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, and see also our Russia This Week story The Guild War â How Should Journalists Treat Russian State Propagandists? and special features âManaged Springâ: How Moscow Parted Easily with the âNovorossiyaâ Leaders, Putin âThe Imperialistâ A Runner-Up For Timeâs âPerson of the Yearâ and It’s Not Just Oil and Sanctions Killing Russia’s Economy, It’s Putin.
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Translation: @navalny has been t
Translation: They took me out some back door of the Arbat Police Precinct, put me in a car, and brought me home.
Translation: They didn’t write up a police report of the detention and all that, obviously. They said “Let’s consider this a prophylactic chat.”
Translation: They wrote up on the spot some sort of paper for transfering me from the Interior Ministry [police] to the Federal Corrections Service. Funny.
Moscow police have now reportedly taken opposition leader Alexey Navalny back to his home, Russian journalists say.
Navalny stopped tweeting himself about his detention by police about 45 minutes ago.
Translation: they say Navalny has been taken away from the Arbat Police Precinct, but it’s not known where.
Navalny’s press secretary Kira Yarmysh first said that police were not allowing her and Ekho Moskvy journalists who followed Navalny to the police station to communicate with him.
But then she was able to get a word with him.
Translation: I just saw Alexey. He said they are taking him home. He was put in a car, they turned around simply and then drove past us.
Navalny went to the offices of Ekho Moskvy today to give an
Recently he decided to defy the terms of his house arrest,
which once included a ban on Internet usage and media, and cut off his
ankle bracelet. He believes that there is no lawful reason he should
remain under house arrest, as he has been given a suspended sentence in
his last trial, and was not ordered under house arrest in another
pending case for “art theft.”
Opposition leader Aleksey Navalny has just been arrested as he left the offices of Ekho Moskvy after an interview, according to a report he made from his Twitter account.
Translation: as to the question of why they are arresting @navalny, the police have replied ‘until clarification of the circumstances.’
Tanya Felgenhauer, deputy editor of Ekho Moskvy, reports:
Translation: they have taken [Navalny] for establishing his identity. Krivoarbatsky, 14.
Translation: Alexey was detained by the police right at the exit of Ekho. Under the pretext that he hasn’t got his identification with him, and perhaps he is not Alexey Navalny.
UPDATE: Navalny is tweeting from the police station that he believes he will be released soon after an ID check.
Translation: It’s as per usual, in short. Some detain me, others shout on those who detained me ‘WTF have you brought him in here for.”
Translation: Most likely they will release me now. As they say, sorry for bothering you.
Translation: To be honest, it’s really awkward for me that 15 times a day I have to ask you to organize a rally.
Earlier today, RFE/RL reported that Navalny was fined 670 rubles or about $10 for cutting off his ankle bracelet to be monitored while under house arrest.
had cut off the bracelet several days ago to make the point that
technically, there was no court order to keep him under arrest, as it
was not specified by his suspended sentence of 3.5 years in the case
related to his brother. He also protested the failure to provide a copy
of the sentence after parts of it were read out December 30; it was not
delivered until January 12. Navalny is also facing trial on charges of
“art theft” for possessing a sketch made by a street artist that was
taken from a fence and given to Navalny as a present by his colleague.
All of these cases are believed to be fabricated in retaliation for his opposition activity.
Vilkov said he had seen two attackers near his apartment block the last two days.
The attackers did not take any of Vilkov’s belongings and beat him mainly on his face and head. He received medical treatment but refused hospitalization.
Vilkov says the attack was most likely connected to his professional activities.
He is known for his critical articles targeting local Orthodox Church officials, businesspeople, and authorities.
Another Obshchestvennoye Mneniye reporter, Aleksandr Krutov, was viciously attacked by two assailants in August.
No one has been detained in that case.
— Pierre Vaux
Four Muscovites were detained while protesting for the freedom of jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reported:
On the 33nd day of Nadiya Savchenko’s hunger strike, four people
planning a protest outside the remand prison [SIZO] in Moscow were
detained on Wednesday morning and taken to a police station. A lawyer
from the Movement for Human Rights was allowed in to see the four, who
included Alexandra Ageevka, a Grani.ru correspondent planning to film
The human rights monitor OVDinfo was told
by one of the detained activists, Oleg Moryakov that men in camouflage
ordered them to leave the car where they were listening to (or,
according to another report, singing) the Ukrainian national anthem and
forced them into a police bus from where they were taken to Pechatniki
The four are: Oleg Mokryakov; Yekaterina Maldon;
Ivan Dudko and journalist Alexandra Ageeva. All had their telephones
taken away [though presumably Mokryakov had another since he was able to
inform OVDinfo]. At the police station, they were all taken to
different rooms and searched. Lawyer Alexei Domnikov was prevented from
entering although he has power of attorney to represent Yekaterina
Maldon. Later in the afternoon, OVDinfo reported that only Maldon
remained in custody, and that the police had returned Ageevka’s video
but wiped the tape on it.
OVDinfo, the police-monitoring group, reported the two accounts, saying according to one, the protesters were sitting in a car near Pre-Trial Detention Center No. 6, where Savchenko is held, listening to the Ukrainian anthem when police accused them of blocking traffic, and in another, one activist was filming the others singing the anthem as it played from a CD. Their mobile phones were all confiscated.
Savchenko is accused by Russian authorities of complicity in the deaths of two Russian state journalists killed at a checkpoint last year. Evidence for the charges has not been produced, and human rights groups believe her to be innocent.
Petitioners have launched an appeal to the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe (PACE) urging action on Savchenko, who was made a member of PACE by virtue of being chosen as first on the party list of Batkivshchyna [Fatherland], led by Yuliya Tymoshenko.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Just in time to respond to a growing economic crisis, Russians may now declare personal bankruptcy under a new law, kremlin.ru reported.
The new law “On Insolvency” (Bankruptcy) was signed December 29.
A Russian must have at least 500,000 rubles in personal debt ($7,650) to declare bankruptcy, although a citizen may file a petition in court for relief from debt of any sum.
The law differentiates between where citizens can file suit regarding the kinds of debts they may have incurred. A sole proprietor must file suit in arbitrage court, and an individual who is not an entrepreneur must file in a general-jurisdiction court.
The court may set up a sequence of priorities for debt repayment.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has a new report on Russian philanthropy, Moscow Times reported.
Amidst the pessimism of economic sanctions and restrictions on funds
from abroad for Russian not-for-profit organisations, the casual
observer of Russian civil society could be forgiven for casting a grim
prognosis for the future of civil society in Russia. But Russia Giving,
published in October by CAF Russia provides compelling evidence for an
alternative reading in which the growing generosity of ordinary Russians
could bring about a flowering of a distinctly Russian civil society.
On first glance, one could be forgiven for seeing Russia’s placing
of 123rd out of 135 in the 2013 World Giving Index — and 130th in terms
of the proportion of people claiming to have given money to a charitable
organisation in the past month — as a sign that Russian society has
failed to develop a culture of charitable giving since the fall of the
iron curtain. However, such a conclusion may well be premature.
Russia Giving, a research publication published in October by CAF
Russia, reveals that only 20% of Russian had not engaged in any form
of charitable giving in the past year while 41% had given money to an
“NGO or foundation” over the same period. So although the World Giving
Index clearly shows that Russian donors are not necessarily giving
frequently — Russia Giving csuggests that just 17% give once a month or
more — giving money to not-for-profit organisations is becoming
an increasingly mainstream activity.
Continue reading here.
The United National Security Council (UNSC) has issued a presidential statement regarding the shelling of the bus in Volnovakha yesterday January 13, killing 12 and wounding 13. The Interpreter has obtained a copy:
The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the killing of eleven and injuring seventeen civilians, among them women and children, as a result of shelling of a passenger bus in Volnovakha, Donetsk region, on 13 January 2015.
The members of the Security Council expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims.
The members of the Security Council underlined the need to conduct an objective investigation and bring perpetrators of this reprehensible act to justice.
The members of the Security Council underlined the need for strict observation of the Minsk protocol of 5 September and its implementing memorandum of 19 September.
The death toll now stands at 12 today.
The statement was organized by the current president of the monthly-rotating UNSC, Chile’s Ambassador Cristián Barros Melet. It is not a resolution of the UNSC, as has been widely reported.
The Moscow Red Cross is filing a lawsuit against 18 US and Ukrainian media over claims that he said there are “weapons” in humanitarian convoys from Russia to Ukraine, the Russian Legal Information Service (RAPSI) reported:
The Moscow branch of the Russian Red Cross has filed a defamation suit
with a Moscow court against 18 Ukrainian and US media outlets for
defamation seeking 170 million rubles (about $2.6 million) in damages,
chief of the Moscow branch of the Russian Red Cross panel Igor Trunov
told RAPSI on Wednesday.
Trunov slammed the US and Ukrainian mass media coverage of the
situation in Ukraine’s Donbass region. Notably, the information about
humanitarian aid provided by the Red Cross to residents of Luhask was
distorted, according to Trunov.
“An information war is waged against Russia, and we turned to a court,” Trunov said.
Newsweek published a story on January 6 which included translation of a Urals Afghan veteran who admitted misuse of the Red Cross insignia to help Russian-backed rebels in Ukraine, but also included an unchecked quote from the Moscow Red Cross chairman regarding “weapons concealment,” based on incorrect Ukrainian new stories.
The Interpreter covered the story as follows:
Moscow Red Cross Official Says Russia Used ‘Humanitarian’ Convoys to Ship Arms to Militants in Ukraine (summary of local Ukrainian press)
Moscow Red Cross Chairman and Lawyer Says West’s Concerns about ‘Humanitarian’ Convoys Legitimate (explanation that Ukrainian press didn’t have any direct quotes to prove chairman said weapons were in convoys)
Moscow Red Cross Chairman Denies He Gave Interview to Ukrinform Criticizing Russia’s ‘Humanitarian Convoys’ (translation of chairman’s denial of claims made in Ukrainian media)
We’ve also covered reports in social media that claim Russian volunteers have used the delivery of humanitarian aid as a cover for aiding the Russian-backed rebels.
Does Social Media Prove That Russian Law-Enforcers are Fighting in Ukraine? (reports of volunteers arrested for gun-running)
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
A Moscow court has rejected a review of the decision to immediately detain Oleg Navalny, brother of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, after their December sentencing, Meduza.io reports
The Interpreter has a translation:
Tverskoy Court of Moscow has refused to review a complaint from the lawyers of Oleg Navalny regarding his placement under arrest. The defense has demanded an admission of the unlawful actions of the Federal Corrections Service (FSIN), which detained Navalny even before receiving the court’s sentence.
The judge said “this issue is not subject to decision by civil lawsuit.”
On December 30, Oleg Navalny was sentenced to 3.5 years of prison on charges of fraud related to a mail-order business serving Yves Rocher East. Alexey Navalny was handed a suspended sentence of 3.5 years.
The Navalnys’ lawyers did not receive a copy of the sentence itself until January 12, which is why they objected to the immediate detention. A copy is needed to start the appeals procedure.
The French company had no claims against the brothers, and the case is widely believed to have been fabricated in retaliation for Alexey’s opposition activist and Anti-Corruption Fund targeting high officials for reported illegal wealth. Oleg was uninvolved in these opposition activities and the targeting of him in this criminal case is seen as a way to put pressure on Alexey.
“The varying severity of mental disorders among patients — as well as
their need for psychotropic drugs that significantly alter their
reactions — make it impossible for [certain people] to drive,” he was
cited as saying.
The ban therefore only relates to those who pose a danger to others
on the road, Salagai said, adding that sexual orientation was not
defined as a psychological disorder and could not be used to ban
a person from driving.
The World Health Organization (WHO) designates some conditions related to sexual identity as “disorders” which evidently has enabled some in Russia to justify the ban.
Yet WHO adds a clarification to its definitions: “Sexual orientation by itself is not to be regarded as a disorder.” The Russian Healthy Ministry now seems to concede that point.
A female-to-male transsexual petitioned WHO in 2012 to review its definitions to indicate “we are not sick,” but some have objected that it will be impossible to get surgery and counseling paid by insurance companies unless there is a defined medical disorder.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev indicated today that Russia may force Ukraine to pay up its loan early, gazeta.ru reported.
Translation: We have the grounds to demand an early pay-off of the loan for Ukraine.
The Interpreter has a translation:
“Regardless of what the leaders of Ukraine say, we have the grounds to demand an early pay-off of the loan — that is, the fulfillment of international obligations by it [Kiev],” said the premier.
Medvedev claims that the Ukrainian government has violated the terms of the loan even as the Russian government does not see the economic situation in Ukraine improving.
“We don’t want the default of Ukraine, the complications of the already poor situation of the Ukrainian economy. On the contrary, we need a live partner. But debts have to be paid. Both state and commercial debts. Therefore we have to make a decision in this regard in the near future,” said Medvedev.
The ruble continues to fall in value and is at 66.51 to the US dollar this morning, with the euro at 78.45, zenrus.ru reports. Brent crude oil has dropped to $45 per barrel and is trading on par with US crude — a six-year low, says Reuters.
Bloomberg reports that affluent Russians are having to cut back on their winter vacations as a result.
The number of Russians staying in Swiss hotels declined in 2014 as the ruble plummeted and President Vladimir Putin’s
government urged vacations at home. That’s being felt in the Alpine
town of St. Moritz, location of the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympic games.
Here, expensive cars ply the streets lined with boutiques such as Prada SpA (1913) and Hermes International. (RMS)
Famous for its sunshine, annual polo-on-ice tournament and well-heeled
clientele, the town, which is more upmarket than Davos, has recently
proved a popular destination for wealthy Russians.
At the 126-room Kulm Hotel,
which offered a dinner for Russian Orthodox Christmas Eve on Jan. 6
featuring an opera singer for 600 francs ($590) per person, bookings
from Russians this winter are down by 8 percent to 10 percent.