Small Children Tortured at a Russian Government Orphanage
Warning: graphic, unedited video
If Vladimir Putin and the Russian Parliament believe that their own-operated orphanages are a better option than the American adoption, they better have answers to video showcased in this post. A friend of a friend of a family friend of someone who works at an orphanage in Amur Oblast sent this video to a local newspaper to draw the attention to the activities at the orphanage. The way the video was "discovered" means multiple adults were aware of the events at the orphanage. Children's screams in the video (now complimented by investigators' reports of heavy injuries on seven-year-olds' bodies) suggest that orphanage "supervisors" (Russian government employees) were in the loop as well. If Vladimir is truly concerned about the well-being of children, he has something to worry about much closer to home than in the far-away America.
Russian news outlets report that a "criminal investigation has been launched and police is conducting interviews with the orphanage staff."
Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich (arguing in London about stolen Russians' money)
MOSCOW -- The famous legal battle that just took place in London between the two most famous Russian oligarchs attracted a lot of well-deserved attention. Reading The Economist readers' comments and listening to people in the streets of Moscow, one thing became apparent: both Berezovsky and Abramovich should have gone to prison. Instead, they're paying million-dollar bills to their attorneys, investing into the British court system, and making fools of other two players in the now-told fable of crime and corruption: Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin.
Berezovsky was Yeltsin's darling (or vice-versa, depending on a year). Today, rightfully, Berezovsky is wanted in Russia on charges of multiple murders, bribery, extortion, tax evasion, and other things common to several Russian businesses of the Nineties. However, the only reason Abramovich isn't just as wanted is the fact that he is (or at least was) the darling of Tsar Vladimir. The point is - the wealth discussed in British court was amassed through the theft of then-Soviet public properties from the Russian nation. Through various kickbacks, one thief was more successful than the other in "keeping it real" a.k.a "legal" (why not employ the language appropriate to the situation...).
Russian legal and political systems are no enigma to anyone, especially since the most recent elections. However, the question of morality falls on the Brits: Is investment into a formerly broke soccer club and British banking accounts worth the downsides of letting two foreign criminals make mockeries of business ethics, international laws, and human morality? When I was in London two years ago, I noticed hundreds of not-so-sophisticated (yet loaded) Arabs and Russians, behaving, disrespectfully, as if they own the place and spraying thousands of pounds. Can anyone buy anything with money in perfidious Albion? Seems the answer is "yes." There will be trade-offs, and the Brits better beware of the realities which Russian blood money brings along with the wealth.
Let us pause in the midst of the twelve days of Christmas to remember, and (if so inclined), to say a prayer for political prisoners around the world. One of them, Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine, has published a letter in The Moscow Times from her prison cell that reminds us of the personal risks leaders assume even in supposedly democratic regimes. Some regard Tymoshenko as corrupt, but it's hard to judge. The state in such countries has most of the instruments of publicity, as well as law, on its side.
What one can say is that politics should not be criminalized (to use Mark Helprin's useful phrase). There may be some corrupt politicians in jail, but there are surely many more in prison on trumped-up charges, guilty mainly of threatening the political prospects of their opponents. In the popular view, courts treat elected officials more leniently than ordinary people. But the opposite is often the case if the official or former official is a dissident.
Russian People Try to Take Prosecution into Their Hands in the Absence of Law (and God)
Caution: graphic video, a YouTube sign-in is required
While Vladimir Putin in stylish ties talks about liberalization and the need of another 12 years to fix things in Russia (after a 13 year trial?), Russians stopped believing in the rule of law, and the Russian countryside is building up its emotions for another revolution. In the Russian city of Bryansk, Irina Dobrzhanskaya (a 20-year-old inexperienced driver) was speeding about 10 miles above the speed limit on a major street/highway. (Usually, Russians double the allowed speed limit). A mother with a 3-year-old daughter was crossing the road on a crosswalk. Now, a few facts are important for a proper interpretation of the story before the punch line: the city officials didn't bother to put white crosswalk paint on the pavement (either the paint was stolen or the painters were drunk when the job was due); a police unit was present on the scene, but was occupied with collecting cash bribes about 30 yards away from the crosswalk; Irina was driving in the left lane, did not see the mother and the child, did not get the queue from a stopped bus (that blocked the view) that there may be a reason for why it had stopped...
Irina hit the mother and the child. The 3-year-old girl died. The bus drove away. Bystanders did not come to help. Police did not immediately leave its vehicle. Only one person walked slowly to the scene. Three-year-old Sonya was the eighth deadly victim of the crosswalk in three years. And everything was caught on tape!
Now, OMON (special units of Russian police) are guarding Irina's house. After immediately pleading guilty and offering all her savings and more to help the girl's family, Irina has already tried to commit a suicide and is now residing in a mental institution. Then, why does police guard her condo, located in an old five-story Soviet building? Because the town people promise to burn Irina's mother alive and kill Irina once she is out of the hospital.
Town people are remembering the 3-year-old Sonya with tears and pointing at the driver and the Kremlin with fists.
Corruption in Russia: the Question Is Not whether it Exists, but How Much and How Often...
An average bribe in Russia today, according to the law enforcement agencies, is $10,000. It grew 500% since a year ago. However, the investigators say that it's not the bribe that grew, but the efficiency of their work. Over the past year, Russian police and FSB caught several multi-million-dollar bribes, and landed some of high-profile officials in jails. The statistics involve everything, from several-dollar drivers bribes to traffic police all the way to 50-60-million-ruble bribes (approx. $2 million) to high-ranking officials.
According to Ernst&Young, Russia is Europe's leader in business corruption. The average amount of a bribe has been consistently at least doubling each year since 2005. Once again, the anti-corruption officials are stressing that the doubling of the bribe's price tag is correlated with the efficiency of their work. We at Russia Blog are wondering though, why is it doubling consistently since 2005, instead of dissappearing? Curbing the corruption has been Medvedev's top priority since day one of his presidency. Instead, his employees are patting each other on the backs for just uncovering the bribes, and in no way reversing the trend. China has a corruption problem as well. The way they deal with corrupt officials is medieval, but it works: they literally shoot them. In Russia, as my friend said the other day, officials -- on par with Putin -- funnel billions to Swiss and Cyprus accounts, go under investigation, share some of the stolen money with the court, get conditional penalties, and wave goodbye before boarding jets to take off for far-away lands.
Of course, undisputed rumors of Putin's $1 billion cottage/castle don't help to set the trend or serve a good example. Russia must harshly prosecute rather than just uncover the corruption. However, the officials are not too inspired to work hard fighting the corruption, when their salaries aren't big enough to go out for 10 dinners with a family. That's where the evil circle comes around. A role-modeling from the top (Putin and Medvedev) would be a good place to start. However, for now, the two enjoy fishing, diving, and driving Mercedeses and Porsches. No wonder, every Russian kid would rather be a Putin than Steve Jobs...
VIP Blue Light Driving in Russia - Reason for a Revolution or Further Obedience?
Two weeks ago, a member of parliament from Putin's party United Russia got drunk (as in smashed) and took his Porche Cayanne for a ride, killing a 23-year-old student, an only provider for his disabled parents...
On June 14, 2011, Foreign Policy magazine, in its article "Road Rage in Russia," asked: "Moscow's elite has decided it doesn't need to follow the traffic laws. Will there be a pedestrian revolution?" RussiaBloghas written about the issue for years (here are samples from 2005, 2006, 2007, and more), exposing crimes and murders committed by Russia's ruling elite on the roads; to save the suspense - the answer to the Foreign Policy's question is: "No, there will be no revolution." The reasons behind the answer are complex and rooted into a thousand-year history of the nation, its mentality, geography, and ruling style of the past 500 years (that surprisingly hasn't changed from Ivan the Terrible to Bolsheviks to Yeltsin to Putin).
As mentioned in the RussiaBlog's article "Enough Is Enough. President Medvedev - Stop the Killing of Russia's Innocent Drivers!" - Ivan the Terrible was the first person to make sure that his carriage wheels splashed bystanders with mud. It made him laugh back in mid-1500-s. Tsars, Soviet secretaries, and first presidents of modern Russia (Yeltsin, Putin, Medvedev) have done the same. Here's what many Westerners don't know and probably will have hard times understanding: the majority of common people--on the outside oppressed by the elite's driving techniques--in fact are proud of this old Russian tradition.
Death of Yuri Budanov - Russia's Political Murder that Got No Coverage in the West
Colonel Yuri Budanov was one of the most spoken-about participants of the war in Chechnya. He was arrested in 2000, tried in court for rape and murder of a Chechen girl in 2001, convicted of kidnapping, abuse of office, and murder in 2003 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Budanov admitted going into a rage and killing an 18-year-old Chechen Elza Kungaeva, a suspected sniper who attacked Budanov's unit and killed his soldiers. The rape charges were never proven. However soldiers were believed to have abused girl's dead body.
Budanov was pardoned in 2009, 15 months before completing his term. Right away, he said he was being followed by the Chechens. He repeatedly talked about black cars with tinted windows parked by his house, and asked for the government's protection. The government refused security services, Budanov went into hiding, came out in the open several months ago, and was shot in downtown Moscow in broad daylight on June 10, 2011 (last Friday)-- four bullets to his head. He was buried as an army hero on June 13. Officers and soldiers who spoke at his funeral said that he was an "officer from God," and an "honorable man and a leader who saved hundreds of lives." Zhirinovsky was one of the controversial political and social leaders who attended the funeral. He said that "Budanov paid for Russian government's failed policies."
The real moral of this story goes far beyond a daylight murder, revenge, judicial and policy failures, or Islamic intolerance. Russians took Budanov's death as a clear message that 1) it is OK to take matters in your hands, 2) no one is safe from lawlessness and the government will not protect you, 3) the legal system does not work, as it cannot satisfy either of the sides - the accusers are not content and the accused are not safe, 4) and that Russia would be much better off if it were "for Russians" only (a nationalistic statement that recently has been rising in its popularity).
The murder should have been better covered in the West, not just because killing people is wrong, but because it was another splash of oil into Russian society's fire of fascism, racism, and radicalism. Many people see in that fire an alternative to either liberal democrats or Putin's stagnation. If the majority of Russians get what they want, a new leader will make Putin look like a plush bunny and an angel.
In court papers filed Wednesday, his lawyers said the U.S. Attorney General determined that Mr. Muse should be held under so-called "special administrative measures" in January 2010 after a probe into whether he had instructed pirate crew members to kill another boat captain. The government determined two phone calls by Mr. Muse while in custody corroborated the threat, his lawyers said in court papers. "The two prison calls identified by the government do not provide proof of any such threat," his lawyers said. "We believe the government has misinterpreted these calls. We do acknowledge, however, that Abduwali discussed piracy matters over the phone."
As a Russian citizen and as an American taxpayer, I have hard times understanding why I am paying for a pirate's legal defense. Usually, I have to pay for my own travel expenses to come to the States, and have to get a lawyer for speeding violations or immigration matters. Housing and food aren't free either.
Seems like Russia contributes more to the cause of freedom and world security by letting the pirates go... Then blowing up their boats from the distance. Russia was not a sea empire in earlier centuries, and only recently started dealing with pirates on a large scale. Maybe that's why Russian Navy--in absence of clear law--relies on common sense. Godspeed, sailors!
Enough Is Enough. President Medvedev - Stop the Killing of Russia's Innocent Drivers!
If you see one of these - run! These cars that belong to Russian public servants are above the law. They may (and do) legally kill your babies, grandmothers, and even police officers.
Russian President's representative in Duma Garry Minkh rides in style, as do thousands of Russian government officials: in a new luxurious German car bought with taxpayers money, in the opposite lane, breaking the speed limit, unbuckled, hiding behind the passenger's seat and a driver. And it's all legal! Because he got the magic migalka (the blue light). The result? Today, another deadly accident. The government vehicle's driver is dead, innocent 23 year-old girl is severely injured (her car totaled), police is"not sure" if they can release the video of the crash. And this is not unique - in the past 12 months, cars with blue lights have killed and injured pregnant women, babushkas, casual pedestrians, innocent and law-abiding drivers, and even police officers! God forbid you don't let them pass you - they'll pause their super-important and secret government mission, get out of their cars, and break your car's windshield and slash your tires (they have done so). Because, that's what voters want their elected officials to do.
Prime Minister Putin, President Medvedev, I heard you're all about raising the birth rates and population of Russia, you're against the corruption, and you support Russian-made cars. May I recommend you stop killing people with your driving techniques. Also, why do you and your employees drive BMWs and Mercedes's? Be consistent - on May 9th do not pretend and do a favor to the veterans - don't celebrate Russia's victory over the Nazi Germany. Be sad! If the Soviet Union hadn't won, maybe your own German-made cars would've been even better, faster, cooler! Also, don't worry - in a head-on collision you'll always win. Russian cars that you support with draconian import regulations do not have airbags, ABS, and their seats break upon an impact. The bydlo (Russian folk who's not blessed to be at a Kremlin dinner table) cannot afford the 110% import tax that you imposed on safe foreign vehicles.
Russian's Point of View on Arizona Shooting: FBI, Secret Service, Sheriff - not Politicians - Are Responsible for the Tragedy
With each day after the shooting, there is less and less doubt that Jared Lee Loughner, the attacker, will not be responsible for the tragedy due to his mental health problems. The question remains: then who is responsible? Russia Blog has written a lot about attacks on mayors and members of parliament in Russia, and about the negative effects of too many cars with blue lights and individuals with bodyguards in major cities. However, two clarifications should be made: first, all attacks on officials happened in non-public places and have been related to their personal business and criminal activities; and second, any significant government official in Russia is protected. Furthermore, the general public attending an event with such official is well-protected as well.
It is mind-blowing to see Prima County's Sheriff Clarence Dupnik give interviews, share opinions, and walk as a free man. If nothing else, he should be fired for a complete, disastrous failure to do his job - provide community's safety. Furthermore, he should be tried in court for "malpractice" on the job that led to one of the greatest tragedies in recent American history.
Why is he still a sheriff if his team can't spot a man who pulls out a gun in broad daylight and targets a judge and a congresswoman near a Safeway?
On another note: Secret Service and FBI should take a note: no matter how perfect the system of checks and balances is, there is always room for an error that eventually allows a crazy person obtain a weapon and ammo and shoot a judge, a congresswoman, and innocent bystanders. The only way to avoid such a tragedy is to control the situation itself and provide the necessary security at public events that involve government officials. It is appalling to see a political debate around this tragedy - this isn't about Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, the Liberals, or the Republicans. First of all, this is about the victims, and there is nothing we can do about it now but pray for their recovery or souls. And second - this is a lesson for American security and law enforcement services how to properly provide the public safety. I hope this lesson has been learned, even if--unfortunately-- the hard way.
Russia Blog's condolences go to the friends and families of Arizona victims.
The ice pick that finished Trotsky's life (this is the one!) was kept in a police museum, but the Mexican Secret Service agent who had handled the murder investigation removed it for fear that someone would try and steal it. Sure enough, someone did steal the copy that he put in its place, and the original was kept at his house until his death. It is now the property of his daughter.
If President Obama implied--and unnamed CIA operatives stated explicitly--that an American intelligence officer who defected to Russia would be hunted down inside Russia by the CIA and killed, how would Mr. Putin react? Would he like to welcome the CIA killers to Moscow?
Well, the reverse situation is at hand in the famous Anna Chapman (no relation!) spy ring saga. The Kremlin infiltrated several agents into the US in truly mundane, petty positions and they were caught. Well, that spying for you. They all made it home in an exchange and were toasted by Mr. Putin as heroes. The fetching Ms. Chapman has followed her spy career with what appears to be a more, shall we say, exposed livelihood as eye candy for men's entertainment magazines. Well, I guess a girl's gotta work.
But now the Russian agent who exposed her and the rest of the team of Spies Who Couldn't Spy Right has defected successfully to the US. And Prime Minister Putin makes it clear he is a marked man. (See previous post.) And an unnamed intelligence officer says a "Mercader" is being sent to eliminate him. "We know who he is and where he is," the Kremlin source said. "Have no doubt that a Mercader has been sent after him already."
Really? Ramon Mercader was the assassin that Stalin sent to Mexico to kill Trotsky. Are we supposed to be impressed that the current Russian government might be using Stalin as a model? Are Americans supposed to accept the necessity of the Kremlin's coming over here to break our laws and indulge itself in killing people? If so, the State Department should be asking for a "clarification". At the least.
Sorry, but the Kremlin is not allowed to have people in the US killed. That would change this whole spy farce into something much more consequential.
Funny Chapman Business About to Come to an End. Literally.
Spy Mikhail Vasenkov a.k.a Juan Lazaro
The traitor of the "sleeper agents' has been identified, and the "clean-up" crew has been sent to the States. Colonel Scherbakov--whose daughter moved to America a long time ago, and son just recently obtained a U.S. citizenship--placed himself between the two agencies, and left no choice for himself or others. British Telegraphhas the story, and quotes a Kremlin source, saying that Scherbakov recently denied a promotion as he knew he would've not passed the mandatory lie-detector test.
"The damage committed by the colonel to the state is too enormous," not to have further repercussions, Mr. Gudkov, deputy chairman of the Duma's security committee, told the Interfax news agency.
"This was the result of treason and traitors always end badly," said Putin.
"We know who he is and where he is," the Kremlin source said. "Have no doubt that a Mercader has been sent after him already." (Ramon Mercader was the KGB assassin who murdered exiled Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky with an ice pick in 1940; a "Mercader" is a synonym for a hit squad.) "The fate of such an individual is unenviable," the Kremlin source continued. "He will fear revenge every day (of his life). "This is a big mix-up that will see heads roll and people demoted," an intelligence source told Kommersant newspaper. The most valuable of the 10 exposed agents was Mikhail Vasenkov who operated under the name Juan Lazaro. Intelligence sources claimed he had been able to obtain the US President's travel agenda years in advance. Regardless of how valuable such information may be in the modern world, U.S. investigators had broken his leg and three ribs while interrogating him, the source claimed.
When Vice President Joe Biden appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" last Friday night, he said it was all right that the United States only got four accused spies from Russia while giving up 10. "We got back four really good ones," said Biden. "And the 10, they've been here a long time, but they hadn't done much." When comedy host Leno showed Biden an alluring photo of accused Russian spy Anna Chapman, a darling of New York tabloids, Biden said "let me make it clear, it wasn't my idea to send her back. I thought they'd take Rush Limbaugh."
Enjoy the full photo version of the spy swap brought to you by the Russian media (in the extended post).
6 Children, 1 Adult Die at a Russian Summer Camp; Medvedev Orders Country-Wide Inspection
Having visited then-Soviet and later Russian summer camps as a kid, and later having volunteered as a camp counselor in America, I have noticed the indescribable differences in attitude towards kids' safety in two countries. While the unregulated environment of Russian summer camps maybe provides for a better, wilder "summer adventure," American camps drill into camp counselors and children "safety first" and eventually provide it - the safety.
Yesterday's events in Yeysk (Krasnodar Krai) speak volumes about the degradation of Russian government and private institutions in their ensuring of children's safety. Seven camp counselors and 63 children (ages 8-16, all from Moscow), traveled by boat to a local island. Despite the signs "Swimming Strictly Prohibited" and absence of lifeguards or medical personnel, camp counselors allowed children to swim. In the meantime, counselors got drunk! While the counselors were drinking, six children disappeared. One counselor attempted to save the kids--who were being dragged into the open sea by strong currents--and died himself.
Government will cover all funeral expenses, and... that's basically it. Unlike the American Camping Association (ACA) there is no independent organization supervising summer camps' safety standards in Russia. Government officials who are supposed to fulfill the ACA's role are easily bribable, and most of them are using their 30-to-48-day vacations during summertime. An American family would see an opportunity to sue such a camp for millions of dollars. However, Russian camps do not have insurance to cover expenses associated with such legal cases, and the legal system itself does not allow for such law suits. I assume the parents of dead children can hope for about $5,000-$10,000 per child in government compensations from Moscow Mayor Luzhkov or Russian Federal government.
"Boris and Natasha" Shake Up U.S.-Soviet (er, Russian) Relations
Stories continue to pour forth about the Russian spy scandal. Everyone seems a bit embarrassed. The Russians pretend to be indignant, but they don't deny that the eleven folks caught with lots of spy equipment, fake identification and other espionage giveaways, were, in fact,....well,....spies.
What really should embarrass the Kremlin is the apparently farcical quality of the spy craft. References have been made to John LeCarre and James Bond. A much more appropriate comparison is to the cartoon characters of Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale in the Rocky and Bullwinkle TV show that was popular from the 60s to the 80s. See, for example, an excerpt from "Boris and Natasha Take Washington."
Some think that all the Kremlin really wanted was what they got, impressions of life in the USA and what people close to government think. If so, it is another example of wasteful government spending. The Russian public need something comparable to the Tea Parties to demand better value for their tax monies. This pitiful excuse for spying is what about we would expect of the American government under Obama. It is the exact sort of soft power intelligence the Left here seems to think is important. Only it is hidden.
The Kremlin would be better off following the Internet, including our own Russia Blog! Given what they appear to be after, the Russian government should sponsor more conferences and exchanges right out in the open where people of different views and experiences from the US and Russia can learn from one another.
That would prove more productive, cost less and lead to fewer arrests.
Patriarch Kirill: Leader of Orthodox Church and Tobacco Imports
Many Westerners know little about the new Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Father Kirill. Many Russians know him as a great orator and a host of a weekly TV show "Pastor's Word." However, very few know that Kirill (Vladimir Gundyaev by passport), a billionaire and a former KGB operative, made his fortune in tobacco, alcohol, and oil sales. His activities were among the main reasons why not-for-profits in Russia lost tax-deductible status. The new Orthodox leader is fond of playing with stocks, car racing, downhill skiing, and breeding exclusive kinds of dogs. He owns villas in Switzerland and a penthouse with a view of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.
After Patriarch Aleksiy II died, the Orthodox Synode, made up of spiritual, business, and social leaders, took up the evening news and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior to elect a new leader. After Mitropolits Filaret and Kliment withdrew their candidacies, Kirill won the position. When it became too obvious that Aleksiy was at the end of his life, Mitropolit Mephody, who had been considered the strongest candidate for the Patriarch's post, was sent to lead the Orthodox Church in Kazakhstan. Maybe just a coincidence, but rumors and articles in local newspapers suggested a different scenario. I heard all the stories from friends while witnessing the historic events in Moscow. Later, I took time to research whether or not they were true.
The region is heavily populated by Christians and Muslims, ethnic Russians, Chechens, and other Caucasian nations ("Caucasian" in Russian means a person from the Caucasus, rather than a white person, and, in fact, word "Caucasian" often replaces the word "black" in everyday language). Local authorities and Russian federal government are concerned about potential ethnic-based clashes. No matter how upsetting Islamic jihad is to all of us, blowing up innocent people is definitely not a rational response. Russia Blog extends condolences to the affected families.
BusinessWeek reports that imprisoned Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky ended his hunger strike... after one day. He initially declared the hunger strike to draw attention to what he claimed were improper court rulings. He said Russia's courts were ignoring a legal change initiated by President Dmitry Medvedev that allows people charged with white-collar crimes to be released on bail. On Wednesday, Khodorkovsky issued a statement saying his appeal "has achieved its purpose" and he was ending the strike after Medvedev's spokeswoman said the president had been informed.
Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion and is on trial on charges of embezzling more than $25 billion worth of oil from subsidiaries of Yukos, his former company. Mr. J. Clifford Baxter, former vice chairman of Enron Corporation, committed a suicide. Other Enron executives went to prison. Maybe, Mr. Khodorkovsky is not that special; after all, $25 billion is a lot of money. Fortunately, there is plenty of food in Russian prisons to feed a hungry oligarch. The prisons seem to be not as horrifying as The Wall Street Journal portraits them (sometimes referring to them as "gulags"). If someone does not know the definition of "gulag" - one can be found here; "hunger strike" - here. In the last few weeks, Mr. Khodorkovsky was able to give an interview to CNN, get noticed by the BusinessWeek, write a letter to the president, get hungry, and have a hearty meal. Not bad for a hunger strike at a gulag!
Russian Special Forces Attack Pirates, Free Sailors; Russians Ready to Declare War against Somalia
Russian vessel "Moscow University" was hijacked by pirates and 24 hours later freed by Russian navy.
A Russian warship hunted down an oil tanker hijacked by Somali pirates and special forces rappelled on board Thursday, surprising the outlaws, who surrendered after a 22-minute gunbattle. Twenty-three Russian sailors were freed, reports MSNBC. The dramatic Indian Ocean rescue came a day after pirates seized the tanker, which was heading toward China carrying $50 million worth of crude. One pirate was killed and 10 others were arrested, officials said.
The Russian destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov had rushed to the scene following Wednesday's seizure of the Liberian-flagged tanker, Moscow University. Special forces troops rappelled down to the tanker from a helicopter, Rear Adm. Jan Thornqvist, the EU Naval Force commander, told an Associated Press reporter. "The operation's success was due to the surprise factor, said a Russian military officer aboard the warship. "The pirates were taken by surprise. They did not expect such resolute measures from us," Capt. Ildar Akhmerov told RIA Novosti news agency.
The pirates were to be taken to Moscow to face criminal charges. Russia Blog does not envy the pirates fate in Russian prisons, assuming they survive the "relocation." President Medvedev hinted that hard times are awaiting them. "Perhaps we should get back to the idea of establishing an international court and other legal tools" to prosecute pirates, he said. "Until then, we'll have to do what our forefathers did when they met the pirates."
Aparent Killers of a Lawyer and a Journalist Arrested in Moscow
The murder of Novaya Gazeta's journalist Anastasiya Baburova and attorney Stanislav Markelov apparently has has been solved. The reputed killers were found and arrested; they are members of the RNU (Russian Nationalistic Union) known in Russia as RNE. While Western media insinuated that the murder that took place on January 19, 2009 was a Russian government attack on the journalists, Muscovites who witnessed the event could tell you exactly the opposite story. The true story less exciting, but and more troubling, than the one about Putin eating liberal journalists for breakfast...
The nationalists assassinated attorney Markelov for his work in defending other victims of nationalistic attacks. When the crime took place in downtown Moscow, Anastasiya Baburova was interviewing the lawyer. She drew attention to the crime scene and started chasing the killers; so they shot her as well. One of the saddest part of this story is the complete misunderstanding of the Russia's most troubling problem: the Western press continues to paint a portrait of a authoritarian Medvedev/Putin tandem and suggesting that there is a liberal alternative. The truth is, whether one likes Medvedev and Putin or not, the only other viable alternative to their rule--and a quite popular one--is nationalistic fascism. We, at Russia Blog, extend our sympathies to the families of Stanislav and Anastasiya.
Chapter 1 of Dr. Ablayev's book "Regional Gold Markets in Russia's Economy", from which this piece is excerpted, deals with how Russia emerged from a command, non-market economy to its current status where the integration of the market into the authoritarian model of Russian governance is causing what he calls a "vertical layering" of the market. As a result, a unique Russian multi-level market system has been created.
Organized Crime in Imperial Russia, the Soviet Union and Former Soviet Union
Joseph Serio's recently released book "Investigating the Russian Mafia" (Carolina Academic Press, Durham, North Carolina, 2008) is a detailed accounting of his study and personal experience on "Russian Mafia" related issues. He notes that the term "Russian Mafia" comprises elements of several ethnic groups in Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union.
Serio's work in Russia includes a research position in the then Organized Crime Control Department of the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs. Afterwards, he worked for the international security consulting firm Kroll Associates, as director of its Moscow office, overseeing investigations across the former Soviet Union. Serio also served as an adviser to The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, BBC, Chicago Tribune and a few other news organizations. That work included television documentaries dealing with organized crime in Imperial Russia, the Soviet Union and former Soviet Union. Serio is currently a criminal justice doctoral student at Sam Houston State University's College of Criminal Justice.
On the absurdity of suggesting that his KGB past necessarily damns Putin, while taking on trust anything said by other ex-Chekists like Alexander Litvinenko, Oleg Gordievsky, Vasili Mitrokhin or Oleg Kalugin, Patrick Armstrong is, as so often, an immensely refreshing voice of sanity.
Uncritical acceptance of claims by Gordievsky about how Litvinenko died is particular bizarre -- given that he has made different and incompatible claims at different times, so as a simple point of logic some of what he has claimed has to be false. A further curious feature of Gordievsky's accounts, however, is that much of what he has claimed directly contradicts central elements of what has become the official British version of Litvinenko's death. And in fact, while one would be ill-advised to take anything Gordievsky says at face value, some of what he has claimed fits in distinctly better with the publicly available evidence than the official version does.
Indeed, some of Gordievsky's claims turn out to fit surprisingly well with Edward Jay Epstein's argument that the British request for Lugovoi's extradition was not a bona-fide move to bring a guilty man to justice, but an attempt to prevent any awkward questions from being raised about Litvinenko's activities in London.
Russian mafia hitmen shot dead Dublin gangland member Paddy Doyle on the Costa del Sol, senior gardai claimed this weekend. Doyle, the survivor of a vicious criminal turf war in south Dublin which has claimed at least 10 lives, was gunned down in Estepona last Monday. Veteran detectives with the Garda Siochana's 'Operation Anvil', the drive against Dublin's crime gangs, said the 27-year-old had beaten up a close relative of a Russian mafia leader based on the southern Spanish coastline.
'From what our Spanish colleagues have told us, this was a professional Russian hit. There were 13 shots and we don't think they wasted a bullet. It has a military-trained assassin written all over it, possibly ex-special forces,' a senior detective told The Observer. 'The intelligence coming back from the Costa del Sol is that Paddy Doyle crossed the Russian mafia, which is something you do there at your peril.'
Russia's Glamorous Female Bodyguard Killed As Her Porsche Is Carjacked in Moscow
Anna Loginova with the Porsche Cheyenne she died trying to prevent being stolen
Russia's most famous female bodyguard Anna Loginova has been killed after failing to prevent her own Porsche from being carjacked. The glamorous 29-year-old died from head injuries after clinging to the door handle of the Cheyenne and being dragged along the street at high speed as the car screeched away.
"She suffered serious injuries and died at the scene," said a police spokesman. Police believe that she was killed in a random carjacking and was not the victim of an attack based on her work for wealthy high-profile Russian clients.
First of all Putin paid an official visit to Iran. The trip seemed to be more beneficial for the West than for President Ahmadinejad.
Second, a maniac in Moscow, charged with 41 murders, not only confessed to all of them, but also informed the court and the jury about 11 other killings which had previously not been linked to him. The trial left the families of the victims and the jury speechless, as each morning the murderer took his seat, opened a new can of Coke, and then delivered detailed presentations of each murder with seemingly pure enjoyment.
Third, while the trial in Moscow was taking place two innocent army privates were shot dead by their supervisors in Yekaterinburg and Sverdlovsk. The seniors were either drunk, or playing with pistols. In another tragedy, a drunken 25-year old police officer literally beheaded an old lady, driving into her at 150-miles per hour in a local judge's Audi A8.
Visit Russia Blog in the next few days to learn more details about each story, and to find out who might be the new Russian president after the elections in March 2008!
Russians Under Attack by Careless Drivers... And The Government That Enables Them
Firemen working to recover the remains of a car hit by a Lexus on Moscow's Kutuzovsky Prospekt, September 14, 2007
One week ago Russia Blog reported about one government official's motorcade, which purposely collided head-on with an old Lada sedan. That car and its passengers were unlucky enough to be caught on a highway that was supposed to be closed to civilian traffic. The government motorcade that collided with the car was carrying Vyacheslav Lebedev, head of Russia's Supreme Court. The accident left one Russian citizen dead and two more severely injured. In spite of the reduced terrorist threat in the Russian Federation, the dangerous practice of escort vehicles knocking civilian cars out of the way of an official motorcade is still fairly common in Russia. This particular accident has captured the public's attention because of the overwhelming number of witnesses. Apparently, the police "clean-up" crew could not do its job fast enough to prevent ordinary citizens from snapping pictures with their cell phone cameras.
The driving situation in the streets of Russian cities, particularly in Moscow, has always been chaotic (see this, this and this, or just scroll down the crime section of Russia Blog). But a new development is even more shocking. In separate incidents over the last two days alone, drivers have been involved in hit and run accidents with three children.
Anna Politkovskaya was murdered on October 7, 2006
Today Russian prosecutors charged the former head of Chechnya's Achkhoi-Martan District with complicity in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Shamil Burayev was detained on September 12. Mr. Burayev's lawyer, Pyotr Kozakov, spoke with the Associated Press and Russia's Interfax News Agency on Friday. Mr. Kozakov said that his client is innocent and intends to defend his good name.
According to the AP: "Burayev was the head of Chechnya's Achkoi-Martan district administration for eight years until 2003, when he was fired by then-Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov [father of the current Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov]. He also ran for president of the region."
Last month Russian Prosecutors detained eleven suspects in the murder of Politkovskaya. Two of the detainees have since been released, and one of the other suspects, former FSB Lt. Col. Pavel Riaguzov, is now being prosecuted on unrelated corruption charges.
Yesterday, September 10th, a Russian police Mercedes--speeding over 100 miles per hour in a lane used by oncoming traffic--collided with a Russian Lada, injuring (or possibly killing) its driver and a passenger. The accident was documented by witnesses with cellphone cameras and covered by the Russian news site Gazeta.Ru.
According to witnesses, the accident occurred after traffic police failed to provide adequate warning about a lane closure on the Kaluzhskoe highway for the motorcade of, presumably, the Head of the Russia's Supreme Court. Early news reports said that the collision involved a common police vehicle. However, eyewitness photographs show a vehicle (a brand new Mercedes E-Klasse) far beyond the means of a "common policeman."
Moscow - Today Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika announced that ten suspects had been detained in connection with the murder of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. On October 7, 2006 an unknown assailant shot Politkovskaya dead in her Moscow apartment building. The baseball-cap wearing gunman was caught on video tape as he left the building.
Perhaps most disturbing for both Russians and foreigners is the fact that the suspects include one police major, one Lieutenant Colonel from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), and three ex-cops. The other five men detained in connection with the plot are ethnic Chechens, one of them a lawyer in Moscow, who were allegedly part of a gang engaged in contract killings. Russian Prosecutors believe that the Chechen group could have been involved in the murders of Russian Central Bank Deputy Chairman Andrei Kozlov and Forbes magazine Russia editor Paul Klebnikov in 2004.
Forbes magazine reported this weekend that the exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky is facing an indictment for money laundering in Brazil. A warrant for Berezovsky's arrest has been filed with Interpol.
According to the Forbesarticle: "Brazilian prosecutors say Media Sports Investment, which in 2004 formed a partnership with the popular club, laundered millions of dollars received from Berezovsky to acquire a string of high-profile players."
"A Sao Paulo federal judge sent a request to Brazil's Justice Ministry requesting Berezovsky's extradition, froze bank accounts of Corinthians and London-based MSI, and demanded that the club provide a list of all players acquired with money from MSI within 10 days, according to a statement from the judge's office."
Lugovoy Accuses MI6, Berezovsky, Russian Mafia of Poisoning Alexander Litvinenko
Andrei Lugovoy is a former KGB bodyguard, security consultant, and entrepreneur who worked for Boris Berezovsky's ORT Channel 1 in the late 1990s
MOSCOW - Last week British prosecutors accused Andrey Lugovoy of killing Alexander Litvinenko with the radioactive substance polonium-210. Yesterday Mr. Lugovoy responded with his own accusations against the British government and the exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, and he also cast suspicion on a Russian businessman allegedly involved in organized crime.
Among his many sensational claims, Lugovoy declared that the British intelligence agency MI6 had repeatedly tried to recruit him during his frequent business trips to the UK and that the fugitive Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky traded state secrets to the spy agency for political asylum in Great Britain. During the 1990s Boris Berezovsky held numerous Russian government posts while amassing a large personal fortune.
Andre Lugovoy met Alexander Litvinenko on November 1, 2006 in London
Last week the UK's Crown Prosecution Service indicted Andre Lugovoy, an ex-KGB officer and former bodyguard for exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky. The indictment drew sensational headlines in the British press and commentary on both sides of the Atlantic blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia's secret services for the death of Alexander Litvinenko from radiation poisoning last year.
To date, the Russian Prosecutor General's office claims that it has not received sufficient evidence from the British government to open a criminal case against Mr. Lugovoy in Russia. Article 61 of Russia's constitution forbids extraditing Russian citizens to face trial abroad. Last week Mr. Lugovoy told Russia's RenTV last week that he fears that the British government may try to take action against him on Russian soil. Mr. Lugovoy claims that he is innocent and argues that he was also exposed to harmful levels of radiation during his meetings with Alexander Litvinenko in London on November 1, 2006.
Police in the southeastern Siberian city of Chita are investigating a 38 million ruble ($1.5 million) heist from a branch office of Sberbank, Russia's largest retail banking chain.
The robbers apparently entered the bank without leaving any traces of a struggle last Friday night after hours, killed the two bank guards, and left their bodies tied up inside the branch offices. This has led police to speculate that the guards may have known the perpetrators. The robbers disabled the bank's security cameras before making off with the cash. This crime is the biggest bank robbery Russia has witnessed in two years.
Click on the extended post to read the Moscow Times article.
Russian Prosecutors Open New Criminal Cases Against Berezovsky
Exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky currently resides in London
The man the late Forbes magazine journalist Paul Klebnikov referred to as "The Godfather of the Kremlin" may have pushed his luck this week, when he called for the violent overthrow of the Russian government in an interview with the UK Guardian.
Russian prosecutors have tried many times to extradite Boris Berezovsky from the UK to face fraud charges back in Russia. The British government has consistently refused these requests. As we have reported previously here at Russia Blog, after Anna Politkovskaya was murdered and Alexander Litvinenko died from radiation poisoning late last year, these extradition requests were no longer in the news.
Today the UK Foreign Office issued a statement declaring that everyone in Great Britain must abide by the laws, and that calling for the violent overthrow of a sovereign elected government is unacceptable behavior for anyone residing in the country. Fearing deportation, Berezovsky backtracked today from his radical statements, claiming that he was only advocating "direct action" and non-violent resistance to the Russian authorities. The UK Guardian interview, however, made it clear that Berezovsky advocated the use of force if necessary to topple the "Putin regime".
In light of his extreme rhetoric, shady past and close association with exiled fundraisers for Chechen terrorists, the question Russians ask is: why does anyone in the West still take this man seriously as an advocate for "freedom" and "democracy"?
With the Joyal and Safronov incidents in Washington and Moscow occurring so close together, it presents a chance to put in perspective an issue of concern to the average citizen of any country: How safe are you?
The comparison is apt as both cities consistently win their respective continent's Murder Capital titles. Using census data from 2005 and rates of homicide given by Russian and American government sources, Moscow's rate of homicide is 9.13 per 100,000 inhabitants, whereas Washington D.C.'s comes in at a whopping 35.42 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Knowing this, perhaps it is understandable why some aspects of emulating America can be troubling to foreigners who grow weary of the "rule of law"-mantra when these invectives are lobbed from a glass house.
Setting aside that the rate of political murders has decreased every year that Putin has been in power and ignoring the fact that these recent murders harm rather than advance Putin's agenda, let's pose a question for the unrepentant conspiracy fans out there: If Russia's president is responsible for every murder in his capital, does that mean America's leader is culpable for the same in his own backyard?
Kommersant Reporter Falls to his Death in Moscow; American Russia Consultant Shot in Washington D.C. Suburb
Ivan Safronov, age 51, wrote on military affairs for Kommersant Photo by: newsru.com, reposted by MosNews
A journalist for the respected Russian business newspaper Kommersant died in Moscow last Friday, after falling to his death from a window in his apartment building. Ivan Safronov, age 51, was the chief military affairs writer for Kommersant and had written exposes of abuses in the Russian Defense Ministry. Police have not ruled out suicide, but Safronov's neighbors and friends have said that they believe he was murdered. Kommersant is reporting that at the time of his death, Safronov was investigating kickbacks received by powerful people in Russia and in Belarus from major arms sales to Syria and Iran.
Last Thursday night around 7:30 p.m., Paul Joyal, a consultant employed by the Washington D.C.-based consulting firm National Strategies, was shot outside his home in suburban Prince George's County Maryland. The bullet reportedly hit Joyal in the groin and the 53 year-old man is still sedated at this time. Over the weekend, police sources told reporters that they suspected robbery as the motive, and there was some media speculation about the ethnicity of the suspects seen fleeing the scene. However, yesterday Joyal's wife told reporters that her husband's wallet and briefcase were left behind in his car.
Mr. Joyal recently appeared on the TV show Dateline NBC as an acquintenence of Alexander Litvinenko, claiming that the Litvinenko was poisoned by Russian security services. Joyal also reportedly worked as a registered lobbyist for the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 1998. Prior to working as a consultant and lobbyist, Joyal was director of security for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1980 to 1989.
Click on the extended post to read the articles by Kommersant and The Washington Post.
Misrepresenting the Truth -- WSJ Gives Khodorkovsky's Defense Counsel a Platform
Mikhail Khodorkovksy and Platon Lebedev in jail (Photo by Itar-Tass) Read the original article in the extended post
Why are Beltway-types indignant about Enron, but not Khodorkovsky?
What is the motivation for a respectable outlet like The Wall Street Journal to continue to publish the lies and libelous screeds of a convicted felon?
Don't people who support the rule of law understand that it involves prosecuting criminals and making them pay for their crimes?
"The Kremlin this week showed that democracy, human rights and the rule of law are dead in Vladimir Putin's Russia. With extraordinarily cynical timing, new charges -- this time, money-laundering -- were brought against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who once ran Russia's largest oil company, Yukos," writes Robert Amsterdam, Mikhail Khodorkovsky's international defense counsel, on the pages of the WSJ.
"These charges have nothing to do with upholding Russia's laws," continues Mr. Amsterdam. "They have everything to do with the fact that Mr. Khodorkovsky would have been eligible for parole later this year, having served half his eight-year sentence on a politically motivated tax evasion conviction handed down in 2005. Another show trial will surely propel the machinery of so-called justice toward another preordained guilty verdict."
Was Alexander Litvinenko the Victim of a Botched Polonium Smuggling Operation?
Andrei Lugovoy, one of the suspects in the Litvinenko radiation poisoning case
This week Pajamas Media, a kind of aggregation/wire service for bloggers worldwide, has picked up a post by blogger AJ Strata casting more doubt on the claim that Alexander Litvinenko was assassinated in London. AJ Strata joins Edward Jay Epstein and others who doubt that Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned with a polonium-210 by an assassin. Instead, these bloggers believe that Litvinenko may have been the victim of a botched polonium smuggling operation, with the highly toxic radioactive substance leaking out a sealed container or vial into a teacup in Litvinenko's room at the Millenium Hotel.
Mario Scaramella met Alexander Litvinenko on November 1
Mario Scaramella, a witness in the Alexander Litvinenko case, was arrested in Naples on December 24. Mr. Scaramella met Litvinenko for lunch at London's Itsu sushi restaurant on November 1. Scaramella claimed that the purpose of this meeting was to warn Litvinenko that he and several other Russian exiles in Britain had been marked for death by a cabal of current or former members of Russia's security services. Scaramella claimed to have obtained this "enemies list" from his former KGB contacts. However, after Scotland Yard detectives interviewed the self-proclaimed expert on KGB espionage, they found many reasons to doubt his story, starting with Scaramella's claim that he had received a near-fatal dose of radiation. After extensive medical tests, Scaramella was released from a London hospital and has shown no symptoms of radiation poisoning. Italian police arrested Scaramella at the Naples airport when he arrived from London on Christmas Eve.
Russian businessman Dimitry Kovtun has been questioned twice by Russian and British investigators about his relationship with Alexander Litvinenko
Today Izvestia quoted Moscow-based security contractor Dimitry Kovtun as telling police that Alexander Litvinenko was strapped for cash in the months before they met on November 1. According to Kovtun, Litivinenko told him last summer that he was no longer receiving a "stipend" to cover living expenses for his family in London and badly needed to make a business deal. Litvinenko told Kovtun that he could bring in new British clients for Kovtun's private security company in return for commissions. While no one has directly identified the source of this "stipend", Litvinenko had been employed by Boris Berezovsky and lived very close to the exiled oligarch.
Meanwhile, Andrei Lugovoy, the other businessman who met with Litvinenko on November 1, claims that his relationship with Litvinenko was also distant, and that last summer he received a similar phone call from Litvinenko offering to introduce him to potential clients in Britain. The ex-KGB bodyguard told the ITAR TASS news agency, "My security business is developing in Russia fairly successfully. I met that call with a portion of doubt. But when I came to London I called him. He immediately named some companies and brought me to them. A reputation, authority and business interests of these companies allowed me to make a conclusion that this could be very interesting."
German police have told the Berliner Zeitung this week that they are looking into the possibility that radiation poisoning victim Alexander Litvinenko and his associate Dimitry Kovtun were involved in smuggling polonium out of Russia. According to RIA Novosti, one German police source told the Berliner Zeitung that the polonium 210 shipment that killed Litvinenko could have been valued at $25 million. German detectives have found traces of polonium in Dimitry Kovtun's apartment in Hamburg, and Russian investigators are treating him as a potential witness in the murder case.
Mr. Kovtun, a former member of the FSB who now works as a businessman, has denied any involvement in the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko. Andrei Lugovoy, who worked as a bodyguard for Boris Berezovsky in the late 1990s, has also proclaimed his innocence. Both men met with Alexander Litvinenko on November 1, a few hours before the ex-FSB agent became violently ill with radiation poisoning. Both have now undergone medical examinations to determine if they were irradiated, with the results likely to be returned by Friday. For investigators, determining Lugovoy and Kovtun's radiation exposure levels could prove to be very important in assembling their case.
German police announced this weekend that they have found traces of polonium 210 at a Hamburg apartment formerly occupied by Russian businessman Dimity Kovtun. Along with the ex-KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi, Kovtun was one of two Russian men Alexander Litvinenko met in London on November 1, the day before he fell violently ill from radiation poisoning.
Mr. Kotvun allegedly left a long trail of polonium 210 traces behind while traveling from Moscow to London via Hamburg. The ultimate source of the nuclear material remains unknown, but British media reports have cited anonymous sources claiming that the isotopes have been traced to a Russian reactor. However, as veteran investigator and blogger Edward Jay Epstein points out, the quantity of polonium 210 required to create a fatal dose is quite small, and could conceivably be smuggled out of a nuclear facility by a single bribed technician. Russian government spokesmen have strongly denied that any nuclear material has ever been lost or could possibly be stolen from their facilities. Last week Russian nuclear agency officials told RIA Novosti that Russia's only polonium producing reactor was shut down two years ago and that the whole country produces only eight grams a month from leftover stocks, primarily for customers in the U.S. and Great Britain. Once isolated from polonium, the half life of the 210 isotope is just 132 days.
Both Mr. Kotvun and Mr. Lugovoi have denied any involvement in the crime, and point to the fact that they are undergoing treatment for radiation poisoning to demonstrate their innocence. After several UK newspapers cited Scotland Yard complaints of delays in interviewing key witnesses, British detectives interviewed both men in the presence of Russian officials on Monday. Mr. Lugovoi told RIA Novosti that he is fully cooperating with the criminal investigation and is happy to be interviewed again if necessary. Meanwhile, this weekend the Russian Prosecutor General's office announced that it may send its own team of investigators to London.
For the benefit of Russia Blog readers, in today's extended post we have reproduced excerpts from New York University Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen's appearance on the Dec. 7 edition of The Charlie Rose Show. In the segment, Prof. Cohen is highly critical of how the Anglo-American media has covered the Litvinenko affair, and shares his own opinion on the likely geopolitical fallout from the case.
Prof. Cohen received his doctorate from Columbia University in 1969 and has taught Russian history for over thirty years. Prof. Cohen also happens to be married to Katrina Vanden Heuvel, the editor of The Nation, a left-wing American magazine that has been highly critical of both Bush and Putin.
To watch the whole thing, click on the embedded Google video link in the extended post.
Samara, Russia -- on December 4, Alexander Samoylenko, chief of the Itera-Samara oil company and a former executive for Russian carmaker AvtoVAZ was murdered in an apparent contract killing. Mr. Samoylenko was shot dead Monday evening while leaving work in his Lexus. The vehicle was riddled with bullets from a Kalashnikov assault rifle, and seven bullets struck the businessman, killing him instantly. A friend who was in the car with him suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
The killer escaped in a Russian-made Zhiguli, which was found a few minutes later on a residential street. The killer set the getaway car on fire to cover his tracks, and no one has been arrested in connection with this murder. Police suspect that Samoylenko was killed due to his present and past business affiliations. Samara's local government has just changed leadership, and there have been several attacks on regional businessmen. These attacks may be part of an attempt to re-distribute financial power in the city. Itera is a prominent Russian oil company, and there are many potential enemies in Samara who could have wanted Samoylenko dead. Another possible reason for this murder could have been Samoylenko's previous position with AvtoVAZ - the largest car manufacturer in Russia. Over 500 people affiliated with AvtoVAZ have been murdered in contract killings since 1992.
The Russian government has been widely blamed in the Western media for the recent murders of the Russian journalist Anna Politovskaya and former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko. The day after Litvinenko died from radiation poisoning, Yegor Gaidar, the former Russian Prime Minister who served with President Boris Yeltsin, became violently ill while visiting Ireland.
Mr. Gaidar, along with Anatoly Chubais, was one of the architects of Russia's "privatization" schemes during the 1990s, and as a result is not well-loved by ordinary Russians. I have heard Mr. Gaidar speak at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington D.C. twice in the last three years. In the years since he left government service, he has traveled around the world delivering presentations strongly critical of Putin's administration.
If Gaidar had died as a result of poisoning, it would have been very difficult to argue that the Kremlin was not behind this recent wave of political assassinations. However, Mr. Gaidar survived, and the first thing he did when he became conscious enough to make his own decisions was to fly back to Moscow. Mr. Gaidar apparently feels safer receiving medical treatment close to the Kremlin than he does abroad. That fact should give Westerners who assume that the Russian government sanctioned these awful crimes pause.
By now the whole world has heard about the poisoning of ex-FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who ingested a fatal dose of the radioactive isotope polonium-210 three weeks ago. Most American and British commentators have focused suspicion on the Kremlin, which allegedly wanted to end Litvinenko's investigation into the recent murder of the Russian opposition journalist Anna Politovskaya. One month before he was poisoned, Litvinenko had publicly accused President Putin of ordering Politovskaya's death.
Several British newspapers have suggested that rogue FSB agents may have acted without the Kremlin's knowledge to kill a man they regarded as a traitor and to intimidate future defectors. This theory has been advanced by Oleg Gordievsky, himself the highest level KGB defector to defect during the Cold War, who was a friend of Litvinenko.
For their part, Russian media outlets have quoted government sources blaming Boris Berezovsky or other exiled oligarchs for killing Litvinenko as well as Politovskaya, in order to pin their deaths on the Kremlin. "The excessive number of calculated coincidences between the deaths of people, who defined themselves as the opposition to the Russian authorities, and major international events involving Vladimir Putin is a source of concern," Sergei Yastrzhembsky, a top Kremlin aide, told the ITAR-TASS news agency. "I am far from believing in the conspiracy theory, but, in this case, I think that we are witnessing a well-rehearsed plan of the consistent discrediting of the Russian Federation and its chief."
Former FSB Lt. Colonel Alexander Litvinenko with his controversial book Blowing Up Russia: Terror from Within
London -- Former Federal Security Service (FSB) Colonel Alexander Litvinenko, a vocal critic of the Kremlin, has apparently been poisoned with traces of the toxic metal thallium. Tonight the 41 year-old Russian exile is being treated in the intensive care unit of London's University College Hospital, and the staff has added extra security for Litvinenko's protection. Litvinenko is being fed intravenously, and has lost nearly all of his hair. Doctors treating him say his white blood cell count is down to nearly zero. This high profile poisoning case has drawn comparisons in Western media outlets to the dioxin poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko, shortly before he was elected President of Ukraine in 2004.
Litvinenko became violently ill following a meeting on November 1 with a man who claimed that he had information on the murder of the Russian journalist Anna Politovskaya. Litvinenko met his contact, an Italian academic named Mario Scaramella, at the Itsu sushi restaurant near London's Picadilly district. Mr. Scaramella, an expert on the history KGB and FSB spy activities in his native Italy, contacted the British Embassy in Rome when he found out about Litvinenko's illness. He is now in hiding and seeking protective custody as a material witness to the crime.
Mr. Litvinenko told his friend Alex Goldfarb that he had met two Russian men for drinks shortly before his sushi lunch, and had described the suspects to the London police. One of the suspects was unknown to Mr. Litvinenko, and it is still unclear why he agreed to meet with the two men.
President of Russian National Oil Institute Killed
A forensic investigator at the scene of the crime
(Photo by News.ru)
Moscow -- Zalimkhan Magomedov, President of the non-profit National Oil Institute Foundation, was shot dead yesterday, the victim of an apparent contract killing. According to the Associated Press article published in the Houston Chronicle: "The little-known Moscow-based company works with companies and government structures to develop small and medium-sized companies in the oil and gas industry". Mr. Magomedov, a native of the Caucasian Russian republic of Dagestan, is the latest victim of a wave of business-related violence in Russia.
The poster reads: "Government Party, Stop the Chaos!"
Russia keeps adding to the death toll of respected political and community leaders. This time the killing took place in Dalnegorsk, a city in the Russian Far East region of Primorsky Kray. Dmitry Fotianov, a popular mayoral candidate and member of President Putin's United Russia party was gunned down at noon Thursday October 19 in front of his campaign headquarters. Fotianov's killers shot him dead with Kalashnikov assault rifles and then fled.
Police suspect that this murder comes in retaliation for the killing of a bodyguard for another candidate in the region. Alexandr Terebilov, Fotianov's opponent in the mayoral contest, declares that he had nothing to do with this crime, and that he will not withdraw his candidacy from the second round of voting for the mayor's seat. In the first ballot, Fotianov took 40.71% of the votes, while Terebilov won 42.28%.
Today Bloomberg Financial News is reporting the murder of ITAR-TASS news agency business chief Anatoly Vornonin. Mr. Voronin was a well-respected reporter and had been with ITAR-TASS for 23 years. The headline over the link to this story from the Drudge Report at this hour asks "Another One?" - referring to the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politovskaya on October 7th - but the circumstances of this case are very different. Gazeta.ru quotes Russian prosecutors and police sources indicating that Voronin was stabbed to death by an assailant he knew, perhaps a friend. Voronin's body was found in his apartment early this morning by his driver.
Bloomberg has more in the extended post, including a tally of prominent Russian businessmen killed in the last month.
MOSCOW- On Saturday, October 7, the prominent Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building. Her assassin, a tall-dark haired man wearing a large cap to conceal his face, was caught on tape. The Novaya Gazeta newspaper where Politovskaya worked has offered a $930,000 reward for details leading to the arrest of whoever was involved in the killing.
Today Reuters is reporting that during a phone call Sunday afternoon regarding North Korea's nuclear test, President Bush raised the issue with President Putin of attacks on journalists in Russia. Putin responded that Russian law enforcement would thoroughly investigate the crime and have every resource at their disposal. In the official White House statement, President Bush urged Russia to "conduct a vigorous and thorough investigation to bring to justice those responsible" for the crime. Yuri Chaika, Russia's Prosecutor-General (counterpart of the U.S. Attorney General), has taken charge of the case.
Novaya Gazeta, which has former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev as one of its publishers, claims that Politovskaya was working on a major new expose of human rights abuses by security forces in Chechnya. The fact that the murder coincided with President Putin's birthday (birthdays are very important in Russian traditions) suggests that someone wanted to send a message, and has led many Western media outlets to charge that the Kremlin or security services were behind the crime. USA Today, the largest circulation newspaper in America, compares Vladimir Putin to Josef Stalin in their editorial today. Many Russian analysts, in contrast to their Western counterparts, have asked: who benefits from Mrs. Politovskaya's death?
First Verdict in the Case of Private Andrei Sychev
Private Alexandr Sivyakov in court
Moscow - today a court ruled in the mutilation case of Private Andrei Sychev, who was beaten and sexually abused by his comrades at the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy on December 31, 2005. As a result of his injuries, Andrei Syvhev had both his legs and genitals amputated earlier this year.
The prosecution of this case was very political and highly publicized. Russian army officials were caught trying to cover up for the guilty NCOs and division officers at the base where Pvt. Sychev was abused. Several officers misrepresented the entire story, claiming that the private was a poor soldier and that they were not aware of any abuse taking place. President Putin was personally outraged by the case and asked the court to find and prosecute the guilty parties. The case has created a major push in the Duma to speed up desperately needed reforms in the Russian army.
Private Alexandr Sivyakov was convicted of torturing Private Sychev, and was sentenced to four years in prison. Both prosecutors and the defense argue that this sentence was too lenient for the crime of maiming a young man for life. The victim's family is demanding harsher punishment and calling for Pvt. Sychev's commanding officers to be brought to justice as well. The defense argues that Pvt. Sivyakov was the scapegoat for the negligence of the officers, and could not be held entirely responsible for the actions of his comrades who mutilated Pvt. Sychev.
Moscow -- On the night of September 13, Andrei Kozlov, the first Vice President of the Central Bank of the Russia Federation and his driver were shot dead. The equivalent crime in America would be killing the Vice Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in Washington, D.C. This is the first murder of a high-ranking government official since Putin became President in 2000. High profile business murders were common in the Yeltsin era of the 1990s, but Putin's core group of government officials fighting corruption were thought untouchable until Wednesday night. President Putin, government officials and all ranks of society are genuinely shocked by this tragedy.
Andrei Kozlov was responsible for supervising credit organizations and banks for the entire country; Kozlov was the key official who had the power to revoke a license from any bank involved in fraud, money laundering or other illegal business activities. And so he did -- over 900 unlawful banking operations were closed down on his watch. Professional colleagues and personal friends all remember Mr. Kozlov as a very honest man, who took pride in his work. Kozlov epitomized the model new government official in Putin's Russia, who works openly according to the laws, fights corruption and refuses to take bribes. Now the whole country knows that Kozlov's integrity cost him his life.
In the Absence of Rule of Law -- Xenophobia and Vigilantism
A young ultranationalist lights up a rally
Kondopoga, Karelia Region -- this small industrial town not far from Finland has been the center of attention for two weeks straight in Russia. Northern Russians living in the area are known for their calm character; it is usually difficult to provoke them into a fight. But on the night of September 1, 2006, angry Kondopoga rioted and set fire to a school attended by Muslim children, as well as a public market, several grocery stores, and a restaurant, all properties owned by local Chechen migrants; they also fought with police SWAT teams that tried to disperse the riot. The next morning, September 2, thousands of people gathered without a demonstration permit. Most of the crowd demanded that city officials deport "every settler from Caucuses in the next 24 hours."
Russia Blog will try to explain why this usually peaceful town of 40,000 has been guarded around the clock for two weeks by SWAT teams and army units, and why dozens of Russian members of Parliament, human rights activists and anti-immigration groups have entered the fray. The incident might look like a brief spasm of xenophobia, but the roots of the conflict run deep.
Russian Camping: Altay Teenager Murders an Entire Family
Aleksandr Petrov with his wife Alena and their kids, Nikita and Artem
On August 7, 2006, prominent Russian journalist Aleksandr Petrov (age 31) took his family camping on the banks of Tuekta River in Altay. Aleksandr was an idealistic young professional, who loved his job and his country. He had many opportunities to work for major publishing houses in Moscow, but rejected these job offers to stay in his hometown of Omsk. Even though he could have gone abroad for his August holiday like so many Russian families do, he wanted to share the countryside with his wife Alena and his two sons Nikita (age 7) and Artem (age 3).
Tragically, Mr. Petrov's decision to go camping proved fatal for his family. Altay is well-known for its natural beauty and wild life. Even though possessing firearms without a costly permit is illegal in Russia, many locals have a hand made gun or an illegal weapon, starting at the age of 11 or 12. A 16 year old teenager named Ruslan took a short cut through the woods coming back from his summer job site. Ruslan noticed a nice Mitsubishi car parked by a tent, with no potential witnesses around. Driving a foreign-made vehicle was his childhood dream. So he went to the tent and shot Aleksandr Petrov in the face and his wife in the back. Alena Petrov survived the gunshot wound; so Ruslan used a camping axe to finish her off, then butchered her 7 year old son with the same axe and killed the 3 year old with a rock. He dumped the bodies in the nearby river, took the Petrov's video camera, cell phone and vehicle for a 90 mile joyride...
Former YUKOS Security Chief Gets 20 Years for Murder
In 2005 Alexei Pichugin was convicted of murder and ordering contract killings
Last week the Moscow Times reported that a Moscow City Court rejected the appeal of Alexei Pichugin, the former chief of security for Yukos. Mr. Pichugin was convicted in 2005 for the murders of Sergei and Olga Gorin and two counts of attempted murder for ordering attacks on Olga Kostina and Viktor Kolesov. Mr. Pichugin was also convicted of murdering the mayor of the City of Nefteyugansk, Vladimir Petuhov, who tried to get Yukos to pay back taxes owed to the local government (Mikhail Khodorkovsky was convicted on charges of tax evasion). Alexei Pichugin will now spend twenty years of his life in a maximum security Russian penal colony.
