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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Update: November 10, 2014

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Still No Clear Explanation on What Caused Gas Leak in Moscow

The independent station TV Rain has been trying to get to the bottom of the story of the gas leak in Moscow all day -- and authorities have changed the story a number of times.

Translation: "They say it smells of sulfur here alway, it doesn't seem like an accident." Our correspondent Mariya Borzunova is at the oil refinery.

Meanwhile, Mosekomonitoring, the pollution monitoring agency has changed its earlier statements about the higher concentration of toxic chemicals in the air.

The agency now says there is no styrene in the air, as reported earlier, and that it recorded a higher percentage of hydrogen sulfide in the area in different locations around Moscow than usual, with the highest concentrated around 3 pm which has since reduced in half.

This morning Mosekomonitoring said it had taken a sample of air in Kozhukhovo, at the eastern most city limits, and found twice as much styrene in the air as is the norm.

Translation: "Ministry of Environment: the leak of hydrogen sulfide is related to the oil refining process, gas generation or the work of the electrical grid" -- TASS.  How many other versions of the story will there be?

Translation: The Department of Natural Resources has cancelled a press conference at 17:30, announcing that they will not talk about hydrogen sulfide. Classy!

Muscovites were trying to cope with their customary resigned sarcasm, humor and poetry:

Translation: A friend writes that it stinks in Izmailovo as well, although children are running a marathon on the street. Russia.

Translation: are there little gas masks for kittens?

Translation: Everybody hold their breath.

Translation: Rosgidromet [Russian Weather Service] "It will be rain tomorrow - and everything will be fine." WELL OK



My head - ow!


Escape the gas - how?


Stinking hydrogen sulfide spreads through the city.

Ekho Moskvy's editor-in-chief tweeted a check-in from Swarmapp that he had gone to Gazprom Media, the owner of Ekho Moskvy, but didn't have any further news yet on either the smell in Moscow or the situation with his own radio, owned by the state gas company.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Free Ad Advice for CNN -- Love, The Interpreter, the Kremlin's propaganda outlet, launched a poster campaign this summer.


It appeared on bus shelters in New York City and other public places and then was extended to Washington, DC and London.


Photo by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

As the Kremlin propaganda outlets try to create a climate of pseudo-paranoia and persecution abroad, the Kremlin itself is taking actual news organizations off the air in Russia.

Today CNN announced that it was forced to cease broadcasting in Russia due to a new media law restricting foreign investment in Russian media.

So we had an idea for a campaign for CNN -- they could put it on Moscow bus shelters:


Mash-up by Michael Weiss

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick and Michael Weiss

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
CNN Says New Media Laws Drove It From Russia

As we reported earlier, CNN has decided to end its broadcasts in Russia. CNN has since released a statement in English which confirms that Russia's repressive media laws were the primary motivator for the decision. Mashable's Christopher Miller reports:

“Turner International is assessing its distribution options for CNN in Russia in light of recent changes in Russian media legislation," the statement said. "We are bringing our existing distribution relationships to an end while we do that. We hope to re-enter the market in due course, and will notify our partners of any update about resuming these services. The CNN Moscow bureau operation remains unaffected.”

Denis Rychka, head of media relations for Akado Telecom, which broadcasts CNN, told Mashable by email that his company had received a “letter signed by vice president of legal affairs [of] Turner Broadcasting System Europe Eleonora Brown,” outlining the decision to cease operations. He did not elaborate on the specifics of the letter. (The independent Russian news outlet Vedemosti reported that another Russian distributer, VimpelCom, said it had received a similar letter from Turner Broadcasting.)

As we've been reporting, it's not just CNN or even foreign-owned media outlets which are under siege, but the entire Russian media landscape. One of the media outlets feeling the most pressure is Ekho Moskvy. On Friday we reported that one of their journalists, Aleksandr Plyushchev, was dismissed after he sent a questionable tweet about Putin's chief of staff. But he was already under investigation by Russia's state censor, Roskomnadzor, due to charges of "extremism" relating to his reporting on the situation at Donetsk International Airport in Ukraine.

In our Window on Eurasia column, Paul Goble write that it's time for the United States to respond to the pressure on Ekho Moskvy by relaunching its own radio news programs:

James Miller
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Bezler Reported Alive, and to Get 'Hero of DPR' Award, But is Strelkov Slighted?

Since reports circulated that Igor Bezler, the notorious Russian army major-general who led the Russian-backed separatists in Gorlovka, was assassinated by Russian Federation agents, there has been massive speculation about what happened to him.

Immediately, his supporters said he was not dead but just in Moscow, although he had resigned from his command and would not return to the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic".

The Crimean Russian blogger Colonel Cassad (Boriz Rozhin, editor of Golos Sevastopolya) printed the stories that Bezler is still alive, admitted that a test will be whether "Bes" ("Demon"), as he was nick-named, will show up for an upcoming DPR awards ceremony.

The awards have generated a lot of scandal and in-fighting among the separatists. Letters went out recently to some commanders and even former commanders (Strelkov was dismissed in August), saying they were being issued medals with the title "Hero of the DPR."

But then Strelkov said he never got the letter, and that he wouldn't accept an award from Aleksandr Zakharchenko, prime minister of the DPR, in any event.

"I would not accept any awards from a man who has publicly offended me," he wrote on his  "secret forum" (an Internet forum on historical war re-enactments which is hidden from view, but often re-tweeted).

Strelkov said that the title of "Hero of the DPR" would only be given to Bezler and Aleksandr Boroday, the first prime minister of the DPR, and not to him.

"Hero of the Soviet Union" was the USSR's highest award, and the tradition was continued by the Russian Federation.

Yet a copy of the letter over Zakharchenko's signature -- but without the DPR seal --  was published by Colonel Cassad earlier this week from the official DPR website among announcements of decrees.

It informed Strelkov and Boroday of "the state award of the Donetsk People's Republic" and the "Gold Star of the Hero" for "great contribution in the formation, establishment and defense of the Donetsk People's Republic and for courage and heroism displayed"  


The award letter was also covered by the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti which added that former DPR vice premier Vladimir Antyufeyev would receive the title of "Honorary Citizen of DPR."

A pro-separatist news site,, says
that they published the news of the award after seeing it confirmed on the official DPR Today site and RIA Novosti.

But after contacting Strelkov themselves, they also heard from another participant in the "secret forum" named Plokhoi Soldat ("Bad Soldier") who said that the decree had attachments which he had seen, and the award citations in fact didn't include Strelkov among them.

Pravdoryb claimed that Strelkov's name was missing and others saw that it was gone, but now we see it back up again with today's date as of this writing:

This link has Strelkov's name in the notice and a further link to the "Documents" section of the site.


Colonel Cassad says that Zakharchenko seems to have disappeared after he was "elected" on 2 November, and wasn't currently present in Donetsk such as to have signed the letters. He commented, "It will be interesting to see if Bezler shows up for the awards."

The ceremony does not yet appear to have been announced but is expected soon.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
LifeNews Claims Anti-Corruption Blogger Navalny 'Funded by the Kremlin'; Putin Administration Denies

LifeNews published an article claiming that anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny was funded by the Kremlin -- then removed the piece, reported.

Interestingly, the Kremlin refuted the story, calling it "complete nonsense and a chase after ratings, with all respect for LifeNews," said a source. Even so, a representative of the presidential administration promised to look into the claims.

Several hours later, the article was put back online at another link on the LifeNews website, a TV and Internet news company that is close to law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in Russia.

Anastisiya Kashevarova, an Izvestiya journalist who commented on the affair, posted a message on her Facebook page that she feared she would be fired over the incident, although evidently Aram Gabrelyanov, head of LifeNews, was able to successfully defend her.

The article claimed that since 2012, Aleksandrina Marko, the common-law wife of Vladimir Ashurkov, the executive director of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund, had been funding his projects at the Anti-Corruption Fund through Byuro-17, a company that had earned 100 million rubles ($2,191,181) in state tenders. Another company called Slava, also close to Ashurkov, earned about 30 million rubles ($657,426) in state tenders.

In July of this year, Russian federal authorities put out a "man wanted" notice for Ashukrov, who had already fled to England and requested political asylum by that time.

Navalny, who made his reputation exposing the corruption of high officials in Russia, is now has been targeted with a number of criminal cases widely believed to have been fabricated in retaliation for his crusades. He is currently under house arrest and banned from the Internet in a case involving the French company Yves Rocher.

Last week, Christian Melnik, financial director of the cosmetics company, testified in a Moscow court that his company had no claims against Navalny or his brother.

Russian authorities had tried to create a case against the Navalnys on claims of fraud of up to 26 million rubles (about $575,500) supposedly committed against the French company which its executives themselves did not confirm. The brothers were further charged with money-laundering.

Navalny has also faced a number of other cases, from a suspended sentence of 5 years of prison for allegedly embezzling profits from a lumber company, to stealing a sketch made by a street artist and posted on a wall. Recently, he was permitted to give interviews to a number of Russian media outlets, in which he expressed his controversial wish to keep Crimea as part of Russia.

Catherine A. Fitzpatrick