Russia Update: Vladimir Kara-Murza Hospitalised In Moscow; ‘Poisoning Suspected’

May 27, 2015

Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition activist and journalist, has fallen severely ill in Moscow.

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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Opposition Journalist Kara-Murza, Hospitalized with Kidney Failure is ‘Better,’ Says Friend

Andrei Bystrov, a friend of Vladimir Kara-Murza, the opposition writer and federal coordinator of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s organization Open Russia, has given a report that Kara-Murza is doing better.

TV reported at 21:59 Moscow time (translation by The Interpreter):

“The main thing is that he is better. Because reading this morning’s information from LifeNews, which evidently gave the desirable for the real, when they said he was in a coma, I myself was in a shock. But now he is much better.”

The information that Kara-Murza was in a coma came not just from LifeNews but associates of Kara-Murza who said they had spoken to his father. But his father, Vladimmir Kara-Murza, Sr. then refuted the rumors in a statement to the independent web site

Bystrov reiterated that Kara-Murza, Jr. was diagnosed with “severe kidney failure” which was caused by some kind of non-alcoholic “intoxication” which caused hypoxia. He added:

“His heart is in order, therefore in the near future he will get on his feet. Today they are beginning to do dialysis procedures on him — this is a cleansing of the blood external to the kidneys. Conditionally, the critical period is passed and a positive dynamic is now observed.”

There was no further information on what might have caused his kidney failure.

According to a report by Ekho Moskvy at 21:02 citing a doctor who spoke to Interfax, Kara-Murza, Jr. is said to be in serious but stable condition. He did not know the reason for his kidney failure but said that it was “likely pancreatitis and double pneumonia,” said Interfax.

There was no corroboration of this report yet from family or friends. But his father did tell Ekho Moskvy that he ruled out any deliberate poisoning.

As we reported earlier, Kara-Murza, Jr. was hospitalized in Moscow’s Pirogova City Hospital No. 1 after complaining of feeling ill while visiting the office of RAPSI, the legal organization. Last Saturday May 23, he had traveled to Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, to organize the first in an Open Russia lecture series with Prof. Andrei Zubov, who was expelled from Moscow University last year for protesting the annexation of the Crimea.

Kara-Murza is a Russian journalist and television host who was also a member of the opposition’s Coordinating Council and a member of the RPR-Parnas party, which the late Boris Nemtsov co-chaired.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

IRS Says Hack Which Stole $50 Million In Tax Returns Originated In Russia
A massive data breech at the Internal Revenue Service has allowed $50 million in tax returns to be fraudulently filed by thieves, and now the media is reporting that the hack originated in Russia:

CNN reports:

The IRS believes that a major cyber breach that allowed criminals to steal the tax returns of more than 100,000 people originated in Russia, two sources briefed on the data theft tell CNN.

On Tuesday, the Internal Revenue Service announced that organized crime syndicates used personal data obtained from elsewhere to access tax information, which they then used to file $50 million in fraudulent returns.

CNBC adds that the IRS believes that these were professional hackers:

The IRS said the thieves accessed a system called “Get Transcript.” In order to access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address.

The agency’s commissioner, John Koskinen, said on a Tuesday conference call that the hacking was conducted in an organized manner, and that there were about 200,000 attempts to illegally access information—about half of those were successful.

“We’re confident these are not amateurs, these are actually organized crime syndicates that not only we but everyone in the financial industry are dealing with,” Koskinen said.

James Miller

Grozny TV Releases Film to Counter Open Russia’s ‘The Family’; Singles Out Opposition, Human Rights Activists as ‘Liars’

Grozny, the Chechen State TV station, declared a film by Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s organization Open Russia called The Family to be “a fake” and “a lie,” reports.

Grozny TV dubs the film a kinolyap, a word used in Russian similar to “blooper” which means a technical mistake or failure in logic or timing in a movie.

Open Russia’s film, called The Family, details the allegations of corrupt dealings and abusive police responsible for the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of numerous people in Chechnya.

After The Family was released on May 25, Ramzan Kadyrov fired back with a video clip of his own posted on Instagram showing himself running in the mountains surrounded by vans in camouflage, then firing off a machine gun. He said his film, which hasn’t been announced previously, was called “Whoever Doesn’t Understand Will Get It.”

That suggested that there was no such film and he made it up in order to threaten Khodorkovsky and those involved in his film in Open Russia, a civic movement which has held a number of critical public events in Russia and supported opposition candidates. Stanislav Belkovsky said in a statement published by Open Russia yesterday:

“There is no doubt that the video clip filmed today on assignment from Ramzan Kadyrov is a collection of indirect threats to all creators of the film The Family.”

Clearly,  there is no Hollywood film at all; this entire video clip means essentially one thing: whoever hasn’t understood that it is better not to mess with me, Ramzan — will soon understand.”

The film Grozny TV has broadcast — a different one than what Kadyrov mention put together in just two days — is 25:08 minutes, about as long as The Family. It purports to debunk Open Russia’s film, and along the way, by singling out some of the people associated with it and claiming they are paid liars, is making another round of threats.

Kadyrov’s veiled threats were taken more seriously today when an associate of Khodorkovsky’s, Vladimimr Kara-Murza, Jr., the federal coordinator for Open Russia, was rushed to the hospital with suspected poisoning. He has currently been diagnosed with severe kidney failure.

Kara-Murza, Jr., age 33, had not previously had any health problems but complained that he felt ill while in the offices of RAPSI, the Russian legal organization. He is currently receiving dialysis treatments and is expected to recover.

On May 23, Kara-Murza had organized a lecture for Prof. Andrei Zubov in Kazan on behalf of Open Russia. He then returned to Moscow, where friends said in the last few days he had appeared healthy.

The Grozny TV film cites Grigory Shvedov, editor of Caucasian Knot, who in The Family described the Kadyrov army as “punitive forces”:

“The Chechen forces are first of all punitive, that is, they are not at all professional military as they try to represent them to us, they are not part of the system of law-enforcement of Russia. They are the Oprichnina.

But the narrator objects, Chechnya’s troops received a prize of $250,000 at a world championship in Jordan with they said was testimony to their prowess. Archival footage of the Chechen forces taken in Jordan is shown with their prizes; they are all wearing sweat-shirts with a picture of Putin in dark glasses, and shout “Allah Akbar.”

The narrator denies this as “fiction” and says footage of the army was colored red to make it appear more frightening. The narrator says acknowledges that 45 homes of relatives of terrorists killed in a gunfight in Grozny were burned down — more than human rights activists themselves have reported — but denies The Family’s claim that this was done under director orders from Kadyrov. In fact Kadyrov had called for retaliation and the razing of homes on his Instagram account on December 12, 2014.

I officially announce that the time has come to an end when it was said that the parents do not answer for the acts of their sons or daughters. In Chechnya, they will answer! If a father sees that his son has embarked on the path of terror and Wahhabism, let him surrender him to the authorities or stop him by other means before he sheds blood. I could absolutely care less about the opinion of any persons or so-called human rights organizations silently observing the murder by NATO planes and millions of Muslims in Syria and Iraq by militants trained by the West. If a militant in Chechnya commits murder of a policeman or other person, the family of the militant will be deported from Chechnya without the right to return, and their home razed together with the foundation. Everything should know this before aiming a weapon at a police officer or other person. I will not let anyone shed blood here.

Grozny TV’s film cites a poll that found Chechens to be among the happiest on earth, and also featured Iosif Kobzon, who said that he was impressed not only by the reconstruction of architecture but the peaceful co-existence of Muslims and Russian Orthodox believers in Chechnya, where Russian Orthodox churches had been built.

Kobzon chastised Khodorkovsky making the film:

“What right does Khodorkovsky have, who after all recently asked for mercy, asked for mercy to be forgiven and released, and he was released due to his ill mother.”

“Chechnya never wanted to leave fraternal Russia and does not intend to leave,” said Kobzon.

The Grozny TV film also claims that The Family was “silent” about the “known facts” of the murder of Boris Nemtsov. It then proceeded to include a clip from LifeNews, claiming that Nemtsov’s companion Anna Duritskaya, with him at the time of the murder, had thrown away her cell phone at the scene of the crime and that she had supposedly been “recruited by Yury Bereza, commander of Dnepro 1” who “acquainted her with Nemtsov 3 years ago.” This story has long since been dropped by Russian tabloids.

The Grozny film also includes the story — never corroborated — of the finding of the body of Aslan Alkhanov, who was claimed to be part of a pro-Kiev Chechen plot against Nemtsov also involving Russia’s favorite boogey-man, Dmitro Yarosh, head of the ultrarightist organization Right Sector with whom Alkhanov was said to meet in early February at a training camp for Ukrainian fighters. The NGO Canvas, founded by Serbian activist Srja Popovic, often blamed for the spread of “color revolutions” is also implicated.

This hypothesis for Nemtsov’s murder appeared in several alternative pro-Kremlin papers soon after his murder, and then was dropped after arrests were made of 5 pro-Kadyrov Chechens.

But the Grozny TV version not only revives it, it implicates George Friedman, founder of the US consulting firm Stratfor, in the far-fetched murder conspiracy by flashing his name and picture on the screen. Grozny TV claims that with the murder of Alkhanov by unknown persons, “the only person who could name the specific names” of who ordered Nemtsov’s murder was “removed.”

The film also blasts human rights activists who portray Chechnya negatively and shows footage of a press conference held by Igor Kalyapin, the lawyer who heads the Joint Mobile Group of human rights activists in Chechnya, about the burning down of the homes. The narrative claims Kalyapin received millions of rubles from the European Union to denigrate Chechnya. Supporters of Kadyrov who got into this press conference in fact pelted Kalyapin and his colleagues with eggs, although this part was not shown.

The film also raises claims often made by and Kremlin trolls about threats supposedly made by Khodorkovsky against Vladimir Petukhov, the mayor of Nefeyugansk who was killed in 1998. Yet Khodorkovsky was never charged with this crime even within the manipulated Russian justice system.

At the end, Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst and deputy of the State Duma, comments:

“We see in Kiev, why the coup d’etat was successful, was that there was no one to break up the gang of ultranationalists and neo-Nazis who caused EuroMaidan. But in Russia, there is someone. The information strikes against Ramzan Kadyrov is part of a preparation of a color revolution. Any decent person now who defends the interests of the country, the interests of the sovereignty of the Russian Federation is subject to such an information attack.”

Interestingly, the film ends with a clip from The Family showing all the numbers of troops of Kadyrov’s “personal army” and doesn’t dispute them.

(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for Modern Russia (IMR), funded by Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of Mikhail Khodrokovsky. Kara-Murza, Jr. also worked at IMR before taking up the position at Open Russia.)

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russia Says It Has ‘Nothing to Hide’ But Still Slams US Legal Action Against FIFA Officials
As we reported earlier, Russia has said it has “nothing to hide” as a Swiss and U.S. investigation into wrongdoing by FIFA officials moves forward. As we pointed out, however, the Russian market did not seem to think that Russia would get away so easily, and there are plenty of people who are questioning the FIFA decision to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia, especially in light of these new investigations:

Despite having “nothing to hide” Russia has still criticized the American inquiry. AFP reports:

“Without going into the details of the accusations… this is clearly another case of illegal exterritorial use of US law,” said a statement on the website of the Russian foreign ministry.

“We hope that this will not in any way be used to cast a shadow on the international football organisation as a whole and its decisions.

“Once again we are calling on Washington to stop attempts to make justice far beyond its borders using its legal norms and to follow the generally accepted international legal procedures,” it said.

Interestingly, only one week before the raid on FIFA, U.S. Senator John McCain called on FIFA to move the 2018 World Cup:

That prompted this reaction from one pro-Kremlin news outlet:
And now the Russian government is throwing allegations that the FIFA investigation is part of a Western media and political campaign against Russia:

The LifeNews headline Seddon links to says, “Draganov Accuses Media of Artificial Incitement of FIFA Scandal.”

LifeNews, a television station close to Russian intelligence and law-enforcement, also ran a story headlined, “Corrupt Payment to FIFA Made Through American Banks.”

LifeNews cites Valery Chukhray, a consultant to FIFA on Eastern Europe and Central Asia, who said that the investigation is “no less interested in US FIFA directors than those of other countries,” since the corrupt payments went through US banks.

Chukhray said that the current detentions are an extension of an earlier investigation which was not publicized. Information was given to American investigators after an American official conducted an inspection. “All of this indicates the interest of the USA in this affair,” he said.

In an analysis of the impact of this recent news on both Qatar and Russia, Politico suggests that there may be real consequences for Russia:

The only thing certain about what’s coming next for the organizations is that it will include more revelations far more explosive than this morning’s news – revelations that might jeopardize the next two World Cup finals, exacerbate the political crisis between east and west, and lead to dozens of potentially ruinous corporate lawsuits. Much of the evidence for the current indictments appear to come from Chuck Blazer, the American former general secretary of CONCACAF — soccer’s governing body for North and Central America — who is current gravely ill with colon cancer in a US hospital.

An explosive New York Daily News investigation claims that Blazer reached a plea bargain with the FBI and IRS and turned super grass over bribery allegations as well as unpaid taxes on $11 million of undeclared income. He was sent to the 2012 London Olympics with a wire, where he recorded dozens of conversations, including those with leading Russian sports officials. It has already been announced that Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister, who is also a member of FIFA’s powerful executive committee, will be questioned by Swiss prosecutors over allegations linked to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. He denies Russia was involved in any wrongdoing.

Even before the raid, Congress was braced to vote on whether Israel should be suspended from FIFA over continued movement restrictions and arrests of Palestine players (since 1998, Palestine has been officially recognized by FIFA). The issue was of sufficient seriousness for both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority that Blatter held last minute face to face meetings with both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas.


— James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Says S-300s To Be Delivered To Iran After Resolution of Court Dispute
The Russian Foreign Ministry says it will deliver the S-300 anti-missile system to Iran after resolving the court dispute about failure to fulfill the previous contract, Vzglyad reported, citing TASS.

Sergei Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister, made the following statement in an interview with Rossiya-24 TV (translation by The Interpreter):

“The contract is being amended. It was signed in 2007, during that time, a lot of water has gone under the bridge, especially since it’s a question of an extremely complex and politically-fraught issue.”

Vzglyad added a further comment from Ryabkov, citing RIA Novosti:

“It is precisely from the perspective of adaptation of that agreement to the new realities that now a certain negotiations process is under way.

Aside from that, I must note that the non-fulfillment of the contract of 2007 in its day led to the advancement by the Islamic Republic of Iran of claims directed at the Russian government in international arbitrarion court. That problem also must be somehow gotten under control, it must be settled. And we will also be involved in that. If you want to ask me now when the practical fulfillment of the contract will take place, I will answer that as soon as these issues are settled.”

Recently, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian said the Islamic Republic is expecting delivery of the S-300s in the very near future.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Opposition Writer Kara-Murza Diagnosed with ‘Severe Kidney Failure’

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., federal coordinator for the Open Russia movement, has been diagnosed with “severe kidney malfunction,” his father, Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr. told  (translation by The Interpreter):

The deputy chief physicist in City Hospital No. 1 has come out to us and reported that everything is fine with his heart, his lungs, his stomach, etc. and also that it’s all to do with his kidneys. This could be rotten yoghurt or something elese,” says the father. According to him, he rules out that his son was deliberately poisoned.

Earlier reported that his father had denied he was in a coma, and just said that his son was sleeping after being given a sedative.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Sr. also said his son had low blood pressure, a high-level of non-alcoholic “intoxication,” an elevated level of leukocytes in his blood, reported. elaborated further:

The illness, according to physicians, “could be caused by a number of reasons, including intoxication by some spoiled yoghurts or shishkebabs.”

There have been a number of conflicting reports on Kara-Murza, Jr.’s condition and it appears that he was not in a coma, but unconscious, and now he is conscious, and reportedly receiving dialysis.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Vladimir Kara-Murza Reportedly Out Of Coma, Still In Serious Condition

The Interpreter‘s Editor-in-Chief, Michael Weiss, who is also a senior fellow at the Institute of Modern Russia, has spoken to sources close to opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza. According to the latest news, Kara-Murza was in a coma but has now regained consciousness. Other sources say he was never in a coma, but was simply unconscious (the confusion may be due to a translation error, with some sources equating “unconscious” with “coma”). His “body shut down” and he needs dialysis. No official diagnosis has been made publicly available yet, but as we have been reporting multiple sources say some kind of poison is suspected.

Kara-Murza is a senior policy advisor to the Institute of Modern Russia, of which this magazine is a special project.

Kara-Murza is an outspoken critic of the Putin regime, and was a friend and associate of assassinated opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

Kara-Murza’s father denies his son was ever in a coma. 

While this tweet is no longer accurate because Kara-Murza is no longer in a coma, the video is still prescient. Kara-Murza spoke to British Channel 4 news just days after Nemtsov’s assassination.

“We are not afraid. When we saw tens of thousands of people marching through central Moscow today… I think we owe it to his memory not to be afraid. We do not have a right to sit silently in our homes and our kitchens. We do not have the right to leave the country, to run away. This is our country, we have to stand up for it, we have to stand up to this KGB dictatorship that has been in power in our country for the last 15 years. “If anything, we owe it to Boris’s memory to carry on the fight and to win.”

James Miller
Major Fire At Sulfuric Acid Plant In Chelyabinsk Region

A fire has broken out at the Karabashmed copper-smelting plant in Karabash, around 80 kilometres north-west of Chelyabinsk.

Komsomolskaya Pravda reports that the press office of the Chelyabinsk regional branch of the Emergencies Ministry (MChS) announced that the fire began in a sulfuric acid production facility at the site this evening.

The MChS claimed that there were no casualties and that the fire had not spread to adjacent buildings. MChS workers, along with police and paramedics are operating at the scene.

The scale of the fire was, however, made clear by photos taken by Sergei Gudkov.



Video footage was also uploaded:

In the second video, the fire appears to have receded somewhat:

According to blogger Pavel Fyodorov, the fire broke out at around 17:30 (14:30 GMT). An explosion was heard before the smoke grew more intense.

Fyodorov wrote that the sulfuric acid production plant was a new facility at the site. 

The town of Karabash experienced a shock two days ago when Anatoly Voronin, the former deputy mayor hanged himself after searches in the mayor’s office related to an investigation to embezzlement of funds to construct a sewage treatment plant.

Translation: former deputy head of Karabash hanged himself after searches in the mayor’s office.

Karabash is an industrial town already suffering from pollution. It also lies at the southen end of the East-Urals Radioactive Trace, the aftermath of the 1957 nuclear disaster at the Mayak plant, around 50 kilometres north-east of Karabash. Due to this, and the radiological pollution of both the river Techa and lake Karachay, this area of the Chelyabinsk region is considered one of the most polluted areas on Earth. 

Translation: @Rugion The dirtiest territory will now become even dirtier.

— Pierre Vaux and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Civilian Pentagon Employee Detained on Charges of Violation of Visa Regulations in St. Petersburg

A civilian employee of the Pentagon has been detained by Russian officials and brought before a court in St. Petersburg on charges of violating visa regulations.

Russia Beyond the Headlines (RBTH) reported the story, citing Interfaxt:

A civilian employee of the U.S. Department of Defense has been
brought to a court in St. Petersburg for violating Russian immigration
regulations, a source in the city’s law enforcement authorities told
Interfax on May 27.

“U.S. citizen Michael Christopher Dobroski, born 1976, a civilian
employee of the U.S. Department of Defense, is currently at a
Petrodvoretsky district court,” the source said, adding that the court
is expected to deliver its ruling as early as May 27.

Ekho Moskvy also reported the story based on an Interfax source that said Dobroski had an ordinary visa but may have been engaged in activity “incompatible” with his visa.

Ekho Moskvy also said the US consulate had no comment on the case.

This is the third such case in St. Petersburg. Last year, first two American journalism professors were detained at a lecture and forced to leave Russia over “incompatibility” issues, although they claimed they had been advised to get a tourist visa. Then a group of four US students on a leadership exchange program were expelled, citing the same issues. Last month a British student was expelled.

Last week German and Danish staff members of the Danish Institute Against Torture were also expelled after conducting a training of the members of the Nizhny Novgorod Commitee Against Torture.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Veteran Russian Rights Activist Alexeyeva Returns to Putin’s Human Rights Council

Ludmila Alexeyeva, the veteran human rights advocate and chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest Russian human rights organization, has decided to return to the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, Moscow Times and other Russia media have reported.

Translation: Ludmila Alexeyeva has returned to the Human Rights Council.

Alexeyeva, 87, said she is re-joining specifically to address the “foreign agents” law, said Moscow Times.

Alexeyeva said that her work on the panel would include
“above all, research into the practice of the application of the law
on foreign agents against various NGOs,” RIA Novosti reported.

“All hell has broken loose in the regions: They [the
authorities] are simply setting scores with organizations that are
unfavorable to them, stripping them this way of their right to operate,”
she said. “This is the question I want to raise.”

There are now a total of 67 NGOs designated as “foreign agents” on
the Justice Ministry’s list, most recently the Dynasty Foundation and
Liberal Mission Foundation

Meanwhile, Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Council, said he wanted Alexeyeva to work on development of the public observation commissions she had founded, which inspect prisons.

Recently, when members of the Public Observation Commission visited the suspects in the murder of Nemtsov in Lefortovo Prison, they were divided on what they found, as some members protested that the suspects had shown signs of torture, and the head of the commission, a pro-government activist who heads a group promoting the rights of law-enforcers, said there was no torture.

Alexeyeva left the Presidential Council on Human Rights in 2012 in protest against a new voting system for membership in which people online could click to vote for their favorite members. She and others believed this method was subject to tampering and also with more members — now a total of 60 — the Council ended up diluting its effectiveness.

The Presidential Human Rights Council, as it is known for short, was
once known as a useful vehicle for activists to press their agenda with
the president of Russia. Under President Dmitry Medvedev, who held
personal meetings with the group including on public television, activists believe they made some
progress regarding such issues as prison conditions and mistreatment of migrant
laborers and refugees.

Today, under President Putin, the Council is widely seen as
coopted. It now has more members, yet only the director meets directly
with Putin. When members such as Ella Polyakova of the Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg raised the issue of Russian combatants killed in Ukraine, they have been stonewalled, even after obtaining a meeting with the Defense Minister.

After the meeting, the Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg were declared “foreign agents” by the Justice Ministry following a complaint by conservative deputy Vitaly Milonov.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Will FIFA Scandal Jeopardize Russia’s Awarding of the World Cup?

Huge news has rocked the world of football (soccer) this morning, as seven people have been arrested and a total of 14 FIFA officials and others associated with them have been indicted on a wide range of charges. The Washington Post reports:

The Justice Department unsealed a 47 count indictment early Wednesday charging 14 world soccer figures, including officials of FIFA, with racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud. Four of those accused, including two sports marketing companies, have already pleaded guilty and are likely to be cooperating.

Among the “alleged schemes,” said the Justice Department, were kickbacks to FIFA officials by executives and companies involved in soccer marketing and “bribes and kickbacks in connection” with “the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.”

Russia is set to hold the World Cup in 2018, and FIFA has said that it would not reconsider that decision. New York Times reports:

As new accounts of bribery continued to emerge — a whistle-blower who worked for the Qatar bid team claimed that several African officials were paid $1.5 million each to support Qatar — FIFA in 2012 started an investigation of the bid process. It was led by a former United States attorney, Michael J. Garcia, who spent nearly two years compiling a report. That report, however, has never been made public; instead, the top judge on the ethics committee, the German Hans-Joachim Eckert, released a summary of the report. In it, he declared that while violations of the code of ethics had occurred, they had not affected the integrity of the vote.

Within hours, Mr. Garcia had criticized Mr. Eckert’s summary as incorrect and incomplete, charging that it contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts.” Nonetheless, FIFA moved quickly to embrace the report’s absolution of the bid process. Qatar World Cup officials said the review had upheld “the integrity and quality of our bid,” and Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, told reporters, “I hope we will not have talk about this again.”

The issue was, in fact, raised again Wednesday. When pressed by reporters at the news conference, Walter de Gregorio, a FIFA spokesman, repeatedly said that FIFA would not consider reopening the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

But if Russia is in the clear, then why did the ruble take a tumble upon today’s news?

The decision may not ultimately be up to FIFA, since Swiss investigators are already looking into the decision to award the 2018 World Cup to Russia. AFP reports:

“We’re prepared to show everything,” [Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko] said in a telephone interview. “We’ve always acted within the law. We’ve got nothing to hide.”

Mutko said the investigations will not hinder Russia’s preparations for the 2018 tournament.

“How can it be obstructed? … We have a contract with FIFA and we’re getting ready to hold the draw,” Mutko said. “We operated within the regulations that existed at that time.”

Still, this latest round of arrests was made possible because another indicted official secretly gave testimony about his associates. As many have noted, the fact that the FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, has not been indicted does not mean that there will not be more fallout.

In the meantime, the Russian markets don’t sound quite as confident as Russian officials on the prospect that Russia is out of the woods on this issue.

James Miller

Friends of Kara-Murza Say He Felt Fine After Organizing Open Russia Lecture in Kazan on Saturday
Moskovsky Komsomolets has published an article on Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., an opposition writer who is now in serious condition in the hospital after suspected poisoning.

His father said Kara-Murza was not in a coma: “They gave him a pain-killer and he fell asleep.”

Cardiologists have ruled out the need for a heart valve transplant.

Kara-Murza, Sr. is shocked at his son’s illness (translation by The Interpreter):

“He is only 33, the only thing is that he took on an enormous workload. I’m waiting for when he wakes up to ask with whom he had dinner yesterday. The day before yesterday, he had dinner with me, and everything was normal.”

Kara-Murza, Sr. told Voice of America that he hopes for a favorable outcome. His vital organs are not damaged, and doctors plan a dialysis. He is currently at the Pirogov Clinical Hospital No. 1 in Moscow.

His father said while at work on Tuesday, May 27, his son began to complain that he felt ill.

On Saturday, May 23, according to his Facebook page, Kara-Murza, Jr. had gone to Kazan, Tatarstan to take part in an educational program organized by Open Russia, the civic movement founded by businessman and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in which Kara-Murza, Jr. works as the federal coordinator.

The evening featured a speech by Prof. Andrei Zubov on the reasons and historical parallels for Russia’s authoritarianism. Prof. Zubov was fired last year from Moscow State University after a number of articles in which he condemned the annexation of Crimea.

Prof. Zubov giving a lecture in Kazan. Photo by Vladimir Kara-Murza

Kara-Murza published a photo of himself and Prof. Zubov by the Kazan Kremlin on May 23, with the caption:

“We launched an Open Russia program of educational and informative meetings in Kazan. The first lector is Prof. Andrei Zubov.”


Kara-Murza, Jr. then returned to Moscow, and friends who met with him said he was fine.

Translation: I met with Vladimir on Friday, I didn’t notice any problems
with his health, he was as healthy as always. I sincerely hope
everything will be alright.

Translation: I saw him yesterday, everything was fine.

The family and friends of Kara-Murza say they do not yet know if foul play is involved in his likely poisoning.

On February 27, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was assassinated near the Kremlin’s walls on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge in Moscow. Kara-Murza, Jr. was a close associate of Nemtsov’s and appeared with him publicly at a number of opposition events. In 2013, he appeared at a press conference to launch Nemtsov’s report criticizing over-spending and corruption in the Sochi Olympics, Winter Olympics in the Sub-Tropics.


 Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

After Nemtsov’s murder, independent journalists Aleksei Venediktov and Kseniya Sobchak were given death threats, the latter at Nemtsov’s funeral by an unidentified man. Both of them left the country for a time.

Natalya Pelevina, a member of the RPR-Parnas opposition party which Nemtsov once co-chaired, had her home searched earlier this month and was interrogated and forced to sign a pledge not to leave town.

Yesterday, after Open Russia released a movie critical of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Kadyrov retaliated with a video clip of his own threatening reprisals.

Kara-Murza, Jr.’s most recent post on his Facebook page, yesterday morning May 25 was promoting the film.

Friends are concerned that as today is exactly three months since the assassination of Nemtsov, and as Kadyrov has made threats against Khodorkovsky and his associaties, that he could have been targeted.

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

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Reports That Kara-Murza Is Poisoned, Has Kidney Failure, Unclear If There’s ‘Foul Play’
AFP correspondent Maria Antonova has an update on the health of Vladimir Kara-Murza:
James Miller
Was Kara-Murza’s First Diagnosis ‘Poison’ Or ‘Heart Problems’?

As we have been reporting, Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition politician and journalist and a senior policy advisor at the Institute of Modern Russia, of which The Interpreter is a special project, has been hospitalized in Moscow and some are saying he was poisoned. There is no official diagnosis at this point, but there is already conflicting information about Kara-Murza’s initial diagnosis. 

As we reported below, Kara-Murza’s father told the Russian State news outlet RIA Novosti that doctors initially thought his son had cardiac issues (he’s only 33 years old, it should be noted). However, Vadim Prokhorov, a lawyer for the RPR Parnas opposition party, told The Guardian that doctors initially suspected poisoning. The Guardian goes on to report that not all opposition outlets shared that diagnosis, and Kara-Murza’s father told a slightly different story to another news outlet, Kommersant:

The Open Russia website said Kara-Murza had been “hospitalised with [a] suspected cardiovascular problem”, but that this diagnosis had later been ruled out.

Kara-Murza’s father told Kommersant that his son’s condition could be explained by an allergy or a high-stress lifestyle “with irregular meals, little sleep”. He said doctors had found signs of non-alcoholic “intoxication” and suspected internal bleeding, but added that it was premature to blame “enemy poisoners” for the illness.

As we also noted below, Aleksandr Ryklin, editor atYezhednevniy Zhurnal and opposition activist, said that poisoning was suspected and heart issues seem to have been ruled out. Now, there are new reports (which we should warn should be treated as unconfirmed at this point) that poison was to blame:

Translation: We’re with the father of @vkaramurza right now. Latest news: Volodya is seriously poisoned. Everything is ok with his heart. He should recover.

All of this raises many questions, including these three: what did doctors initially think was the problem, if poison was initially suspected then is there a reason that Kara-Murza’s father told the Russian press a different story, and did the Russian state press agency RIA Novosti report what it had been told accurately?

James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Vladimir Kara-Murza Hospitalised In Moscow; ‘Poisoning Suspected’

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition politician and journalist, has suddenly fallen severely ill in Moscow. He is now in the intensive care unit at the Priogorov 1st City Hospital.

Vladimir Kara-Murza Sr., his father, told Russia’s state-owned RIA Novosti news agency that his son had been at RAPSI, the Russian Legal Information Agency, when an ambulance was called.

Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr.

According to Kara-Murza Sr., doctors at the hospital continuously revised their diagnoses throughout the night, first suspecting a heart problem, proposing a valve replacement, then rejecting this line of inquiry to look for signs of possible intoxication or haemorrhage. CT scans of his stomach, abdomen, chest and brain have been performed. 

Kara-Murza Sr. said that the doctors had told him to expect a diagnosis at 15:00 (12:00 GMT).

Aleksandr Ryklin, editor at Yezhednevniy Zhurnal and opposition activist, wrote on his Facebook page at 9:21 GMT that he had also spoken to Kara-Murza Sr.

The Interpreter translates:

Just spoke with Kara-Murza Sr. Volodya [familiar form of Vladimir] is in the 1st City Hospital. No definitive diagnosis yet… They suspect poisoning… Doesn’t seem like it’s his heart… In the near future at least, there’s no talk of an operation.

Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. is the senior policy advisor at the Institute of Modern Russia, of which The Interpreter is a special project.

— Pierre Vaux