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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
August 11-17, 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.
Siberian Activists Denied Permit, Interrogated; Opposition Party Granted Permission to Picket

Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov reported in a Facebook post that authorities in Novosibirsk, Siberia have turned down a request for a "March for the Inviolability of the Constitutional Order" by a group that has been trying to find a way to get authorities to let them exercise their right to assembly.

Since their request for approval of slogans about Siberian autonomy, or affirming the federative nature of the Russian Federation didn't work, they tried out "Constitutional Order" -- but officials weren't buying it.


Translation of banner: "We'll show Moscow Siberia!"

The activists were then summoned to the police, FSB, and prosecutor's office and threatened with reprisals,, the police monitoring group reported.

Aleksey Baranov, one of the march organizers, was interrogated at the police and then for two hours at the prosecutor's office. In between interrogations, four plainclothesmen approached him and warned him that he might experience "problems with his health and life" if he pursued plans for the march, OVD-info reported. Since they mentioned the names of his relatives and his address while threatening him, he believes they are related to the authorities.

Another organizer, Konstantin Yeremenko also got warning a phone call from the FSB about "problems" he should expect and that "drugs might be found" in his possession. The parents of a third organizer, Aleksandr Atabayev and his girlfriend's parents also got warning calls.

A journalist trying to cover the efforts of the Siberian group also got caught up in the repression (translation by The Interpreter)

Journalist Maksim Sobesky, who traveled to Novosibirk and was detained on the highway at night in Altai Territory and brought to the Talmensky District Interior Ministry Department (police) told OVD-info that he was interrogated there about another organizer of the march, Mikhail Pulin, and was told that they were breaking apart Russia using money from the US State Department. Sobesky tried to convince the OVD officials that federalization and separatism are different things, and that Pulin was not an extremist.

Currently, no one has been able to get in touch with Pulin and his wife, Mariya Katynskaya, although, according to Sobesky, they had gone ahead of him and should have reached Novosibirsk by now.

On 14 August, Pulin, Katynskaya and Sobersky were interrogated at the Center to Combat Extremism in the village of Mayma, not from from Gorno-Altaysk, in connection with the march preparations. Earlier, in a similar office in Novosibirsk, Baranov, Yeremenko and also the applicant for the march, Stanislav Karakovsky were interrogated.

Meanwhile activists from RPR-Parnas (Republican Party of Russia/People's Freedom Party) led by Yegor Savin managed to obtain permission for a picket "For Rights in Siberia." It will take place at 16:00 local time on 17 August.

Local press is afraid to write about even the authorized picket, says Nemtsov. "And then they are surprised why Siberia and the regions live so poorly," he added.

In saying this, Nemtsov is drawing the connection between a free press and the ability to speak freely and assemble with grievances and the improvement of the economy -- which is beset with corruption and mismanagement.

Nemtsov also posted a photo of the activists with a provocatively-drawn map of the Siberian region. "And they are right to do it. F**k you, and no unitary thieves' state," he said -- and got 1,840 likes and 443 shares for his comment.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Are There Chechens Fighting in Southeast Ukraine?

Are there Chechens and other Caucasians from the Russian Federation fighting in the southeast Ukraine? This has been one of the recurring themes of Russia’s war against Ukraine, but it has also been a story that is among the hardest to pin down.

Today there was a tweet reporting a Chechen-Russian battalion fighting in Snezhnoye (Snizhne)

This seemed to match with some videos posted today to YouTube of a man narrating his dispatch from the war, claiming to be in Snezhnoye, the same town in the area where the MH17 was shot down and a Buk was spotted.

He speaks with a Russian southern accent, and then later talks to some other men with Caucasian accents. Some have speculated that he and the others shown in the video are Chechens or others from the North Caucasus. The blogger @djp3tros of Ukraine@War has identified him as Aleksandr Ivin from Rostov-on-Don.

(By the way, the tune playing in the video is a popular Russian soldiers' song, “Ozone Layer” (2004) by Sergei Nagovitsyn with a refrain “the sun won’t shoot us with rays in the heat of the day,” and lyrics about a soldier mourning his friend killed in war who faces death, imagining his daughter will look at his photograph.)

A tweet has also appeared interpreting the scene, which appears to be filled with heavily-armed snipers with sophisticated equipment. We can’t geolocate the area, although it looks like Snezhnoye’s terrain. (Update: the videos have been geolocated to Snezhnoye.)

Earlier today, we reported on our Ukrainian LiveBlog a video uploaded with the title “the militia heads out to cleanse the highway from Dmitrovka to Snezhnoye.”

The same narrator is glimpsed in this video at 1:00 as in the previous video above. In both videos, the soldiers are wearing white leg-bands to help recognize each other in battle; this could indicate a spetznaz group.

Yet another video of the same crew with the narrator was uploaded today labelled "Militia cleansing the highway from Dmitrovka to Snezhnoye together with volunteers from the Caucasus."

The narrator with the southern accent says, "This is war!" and his buddies who appear to be Caucasians cry "This is war! Allahu Akbar!"

On 14 August, a post appeared (a copy of the original can be seen on this tweet) at the Facebook page for a group called “Donbass Volunteer Battalion for Donetsk Region Territorial Defense” regarding the alleged capture of 46 Chechens fighting on the separatists’ side. The post was made by a Ukrainian soldier named Evgeny Shevchenko with this battalion (translation by The Interpreter):

"Good News:

1. A large group of terrorists form Pervomaysk decided to attack us in Popasnaya. It is hard to say what they were thinking. Or whether they were thinking anything at all...? And there were quite a few of them -- approximately 600 people, which still and all was really strange, somehow). I will not run ahead of myself here, but those who get it, get it : )

BTW, what journalists are already saying now for the third day that Pervomaysk is free? why are they putting out this nonsense? When we liberate it -- everyone will learn about this at once. [...]"

Was the soldier implying that this represented an infusion of fighters from the Russian Federation?

He then went on:

2. Gorlivka is under the careful supervision of our ‘best in the world’ paratroopers. Today’s result: 46 Caucasians voluntarily surrendered – All representatives of the Chechen republic.”

This post quickly spread and was taken over by numerous Ukrainian news sources, but was retracted the next day (15 August) on the same Facebook page: 

“The Donbass Battalion reports:

We are refuting the information concerning the capturing of 46 fighters of Chechen nationality [ethnicity]. This information is incorrect.

Dear colleague journalists, to ensure that you do not misinform the public, we remind you that the official sources of information are the Donbass Commander Semyon Semchenko and the Battalion’s official press service.”

Distancing himself from Shevchenko’s report, the group's moderator added that the information has been posted as part of a “Diary of the Donbass battalion” feature.

Some Ukrainian sources later retracted or deleted the news from their page, but not all, thus allowing the report to linger and potentially influence public perception.

Shevchenko himself also posted a retraction and apologized:

“Information is a dangerous thing.

My post yesterday, the part about 46 persons of Caucasian ethnicity surrendering and being taken into captivity by our paratroopers around Gorlivka, please consider that this does not entirely reflect the real state of affairs. From now on, I will try to spread such public information only with photo- and video evidence. All in all, please don’t judge too harshly. […]”

So the episode is a mystery. We can’t tell whether it was entirely made up out of whole cloth -- although it had so much specific detail that would be odd -- or whether maybe some Caucasians were captured or perhaps they escaped. Or perhaps Shevchenko's superiors for some reason didn't want the information to get out about how much intelligence they had on Russian and pro-Russian separatists' movements. Even though it did get out, by retracting it, they could create doubt. Was the story in fact true, and now this battalion is in Snezhnoye? We can’t tell.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Chechen Republic has not made any fresh threats to send troops into Ukraine as he has done frequently throughout the war, but he did mention on 11 August on Instagram, his communication tool of choice that he sent some humanitarian aid to the "Lugansk People's Republic":

Translation by The Interpreter:

Dear friends! Another batch of humanitarian help has been prepared for the People’s Republic of Luhansk. In the name of the Hero of the Russian Federation Akhmad-Hadji Kadyrov [late father of Ramzan Kadyrov] we send everything for first-responders, first aid, treatments for people with severe shrapnel and gunshot wounds. As well as the essentials for a population caught in a war zone. The residents of PRL and DPR need urgent help, without having to wait for The United States and Europe to agree on some sort of ‚corridors.’ #Kadyrov #RF #Europe #Ukraine. 

In June, Kadyrov had threatened to sent "74,000" Chechens to the southeast of Ukraine, but claimed he hadn't sent any yet, even as he admitted 14 Chechens had taken part as volunteers. He implied he had to "hold them back" and there would be "4,000" there if he didn't.

In May, after the battle for the Donetsk airport, there were reports that some of the bodies of those killed in battle turned out to be Chechens. As we reported at the time, Caucasian Knot found a source who said "dozens of those killed in battle in Ukraine have been delivered to the republic." But it was hearsay, and journalists could never pin down names and towns.

A widely-televised threat he made at the time has now been re-uploaded to YouTube this week, but it's actually from May:

In his address on LifeNews, he gave 72 hours to "stop the genocide of Russians" in Ukraine, and that if his ultimatum was not fulfilled, he would send in troops.

"From the Ukrainian city of Slavyansk there is alarming news. The illegal government of Ukraine has begun in this city a wide-scale military operation against its own people. It is using armored vehicles and military helicopters. [...]

We cannot look on calmly when civilians are dying. I am confident that the President of Russia, Supreme Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin in accordance with the powers granted him by the Federation Coucil will take concrete measures for the purpose of defending civilians in Slavyansk and other cities. At any time of the day we await the order of the president of Russian and are prepared within short time periods to fulfill it completely."

(Reporting and translation assistance by Simone Peek.)

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Strelkov's Followers 'In Prostration': Russian Interview with Separatist Leader Gubarev

Back in July, Pavel Gubarev, the self-declared "people's governor" of the "Donetsk People's Republic," told the AP that he was "losing hope" about the separatist struggle and said their leaders were divided and Russia wasn't helping "we are realists and understand that's impossible." But that was a long time ago in the life of the DPR, before Russia began to inject significant new levels of armor and weapons -- which then lead to the downing of the MH17 and the reversal of the DPR's fortunes again.

In an interview 14 August with Neuromir.TV -- a public Internet TV run by ultra-nationalists and transhumanist futurists of the type to admire Ray Kurzweil and worry about the white race dying out -- Gubarev was so positive about the future of the separatists that he sounded nearly goofy. At times Igor Boshchenko, co-author of a book on the future of humanity, seemed incredulous -- as much of a clear supporter of the "Novorossiya" movement he himself is.

"I'm a little bit in shock like everyone here who supported us," Gubarev said about the news of Strelkov's resignation. "They are in somewhat of a prostration from this news," he said of Strelkov's followers.But he added, "I think everything will be fine."

About reports of Strelkov's severe wounding, he said, "according to the information I have, that does not correspond with reality." That's the first sign of trouble -- Gubarev does not appear to have been directly in touch with his long-time comrade-at-arms Strelkov.

"Yes, he's a hero of Novorossiya, he's our hero, he's my hero," said Gubarev reverently -- but he couldn't say when his hero might return, only confirming that he had left Donetsk. Strelkov has been rumored to go to Sevastopol to receive medical treatment or simply to have a rest.

Gubarev said that due to concerns of security during war-time, he didn't want to divulge his own theory for why Strelkov was removed.

The interview included a canned fund-raising pitch from Col. Igor Strelkov, who urged listeners to donate to the separatist cause through the fund of Ekaterina Gubareva, Pavel's wife.


Strelkov and Gubarev earlier this year.

Gubarev gave a very upbeat account of the separatists' prospects and stressed how the DPR was busy constructing a state, creating civilian agencies, and hoping to transfer functions now in military hands into civilian hands. The DPR now gives out food rations and people line up for them in yet another practice reminiscent of the Soviet Union. Gubarev envisioned "500 bureaucrats" to manage the several-million strong population of Donetsk and environs, and saw that the corrupt Party of Regions would have to be sent packing.

He described the new appointees, including Vladimir Kononov, who has the nick-name "Tsar," a judo trainer for many  years. Gubarev describes him as a short, wiry man, he was not formally in the military but "has military experience" as Gubarev put it vaguely, saying he had already been awarded the "Order of the Cavalier of St. George."

"He has a large number of people under him, he has authority," said Gubarev of "Tsar," adding that he was a native of Slavyansk who was devoted to defending his turf. Among his accomplishments were the recent  battles in Shakhtyorsk and Torez, and the destruction of Ukrainian armored vehicles.

Gubarev explained that Strelkov was "energetic" and "a believer," but it was a strategic initiative to transfer the leadership role to these other combatants. Boshchenko mentioned that according to Strelkov's advisor Igor Druzhin, "he can't be bought out" -- a reference to constant rumors that various oligarchs in Russia (Konstantin Malofeyev) and Ukraine (Rinat Akhmetov) support the separatist movement.

Asked about the prospects for the war, Gubarev told Boshchenko, "I'm very optimistic, even from these recent days, from facts I saw first-hand." He said there was no panic, and "Novorossiya will not allow anyone to dump us."

One of the words that the separatists and their ultra-nationalist backers in Moscow use frequently is slit' a term which means "to pour off" or "dump," and is also slang used by gamers to mean "betray" or "kill."

Boshchenko asked about the Russian humanitarian cargo which is now waiting outside the Izvarino crossing, but two days ago at the time of the interview was in Voronezh Region, headed toward the border.

"If it goes through Ukrainian territory, that is, the territory under the control of the junta, of course I am worried about that humanitarian cargo," he said. "If it goes through Izvarino, we can assure that it will reach recipients, the people of Donbass," adding that the situation in Lugansk was much worse than Donetsk.

Then came a veiled threat at 10:24 -- no doubt one of the stark factors that contributed to the Ukrainian decision to accept this manipulative Russian operation at the other crossing (translation by The Interpreter)

"If it goes through Ukrainian territory, something will definitely happen to it, I have that feeling. Therefore this cargo has to come through Izvarino and reach its recipients, that is, the people of Donbass."

Gubarev believes the Ukrainian army "will not manage to cut off Lugansk from Donetsk"; the battle continues.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Trial of Opposition Leader Navalny Resumes in Yves Rocher Case

The trial of opposition leader Aleksandr Navalny, famous for his anti-corruption blogging, resumed today in the Zamoskvoretsky Court, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

Navalny and his brother are charged with embezzlement and money-laundering in a case which many see as an effort to trump up the kinds of charges against Navalny himself that he makes against corrupt government leaders.

Navalny brothers in front of the court house 14 August 2014. Photo by Dmitry Katorzhnov

Navalny and his brother are accused of allegedly taking 26 million rubles ($722,000) from Yves Rocher Vostok [East], a French company. As we reported earlier this year, Bruno Leproux, the former head of Yves Rocher Vostok who accused Alexey Navalny and his brother Oleg of abuses, thereby opening the way for the case, no longer works at this company.

According to his LinkedIn information, Leproux left his position in June 2013, four months after his company withdrew its claims against the Navalny brothers, and sent a formal letter to the Investigative Committee, stating that Navalnys did not cause any damage to Yves Rocher, and they had no claims against them.

Yet the Russian government continues to press the case, which the Navalny brothers' lawyers say is "fictitious."

The court turned down a request from Navalny's lawyers to enable Internet transmission of the proceedings, and also closed-circuit video for an overflow room.

The prosecutor has also charged the Navalny brothers with allegedly embezzling 4 million rubles (about $111,000) from another company called Mnogoprofilnaya Protsessingovaya Kompaniya (Multi-profile Processing Company) and laundering 21 million more (about $583,000). The claim is that Navalny created a company called Glavnoye Podpisnoye Agentsvo, also known as GlavPodpiska) [Main Correspondence Agency] which obtained support from Russia Post, where Oleg Navalny then worked, and handled the contract for delivering cosmetics from Yves Rocher Vostok. This supposedly led to Yves Rocher East suffering a loss, according to the prosecution.

The charges under Art. 159, part 4, and Art. 171.1, part 2 (embezzling and money-laundering), could lead to imprisonment for up to 12 years.

Letters from Yves Rocher have been published on Navalny's support site, in which a director, Christian Melnik, says there was no real loss from the relationship with Navalny's company, and that the cost for the services was an "average market price."

Oleg Navalny said their company was originally created to enable Russians to subscribe to periodicals via the Internet, and then he made the acquaintance of Zhanna Chikova, who complained about the cosmetic company's problems with logistics in Russia. Oleg found a company to do the deliveries; Glavpodpiska was the middle-man in this relationship. As Navalny's defense lawyer pointed out, if Yves Rocher found anything wrong with this arrangement or was unhappy with its cost, then why did they keep extending the contract year after year?

Alexey Navalny said the relationships of the companies involved "normal business processes" and the reason the company was registered in Cyprus -- a common practice for Russian companies -- was to avoid political pressure. In his testimony, Navalny stated (translation by The Interpreter)

"I do not plead guilty. The case is fabricated in order to stop my political activity, and intimidate not only me but my family. You yourselves know that -- otherwise why did you forbid the broadcast?"

The prosecutor asked to further question the witnesses and examine evidence. Navalny's lawyer objected because this would prolong the proceeding, and in fact the plaintiff was right in the courtroom.

It turned out this would involve bringing in more witnesses. "You have 50 drivers from Ukraine among your witnesses. Most likely some of them are even from Donetsk!" quipped Navalny, alluding to current armed separatist conflict in the southeast of Ukraine supported by Russia.

The representative from Yves Rocher East appeared not to understand the joke. "What so funny?" he asked as the audience erupted into laughter.

The trial was adjourned to 21 August.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Hackers Access Medvedev's Twitter, E-mail

The Russian hackers' group Shaltai Boltai (which means "Humpty Dumpty" in Russian) says it hacked into Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's email early this morning at the same time as they made unauthorized access to his Twitter account to post protests about Ukraine.

The group is now suspended on Twitter.

In a post on their Blogspot account, the group says that they discovered Medvedev's e-mail correspondence on three Apple devices was "boring." It consisted of chat with his colleagues about the state budget.

They also found that the prime minister was using a credit card with a different name to buy gadgets on Amazon. He ordered a $99 Casio  G-shock standard men's watch, but got a refund when it was undeliverable.

The hackers advised Dmitry Anatolyevich to change the passwords on all his e-mail accounts.

A message appearing to be from Vladimir Markin, the spokesman for the Investigative Committee, claimed the hackers were already apprehended.

But then the account noted that it was the "unofficial" account of Markin and was revealed as a fake.

Translation: People who hacked Dmitry Medvedev's Twitter have already been brought into the IC [Investigative Committee].

As far as we know, the hackers are still at large.