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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: February 2, 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
Russia Bans Five American Officials in Retaliation for Latest Magnitsky List Additions
Not surprisingly, given the reciprocity war going on between the White House and the Kremlin, the Russian Foreign Ministry has announced the banning of five American officials following the addition of five Russian officials to the Magnitsky List of sanctions for involvement in the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky in pre-trial detention and other severe human rights violations.

The list of Americans are as follows:

- Alberto R. Gonzalez, former Attorney General 
- Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
- John Rizzo, former Acting General Counsel for the CIA
- Jay Scott Bybee, former Assistant Attorney General
- William James Hanes II, former General Counsel for the Department of Defense
All of these officials have been alleged by US human rights groups to justify or implement torture programs during the Iraq War.

In a statement about their sanctions, the Foreign Ministry said the charges against the Russian officials were "baseless" and "will strike the latest blow against bilateral relations." It accused the US of "continuing to methodically destroy their bias by regularly disseminating false information against Russia."

The Foreign Ministry concedes Magnitsky's fate was "tragic" and even calls him a "lawyer" (yurist) an issue sometimes in dispute by Russian propagandists because Magnitsky, who worked as a tax auditor, while performing legal functions, did not have attorney's status in Russia. Yet his case is described by the Ministry as a "bargaining chip" in an "unscrupulous campaign by Washington to discredit our country" -- despite the overwhelming volume of evidence that Russian officials discredited their country themselves with their rampant abuses.

The Foreign Ministry also accused the US of "hypocrisy" regarding human rights because it has not released the Russian citizen R.K. Mingazov, who has been held on Guantanamo for 13 years as the US maintains he was an Al Qaeda operative cooperating with the Taliban.

Two other cases of alleged US human rights violations were cited by the Foreign Minister -- "the tragic situations of K.V. Yaroshenko and R.V. Seleznyov" who were jailed and were claimed to be denied medical care.

As the Christian Science Monitor reported, Seleznyov is a hacker arrested for credit card theft, and the son of a famous father who is a member of the Russian parliament; Yaroshenko was convicted in Manhattan Federal Court and sentenced to 20 years for importing $100 million of cocaine. Seleznyov's father, Vladimir, claims his son was nabbed to trade him for fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden, but the problem with that theory is that Seleznyov was arrested before Snowden went public with his own hacking.

The Foreign Ministry finished by citing American police abuses motivated by racism; the abusive penitentiary system; and the "legalization" of medieval torture methods. Russia's own numerous cases of police torture -- never prosecuted -- and its extra-judicial execution of hundreds of suspected Islamists every year was forgotten.

-- 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
Investigative Committee Passes Parliamentary Inquiry to Probe Prosecutor Chaika - to Chaika Himself
Surprisingly, the Investigative Committee (IC) accepted for review the allegations made by Alexander Navalny and his colleagues at the Anti-Corruption Fund regarding Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and his two sons, Artyom and Igor, RBC.ru and the Radio Svoboda, the Russian-language service of RFE/RL reported.


But not surprisingly, the IC has passed the buck to the Prosecutor General's Office.


As Dmitry Gudkov, one of the few opposition members of parliament has pointed out regarding the parliamentary inquiry he sent to the IC -- Chaika himself will be the one to do the investigation as in their reply letter the IC has said the matter is "outside its competency."

Translation: Everything is very simple: my inquiry on Chaika will be checked by Chaika himself. The results of the check, I sense, will be sensational.

The IC also said it found nothing questionable.

Gudkov had boiled the Navalny material down to two main questions for the Investigative Committee:

1. Was Olga Lopatina the wife of Deputy Prosecutor Gennady Lopatin at the time she was listed as a founder in the registration of the company Sakhar Kubani and during the mass murder committed in Kushchevskaya, and if so, what were her functions in the company?

2. Did Deputy Prosecutor Lopatin have any relationship to the investigation of the murders in Kushchevskaya, and if he did, what were his functions?

Navalny's group found that Lopatina's fellow officers in the company included the wives of members of the notorious Tsapok gang, whose leader Sergei Tsapok was convicted for murdering a family of 14 in Kushchevskaya.

Lopatina claimed she had no relationship to Tsapok's relatives and said that she was in friendly relations with her husband but divorced.

Navalny had evidence that the divorce could have been fictitious, in order to hide Lopatin's assets, when he discovered Olga and Gennady playing Facebook games together.

The Investigative Committee said these issues are "not within its competency" and had to be forwarded to the Prosecutor General; some lawyers have countered that in fact it was mandated to investigate other agencies and was shirking its duties. 

This affair highlights one of the chief flaws of the Russian criminal justice system -- while the Investigative Committee was ostensibly to solve the built-in problem that the prosecutor himself investigates claims of malfeasance within the procuracy, in fact the system still enables the prosecutor himself to be put in charge of probing whether his employees are corrupt or abusive.

The Prosecutor General's office said that it is not under obligation to investigate the incomes and businesses of the relatives of officials. This has sparked an effort by the Duma to pass a law barring the relatives of officials from engaging in business investments.

-- 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
An Explanation for Kadyrov's Increasingly Belligerent Behavior - Two Months Till His Presidency Ends
Vedomosti has found a good explanation for why Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has been behaving so aggressively lately -- there are two months remaining in his tenure as president, Znak.com reported.

After that, President Vladimir Putin will have to appoint a temporary acting president until elections take place.

Kadyrov was appointed March 2011 by then-President Dmitry Medvedev for a period of five years; this term expires on April 5, 2016. The parliament confirmed him then, but the next president of Chechnya will be elected directly from among multiple candidates, per changes made in the Chechen Constitution in 2012.

Despite Kadyrov's increasingly provocative behavior -- yesterday he posted a video clip on Instagram showing two opposition figures through a sniper's scope -- the Kremlin has continued to back him.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin said Kadyrov was "an effective leader." Sergei Ivanov, head of the presidential administration also endorsed him last week; asked by reporters if Kadyrov was becoming an irritant, he said (translation by The Interpreter):

"As for the activity of the head of the Chechen Republic, it does not provoke any questions in the administration of the president."

Mikhail Vinogradov, a political analyst, told Vedomosti that he believes Kadyrov has to come "all at arms" to be appointed acting president and then be elected in the direct elections. Once elected, he will have a higher status than other leaders in the North Caucasus who have been appointed. No decree has been issued yet about his status as acting president, and there are rumors that he may be made vice premier. For now, Kadyrov has to pretend he is not worried about the coming appointment, and is concerned with "the larger topics of Islam, the opposition, and so on," said Vinogradov: 

"Ramzan is hated by many people for different things. But the peak of his unpleasantness has passed and there is no threat. And he is demonstrating that to everyone."

We could note that few have any doubt that Kadyrov would be able to manipulate such elections, as he has secured 99% support in elections for Putin.

Another source, close to the presidential administration who was not named said that he did not believe the Kremlin was seriously thinking of replacing Kadyrov; most likely their only worry was how to reduce the subsidies to Chechnya. Kadyrov is "raising the stakes," he said; after looking at his Instagram account, no minister will think of cutting his subsidies.

Yesterday, as it turned out, Instagram's management turned out to be bolder then Kremlin ministers; a representative told Vedomosti that they had removed the threatening video, saying death threats and calls to violence were a violation of community standards. The video still remains in place on the Instagram account of Magomed "Lord" Daudov, however, speaker of parliament and Kadyrov's close comrade-at-arms.

Kadyrov reacted predictably on Instagram last night, saying:

"No sooner did I say a few words about the chained dogs of the USA than they removed my post from Instagram. There it is, the much-praised freedom of speech, American-style! You can write anything, but don't touch the dogs of America, of the State Department and Congress. You know perfectly well what I'm talking about.

Today, Kadyrov has only doubled down, posting a photo of himself reviewing his troops in desert camouflage and commenting again on the opposition:


2016-02-02 15:34:39

I've always spoken directly and said only what I thought. I thought the opposition are people who are the same kind of patriots of their country who have some support among a certain part of the citizens and try to get across their vision of how to resolve the problems of state. When I look at 15-20 people without a Motherland and a flag who call themselves by the serious word "opposition," along with contempt, other issues arise. Despite the incessant barking of the "Kasyanovs" and his little friends, scared to death by my video in Instagram (which was immediately removed), and also those who sympathize with them, I still want to understand a simple truth: who are they?!

Can you consider opposition people who unconscionably and openly help those who try to force our country into a blockade by sanctions and provocation, as the fascists did with Leningrad at one time?! To exhaust us and then dictate to us their political will!? Can you consider opposition those who embrace the Nazis in Kiev, supporting the bloodshed in the Donbass?! Or let's say those who, emphasizing their hatred of all the peoples of Russia, swear to return our Crimea after they come to power!? Or those who, the other day, called my people "the most difficult" and insist on the "secession of Chechnya!?

Can you consider full-fledged citizens of our Fatherland, enjoying its goods and protection, those who approve of the publication of lists of our pilots fighting in Syria!? The list of such crimes aimed at the rapid collapse and enslavement of Russia could be continued for a long time. So who are they, these pathetic beggars, standing with outstretched hand at the embassies of the USA and its allies? Is that really the opposition? For such an opposition, we have prevailed over international terrorists, losing thousands of faithful comrades!?

What should we consider those who fall into hysterics over a short video!? Could a real opposition be so cowardly!? I am certain it could not. And those about whom I speak with revulsion are for me personally, traitors and betrayers of Russia and its People. And another thing. If these cardboard "heroes" are so terribly afraid of my laughing at them, then the road to the courthouses is open to them. I am a law-abiding citizen, responsible for my every work and remain with my firm opinion. I've said everything.

Sergei Mitrokhin, former leader of the opposition party Yabloko and now chair of its Moscow branch sent an appeal to Putin and the heads of the FSB and Prosecutor General to open up a criminal case against Kadyrov on grounds of calls to extremist activity and organizing an extremist organization. By the latter, he apparently means the troops within Chechnya that are called "Kadyrov's personal army" although nominally they belong to the Chechen branch of the Interior Ministry.

The Levada Center recently found in a public opinion poll that 60% of Russians did not approve of Kadyrov's calling opposition figures "traitors" and threatening reprisals against them.

Another short-term factor that could be driving Kadyrov's behavior is the upcoming year anniversary of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov on February 27. The Investigative Committee has said they have "solved" the case and are expecting to transfer the case to a military court. Since the chief defendant, Zaur Dadayev, was in the Chechen Interior Ministry's Sever Battalion and was praised by Kadyrov as a "patriot," his sentencing will further call into question Kadyrov's judgement.

A spotlight will also be shed on two figures, Ruslan Geremeyev, head of Sever and a relative of Kadyrov's and Ruslan Mukhatdinov, his driver, said to organize the murder. Both have fled Russia. The opposition believes the masterminds of the murder have not yet been found and have already indicated they believe the trail leads to Kadyrov himself.

-- 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
US State Department Publishes Additional Names of Russian Officials Involved in Magnitsky's Death

Yesterday, February 1, based on a Bloomberg report in the morning, we reported that the State Department had delayed the publication of an additional five names to the Magnitsky List of officials responsible for the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky and other severe human rights violations.

Yesterday afternoon, the US Treasury Department published the five names:

ANICHIN, Aleksey Vasilyevich (a.k.a. ANICHIN, Alexei Vasilievich); DOB 01 Dec 1949; POB Sevastopol, Ukraine (individual) [MAGNIT].

ANTONOV, Yevgeni Yuvenalievich; DOB 1955; nationality Russia (individual) [MAGNIT].

KIBIS, Boris Borisovich; DOB 20 Nov 1977; nationality Russia (individual) [MAGNIT].

LAPSHOV, Pavel Vladimirovich; DOB 07 Jul 1976; nationality Russia (individual) [MAGNIT].

URZHUMTSEV, Oleg Vyacheslavovich; DOB 22 Oct 1968; citizen Russia (individual) [MAGNIT].

Four of the officials were involved in the death in prison of Magnitsky.  Boris Kibis, Interior Ministry investigator, was included for his role in the preposterous trial of Magnitsky posthumously. Oleg Urzhumtsev, previously included in the EU's Magnitsky Sanctions List, was also involved in the posthumous trial. 

A State Department official told Reuters that Anichin was head of the Interior Ministry's Investigative Committee, and authorized the criminal case under which Magnitsky was arrested; he has been defiant about inclusion in the sanctions' list.

Lapshov was head of the Russian Interior Ministry's investigative department of organized criminal activity and responsible for Magnitsky's case.

Yevgeni Antonov ran a prison in Chechnya notorious for its abuses, the State Department said.

Reuters further reported:

Monday's addition to the list raises the number of people sanctioned under the 2012 law to 39, State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

Though few if any assets have been frozen as a result of the designations, the actions "show the operational level of Russian officials that they can and will be held personally accountable for just following orders," the State Department official said.

As a result of inclusion in the list, in addition to the assets freeze, the five are also banned from obtaining a US visa.

The addition of the names was welcomed by Hermitage Capital Management CEO William Browder who has campaigned extensively for his colleague Magnitsky, but it was tempered by the extent of  many others involved: 

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
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