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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 3, 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.
30 Detained After Attack on Human Rights Office in Grozny; Irate Relatives of Murder Victim Dispersed Amid New Threats from Kadyrov
In an unusual action, at least 30 people were detained by police after a violent attack on a human rights office today in Grozny, Novaya Gazeta reports, citing Interfax.
"According to Interfax, Apti Alaudinov, deputy interior minister said the detainees were taken to the city interior ministry [police]. An investigative group is working on establishing the degree of responsibility each one has in the smashing of the office today."

Earlier, activists reported that police did not come when they called. They are not certain how people came to be detained, or who they are. Memorial Society Human Rights Center said up to 40 were detained.

Usually attacks on human rights activists and their offices or homes go unattended by police and today's assault seemed no difference.

The attack grew out of an action today originally called by the government to protest the "information war" against Chechnya and Russia from the West, but morphed into a demonstration against the killing of a Chechen suspect by Stavropol police. There were reports that the official action was cancelled, yet some people assembled anyway. That may be why the police are acting.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov had an explanation on his Instagram account.

The Interpreter has translated the post:

"Today in a square at the Press Building, journalists and civic organizations held an authorized rally. During the rally, they were joined by some relatives of Dambulat Dadayev, killed in Grozny by Stavropol Interior Ministry officers. They had come from Nadterechny District to join the rally, along with members of local human rights groups. At someone's initiative, the rally participants headed toward the building where the office of the Joint Mobile Group of the Nizhny Novgorod Committee Against Torture is located. According to unverified information, the initiative came from staff of the Committee.

But no one met with the demonstrators. And to the question, why don't you defend the rights of the mother of the murdered Dadayev, they shouted that they don't defend murders. That's what eyewitnesses claim. Subsequently, unidentified persons damaged the office furniture. As a result of measures taken, no violence was allowed against anyone. Shamil Kutsayev, the head of Nadterechny District, who was immediately summoned, led people away.

The relatives and participants of the action later went to the Investigative Department, where acting head Maj. Gen. of Justice Sergei Sokolov immediately went to meet them. He, on behalf of the law-enforcement agencies of Chechnya, expressed condolences to the mother of the murder victim. Sokolov assured the mother and her lawyer of the objectivity of the pre-investigation probe under way. He emphasized that all efforts would be made so that the inspection will be thorough and exhaustive. After that, Dadayev's relatives and other participants in the action went their ways.

An analysis of these events give grounds to make the conclusion that the officers of the Committee deliberately provoked an incident, having the purpose to gain fame once again in the world press, and become recipients of new American grants. We are concerned that these people, who have no relationship to human rights activity, are systematically creating a nervous atmosphere, trying to provoke mass disorders in Grozny. Meanwhile, I repeat once again, that no one is allowed to violate the law, and law-enforcement agencies will provide fundamental evaluations after the relevant check of all the circumstances of the events."

Meanwhile, the human rights activists said they hadn't taken part in the rally, and the demonstrators came to them, then some of them came in masks to smash their office.

Dmitry Utukin, a staff member of the Committee Against Torture, refuted Kadyrov's claims in an interview with the radio station Govorit Moskva, reported. He said the attack had to have been planned, as the marauders had power drills with them (translation by The Interpreter):

"On the video survillance camers, it can be seen how they could not break in the door, or break down the walls and get into the office...People in masks deliberately destroyed property with crow-bars. They came with power drills. This was not spontaneous."

Kadyrov's convoluted response seems to be designed both to threaten the human rights activists and blame them for an incident that in fact was an attack on them, even as he attempts to deal with the reality of a spontaneous demonstration not planned or controlled by his personal troops -- until the police managed to talk Dadayev's relatives into going home.

Kadyrov had earlier tried to get the federal Investigative Committee to open a criminal case into what he characterized as the unlawful shooting of Dadayev, but a case briefly opened was quickly closed, and only an internal inspection is supposedly being made. This puts Kadyrov in the position of both facing grassroots pressure which in part is a result of his own inflammatory rhetoric, and facing pressure from Moscow to do nothing.

The result is that he has blamed the human rights movement, yet also evidently intervened to prevent further violence to their office -- even as their fate is not known.

This is the second attack on the office; it was set fire on December 13, 2014 after the human rights activists challenged Kadyrov's order to raze the homes of terrorists killed in the attack on the Press Building that month.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Opposition Journalist Kara-Murza, Jr. Out of Coma, Speaking: Doctor

Opposition journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. has come out of a coma and has already begun talking, Novaya Gazeta reports, citing TASS.

TASS quoted
Dr. Aleksei Svet, chief physician of Pirogova City Hospital No. 1:

"The patient Kara-Murza has come to his senses, he has begun to speak, he is in a great mood. The rehabilitation will be long, but I think his young organism will cope."

Svet added that he may induce a coma again in Kara-Murza periodically in order to allow him to "rest," said RIA Novosti.

Open Russia, the movement founded by exiled businessman and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, where Kara-Murza, Jr. served as federal coordinator, had this statement to make on the improvement of his condition today:

"Indisputable improvements have taken place in the condition of Vladimir. As Dr. Aleksei Svet, chief physician of City Hospital No. 1 stated, Volodya [Vladimir] is alert and conscious, he is smiling, he is trying to speak despite his weakness. We would like to express enormous gratitude to Olga Ignatenko, head of the department and Denis Protsenko, deputy head of the ICU."

Kara-Murza, Jr. was brought out of a medically-induced coma yesterday, June 2.

He had been rushed to the hospital May 26 with suspected poisoning. Colleagues in the opposition fear he could be the victim of poisoning as other critics of the Kremlin have been in the past. A toxicology report did not show any known narcotics or alcohol.

--Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Ruble Drops 2.8% As Fighting In Ukraine Explodes; EU Likely To Roll Over Sanctions
The Russian currency, the ruble, fell significantly today upon news that serious fighting had erupted in Ukraine, and upon news that the price of oil also fell:

Amidst statements by Ukrainian government officials that Russia is engineering the attacks and supplying the rebels (see our live coverage of the fighting), the Russian ruble has fallen to a two-month low. The ruble today weakened 2.8% to 54.242 versus the dollar by 7:52 p.m. in Moscow.

In contrast, Ukraine's hyrvnia, the the third worst performance this year of more than 170 currencies tracked by Bloomberg, strengthened by 0.6% versus the dollar. Today's fighting endangers the cease-fire sealed in Minsk, Belarus, and many believe Ukraine needs the truce to hold in order to recover a shrinking economy and a fragile currency.

The ruble will face even more downward pressure this month when Russian companies prepare to pay roughly $10.2 billion in foreign debt, which is more than double last month's level. Russia's central bank has been attempting to suppress the ruble after it outstripped the rise in crude and threatened a worsening budget deficit.

In another blow to the Russian economy, oil prices also fell today. Brent crude dropped 2% and WTI fell 1.8%. William Jackson, an analyst at Capital Economics Ltd., states "any sign of escalation of the conflict in Ukraine is going to cause concern in the Russian markets... it increased the likelihood that sanctions may be renewed or extended."

Even before the news of today's fighting broke, The Wall Street Journal wrote that the European Union was likely to continue the sanctions regime put in place over the last year:

Wall Street Journal reports:

While the plans aren’t finalized—some haven't even been formally discussed yet at EU level—the officials say there is growing confidence in Brussels that the bloc is united behind a policy which would ensure no weakening of EU pressure on Russia until Moscow has fully met its cease-fire commitments. These include pulling troops out of Ukraine and handing back control to Kiev of the Ukrainian side of the border between the two countries.

After weeks of debate, EU leaders agreed at a March summit that any easing of the economic sanctions, which expire at the end of July, “should be clearly linked to the complete implementation of the Minsk agreements, bearing in mind that this is only foreseen by 31 December 2015.”

However some capitals had continued talking about allowing a modest relaxation of the economic measures if the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine largely holds.

-- Alison Ricciato, James Miller

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
As Fighting Explodes In Ukraine, Russian Parliament May Hold Emergency Session, Says Federation Council Speaker Matvienko
Valentina Matvienko, the speaker of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, said that it may convene an emergency session. She asked her colleagues "not to go far away," TV Rain reported, citing Interfax.
"I do not rule out that the need will arise to whole an additional, unscheduled session of the Federation Council, therefore I ask you not to go very far away and remain in contact. If such a decision will be taken, we will inform you in a timely manner."

The last time the Federation Council had an emergency meeting was on March 1, 2014, in order to grant President Vladimir Putin the authorization to send forces into Ukraine. The authorization was then withdrawn in July, says TV Rain.

Both acts were largely symbolic as Putin had already sent GRU troops into the Crimea in late February, which he later admitted, and troops were also sent in August in the battle for Ilovaisk. Putin would not require the consent of the rubber-stamp parliament to send Russian troops into Ukraine.

The Federation Council can declare a state of emergency or decide about the use of troops outside of Russia, but in reality, these decisions are set up in the president's office for approval by the parliament.

Earlier, the Ukrainian military said that it would redeploy its heavy weaponry to the front, a move which may effectively dissolve a key part of the Minsk agreement. Of course, that announcement is a response to the assault on Marinka today by Russian-backed separatists, and the ceasefire is now completely shattered, but if this emergency meeting is called, if history teaches us anything, Russia will likely reverse the narrative and point to this announcement as a sign of Ukrainian aggression.

Either way, there is plenty of activity tonight reported in Moscow:

Translation: That is one of the "birds" that just flew over Moscow

It's hard to be sure from a single picture, but that helicopter looks like a Mil Mi-24 Hind.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, James Miller, Pierre Vaux
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
YouTube Removes Open Russia's 'The Family,' Critical of Kadyrov; Mother of Key Witness Fired

YouTube has removed a critical video by Open Russia about Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov called The Family and already the mother of one of the key witnesses of the film has been fired in retaliation for his participation, says Open Russia.

The video was taken down due to a complaint from Ilyas Vinerovich Synbulatov, owner of T&K Production, Ltd


Open Russia says they don't know which part of the video Synbulatov claims is a violation of his copyright, but in any event the material is their own content or taken from news casts in the public domain, and the authors of clips of interviews of Kadyrov are identified.

About 900,000 views were recorded on the video before it was removed.

The video can still be viewed on the Open Russia web site where it is embedded from Vimeo.

The version of the film with English sub-titles is also still accessible on YouTube.

There's at least one fake version of the video that has the same cover photo and titles but inside the video is a completely different subject, and then a clip later from Kadyrov at the stadium with his loyal forces.

The Family, released May 25, sparked a backlash from Kadyrov, who said he had made a counter-film -- likely a joke -- and threatened the makers of The Family.

The next day May 26, Open Russia's coordinator in Russia, opposition journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr. was rushed to the hospital with suspected poisoning and only yesterday June 2 came out of a coma. As a number of enemies of the Kremlin have been poisoned over the years, colleagues are concerned that he was given a toxin.

Open Russia has also reported of backlash against some of the people interviewed in the film.

On June 1, the mother of Alikhan Akhmedov, one of the Chechens who agreed to speak on camera about torture at the Chechen OMON (riot police) base was fired from her job. Akhmedov, a former police officer from Grozny, was one of the key witnesses for the film.


Authorities didn't hide why Alikhanov's mother was fired: "It's all because your son was filmed in The Family," she was told.

(Note: The Interpreter is a project of the Institute for Modern Russia, funded by Pavel Khodorkovsky, the son of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.)

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick