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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
August 4, 2014

Publication: Russia This Week
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Zhirinovsky Threatens the Annihilation of Poland and Baltic States if West Responds to Russian Aggression Against Ukraine

The ultranationalist Russian provocateur Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the ill-named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and member of parliament is tearing up the wires this week. Millions have seen his TV broadcast and 112,000 have already viewed the clip on YouTube.

As Russian troops mass at the Ukrainian border, he has urged Putin to take strong action and if the West retaliates, has threatened Russia's destruction of Poland and the Baltic states.

On the state-run Rossia 24 Pryamaya Lina [Direct Line] Show 8 August, Zhirinovsky said only one person would decide about the invasion of Ukraine regardless of any plans of NATO or the US, and that will be President Vladimir Putin.

Indeed he likely "already made the decision," he said ominously.  Just as Nicholas II was the one to make the final decision about entering World War I, and Stalin made the decision to enter World War II, says Zhirinovsky, so Putin will be the only one to decide whether to invade Ukraine. The Interpreter has translated an excerpt:

What will remain of the Baltics? Nothing will remain of them. NATO airplanes are stationed there. There's an anti-missile defense system. In Poland -- the Baltics -- they are on the whole doomed. They'll be wiped out.
There will be nothing left. Let them re-think this, these leaders of these little dwarf states. How they are leaving themselves vulnerable.
Nothing threatens America, it's far away. But Eastern Europe countries will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation. Only they themselves will be to blame. Because we cannot allow missiles and planes to be aimed at Russia from their territories. We have to destroy them half an hour before they launch. And then we have to do carpet bombing so that not a single launch pad remains or even one plane. So -- no Baltics, no Poland. Let NATO immediately ask for negotiations with our Foreign Ministry. Then we'll stop. Otherwise well have to teach them the lessons of May 1945.

Zhirinovsky alone is not in a position to make good on such threats. But the voice of extremists such as himself and others have been heeded by parliament, as they first authorized Putin to use force if need be on Ukraine in March, then approved (with one dissenting vote) the forcible annexation of the Crimea on March 18, then coyly withdrew the consent for the use of force in June -- which of course is not really required for Putin to take action anyway.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Leakers' Site Blocked; Hacked Duma Hard-Liner's E-Mail
As we noted, since the Bloggers' Law went into effect in Russia mandating all bloggers with over 3,000 readers to register with authorities, the government is taking the opportunity to block sites they don't like, not waiting for any registration process.

On 3 August, Roskomnadzor, the state censor filed a complaint against Shaltai Boltai, a leakers' site that had been divulging information on Russia's forcible annexation of Crimea and how the state media was forced to cover it, as well as the rewards journalists secretly received for their loyal work in promoting the state line.The complaint enabled the prosecutor then to shut down their site, Moscow News reported.

Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications watchdog, sought the website's closure last Wednesday. It was shut down on Sunday in accordance with a St. Petersburg court order tied to a civil lawsuit, according to The group's Twitter account was also blocked.

The group, named for the Russian version of nursery rhyme character Humpty Dumpty, took the Russian blogosphere by storm last year after publishing the text of President Vladimir Putin's annual New Year's greeting to the nation before he had made it.

Sometimes calling itself Anonymous International (although unrelated to the Western group by the same name) Shaltai Boltai also has leaked some documents on government corruption, and in July, vowed to hack into parliamentary servers on 1 August, in order to embarrass the drafters of the legislation restricting the Internet in the State Duma.

Sure enough, the hackers made good on their word and published on their Blogspot account the correspondence of conservative deputy Robert Shlegel of the ruling United Russia party (The page now has a warning from Google that some complaints have been filed -- likely by the Russian government -- about some "objectionable" materials -- but you can still view the site here.)

It turns out Shlegel, the very author of the amendment to the law "On Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information" which now mandates blogger registration as "mass media," was also involved in the "information war" against Ukraine, reports.

Shlegel, who wields influence over the Russian Internet as the chair of the Expert Council of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications, organized an "international information battle group" and planned strategies with other parliamentarians and government officials on how to oppose Western media coverage of the Russian-instigated armed conflict in Ukraine.

The leaked email correspondence shows Shlegel on 23 March 2014 reacting to an effort by the US-funded Radio Liberty to expose the fallacy that the freedom movement in Ukraine is made up only of "fascists" by showing the neo-Nazi graffiti visible in the Russian provinces.

"Look at these and other materials and tweets. We should kick them immediately the f**k out of Russia," he wrote.

Screenshot of leaked email from Shlegel about RFE/RL.

RFE/RL was forced to close its broadcasting operation in Moscow but maintains a studio and some stringers.

On 13 April, Shlegel's correspondence with Evgeny Mashkarin, a Duma member from Krasnodar, reveals his discussions of how to effectively seed Anti-Maidan propaganda materials into the Western press and social media.


Screenshot of Shlegel's correspondence on how to influence debate on Ukraine.

There's also more leaks on how Shlegel helped recruit "troll brigades" and sent them instructions where to post, how to lead discussions, how to get independent bloggers banned and other "measures of influence." Shlegel was hoping to get a ban on Western films, software, and navigational systems.

Isn't this all within the realm of freedom of expression and shouldn't parliamentarians the world over be able to organize to get their message across?

But not when they are essentially weaponizing information to shut down the free debate of others -- and they have the power to pass legislation to block bloggers at home.

On 16 April, Shegel outlined his plan for reining in bloggers by equating them to journalists -- which in the Russian context means more restrictions.

While he concedes that most bloggers use their accounts for "peaceful" purposes and "don't violate the law," if a blogger uses his account to "disinform his audience" then his activity has to be stopped, and such bloggers must be de-anonymized so that they can't commit "libel, distribution of inaccurate information, extremism, etc." -- all overbroad concepts under Russian law.

Surprisingly, when Shlegel contacts an FSB official through a colleague  -- disturbing in itself - in the process of developing his legislation, they were told even by that intelligence officer that he was going too far. In an email discussion with Timur Rakhmatullin headed "Re: FSB Reply on Evaluation of the Changes to 149-F3," Rakhmatullin is quoted:

"Their [FSB] main criticism to our proposals is that the information which may be prohibited for dissemination must be unlawful in and of itself. But if the information comes from a terrorist and it is lawful, then it cannot be restricted as that would be unconstitutional."

Shaltai Boltai previously received a ban order from Roskomnadzor for leaking the correspondence of Vice Premier Arkady Dvorkovich ad other members of the presidential administration.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Offers Bounty for Cracking Tor, Snowden's Favorite Tool

In conjunction with the review of Snowden's residence status and an unusual extension of three years in a country that very seldom grants foreigners long stays, two strange things have happened that may be related and are certainly part of the larger context of the Snowden narrative.

First, several documents appeared from past leakers of Snowden files, but they turned out not to be from Snowden. At least one was dated August 2013, and according to the narrative maintained about Snowden by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the journalists who met him in Hong Kong in June 2013, he turned over to them all the stolen files he had in his possession at that time.

So if there is a document dated after June 2013, that means either he is lying and in fact continued to hold and leak documents  -- and there has been some investigation of that prospect ( as he himself contradicted this and said he held back some highly sensitive documents) -- or else there's a possibility of a second leaker -- which the US has now announced.

The second leaker may or may not be a Russian mole -- and one of the theories of the Snowden affair is that he was used, knowingly or not, as a cover to hide the products of a Russian mole who also burrowed into the NSA to steal documents.

Second, curiously on the eve of granting the extension to Snowden, the Russian government announced a $110,000 bounty for the coder who could crack Tor, the US Navy-developed circumvention software which is used both to get around government Internet site blockages as well as to anonymize users from prying state eyes. It is deployed by people ranging from law-enforcement to law-breakers but most importantly, by Snowden himself, particularly in conjunction with other encryption programs called Tails and TrueCrypt, recently shut down amid problems of vulnerability.

At the same time as the Russian bounty was announced, several articles appeared  exposing Tor's continued relationship to the Navy and Department of Defense to discredit it for activists -- but without much examination of the paradox of Snowden and other hackers continuing to use such a system, nor the deeper ethical issues involved in the US essentially taking human shields in cyberspace -- lots and lots of people as camouflage -- to perform counter-intelligence work.

While all Internet communications in Russia are under surveillance, Snowden has continued to chat with his supporting journalists and lawyers daily, seemingly free of snooping.

Snowden himself ran Tor nodes -- devices or servers through which message traffic passes -- as was discovered when one of the Tor developers, Rina Sandvik, admitted meeting him December 2012 in Hawaii, when he worked for Booz, Allen Hamilton as an NSA contractor. He has also said he thought Tor was a great program and that strong encryption, if used properly, was effective.

Among the documents he leaked to emphasize this point was one entitled "Tor Stinks" by the NSA, which seemed to imply it was invincible against most attacks -- and that only a small fraction of users were de-anonymized.

But recently, Tor has run into a lot of problems as various researchers have found some nodes corrupted inside Russia and likely re-routing social media posts to government agencies) as well as vulnerabilities in the code exposing users. Strangely, a presentation on these developments was just cancelled at the BlackHat conference of hackers for reasons unknown.

Since Snowden has touted Tor, and presumably has continued to use it in his external communications, perhaps the Russian government has developed a keener interest in cracking it. Of course, with the increase of blocked sites, Russian citizens' usage of Tor has increased because people mainly want to access sites they can't normally reach, and that explains official motivation as well.

In appealing for asylum to Brazil and Germany, Snowden promised to give those governments files useful to battling their surveillance by the NSA. Has he promised anything like this to the Russian government? He and his lawyers claim not, but we have only their word.

From the beginning the (rather threadbare) fiction Putin put out for accepting Snowden was that he was "not allowed to damage US interests." This pledge may have long ago been abandoned, given the worsening in US-Russian relations since Putin's aggression in Ukraine.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Snowden's Residence Permit Not Political Asylum - He Must Rely on Kindness of Strangers

Edward Snowden, the fugitive former NSA contractor, has extended his residence in Russia for three more years, his Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said at a press conferece yesterday 7 August, RIA Novosti reported.


The Federal Migration Service had no comment about the arrangement for Snowden, saying they don't comment on applications.

Kucherena, who sits on a "civil society" advisory board of the Federal Secrurity Service (FSB) and other law-enforcement related councils, had several interesting things to say about his client that weren't covered in Western media about the extension.

First, he took pains to say that his client wasn't getting "political asylum." He had spent time getting the one-year "temporary asylum" permit for Snowden, but both he and Snowden wanted to avoid having to collect documents and make the time-consuming appeal for the renewal of that status once every year.

"Therefore the decision was made to appeal for a residence permit," Kucherena explained -- a different status.

He mentioned "total surveillance" and this was a "the most egregious violation of the law," likely a reference to Snowden's theories and not a complaint of his surveillance in Moscow, adding that the government wouldn't provide housing for Snowden, that his rent had to come from private donations.

The Interpreter has provided a translation:

"...there is total surveillance over all of us and this is the most egregious violation of the law. So... such information appeared, such information, so to speak. It is not surprising, because there will be more Snowdens like this in the near future. As what material means he lives on, and concerning his housing. Naturally, as for his expense money, he has a salary. As for some other possibilities...You know that a fund has been opened, money comes into the fund, money comes from private persons, from non-governmental organizations. As for his future housing, for now, that problem remains relevant. For's hard to say anything because it's not known how his affairs will be arranged regarding the provision of material assistance for him.

The government has nothing to do with this. The government cannot allocate to him -- despite the fact that he has a residence permit -- the government cannot allocate him any housing. The question will be resolved only in the private sector.

I'd also like to draw your attention...there has been a fair amount of confusion in the mass media. It's not your fault. The problem is that someone said something, and the information instantly...somebody re-told it to someone else. This is not a question of political asylum. It is a question of a temporary stay on the territory of Russia. In this case, since a decision has been taken about his form of residence, as I've said, he has a permit given for three years. Then that permit may be extended another three years, that is, the law allows for it. But it's not a question of political asylum. Political asylum is understood, but it's not a question of political asylum. Political asylum means a decree from the president of Russia. So it is a completely different legal procedure."

Kucherina didn't say whether Snowden had been given a job in Russia; in the past Snowden has explained that he has had earnings from lectures or op-ed pieces, although he said in the case of at least one such piece in the Guardian that he was donating the proceeds to Human Rights Watch.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by the leadership of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has been raising funds first for WikiLeaks, then to support Snowden. The journalists who first leaked his stolen classified documents -- Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras -- as well as Snowden's technical helpers Jacob Appelbaum, Runa Sandvik and others -- and later even Snowden himself have all been made members of either the board or the technical advisory committee of the Foundation.

It seems hard to believe that a figure as valuable to Russia and as wanted by the US would merely be in a home-stay or house-sit, or that private security guards had to be hired to protect him.Russian propagandists have pretended from the moment of Snowden's landing in Moscow that he is being cared for only by civil-society groups and is not cooperating with the government.

It's far more likely that Snowden is kept in a safe house by Russian intelligence agencies. Given given the photo of Snowden at the supermarket, published by LifeNews, which is close to Russian intelligence agencies, appeared to be near Yasenovo, the stronghold of the GRU offices and residences, it's possible that's where he is kept. While the two photos of him were constantly contested, later he said that the photo of him on the boat on the Volga with two women companions was him, and said the supermarket was also likely of him.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Just Became More like Turkmenistan And It's That Liberal Medvedev's Fault

Everyone was prepared for the Bloggers' Law to go into effect 1 August and figured other unpleasant Internet controls will be coming (such as the requirement of foreign social media to put servers on Russian soil). Russian authorities also seemed to take the opportunity of 1 August rolling around to close down some Ukrainian and Siberian web sites that had long bothered them.


But people were less prepared for the decree on an additional level of surveillance that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev suddenly sprang on providers -- or a new regulation that came out today 8 August requiring presentation of ID at public Internet cafes and other wi-fi hot-spots in order to go online -- also issued by Medvedev.

In fact, Maxim Ksenzov, deputy head of Roskomnadzor, the state censor, had warned back in May that various other enabling regulations would have to be passed along with the blogger's law involving his agency and the FSB. There was no indication it would be this intrusive, however.

When Turkmenistan's then-new President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov came to power in 2007, foreign observers were first impressed that he allowed Internet cafes, then dismayed that Turkmen authorities required people to present their passports to be able to use them.

Now Russia has adopted the same practice. Russian and Central Asia analyst Ilya Zaslavsky commented on his Facebook:

Now it has come to pass! Eight years ago I went to Ekho Moskvy and said that that there's a lot of terrible things, but Russia at least hasn't slid down to the level of Turkmenistan, for example. And now it has slid, they thought up this measure [of passports at Internet cafes] in sunny Turkmenistan 10 years ago. Roissya Vperdye! [A play on words from the phrase "Russia Forward!, something like this--The Interpreter.]

Now when Russians go to use public Wi-Fi, they will have to give their passport information and also a unique number from the device (a hardware hash) they use to go online will be recorded.

Public wi-fi operators will have to keep user information for six years and be able to present a list of all persons using the Internet at their locations by first and last name and patronymic, place of residence and number of identification document.

Matvei Alekseyev, director of government liaison with Rambler&Co. said he found the decree strange:

"Identification of a user in accessing the Web through Wi-Fi in public spaces is not feasible. In Moscow alone, the coverage of open Wi-Fi extends to parks and places of public access. I don't think that someone will walk into Gorky Park and show their passport."

It also seems under this regulation that every cafe or park that happens to have wi-fi will have to get a license from Roskomnadzor, the state censor, as an operator with personal data. Violation of the rules can lead to a fine of 10,000 rubles ($275).

Vadim Dengin, first deputy chair of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technologies and Communications supported the decree.

"It's a question of security. There is an information war. Anonymous log-on on the Internet in public places enables the committing of unlawful actions with impunity. It will be very difficult to find violators. Americans fear wars, they are fighting in the information space best of all. They have strengthened their holding Voice of America. Those who have an interest in destabilization try to fill up the Web with swindlers, fascists and extremists. Everything that is connected to the Internet should be identified."

Currently, there is free Internet in Moscow at McDonald's, Kofemaniya, Shokoladnitsya, Yakitoriya and other cafes and at Gorky Park, Krasnaya Presnya and the VDNKh [All-State National Achievements] Park.