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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 11, 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
What's the Date on Putin's Desk Calendar When He Meets with Kobylkin?

We noted that the desk calendar on the desk of President Vladimir Putin seemed to show just one digit in his meeting with Karelian Governor Aleksandr Khudilaynen -- confirming sources that said the meeting took place March 4, not March 11, as the Kremlin and TV1 reported.

What about his meeting reported by the Kremlin as taking place yesterday, March 10?

Here's another screenshot from another broadcast, this time from TV Tsentr of Putin's meeting with Dmitry Kobylkin, governor of the Yamal-Nemets Autonomous Region, which was supposed to have taken place March 10, but sources say Kobylkin didn't come to the Kremlin on that day.

Kobylkin.jpg

The desktop calendar looks like there is only one digit that day, too.

Maybe Putin forgets to turn over the pages on his calendar. Or maybe it's not a calendar, but just inspiring quotations.

-- 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
What's the Date on Putin's Desk Calendar during Meeting with Karelian Governor?

As we noted, there's some speculation that Vladimir Putin may not have appeared in public in the last week.

There are reports that Aleksandr Khudilaynen, the Karelian governor reported to have met with Putin today, March 11, actually met with him on March 4, and what is aired now tonight on TV1 came from that date.

A desk calendar is visible in the broadcast from TV1 aired tonight. Does it just show a single digit, March 4? It seems so.

March-4.jpg

Karelia-Screenshot.jpg

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
Continued Confusion About Putin's Meetings in Public

The mystery continues about whether or not President Vladimir Putin is sick or is not appearing in public.

On Kremlin.ru today, March 11, there is a news report of a meeting with Aleksandr Khudalaynin, the governor of Karelia.

Yet the independent media have pointed out that this meeting was covered in the local Vesti Karelii on March 4 and March 5. Here's a screenshot of the newspaper, clearing showing both the date of an article, and inside the article, a reference to previous coverage on March 4, the date reported as when the meeting took place with Putin.

Karelii.png


Meanwhile, Russia's state television channel TV1 has aired footage of the meeting with the Karelian governor to discuss new pipelines and gasification, implying it took place today.

To add to the confusion, Khudilaynin posted a news story today, March 11, about the meeting with the transcript of the meeting.

But that may be due to the fact that he was waiting for the approved transcript to come from the Kremlin, which was posted today.

As the Vesti Karelii article by Svetlana Lysenko indicated, the meeting was scheduled for the 4th, but not announced until the 11th. The Karelian journalists were preoccupied at the time with whether Putin would keep Kudilaynen as acting governor and recommend his re-election or whether he would be removed to a lesser post, given his low ratings.

Kudilaynen had brought in Vladimir Yevtushenkov, CEO of Sistema, who was put under house arrest for a time last year on fraud charges but then released, then brought in the president of Tatarstan, Rustam Minnikhanov but this didn't seem to improve his position. With the republic's debt now twice was it was before he took office and investment dropping despite the governor's "lobbying of the interests of St. Petersburg businessmen" his future was an open question.

Here's a translation of the relevant sections of this article by Svetlana Lysenko:


According to unofficial information from Karelian fellow countrymen from the Russian capital, on the night of 4th March the meeting took place. However, for some reason, the Kremlin press service is still maintaining silence about it, and according to rumors, plans to announce this meeting only next week. As a source in the Karelian government informed us, this is sometimes the practice.

The only thing that we managed to find out with quite some difficulty: the topic of the elections was supposedly not discussed. And once again, according to unofficial information, the resolution of tihs matter has been postponed until next May. This is understandable, there isn't money on a lot of elections, including not cheap ones. And we have to still live until May, as they say.

Could those sources -- Karelians in Moscow -- have been wrong? 

They're the only indication that the meeting took place on the 4th -- along with the "source in the Karelian government" who didn't tell the journalists at the time that the meeting hadn't taken place.

The fact that Kremlin.ru published the transcript of the meeting today with a picture, and that TV1 broadcast the meeting today doesn't prove that it took place today. Meanwhile, there's significant evidence that it took place earlier.

