the first round of voting, no candidate gathered enough votes to win, so a second round was held, and Blatter won, said RIA Novosti.

There’s been a lot of commentary the last few days on the election, given the arrest of 14 FIFA and related sports officials.

Russian anti-corruption activist Aleksei Navalny tweeted a Coub (which is like a Russian version of a Vine) showing Russian sports official Vitaly Mutko, who was called in for questioning along with other FIFA executive committee members, saying “No criminality” in answer to a reporter’s question, set to gangsta rap.

Translation: Cool.

The corruption arrests were widely seen as jeopardizing Russia’s hosting of the World Cup in 2018, but with Blatter back, this seems assured again.

 Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, the brother of the King Abdullah of Jordan, withdrew his candidacy in the second round, ensuring Blatt’s win.

One of the ways Blatter campaign for re-election was to say he supported the corruption probe, reported.

As commented with a headline, President Vladimir Putin and Blatter were a “perfect alliance of sleaze.” Putin backed Blatter’s re-election as he had been crucial to Russia’s selection for the World Cup.


As Ryu Spaeth writes at

Really, it’s hard to think of a more perfect alliance of sleaze. It
goes beyond the fact that Russia, as host of the 2018 World Cup, has a
vested interest in defending FIFA and its embattled president. The fact
is that if FIFA were a country, instead of merely a corrupt
international sporting organization, it would look a lot like Russia.
And Putin calling attention to this parallel is doing no favors to

The U.S. Justice Department’s accusation that soccer officials were involved in a decades-long scheme involving $150 million in bribes
has put a spotlight on how Blatter runs his operation. The billions of
dollars in revenues that FIFA pulls in each year from corporate
sponsors, which have long turned a blind eye to FIFA’s unscrupulous
practices and may have paid kickbacks themselves, trickles down to member nations that make up FIFA, ensuring they have an interest in voting to keep Blatter in power.

Sound familiar? That’s because it bears remarkable
similarities to how Vladimir Putin does business. Ever since the Russian
state seized control of the country’s biggest industries and handed
them over to Putin’s cronies, Putin has consolidated power by ensuring
that his friends receive a steady stream of the profits that Russia
makes from energy, mining, and more.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Kara-Murza, Jr. Still in Serious Condition; Toxicology Report Shows No Narcotics or Alcohol in His Blood

Novaya Gazeta reported this evening
that after initial opposition, doctors at Pirogova City Hospital No. 1
were nevertheless allowing the family of opposition journalist Vladimir
Kara-Murza, Jr. stricken with suspected poisoning May 26, to take his medical samples abroad for a second opinion.

remains in serious condition, but stable. He is on kidney dialysis and a
respirator and is in a medically-induced coma, his father said in an interview.

Ekho Moskvy reported that the family was prohibited from taking the samples at 21:33, but since they cited Novaya Gazeta, they may not have noticed the latest update. Ekho Moskvy added
that a toxicologist’s report indicates that no narcotics or alcohol
have been found in the bloodstream of Kara-Murza, Jr., contrary to
rumors spread by LifeNews, which claimed that he might have taken anti-depressants. This was discounted by his relatives.

leaves in question what substance did in fact poison him. A source
close to the family said that when Kara-Murza, Jr. was first
hospitalized on Tuesday, medical personnel feared contamination of the
hospital if it turned out that he had radiation poisoning, similar to
the case of former intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was
killed by polonium by 2006 and whose death is currently the subject of a
British inquiry.

Since then, there has been no evidence that
Kara-Murza, Jr. was subject of any radiation poisoning. Journalists have
noted that his symptoms seem similar to those of Anna Politkovskaya,
who fell ill from poisoning after a reporting trip to Beslan to cover
the terrorist attack, two years before she was killed.

Jr. is the federal coordinator for Open Russia, the civic movement
founded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He is also a member of the federal
council of the opposition RPR-PARNAS party, co-chaired by Vladimir
Ryzhkov and Mikhail Kasyanov. Boris Nemtsov was a co-chair before his
assassination February 27.

Yevgeniya Kara-Murza, the wife of
Vladimir, Jr. left yesterday for Russia from the US, where she lives
with their three children, and is hoping to move her husband to a
facility abroad. But doctors said today that he was not in a condition
to travel, and an Israeli specialist brought in to examine him said that
there was no need to move him as the equipment to treat him was already
in place in the Moscow hospital. Doctors have neither confirmed or
denied that he was poisoned.

(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for
Modern Russia which is funded by Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of Mikhail
Khodorkovsky. Kara-Murza.Jr. is a former staff member of IMR.)

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Three Salafists Missing in Dagestan; One Found Dead, Fate of Others Unknown as Police Report Killing 3 Militants

One of three missing persons in Dagestan has turned up dead and the fate of the others is unknown, says Memorial Society Human Rights Center.

Zamir Pashayev, born 1984, was found dead in Kurakh District of Dagestan; his mother was informed May 28 by a morgue worker in Makhachkala who asked her to identify the body. He was found in a camouflage uniform in a half-constructed home with a machine gun near him. His body showed bruises. Two other corpses were found but they were burnt beyond recognition and identification from DNA samples proved impossible.

According to local media reports, three fighters were “liquidated” by spetsnaz soldiers on May 27 in the village of Akhnig in Kurakh District. Police claimed the militants had attacked law-enforcers. A  machine gun, pistol, and explosives were found at the scene by FSB specialists. Pashayev is believed to be one of those three. His relatives believe that he was kidnapped, tortured, and then killed, and his body was placed at this scene.

The relatives had appealed to Memorial Human Rights Center, saying three men had disappeared on the night of May 18-19: Pashayev as well as Magomedzhavad Khizriyev, born 1968 and Davud Sarukhanov, born 1995. The three men, all friends regularly visited a Salafist mosque, which was on a watch list with law-enforcement. Unknown men had been following Sarukhanov, according to neighbors, several days before he disappeared.

Pashayeva’s mother, Anakhanum Kadyrova said her son had left home at 8:30 am on the morning of May 18 to go to his plot of land in the village of Berekey in Derben District, 25 km from Derbent. He was building a house there, and had to finish the roof.

On the way to the site, he stopped at a building materials store and met with a carpenter named Akhmed who then went with him to the site. They were there for awhile, then Akhmed went to the town of Izberbash. Pashayev parked his car, a Lada Kalina near the plot of land. His mother called him at 11:00, and he said he was leaving soon to attend a funeral of a relative. But then he never came home after that nor telephoned. Then they could not reach him after that; there was no answer on one telephone and another phone he had was busy.

Akhmed returned to the site at 16:00 and did not see either Zamir or his car. He found tools scattered on the ground and the shed where the tools had been kept open. He called Pashayev’s family and they came to the site and found Zamir’s clothing, which he had taken off before donning work overalls. They also found both his phones. Neighbors said they had both seen and spoken to Zamir who was at the site until about noon.

Relatives immediately reported him missing to the Derben police precinct. They told Memorial that he was on a police list and was regularly questioned as a Salafist. He was asked to bring his wife to be registered with police and he refused. Police had already taken his photograph, fingerprints and DNA sample even though he was not charged with a crime and had no police record.

As for Khizriyev, his relatives said he took his daughter to school on May 19 in the morning, went to a butcher’s shop at 9:00 am, took some purchases to his relative’s home and then went to his job at a construction site. A classmate who called him at 11:15 am was unable to reach him as there was a notice that the number was disconnected. Two hours later, the number was working again but there was no answer, then a notice that it was disconnected came again. For the next two days, relatives kept calling the number but had no answer.

Khizriyev was also a devout Muslim, wore a beard and was considered a Salafist; he was also put on a police list although he had no police record. He had a wife and five children as well as nephews he supported.

His relatives declared him missing on May 21 at the Derben police precinct and made a written statement. Police came and checked their home and talked to his wife and daughter.

The brother of Davud Sarukhanov said when he left for home on May 19, his brother remained at the house at 15:00. When he returned home the next day, his brother was gone. Neighbors said that he had emptied the garbage outside at about 19:00 and did not see him after that.

Sarukhonov was also on the police list, after police detained him and others at his mosque, photographed and fingerprinted them. They believe he has been kidnapped, as neighbors also said they saw three men in a car come to the house several times and believe they were following Sarukhanov.

Practically every week, there is an official news story of armed militants or members of terrorist groups being surrounded in a house, and police “liquidating” them. In this story, the concern is that the scene was staged days after the Salafists were kidnapped and killed, then the building was set on fire.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

More than 20 Journalists Quit St. Petersburg 100TV After Pressure to Become like LifeNews
Muscovites Debate Controversial Monument to Prince Vladimir by Moscow State University

A controversy has been raging in Moscow over a giant statue of Vladimir the Great, the prince who baptized ancient Rus’ in the late 980s and who was made a saint in the Russian Orthodox church.

The statue, made by sculptor Salavat Shcherbakov of bronze, is planned to be 25 meters tall (or 24 by some accounts), which would make it shorter than the famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil, which is 30 meters high.


Artist’s rendering. Photo by

Apparently Putin has already ruled that the statue must be placed on the Vorobyov Hills by Moscow State University, and the only change that might be made is to its height, if its foundation is made shorter.

But many people, particularly students and professors, have protested, both regarding the implications of having a religious historical figure imposed on the university, and also the dangers of the heavy statue causing a landslide on the hill.

According to, more than 50,000 signatures have been gathered against the statue and 1,000 academics from MGU have signed a petition against it as well.

None of this has had any effect as the project has gone forward as a state-organized “crowd-funding” where more than 20 million rubles ($382,274) have been collected from the public.

Translation: the Moscow State University rector has termed the issue of the place of the monument to Prince Vladimir to be debatable.
Translation: Vladimir Putin possibly may discuss the controversial memorial to Prince Vladimir today with the mayor.
Translation: “No hearings, no tenders, but the fences already are standing.” Monument to Prince Vladimir: investigation.
Translation: Still and all we have a secular state — Vsevolod Tverdislov, deputy chair of the department of biophysics is against the monument to Prince Vladimir on the Vorobyov Hills.

Translation: the height of the monument to Prince Vladimir on the Vorobyov Hills may be changed.


Photo by

Journalists were recently brought on an organized tour of the sculptor’s studio. The monument is the result of a competition organized by the Russian Military Historical Society whose chairman is Vladimir Medinsky, minister of culture and on whose board sits Dmitry Rogozin, vice premier for defense and space, and Sergei Shoigu, defense minister, as well as Vladimir Kolokoltsev, interior minister, Dmitry Livanov, education minister and the oligarchs Viktor Vekselberg and Aleksandr Yevtushenkov as well as other generals and business people. The society quickly received land from the city near MGU for the monument.

Vladimir Kononov, executive director of the society, was unfazed by the petitions against the work, saying he could gather millions in favor. He discounted concerns about landslides saying that experts had studied the site and guaranteed that the multi-ton statue would stand.

According to a reporter who went on the tour, Shcherbakov, whose studio is filled with Lenin busts he is working on but also a statute that looks like environmentalist Yevgeniya Chirikova (who recently fled to Estonia), is known for his sculptures of Soviet Sergei Korolev, Soviet rocket scientist and spacecraft designer, and late Azerbaijan president Heidar Aliyev in Baku, as well as the famous Victory monument on Poklonnaya Gora adored by President Vladimir Putin.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Navalny Says Putin Will ‘Stop at Nothing’ to Maintain Power; Fends Off Latest Court Case
Opposition leader Aleksey Navalny gave a joint interview to the US-funded Radio Free Europe-Radio Free Europe (RFE/RL) and Voice of America yesterday May 28.

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny says Vladimir Putin will stop at nothing to maintain his “monopoly on power” and accused the Russian president of launching a war against Ukraine in order to enrich himself and his inner circle.

“I really hope that he doesn’t press the nuclear button right before his death and doesn’t want to take the rest of humanity with him to the grave,” Navalny said in a joint May 28 interview with the Russian-language services of RFE/RL and VOA.

“But I don’t see any barriers or limits, or actions that he won’t take in order to keep his power atop all of Russia,” Navalny added.

In the wide-ranging interview, Navalny accused Putin of instigating the war in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Kyiv’s forces that has killed more than 6,100 people since April 2014, calling the Kremlin’s role in the conflict a “crime.”

“It’s not just a political mistake, it is a crime against both the Russian Federation and the Russian people, and an international crime,” he said. “What needs to be done? This war must be stopped.”

Read more here.

Navalny recently went through yet another court proceeding, where this time, he succeeded in making his case.

Translation: The prosecutor’s office could not achieve a worsening of the sentence for the Navalny brothers in the Yves Roche case.

The Yves Roche East case involved charges of fraud against Navalny and his brother Oleg, although the French company itself did not press any claims against the brothers. Oleg was sentenced to 3.5 years of labor colony and Aleksey was handed a suspended sentence of 3.5 years.

The May 27 court session was an occasion for some bloggers to recall how tweets about a December 2014 TV Rain broadcast of the sentencing of Navalny were blocked by Twitter at the request of Roskomnadzor, the state censor.

Translation: at the demand of Roskomnadzor, @twitter blocked this tweet in Russia.

Translation: Twitter blocked a tweet in Russia with a call to come to Manezh Square on 30.12.14 after receiving a letter from Roskomnadzor.

Despite the suspended sentence, Navalny has been continuing his anti-corruption activity:

Translation: Navalny has visited Gref. Photo by Vitaly Petlevoy.

Navalny went to a meeting of Sberbank’s shareholders, and told Vedomosti that he was “a shareholder and member of the committee of minority shareholders.” He said he was unhappy with the bank’s plan to reduce dividends, but added he realized the decision didn’t depend on the management. “I’m not going to demand of Gref that he stop the war or change the economic condition of the country,” referring to German Gref, head of Sberbank.

Gref showed a video of the highlights of 2014 and said that “Krymnash” — “Crimea is ours,” i.e. the annexation of the Crimea had affected the economy. He said that if the bank didn’t invest in personnel and technology, its long-term prospects would be harmed, therefore he asked shareholders to accept a reduction of the dividend.

Sberbank is among Russian entities under US sanctions for its role in the annexation of the Crimea.

Navalny also plans to go to Novosibirsk on June 7 to take part in opposition-organized primaries.

Translation: Navalny and Yashin wil come to Novosibirsk to the rally.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Cartoonist Satirizes Putin’s Decree Prohibiting Disclosure of Military Deaths
Russian cartoonist Sergey Elkin has an apt cartoon today regarding President Vladimir Putin’s decree prohibiting disclosure of information about military deaths.

The cartoon shows a man’s mouth covered with a standard, cheap red coffin used for “Cargo 200,” the military term for the bodies of soldiers killed in combat returned to the Motherland.

A picture of such coffins was used in Putin.War, the report prepared by Boris Nemtsov’s colleagues after his death based on his research.


The cartoon draws from the famous Soviet propaganda poster from a time when the government warned of “imperialist spies everywhere.” The caption says “Don’t Blab!” and the verse at the top is translated by The Interpreter as:

Be on guard,
these days
the walls have ears
and it is not far
from babbling
to gossip


— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Lawyers to Appeal Putin’s Decree on Secrecy of Military Deaths to Supreme Court

Human rights activists are appealing a decree by President Vladimir Putin prohibiting publication of military deaths, lawyer Ivan Pavlov said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy.

Putin signed the decree making it a crime to disclose military casualties from “special operations” during peacetime on May 28. That was the same day that the English-language translation of the report was released prepared by colleagues of Boris Nemtsov based on research he had begun before his assassination.

Pavlov, the chairman of the Freedom of Information Foundation in Russia said that lawyers believed the law went beyond the grounds for declaring information a state secret under existing legislation. He said the appeal to the Supreme Court would be prepared within the next two weeks.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Condition of Kara-Murza Remains Serious But Stable; No Plans to Take Him Abroad for Treatment

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr. the father of opposition journalist
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. who was rushed to the hospital with suspected
poisoning on Tuesday, gave an update on his son’s condition in an interview
with Irina Vorobyova and Anton Orekh at the radio station Ekho Moskvy.

The Interpreter has a translation:

Vorobyova: We have on the line with our studio journalist
Vladimir Kara-Murza. Vladimir, hello!

Kara-Murza: Yes, good morning!

Vorobyova: Tell us, please, the latest news on your son’s
health condition. Has anything changed, perhaps, for the better.

Kara-Murza: You know, I have understood only one formulation
— I didn’t understand it before — “there are no changes for the
worse.” It turns out there is a whole range of achievements in various
fields of medicine. I thought that this was just a reassuring diagnosis for the
parents, but it turns out this is a great advancement.

Today, everything began
with the Israeli luminary arriving. And the entire City Hospital No. 1 gathered
in my son’s room, all the heads of departments, all the doctors and deputy
chief physicians and Dr. Aleksei Svet himself, the chief physician. And I
thought there would be some criticism, that this doctor would make an attempt
at some kind of aggressions…But in the end he said that the equipment at
City Hospital No. 1 deserves the highest praise, that nowhere in the world, in
Israel, in Germany, in America is there such equipment. And that my son does
not have to be transported anywhere. That there are no changes for the worse is
the best praise for these last two nights. For two nights there have been no
changes for the worse — knock wood! And we are remaining in Moscow.

Vorobyova: So the transport will not be needed.

Kara-Murza: It is not necessary, no, because he said that if
you move him now to Berlin, there the equipment is worse even in the best
clinic and the doctors are worse. It turns out that all the doctors know each
other, they take part in the same seminars. I did not know that our medicine is
so advanced, that it is keeping up with the times, that once a year they work up
some sort of seminars, courses abroad, that they all know each other. Now I
will know better. Previously, thank God, I had not encountered this area of
life. Volodya is pink-cheeked and warm. They have gone up to him, and it turns out
that you can pinch him in the neck and he blinks. I didn’t know that, I
wouldn’t have started doing that, but the doctors, each consider it his duty to
do this because this is a check of some sort of reactions and reflexes.

Vorobyova: Tell us, this doctor who came, was he able to
make some kind of more precise diagnosis?

Kara-Murza: The diagnosis was made correctly. Intoxication
of the kidney region and kidney failure. He did not start discussing the
reasons, because the discussion there turned on tranquilizers and
anti-depressants, whether they could cause such damage. He immediately cut this
off and said: “What difference does this make? There are no other bad
signs, so let’s take this as a working version. We simply see that his kidneys have
failed, that hemodialysis is worth it.” That is, we decided not to look
for criminals but treat the person.

 Vorobyova: Other bad signs, in the sense there were nothing…

 Orekh: Criminal as such.

 Kara-Murza: Yes, judging from everything, and in those
samples that were given for analysis and we for our part also had the
opportunity to take biological samples: there is nothing like that there. Of
course I understand that everyone will think only about this, because Volodya
recently traveled to the USA with [Mikhail] Kasyanov and apparently we know
what reactions and broadcasts on federal channels there were, what, apparently,
Pushkov, Karaulov and Kiselyov said. But here I don’t see any connection because…well,
his organism was run down…I already found an objective reason for myself. But
the main thing is that he can be treated at Leninsky Avenue, no. 10 [City
Hospital No. 1].

Vorobyova: We understand. Vladimir, thank you very much. Our
listeners have been writing in a lot, and commentaries yesterday…

Orekhov: There have been many words of support today as well
for both Vladimirs, senior and junior.

Vorobyova: And of course we will keep watching. Once again
thank you for finding the time to tell us and our listeners about your son’s
state of health.

Kara-Murza: Thank you! I’m leaving for work now, see you

Orekhov: Alright, Volodya [Vladimir], we’ll be waiting.

Vorobyova: We will be waiting for good news. Thank you very
much, good luck! That was our morning Razvorot [Turn]. That was Vladimir
Kara-Murza on the line.

The reference to Kara-Murza, Jr.’s trip to the US and the names mentions was regarding a campaign that he, Kasyanov and other opposition leaders launched regarding what they called the “Nemtsov List,” similar to the Magnitsky List of persons suspected of mass human rights violations.

The “Nemtsov List” included eight Russian state television journalists who had taken part in a state-orchestrated campaigns to vilify and condemn Nemtsov in the state media, calling him a “traitor” and “a fifth columnist.” The opposition believes this created a climate of hatred that made it possible to target Nemtsov for assassination. They asked the US Congress to consider barring entry to the US and other sanctions against these persons for taking part in the hate campaign. The members of Congress did not take action due to concerns about freedom of speech under the First Amendment.

Dmitry Kisilyev is the head of Rossiya Segodnya, the parent company of and other state media and the most notorious propagandist for the Kremlin, with a regular talk show on TV1. He was placed under EU sanctions last year for his role in the annexation of the Crimea.

Aleksei Pushkov, chairman of the State Duma on foreign affairs, was already on US sanctions list in that capacity for his role in the annexation of the Crimea. He is also the host of a TV show.

Andrei Karaulov is a TV journalist and anchor and producer of a number of propaganda documentaries justifying Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

All of these people then later denounced Kara-Murza and Kasyanov on state TV.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick