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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 Update: February 13, 2015

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
Transparency International Told to Register as Foreign Agent
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
St. Petersburg Nationalist Arrested on Charges of Forming 'Russian Right Sector'

Yesterday, February 12, police in St. Petersburg arrested Maksim Kalinichenko on suspicion of planning to create a "Russian Right Sector," yodnews.com reported, citing TASS. Kalinichenko was allegedly in touch with the banned ultrarightist group Right Sector in Ukraine.

According to an agent of the Federal Security Service (FSB) for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region (translation by The Interpreter):

He is suspected of involvement of creation on the VKontakte social network of a group "Russian Right Sector," with dissemination of articles with calls for carrying out extremist activity and also with publish support of the actions of the Ukrainian extremist organization Right Sector.

Kalinichenko had previously been given a suspended sentence of 2.5 years for calls for violence during an unauthorized rally in 2011 on Nevsky Prospect and also in social networks.

The state censor has also ordered the closure of Right Sector on Twitter, one of a few orders the US company has complied with.

The coverage of the arrest in Russian media evidently prompted Roskomnadzor, the state censor, to issue a notice today  regarding the mentioning in the media of organizations in the Justice Ministry's list of "extremist" groups, yodnews.ru reports.

Under Art. 4 of the mass media law, publishing information about groups in the list is prohibited unless it is also mentioned that they are banned:

Mention of the organizations in the list is permission in media materials in a negative vein, with the use of characterizations such as "radical," "extremist," and "nationalist." In addition, the text of the report must contain a direct reference to the liquidation or ban on the activity of such organizations.

There are currently 41 groups banned on Russian territory, including 5 Ukrainian groups. These includes well-known groups ranging from the National Bolshevik Party founded by Eduard Limonov, who went on to found the Other Russia party and who frequently appears in the media; the Muslim sect Nurcilar founded by Said Nursi, a Kurdish theologian popular in Central Asia; the Tatar section of Russian National Unity and the Slavic Union, a national-socialist movement claiming to have 70,000 members. It also includes obscure groups like the Noble Order of the Devil of Mordovia, the Kirov chapter of the Dinamo Football Fans Club and Pit Bull of Krasnodar.

-- 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
Workers Unpaid for 4 Months in Chelyabinsk Block Road

Workers in Chelyabinsk have tried to close a road today due to delays in their pay, Znak.com reports.

Yesterday, police broke up an unauthorized picket organized by employees of Construction Department No. 1 who were angry at the long delay in their pay and drove road equipment to block the road.

Police in the Chelyabinsk Region Interior Ministry said 25 people came to the 1,813th kilometer of Highway M5 (near the village of Travniki) to block the road. A resident of the city of Emanzhelinsk whose name was not provided is threatened with arrest for organizing a rally without permission.

"We haven't seen any money since October 2014. Most of the workers were fired before New Year's without their back pay. Those who remain also haven't been paid," Dmitry Chernov told Vostochny Ekspress TV, according to a report from Uralinformburu.

The demonstrators were hoping their boss would be forced into talks, but instead, the police came and told them to leave or they would be arrested, Uralinformburo reported. Nevertheless, the workers are planning another action on February 16, this time with their wives and children, if they are not paid.

Construction Department No. 1 is part of MDS Group, a large company with offices in Moscow.

-- 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
Zhirinovsky Calls for Sending 15 Million Ukrainians 'Beyond the Urals'

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the erratic ultranationalist leader of the ill-named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) told the state news channel Rossiya 24 yesterday that "Ukraine never kept to its agreements," angrily recalling a childhood incident with a Ukrainian boy in school to back up his claims.

Zhirinovsky rambled on, calling for gas to be shut off to Ukraine and saying that since so many Ukrainians had already fled to Russia, he urged that "15 million Ukrainians should be thrown beyond the Ural Mountains," where there would be enough space and food for them and "no one will shoot."


Translation by The Interpreter:

Take the whole combat-capable part of Ukraine. Deprive them of gas. Deprive them of money. Deprive them of the army. And last, deprive them of the population. We must summon the population of Ukraine to Russia. All those who want. We can take half of Ukraine and throw it beyond the Urals. It's 15 million.

 

A number of Ukrainian outlets and social media accounts are also publishing today stories about a rant by Zhirinovsky reportedly made at the State Duma yesterday February 12 following the announcement of the Minsk agreement, showing him evidently calling for "bombing Germany."

As can be heard on the video, it is spliced together from many snippets of a speech, and jumps from one segment to another, which makes it difficult to authenticate.

