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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: April 1, 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
Death Toll Rises to 46 in Russian Ship Disaster in Sea of Okhotsk

The death toll is now at 46 in the capsizing of the Dal'ny Vostok, a free-standing freezer trawler in the Sea of Okhotsk, Sakhalinmedia.ru reports.

At least 130 crew mates were on board, and at least 23 people are still missing so the number of those drowned is likely to rise.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry has not yet provided information on the cause of the sinking of the ship.

But already alternative reports have come out via social media.


Translation: The freestanding freezer trawler (BATM) off the coast of Kamchatka sank due to a crash with drifting ice floes. The sinking ship did not manage to send out an SOS signal.

Sea-of-Okhotsk.jpg

The government of Sakhalin Region is currently holding an emergency meeting about the disaster under acting Governor Oleg Kozhemyako. (Sakhlin's previous governor and his associates were sacked and arrested in recent corruption scandals).

Ministers of health, social protection and emergencies have been summoned from around the region, along with other agencies.

Aleksei Bayandin, press secretary for the governor's office, said 46 people had perished when the ship sunk off the shores of Kamchatka Territory.

According to Sakhalin officials, there was a total of 132 crew members on board, 45 people were taken alive out of the water, and some are still missing.

These include the citizens of five countries of which four were named by local officials: Russia, Ukraine, Vanuatu and Myanmar. Slon.ru reported that citizens of Latvia were also on board, citing RIA Novosti.

Most of the crew members were residents of Sakhalin Region. Magellan, the company that owned the ship, had no comment yet.

The capsize took place at 330 kilometers from the western village of Krutogorovsky in Kamchatka Territory, 250 kilometers south of Magadan. The shop was registered at the port of Nevelsk in Sakhalin Region.

Twenty-six ships of various classes have been dispatched for the rescue operation. The visibility is 24 kilometers winds are 9 meters/second and waves are 1.5 meters. The temperature is at about 0 Celsius.

-- 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
43 Drowned in Russian Ship Disaster in Sea of Okhotsk

At least 43 crew mates have drowned after the capsizing of the Dal'ny Vostok [Far East], a large free-standing freezer trawler, in the Sea of Okhotsk, LifeNews reported this evening, citing a source in the rescue service of Kamchatka Territory.

At least 63 people were rescued, and the fate of 26 more is not known.

Two ships from Magellan Ltd., the owner of the Dal'ny VostokMlechny Put' and Andromeda, have been dispatched to pick up the bodies and those who survived and bring them to Sakhalin.

More than 130 crew mates were reported to be on board the ship.

Russia's Emergencies Minister received the notice of the accident at 8:30 am April 2, Kamchatka time which is 23:30 Moscow time, April 1.

The cause of the capsize is not yet known.

-- 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
'Sanctions against Russia will be Lifted When It Behaves Properly' – Danish Ambassador to Ukraine
Denmark has been pushing back against Russian pressure and propaganda lately.

Interfax reported the remarks of Danish Ambassador to Ukraine Merete Juhl  in a headline 'Sanctions Against Russia Will Be Lifted When It Behaves Properly':

Sanctions are the only instrument to leverage Russia right now. That's why they will only be lifted when Russia behaves properly. That's the logic of imposing sanctions, Juhl said at a press conference in Kharkiv on Wednesday.

On March 21, Russian Ambassador Mikhail Vanin claimed the Danish navy's provision of shipborne radar data for NATO's nuclear shield was grounds for Russia's aiming of nuclear missiles at Denmark.

"If this happens, Danish warships become targets for Russian nuclear missiles," Ambassador Vanin wrote in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten on March 21.

-- 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
Alexey Navalny's Colleague Vladimir Ashurkov Given Asylum In the UK
Some news on one of opposition leader Alexey Navalny's associates: 

BBC reports that Alexandrina Markvo, Ashurkov's common law wife, is also seeking asylum. Both are facing charges which are widely considered -- outside of Russia, at least -- to be political retribution:

Russian prosecutors accuse Mr Ashurkov of stealing contributions to Navalny's campaign for the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections. Navalny failed in his bid. He is under house arrest in Moscow.

Navalny, a vociferous critic of President Vladimir Putin, has rejected allegations that Mr Ashurkov did anything wrong.

Ms Markvo is also being prosecuted by Russian authorities. She is accused of embezzlement in connection with a Moscow book festival.

Recently, Newsweek ran a special report on how Russia uses INTERPOL "red notices" to target political dissidents abroad, a practice which has been investigated by both the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

It's not clear whether Markvo will receive asylum, but so far British authorities have not arrested either Russian expatriate.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Leaks Reveal Kremlin's Pressure on RBC Over Coverage of Russian Soldiers Fighting in Ukraine - But Kremlin Ideology Czar Shielded
Yesterday we covered the latest batch of leaks from the hackers' group Shaltai Boltai which also uses the name "Anonymous International." The exposed emails reveal how the Kremlin micro-manages the media, courts and institutions like universities.

Meduza.io's English version has a summary of a Russian article about the "data-leaking group" -- that is, hackers who have released about 40,000 text messages from former Kremlin official Timur Prokopenko, who was responsible for Internet policy.

The big news of the story for the Russian journalists' community was indication of the Kremlin's manipulation of the media:
The SMS records show that Prokopenko supposedly tried to curb the critical reporting at the news agency RBC, where he grilled Nikolai Molibog, the outlet’s general director, about publishing stories that went against the grain of Russia’s state-controlled press, such as news about federalization activists in Siberia and only half-full aid convoys to eastern Ukraine.


What the English summary of Meduza leaves out is arguably RBC's most controversial story by Maksim Solopov regarding research about the presence of Russian soldiers in the war in Ukraine. As the Russian-language original of the Meduza article notes, Prokopenko received an assignment from an unknown superior to investigate where the story came from. As Prokopenko texted, "RBC was noted today with the article about the military in Ukraine. Your mentor needs a conversation. Really you've f**ked up..."

As we noted in our summary of this RBC piece last October, given all the unsubstantiated and even wild accounts of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine, Solipsov's article stood out for being carefully researched and backed up -- the list of units said to be in Ukraine was drawn up on the basis of verified reports of soldiers killed.

Prokupenko went to Molibog about this piece and told him, "I was asked by Gromov's office to draw your attention to that hell."

The reference is to Aleksei Gromov, first deputy director of the presidential administration  -- an official who has been in charge of ideology since the Soviet era.

The leaked texts don't show any answer from Molibog. But as Meduza reports, the two exchanged thanks. Then Molibog asked Prokupenko not to pressure the editorial offices -- "it's difficult with the editorial office lately, I pressure them too much. They are offended at my sanctions and call me a suppressor of free speech."

Molibog himself immediately wrote a statement on Facebook about this exposure, linking to the original Russian article in Meduza (the English translations in Meduza don't provide those links). The Interpreter has translated the text:

1. I confirm the fact of this correspondence. Yes, I actively communicated and meet with officials from the Presidential Administration and many other representatives of the government. We are a very large business in the media industry, and it would be strange if I didn't do this.
2. Yes, I communicate with the government regarding our content (but I am not the one to determine what we write and show at RBC; that's our main editors). And moreover, this seems normal to me. Because I sincerely believe that in our country (and in the world) much that is bad happens simply because we speak little to each other and don't try to hear and listen to each other. And so that amount of changes which occurred in RBC in the last year and a half would not have been able to be done without explaining what we are doing.

3. I realize that the form of my communication in some places in that correspondence can seem unacceptable for a dialogue between the media and the state, for which I apologize. I turned out not to be prepared to have my own space of work conversation, which should never be known to anyone and should not be known, to end up in the realm of glasnost [publicized] and would like to refrain from further public discussion of my manner of non-public communication.


Mobilog's last point raises the larger issue of the purpose of these leaks and the forces behind them. In this particular round, the net effect has been to make RBC look bad and undermine their credibility -- although RBC hasn't in fact removed or changed any controversial content. The effect is to put under the microscope a publication struggling with increasing state censorship -- but not the state minders. In this case, Aleksei Gromov, Putin's choice for managing ideology and media -- is not scrutinized.

Another point is that Shaltai Boltai claims to be engaged in the more sophisticated job of leaking rather than the cruder job of hacking -- yet in the case of Molibog, he didn't leak his own conversation and it's not clear if Prokupenko deliberately leaked it either, so "hack" seems to be the appropriate word for this coercive exposure.

Many of the Shaltai Boltai leaks focus on Prokupenko and another former official, Katya Potupchik, former press secretary for Rosmolodyozh, the youth agency, and the Nashi movement, the Kremlin-created youth movement), lower-level officials who worked for Vladimir Volodin. It seems convenient that the leaks happen after the officials in question were out of the Kremlin, leaving what goes on there today still a black box.

As has been seen with WikiLeaks, the hackers are quick to demand that no one call them hackers since they claim not to be directly related to "the technical part." Then the question becomes -- as it always is with the Russian media which is very much under state control or at least pressure -- which ruling faction is trying to use leaks to the media to discredit another government faction. Slon.ru has pointed out that nothing ever gets leaked from Gromov himself, although a member of Shaltoi Boltai whom he interviewed said some of the collective's members still worked in government.

The interview subject's answer to Slon.ru's question about when the group started receiving compromising materials sheds some light on what might be a faction fight inside the Kremlin:

Yes. We have long been present. But we have come to light only now. The publication of such materials is a method of influencing reality. For example, the identity of Mr. Strelkov provoked many questions and incomprehension. After our publications it became clear who is behind it and what personally drives Strelkov. Perhaps our information filled in several blanks including in people who make government decisions. It is possible that thanks to this, open state support of the separatists in the Donbass and further escalation managed to be avoided.


To this day, Western press argues over whether Strelkov was just working for the Federal Security Service (FSB), which he himself admits he did during the war in Chechnya, or also for the GRU; Spiegel.de recently deflected the GRU claim by saying "the truth is more complex" -- Strelkov worked for the FSB.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

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