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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: May 18, 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
New Evidence Suggests Russian Millionaire Was Murdered To Silence Him

Russian millionaire Alexander Perepilichnyy was found dead in his home in the UK in 2012. He fled Russia in 2009 and became a whistleblower, revealing information about how a company called Hermitage Capital Management was used by members of the Russian police and various tax officials to steal $220 million in Russian tax money. 

Hermitage's CEO William Browder was expelled from Russia. Hermitage's accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, was thrown in prison after he was accused of the fraud he himself helped exposed. Magnitsky complained of severe stomach pains while in prison but was not given medical attention. He died, and his family says he was beaten -- and effectively murdered -- by his captors.

Perepilichnyy's death has always remained suspicious, but new evidence suggests that he may have been poisoned.  The Independent reports:

At a pre-inquest hearing it emerged that fresh testing by a leading poisons expert has revealed the presence of a chemical in a sample of the stomach contents of Mr Perepilichnyy which is strongly associated with a lethal plant toxin known to be used by Russian contract killers.

Lawyers for police acknowledged in a hearing at Surrey Coroner's Court in Woking that the presence of the chemical "ion" was a "cause for very serious concern".

Further tests are now being urgently carried out to establish whether the chemical "calling card" in the stomach contents can be used to show that Mr Perepilichnyy must have swallowed a deadly plant poison shortly before his death.

The court heard that the substance was extremely rare in nature and could only be derived naturally from five sources - all of them forms of the poisonous plant Gelsemium,  otherwise known as "heartbreak grass" and a known tool of assassins from Russia and China, where the most toxic version of the shrub - Gelsemium elegans - grows on remote hillsides.

Hermitage CEO William Browder previously described the importance of documents provided to him by Perepilichny . BBC reports:

There has also been no action taken against the main group of people accused of carrying out the fraud itself, which is why Mr Browder claims the documents provided by Alexander Perepilichny were so important in pushing forward his investigation.

He says the documents allegedly show how some of those he has accused of the fraud transferred around €7 million (£6.2m) to bank accounts in Switzerland and used part of the money to buy luxury properties.
"We [already] had all the evidence to probably indict and convict 60 people inside Russia," says Mr Browder.

"But the Russian police and Russian authorities covered up the entire system. So we were looking for evidence to do something outside of Russia.

"What Perepilichny provided us with was absolutely lock-tight documentary evidence which allowed for assets to be frozen and a major international money-laundering investigation to be launched by the Swiss police and the Swiss prosecutor."

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Russian Social Media Entrepreneur Pavel Durov Says He's 'A Long Way From Moscow'

The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
Wedding of Chechen Girl, 17, and Police Chief, 57, Takes Place with Kadyrov's Blessing

The Russian independent media and social media networks were filled with discussions of what appeared to be a coerced wedding of a 17-year-old Chechen girl to a 57-year-old village chief of police this week.

As we reported last week, the story sparked enormous controversy as first the wedding was denied, then Russian officials seemed to indicative their disapproval of underage marriages, then in the end Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov gave the union his blessing and the marriage went head.

Under Russian law, a person must be 18 years of age to marry, but 16- and 17-year-old minors may obtain permission to marry from local officials. The age differs from region to region and is 17 in Chechnya.

Many commentators asked why the parents of Luisa Goylabiyeva, the bride, known as Khedi, gave their consent and their was concern that the family was under pressure from authorities after Khedi's girlfriends wrote appeals to Novaya Gazeta to draw attention to her plight. Nazhud Guchigov was reportedly married before and it was not clear if he had obtained a divorce.

Many people posted a picture from the wedding of the downcast Chechen bride, who looked exactly like the woman in a famous Russian 19th painting by the Russian artist Vasily Pukirev titled Unequal Marriage.

Translation: There is nothing new under the moon.

The story was emblematic for many of the sense that Chechnya runs under its own laws and doesn't heed the central authorities, as the Daily Beast's Anna Nemtsova reported.

Pavel Astakhov, the children's rights ombudsman made multiple and contradictory sentences and in the end refused to condemn the marriage and said it was a private affair.

Kadyrov posted a clip of himself on Instagram dancing the Lezginka, the traditional Chechen dance. In this clip, he looks very plump, which is unusual given that he constantly works out and posts pictures of himself at the gym looking very fit. It may be that he is wearing a bullet-proof vest at this public event.

Ramzan-Lezginka.jpg

The YouTube account Grozny posted an unofficial video of the wedding that shows that Kadyrov's chief of staff, Magomed Daudov, who is known as "Lord," took the bride by the hand and brought her to the table to register the marriage.



Another video showed that he led her out of the marriage bureau.

Yevgeniya Albats, the editor of New Times, has commented that the spectacle of this marriage, which has held the Russian public riveted for weeks, seems to be both emblematic of the failure of the central authorities to achieve the rule of law in Chechnya and also a distraction from issues like the lack of progress on the Nemtsov murder investigation as we reported last week (translation by The Interpreter):

I sincerely do not understand why everyone is so agitated regarding the wedding of a 17-year-old girl and the head of a district police precinct in Chechnya. That the laws of the Russian Federation don't operate in Chechnya? And where do they operate? That the girl was given away in marriage as a second wife, without taking much interest in her own wishes? I'm afraid that there are numerous such stories in the national enclaves. Thankfully she's not 13, but at least a little older. That Chechnya is a Sultanate, whree there is one law - the law of the sultan to punish and pardon? That's also yesterday's news. Or is this a plant, in order to forgot quickly about Geremeyev, the quarrel between Kadyrov and the federal law-enforcers and the investigation of the murder of Boris Nemtsov?

Ruslan Geremeyev, a member of the Sever Battalion of Chechen Interior Troops has been reported as a suspected organizer of the murder of Boris Nemtsov; he refused to be questioned by the Investigative Committee and is believed to have left Chechnya.

-- 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
Police Disperse Anti-War Demonstration at Togliatti Army Base Where Captured POWs Are From

This morning, May 18, there was a brief anti-war demonstration for 20 minutes in front of the checkpoint of the former Togliatti Military Academy, now the 3rd Brigade of the GRU [Russian military's Main Intelligence Directorate], BBC Russian Service reports.

About 9 people came up to the checkpoint and began shouting anti-war slogans and trying to unfurl posters. The activists demanded that Russian forces be withdrawn from Ukraine.

Police arrived quickly and broke up the action, although they made no arrests. The demonstrators declined to give their names to the press.

The action appears to have been motivated by a broadcast by Ukrainian television in which POWs said to be captured by Ukrainian forces were from the 3rd GRU spetsnaz brigade. Their commander is reported to be Yevgeny Yerofeyev.

The soldiers, who were drafted into the army then later made contracted fighters said during interrogations that they were from this brigade. Ukrainian military officials held up a Vintorez, a  type rifle only given to GRU units.

The Russian Defense Ministry and 3rd Brigade had no comment.

Journalists in Togliatti told the BBC that they have had been given an unofficial warning by the government not to cover the issue of the Togliatti POWs.

-- 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
The Kremlin Says State Department Visits To Moscow Are Proof That Relations Are Normalizing

Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, is in Moscow to meet with high-ranking members of the Russian government, and for the second time in a week the Kremlin is hailing the State Department's actions as signs of improving ties between the United States and Russia. RFE/RL reports:

The State Department has said Nuland would be in Moscow on May 17-18 to discuss with senior government officials next steps in the implementation of a cease-fire deal in eastern Ukraine.

The visit comes after Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week.

Asked on May 18 if the visit was a sign of improving ties, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, "Yes, when President Putin was meeting with Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry... it was mentioned that a closer dialogue ... was needed."

Nuland held separate talks with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and veteran human rights campaigner Lyudmila Alekseyeva on May 18.

It's not clear whether senior levels of the U.S. State Department are trying to send this message to Russia, however. Kerry's visit was timed to miss the May 9 Victory Day celebration which commemorated the defeat of the Nazis in World War II -- a decision Russia said was a snub. And yet, Kerry's trip made headlines anyway, and because of his comments condemning hypothetical Ukrainian military action, Kerry raised the prospect of a growing gap between the United States and Ukraine. 

On the other hand, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, and NATO Supreme Commander and U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove have sent clear messages through the media that they believe that the Russian-backed separatists are belligerent and don't want peace, and that Russia is preparing yet another wave of invasion into Ukraine:

But while things are heating up in Ukraine, one has to wonder whether the different messages coming out of senior officials in the State Department represents a change in direction or just mistakes in strategy. Either way, the Kremlin is excited by the fact that the White House, intentionally or unintentionally, is sending signals that diplomacy is working and the relationship between Moscow and D.C. is warming.
-- James Miller
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