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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Update: June 1, 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.
Russian-backed Separatist Commander Givi Tries To Recruit Fighters at Airport; A Woman Tells Him Such 'Defenders' Are the Problem

A video was uploaded to YouTube on May 29 by the account Free Donbas which shows the Russian-backed separatist Somalia Battalion commander known as "Givi" (Mikhail Tolstykh) aggressively recruiting fighters at the airport.

We found this video was actually uploaded earlier on May 20 by Yaroslav Voyansky, whose Russian initials can be seen in the right-hand corner of the film. But Free Donbas has added the English sub-titles.

The video may have been intended as a propaganda reel in the genre of previous videos where Givi and other fighters attempt to shame men leaving on buses with their families to Russia or in other settings, complaining that they don't have enough recruits to protect the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR).

This particular video backfired, however, as the people talked back.

The video has subtitles that are more or less correct  but we have slightly edited the translation:

Woman: If it wasn't for your weapon, we'd tell you a thing or two.
Givi: What would you tell me?
Woman: If people like you...
Givi: What?
Woman: If people like you would stop defending us, and I don't understand from what! From whom!
Givi: Alright, let me take you to Kiev if that's what you want!
Woman: That's where I'm going!
Givi: Oh, great!
Woman: If you didn't "protect" us, they wouldn't have a reason to bomb us!
Givi: Alright, let me take you there!

Givi calls the men "cowards" for leaving the country for Russia. He demands to know why they aren't staying and fighting for the DNR. Givi's comrade demands to know why one man he confronts isn't digging trenches. Givi cries "He's a coward." The man says he has a bad back. A woman says that another is taking his son to Russia and then returning.

"Are you asking for help from Russia? Here, Russia has helped you!" he says, pointing to himself, in an acknowledgement that the "local self defense" is aided by Russia.

In the comments, some people dispute whether this person is in fact Givi. But he has an unmistakeable voice and lisp and his face can also be seen at 0:29.


-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Kremlin's 'Troll Farm' Representatives Fail to Show Up in Court in Response to Journalist's Lawsuit
The Kremlin troll farm in St. Petersburg -- one of the favorite stories of the media -- was back in the news again when a former employee, Ludmila Savchuk, told her story and said she wanted to take former employer to court for labor violations, Novaya Gazeta reported.

Russian internet 'troll' sues former employer

A former Russian internet "troll" hired to promote political views online is suing her ex-employer in an attempt to draw attention to the country's "information war" , a news report said on Friday.

View full page >
Jun 01, 2015 22:51 (GMT)

Paid as a Pro-Kremlin Troll: 'The Hatred Spills over into the Real World' - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Lyudmila Savchuk speaks quickly. She also uses two phones at the same time -- they've been ringing nonstop since a news agency ran a feature about Savchuk and her experiences working as a professional Kremlin Internet troll. Savchuk, who hails from St.

View full page >
Jun 01, 2015 22:52 (GMT)

As we reported last November and again in January 2015, this story has been covered in depth by Russian journalists. A company called Internet Research, said to be run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the "Kremlin chief" who provided catering to the Kremlin and also supplies paid pro-government commentary, had expanded to a new office in St. Petersburg.

Today, June 1, Savchuk had expected her suit would be reviewed at a hearing in Petrograd District Court in St. Petersburg, concerning failure to provide a labor contract and dismissal order, unpaid wages, and compensation for moral damages, said Novaya Gazeta.

Savchuk, a journalist and activist, says she had deliberately got a job at Internet Research in January in order to expose the troll farm. After her first published interview about the trolls' planting of commentary and blogs to counter Kremlin critics in March, she was fired, but not given back pay. She decided to start the lawsuit as part of an effort to expose the operation.

Originally, a hearing had been scheduled for June 23, but Savchuk's lawyer, Darya Sukhikh, asked for an accelerated proceeding and got the date moved to June 1, notifying the respondents. But the troll farm representatives then didn't show up in court, so they are now expecting them at a hearing on June 23.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Lavrov Says Leaking Of Blacklist Of EU Figures Is A 'Violation Of Ethical Standards'

Russia's state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reports that the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has confirmed the veracity of the "blacklist" of European politicians and officials barred from entry to the Russian Federation, but considers the leaking of the list to the media "a violation of ethical standards."

The Interpreter has translated an excerpt:

According to the Russian minister, the European Commission asked us to send them the blacklist of European Union citizens banned from entering the Russian Federation "exclusively for our attention in confidence, so that we in Brussels can inform the concerned parties of this list."

"We passed this list on at the request of the European Union on a confidential basis, and it immediately became the subject of leaks in the press, but the EU, which usually refrains from commenting on leaks, enthusiastically commented on it. So I too perceive this as a violation of ethical standards," said Lavrov.

The list, a copy of which was leaked on Saturday, contains 89 names.

Amongst those are: the general secretary of the EU Council, Uwe Corsepius; the former British deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg; the former Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg; the former minister for EU enlargement , Stefan Fule; German MEP Rebecca Harms; and the director-general of MI5, Andrew Parker.

-- Pierre Vaux

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Gay Parade, Anti-War Protest Broken Up by Ultrarightists; Police Make Arrests

Perhaps it is the warmer weather or perhaps it is the increasing number of things to protest, but there were a number of liberal demonstrations in Moscow over the weekend with violent opposition from ultrarightist forces in some cases, ending in arrest of the demonstrators.

The annual gay parade in Moscow on May 30 ended in arrests and sentences to 10 days in jail including for the organizer, Nikolai Alekseyev and also two other LGBT activists, Vadim Grizdneva and Yevgeniya Gerasimova, Novaya Gazeta reported citing OVDInfo, the police monitoring group. The are charged with "insubordination to the lawful instruction of police officers" under Art. 19-3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses for holding an unauthorized demonstration. Alekseyev also faces additional charges for organizing an unauthorized rally (Art. 20-2).

About 20 others arrested in connection with the LGBT parade were let go.

Alekseyev came to the mayor's office on a quadrocycle and lit sparklers.  Several others stood with a banner at the monument to Yury Dolgoruky, founder of Moscow, nearby.

The ultrarightist Russian Orthodox activist Dmitry Tsorionov, who goes by the name Enteo and heads a group called Bozhya Volya ("God's Will"), led an attack on the gay demonstrators with his supporters, who wore St. George ribbons and chanted "Christ has risen". They pushed Alekseyev to the ground, then dragged him along the street by his hands and feet, and punched the other demonstrators. They also threw eggs at the LGBT activists.

In this photo a Russian Orthodox activist slaps a gay demonstrator in the face.

Photo by Philip Kireev.

Translation: Tverskaya District Court declared me guilty under Art. 19-3 and jailed me for 10 days. The trial was a farce!

Translation: According to @n_alexeyev, during the scuffle at the mayor's office his finger was possibly broken!

Alekseyev called an ambulance but the police did not let it through, Novaya Gazeta reported earlier.

Enteo was detained as he and another activist were attempting to rip an LGBT flag, but then let go by police after a "preventive talk."


Photo by Philip Kireev.

For more photos of the demonstration and arrests see Kireev's LiveJournal blog.

As can be seen in this video uploaded by Igor Shevchuk titled "Fight Between Gays and Russian Orthodox Activists," several dozen men with backpacks charged the gay demonstrators, then police pull some of them away.

At another picket by the movement Solidarity against the war in Ukraine, Anti-Maidan activists were on hand to beat the demonstrators, throw eggs at them, and also throw zelyonka, a green indelible disinfectant.

Василий Петров - Пикет против политики Путина (войны) по... | Facebook

Пикет против политики Путина (войны) по отношению к Украине. Сухаревская 31.05.2015 г.

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Jun 01, 2015 21:34 (GMT)
Translation: Vasily Petrov - Picket against Putin's policy (war) regarding Ukraine on Sukharevskaya Street, 31.05.2015.

Translation: And another three SERBs or NOD [National Liberation Movement].

NOD is headed by Federal Council member Yevgeny Fyodorov and is an ultrarightist group which supports Russia's war against Ukraine and believes in conspiracy theories, including that the CIA has already taken over Russia and runs the opposition.

ROD-SERB  is not related to Serbia; "ROD" are the first letters of the words for "Russian Liberation Movement" and SERB are the first letters of the words for "South East Radical Bloc" (see their Facebook page.) It was founded by a retired actor from Dnepropetrovsk who goes by the name Gosha Tarasevich (whose real name is Igor Beketov) who recruited fighters for the Donbass last summer and supported Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin).

ROD-Serb has been at pains to make the distinction between their group and NOD. SERB was involved in clearing away the Nemtsov memorial on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, and putting up this sign:

"ROD SERB states: Some find it symbolic that Nemtsov was murdered at the walls of the Kremlin, but we find it symbolic that at that moment a garbage truck is the clean-up of the garbage of Russia."

Nikolai Starikov of the Anti-Maidan movement has publicly disassociated from SERB apparently because they do not want to be associated with the murder of Nemtsov, says Vedomosti.

Translation: NOD got zelyonka on the square, and glass from broken bottles, and eggs.

Anastasia Zotova posted a video to Facebook of Tarasevich spraying pepper in the face of activist Mikhail Kriger:

Translation: now the Solidarity activists, covered with zelyonka, are cleaning up after NOD their stinking shards.

Translation: Now, as in the Donbass, there are "little green men" going around Moscow who can beat up anybody, and nothing will happen to them for that. Lawlessness.

Another protest concerned a new law permitting the use of physical force on prisoners. Ludmila Alexeyeva, 87, the chair of the oldest human rights group in Russia, the Moscow Helsinki Group, was among those holding up signs.

Translation: A picket by Ludmila Alexeyeva against the law that allows the use of physical force against prisoners. Sign: "I Oppose the 'Sadists' law'.

Veteran human rights activist Sergei Kovalev, former political prisoner and former deputy, also came to protest the law:


Photo via

Families with many children also conducted a picket, Novaya Gazeta reported; these are people not associated with the organized opposition.


Photo by Pelagiya Belyakova. Signs: "Multi-children families are victims of pre-election deception by party of power?!" and "Bureaucrat? You promised? Fulfill it! Or let's go, good-bye."

The demonstrators signed a petition to the mayor's office.

One of the picketers, Tatyana Skvortsova, a mother of three, told Novaya Gazeta that in 2012, after the president decreed that better housing should be provided for large families, officials collected statements from the families and promised them subsidies. Some immediately got a payment for 3 months, and then nothing after that in 2013.

Skvortsova said that they changed the rules and put all people who were to get such benefits in one line, which means they wait longer for apartments.


-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Video Shows USS Ross Buzzed By Russian Fighter Jet On May 30 During Dueling Drills

Russia may not be breaking international law with maneuvers like this one, but that does not make them any less dangerous.

The US Mission to NATO has tweeted out a video which it says shows a Russian jet buzzing the USS Ross in international waters in the Black Sea yesterday:

"USS Ross (DDG 71) observes the overflight by a Russian SU 24 aircraft while both were operating in international waters and airspace. Ross continued on her mission after observing the aircraft return to base. At no time did Ross act aggressively nor did she deviate from her planned operations. The conduct of her crew has been and continues to be professional. Ross' Sailors observed that the SU 24 carried no weapons - wings were "clean." 

The U.S. Navy operates ships in the Black Sea on a routine basis, consistent with the Montreux Convention and International Law."

The Russian media took the opportunity to brag that the actions of this aircraft forced the American Navy ship to change course, but this story was denied by the US Navy.

Stars and Stripes reports:

Russia’s state-run media agency RIA Novosti reported Saturday that the country’s navy scrambled Su-24 fighter jets when the American guided-missile destroyer USS Ross allegedly approached Russian territorial waters after departing port in Romania. It quoted an unnamed source as saying the ship’s crew was acting “provocatively and aggressively.”
According to the report, the ship changed course after detecting the aircraft.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa denied that account in its statement, saying the ship was operating in international waters and never altered operations. The release said the ship observed the Su-24 aircraft in routine operations but did not interact with them and that ship crewmembers acted professionally.

“Ross continued on her mission after observing the aircraft return to base,” the statement read. “At no time did Ross act aggressively nor did she deviate from her planned operations.”

This incident occurs at a time when NATO is holding pre-announced drills in the Baltics and Poland.

AFP reports:

More than 6,000 troops from 13 NATO countries are participating in the Saber Strike 2015 drills in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, all EU and NATO members.

"This is one of the biggest exercises in Lithuania since we joined NATO" in 2004, Major General Almantas Leika, commander of Lithuania's land forces, told reporters in Vilnius.

"The huge allied presence demonstrates solidarity with the countries of this region," he said, adding that Lithuania is hosting the command centre for the drills.

Last week the Russian military held unannounced snap drills which, according to the Russian state propaganda outlet Sputnik, included the movement of nuclear-capable Iksander Missiles to Kaliningrad and the nuclear-capable Tu-22M3 (Backfire) strategic bombers to Crimea. Sputnik reports:

“Fighter and bomber aviation is to be redeployed to the Kaliningrad Region, and ground troops on the Baltic will be reinforced with Iskander missile complexes in the Western Military District that will be delivered on large landing ships from the Baltic Fleet,” the source said.

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin gave the order to bring Russia's Northern Fleet, separate units of the Western Military District and the Airborne Troops to full alert in snap combat readiness exercises. The drills involve a total of 38,000 troops, 3,360 military vehicles, 110 aircraft and helicopters, 41 ships and 15 submarines.

NATO condemned the snap drills, branding them as dangerous since unannounced drills could trigger misunderstandings or even accidents:

"We urge Russia not these kinds of snap exercises. Every nation has the right to exercise its forces, also Russia, but they should do it in a more transparent and predictable way to avoid any misunderstandings," Secretary-General Stoltenberg to CBS News Chief White House correspondent Major Garrett.

On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry ordered a "surprise combat readiness inspection" of its air forces. More than 12,000 servicemen and 250 aircraft are taking part in the exercises over Southern Russia. In recent months, the Kremlin has conducted several unannounced air defense exercises near NATO-member airspace in the Baltics.

-- James Miller