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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: January 6, 2016

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
LifeNews Reports GRU Chief Sergun Died of Heart Failure; Further Memoirs
LifeNews, the pro-Kremlin station with close ties to Russian law-enforcement and intelligence, reported today that Igor Sergun, the chief of Russian military intelligence whose obituary was announced on Kremlin.ru on January 3rd, died of heart failure.

Doctors who conducted an autopsy on the body of Gen. Sergun who died January 3 in Moscow Region have made preliminary conclusions about the reasons for his death. According to sources familiar with the situation, the physicians concluded that the organism of the 58-year-old man was exhausted (translation by The Interpreter):

"One of the reasons for his death was exhaustion: overwork, lack of sleep and all the accompanying 'symptoms' of his position," a source in medicine commented.

LifeNews learned that the official cause of death was heart failure, and that the general had died in a rest home in Podolsk District in Moscow Region.

Little information was available in the Russian media about Sergun's life or death. Lenta.ru took the occasion to remind readers that the agency which he led was no longer formally called "the GRU," i.e. Main Directorate of Intelligence for the defense ministry, but is now called "the Main Directorate of the General Staff" with the word "intelligence" dropped.

Lenta.ru noted that it was "rather hard" to say anything about Sergun's career beyond the official biography supplied by the military because of the nature of his position, which was classified.

One newspaper that came up with more was Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP), not surprising given that paper's close connections with the military and prominent war reporters in Ukraine and Syria.

Viktor Baranets, a war analyst for KP, recalls his own personal acquaintance with Sergun which came about in an odd way. Back in 2012, there was an incident during the  May 9 Victory Day on Red Square when an elderly woman who said she had the rank of general was able to push her way on to the podium on top of Lenin's Mausoleum on Red Square to stand alongside the military brass observing the parade. The absence of any military hat was the first clue to trouble. It turned out she was a fraud and had no such rank; she had lied to her local veterans' committee and managed to get a pass.

Reporters found earlier pictures of her in 2010 with only the rank of a lieutenant. Blogger Rustem Adagamov researched her story and found that she was among a number of such fakes. 

At the time, Baranets published a picture of the woman on the podium, standing next to a general whose name he did not know at the time. He even put a note at the end of his column asking readers to help identify the people in the picture.

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But then Sergun himself called Baranets and said he was the man in the photo, and had this to say (translation by The Interpreter):

"Viktor Nikolayevich, this is Sergun, Igor Dmitriyevich. There's some bad business here...I've been caught out, but not through  my own fault...You've placed a photo with that strange dame on your site, I saw her on the podium for the first time... And I'm just standing there nearby. I am ashamed to have such a 'neighbor.' Even the shadow of that opportunist is revolting. As if I was dirtied by mud. I urge you, if it is impossible to remove the photo from the site, then at least please, don't indicate my name or my position. I will be afraid to look people in the eye!"

Baranets said KP complied at least with the second part of his request -- the picture remained and can still be seen, but there is no identification. By that time it was all over social media.

Later, Baranets met with Sergun again, and he joked about the coverage of the picture, "Now you can't even take me down from the telegraph posts!" 

On one occasion, Sergun told Baranets that he needed to be much more careful with his facts -- he had written that a certain American general was head of a department, when in fact he was already deputy head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency. 

When Baranets wrote a book on the forcible annexation of the Crimea, colleagues advised him to get in touch with Sergun, and he gave this account:

"Three weeks later, Igor Dmitriyevich invited me to his office for a 'literary conversation' (his words). The thick 'sheaf' of my manuscript lay on the desk before him. I expected that the head of the GRU would now start paging through it and showing me my mistakes. But he didn't even touch the folder.

For almost an hour, he re-told me various episodes from my book with such details as if he himself had written them. I saw in action the phenomenal professional memory of the intelligence agent. I understood the subtle undercurrent of his wise advice.

There is an episode in my book about a clever trick by the GRU which helped save possibly hundreds of lives of our soldiers in the Crimea at a peak moment of the 'Crimean Spring.' I had described the essence of this brilliant operation with admiration, which had been conceived and executed under Sergun's leadership. But he shocked me [saying]:

'But here, it's better not to talk about me and my subordinates. Even though it was exactly all like that. You didn't lie. But let's not show the enemies the "tools" which likely will still come in handy for us...'"

Baranets said he had praised the GRU highly in his book for its professionalism, but Sergun urged not to publicize his actions, saying "my position and my work do not love 'the light."

-- 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
Defendants in Nemtsov Murder Case Say They Stalked Him for Months, Aborting 3 Attempts to Kill Him

Two defendants in the murder case of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov said they stalked him long before February 27, the date of his assassination, and staged several aborted attempts to kill him before then, Rosbalt.ru reports.

Zaur Dadayev, a former officer of the Sever [North] Battalion of Chechnya's Interior Ministry troops as well as Anzor Gubashev, his associate, said during interrogations that twice they were prepared to shoot Nemtsov, but stopped because of too many people in the area. 

Up until January 7, 2015 -- the day the Charlie Hebdo journalists were murdered in Paris -- the suspects even began to doubt whether they should go through with the crime. And on the day of the murder, they were also unable to find Nemtsov, and were just about to give up when they spotted him late at night at a cafe on Red Square. Dadayev then hesitated about shooting within the Kremlin's security zone, but ultimately went ahead with his fateful mission.

Both Dadayev and Gubashev made these confessions soon after their detentions, then retracted them, saying they were made under torture. Investigators say they have evidence confirming the initial admissions.

A Rosbalt correspondent was able to obtain videotapes of the confession leaked by investigators, who have had almost nothing to say in the months since the murder except recently, when they announced that the case could not be declared as a political assassination.



Gubashev is reported to say on the videotape (translation by The Interpreter):

"We saw Nemtsov three times before February 27. And that was at a distance, not within the limits of reachability which would enable us to commit the crime."

Dadayev was reported to say that twice he had Nemtsov in his sights:

"There were a lot of people, it was late at night. As a result we didn't do anything, we left [him] and walked away. We just didn't manage. Well, there were a lot of people."

Then on February 27:

"We had already decided to go home, then we said: let's stay here another half an hour. We stood there. And stood. And then I saw him there."

Dadayev said as he walked along the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, he hesitated again whether he should open fire so near the Kremlin. But then a snow-cleaning machine passed by that could muffle the sound of the shots, and he decided to commit the murder.

Rosbalt.ru says it will have more details soon.

Late last month, the Investigative Committee formally announced the identity of the organizer of the murder - Ruslan Mukhudinov, who had long ago been allowed to slip away and is believed to have fled to the United Arab Emirates. Mukhudinov worked as a driver for Ruslan Geremeyev, commander of the Sever Battalion.



Ruslan Geremeyev, believed to be the mastermind of the murder, also fled Russia, and was later declared wanted by Russian authorities. He is the relative of two powerful Chechen figures also related to Chechen leader Ruslan Kadyrov: senators Adam Delimkhanov and Suleiman Geremeyev.
-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
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