Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Power Vertical

Joe The Roofer

Activists in Moscow marked the second anniversary of Politkovskaya's murder in October.Activists in Moscow marked the second anniversary of Politkovskaya's murder in October.
Activists in Moscow marked the second anniversary of Politkovskaya's murder in October.
Activists in Moscow marked the second anniversary of Politkovskaya's murder in October.

It seems pretty unlikely we'll ever know the truth about what is going on with the open-again, closed-again, open-again trial of three men allegedly involved in the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Russian speakers can follow the coverage by RFE/RL's Russian Service here.  "Novaya gazeta" has a chronology here.


Lawyer Robert Amsterdam suggests the confusion might be the result of a "power vacuum" or conflicting agendas within Russia's ruling elite.


Nonetheless, I think as many people as possible should know the name of former juror Yevgeny Kolesov and the story of what he did. In a nutshell, Kolesov was listening to radio Ekho Moskvy one evening (how did someone who listens to the liberal Ekho Moskvy get on the jury in the first place!?!) when he heard a report that the judge in the Politkovskaya case had ordered the trial closed to the press ostensibly at the request of jurors, who were supposedly afraid for their lives. Kolesov contacted the radio station and was soon on the air, telling the country that the jury had made no such request. In fact, 19 of the 20 jurors had refused to sign a written statement requesting a closed trial that had apparently been drafted for them by court officials.


Yesterday, Kolesov was removed from the jury because of his contacts with the media.


Although Kolesov did a heroic thing -- standing up to the authorities in Russia is not exactly the fashion these days -- he doesn't want to be considered a hero and is shunning further publicity. Through a bit of imaginative investigative journalism, "Novaya gazeta" contacted him for an interview and got this statement: "Excuse me for interrupting you, but my decision is final. I absolutely do not want any publicity. My relatives have reacted in various ways to my appearance. You have to understand -- I have a daughter and she has a child. I simply do not have the right to cause my relatives anxiety. I did what I did. I don't regret it one bit. If the same thing happened to me again, I would act the same, if nothing inside of me had changed. And I hope nothing will change. But you shouldn't make a hero out of me. And all the other jurors did the same thing. Why don't you talk about them? I just happened to hear Ekho Moskvy at the moment when they were reporting about us, and I had to call, to write [an SMS]."


"Novaya gazeta" also interviewed Ekho Moskvy Deputy Editor in Chief Vladimir Varfolomeyev, who handled Kolesov's on-air appearance. "When I saw the SMS," Varfolomeyev says, "I thought that this person has a conscience. And I began to wonder who he was. At first I figured he was a good, educated intellectual -- a teacher or a doctor. But do they take such people on juries? And when I found out that this was an ordinary worker, an ordinary guy, a roofer, I was amazed. We have grown accustomed to thinking that such people don't need anything, aren't interested in anything. And when you meet such a gem -- in terms of the brilliance of his inner light and in terms of his strength -- you are really surprised. I expected almost anything, but not this. This is a person with a stunning sense of his own dignity, who from the first day understood that he and his 19 colleagues are being used. And who decided on his own that he wouldn't participate, that he viewed justice and his small role in this big machine differently. I was amazed. And very glad that such a person appeared."


And one more voice. Lawyer and journalist Leonid Nikitinsky writes in the same paper: "A surprising phenomenon happens in jury rooms: ordinary Russian people suddenly begin to act in a way that is unusual in Russia -- that is, like citizens."


The sad thing is that in Russia the relatives of people who act like citizens have good reason to be afraid. International fame did not save Anna Politkovskaya from being killed. But maybe if enough people know the name of Yevgeny Kolesov, the chances of something bad happening to him will be reduced.


-- Robert Coalson

Tags: jury,politkovskaya,Russia

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: La Russophobe from: USA
November 26, 2008 22:34
There isn't any doubt that &quot;if enough people know the name of Yevgeny Kolesov, the chances of something bad happening to him will be reduced.&quot; I have no doubt that publicity is the only thing that saved Oleg Kozlovsky from a brutal introduction to dedovshchina after he was illegally drafted into the army to silence his political activism.<br /><br />The idea that &quot;ordinary Russian people suddenly begin to act in a way that is unusual in Russia -- that is, like citizens&quot; must be truly terrifying to those in the Kremlin, who will likely have strong motivation to send out a strong message that citizenship is not to be tolerated in neo-Soviet Russia. Indeed, after Putin becomes &quot;president&quot; for life we may well expect to see the abolition of the institution of the jury entirely.<br /><br />And I don't think we should get too carried away with praise for this juror. I doubt very much that he fully realized the potential consequences of his actions when he spoke out, and his subsequent clam-up tends to bear me out on this. It's nice that the &quot;trial&quot; will be public, but it's meaningless. The &quot;trial&quot; will still be a sham that will not lead to justice for Politikovskaya, and when it fails to do so the people of Russia will not demand satisfaction.<br /><br />Those who might replace Politkovskaya will see this, and lose heart, just as the Kremlin planned all along. Only direct action by the West can interrupt the coagulation of the neo-Soviet autocracy in Russia. The world looks to the new American president to provide leadership in this regard, and live out the creed he has so long professed. Whether he will do so remains to be seen.<br /><br />

by: Guillaume
November 27, 2008 05:30
&quot;...if enough people know the name of Yevgeny Kolesov, the chances of something bad happening to him will be reduced.&quot;<br /><br />I had to read this part twice.... and then I read it again a third time to make sure. Your last paragraph contradicts itself. You are right in so far as international fame did not save Anna. It seems logical enough then that if reporters and bloggers want no harm to come to this brave man then they ought to leave him alone and turn as few heads as possible.<br /><br />Ironically, I wouldn’t have known about him if it hadn’t been for your post. Somewhat of a double-edged sword I guess.

by: Kris from: Yelm, WA
November 28, 2008 18:28
19 is a start...who will help bring the rest of the majority together? It will take the will of many to finally say 'nyet' in one voice. That is courage -- trusting your neighbor, your friend, a stranger -- standing up together instead of being picked off one by one.

by: Anthony from: Ottawa
November 30, 2008 00:27
This new Russian state is like a run away train pulling all Russians towards another catastrophe. Without more brave journalist and ordinary citizens to carry on what Ms. Politikoskaya was doing it seems almost certain that Russian history of tyranny and horror will repeat itself.

The Power Vertical Feed

In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

19:16 November 21, 2014


On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

09:14 November 21, 2014
09:11 November 21, 2014


09:09 November 21, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:

Ukrainians are marking a new national holiday on November 21 -- the anniversary of the start of Kyiv’s Euromaidan protests that led to the ouster of the country’s former pro-Kremlin regime.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed decree on November 13 that declared the holiday for annual “Day of Dignity and Freedom” celebrations.
The protests began with a few hundred people who met spontaneously on a vast square in central Kyiv of November 21, 2013 – disappointed by then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a landmark deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
After that first night, as the protests quickly swelled to tens of thousands of demonstrators, brutal police efforts to disperse the crowds with batons and teargas backfired.
As the crowds got bigger, the protesters began to call for Yanukovych’s ouster – which came in February 2014 after more than 100 people were killed in clashes with police that failed to end the demonstrations.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was expected to announce an increase in nonlethal U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on November 21 as he meets in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The talks come on the first anniversary of the start of the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv that toppled Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin regime.
As Biden arrived in Kyiv on the evening of November 20, U.S. officials told reporters that he will announce the delivery of Humvee transport vehicles that are now in the Pentagon’s inventory of excess supplies.
They said Biden also would announce the delivery of previously promised radar units that can detect the location of enemy mortars.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not specify a dollar value for the assistance. 
Russia on November 20 warned the United States not to supply weapons to Ukrainian forces.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich cautioned against "a major change in policy of the (U.S.) administration in regard to the conflict" in Ukraine. 
He was commenting on remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama's choice to fill the number two spot at the State Department, Anthony Blinken, who told a congressional hearing on November 19 that lethal assistance "remains on the table. It's something that we're looking at."
The U.S. State Department's Director of Press Relations Jeffrey Rathke on November 20 told reporters that "our position on lethal aid hasn't changed. Nothing is off the table and we continue to believe there's no military solution."
He added, "But, in light of Russia's actions as the nominee mentioned [on November 19] in his testimony, as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at."
The aid expected to be announced by Biden on November 20 falls short of what the Ukrainian president requested during a visit to Washington in September when he appealed for lethal aid - a request echoed by some U.S. lawmakers in response to what NATO allies say is Russia's movement of tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine.
In September, Washington promised Ukraine $53 million in aid for military gear that includes the mortar detection units, body armor, binoculars, small boats, and other nonlethal equipment for Ukrainian security forces and border guards in the east.
The United States and its European allies have imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia for its seizure of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine.
(With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and TASS)

Russian Olympian hockey player Slava Voynov – who plays with the Los Angeles Kings NHL hockey team – has been charged with felony domestic violence against his wife.
Voynov faces one felony count of spouse abuse with a maximum penalty of nine years in prison. If convicted, he also could be deported.
Prosecutors say Voynov “caused his wife to suffer injuries to her eyebrow, check, and neck” during an argument at their home in October.
Voynov has been suspended from the NHL since his arrest early on October 20 at a California hospital where he took his wife for treatment.
Voynov’s attorney, Craig Renetzky, says his client didn’t hit his wife.
Renetzky blames the charges on a misunderstanding between police and Voynov’s wife, who speaks very little English.
Voynov – who played on Russia’s team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics -- faces arraignment on December 1.
(Based on reporting by AP and Reuters)

NATO says Russia's growing military presence in the skies above the Baltic region is unjustified and poses a risk to civil aviation.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Tallinn on November 20 that the aircraft regularly fail to file flight plans or communicate with air controllers and also fly with their transponders off.
Speaking at the Amari air base, he said alliance fighters have intercepted planes more than 100 times in the Baltic region alone so far this year, a threefold increase over 2013. 
He did not say how many of the intercepted aircraft were Russian.
Stoltenberg also said that, overall, NATO aircraft have conducted 400 intercepts to protect the airspace of its European alliance members in 2014 -- an increase of 50 percent over last year.
(Based on reporting by AP and AFP)


16:55 November 19, 2014


Konstantin Eggert has a commentary in "Kommersant" on Russia's anti-Americanism. He opens like this:

"Sometimes I have this feeling that there are only two countries in the world - Russia and the United States. Of course, there is Ukraine, but it either to join us or the Americas. Russian politicians and state television are constantly in search of the 'American hand' in all spheres of our life. In Soviet times, the United States was formally considered to be our number one military and ideological enemy. But even then it didn't occupy such a large space in the minds of the political leadership and citizens. And the paradox is that, on one hand, officials and the media regularly talk about the decline of America as a great power, and on the other declare it to be the source of all evil in the world. This contradiction does not seem to disturb anybody."

And closes like this:

We still have not been able to use the opportunity that we were given with the collapse of the communist regime - to arrange our lives based on liberty and civic virtue. And today, we, as a people, want to go back to the starting point, to beat everyone. And the Soviet Union, with its absence of sausage and freedom, again suddenly seems sweet and dear. But it won't happen. I will put it banally: you can't go into the same river twice.

Read the whole thing here (in Russian, with audio)

15:53 November 19, 2014


MIchael Weiss, editor-in-chief of The Interpreter magazine, appearing on Hromadske TV to talk about Russia's information war.

Michael and Peter Pomarantsev recently co-authored an excellent report "The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money." Both also appeared recently on The Power Vertical Podcast to discuss the report.

15:42 November 19, 2014


Oleg Kosyrev has a snarky and clever blog post on the subject up on the Ekho Moskvy website. 

1) The United States is the ideal opponent. "It is big and strong and your self-esteem increases when you fight somebody really influential."

2) The United States is not fighting with Russia. "They aren't really interested. They have enough of their own problems and dreams. It's nice to fight somebody who is not fighting you."

3) It is a substitute for the authorities' inability to benefit Russians. "How convenient. Who is to blame for rising food and gas prices? The U.S.A.. Who is to blame for the fact that Russian has political prisoners? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for people demonstrating on the streets? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for the fact that independent international courts denounce the Russian court system? The U.S.A. You can even blame the U.S. for the fact that the light doesn't work in the entrance to your apartment building."

Read it all (in Russian) here.

15:23 November 19, 2014


14:47 November 19, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Ukraine says it will not tolerate pressure from any other country over whether or not it seeks to join NATO.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyynis spoke made the remark to reporters in Kyiv on November 19, after the BBC quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in an interview that Moscow wants "a 100 percent guarantee that no-one would think about Ukraine joining NATO."

Hitting back with a reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Perebyynis said Kyiv would like guarantees that Moscow will not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs, send in troops, or annex Ukrainian territories. 

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, told journalists on November 19 that any decision on seeking to join NATO could be made only by the Ukrainian people, not by Russia, Europe, ar the United States.

The Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, made a similar statement on November 19.

(Based on reporting by UNIAN and Interfax)


President Vladimir Putin says that Russia is ready for cooperation with the United States as long as Washington treats Moscow as an equal, respect its interests, and refrains from interfering in its affairs.

Putin spoke November 19 at a Kremlin ceremony during which he received the credentials of foreign envoys including John Tefft, the new U.S. Ambassador to Moscow.

Putin said, "We are ready for practical cooperation with our American partners in various fields, based on the principles of respect for each other's interests, equal rights and non-interference in internal matters." 

The remark echoed a formula Putin set out in a foreign policy decree at the start of his third term in 2012.

Tefft, 64, is a career diplomat who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania. 

His posting starts at a time when ties are badly strained over the Ukraine crisis. 

Tefft replaces Michael McFaul, who was ambassador from January 2012 until February 2014. 

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)



Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has signaled that a landmark nuclear arms treaty with the United States is not in jeopardy despite severe tension over Ukraine.

Speaking to Russian lawmakers on November 19, Lavrov said the 2010 New START treaty "meets our basic strategic interests and, on condition of its observance by the United States, we are interested in its full implementation."

The treaty, one of the main products of President Barack Obama's first-term "reset" of ties with Russia, requires Russia and the United States to have their long-range nuclear arsenals under specific ceilings by 2018.

But Lavrov said the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which President Vladimir Putin suspended in 2007, is "dead" for Moscow. 

NATO has refused to ratify a revised version of the CFE treaty without a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova and Georgia.

Latest Podcasts

About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or