In 2002, Sergei Gorin was a senior manager at Menatep Bank's branch in the city of Tambov, where he arranged several lucrative off-the-books deals between Yukos and local businesses. These arrangements seemed to have worked fine until Mr. Gorin got ambitious and asked Mr. Pichugin to either bring him on board as a well-compensated Yukos employee or give him $100,000 cash in severance pay.
St Petersburg's Cathedral on Fire; Novosibirsk Citizen Returns $750 Million; Other News of the Day
ST PETERSBURG -- Today the Troitksy Cathedral, built from 1828 -- 1835, burst into flames. Evidence indicates that a cigarette butt likely left behind by a construction worker initiated the blaze, which then raced through the wooden scaffolding surrounding the Cathedral's great dome. Even under renovation, the Cathedral fits 3,000 worshipers and remains a prominent St. Petersburg landmark visible from 13 miles away.
Just three minutes after a report of flames, the first fire truck arrived. In the end, 40 fire trucks and a helicopter helped battle the blaze. Firemen, cathedral priests, and employees managed to save all the icons and furniture inside. The building, designed by Vasiliy Stasov, survived abuse from fire and water without sustaining any major structural damage. While the cathedral is a federal historic site, it is managed by the city of St. Petersburg. This raises the question of who is going to pay for major repairs.
Pyatigorsk Mayor Charged with Reckless Driving; Five People Dead
Today the mayor of the City of Pyatigorsk was arrested while undergoing treatment for his injuries in the emergency room. Mayor Tarasov is charged with driving recklessly and vehicular manslaughter, after the vehicle he was driving crashed head on into another car, killing five people.
While he is still in critical condition, the Mayor has now been charged with the worst criminal charge Russian drivers can face-- "Disobeying the traffic rules and the exploitation of the transport vehicle, causing the deaths of two or more people" (part 3 of Criminal Code article #264).
Yekaterinburg, Russia -- A massive child sex ring was exposed in downtown Yekaterinburg this week. The accused were caught selling young boys, renting them for sexual services and routinely raping them. Their victims were over 1,000 boys, ages 12 through 17. This "business" has been operating for five years, so many of the victims were 7 to 12 years old when they were first kidnapped. Police have documented 116 cases of rape and sexual abuse and the alleged owners of the "business" have been caught. One of the suspects committed suicide in jail after he was imprisoned with common criminals. The leader of the group however, escaped. It is rumored that several powerful citizens of Yekaterinburg frequented the establishment and pressured the court to release the accused ring leader pending his trial date. Thanks to this release the lead suspect in the case has now fled the country.
It is amazing that this story, along with news about dedovshinabrutality in the Russian army very rarely makes it into international media coverage of Russia. By pursuing generic, pre-written stories such as "Putin's crackdown on dissent" and "the Kremlin's centralization of power", international news outlets are neglecting their duty to report the worst human rights abuses in Russia. A good journalist or citizen can make better use of their time by asking more relevant questions. For instance: how can subsidies for Russian mothers prevent the depopulation of the country, if so many children between the ages of 7 and 17 are sexually abused, and so many young men ages 18 to 20 are tortured in the army? It is these defiled innocents who grow into psychologically wrecked adults dying from suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse and AIDS throughout Russia.
After several weeks of peace and quiet in the Moscow business world, today there was another "business-related" murder. This news received only two paragraphs in the most outlets and can only be found on the bottom of the crime section of Russian websites. It reads: "The body of 37 year old Pavel Orlov was found in his apartment on Udaltsova Street in Moscow. Mr. Orlov was shot twice in the back. Investigators said that Mr. Orlov, a native of St. Petersburg, was the owner of a successful restaurant chain in Moscow where he was renting the apartment. The murder is business related."
Please see the crime section of RussiaBlog for more information on business-related crimes and killings in Russia.
Leonid Nevzlin, Khodorkovsky's business partner,
"lost in translation" with Israeli journalists
Leonid Nevzlin, the former senior business partner of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, received his Israeli citizenship in 2003, when the Kremlin first set out to destroy Yukos. Since then, Mr. Nevzlin has been waving his new passport around, declaring that "Israel doesn't give out its people". However, the recent influx of foreign investment into the Russian energy market may prove many people wrong, including Nevzlin and Boris Berezovsky.
Lured by Rosneft's IPO and the promise of lucrative action in Russian energy, the oil industry seems to have forgotten about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former richest man in Russia, who now resides 12 miles from the Chinese border in Siberia. NGOs fighting the Kremlin to "free Khodorkovsky" have been drowned out by the hype surrounding the Russian government's IPO for Rosneft, the state-owned company that received the choicest parts of YUKOS.
Last week, a delegation of Israeli lawyers visited Moscow, to find out how they could help extradite Nevzlin for the crimes he's being investigated for in Russia. The list of white collar crimes Nevzlin is accused of should be familiar to anyone who has studied the careers of the oligarchs: tax evasion, theft, etc. Meanwhile in London, the British government is hosting a group of Russian general prosecutors, headed by the "Prokuratura" senior officials; they are talking to the British lawyers about how to extradite Berezovsky back to Russia.
MOSCOW -- The Russian Duma (Parliament) approved on the second reading a bill which removes the majority of army draft exemptions. According to current law, the husbands of pregnant wives, fathers of children under three years old, teachers and doctors from remote villages could be temporarily exempted from serving in the army. Now, every able-bodied male is legally obligated to serve.
Pregnant wives will receive $135 in exchange for their husbands, and after the baby is born - $200. If the husband is killed... well, too bad, because the widows' pensions are not nearly enough for a single mom to raise a little child on.
Russian schools and hospitals barely have any male employees due to very low salaries. While working for a Moscow School 1205, I remember attending a meeting for regional schools which served a population of three million. There were only five new male teachers present, all under the age of 25, all wanting to find other jobs as soon as possible. Being a male teacher in Russian schools is a heroic act and an extraordinary privilege for kids. The Duma's logic just doesn't add up in my mind -- how can they expect boys to become men (so that they would serve in the army) without any male role models around, with their fathers and teachers in the army?
Chahmahchyan getting ready for a well-deserved "vacation"
This week the parliament of Kalmyk region was asked to fire their federal Senator Levon Chahmahchyan, so that the FSB could press charges when he is no longer immune from prosecution. Among other crimes, the Senator was caught carrying $300,000 cash out of the offices of the local company "Transaero", for whom he had been doing favors. The hundred dollar bills were marked this time, and his suitcase was full of them, stacked neatly just like in a Hollywood movie.
Senator Chahmahchyan is of Armenian origin. The Armenian mafia has always been very powerful in Russia. Many Armenians are dominant players in the construction business which is booming in major Russian cities. Several Armenians are close business partners with Moscow Mayor Luzhkov's wife, who along with her husband has become a billionaire during his term in office.
Chahmahchyan's son in law is a senior official at the Russian Ministry of Finance. When he was first caught, Chahmahchya joked that this was just a political game between him and "Transaero" executives, but later in the day his son in law was arrested as well. The Senator had just been elected the day before as the new president of the Russian Armenian Association.
Russia's Real Mafia Are Russian Governors, Senators; Several Politicians Forced to Resign; Putin Fires General
Aleksey Barinov facing charges
ARHANGELSK, Russia, May 23 -- Aleksey Barinov, the governor of Nenetskiy Region was arrested. The governor faces criminal charges of fraud and grand theft as part of a group of corrupt officials.
In the late 1990s, the governor served as CEO of the natural resources company "ArhangelskGeoDobicha" (Archangelsk Geological Mining).While directing this firm, Mr. Barinov allegedly appropriated several condos and garages from the corporation and forged bills of exchange and geologic research contracts. Mr. Barinov also faces charges of tax evasion. The governor's illegal profits added up to one million dollars per year. FSB investigators still don't know the grand total of the governor's illicit funds; however this arrest was just the first in a series for arrests and forced resignations for several prominent Russian politicians. In my opinion, these people are the real Russian mafia, not the petty pimps and drug dealers you hear about on Western television.
MOSCOW -- A Toyota Land Cruiser Prado exploded in the northern part of the city. Police suspect that this was a business-related crime. An unidentified businessman and his driver and bodyguard were in the car. All three survived, which means that the bomb was planted to "scare" rather than to "kill".
The bodyguard was armed with a pistol, which is illegal, but possession of this kind of weapon is usually overlooked by authorities. There's no official way to be licensed as a bodyguard in Russia.
Please read more about business-related attacks in the crime section of the RussiaBlog.
Also, you can find a video update about Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, from the New York Times website, by clicking on this link.
St. Petersburg Skinhead Gang Leader Shot Dead by Police
Police photograph the scene of the shooting
St. Petersburg, May 19 -- Police shot and killed the leader of the neo-fascist skinhead group Mad Crowd. Dmitri Borovikov was shot in the head while resisting arrest and brandishing a knife. St. Petersburg police allege that Borovikov and his Mad Crowd gang committed a number of racist attacks and gunned down a Senegalese student on April 7th.
St. Petersburg police investigated the gang for a month before they linked the murder weapon to Borovikov's neighbor, who had given it to him to repair. The apartment where Borovikov's girlfriend lives was under surveillance, and after several weeks the suspect showed up. Police decided to arrest him when he stepped out of the apartment building into the street.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly the richest man in Russia, now a resident of the Siberian Colony YaG-14/10 twelve miles from the Chinese border, was hospitalized this week. Mr. Khodorkovsky had been on a hunger strike, drinking water as his only nutrition. He started a hunger strike to protest his jailers' decision to put him in a single-person cell, after he was attacked by another inmate April 14.
On April 14, 22-year old prisoner Alexander Kuchma got into an argument with the former oligarch and attacked him with a shiv. Khodorkovsky suffered a deep cut on his face. No charges have been filed yet as a result of this incident. According to Russian laws, in cases involving personal injury, the victim has to press charges himself. Khodorkovsky, probably worried about his personal safety and reputation among his cellmates, has decided to drop all charges. The prisoner Kuchma received a slap on the wrist for this brutal attack - just a few days of solitary confinement.
Moscow Composer Escapes Car Bomb, Novgorod Factory Manager Shot
The Bush Administration, after condemning last week's elections in Belarus as rigged, has declared this week's parliamentary elections in Ukraine to be relatively "free and fair".
Meanwhile, yesterday in Russia, there were two major suspected mob incidents and one police shootout that resulted in several dead terrorists.
Moscow, Russia -- Someone wired the car of Vladislav Kazenin, President of the Russian Union of Composers, with a bomb. However the bomb maker did a poor job of wiring the device to Kazenin's Audi A-6 sedan. When Kazenin and his driver left the Union's building, they found one of the car's windows smashed. They carefully searched the vehicle and found a grenade with wires tied into the seat. They called the police, who dispatched the bomb squad to disarm the device. No one was hurt in the incident.
Novgorod, Russia - At 9:45 pm Moscow time, Vladimir Dugenez, the general manager of a local automobile factory, was shot repeatedly by several gunmen armed with automatic rifles. Mr. Dugenez was wounded in the head, chest, arms and stomach. Mr. Dugenez is being treated at a local medical facility. The attack is likely "business-related" and is typical of Russian organized crime.
Russian Police Kill Terrorist Commander in Dagestan
Hasavyurt, Dagestan (Russian state bordering Chechnya) -- Russian police conducted a successful operation against jihad terrorists holed up inside an abandoned house. There were no casualties reported among the Russian policemen, and they still don't know how many terrorists were killed. The police unit was apparently determined to take no chances, and the house was reduced to rubble. What is known at this hour is that one of the terrorists holed up inside was identified as the so-called "Emir" of Hasavyurt, Samir Pashayev. Russian police are still identifying the rest of the bodies.
As Russia Blog has previously reported, the former richest man in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now resides in Siberia, in a prison colony close to the Chinese border. Khodorkovsky's wife and mother visited him just a few weeks ago. At that time, Khodorkovsky had been punished by solitary confinement twice; once for leaving his workspace without permission to find a mechanic to fix his sewing machine, and the second time for having papers from the Ministry of Justice. These documents describe the proper procedures for imprisoning a Russian citizen. The prison administration decided Khodorkovsky should not have these documents and sent him to solitary confinement again.
When Khodorkovsky was settling into his new residence he had a smile on his face. Khodorkovsky thought that he would be doing cushy research and earn his PhD while serving out his sentence. All these dreams have been ruthlessly crushed. All the mail Khodorkovsky has received and the letters he tried to send out have been confiscated and destroyed by the prison administration. The warden had decided that the contents of his papers were "inappropriate". Also, research work is not allowed at this particular penal colony. Sewing and making cardboard boxes are the only working options. So far Khodorkovsky has stuck with sewing, but he isn't any good at it, so he is thinking about carton box-making as his next career.
Two cases of torture have been reported in the Russian press this week. The first case involved Nizhniy Novgorod policemen who tortured two innocent men seven years ago; the second one occurred this New Years Eve, when a 19 year old army conscript was gang-raped and tortured by 40 of his comrades. Just a few days ago his maimed legs and genitals were amputated.
First about the police. Seven years ago, 22 year old Aleksey Miheev and his friend Ilya Frolov were asked for a ride by their 17 year old friend. They were going different directions and refused the girl in a ride. She took the bus and didn't get home that night. The two young men were accused of raping and killing her and were arrested the same day. After the arrest they were "questioned" at the local police station for five days in a row, 10-12 hours a day.
Italian businessman Pieropaolo Antinori was gunned down in downtown Moscow today at 4:15 pm.
His car, a Nissan Maxima, was cut off and surrounded by cheap Russian cars, which were abandoned after the crime. Several people in ski masks broke the windows of the Nissan and took out several cases loaded with cash (a lot of business in Russia is done in cash due to corrupt banking system). The businessman tried to cover himself with his hands, begging for his life, however he was shot few times in his head.
The driver was uninjured, and though he is in shock, he delivered the story to the police. Mr. Antinori was a successful shoe-maker, who was a regular in Moscow, where he was involved with many businesses. Officials suggest that the motive for his murder was not the money in the suitcases, but the market competition with local businesses.
No one has been charged or arrested in relationship to this crime.
Dnevnoy Dozor ("Day Watch"), the sequel to Nochnoy Dozor ("Night Watch") made $20 million dollars in the Russian and Eastern European movie theaters in the first 10 days since its release - reports Gazeta.Ru. The third part of the movie will be made in Hollywood, since now the producers can afford to do it. The trailer for Night Watch is here.
Mahachkala, Russia -- a car of the vice deputy for the regional police department was attacked. The targeted official Magomed Gazimogamedov was not in the vehicle, however his son and driver were killed. Two Kalashnikov assault rifles were found at the crime scene.
80 Russians were recently poisoned as the result of a gas attack at a home-supply chain.
Officials with the Maksidom home-supply chain, which sells furnishings, home-repair materiasl and other domestic articles, said they had received recent threats that their sales would be disrupted around New Years, when Russians traditionally give holiday gifts.
Most efforts to undermine competitors' sales in Russia's sharp-elbowed free market take the form of negative advertising or libelous rumors.Business-related violence nonetheless remains a feature of the cutthroat capitalism that dominated Russia following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Moscow -- Thursday, 5:10 pm, a businessman from St. Petersburg, Ruslan Shuleshko, was killed after he finished his business meeting. First he was beaten up, and then shot multiple times in the chest and head. This crime is another one of many, reported in the Crime Section of Russia Blog. If you are going into business in Russia -- always make sure you have a Russian you can trust on the ground, or find one. You are welcome to contact me for referrals to excellent American and Russian lawyers and businessmen who are doing business in the country, making profits while staying alive.
Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia - November 27, a black medical student from Mauritania and his Russian friend were beaten up and slashed with a knife by a gang of young people in downtown, not far from the Novgorod Medical University. Local police have launched an investigation based on article 115 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code "Premeditated attack resulting in minor health injury". No racism issues were brought up, and no has been arrested or charged for the attack yet. This latest assault is one of the many racist attacks that are constantly happening in Russia.
Ingushetia, Russia -- three police officers were shot in a small town of Malgobek; two officers are dead, another one is in critical condition. The officers are serving in the small village in Northern Osetia, and came to town to get drinking water supplies for the police station.
Also, the senior customs inspector at the major international airport Shermetyevo was arrested for selling the database information, which contains secret information regarding the security and financial statements of the local companies. The lady-inspector accepted a bribe, in a sting operation set up by Internal Ministry officials.
Russia will pay $500,000 to bail out the Russian UN official Vladimir Kuznezov. Septermber 1, 2005 Mr. Kuznezov was arrested by FBI for money laundering; he still denies all the charges. Another Russian UN official, Alexander Yakovlev, was arrested on August 8, 2005, and charged with money laundering and stealing a fortune, while electronically transferring government funds; he plead guilty to all the charges.
This post comes in reply to a reader, asking if the current rioting in France could spread to immigrant communities in Russia.
I do not think there is any similar threat of immigrants in Russia rioting. There are two reasons why it won't happen:
1) Immigrants in Russia don't receive any welfare or social support from the state, their legal rights aren't protected at all; often when they are murdered or injured, no one cares. They come to Russia to work hard and make as much money as they can. The violence in France is caused by a failed socialist welfare state. When someone doesn't have to make a living, he can just exist, and get all the support he needs. At some point that individual starts thinking that he is entitled to everything he has, and even more; and on top of that he has all the free time on his hands to go out and participate in the car burning "protests". Russian immigrants are working hard just to survive -- they are busy, and happy to get the meager things they do own.
2) Russian law enforcement (and American for that matter) would never allow such chaos in the streets to go on for weeks.. I don't want to go into the reasons why France has allowed looting and arson in their streets for so long, but I'm sure that such violence would have been stopped within a few hours in America, or in Russia. I'm not advocating bullets and tear gas as handy tools for dealing with social issues, but I am advocating for common sense, the rule of law, and for securing private property and innocent lives.
St. Petersburg, Russia -- Federal Judge for Primorsky Kray was attacked on Friday at 6:50 pm. The roadside bomb was directed at his car, and narrowly missed the judge.
Kogalym, Siberia -- Yuri Skarzhinsky, CEO of Lukoil Zapadnaya Sibir (Lukoil Western Siberia) was attacked Wednesday at 9:10 pm; the story broke in the Russian media today. He was shot six times by an assailant with a pistol in the foyer of his condo complex. Yuri Skarzhinsky formerly served as the chief of the local police, and later the head of regional economical police department. His area of investigation had been the oil companies, and he managed to successfully prosecute quite a few executives for corruption, and return 7 million dollars back to the regional budget. After his successful police career, he was hired by the Russian oil giant Lukoil. He survived the attack but remains in critical condition.
The old story of Pavel Borodin resurfaced again yesterday, when Italian prosecutors issued warrants to arrests Borodin's daughter and seven more Russian citizens charged with money-laundering during the reconstruction of the Kremlin in the mid-1990s. The exact reconstruction costs are unknown, but they are huge -- billions of dollars; many think, and more evidence emerges that the bulk of this money was stolen by Boris Eltzin's family and his "court".
One of the accused is the former head of Rosvooruzhenie -- the Russian state firm that sells weapons. An ex-KGB general, Evgeni Ananiev, created his own offshore company to hide transactions, while taking kick-backs from the sale of MiG-29 military jets to Peru. Ananiev was found to have laundered $2.7 million dollars through Italy, Borodin's daughter - $5 million dollars. In 1997, $62.5 million dollars were wired from the accounts of the Swiss company Mercata, which was doing the Kremlin construction work; all that money was later traced to the Island of Man, to the accounts of Lightstar Company - created by Borodin and his friends.
Another Business Murder; This Time Government Official
Moscow, Russia - at 9 pm the regional high-rank customs official Sergey Fokin was killed in the foyer of his apartment building by two shots to the head. The murder was "business-related", because Mr. Fokin had a few thousand dollars in cash with him when he was shot; the cash was left on his body. This is another example of a business murder, a phenomenon that is still very common these days in Moscow and other business centers of Russia. For more cases read the Crime category of Russia Blog.
Moscow, Russia – at 10:40 pm, three citizens of Azerbaijan, traveling on business in Russia, were shot in Eastern Moscow. One of them died, other two are unstable in the emergency care. The killers got away.
Smolenskaya Oblast, Russia – 60 prisoners started a hunger strike; some slashed their veins to protest the Speznaz tortures. Russian Federal Bureau of Executions and Speznaz of Ministry of Jurisdiction are responsible for the tortures.
Oksana Dzera, representative of the Human Rights Group of Russia, said that the protests started a week ago, when Chief of the Regional Executions Bureau office, Colonel Igor Konovalov, came to the colony 100/1, located 60 miles outside of Smolensk. He asked for the names of those who had torched a car of one of his co-workers in Smolensk; the prisoners replied that they didn’t know the names. That’s when the colonel ordered Speznaz troops to come to the colony and beat the answers out of the prisoners.
“The prisoners were beaten in the prison’s hallways for three days; they are all just blue colored now, and some of them haven’t received food for seven days” – says Oksana. All the abused prisoners are between 23 and 25 years of age.
Now the prisoners are protesting; they are satisfied with the prison’s conditions, they aren’t asking for anything, all they want is a criminal investigation against their assailants. The protests started this Thursday after the Speznaz troops came back to inflict more sadistic beatings.
The Local Bureau of Executions intially dismissed the allegations, but later on, when representatives of human rights groups demanded admission to the colony, officials admitted that “there are problems in this particular prison”. Official reports from the prison say that “some prisoners refuse to accept meals” and “injure themselves by cutting their wrists”.
It takes time for human rights organization to get to another city and get clearance to visit the prisoners, and Oksana is worried that by the time they get there, there will be no injured cell-mates. It’s happened before, she says, they take them and move them to another location to hide the evidence.
Today, the law and business are the most dangerous professions in Russia. Lawyers – who work for highly-ranking law firms, like Yust, which is connected to the Russian government through relatives working for Putin and one of the partners heading a committee in the Duma – are safe. But the ones who are trying to challenge the lawyers described above, or defend YUKOS for that matter – are targets.
Dmitry Steinberg was an attorney of Elena Baturina, wife of Moscow’s mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Mr. Steinberg had been defending the interests of Baturina's company Inteko until October 13, when he was murdered at home in Moscow. The reasons for the two murders may be very different, and they are very well discussed in the LexisNexis article; however I would like to discuss the pattern and frequency of these Russian "legal battles".
Just in the last few months, the attorney Alexander Ekaterinichev was killed in St. Petersburg, Elena Yazik – in Moscow, Vladimir Liharev – in Samara, Igor Rosenburg and Sergey Zhalilov in Astrakhan.
Elena Baturina is the Russia’s richest woman, controlling 20% of all construction contracts in Moscow, one of the most expensive and fastest growing cities in the world. What a surprise that just by chance she happens to be married to the Mayor of Moscow. Yuri Luzhkov is a good mayor but corrupt, just like any other politician in Russia. The mayor of Moscow is more than just a mayor; he is a governor and a popular politician as well. The Russian Constitution makes Moscow and St. Petersburg city-states due to their size and importance.
Mrs. Baturina has always been involved in business and politics when the stakes are high, and business is risky. Now even she feels unsafe, and has publicly demanded protection from President Putin.
It was Elena Baturina who owned the Transvaal Water and Recreation Park, that collapsed two years ago, killing several dozen adults and children. No one ever proved her ownership, because the paper trail got lost in over 10 shell companies related to the park. The water park was not insured for architectural mistakes, and the flawed building design was the reason for the tragedy. The families of the killed and injured never received any compensation.
While the legal system is slow, corrupt and dysfunctional, many businesses prefer the shortcuts of bribery and murder, instead of improving their services and competition. The drawback of bribes is that you have to hide the paper trail, or re-direct the accusations against someone else. That’s the lawyers’ job, and that’s why many of them become targets, literally dying for the crimes of their clients.
MOSCOW - October 17, Balchug Hotel - Russia's FSB (counterpart to the FBI) arrested one of the top government officials of the Russian Tax Ministry (counterpart to the IRS) while he was collecting a cash bribe of $1 million. He was assisted in collecting bribes by a senior manager from the government-owned Zentrobank.
According to the Indem Analytical Fund, Russian government officials took $316 billion dollars in bribes during the last year, which is a normal year for Russia.The average bribe in Russia today is $135,000. The entire Russian Federal budget for the year 2004 was $95 billion, since state revenues are dependent on oil prices, this year's national budget is estimated to be slightly over $100 billion.
I live in Voronezh. I am a white Englishman and have been here for 3 years.
The police will do nothing...they have done nothing for years. This is not the first time a student has been murdered, and it wont be the last. I drive a UK registered car so I rather stick out as a foreigner but in truth I can say that I have never expereinced any problems, even during the Gulf War when anti American/British feeling was being stoked up by the media.
To answer Tanya...I dont think so, the trouble here seems to be motivated by colour. Also the attacks usually take place in isolated areas. One of my staff was there at the place of the attack and saw the police operation...its not a park, its a part of the forest with a roller-blade circuit cutting through it. Its huge and isolated. Past attacks have happened on the outskirts of the city. The foreign students all live in a couple fo apartment blocks on the edge of Voronezh (I live 500 metres from them).
Russia is a racist country, its inherent, even the word in their language for a coloured person is offensive to most of us. There is absolutely no tolerence here. Students are easy prey, they have no back up, they are here alone...and to be frank, no one cares what happens to them. That is evident from the mayors comments, the fact that the police turned up 3-4 hours after the attack just shows how much they care. The police here are good for nothing except lining their own pockets...thats a fact !!
My business brings foreigners to Voronezh, we have never had any trouble, mainly because clients heed my advice. The same way that a white tourists should not wonder late at night in the middle of Harlem in New York, or Watts in L.A. then visitors should understand where they should not go...thats common sense.
Voronezh Mayor: “Students have been killed and will be killed”
VORONEZH: Over 300 foreign students came to a spontaneous demonstration in downtown, begging the locals to stop killing them. The reason for the protest was the murder of an 18 year old student from Peru on October 9, 2005.
That day Anhelis Urtado Enrike with his friend, also from Peru, and their friend from Spain and two Russian students were walking in one of the city's parks. Out of nowhere came 15-20 young men armed with sticks, metal bars, chains and knives. They severely injured the Spanish and Peruvian students, and killed Anhelis; two Russian students, who were with the foreigners, got away with a few scars. There was no reason for the attack, it was executed just for the fun of it, as commented upon by the local police officials. The kids who attacked the students were not skin-heads, or known gang members, they were just apparently normal Russian young people, having some fun at a city park. This is just another case of frequent attacks on foreigners, or people who just look different.
Today at 1 p.m. foreign students in Voronezh gathered by the city University and started marching towards the center of the city. They didn't request a permit to conduct their protest, but law-enforcement agencies didn't object, so the demonstration continued. Their posters read: "Stop Killing Us", "Let Us Live" and "We Want to Live".
Two people were shot dead in separate attacks in Moscow this Wednesday. Georgy Georgadze was shot in the head four times in the evening. Earlier that same day, Georgy Ordzhonikidze was gunned down on Novopeschanaya Street. The suspects remain at large.
As Russia Blog has written before, Moscow is a safe and civilized city, but not for people doing business. When I say business, I mean everything from the street markets where old Russian ladies sell potatoes they grow in their gardens to survive retirement all the way up to the top corporations like Lukoil and Gazprom. Russian executives ride around Moscow in convoys of armored vehicles surrounded by bodyguards.
A dysfunctional court system, combined with a ruthless mentality of fast and easy profit have created this violent business "culture."
KHABAROVSK: A senior police lieutenant, a member of the Department of Anti-Economic Crimes, received $10,000 for returning a stolen vehicle to its owner. The stolen car had been found, and when the owner showed up at the police department to get his own Mercedes, it was suggested that he pay a $10,000 cash bribe. He did, and right after that he filed a complaint in the same police department.
It is hard to say if justice will prevail, but it's easy to notice that the worst corruption is conducted by the people who are supposed to be fighting it. Russia has always been ironic and illogical for foreigners.
Saturday September 10, the First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Moscow and his wife were attacked and injured. This information leaked to the Russian media on Monday.
The Japanese diplomat says that he and his wife were waiting for a trolley-bus near one of the stadiums, when three "normal looking" young men approached them and started an "uneasy conversation". Eventually, the young people decided that they just didn’t like the looks of these Japanese people, so they punched the diplomat three times in the face and hit his wife in the head. Just as the Japanese couple came under attack, the trolley stopped and the foreigners were able to escape the young thugs.
The diplomat consulted with his Embassy, and afterwards the Japanese Embassy sent a note to the Russian Ministry of International Affairs, requesting a thorough investigation, in light of the other attacks on Japanese citizens that took place in the past few years. In 2002, after the Russian national soccer team lost to the Japanese team, Russian soccer hooligans rioted in Moscow and severely injured five Japanese musicians, who had come to Russia for the Tchaikovsky Festival. On September 9, 2005 another Japanese citizen, the director of the Japanese Center, was attacked in Novgorod by several young men between 16 and 18 years of age.
Moscow is a megapolis of over ten million people with very diverse ethnicities, nationalities and interests. However, younger uneducated Russians, and people in the suburbs in general, still have a lot of racist attitudes towards people who aren’t "like them". In the Russian country-side, many gay people are getting attacked; and in the past few years there have been multiple attacks on people of many different races and nationalities, especially people who look like Caucasians, which doesn't mean "white-colored skin" in Russia, but describes someone from Chechnya, Azerbaijan or Georgia.
Bashlikent, Dagestan: on Saturday two seven year-old girls left home at 4 pm and never came back. While police started the search operation, the father of the girls started one of his own.
In half an hour he found a fresh grave, 35 inches deep, with the bodies of the girls; they had been raped and killed. The grave was located in the backyard of a local influential mafia thug, Agarza Omarov, 38. He had been sentenced before for rape, burglary and other violent crimes.
Because of the gangster's "position", the father had no hope for a fair investigation and trial, so he killed the man, poured gasoline over his body, and set it on fire. By the time the dead gang member was burning, 200 villagers came over to Agarza's house, to help conduct mob justice. They set Agarza's house and three cars on fire. Police tried to stop the crowd from further destruction, but officials later claimed that it was impossible for them to restrain these people.
Ordinary Russians are left without any chance for justice and support from the legal system. That is why more and more often individuals are taking matters into their own hands to get justice.
Today's Russian newspapers didn't have much to say about another business executive getting killed for the business reasons. In Russia, where the court system doesn’t work, and long terms investments are too risky, people like profit on demand, fast and easy. It’s too complicated to produce a better product or take someone to court; it's much easier and fairly inexpensive to have people killed. Business owners and executives are getting killed almost on daily basis.
The head of the Center of English Conversational Language, Vardan Kushnir, 35, was clubbed to death with a baseball bat. These unsolved "business murders" are so frequent in Russia, that many of them (including this one) don’t make it into the news of the major TV channels and radio programs.
A tiny Russian village near Novgorod was taken hostage for 2 days by 8 armed men. One of the villagers was beaten to death; two more have been hospitalized in a critical condition. You would say, "So what?". Well, the whole fight started over a scratched car - an Audi A8 sedan.
Insurance in Russia doesn't work the same way as in America. After you get into an accident, you call up a police officer. Until he arrives, you can't move the cars. So usually by the time the officer arrives (in about an housr), there are many more wrecked vehicles on the road. After the officer shows up, the interesting negotiations begin.
The officer splits the victims of the accident, listens to their stories, then says "$200 cash now; and you're not guilty". You can say "Yes", you can say "No" - but then the officer goes to another participant. If you said "No", he makes the same offer. If you said "Yes" , the officer says "$300 cash now; you're not guilty". And so the bidding begins.
To insure a Toyota Camry in Moscow for damage and liability, both with the maximum of up to $10,000 would cost you anywhere between $3,000 – 3,500 a year, even if you have perfect driving record and a dozen years of driving experience. However, after each accident you've "used up" your insured amount. That means you have to put in a payment for the used proportion again. Let's say your yearly insurance bill is $3,000, which covers you for a total of $20,000. If you use up $10,000 due to accidents, that increases your premium, and makes you owe another $1,500 to your insurance company.
Experts say that 25% of the pornography on global Internet websites contains child pornography. Among these, more than 50% of the pedophile websites contain child pornography from Russia. Although the precise number of children involved in the production of Russian pornography is unknown, experts report there are some tens of thousands of such children.
The business is run by criminal networks that manufacture, distribute and export (to Germany, Britain, the United States, Italy, Canada and elsewhere) photographs and video records of a pornographic nature, including violent sexual assaults on children.
Mikhail Kasyanov, a former Prime Minister in President Vladimir Putin's government, has been charged with corruption related to the purchase of a piece of land by his wife, shortly before he was dismissed from office. The charges are being introduced by a journalist and pro-Putin member of Russia's parliament, Alexander Khinshtein.
Kasyanov has previously refused to rule out a run for President in 2008, when Putin is term-limited by the Russian constitution. One ironic note from the story
In an article in the newspaper Moskovski Komsomolets last week, Mr Khinshtein claimed Mr Kasyanov acquired a dacha once occupied by Mikhail Suslov, the chief ideologist to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, in a corrupt auction.
The report alleged that the lease on the land where the dacha stood, worth an estimatedï¿½16m, was then acquired for a knockdown price by a front company acting for Mr Kasyanov and his wife, Irina.
The 11.5 hectares of state land in Troitse-Lykovo, western Moscow, is on the banks of the river next to a dacha owned by the reclusive former dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It includes a tennis court and a private beach.
So Russia's greatest dissident in modern times found a dacha next to one formerly owned by the servant of one the worst leaders of the Soviet era. Big country, small world.
"With his talent for tax-dodging he would have been behind bars in America long ago"
The former president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, urged Russia's oligarchs to bring back to Russia the huge amount of money they have siphoned abroad. "Some think $1 trillion has been hidden away by Russian businessmen. If they don't return that, our courts are likely to decide they acquired it illegally. Then they couldn't use that money anywhere. One day it will be used for the benefit of Russia", - said Mr. Gorbachev on May 5 in his interview to Sunday Times.
The British papers considered this statement as primarily aimed at the owner of the Chelsea Football Club, the billionaire oligarch in exile Roman Abramovich. Gorbachev "supports "risky" plans being drawn up by President Vladimir Putin to offer an amnesty to Abramovich and and his fellow oligarchs: if they bring their wealth back home, they can keep it", writes the UK Sunday Times.
The former Soviet leader expressed his opinion on the Khodorkovsky trial. "I fail to understand why some in the West make a hero of [Mikhail] Khordorkovsky. He is talented, I agree; he started his business when I was president and I have known him for some time. But with his talent for tax-dodging he would have been behind bars in America long ago."
Given the enormous popularity of Gorbachev in the West - the Times' interviewer calls him no less than "a hero who changed the world more than any living soul", a "giant who ended the Cold War and dismantled the evil empire" - his opinion can easily ruin the costly effort of Khordokovsky's PR machine to represent the Yukos trial as "politically-motivated" and thus "unfair" or even as "suppression of opposition".
Meanwhile the deputy of the public prosecutor, Vladimir Kolesnikov, said in the interview given on Sunday to NTV, that the Yukos case wasn't closed, and that new charges against Yukos's CEOs were yet to be brought. This time the charges won't involve just white collar crimes (tax evasion and fraud) but also racketeering, extortion and murder. "If not 100%, some of the company's top managers are stained with blood", said Kolesnikov. According to him, a co-owner of Yukos, Leonid Nevzlin, absconding now in Israel, will be charged with ordering the contract killings of rival businessmen. Leonid Nevzlin stands behind the media campaign in support of Khodorkovsky and his accomplices.
This was the main slogan chanted by pro-Putin demonstrators who gathered yesterday to jeer a man believed by many to be a political prisoner, the former richest man in Russia, a strong supporter of Putin's opposition, and a businessman whose business was stolen and destroyed by Putin and his comrades - Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The much larger group of anti-Putin demonstrators were dispersed by the Russian MVD teams. Some were jailed, and others were beaten by police. The bodyguards of chessmaster turned dissident Garry Kasparov, who showed up to support the demonstrators, spared him the same humiliation.
The court started reading the indictment against the former CEO for multiple crimes, but it seems reading the charges will last for almost two weeks in order to bore and distract the media's attention from this injustice done by the Putin administration.
"If this trial is legitimate, why do you need that many police, dogs, metal-detectors, and fencing?" asked Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian attorney representing Khordokovsky. Well, because this trial is not legitimate, and the Russian court system is not independent of the Kremlin.
500 police officers with dogs; fencing to prevent "undesirable" witnesses and journalists from watching the trial; special forces equipment for scrambling cellphone and radios in the area; four blocks of the city shut down; rent-a-demonstrators supporting Putin getting receiving $10 a day (according to Gazeta.Ru) that's considered a fair public trial in Russia. While Business Week has a great article on the past two days of the verdict reading, Russia Blog will take a look at the story-behind-the-story.
Russia Blog presents up-to-date news, facts and commentary on the state of events in Russia and the former Soviet Union. The blog is managed by Yuri Mamchur, Director of Real Russia Project . The blog is edited by Charles Ganske.