The video in fact is not from yesterday, as the ticker running under the footage of Zhirinovsky speaking has stories such as a suspected case of Ebola at the Sheremeytovo Airport, which occurred on January 20, 2015 and also a story about the Central Bank revoking the licenses of two banks, which was also on January 20, 2015.

In the video, Zhirinovsky condemned one of the most commonly used propagandistic slogans of the Soviet era (translation by The Interpreter):

"There shouldn't be such concepts of 'Friendship of Nations.' There is only cold calculation. When there's the whip, when the gendarmes are coming, when the spetsnaz are coming, then they are silent and don't won't jerk.

Who is ruining relations today? Merkel, Angela Merkel! She's the main instrument of the EU, NATO, and today, because of her, we have sanctions and all the rest. Therefore...we need to burn all of Paris. Why storm Berlin? Bomb all of Germany!  From the airfields of Russia, bomb Germany so that nothing remains! Not a single stone! Not a single German! Then the country is a victor."

We haven't located the original full-length tape, and the statements seem consistent with some of the wild things Zhirinovsky has said in the past, but it was not in response to the Minsk agreement, and evidently said back in January.


- 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
Interpreting the Minsk Agreement Regarding Amnesty and Release of Prisoners

The original Russian language of the Minsk agreement is being poured over now for clues to understanding how some of the pledges might be kept -- or not.

Point 5 says (translation by The Interpreter):

5. Ensure the pardoning and amnesty through introducing a law in force prohibiting the prosecution and punishment of persons in connection with events which took place in certain districts of Donetsk and Lugansk Regions of Ukraine.

But this has immediately caused concerns about an amnesty of the perpetrators of the downing of MH17 -- widely believed to be Russian-backed separatists -- in which 298 people were killed, as well as other grave war crimes.

Point 6 concerns what has been reported as "a POW exchange" but which actually contains a broader term:

6. Ensure the release and exchange of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons on the basis of the principle of "all for all". This process should be completed no later than the fifth day after the withdrawal.

This is the same language used on the September 5, 2014 document, which at that time gave rise to expectations by Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), that Savchenko would be released. Her defense team tried to secure recognition of her POW status in order to get her included in exchanges.

By using the Russian word for "hostages" (zalozhniki) rather than voyenoplenniye (prisoners-of-war), there is a theoretical possibility to get around any legal hurdle that Russian authorities may throw up regarding the release of Nadiya Savchenko, claiming that she is not a POW because they are ostensibly not a party to the war. So far, Moscow has not accepted that broader interpretation to apply to Savchenko saying that she is not included in the exchange of POWs and is not eligible for the amnesty, which only applies to those on Ukrainian territory.

Moscow claims she herself entered Russian territory and was suspected as an accomplice in the murder of two Russian journalists. (They were most likely killed accidentally by shell fire at a militants' checkpoint, as we reported here, here and here.)

Savchenko and her lawyers reject Moscow's version of events, saying she was abducted and is innocent of any murder changes, and has called her "an unlawful prisoner of war." Others have called her "a political hostage" to the Ukrainian war or a "political prisoner" as she is held for political reasons, not due to any evidence.

President Petro Poroshenko was optimistic that Savchenko would be released regardless of the formulation as part of the deal to exchange prisoners. As the Washington Post reported:

"I raised the issue of the release of Nadiya Savchenko and I was informed that it should be done soon after the medical examination and the preliminary findings of the investigation are finalized," Poroshenko told reporters Thursday, adding that he had the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande as well.

But as the Washington Post also reported, there is room for slippage in this agreement on Moscow's side:

Whether Russia would actually acquiesce and release Savchenko is not confirmed, however. In the past, the Kremlin has said it was a matter for the courts and refused to influence them. "An automatic release mechanism for someone accused of complicity in the murder ... does not exist," Alexei Pushkov, a prominent lawmaker and head of Russia’s parliamentary committee on international affairs, told reporters Thursday.

Pushkov has been included on the EU and Canadian sanctions' list with regard to the war in Ukraine.

Both Regnum and TASS, pro-government news services, have said Savchenko isn't included in the list of POWs to be exchanged. Regnum refers to "sources" and TASS references the interpretation of two members of the Presidential Council of Human Rights who have taken pro-Kremlin positions in the past.

But if the broader language of the Minsk agreement stands, she could be released anyway as a hostage of the situation. It depends on whether the Kremlin will move quickly to make good on the pledges as President Poroshenko understood them

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick


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