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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Update: July 7, 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.
Draft Law in Russian Parliament Will Give FSB More Powers to Shoot Demonstrators

The Federal Security Service (FSB) may catch up to the police in gaining new powers, reported.

Last month, the Russian parliament drafted a bill broadening police powers and giving them "presumption of trust," reported:

“The state guarantees police officers who perform their professional duties a presumption of trust and support,” the document reads. According to explanations attached to the draft its main purpose is to boost the authority of the Interior Ministry.

Another innovation is the suggestion not to prosecute police officers for any action committed while on duty if they strictly follow the internal regulations. According to the authors of the draft this move would balance the existing norm according to which when a police officer commits a crime on duty the court considers this an aggravating condition.

The bill also gives the police more powers in the use of firearms – currently Russian police are not allowed to open fire on women or use their guns in places of mass gatherings of people. The proposed amendments would narrow the banned targets to women “with visible pregnancy features” and allow opening fire in crowded places when it is necessary for prevention of a hostage-taking or a terrorist attack.

If passed, the bill would also allow the police to search people and their vehicles on simple suspicion of carrying or transporting illegal items instead of the current norm that orders the police to present the grounds behind such suspicion. Law enforcers would also receive the right to break into homes when pursuing criminals on a hot trail, without a court warrant on a suspect in the crime. 

Now an amendment to the Law on the FSB submitted by three conservative members of parliament will increase the powers of  FSB agents to use weapons and "special means" based on their "assessment of the current situation." Viktor Ozerov, head of the Federation Council Committee on Defense, and his first deputy, Viktor Fedoryak, as well as Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy chair of the committee on international affairs, co-authored the draft amendment, which they showed to Kommersant. It was prepared on the basis of "monitoring the application" of laws and was "coordinated with the FSB leadership" and "found understanding with them," they said.

The amended law would allow officers of "special" or intelligence agencies to use weapons and "special means" (such as tear gas) by "taking account of the situation at hand." The FSB officers are obliged to warn the people they intend to shoot at, but they are also entitled not to do that if "delay" would cause "threat to life and health" both to citizens and FSB agents themselves.

Asked if he didn't fear that such expanded powers might lead to abuse, Ozerov replied:

Understandably, there are subjective aspects but you can't ask your commander [for permission to shoot--Kommersant] each time. We proceed from the fact that FSB agents should be psychologically prepared. They have a forewarning in their minds: I am violating federal law."

The cases where weapons, special means and physical force can be used are listed, such as "mass disorders" or "if a driver refuses to stop after repeated demands." Previously, this was governed by regulations issued by the FSB director, but as a result, each time FSB agents used forced, the incident would need to be reviewed, and sometimes this would reach the level of a court case. Now, there is a proposal to write into the law that special agents are not liable "for harm caused to persons or organizations" when they use weapons, if they are "acting in accordance with the law."

The law does forbid FSB and other special agents to "shoot to kill," that is, they are only supposed to stop their suspects. They also can't shoot at women, minors and disabled persons even if they show resistance. Here the FSB draft amendment differs than the law on the police, which allows Interior Ministry officers to shoot to kill even women, except for those "with obvious signs of pregnancy."

Aleksandr Khinshtein, a deputy from United Russia said they didn't coordinate work on the separate police and FSB drafts although "from outside it may look like a synchronized movement."

The FSB has obtained greater powers in the past to conduct searches of people, their belongings and their vehicles if there were grounds for suspicion, even for administrative offenses. The Council of Europe's Vienna Commission, which provides consultation on compliance of laws of member states with its standards urged Russia to "create mechanisms to prevent police abuse and to create an agency that would prevent such "political abuses".

As Paul Goble's column notes today, given the Kremlin's claim that Putin has approval from 89% of the population -- his highest rating yet -- why is the government preparing for putting down mass unrest?

As Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote in an editorial (translation by The Interpreter):

The amendments to the law -- that is as a rule, a reaction to actual events. If the representatives of the political establishment thought about how the use of weapons by the FSB needs a more grounded and detailed legal base, that means that protests and mass disorders in Russia are not only possible, they are the real order of the day. At any rate, the government is expecting them, and as a minimum, not ruling them out.

The Kremlin has been fearful of Ukraine's Maidan protests spreading to their country, but by over-anticipating it, they may help bring it about.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Sources Say Nemtsov Murder Suspects Caught on Tape Following Him in November and on Night of Murder
A witness who was brought for a face-to-face encounter by investigators said that Zaur Dadayev, the chief suspect in the murder of Boris Nemtsov was planning to kill him as long ago as November 2014, reports, citing a source in law-enforcement. Two suspects were also seen trailing him outside a restaurant on Red Square right before he was killed.

Translation: A witness indicated that the murder of Nemtsov was prepared back in November 2014.

Nemtsov was assassinated outside the Kremlin walls on February 27, 2015, and earlier leaks from the investigation said that the suspects showed up on surveillance cameras in October 2014 near Nemtsov's home.

Now a witness who identified Dadayev says he was the man he met in November 2014, well before the January 7, 2015 terrorist killings of the Charlie Hebdo journalists, and said he was "preparing some sort of serious crime."

If confirmed, says the law-enforcement source, this testimony could make the investigation's theory "disappear," according to which the Chechens murdered Nemtsov over anger at his defense of "Je Suis Charlie" demonstrations which he wrote about on his Facebook page at the time.

The new testimonies of witnesses as well as evidence gathered may be replaced with another, that the murderers were angry at Nemtsov's general liberal opposition views, said the source.

Investigators also said that they have a surveillance video tape showing Dadayev following Nemtsov near the Kremlin before his murder (translation by The Interpreter):

As a source in law-enforcement agencies told Rosbalt, videotapes obtained by the investigation (the source did not stay which organization owned the surveillance cameras) show how on February 27, 2015, two suspects in the case are walking along Red Square, looking into windows in GUM [the shopping center]. They they stop at the window of a cafe where at that moment Boris Nemtsov and Anna Duritskaya; they press their faces to the glass and clearly find what they are looking for.

"The quality of the tapes enables us to identify the faces of the perpetrators," said the source.

Previously the investigation said they had testimony about one suspect trailing Nemtsov and a second one phoning the assassination team to go into motion.

Rosbalt believes that "Rusik," who was described in testimony published earlier this week as Ruslan Mukhudinov, driver for Ruslan Geremeyev, is dead.

Mukhudinov was last seen on March 6 in the Shelkovsky District of Chechnya after Dadayev had already been detained in neighboring Ingushetia. Authorities went looking for him in his native town but he was never found. Later they received reports that he was dead, but as Kommersant pointed out, his relatives never held a funeral.

Sources within law-enforcement told Rosbalt that Mukhudinov's disappearance and presumed death were like that of the murder of Ruslan Yamadayev, who was shot near the Kremlin in 2008. His brother, Sulim Yamadayev, a Chechen rebel commander who switched sides in the First Chechen War and was the former commander of the Vostok Special Battalion of the GRU, vowed revenge. Then he himself was shot dead in Dubai in 2009, and believed to have been targeted by Ramzan Kadyrov, his rival.
Adam Delikhanov, a senator and cousin of Kadyrov's was accused of masterminding the murder -- just as he is of Nemtsov's murder.

It's important to note that no official public statement on the Nemtsov murder investigation has been made since March. Every story published by either state or independent media has been based on leaks by law-enforcers from or near the investigation, and they have been contradictory.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick