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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 27, 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
Russian MP Calls Deadly Swine Flu (A Virus) American "Bacteriological War"

Russian communist party politicians may not know much about biology, but they appear to have propaganda covered pretty well.

Vadim Solovyov, a member of parliament in the State Duma, told the Russian press today that the latest deadly swine flu outbreak which has killed at least 50 people in Russia and more than 80 in Ukraine is a case of American "bacteriological war." Chris Miller reports:

"This wave [of H1N1] came from Ukraine. And I don't rule out that it was the Americans there who started this situation, launching such a war against our country," Sovolyov said.

He called on Russia's intelligence services, the health ministry and the Prosecutor General to investigate whether American agents intentionally spread the virus, as he claimed for years they had done in Cuba from the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

Swine flu is caused by the H1N1 virus, not bacteria as Sovolyov claimed. This is, however, also not the first conspiracy theory about the source of the flu outbreak. As we reported yesterday, Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine have been claiming that the outbreak is the result of an accidental release of the flu from a lab in Kharkiv. While Kharkiv has been heavily affected by the outbreak, it is fairing better than most other regions of Ukraine, though yesterday authorities ordered schools in that city to remain closed.


-- James Miller
The Interpreter
@Interpreter_Mag
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Interpreter_Mag
German Foreign Minister Accuses Russia of 'Interference' in Domestic Affairs over Claims of Russian Girl's Rape
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has made a sharp retort to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Russian claims regarding the alleged rape of a Russian immigrant girl which German police deny, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany's Russian-language broadcasting station reported.

Steinmeier accused Russia of interfering in Germany's internal affairs.

Yesterday, January 26, Foreign Minister Lavrov said at a press conference that relatives had confirmed that the 13-year-girl was kidnapped and raped by immigrants. He accused Germany of "patching over reality in domestic political affairs with political correctness," DW reported.

Russia state media and controlled social media has broadcast hysterical reports in the last week, claiming that a young girl, was kidnapped and raped by Middle Eastern immigrants in the wake of the attacks in Cologne on New Year's Day.

German police said that while the girl had run away from home, she was returned safely and they found no evidence of harm. But the girl's aunt gave an interview to a Russian state journalist in Germany, which has led to lurid programs on Russian state TV1 and other channels and media sites.

Steinmeier said there was no justification for exploiting the case "for political propaganda and to interfere in the already complicated domestic German discussion on migrants and to inflame it."

Kremlin propagandists have delighted in the attacks on women by migrants in Cologne, as it feeds into a narrative of both the Kremlin and the far-right groups it supports in Europe that European liberal governments are unable to cope with terrorism or mass immigration from Syria and other countries at war in the Middle East. The conservative and authoritarian regime Putin offers is the solution, they say.

Steinmeier said that German authorities were doing everything possible to investigate the claims.

"I can only advise Russian authorities to take into account the results of the investigation, DPA quoted Steinmeier as saying.

The German Foreign Ministry was due to provide the Russian ambassador in Berlin with all the necessary information about the case today, Steinmeier added, but provided no details.

Most of the asylum-seekers in Russia now are from Ukraine, driven there by the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea and invasion of the Donbass, and Russian authorities have recently been busy closing camps and pushing them back home. Very few Syrians or others from the Middle East have gained asylum in Russia.

--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
Pavlensky, Artist Who Burned FSB's Doorway, Sent to Serbsky Institute for Psychiatric Evaluation

Pavlensky, an aktionist artist who stages political performances, is being transferred to the Serbsky Institute, OVD-Info, the police monitoring group, reported, citing a post by his wife, Olga Shalygina, on her Facebook page.

Shalygina said she did not learn this from doctors, but from the mother of a fellow inmate after she made a visit. Pavlensky is to be held for evaluation for 21 days.  She has not been allowed to visit him but has sent him a food package.

In November, Pavlensky set the door of the Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters known as the Lyubanka for the square where it is located, to protest increasing surveillance and persecution in Russia.

He was quickly arrested and charged with "vandalism" motivated by "ideological hatred" and put in a pre-trial investigation cell. The fire lit in the doorway was quickly extinguished.

The Serbsky Institute gained notoriety in the Soviet era as the place where forensic psychiatrists declared dissidents insane, although in many cases they were normal. Abuse of psychiatry has been returning to Russia, as Paul Goble reports in Windows on Eurasia.

Last week Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said opposition activists should be put in psychiatric hospitals and given injections of drugs.

When Pavlensky has been arrested for his artistic stunts in the past, he has either not been taken to a psychiatric hospital or has been declared sane and served jail terms.

In October 2015, he cut off his ear lobe while sitting on the wall of the Serbsky Institute to protest increasing numbers of cases of psychiatric abuse in Russia. That time he was first treated in a regular hospital, then declared sane after evaluation at a psychiatric clinic. A St. Petersburg court twice rejected appeals to incarcerate him.

This time, the outcome is uncertain; he is "between pathology and crime," his wife commented. 

-- 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
Foreign-Currency Mortgage Holders Block Tverskaya Street in Moscow to Protest Refusal to Reduce Debt

About 300 foreign-currency mortgage holders have blocked Tverskaya-Yamskaya Street in Moscow, Media Zone reports, citing the Facebook page of New Times correspondent Georgy Aleksandrov, who shot some footage of the protest.



2016-01-27 18:34:16
Last week, protesters with such mortgages staged sit-ins at several banks in Moscow, even chaining themselves to the door. 

TV Rain reported on Periscope that police had succeed in pushing the demonstrators to the side of the road. Protesters said the police treated them roughly, and ripped one demonstrator's jacket. Two people have been detained so far.

They are demanding that their debts be restructured in the same way as people with mortgages denominated in rubles have been allowed to reduce their debt.

Russian officials have refused to move on the issue, although people who took out home loans in foreign currency have the same loss of 30% or more of their savings and salaries as others, and find it difficult or impossible to make payments on their loans.

The protesters said they are seeking a meeting with officials from DeltaKredit to restructure their mortgages but have been rebuffed.

-- 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
Detainee with Multiple Injuries While in Custody Dies in St. Petersburg Hospital
A man detained by the police in St. Petersburg has died from traumas while in custody, RFE/RL's Russian-language service Radio Svoboda reports.

Late on the night of January 26, a 40-year-old man whose name was not provided died at the 3rd City Hospital, after being brought on January 18 from the 44th precinct in Primorsky District. Doctors recorded numerous traumas, including an open skull wound, brain damage, and a broken skull.

Police say that the suspect died of an epileptic attack.

Yevgeny Vyshenkov, deputy editor for the Agency for Journalist Investigations said the police had no reason to apply force to the detainee.  He said he spoke to police and found that the suspect had a past record of thefts and that he was also ill with AIDS, hepatitis and epilepsy.  He commented (translation by The Interpreter):

"Ask the doctors what will happen usually with a person who is simply grabbed by the hand; the maximum would be a bruise. Yet his whole arm was swollen."

Yury Vdovin, a member of the St. Petersburg Human Rights Council said that while he respected Vyshenkov's opinion as a "decent person and a former agent," he doubted whether the suspect could have caused such deadly injuries to himself.

"No matter what diseases he had, it's still strange that he sustained the traumas not on the street, not at somebody's house at some drunken party, but at the police station in fact. If we had the ability to have some kind of objective investigation by the prosecutor, I am confident that it should definitely be conducted. Because many police, unfortunately, suffer burn-out at work and they themselves don't notice how they become brutal."

The Russian Ebola Project reports that deaths in police custody are all too common and estimate that they occur almost daily. The Daily Dot and Global Voices recently covered the work of Russian Ebola Project which took its name to describe an "epidemic" of such beatings in jails. They reported 197 deaths in custody in 2015.

The Investigative Committee is now conducting a check of the 44th precinct.  As the Investigative Committee has been accused of covering up crimes by police and prosecutors in the past, there is some skepticism that the investigation will be objective.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

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