Coupled with the news that Dmitry Kobylkin, another provincial governor, didn't actually see Putin on the 10th, the question of Putin's public appearances remains open.


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
RBC Reports That Putin Did Not Meet with Governor Kobylkin, As Kremlin Stated, And Has Not Been Seen for a Week

Earlier we discussed a rumor the Putin is sick, or possibly indisposed for political reasons, because he has cancelled a meeting of the Customs Union. Putin's office responded by the rumors by posting a picture that reportedly shows Putin today, but as we pointed out that picture is old.

Putin's office also claims that he met with Dmitry Kobylkin, governor of the Yamal-Nenetsky Autonomous Region. But now the Russian press outlet RBC is saying that this is not true.

The Russian blogger Oleg Kashin tweets:

Translation: Two sources at RBC, close to the Kremlin, say that yesterday Kobylkin did not come to the Kremlin

In fact, RBC's top story right now is about how Putin has not been seen in public since the end of last week. The article also claims that according to RBC's source, Kobylkin did not go to the Kremlin, despite claims to the contrary from Kobylkin's press service.

RBC reports (translated by The Interpreter):

Putin was last seen in public on March 5, says RBC.ru, when he met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

After that he was said to hold a meeting on March 8, International Women's Day, with women and children. But in fact, this meeting was taped by Putin's personal cameraman on March 5, one of the participants in the meeting told RBC. He said the president produced a good impression on the women, but looke
d tired.

Then on March 6, there was an internal meeting of the Security Council and the meetings with the Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and in the evening, a meeting with Vladimir Dmitriev, head of the Vneshekonombank.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov insists that the meetings with the two governors took place as it says on kremlin.ru, although other sources contradict this. Peskov did confirm that the meeting with the women for March 8 was taped in advance "on the eve of the holiday."

The denials from the Kremlin, and the loose ends, are fueling all kinds of speculation that Putin is perhaps sick, or is not appearing in public for some other non-disclosed reason. Is that reason, a "political flu," that the FSB and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov are at war, like Kashin suggests, or because there are rumors of a palace coup growing as suggested last week by Lenta.ru, or because of a head cold or some other ailment, or because of something else entirely? 

The reality is that it is not clear when Putin was last seen or why he has posted an old picture of a meeting with Aleksandr Khudilaynen of the Republic of Karelia. It is clear that the rumors about Putin will likely only get louder in light of today's intrigue, however.

-- 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
Inquiry Says Polonium Which Killed Litvinenko Could Only Come From Russia's Avangard Nuclear Plant

Norman Dombey, emeritus professor of nuclear physics at the University of Sussex, has testified at an inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Dombey says that the nuclear material which killed Livinenko, polonium, has a half-life of only 138 days, and only one facility in the world was making it at the time of Litvinenko's death -- the Avangard nuclear plant in Sarov, Russia.

The Guardian reports:

Dombey said the quantity used to kill Litvinenko – he swallowed an astonishing 26.5 microgrammes – was exceptionally large. All other countries including the US and UK stopped making polonium in the 1970s. Avangard was the last remaining source of commercial polonium, with no other nuclear facility capable of making sufficient quantities...

Doctors only identified polonium as the poison hours before Litvinenko died. Unlike other radioactive substances, it emits alpha rather than gamma particles. “This poisoning was not meant to be discovered,” Dombey concluded. “It was meant to be a mysterious poisoning because polonium is an alpha-emitter which a Geiger counter doesn’t pick up.”

He also said that the Russians involved in the murder plot would have tested the poison in advance. Too small a dose would have been ineffective; too big would have been a massive risk to public health. Citing sources in Russia, Dombey said Russian agents had previously tested polonium on a Chechen, Lecha Islamov, who was serving a nine-year sentence in jail.

Litvinenko was a former FSB agent who fled to the UK, where he became an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, after accusing the Russian government of assassinating Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.

-- James Miller

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