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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia This Week September 8-14

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.
TV Rain's Chief Producer Assaulted in Moscow

Ksenya Batanova, TV Rain's chief producer and anchor, was assaulted in Moscow and hospitalized, TV Rain reported.

Although the attack took place on the night of Friday, 12 September, for some reason the independent TV station did not report it until today, 14 September.

Batanova said two unidentified persons approached her near her home on Milyutinsky Lane and struck her more than a dozen times in the face.

She lost consciousness and the assailants took her earrings and cell phone. She noted that the assailants did not say anything as they beat her.

Batanova was hospitalized with a concussion and facial fractures.

Today is election day in Moscow, and Batanova is a member of the electoral commission at polling station no. 64 in the 45th electoral district in Meshchansky District. She was supposed to work at the polls today.

An investigator came to question her in the hospital.

TV Rain did not comment on whether they believe this attack was related to her work, or TV Rain's critical position in investigating the unexplained deaths of soldiers in Ukraine. TV Rain started a list of such cases, already numbering 34.

Recently Lev Shlosberg, a deputy from the Yabloko party in the regional legislature in Pskov Region, was attacked by two men outside his home and was hospitalized with a skull and nose fracture and lacerations. He is expected to recover. Shlosberg said he believed the assault was related to his investigation into the Pskov 76th Guards whose soldiers were killed in action in the war in Ukraine.

In the case of Shlosberg, no valuables were taken and the attack appeared to be a clear "message"; in the case of Batanova, the taking of jewelry and a phone may mean the incident is a common crime, but the timing is suspicious.

TV Rain fell under heavy pressure from the government earlier this year after broadcasting a controversial poll on the Leningrad Blockade. Since then, some cable operators dropped their program and the station has struggled to survive.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
In Moscow City Legislature Race, United Russia Leads with Close Vote Between Independent and Nationalist

The turnout picked up in the Moscow municipal elections, after the mayor's office sent out SMS texts urging people to vote and trucks with loud-speakers drove around.

Translation: There is a little car with a loudspeaker driving around Novokosino calling on people to go to the polls! The turnout in Moscow at 15:00 is 12.79%

Translation: Turnout at 15:00 is 12.79%. In 2013, 18.65% turned out for the mayoral elections 2014 from 2013 68.58% turnout for this hour.

Translation: Turnout at the elections to the Moscow City Duma by 6 pm was 17.48%

Translation: In St. Petersburg, turnout is 25.76%, of this, 9% early voting.

Some people thought it was better not to take part in elections in which the mayor's office and ruling party have such an advantage.

Translation: 18% for contemporary Moscow is a big turnout. In a healthy society, it would be 1-2%.

The race was particularly close in some districts. Sergei Baburin, vice speaker of the State Duma and leader of the Narodnaya Volya [Popular Will] Party of National Revival, is a prominent Russian nationalist. Oleg Soroka, is the ruling United Russia party candidate.

Translation: Baburin, Soroka and Morozov are going neck and neck.

Each candidate ran their own exit polls:

Translation: Exit polls from Katz: Sergei Baburin: 23% Vitaly Zolochevksiy: 7% Maxim Katz: 32%; Yelena Morozova: 10%; Oleg Soroska: 28%.

Translation: exit poll data at 19:00. Details here [Ilya Varlamov's Live Journal].

Konstantin Rykov, the top Kremlin web propagandist, was happy to see independent opposition candidate Katz fall, and Baburin, the nationalist, get ahead. Rykov himself, while not a United Russia party member ran on the United Russia ballot in 2007 to become a member of parliament for a time.

Translation: 12 of the 94 precincts are counted! Katz has fallen to third place. Baburin has broken ahead to first place!

Translation: Intrigues in the counting of votes at the Moscow City Duma. Data from the SMS Central Election Commission District 5, Baburin vs. Katz vs. Soroka.

Districts showed their ballot counting live online.

Katz seemed to be conceding defeat and taking condolences.

Data from votes from 40 precincts: Baburin: 3,819; Katz: 3,476; Soroka: 4,502.

Translation: 68 precincts: Baburin: 7,233; Katz: 6,990; Morozova: 3,126; Soroka: 8,615.

Interestingly, a liberal candidate who campaigned for urban improvements, was unable to get the nomination from the opposition party Yabloko in the end, and ran from his own platform, was able to make a very close showing to Baburin, an established nationalist in the State Duma, but the Moscow mayor party machine of the ruling party seems to have bested them in the end.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Low Turnout in Moscow Municipal Elections, Difficulties for Opposition Candidates

Muscovites voted today for legislators in the Moscow municipal legislature. There was also voting in other towns for the legislature and also heads of districts.

The elections seemed to offer an opportunity for the opposition to try to capitalize on the showing of 30% by opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny in the Moscow mayor elections. Yet there proved to be hurdles, not the least of which was the "municipal filter" requiring existing members of the legislature to endorse candidates for the future.

Candidates faced confusing informal "primaries" that threw off their campaigns.

And it was hard to get ordinary people interested.

Translation: Turnout is close to 10%

Translation: at 12 pm in Krasnogorsk the turnout was 3%. In the rural vilages of the district, 7-8%, but there besides deputies they are voting for the heads of the districts.

Opposition candidates continued to find themselves under attack. One candidate, Olga Romanova received direct death threats in a film aired on state TV. 

Max Katz, an independent candidate who had his cell phone messages hacked and published in the state media, was accused of possessing dual Russian and Israeli citizenship, and evading Israeli draft.

Translation: Novaya gazeta: Maxim Katz is wanted by the army in Israel. He is threatened with prison. Poor thing.

For some reason Diana Khachaturyan, a journalist at Novaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper usually not joining in with state media's attacks on the opposition, decided to go after Katz and print the expose on the eve of the elections.

Katz denied the claims, saying he had emigrated to Israel as a child with his parents, but returned to Russia in 2002, and had no residence in Israel.

Khachaturyan persisted and found a source described as "reliable" in Israel, although it is not clear what relationship the person had to the Israeli government, who said the following:

"Katz really did submit an application to renounce Israeli citizenship, but the bureaucratic procedure was not finalized. It is possible the 'dodger' does not even suspect that the State of Israel does not consider him its citizen. However, lack of knowledge does not remove his responsibility."

President Vladimir Putin has launched a campaign against the opposition in recent years, imposing a "foreign agents" law and in June signed into law a requirement that by 7 August, all residents had to register their dual citizenship or pay heavy fines. Human rights groups protested that the requirement seemed designed to humiliate people with foreign ties and place them under more scrutiny.

Popular blogger Ilya Varlamov blamed in-fighting among opposition leaders for the poor showing of opposition candidates.

Translation: He [Navalny] has a lot of angry idlers hanging around who even a year ago held a grudge against Katz, for which they were kicked out. The atmosphere is rotten.

Translation: In a year, they destroyed everything and quarelled with everyone. Of course, this is very bad. Everyone pulls the blanket on himself. Gobbling up those close to them is their favorite occupation.

Translation: Now Navalny, for understandable reasons, cannot act appropriately and independently. He relies on his team. The team, in my view, is weak.

All of this was only exploited by the Kremlin's top web propagandist Konstantin Rykov who reprinted the Novaya Gazeta slam on Katz.

Navalny's account, which is run by his wife and assistants while he is banned from Internet use, had this to say:

Translation: This sums up everything about our government and all elections: Gorbunov, who has undeclared real estate in Croatia is shouting that Golos are foreign agents.

Golos, an election monitoring group harassed by the authorities due to foreign funding, recently had a successful court appeal launched by Human Rights Ombudsman Ella Pamfilova to remove its "foreign agent" status.

The mayor's office was able to use its considerable "administrative resources" -- like obtaining people's cell phone numbers to send them text messages -- to advantage.

Navalny's wife Yuliya was surprised to get one of the robo-texts from the mayor urging her to go out and vote:

Translation: I didn't know the mayor was like this. Things are probably very bad with the turnout if they write me. #Heywhat #Ishouldgomushroompicking

Translation: the call back isn't working.

Voters were offered low-cost produce at the voting precincts if they came to vote.

Translation: "The main thing Moscow! The main thing is vegetables! Everyone to the elections of the Moscow City Duma deputies' potato congress."

Sign:  14.09.2014 You can get any VEGETABLES for low prices (carrots, cabbage, potatoes, onions, beets) at election precincts.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Gay Tango Instructor Found Murdered in St. Petersburg reports that Yekaterina Khomenko, a St. Petersburg woman who gave dancing instruction to gay couples, has been found murdered in her car.


Via VKontakte

Khomenko, 29, was found by a janitor with her throat slashed at about 7:25 am on 6 September.

LGBT activists have said they believe her murder was related to her work. The St. Petersburg site wrote 9 September:

"We are shaken by the horrible murder of Yekaterina Khomenko, teacher of queer tango in St. Petersburg. Yekaterina was a bright person, a wonderful professional, daughter and friend. She was only 29. We express our condolences to relatives and friends of Yekaterina. We will remember her for what she did -- give joy and wings to many of us."

But said authorities were not looking at the possibility that her murder may have been a homophobic hate crime.

In fact, detectives at first said they believed her death was a suicide and did not seem to be in a hurry to look for murder suspects, said

Her father said police asked him whether his daughter used drugs or had any financial worries or suffered from depression. Yet in the end, police did open up a case under Art. 105 of the Russian criminal code, "murder," says the online news site Petersburgskiy Dnevnik.

Her father Valery Khomenko appeared on his daughter's page on VKontakte (VK), a popular Russian social network, with the grim news and urged friends to provide him with any information about her work or residence.

Khomenko, a graduate of Moscow State University's Faculty of Psychology had recently moved from the Moscow suburb of Fryazino to St. Petersburg where she rented an apartment and taught the art of dance, specializing in gay couples.

A closed VK group called Tango Queer also mourned her death.


Via VKontakte

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Leading Russian Human Rights Group Declared 'Foreign Agent'

The Human Rights Center of the Moscow Memorial Society lost its court appeal against the prosecutor's designation of "foreign agent," the organization reported in a press release on its website this afternoon.

Translation: The court pronounced the Memorial human rights organization a foreign agent.

The Moscow City Court reviewed the group's appeal and rejected an appeal filed 29 April 2013 against the prosecutor's designation requiring "foreign agent" registration due to funding from foreign foundations.

The director of the center, Aleksandr Cherkasov, wrote the following in a statement on Memorial's website (translation by The Interpreter):

The court session, which lasted almost an hour, opened up many new things to us.

The presiding judge right from the start began to discuss lists of political prisoners which are kept and published by Memorial Human Rights Center, but about which the prosecutor had not said a word in his "submission," and about which we had heard nothing in the court of the first instance.

The prosecutor and the presiding judge stubbornly confused Grigory Okhotin, the head of the OVD Info project [a separate police abuse monitoring group--The Interpreter], with Sergei Davidis, head of the program to aid political prisoners, ascribing the actions and testimonies of the first to the second.

The city court ignored the decision of the Constitutional Court which on 8 April 2014 had clearly indicated that the organization does not bear responsibility for the activity of its member in his personal capacity (or within the framework of another organization).

We learned that reporting to a grant-giver means acting in his interests, which "places in doubt the action of the authorities" - which means to engage in political activity -- and that to inform society of political persecution means to incite people.

For the first time, we saw a prosecutor who proved that the prosecutor's submission is a useless scrap of paper meaning nothing, not compulsory to fulfill and not capable of violating any law.

Finally, we learned much new about the peculiarities of our time -- that a grant received in 2013 could somehow influence mass demonstrations in 2011-2012. Actually, the prosecutor from the outset used fact and events in his "submission" that took place before 21 November 2012, before the "foreign agents' law" went into effect.

We were given visible proof that the prosecutor's "submission" can be lawful and grounded only in a world refuting the laws of humanity and physics, including the law of causality. Perhaps, in that distorted world, we could be someone's "agents."

The Human Rights Center is part of a complex of organizations within the Memorial movement started in the Gorbachev area to research and publish the crimes of the Communist era, and to advocate against their legacy in  the Chechen wars and other human rights violations continuing to the present day.

This week, another court ruled that the designation of 'foreign agent' should no longer apply to another organization, Golos, the election-monitoring group, after appeal from the Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson Ella Pamfilova.

But last week, the Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg, long under a prosecutor's investigation instigated by a conservative politician, was suddenly given the "foreign agent" designation on the Ministry of Justice's website after the Soldiers' Mothers publicized their inquiry into missing soldiers believed to have been killed or captured in the war in Ukraine.

Such arbitrary actions suggest that the authorities will both split the human rights movement by attempting to co-opt some, punishing others, and keeping everyone off-balance in expectation that the status could be applied at any time.