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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russia Today: December 15, 2014

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Former St. Petersburg Legislator Yury Shutov Dies in Prison

Novaya Gazeta reports that Yury Shutov, former deputy of the St. Petersburg legislature, has died in a prison colony, citing Fontanka, the St. Petersburg news site.

The Interpreter has a translation:

Yury Shutov died in the Bely Lebed [White Swan] colony, sources told Fontanka.

According to preliminary information, the former deputy, age 68, sentenced to life imprisonment, died this past Saturday [December 13]. The cause is not yet known.

Lawyers representing the interests of Yury Shutov in the European Court of Human Rights refrained from comment.

Reference:

On November 21, 2014, the Russian Supreme Court ruled to keep in force the sentenced given February 17, 2006 by a collegium of judges of the St. Petersburg City Court, according to which Yury Shutov pleaded guilty to organization and leading a gang, organizing six murders, two attempted murders and one kidnapping, one assault and also fraud through the use of official position. He was sentence to life in prison.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Highly-Volatile Ruble After Announcement Of Massive Interest Rate Hike
If you're watching the exchange rates in real time, the ruble is bouncing around a lot since the announcement just a little while ago that interest rates will go from 10.5% to 17%.

The ruble had reached a record low today, 66.59 to a single dollar. Right before the announcement was made the exchange rate was 65.61 rubles per dollar.  As of just minutes ago it was 60.09 per dollar.

XE.com-USD-RUB-Chart3.png

But here's something to keep in mind -- at the start of the day the ruble was valued at 58.12 to a dollar - meaning that even after this massive interest hike, the ruble is not at the value it was at before the start of the day.

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Human Rights Lawyers Arrested After Their Office Burned Down Have Been Released

Two Russian human rights lawyers arrested by Grozny police yesterday, December 14, after their office burned down were released, Slon.ru reported, citing a tweet from the Committee Against Torture in Nizhny Novgorod.



The Joint Mobile Group of Human Rights Defenders, lawyers from the Committee Against Torture and other groups protested the order by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to burn down the houses of relatives of terrorists who died in a gunfight with police December 4. After members of the terrorist group Caucasus Emirates took over the Press House in the center of Grozny, police aimed heavy artillery on the building, causing one civilian to be killed. A total of 18 law-enforcers, including a relative of Kadyrov's died in the battle along with 11 militants.

Igor Kalyapin and other human rights activists held a press conference to condemn Kadyrov's collective punishment, and supporters of Kadyrov threw eggs on them. Then they were warned that their office would be torched, so they evacuated staff before armed masked men arrived to ask questions about their activities.

Two remaining staff, lawyers Sergei Babinets and Dmitry Dmitriev left for a hotel and were tailed by the gunmen. Later they learned their office was on fire. Both local and federal media denounced the human rights activists and broadcast on social media and television a false claim by Kadyrov that Kalyapin funded the terrorists.

The lawyers returned to their office to find all the equipment damaged and everything scorched. When they called the police to make a report, they wound up being detained and searched themselves, and having their laptops and cameras confiscated and their car and office searched without a warrant. Then they were taken to the police precinct because one of the law-enforcers said that Babinets was suspicious because he had a beard.

5518-03-grozny-ib-activistsoffice-grozny


Babinets noted on this Facebook page that the security video from the building, published by Novaya Gazeta, at 9:33 shows three men coming to the Joint Mobile Group's office.


He identified them as high-ranking officials in Chechnya; the first man was unknown, the second from the left looks like Kamayev, the prefect for Zavodsky District in Grozny and the third appears to be Abushaykh Vismuradov, the head of the Interior Ministry for Grozny.

Three-Chechen-Officials.jpg

"Why did they come several hours before the fire?" he asks. Kalyapin noted that the man seemed to be taking out a pistol. "Did they really come to complain about torture?" he asked.

Babinets has continued to publish the photos of the destroyed homes of relatives of the terrorists.

Gudermes-Home-Destroyed.jpg

This photo, taken by Novaya Gazeta reporter Yelena Milashina, shows the razed home of an elderly couple and their son and daughter-in-law, who had a sick one-year old baby. They have been left without property, money or identification papers and even warm clothes, and have nowhere to go -- the Russian activists attempting to help such people are now themselves in trouble.

But through the help of Svetlana Gannushkina, who runs a Moscow-based organization to help migrants called Civic Action, they were able to get confirmation that the Ukrainian government will accept the family as refugees, and a Norwegian organization will provide assistance. An individual donor also sent them some emergency cash.

It was the 10th such home burned down.

Kalyapin, a lawyer based in Nizhny Novgorod, has about 1700 friends and 500 followers on Facebook, and many have urged him not to go back to Chechnya because it is too dangerous. Some Chechens have also questioned whether peaceful protest is futile, and say they understand why the terrorists took up arms because they feel it is impossible to obtain justice when the system is so abusive and corruption. Some Russians have also questioned why Kalyapin remains in the Presidential Council for Human Rights, when that is a symbol of Putin and the cooptation of the human rights movement.

Kalyapin replied that he was nominated to the Council in order to provide some level of protection when he and his colleagues traveled to Chechnya.

"If I an my colleagues don't go and speak out, then the rest will find it even more difficult and dangerous." He said he was relying on the Internet "which has become the chief source of information and communication for the more thinking part of the population." If the state has control of most of the population through TV, he can reach those on the Internet:

I believe that every person whom I manage to tear away from the 85% and bring to the current 15% is very precious. And all the more the work which we are doing. Besides, you shouldn't forget that we help concrete people with our work, who suffered from abuse. And odd though it may be, it provides results: look at our site, 109 police officers tried for torture, victims compensated for about 26 imllion rubles, and 633 unlawful actions by investigative agencies reversed. That also means something?"

The terrorist attack and the crackdown on human rights lawyers protesting the ferocity of Kadyrov's response has put Chechnya back in the news. The New York Times, Foreign Policy and other major media have begun cover the republic again, after a period of relative calm following two wars in the 1990s and high-profile terrorists attacks earlier in this decade.

The last four years have seen only two terrorist attacks with a total of 24 police and 3 civilians killed. Grozny has witnessed a construction boom and a return to peace, but only due to  Kadyrov's ruthless authoritarianism, under which any Muslim believers who are outside official state-sanctioned mosques and any young men who engage in any suspicious activity can be arrested, tortured, imprisoned or killed.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
In Dramatic Move, Russian Central Bank Raises Interest Rates By 6.5%
The Russian Central Bank has made a significant and historic interest rate hike in order to stop the ruble from bleeding the country dry, raising the rate from 10.5% to 17%:

Last week the rates were raised 1%, and it did nothing to stop the decline in the currency. The standard analysis at the time was that the Central Bank was trying to make a correction without looking desperate. This is desperate.

The late breaking news corresponds to that large dip in the exchange rate, but note that the recovery of the ruble was very brief. Before the announcement the ruble was trading at 65.50 to the US dollar. Now it is at 65.21. This indicates that it's possible this move may not even have an impact on the ruble's value, but it's other consequences will have a dramatic impact.

Either way, however, it's too early to tell whether this move will work.

XE.com-USD-RUB-Chart2.png

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Ruble Below 65.72 Per Dollar. 81.82 Per Euro, 102.91 Per Pound

As of 19:52 GMT, just a few minutes ago, XE values the Russian ruble at 65.725 per dollar. At one point, however, the ruble was valued as high as 66.593:

XE.com-USD-RUB-Chart.png

XE also says the current exchange rate is 81.822 per ruble and 102.911 per British Pound.

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