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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: May 11, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Release Today of Report Nemtsov Worked on Before His Murder, on Russian Military in Ukraine
7 years
The Origins of the 'Immortal Regiment' are in the Now-Closed Independent TV-2 in Tomsk

At the time of his assassination, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was working on a report he titled "Putin.War."

After his death, a group of his friends and colleagues decided to take his notes and interviews and finish it. The result is being released in Moscow today at noon. The 64-page report covers a number of topics related to the war in Ukraine, from the Russian soldiers who have died there even as their country refuses to admit its military presence to the numbers of refugees who have fled to Ukraine to the cost of the war for Russia's state budget.

Boris conceived of the report with his co-chairman Ilya Yashin in the RPR PARNAS party to be similar to other reports he and his colleagues had done on Russian economic issues; the insider contracts and over-spending on the costly Sochi Olymipcs and the downing of MH17. His print publications, web sites and videos had all been fairly popular in Russia where the independent press is increasingly under pressure.

Others who worked on the report are former vice premier Alfred Kokh; journalists Ayder Muzhdabayev and Oleg Kashin; members of PARNAS Leonid Martynyk and Olga Shorina, executive director of the party. Yashin said that the initial
print run is only 2,000, just enough to give out copies at presentations planned in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Chelyabinsk and other cities.

The report contains both accounts that have already appeared in the media as well as Nemtsov's own information about  Russian military men who fought under contract in Ukraine. obtained a copy of the report and has a summary. As media reports already indicated, a group of relatives of
soldiers who had been killed in the Donbass, in particular from Ivanovo, appealed to Nemtsov to help them get compensation payments. According to Nemtsov's information, about 70 soldiers from Russia were killed outside of Debaltsevo, at least 17 of whom were paratroopers from Ivanovo. Technically, they were not members of the regular army. Before being sent into combat in the Donbas, they would resign from the Russian armed forces at the demand of officers, then be turned into contract fighters. This was a technique of "hybrid war" to hide the Russian imlitary involvement. Commanders assured soldiers they would get compensation if wounded or their relatives would get assistance equal to the sums paid to them in the summer of 2014. But then there was no compensation given.

RBC identified five theses from Nemtsov's report:

1, At least 150 Russian soldiers were killed in August 2014 according to estimates from Nemtsov's sources during the battle of Ilovaisk. Relatives were given compensation of 2 million rubles a piece and were forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the soldiers' deaths.

2. About 70 Russian soldiers (including 17 paratroopers from Ivanovo) died in January-February 2015 near Debaltsevo.

Compensation was not given to their relatives as originally pledged. These soldiers were discharged from the army first and then passed off as volunteers.

3. About 53 billion rubles (about $1 billion) have been spent on the war in the southeast Ukraine in the first nine months, says Sergei Aleksashenko, who is director of macro-economic research for the Higher Economic School.  He said 21 billion rubles ($412 million) were required to maintain 6,000 volunteers; 25 billion rubles $490 million) to maintain 30,000 local "militia" or Russian-backed militants and 7 billion rubles ($136 million) for operation,
servicing and repair of vehicles.

4. 80 billion rubles were spent by authorities in the Russian regions to support refugees from Donetsk and Lugansk regions since July 2014.

5. Russians have paid 2 trillion rubles ($39 billion) from their paychecks and 750 billion rubles ($14 billion) from  their savings to cover the annexation of the Crimea. In connection with Western sanctions and the retaliatory produce embargo prices rose an additional 5.5%

The relatives of the soldiers were afraid to give their names. As Yashin told RFE/RL, the fact that Nemtsov himself was killed didn't inspire confidence in their ability to stay safe if they spoke out. contacted the Defense Ministry, which categorically denied the claims in the report. RBC also contacted various groups that have traditionally worked on the issues of soldiers' rights such as the Soldiers' Mothers but they said Nemtsov and the others involved had not approached them.

The main explanation the report authors give for events is Putin's fall in ratings in 2012; he was able to move them by 29% to 74% by March 2015. Putin said in a new film, Crimea: Path to the Homeland that he personally took charge of the movements of Russian troops in Crimea. asked several political analysis if they thought the report would have any effect. Valery Khomyakov, a former colleague of Nemtsov's said the purpose was not to break news with these report s but rather education people with know facts. Another analyst Aleksandr Pozhalov said the purpose of such reports is to draw attention in the West and he did not see it having any reaction from the Kremlin.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick