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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: March 9, 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
Further on Chechen Suspect in Nemtsov Murder Investigation; 'Foreign' Angle Invoked

As we reported earlier today, yesterday March 8, Gazeta.ru covered the court appearance of five suspects arrested in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

Russian investigators are probing the background of Zaur Dadayev,reportedly the main suspect in the Nemtsov murder case and its organizers as well as its executer, says Gazeta.ru.

A source in law-enforcement said that most likely this is Zaur Dadayev, deputy commander of the Sever [North] commander.

The forensic analysis obtained by law-enforcement bodies give grounds to suppose that the person who shot Nemtsov was Dudayev.


He didn't say what exactly this forensic analysis consisted of, and Gazeta.ru asks whether or not it was gunpowder on the skin or clothing of Dudayev or whether his description matches videotapes from surveillance cameras.

This sounds less certain than the statement made two days ago by Albert Barakhayev, acting deputy secretary for the security council of Ingushetia, who "confirmed" that this was the same Zaur Dadayev who was in the Sever Battalion; Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov also said it was the same man, that he knew him as a "patriot of Russia" and a "devout" Muslim believer. And other investigators said that they had hair samples from the getaway car that matched the suspect.

"This can be confirmed one hundred percent when the murder weapon is found," a source told Gazeta.ru. Investigators are said to be searching the bottom of the Moscow River near the bridge where Nemtsov was killed.

The source also said that Dadayev confessed to the murder "although he was very reluctant to communicate with investigators."

"From his scant testimony it follows that he was the organizer of the murder," said the source.

Given that all of the sources on this story are anonymous and their stories are starting to shift, it may be that the investigation is stuck on proving that this particular Chechen is related to the shooting, even if they can place him in a car they think is the getaway car.

As Gazeta.ru notes, as deputy commander of the Sever battalion, Dadayev would have answered to Col. Alimbek Delimkhanov, the brother of Duma deputy Adam Delimkhanov, who became notorious for being caught with a golden gun in parliament.

The Delimkhanovs are among the closest associates of Kadyrov as they are his cousins. The Sever Battalion and also the Yug [South] Battalion were created in 2006 under the patronage of Kadyrov himself. The consist of former officers of the so-called Anti-Terrorist Center of Chechnya and the presidential security service. Formally, these units are subordinate to the command of the North Caucasus District troops of the Interior Ministry of Russia.

Dadayev was said to serve for 10 years in a special division of the Interior Troops which then became Sever. In 2010, he was awarded the Order of Courage. Recently, he was said to resign from the service under circumstances that are not known.

Dadayev, along with Anzor and Shagid Gubashev, his third cousins, were all detained together in neighboring Ingushetia.

As we reported
, after the name of the suspect became known, Kadyrov wrote about him on his Instagram:

I knew Zaur as a real patriot of Russia. From the very first days of the creation of the regiment which was a part of the 46th Separate Operations Brigade of the Internal Forces of the Interior Ministry of the Russian Federation, he served in it. He had the rank of "lieutenant." He held the post of deputy commander of the battalion. Zaur was one of the most fearless and courageous soldiers of the regiment. He was particularly distinguished in battle near Benoy, when there was a special operation against a large band of terrorists. He was awarded the Order of Courage and medals "For Bravery," "For Service to the Chechen Republic" and a Letter of Gratitude from the head of the Chechen Republic and so on.


The investigators now have a "foreign" angle in the case, says Gazeta.ru:

Law-enforcement agencies have established the foreign contacts of the suspects in the murder of Nemtsov, therefore the theory of the foreign footprint is also being actively developed, a law-enforcement source told Interfax. He noted that according to one theory, the motive for the murder of Nmetsov "could have become the politician's [Nemtsov's] sharp expressions regarding Islam."

No indication was given of which foreign countries were involved.

As we reported, back on February 28, when the Investigative Committee first floated the "Islamist" or "Charlie Hebdo" angle, Ramzan Kadyrov in fact didn't pick it up, and stuck to his script about "Western intelligence agencies" being responsible.

-- 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
Russian View of United States Has Changed Dramatically In One Year, Opinions Cast Doubt On Putin's Popularity

The latest polling of Russian attitudes towards the United States may not surprise many readers -- the U.S. is viewed highly unfavorably. What may surprise many readers, however, is that the U.S. is viewed more unfavorably than both Ukraine and the European Union.

Journalist Ian Bateson tweeted this today:

This poll was released a month ago, so we'll start with a quote from our analysis published at the time which looked at some of the more overlooked aspects of the poll:

The flip side of the poll seems to be that Russians have a poor self-image for their country - and these may be related and self-reinforcing, although the Russian media hasn't discussed this part of the poll.

When those surveyed were asked "How do most developed countries of the world regard Russia now?" in January 2007, there was a low percentage -- 4% -- which rose in 6% perhaps even due to the attitude of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to Russians - but which went to 2% this January. It has never gone above 6% in the last 7 years.

Meanwhile, only 21% believed other countries saw Russia "as a partner"; this was higher in January 2009 at 39%. The largest percent -- 37% -- believe Russia is seen as a competitor -- which fuels the idea, as the article explains, that sanctions aren't imposed to change aggressive behavior and deer it, but to compete out of jealousy. Respondents also said 27% believe Russia is perceived as an enemy, which is up from 16% in March 2014, and up from 7% in January 2007 and 8% in January 2013. That's significant -- that the belief that Russia is seen as an enemy has increased more than three-fold.

There's even more surprises if you dig into the data. As recently as January 2014 the percentage of Russians who viewed the U.S. favorably was nearly the same as those who viewed it unfavorably, and throughout most of 2013 the U.S. was viewed generally positively. In January 2014 31% of respondents said that U.S./Russian relations were "normal/calm," and 40% said relations were "cool." Only 17% viewed relationships as either tense or hostile. By January 2015, 79% of respondents described U.S./Russian relationships as tense or hostile, with the latter category being the largest.

The European Union fared better, but similar trends are visible. In January 2014, the majority of respondents had a favorable impression of the EU. A year later those numbers had dropped to 20%.

Ukraine, a country which Russia is nominally at war with, is the most respected of the lot. In January 2014 6% had a very good impression of Ukraine while a whopping 60% of respondents had a mostly good impression of Russia's neighbor. By January 2015, only 24% of Russians had a favorable impression of Ukraine while 36% had a mostly bad impression and 28% had a very bad impression.

What does all this mean? Russian propaganda is working. Russian propaganda outlets, particularly television and radio channels, have been busy demonizing the United States for more than a year. Independent outlets have been shrinking during the same period. The Kremlin is trying to blame the Ukraine crisis on the United State first, Europe second, in an attempt to recall Cold-War rhetoric in the hopes that it might catch on. It's a strategy that's working.

But there are other interesting data points here.

The most interesting question on the survey might be whether Russian should strengthen its relationship from the West or distance itself from the West. In March, 2014, after Russia had already started the annexation of Crimea, 61% of Russians thought they should strengthen relations with the West, while only 24% said they should distance the country from the West. By January 2015, those numbers were 40% and 36% respectfully, a near-even split. This could indicate that what Putin actually feared in Ukraine was the spread of "Euromaidan" to Moscow. The nearly-even split now also indicates that many Russians may have learned to distrust the West, they have not yet readily adopted a suitable alternative.

It's also interesting to compare these numbers with Putin's own approval rating. If more Russians want to strengthen ties with the West than distance the country from the West, and if 24% of Russians still have a favorable opinion of Ukraine, how is it possible that Putin has an approval rating of more than 85%? The answer is that the Levada numbers are likely far more accurate than Putin's approval ratings which many have doubted.

-- James Miller, 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
How Did Russian Television Report on Nemtsov's Murder?

RFE/RL's Yelena Rykovtseva has posted her impressions of how Russian state-controlled television networks covered the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. For starters, the article mentions that Nemtsov was basically ignored by Russian TV before his death, and in the initial coverage of the incident the Kremlin's networks were busy pointing out that he was a washed-up politician.

Then the narrative changed, first to discredit theories that Nemtsov was killed by either the government or its supporters, and then to disparage the victim:

The praise of Nemtsov as a victim of nefarious Western powers couldn't last for long. After the threat of Western-inspired Maidan receded following the peaceful mourning march, Russian national television quickly switched gears and began to rein in the pathos and darken the memory of the victim. How? Bastard children, multiple wives, dubious lovers, money, resorts, and so on.

NTV produced a singer named Natalya who breathlessly told audiences how Nemtsov took her virginity. Dressed in black leather pants and a leather jacket (mourning clothes, apparently), she told about her various trysts with Nemtsov in cities around the world, including -- predictably -- Washington, D.C. Viewers were on the edge of their seats as Natalya told how she asked Nemtsov to buy her some fancy sneakers so that she could use the spa at one resort.

"Did he buy them?" the curious host asked.

"He did!" Natalya enthused.

The same channel brought in a lawyer who, although he had no obvious connection to Nemtsov at all, detailed the various "trusts" the slain politician left to his four children.

The entire article can be read here.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Swiss Company Supplies Russia With High-Tech Camouflage Netting, Despite Sanctions

In the largest-ever sale of Swiss military equipment to Russia, a Swiss company has sent 85 million euros worth of high-tech camouflage netting designed to thwart radar and infra-red detection.

France 24 reports:

The contract was signed in August 2014, before Bern decided to mirror EU sanctions against Russia, Swiss economic policy spokesman Fabian Maienfisch told the ATS news agency, confirming press reports.

Maienfisch declined to name either the civilian Russian buyer or the Swiss supplier.

That the purchaser is a civilian is interesting, especially if any of these nets show up outside of Russia, like in Ukraine or in the hands of Kremlin allies.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
NATO and Russia Continue To Hold Dueling Military Drills

NATO and Russia continue to have dueling drills in parts of Eastern Europe. While the NATO drills were pre-scheduled and pre-announced, many of the Russians drills have been described by the Russian media as "surprise" exercises.

Russian ships and aircraft have reportedly tailed NATO ships drilling in the Black Sea. RFE/RL reports that this has been confirmed by a U.S. naval officer:

A U.S. naval officer says Russian military vessels and aircraft were spotted in the Black Sea near an area where NATO plans to hold a military exercise.

Rear Admiral Brad Williamson said the Russian Navy acted in line with international rules.

"They have their plans, we have ours," Williamson said, without disclosing further details.

Meanwhile, more than 120 pieces of American equipment have been deployed in Latvia, including M1A2 Abrams tanks and M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicles. UA Today reports:

The military equipment has been supplied as part of the NATO Atlantic Resolve training programme. The 1st Brigage of the 3rd US Infantry Division arrived in Latvia on March 9 to replace the 2nd US Cavalry Regiment which had previously been stationed in Latvia. The infantry troops will stay in the country for another three months until the next rotation. 

Meanwhile, Spain is the NATO country which has been rotated into the air patrolling mission over the Baltics. Yesterday  Spanish Eurofighters flew over 15 Estonian towns (video) in what has been described as an "honorific flight," making news in three countries: Estonia, Spain... and Russia.

-- James Miller

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