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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 25, 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
Putin Decrees Title of 'Guards' to 3 Army Units for 'Bravery in Combat in Fatherland's Interests' - But Where?


President Putin has signed decrees awarding three army units the title of "Guards": the 11th and 83rd separate assault brigades and the 38th separate communications regiments of the Airborne Troops (VDV), Lenta.ru reported.

The decrees were published today on the Russian government's website:

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The text of the decree says (translation by The Interpreter):

"For massive heroism and bravery, determination and courage, displayed by the personnel of the brigades in combat actions in defense of the Fatherland and state interests under conditions of armed conflicts, and taking into account its merits in peace time."


The units can now all add the word "Guard" to their titles as an honor.

As Lenta.ru says, the date and place of these "combat actions" isn't indicated in the decrees, however.


We took a look at the 83rd's VKontakte club page with lots of pictures (they're based in the Russian town of Ussuriysk) and nothing jumped out as saying these soldiers were in Ukraine or Rostov Region near the Ukrainian border -- or anywhere outside Russia -- but we're still looking.

Lenta.ru added that these brigades were known to have fought in the two Chechen wars:

It is known that the personnel of the 83rd brigade took part in the first Chechen campaign from 1994-1995 as part of integrated divisions. The brigade itself was not re-based in the North Caucasus. The 38th separate communications regimentalso fulfilled combat missions in both Chechen campaigns

There are no reports about the participation of the soldiers of these three units in combat actions after the official end of the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya.



No doubt lots of people will be combing over references to these units to see where they have been and we'll update soon. We don't see them in the list of Russian army units confirmed by RBC.ru and other journalists to have been deployed in Ukraine.

-- 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
Deputy Chair of Public Observation Commission Calls for Expulsion of Novaya Gazeta Journalist Yelena Masyuk

Pavel Pyatnitsky, deputy chair of the Public Observation Commission, a group that monitors prison conditions, has called for expelling Novaya Gazeta journalist Yelena Masyuk for publishing an account of the POC's visit to the Chechen suspects in the Nemtsov murder investigation, the newspaper reported.

Masyuk published an article on the POC's interviews of Khamzat Bakhayev and Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, saying that the guard had put on handcuffs so tightly they had injured the suspects. Pyatnitsky says that Masyuk has violated the internal prison regulations for pre-trial detention with the publication.

Masyuk refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement at the time of the visit.

This is the third incident regarding efforts by civic groups to find out the conditions of the detainees.

When the POC first visited them and spoke to Zaur Dadayev and others, they learned of the suspects complaints that they were tortured into confessions, and of their withdrawal of their statements. This prompted a fight within the POC, which is now headed by Anton Tsvetkov, a conservative activist for the rights of military persons in detention, who reprimanded prison rights' activists Andrei Babushkin. This led to a late-night visit from officers of the Investigative Committee to the homes of Babushkin and a Moskovsky Komsomolets writer Eva markacheva, and a warning of prosecution for disclosing information from the investigation.

Then Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, was denied permission to visit the suspects.

Tsvetkov later disavowed the claims of the members of his own organization regarding torture of the suspects.

The struggles of the Public Observation Commission reveal the efforts of the last of the Yeltsin-era liberals who created the commission to address the Soviet legacy of abuse in the GULAG to challenge Putin-era conservatives who have basically turned the commission to another purpose, protecting members of the armed forces from prosecution. The investigation of the Nemtsov murder is said to have pitted the Federal Security Service (FSB) against Ramzan Kadyrov, in whose Interior Ministry troops the suspects served.

While evidence that the incriminating statements made by the suspects under torture might tend to exonerate Kadyrov and his men, prison authorities and the higher officials giving them instructions evidently believe that the less said about the detainees and their conditions the better.

Masyuk, a journalist for the old NTV, was kidnapped by Chechen rebels in 1997 and ultimately released two months later after public protests and a $2 million ransom. Earlier she had been threatened with prosecution for interviews with terrorist Shamil Basayev, and successfully fought a libel suit against Vladimir Zhirinovsky who claimed she was abetting terrorists.

-- 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
Putin Signs Annual Order for Military Draft; 150,000 to Receive Notices

President Vladimir Putin has signed the order for the spring recruitment for military service, Novaya Gazeta reports, citing Kremlin.ru.

More than 150,000 men will receive draft summons. The order also contains instructions to release from service all those personnel who served their terms already.

Yesterday, we reported that the Duma is considering a draft law to ban draft-dodgers from leaving Russia for five years. They are also intending to ban service in state agencies for the same period although the Constitutional Court has ruled against some aspects of this ban.

- 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
Malofeyev Reported to Settle Debt to VTB for $100 Million in Recognition of His Services to 'Novorossiya'

Businessman and Russian Orthodox philanthropist Konstantin Malofeyev, an avid supporter of the Russian-backed separatists in southeast Ukraine, is reported to have paid back a debt owed to VTB Bank for $100 million, a fraction of the original amount and minus any penalties or interest, Kommersant reports.

One of the persistent templates for trying to understand events in Moscow, notable particularly from ultranationalist and separatist bloggers, is the concept that "liberals" in the Kremlin will "dump Novorossiya" -- that is President Vladimir Putin will be overcome by the "party of peace" in reaching a ceasefire with Ukraine and get rid of anyone related to the "party of war" supporting the separatists in the Donbass.

That was how the dismissal of Aleksandr Dugin from Moscow State University and the retirement of Col. Igor Strelkov were interpreted last year. Periodically, rumors of impending assassinations or attempted assassinations against Russian-backed warlords in Ukraine such as Givi (Mikhail Tolstykh), Motorola (Arseny Pavlov) or Aleksandr Mozgovoy are disseminated in this vein.

Since Malofeyev was reported to bankroll first the Crimean takeover then the "Donetsk People's Republic" adventure, when he was reported to have his home and office searched rumors of the "Novorossiya dump" occurred again. Then, when Malofeyev was reported to have reached a settlement finally with Rostelekom after a long court case, that was seen if not as a "dump" at least as a closing of the "Novorossiya" chapter with a discounted fine instead of prosecution.

Now Kommersant has further researched the matter and today March 25 reports further details on how Marshall Capital Partners, Malofeyev's company paid back an original loan of $225 million, which had earned interest and penalties and reached the amount of $596 million, settling it for just $100 million.

Kommersant cites sources that claim the terms for the settlement were already reached back on January 21 and the documents signed February 18. VTB Kapital and Rusagropom agreed to settle the loan given in 2007 for purchase of dairy plants to Alverdine Investments, Ltd in the Virgin Islands for $100 million, and agreed to refrain from further legal action. This also involved ceasing a lawsuit in the UK that had frozen the shares of Marshall Capital Partners. Malofeyev in turn dropped a lawsuit for $600 million against VTB for damages resulting from the freeze on the shares. In exchange for this deal, a criminal case against Malofeyev on charges of embezzlement of a VTB loan was dropped in March.

According to Kommersant's source close to VTB (translation by The Interpreter):

"We reached a peaceful agreement with Konstantin Malofeyev, the claims regarding the debt are settled, the bank has received all the money. We are not commenting on the details."

Malofeyev's press service also confirmed that a settlement was reached but said they didn't know the sum of the deal reached by VTB and Alverdine and claimed that Malofeyev had no connection to Alverdine. Another source close to Malofeyev said he had settled the debt for $100 million and obtained this "discount" due to his "civic position." This was believed to be code words for his support for the Russian-backed separatist war in the Donbass, and his humanitarian aid sent to residents.

Kommersant consulted various excerpts who said that an 85% or greater write-off of a bad loan or purchase for pennies on the dollar by collectors' agencies is common if a period of time has lapsed, or there is no means of payment or collateral.

In February, Novaya Gazeta leaked a document drafted by a group close to the Kremlin in which Malofeyev was said to be involved, which indicated that the Kremlin had reviewed and endorsed a scenario for taking over the Crimea and the Donbass even before former president Viktor Yanukovych was toppled. Malofeyev denied involvement in the study.

One theory about the leak of the document was that it was to put pressure on Malofeyev to reach some agreement with the Kremlin, and yet if Kommersant's sources are telling the truth, the terms for the debt discount and payment were already reached before the leak.

To definitively determine whether Malofeyev has been "dumped" or just "got off with a fine," his further activities will have to be watched to see if he continues to donate to ultrarightist causes. Last year he was spotted meeting with Col. Strelkov at the church in Valaam, and then attended a conference titled "Moscow the Third Rome" where he was on the same platform with Dugin, former intelligence officer Leonid Reshetnikov of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies and other hardliners. But he didn't attend the conference of European and US far-right and Nazi fringe parties with Russian ultranationalists in St. Petersburg this past weekend.

VTB Bank formally denied the claims regarding the settlement of the debt, Novaya Gazeta reported.

-- 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
Little Further Comes to Light Regarding Nemtsov Murder Investigation


After publishing or broadcasting a flurry of divergent theories for the murder of Boris Nemtsov, the Russian media has quieted down this week and little news has been available. Five Chechen suspects remain in custody. The media has squared the circle of first claiming they were contract murderers for hire, then claiming they were Islamists angered by the Charlie Hebdo cartoons by saying that the direct perpetrators were indeed Islamists who were used by contractors at another level for mercenary aims. Yet the only figure for a payment -- 5 million rubles or $83,000 given to Dadayev  -- does not seem a very high payment for such a contract.

Lots of attention has been paid to Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic, since two of the suspects were in his Interior Ministry troops, and in the first days after the murder he called them "brave warriors". There has been a great deal of speculation about whether the murder itself was caused by a struggle for power by various factions in the Kremlin, or whether the investigation has forced open existing rifts in the leadership.

Today Rosbalt reports that a source close to the investigation says Ruslan Geremeyev, an officer of the Sever [North] Batttalion is still located in Chechnya. He has been variously reported as being held under "heavy guard," but as a witness, not a suspect. A law-enforcer told RBC.ru that Ruslan "maybe" be located in the Chechen village of Dzhalka. Eye-witnesses who have gone to the location say that all entrances to his home are guarded by armed men. Dzhalka is the home town of Adam Delimkhanov and his brother Alimbek Delimkhanov, commander of the Sever Batallion. Adam is a cousin of Kadyrov's. Recently Adam's wife gave birth to a son and Kadyrov ordered all the babies born in the republic that day -- 34 -- to receive cash in honor of his relative's birth.

The key suspect, Zaur Dadayev, was said to come to Moscow with Ruslan Geremeyev and lived in the same apartment with him on Veyernaya Street where the other accomplices hid out with him after the murder. Dadayev was said to have been seen with Geremeyev in a bar and wsa believed to have spent some time with him.

All the suspects provided DNA samples to the investigation, which has said that these will link them to the crime.

Media Zone has a very thorough round-up of all the Russian media sources on the Nemtsov investigation.

Yesterday the independent web site grani.ru reported that vandals had come to destroy the flowers and signs left in memory of Nemtsov on the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge near the Kremlin.

Translation: Monsters from the SERB movement who are part of Antimaidan have desecrated the place where Nemtsov was murdered.

The SERB calls itself the National Liberation Movement. It is not know if this relates to another group headed by Yevgeny Fyodorov with the name "National Liberation Movement" (NOD).

They even allowed themselves to be photographed. Grani.ru noted that this same group came to heckle picketers on the 9th day after Nemtsov's murder who had gathered according to Russian Orthodox tradition.

Last night, police patrolled the area. But the mayor's office said the site had no official memorial status and could not be maintained.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
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