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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 29-October 5

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.
5 Policeman Killed Detaining Suicide Bomber in Grozny; Terrorist Identified

Five Chechen policemen were killed in Grozny as they stopped a suspicious man at a metal-detector who then blew himself up, RIA Novosti and other Russian media reported. Another 12 persons were reportedly wounded in the blast.

Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic, was preparing to celebrate the 196th anniversary of the city as well as the 38th birthday of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, which fall on the same date.

The bomb went off at the intersection of Rosa Luxemburg Street and Isayev Avenue.

Kadyrov had just sent out a post on the city's anniversary and on his own birthday on his favorite social media, Instagram, when the explosion occurred at 17:05 local time.


 Kadyrov decided to continue the festivities and made his first reference to the bombing in an Instagram post within two hours of the blast. He said that the sacred month following Ramadan was a time when Muslims were forbidden to kill, so that the bomber had violated religious precepts. The Interpreter has translated an excerpt:

The Wahabbists and terrorists cursed by the Prophet (swt) tried to tern the holidays into a national tragedy, to shed the blood of dozens and hundreds of people.

This bastard bandit with a pistol introduced himself as a police officer and tried to pass through to the square where a whole number of festivities were being celebrated. The courage and professionalism of the police employees prevented numerous possible civilian victims. While he was being searched, the bastard set off the suicide bomb. A terrorist act which these satans wanted to comit on the holidays, when the whole city was out celebrating and there were festive events, wanted to ruin the mood, but that's not happening, people are continuing to celebrate.

Officers have been killed and wounded. They will be given state awards. The Wahabbists wanted to show that they exist, but we will prove that they shouldn't be in Chechnya and nowhere else. We will destroye them, no matter where they are found. This incident did not affect the situation in Chechnya. It is stable and is completely controlled by the law-enforcement agencies.


He then continued to tweet out several other pictures and lectures against terrorism and the need to raise youth properly.

In an Instagram post showing a balloon with his father's picture, he attached a recorded message in which he said:

People wanted to ruin so to say our holiday. Thanks to our police officers, the terrorist attack was prevented. I think in the near future we will destroy the people who are behind this terrorist attack. People are continuing to celebrate the city holiday, the teacher and youth day.


The suicide bomber was quickly identified as Apti Mudarov, age 19, from Staropromyslovsky District of Grozny, the Russian Investigative Committee told Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP).

The youth had been missing from his home for two months, said law-enforcement officials.

KP said that the bomber was wearing a suicide belt. But, an independent news service that tends to be pro-Russian, said that he was just carrying a bag of explosives, as did initial Russian state wire services.

The variation in the way the story has been covered by state and independent media relates to the question of whether the suicide bomber was intent on actually committing suicide as a true believer in radical Islamism, or whether he was actually hoping to pass as a police officer, and preparing to lay explosives but escape.

Although Kadyrov's original statement on Instagram didn't make any mention of a documents check, the first quotation of Kadyrov which we saw quoted from Interfax on, TV Rain at 19:20, and also on RIA Novosti at 18:57 introduced this detail and didn't specify that it was a suicide bomb (translation by The Interpreter)

He came up to the post with a pistol, introduced himself as a law-enforcement officer, but despite this, the police asked him to show some documents and began examining him. While he was being searched, the bomb went off. A terrorist act which these satans wanted to commit on the holidays, when the whole city was out celebrating and there were festive events, they wanted to ruin the mood, but that's not happening, people are continuing to celebrate.

The version TV Rain ran at 19:20 citing Interfax was slightly different:

This evening at a checkpoint for citizens to pass through to the festival for Grozny Day, olice officers stopped a young man. He had a pistol on him, he introduced himself as a police officer. At the request to submit to a search, the young man set off an explosive device.

At that time, Kadyrov said police were still looking for the terrorist.

Komsomolskaya Pravda then ran the story with this information:

At first there was information that the bandit had survived after the suicide-bombing. Although soon afterward, this information was refuted by law-enforcement officials of Chechnya.

Then KP used a different quote from Kadyrov, not from RIA Novosti, but the same one we translated above which starts, "The Wahabbists and terrorists cursed by the Prophet (swt) tried to tern the holidays into a national tragedy."

Graphic pictures of the suicide bomber filled Twitter within hours, showing that his right arm and leg had been blown off, but the rest of his body was intact, supporting the thesis that he was not wearing a suicide belt. A Twitter user said he had been holding the bag of explosives in his right hand, and that there was no belt.

The area where the bombing took place is at the city center and is named for Kadyrov's father, Akhmat, who was himself assassinated in a terrorist bombing in May 2004 during a World War II victory parade, in which his bodyguard and some 30 other people also were killed.


A graphic video of the dead bomber and policeman was uploaded to YouTube but removed under Google's terms of service. published some screenshots.

The pro-Kremlin REN-TV appears to have been first on the scene to capture the aftermath of the blast, tweeting a photo showing the dead policemen's bodies by the metal detectors.

LifeNews also captured the blast and ran footage later showing numerous first-responders on the scene, noting that the policemen had prevented the suicide bomber from killing more people.

A popular singer named Zara sent out a celebratory greeting in an Instagram post shortly after the tragedy:


Kadyrov then released a longer statement on Instagram, an excerpt of which has been translated by The Interpreter:


I am very grateful to all those who congratulated us, who is joyful for our successes and supports us in this difficult moment. At a time when tens of thousands of residents of Chechnya and our guests were marking the holidays of the city, youth and teachers, some sort of bastard bandit without a clan or tribe made an attempt to shed the blood of the participants of the festival.

Vigilant police officers detained him at the very first post not far from the public celebration area. At the price of their own lives, they prevented a terrorist act capable of taking away the lives of dozens of civilians. This abortion does not represent anyone. There is peace, stability and prosperity in the republic. We are looking confidently to the future. But the terrorists and Wahabbis only understand the language of force. They must be destroyed, wherever they stick up their heads. We will combat them in Chechnya and beyond its borders, because they do not have the right to live on this earth. They are damned by the Prophet (swt). And in the future there will be nothing of them here! And so that they never appear anywhere, we must raise youth in the norms of the Koran and the Sunni Prophet (swt), we can't wait for the Udugovs, Zakayevs and Western intelligence agencies to befuddle their minds!

His last statement is a reference to Chechen resistance leaders Udugov, who has gone into hiding and Zakayev, who lives abroad and also the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Western intelligence clandestinely undermines Russia by supporting Chechen terrorists.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Ultranationalist Web Site Owner Summoned to Police in 'Extremism' Investigation

In a sign that the Russian government may be reining in some of the far-right groups they have tacitly encouraged throughout the war on Ukraine, the owner of the ultranationalist web site Sputnik & Pogrom has been summoned to the police for questioning in an investigation on "extremism" charges.

Yegor Prosvirnin writes on his web page that yesterday on 2 October he was called in for questioning under Art. 280-2 ("public calls for extremist activity committed with the help of mass media, including the Internet").

Sputnik & Pogrom is a site popular with the younger generation of Russian extremists as it uses satirical writing and slick graphics to attract attention on social media. The name comes from the two words that the Russian language has given to foreign languages, ostensibly symbolizing the best and worse of Russian culture, although S&P have made no secret of their anti-migrant sentiment. Prosvirnin has been an avid fan of the Russian-backed separatists and has particularly popularized Col. Igor Strelkov.

Prosvirnin said he refused to answer questions, citing Art. 51 of the Russian Constitution which says that no one can be forced to incriminate themselves. Police then took his signature stating this refusal and informed him the case was being transferred to the Federal Security Service (FSB) or intelligence agency of Russia. He believes that a case is not yet open but that it is being contemplated.

Last week, Prosvirnin was called into the prosecutor's office for questioning, and mention was made of "FSB evaluation," but he says did not publicize the summons "so as not to give a motive for Ukrainian propagandists."

Now that the case has gone further, he has decided to disclose it.

"Against one of the main propaganda sites of Novorossiya and the Russian Spring, the FSB is putting together a criminal case so as to punish people for helping the Russian insurgents," writes Prosvirnin. Russians often use the term "propaganda" in a positive sense. Says Prosvirnin (translation by The Interpreter):

If a case is opened, regardless of the outcome, it will be the main argument for every supporter of Ukraine, a text-book example, of what help to Russians under a living Putin leads to, and also an absolutely murderous argument in any debates with nationalists ("Remember Prosvirnin? He collected 30 million for Novorossiya, yeah. Now he's collecting money for cigarettes in Magadan." )

Therefore I would entirely sincerely recommend bringing to account for extremism those who initiated this entire story. It should be noted that today our cite has nearly been taken down by Ukrainian hackers (they even managed to gloat on therefore your FSB is operating in a pleasant synchronicity with the "fascist junta in Kiev."

Magadan is a remote city where a prison camp from the GULAG era is located.

Prosvirnin reassured his readers (some of whom are paid subscribers) that even if he is jailed the work will continue and indicated that even in prison colonies these days, people have mobile phones.

"Even if I have to sew mittens in Krasnokamensk, I will still call for the creation of a Greater Novorossiya and its return to Russia." His reference is to a job frequently given to prison labor. Krasnokamensk is the city in the remote region of Chita where Mikhail Khodorkovsky served part of his term.

In June, Eurasianist ideologue and ultranationalist Aleksandr Dugin, a professor at Moscow State University, had a renewal of his contract revoked, evidently in connection with his incitement of hatred of Ukrainians.

The original Moscow leadership of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" -- Col. Igor Strelkov, Aleksandr Boroday, Denis Pushilin, and Vladimir Antyufeyev, have been replaced by Donbass-based figures.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Despite Further Refutations Even From Separatist Leaders, Mass Graves, 'Organ-Trafficking' Disinformation Still Circulates

It's a rare day that the Russian-backed separatists are more truthful than the Moscow propaganda outlets that fuel their information warfare, but that's the case in the affair of the false reports of "40" or even "400 bodies in mass graves" and "organ-trafficking" as we reported yesterday.

Separatist leaders themselves from the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" have discounted a report sourced with Einars Graudins, a Latvian activist who has made a number of unsubstantiated allegations about Ukrainian atrocities, Svoboda, the Russian-language service of the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports.

Andrei Purgin, the vice premier of the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" provided even more clarification yesterday to Interfax (translation by The Interpreter):

We were not understood correctly, and as a result the information was distorted. We were talking about the fact that 400 is the total number of unidentified bodies remaining in the Donetsk morgues. Ninety-percent of them are civilians who died at various times. Many of the bodies are disfigured and it is hard to make an identification. Therefore we appealed to Russian specialists with a request to conduct DNA analysis.

Earlier this week, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the DPR's prime minister, explained that he, too, was "misunderstood" when Russian state media claimed that there were "40" victims in mass graves; he said he was referring to other graves with combatants who were missing intestines because of shrapnel wounds.

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission found 9 bodies in three grave sites outside of Donetsk in Nizhnyaya Krynka, and made no claims about their status as forensic examination is outside their mandate.

The false statements made by Graudins were readily picked up by REN TV, Channel 1 and other pro-government media and have spread across pro-Russian forums and pro-Kremlin Western web sites as well.

While they've been refuted by the separatist leaders themselves, the false report that there are "hundreds of bodies in mass graves" live on in Russian-language RIA-Novosti in a report today October 3 and have been cited even by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who should know better.

The "400" and the "organ-trafficking" stories have been flogged hard by a  new English-language pro-Kremlin propaganda outlet called Russian Insider

Set your watches for when the fake "organs-trafficking" story will appear on -- as it did back in July -- and Daily Kos, which routinely reprints Moscow disinformation.

The issue of the mass graves has also been raised by AP's Matt Lee at the State Department noon press briefing, and received this reply from State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki:

Well, we are confident that the Ukrainian Government will continue to investigate these claims in conjunction with international experts, as they did when at least eight bodies were discovered in Slovyansk after the town was liberated from separatist control earlier this summer. The issue remains what we talked about yesterday: They don’t have access to this area because it’s separatist controlled, so they can’t get in to do an investigation partnered with international experts.

QUESTION: You don’t – it’s not your understanding that the OSCE monitors have already been there?

MS. PSAKI: They were alerted – OSCE monitors were alerted in late September to the location of unmarked graves, but this would be – any investigation would be under the authority of the Ukrainian Government.

There's still a mystery as to how Graudins attached himself to a group of human rights activists who accompanied the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission -- which disavowed him.

Svoboda published a picture of Graudins with a DPR fighter (second from right).


Natasha Rayakovich from the OSCE press office told Svoboda that currently the mission is attempting to clarify where he came from.

Svoboda reports that Graudins is a member of the Congress of Non-Citizens of Latvia, the leftist anti-globalist party and is running in elections this week in Latvia from the Russian Union of Latvia. He served in the USSR armed forces and Latvia's reconnaissance paratrooper units as a senior officer of the defense ministry.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
OSCE Representative on Human Trafficking Purveys Russian Propaganda Story of 'Organ-Trafficking' in Ukraine

The representative for the issue of human trafficking at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Kazakhstan's Amb. Madina Jarbusynova, has used an appearance on Ukrainian TV to fuel a false claim by the Russian state media of Ukrainian atrocities including "organ-trafficking".

The claim was based on comments about a mass grave found outside of Donetsk from a pro-Russian Latvian activist Einars Graudins  who claimed to be an OSCE expert. He was subsequently disavowed by OSCE and the "organ-trafficking" story in fact discounted by the separatists' prime minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko himself who explained -- after a day of sensational Russian state media reports -- that he was referring to other graves of combatants who died from shrapnel wounds, accounting for the missing intestines.

As we reported, the Russian state and pro-Kremlin private media have been making exaggerated claims related to a discover of a mass grave outside of Donetsk with 9 victims, falsely claiming that it had "40" victims, based on a  mis-reporting of Zakharchenko's remarks, and then "400" based on misleading statements from separatist leaders and a pro-Russian Latvian activist. The Russian media has claimed there was evidence of "organ-trafficking" made from the exhumation of the bodies -- and first misleadingly cited a pro-Russian Latvian activist who had not actually been at the exhumation of the graves, then triumphantly cited a Ukrainian TV show as "proof" of "OSCE's" claims.

Translation: Special representative Madina Jarbusynova on the work of OSCE in combatting human trafficking in Ukraine.

At 7:35, Amb. Jarbusynova says (translation by The Interpreter):

"Last week at the annual meeting on the implementation of obligations in the human rights field (OSCE HDIM), there was a statement from the mass media -- not the mass media, but non-governmental groups working in this sphere about how allegedly, in the east of Ukraine, graves were found where, according to evidence, these bodies were found without their internal organs, so here the question is raised that there exists possibly trafficking in organs. At this meeting it was stated that observers from the OSCE mission will carefully investigate this information, that it should not be politicized. Facts are needed that confirm whether this took place."

This story-telling is in keeping with a frequent technique of Russia (and for that matter, Kazakhstan) in first claiming some atrocity has occurred (if committed by Ukrainians) (or not occurred, if Russia is blamed) and then insisting that an international investigation is absolutely needed to clarify the story -- even though the claim was concocted in the first place by disinformation specialists.

This was the case, for example, with Russian claims of the use of white phosphorous by Ukrainian army, for which no evidence was found, and which was the subject of Russian state media broadcasts with footage used from Syria, claimed falsely to be from Ukraine.

But the damage is already done as numerous people on Twitter and blogs and Russian propaganda sites begin to copy the organ-trafficking claim as "truth."

Translation: Special representative of the OSCE on combatting human trafficking Madina Jarbusynova stated that there is the possibility that bodies discovered in mass graves in Donbass could be without internal organs, which could have been sold. She stated this on the 112 Ukraina television channel.

As we reported, the story is based on remarks made by the "prime minister of the Donetsk People's Republic," Aleksandr Zakharchenko, who noted in press interviews that there could be "up to 40" persons in mass graves and that their internal organs were removed. After this story had a day to spread like wildfire, Zakharchenko walked it back, explaining that the figure of 40 was not regarding the 3 mass graves OSCE had found, and that he was  referring to other graves containing combatants both from the pro-Russian side and Ukrainian armed forces. The organs were missing because the people had died from shrapnel wounds -- he himself had not made any allegation of organ-trafficking:

"Every day we find some sort of graves which remain after the Ukrainian army. The bodies discovered without internal organs are marks of wounds. After forensic analysis they may prove how they were damaged, that these are shell wounds from the explosion of mines. The ones I spoke about (earlier) -- these are graves of my people and Ukrainian armed forces."

The propaganda campaign follows the pattern of other such operations by Russian sources which first float a falsehood and cite a seeming authority, then later provide further information even contradicting the claim of the headline, in a follow-up story the same day or the next day.

Japbursynova was notorious during the period of Kazakhstan's chairmanship of OSCE in 2010, where she threatened NGO leaders with jailing for their criticism of the Kazakh government -- which made good on the threats -- and accused Western NGOs who planned to hold an independent parallel human rights conference during the official OSCE summit in Astana as "terrorists."
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Veteran Russian Human Rights Group to Curtail Operations

The Moscow Helsinki Group, one of the oldest human rights organizations in Russia, announced 1 October that it is forced to roll up most of its operations inside Russia due to funding issues, Moscow Times reported.

"We've cut projects to a bare minimum. You could say we're simply surviving," the organization's chairwoman Lyudmila Alexeyeva said, Interfax reported.

The group has suspended its educational program, sacked 10 of 17 staffers and cut salaries for the rest, the 87-year-old activist said.

The cuts came despite a presidential grant of 4.5 million rubles ($115,000), which the organization has allocated to promoting public oversight of Russia's often-criticized police force.

Alexeyeva blamed the cuts on decreased foreign-donor activity due to recent legislation.

The culprit is the "foreign agents' law" which requires organizations that receive foreign grants to register as "foreign agents" and be subjected to more scrutiny. Back in 2012 when the law was passed, Alexeyeva said she refused to register her group.

Alexeyeva, arrested at a New Year's Eve rally in 2010 protesting against restrictions on public assembly.

Alexeyeva has been vilified recently in the state media with false claims about her public positions.

A hostile NTV camera crew stalked Alexeyeva when she met with businessman and philanthropist Dmitry Zemin and former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov (at 2:32) , who are accused in the video of funding the March for Peace two weeks ago in Moscow  which 26,000 protested the war in Ukraine.

The Moscow Group to Assist the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords, known for short as the Moscow Helsinki Group, was founded in May 1976, one year after the signing of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act on Security and Cooperation in Europe. It was among a few such groups at the time that took international law seriously and saw it as a tool to liberalize oppressive conditions in the Soviet bloc.

It was the first of such monitoring groups related to Helsinki and spawned a network of them all over the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and eventually the West, where Human Rights Watch, which began as Helsinki Watch, followed the model established by Dr. Yuri Orlov, a physicist, Alexeyeva, Elena Bonner, wife of Nobel Prize Laureate and physicist Dr. Andrei Sakharov and other scientists and intellectuals.

The group and its affiliates prepared hundreds of reports on everything from labor rights to religious freedom, which they placed in the Western press and foreign broadcasting programs at a time when such writings were suppressed in the USSR. Ultimately more than 50 of the members of these groups were jailed for sentences as long as 7 years of prison and 5 years of exile. Alexeyeva and several other members chose to emigrate to the US rather than face jail and continued their work from abroad for more than a decade.

Inside the Soviet Union, lower-profile dissidents persevered throughout the 1970s and 1980s, until the group suspended itself activities and announced a "dissolution" in 1984 when Bonner was arrested and exiled and the lawyer Sofya Kalistratova was threatened with arrest. They resumed in 1988 after some political prisoners were released such as biochemist Sergei Kovalev, and ultimately in the 1990s, Alexeyeva was able to return to Moscow to assume leadership of the group. The organization focused on prison conditions, freedom of speech and assembly, and legal aid to citizens and conditions in Russia's regions, far worse than Moscow.

At one time, Putin even gave Alexeyeva, now 87, a bouquet of flowers on her birthday, and an official congratulatory message was published on her 85th birthday on

For a period in the 2000s, Alexeyeva was a member of the Presidential Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights, but did not run for renewal of her office citing increasing cooptation of the human rights movement amid a worsening climate for human rights.  She and her colleagues were begrudgingly tolerated for some years and even able to get meetings with top law-enforcement and political leaders to press their concerns. During the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev, the group members met in a televised meeting to discuss poor conditions in prisons and for labor migrants.

But recently, however, the human rights advocates began to be lumped together with political opposition like Alexey Navalny, although they were not members of opposition parties, and have been castigated as "fifth columnists."

Alexeyeva has been a long-time outspoken critic of the Kremlin and is likely to remain so.