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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Update: May 27, 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 Journalist Kara-Murza, Hospitalized with Kidney Failure is 'Better,' Says Friend

Andrei Bystrov, a friend of Vladimir Kara-Murza, the opposition writer and federal coordinator of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's organization Open Russia, has given a report that Kara-Murza is doing better.

TV reported at 21:59 Moscow time (translation by The Interpreter):

"The main thing is that he is better. Because reading this morning's information from LifeNews, which evidently gave the desirable for the real, when they said he was in a coma, I myself was in a shock. But now he is much better."

The information that Kara-Murza was in a coma came not just from LifeNews but associates of Kara-Murza who said they had spoken to his father. But his father, Vladimmir Kara-Murza, Sr. then refuted the rumors in a statement to the independent web site

Bystrov reiterated that Kara-Murza, Jr. was diagnosed with "severe kidney failure" which was caused by some kind of non-alcoholic "intoxication" which caused hypoxia. He added:

"His heart is in order, therefore in the near future he will get on his feet. Today they are beginning to do dialysis procedures on him -- this is a cleansing of the blood external to the kidneys. Conditionally, the critical period is passed and a positive dynamic is now observed."

There was no further information on what might have caused his kidney failure.

According to a report by Ekho Moskvy at 21:02 citing a doctor who spoke to Interfax, Kara-Murza, Jr. is said to be in serious but stable condition. He did not know the reason for his kidney failure but said that it was "likely pancreatitis and double pneumonia," said Interfax.

There was no corroboration of this report yet from family or friends. But his father did tell Ekho Moskvy that he ruled out any deliberate poisoning.

As we reported earlier, Kara-Murza, Jr. was hospitalized in Moscow's Pirogova City Hospital No. 1 after complaining of feeling ill while visiting the office of RAPSI, the legal organization. Last Saturday May 23, he had traveled to Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, to organize the first in an Open Russia lecture series with Prof. Andrei Zubov, who was expelled from Moscow University last year for protesting the annexation of the Crimea.

Kara-Murza is a Russian journalist and television host who was also a member of the opposition's Coordinating Council and a member of the RPR-Parnas party, which the late Boris Nemtsov co-chaired.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
IRS Says Hack Which Stole $50 Million In Tax Returns Originated In Russia
A massive data breech at the Internal Revenue Service has allowed $50 million in tax returns to be fraudulently filed by thieves, and now the media is reporting that the hack originated in Russia:

CNN reports:

The IRS believes that a major cyber breach that allowed criminals to steal the tax returns of more than 100,000 people originated in Russia, two sources briefed on the data theft tell CNN.

On Tuesday, the Internal Revenue Service announced that organized crime syndicates used personal data obtained from elsewhere to access tax information, which they then used to file $50 million in fraudulent returns.

CNBC adds that the IRS believes that these were professional hackers:

The IRS said the thieves accessed a system called "Get Transcript." In order to access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address.

The agency's commissioner, John Koskinen, said on a Tuesday conference call that the hacking was conducted in an organized manner, and that there were about 200,000 attempts to illegally access information—about half of those were successful.

"We're confident these are not amateurs, these are actually organized crime syndicates that not only we but everyone in the financial industry are dealing with," Koskinen said.

-- James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Grozny TV Releases Film to Counter Open Russia's 'The Family'; Singles Out Opposition, Human Rights Activists as 'Liars'

Grozny, the Chechen State TV station, declared a film by Mikhail Khodorkovsky's organization Open Russia called The Family to be "a fake" and "a lie," reports.

Grozny TV dubs the film a kinolyap, a word used in Russian similar to "blooper" which means a technical mistake or failure in logic or timing in a movie.

Open Russia's film, called The Family, details the allegations of corrupt dealings and abusive police responsible for the kidnapping, torture and disappearance of numerous people in Chechnya.

After The Family was released on May 25, Ramzan Kadyrov fired back with a video clip of his own posted on Instagram showing himself running in the mountains surrounded by vans in camouflage, then firing off a machine gun. He said his film, which hasn't been announced previously, was called "Whoever Doesn't Understand Will Get It."

That suggested that there was no such film and he made it up in order to threaten Khodorkovsky and those involved in his film in Open Russia, a civic movement which has held a number of critical public events in Russia and supported opposition candidates. Stanislav Belkovsky said in a statement published by Open Russia yesterday:

"There is no doubt that the video clip filmed today on assignment from Ramzan Kadyrov is a collection of indirect threats to all creators of the film The Family."

Clearly,  there is no Hollywood film at all; this entire video clip means essentially one thing: whoever hasn't understood that it is better not to mess with me, Ramzan -- will soon understand."

The film Grozny TV has broadcast -- a different one than what Kadyrov mention put together in just two days -- is 25:08 minutes, about as long as The Family. It purports to debunk Open Russia's film, and along the way, by singling out some of the people associated with it and claiming they are paid liars, is making another round of threats.

Kadyrov's veiled threats were taken more seriously today when an associate of Khodorkovsky's, Vladimimr Kara-Murza, Jr., the federal coordinator for Open Russia, was rushed to the hospital with suspected poisoning. He has currently been diagnosed with severe kidney failure.

Kara-Murza, Jr., age 33, had not previously had any health problems but complained that he felt ill while in the offices of RAPSI, the Russian legal organization. He is currently receiving dialysis treatments and is expected to recover.

On May 23, Kara-Murza had organized a lecture for Prof. Andrei Zubov in Kazan on behalf of Open Russia. He then returned to Moscow, where friends said in the last few days he had appeared healthy.

The Grozny TV film cites Grigory Shvedov, editor of Caucasian Knot, who in The Family described the Kadyrov army as "punitive forces":

"The Chechen forces are first of all punitive, that is, they are not at all professional military as they try to represent them to us, they are not part of the system of law-enforcement of Russia. They are the Oprichnina."

But the narrator objects, Chechnya's troops received a prize of $250,000 at a world championship in Jordan with they said was testimony to their prowess. Archival footage of the Chechen forces taken in Jordan is shown with their prizes; they are all wearing sweat-shirts with a picture of Putin in dark glasses, and shout "Allah Akbar."

The narrator denies this as "fiction" and says footage of the army was colored red to make it appear more frightening. The narrator says acknowledges that 45 homes of relatives of terrorists killed in a gunfight in Grozny were burned down -- more than human rights activists themselves have reported -- but denies The Family's claim that this was done under director orders from Kadyrov. In fact Kadyrov had called for retaliation and the razing of homes on his Instagram account on December 12, 2014.

I officially announce that the time has come to an end when it was said that the parents do not answer for the acts of their sons or daughters. In Chechnya, they will answer! If a father sees that his son has embarked on the path of terror and Wahhabism, let him surrender him to the authorities or stop him by other means before he sheds blood. I could absolutely care less about the opinion of any persons or so-called human rights organizations silently observing the murder by NATO planes and millions of Muslims in Syria and Iraq by militants trained by the West. If a militant in Chechnya commits murder of a policeman or other person, the family of the militant will be deported from Chechnya without the right to return, and their home razed together with the foundation. Everything should know this before aiming a weapon at a police officer or other person. I will not let anyone shed blood here.

Grozny TV's film cites a poll that found Chechens to be among the happiest on earth, and also featured Iosif Kobzon, who said that he was impressed not only by the reconstruction of architecture but the peaceful co-existence of Muslims and Russian Orthodox believers in Chechnya, where Russian Orthodox churches had been built.

Kobzon chastised Khodorkovsky making the film:

"What right does Khodorkovsky have, who after all recently asked for mercy, asked for mercy to be forgiven and released, and he was released due to his ill mother."

"Chechnya never wanted to leave fraternal Russia and does not intend to leave," said Kobzon.

The Grozny TV film also claims that The Family was "silent" about the "known facts" of the murder of Boris Nemtsov. It then proceeded to include a clip from LifeNews, claiming that Nemtsov's companion Anna Duritskaya, with him at the time of the murder, had thrown away her cell phone at the scene of the crime and that she had supposedly been "recruited by Yury Bereza, commander of Dnepro 1" who "acquainted her with Nemtsov 3 years ago." This story has long since been dropped by Russian tabloids.

The Grozny film also includes the story -- never corroborated -- of the finding of the body of Aslan Alkhanov, who was claimed to be part of a pro-Kiev Chechen plot against Nemtsov also involving Russia's favorite boogey-man, Dmitro Yarosh, head of the ultrarightist organization Right Sector with whom Alkhanov was said to meet in early February at a training camp for Ukrainian fighters. The NGO Canvas, founded by Serbian activist Srja Popovic, often blamed for the spread of "color revolutions" is also implicated.

This hypothesis for Nemtsov's murder appeared in several alternative pro-Kremlin papers soon after his murder, and then was dropped after arrests were made of 5 pro-Kadyrov Chechens.

But the Grozny TV version not only revives it, it implicates George Friedman, founder of the US consulting firm Stratfor, in the far-fetched murder conspiracy by flashing his name and picture on the screen. Grozny TV claims that with the murder of Alkhanov by unknown persons, "the only person who could name the specific names" of who ordered Nemtsov's murder was "removed."

The film also blasts human rights activists who portray Chechnya negatively and shows footage of a press conference held by Igor Kalyapin, the lawyer who heads the Joint Mobile Group of human rights activists in Chechnya, about the burning down of the homes. The narrative claims Kalyapin received millions of rubles from the European Union to denigrate Chechnya. Supporters of Kadyrov who got into this press conference in fact pelted Kalyapin and his colleagues with eggs, although this part was not shown.

The film also raises claims often made by and Kremlin trolls about threats supposedly made by Khodorkovsky against Vladimir Petukhov, the mayor of Nefeyugansk who was killed in 1998. Yet Khodorkovsky was never charged with this crime even within the manipulated Russian justice system.

At the end, Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst and deputy of the State Duma, comments:

"We see in Kiev, why the coup d'etat was successful, was that there was no one to break up the gang of ultranationalists and neo-Nazis who caused EuroMaidan. But in Russia, there is someone. The information strikes against Ramzan Kadyrov is part of a preparation of a color revolution. Any decent person now who defends the interests of the country, the interests of the sovereignty of the Russian Federation is subject to such an information attack."

Interestingly, the film ends with a clip from The Family showing all the numbers of troops of Kadyrov's "personal army" and doesn't dispute them.

(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for Modern Russia (IMR), funded by Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of Mikhail Khodrokovsky. Kara-Murza, Jr. also worked at IMR before taking up the position at Open Russia.)

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Says It Has 'Nothing to Hide' But Still Slams US Legal Action Against FIFA Officials
As we reported earlier, Russia has said it has "nothing to hide" as a Swiss and U.S. investigation into wrongdoing by FIFA officials moves forward. As we pointed out, however, the Russian market did not seem to think that Russia would get away so easily, and there are plenty of people who are questioning the FIFA decision to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia, especially in light of these new investigations:

Despite having "nothing to hide" Russia has still criticized the American inquiry. AFP reports:

"Without going into the details of the accusations... this is clearly another case of illegal exterritorial use of US law," said a statement on the website of the Russian foreign ministry.

"We hope that this will not in any way be used to cast a shadow on the international football organisation as a whole and its decisions.

"Once again we are calling on Washington to stop attempts to make justice far beyond its borders using its legal norms and to follow the generally accepted international legal procedures," it said.

Interestingly, only one week before the raid on FIFA, U.S. Senator John McCain called on FIFA to move the 2018 World Cup:

That prompted this reaction from one pro-Kremlin news outlet:
And now the Russian government is throwing allegations that the FIFA investigation is part of a Western media and political campaign against Russia:

The LifeNews headline Seddon links to says, "Draganov Accuses Media of Artificial Incitement of FIFA Scandal."

LifeNews, a television station close to Russian intelligence and law-enforcement, also ran a story headlined, "Corrupt Payment to FIFA Made Through American Banks."

LifeNews cites Valery Chukhray, a consultant to FIFA on Eastern Europe and Central Asia, who said that the investigation is "no less interested in US FIFA directors than those of other countries," since the corrupt payments went through US banks.

Chukhray said that the current detentions are an extension of an earlier investigation which was not publicized. Information was given to American investigators after an American official conducted an inspection. "All of this indicates the interest of the USA in this affair," he said.

In an analysis of the impact of this recent news on both Qatar and Russia, Politico suggests that there may be real consequences for Russia:

The only thing certain about what’s coming next for the organizations is that it will include more revelations far more explosive than this morning’s news – revelations that might jeopardize the next two World Cup finals, exacerbate the political crisis between east and west, and lead to dozens of potentially ruinous corporate lawsuits. Much of the evidence for the current indictments appear to come from Chuck Blazer, the American former general secretary of CONCACAF — soccer’s governing body for North and Central America — who is current gravely ill with colon cancer in a US hospital.

An explosive New York Daily News investigation claims that Blazer reached a plea bargain with the FBI and IRS and turned super grass over bribery allegations as well as unpaid taxes on $11 million of undeclared income. He was sent to the 2012 London Olympics with a wire, where he recorded dozens of conversations, including those with leading Russian sports officials. It has already been announced that Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s sports minister, who is also a member of FIFA’s powerful executive committee, will be questioned by Swiss prosecutors over allegations linked to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids. He denies Russia was involved in any wrongdoing.

Even before the raid, Congress was braced to vote on whether Israel should be suspended from FIFA over continued movement restrictions and arrests of Palestine players (since 1998, Palestine has been officially recognized by FIFA). The issue was of sufficient seriousness for both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority that Blatter held last minute face to face meetings with both Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas.


-- James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Says S-300s To Be Delivered To Iran After Resolution of Court Dispute

The Russian Foreign Ministry says it will deliver the S-300 anti-missile system to Iran after resolving the court dispute about failure to fulfill the previous contract, Vzglyad reported, citing TASS.

Sergei Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister, made the following statement in an interview with Rossiya-24 TV (translation by The Interpreter):
"The contract is being amended. It was signed in 2007, during that time, a lot of water has gone under the bridge, especially since it's a question of an extremely complex and politically-fraught issue."

Vzglyad added a further comment from Ryabkov, citing RIA Novosti:
"It is precisely from the perspective of adaptation of that agreement to the new realities that now a certain negotiations process is under way.
Aside from that, I must note that the non-fulfillment of the contract of 2007 in its day led to the advancement by the Islamic Republic of Iran of claims directed at the Russian government in international arbitrarion court. That problem also must be somehow gotten under control, it must be settled. And we will also be involved in that. If you want to ask me now when the practical fulfillment of the contract will take place, I will answer that as soon as these issues are settled."

Recently, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian said the Islamic Republic is expecting delivery of the S-300s in the very near future.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick