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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Update: April 17, 2015

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Opposition Member Natalia Pelevina Interrogated, Named As Suspect In Bolotnaya Case And Placed Under Travel Restrictions

Ekho Moskvy reported tonight that Natalia Pelevina, a member of the opposition RPR-PARNAS party (which was co-chaired by Boris Nemtsov until his assassination in February) and the executive secretary of the Independent Human Rights Council of Russia, has been interrogated by the Investigative Committee on suspicion of "organising and financing mass unrest" at the Bolotnaya square demonstration on May 6, 2012.


The Interpreter

As Pelevina herself told Ekho Moskvy, a search was carried out at her home and she was questioned at the Investigative Committee.

All of her devices were confiscated, as a result of which , she was unable to contact her lawyer.

After the interrogation at the Investigative Committee, Pelevina was assigned the status of a suspect in the 'Bolotnaya case' and has been placed under travel resistrictions.

The first interrogation under notice at the Investigative Committee is scheduled for Monday. Pelevina stressed that she was not on Bolotnaya square on May 6, 2012, she was in an altogether different location with friends.

The Interpreter's editor-in-chief, Michael Weiss, notes death threats Pelevina said that she had received
-- Pierre Vaux
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Volunteer Fighters from the Urals Return Home from the LNR


Yelena Racheva, special correspondent for Novaya Gazeta, published a story today April 17 about Russian volunteers from the Urals who went to fight in the self-proclaimed "Lugansk People's Republic" and now have returned home.

The story has less drama that the experience of Dorzhi Batomunkuyev, the Buryat tank gunner-- the worst the fighters from the Urals suffered were pneumonia and ear aches but they weren't severely wounded and didn't see much battle.

The following is the translation by The Interpreter:

They returned quietly: without Cossack fraternization, prayers, greeters, and speeches. The train from Novorossiysk to Nizhny Tagil arrived in Yekaterinburg at 6:00 am. Several people in camouflage, covering their faces with hoods, dragged heavy rucksacks out of the reserved cars. Seeing journalists in the distance, they darted away into an underground passageway (after the celebratory send-off of the unit, the names and photographs of several of its participants ended up in a Ukrainian list of "Russian terrorists," after which the volunteers really grew to hate journalists). The rest, in plainclothes, simply melted away in the crowd.

[A send-off ceremony with Cossacks in attendance and speeches by Col. Igor Strelkov was reported last month--The Interpreter.]

 One month ago, on March 11, the detachment had been seen off to "Novorossiya," when the Minsk agreements about a ceasefire were already signed. Fifthy people from the contemporary Urals Volunteers Corps gathered by a monument to warriors of the volunteer tanks corps of the times of the Great Fatherland War.

The speeches, the brotherhood, the Cossack dance and the celebratory handing of identification cards was shown on all the channels, so that the volunteers doubted whether they'd get to Lugansk alive.

In fact, no problems came up even on the boarder: Aleksei Mozgovoy, commander of the Prizrak Brigade personally met the volunteers' train car on the platford in Rostov Region and drove them to the LNR.

Vladimir Yefimov, commander of the Urals Brigade, chairman of the Sverdlovsk Fund for Spetsnaz Veterans, ataman of the Isetsky Line of the Cossack Troops and former commander of the Black Wolves spetsnaz had made an agreement with Mozgovoy to send volunteers long before the signing of the ceasefire. He didn't cancel anything; he didn't believe in the peace.

Everything went wrong almost immediately. As the volunteers told me, at the LNR, the brigade was billeted in Komissarovka near Alchevsk in an abandoned, half-bombed-out prison. In photographs on the cell phones of the men from the Urals the walls have holes, there are bunk beds and broken tiles.

There was no war. The volunteers were sent to guard checkpoints, stand on guard, guard warehouses. They prepared their food themselves, they didn't see showers for a month, and it was cold inside the prison. One of the Urals men landed in the hospital with pneumonia, another got infected ears. The majority suffered from strep throat.

The locals treated them badly, Mozgovoy's fighters perceived outsiders with weapons even worse. They didn't give them any documents, they handed them old automatic rifles only when they were on duty, and what the volunteers refused to return, they tried to get back from them with force. Three times, the volunteers were disarmed.

They didn't get any pay in the brigade (and they hadn't counted on it -- "the collective farm is a volunteer affair," Yefimov immediately warned them). Sponsors bought them uniforms, equipment and one-way tickets. Before their departure, Yefimov thanked them publicly, and businessmen who had promised the entire brigade return tickets grew frightened at the publicity and possible sanctions. They didn't buy the tickets. As a result, the commander publicly announced a collection of money for the return tickets for the volunteers. Many called on the phone numbers published, but they were only from Ukraine -- they cursed and swore at them.

The day before departure, the brigade was deployed to the DNR [Donetsk People's Republic]. There, the treatment was better, there were two-person rooms, and combat duty.

The 3,000 for a reserved train seat had to be sent home by wives and mothers. Nineteen men left with Yefimov on Sunday, and another 10 left earlier; the rest remained in Donetsk. Some hadn't found money for the tickets, someone decided to remain and fight. Anna Kosheleva, a train official, told journalists that there were a total of 180 militia and "military cadres" on the train. I only saw three soldiers. According to them, they were returning to the base from the volunteers had come.

...Fifteen minutes after the arrival of the train, the station was already empty, only a belated film crew roamed around looking for people in camouflage, and one volunteer, Yura (his name is changed) from Khanty-Mansysk waiting for a train. Calm, hunched into his dark jacket, indistinguishable from passers-by, Yura, the former fireman and policeman was waiting for his army buddies, standing on the steps of the station, squinting in the April sun.

"At 6:00 am tomorrow I will go home. At 7:00 my wife will already go to work...She waited for me to come back from the army, from Chechnya she waited, now she is waiting again...I will see my daughter. The first thing I'll do at home is eat shishkebob, I couldn't stand to look at canned meat after a month," he said.

In a month, Yura plans to return to Donetsk. "I'll settle my affairs, earn some money -- and go. By myself, without the brigade. I have already seen everything, I know where I'm going. Now I'll go for a long time, likely. I will not bring an automatic rifle, enough. I'll go into fire-fighting, I worked as a fireman for a long time, people are always needed there. I don't want to fight any more, I'm going to help people."

Almost all the volunteers from Yefimov's brigade plan to return to the DNR immediately as soon as the ceasefire is over. And at the Sverdlovsk Fund for Spetsnaz Veterans, another 40 new recruits are preparing to be sent to the Donbass.

P.S. Report on 52 hours on the trains from Rostov to Yekaterinburg with the returning Urals volunteers will be in one of the next issues of Novaya Gazeta.


-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick