Thursday, November 27, 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

15:34 November 26, 2014


So by now, we've all seen how passengers in Krasnoyarsk had to get out and push their flight out of the snow...

...and we've all seen the snarky Twitter memes this has inspired...

...but have you heard about onboard drunken onboard brawl that grounded a flight in Novosibirsk?

12:41 November 26, 2014


12:33 November 26, 2014


Via The Moscow Times:

A lawmaker on the State Duma's Defense Committee has proposed banning the import of French wines in response to Paris' decision to suspend delivery of the first of two helicopter carriers to Russia.

"Let's ban the sale of French wine in Russia," Deputy Vladimir Bessonov told Russian News Service radio on Tuesday. "Even talking about this can bring about desired results," he said, without specifying what these would be.

France, under pressure from its Western allies to cancel a 1.2 billion euro contract ($1.58 billion) with Russia for Mistral-class warships, said earlier Tuesday that it was suspending delivery of the first of two carriers because of Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine.


12:21 November 26, 2014
12:20 November 26, 2014


12:18 November 26, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news website says he will seek political asylum in the United States.

Oleg Potapenko told RFE/RL on November 26 that he has arrived in the United States despite efforts by Russian authorities to prevent him from leaving the country.

Potapenko is editor of, a news site in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

On November 12, the openly gay Potapenko and his partner were prevented from boarding a flight from Khabarovsk to Hong Kong after border guards said a page was missing from Potapenko's passport.

Potapenko says the page was cut out by a police officer who requested his passport for a check earlier that day.

He told RFE/RL that he had managed to leave Russia from another city, Vladivostok, on November 16.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia's actions in Ukraine are a violation of international law and a threat to peace in Europe.

Speaking bluntly in an address to Germany's parliament on November 26, Merkel said, "Nothing justifies the direct or indirect participation of Russia in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk."

She told the Bundestag that Russia's actions have "called the peaceful order in Europe into question and are a violation of international law."

But she suggested there was no swift solution, saying, "Our efforts to overcome this crisis will require patience and staying power."

Germany has become increasingly frustrated over Moscow's refusal to heed Western calls to stop supporting pro-Russian separatists who have seized control of large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine.

Close ties between Russia and Germany have been strained by the Ukraine crisis.

(Based on reporting by Reuters)


Ukraine has leveled fresh charges that Russia is sending military support to pro-Russian separatists in the east.

A foreign ministry spokesman said five columns of heavy equipment were spotted crossing into Ukrainian territory on November 24.

Evhen Perebyinis told journalists on November 25 that a total of 85 vehicles had been detected in the five columns that entered at the Izvaryne border crossing point from Russia.

"The Russian side is continuing to provide the terrorist organizations of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics with heavy armaments," said Perebynisis.

Separately, the Ukrainian military said one soldier had been killed and five others wounded in the past 24 hours as a shaky cease-fire declared on September 5 continued to come under pressure.

The six-month conflict in the east of Ukraine has left more than 4,300 people dead, according to the United Nations.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



Russia has rejected accusations that it is planning to annex Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told RFE/RL’s Current Time program on November 25: “There can be no question about any annexations.”

Georgia and the West have criticized a "strategic partnership" agreement between Russia and Abkhazia signed on November 24.

Tbilisi condemned the pact as an attempt by Moscow to annex the region.

Karasin also said Russia will “continue sparing no effort, nerves, financial expenses” to make sure its neighbors “do not feel endangered.”

"As a large state and a powerful country, Russia is constantly responsible for stability on its borders and everything that is under way along its borders," he added.

Under the "strategic partnership," Russian and Abkhaz forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander.


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.

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