Friday, October 24, 2014

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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.

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From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of escalating conflicts around the world by imposing what he called a "unilateral diktat."

Putin made the remarks in a combative speech to political experts at the Valdai International Discussion Club, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin said the United States has been "fighting against the results of its own policy" in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

He said risks of serious conflicts involving major countries have risen, as well as risks of arms treaties being violated.

He also dismissed international sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "mistake," saying they aimed at pushing Russia into isolation and would end up "hurting everyone."

We did not start this," he added, referring to rising tensions between Russia and the West.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, TASS)


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call to push for a quick resolution of the ongoing gas dispute with Ukraine as winter looms.

The call by Merkel to Putin on October 24 comes as representatives of the EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet again next week in EU brokered talks aimed at solving the gas dispute between Kyiv and Moscow.

Merkel also underlined that upcoming elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists must respect Ukrainian national law.

Pro-Russian insurgent leaders are boycotting a parliamentary snap poll on October 26 in Ukraine and are holding their own election in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, home to nearly three million people, on the same day instead.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



The United Nations says the conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 800,000 people from their homes.

Around 95 percent of displaced people come from eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been battling pro-Russian separatists.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told a briefing in Geneva that an estimated 430,000 people were currently displaced within Ukraine -- 170,000 more than at the start of September.

It said at least 387,000 other people have asked for refugee status, temporary asylum, or other forms of residency permits in Russia.

Another 6,600 have applied for asylum in the European Union and 581 in Belarus.

The agency said it was "racing to help some of the most vulnerable displaced people" as winter approaches.

It also said the number of displaced people is expected to rise further due to ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine.


Three alleged militants have been killed by security forces in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee says that two suspects were killed in the village of Charoda in Daghestan on October 24 after they refused to leave an apartment and opened fire at police and security troops.

One police officer was wounded.

Also on October 24, police in another North Caucasus region, Kabardino-Balkaria, killed a suspected militant after he refused to identify himself, threw a grenade towards police, and opened fire with a pistol.

A police officer was wounded in that incident.

Violence is common in Russia's North Caucasus region, which includes the restive republics of Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Chechnya.

Islamic militants and criminal groups routinely target Russian military personnel and local officials.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)


A lawyer, who represented an alleged victim of the notorious Orekhovo criminal group in Moscow, has been assassinated.

Police in the Russian capital say that Vitaly Moiseyev and his wife were found dead with gunshot wounds in a car near Moscow on October 24.

Moiseyev was representing Sergei Zhurba, an alleged victim of the Orekhovo gang and a key witness in a case against one of the gang's leaders Dmitry Belkin.

Belkin was sentenced to life in prison on October 23 for multiple murders and extortion.

Last month, another of Zhurba's lawyers, Tatyana Akimtseva (eds: a woman), was shot dead by unknown individuals.

The Orekhovo group was one of the most powerful crime gangs of the Moscow region and in Russia in the 1990s. Its members are believed to be responsible for dozens of murders.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)







From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is warning that Russia could attempt to disrupt Ukraine's parliamentary elections scheduled for October 26.

Yatsenyuk told a meeting of top security officials and election monitors on October 23 that "It is absolutely clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will continue and will be provoked by Russia."

Yatsenyuk said "we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge -- to hold parliamentary elections."

The prime minister said Ukraine needs the "full mobilization of the entire law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and attempts at terrorist acts during the elections."

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said authorities have ordered some 82,000 policemen on duty for election day.

He said 4,000 members of a special reaction force would be among those maintaining order during polling hours and would be concentrated in "those precincts where there is a risk of some terrorist acts or aggressive actions by some...candidates."

The warning by Yatsenyuk comes on the heels of three violent attacks on parliamentary candidates in the past week.

The latest, against Volodymyr Borysenko, a member of Yatsenyuk's People's Front Party, occurred on October 20 when Borysenko was shot at and had an explosive thrown at him.

He allegedly survived the attack only because he was wearing body armor due to numerous death threats he had recently received.

Elections to the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament, will be held despite continued fighting in the eastern part of the country between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Voting will not take place in 14 districts of eastern Ukraine currently under the control of the separatists.

Those separatist-held areas -- in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- are planning on holding their own elections in November.

Additionally, Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament.

Polls show President Petro Poroshenko's party leading with some 30 percent of respondents saying they would cast their vote for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

It that percentage holds on election day it would mean Poroshenko's bloc would have to form a coalition government, likely with nationalist groups who oppose conducting peace talks over fighting in the east.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)



Moscow has denied claims of an incursion by a Russian military plane into Estonia's airspace.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax news agency on October 23 that the Ilyushin-20 took off from Khrabrovo airfield in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on October 21.

The spokesman said the reconnaissance plane flew "over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea" while on a training flight.

On October 22, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Tallinn, Yury Merzlakov, after the Estonian military said the Russian plane had entered its air space.

In a statement, NATO said the Ilyushin-20 was first intercepted by Danish jets when it approached Denmark, before flying toward non-NATO member Sweden.

Intercepted by Swedish planes, the alliance said the Ilyushin entered Estonian airspace for “less than one minute” and was escorted out by Portuguese jets.

NATO has stepped up its Baltic air patrols and Moscow has been accused of several recent border violations in the region amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of abducting one of its police officers on the border.

Russia claims Eston Kohver was seized inside Russia on September 5, while Estonian officials say he was captured at gunpoint in Estonia near the border and taken to Russia.

The European Union and United States have called for the immediate release of the Estonian security official, who is facing espionage charges in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Navy has been searching for a suspected submarine sighted six days ago some 50 kilometers from the capital, Stockholm, although it said on October 22 it was pulling back some of its ships.

Swedish officials have not linked any particular country to the suspected intrusion and Moscow has denied involvement.

(With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and the BBC)


A Moscow court postponed to next week a ruling on a move to take control of Bashneft, an oil company from tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

The judge said on October 23 that the next hearing will take place on October 30 after the prosecution requested more time to prepare its case.

Prosecutors filed the suit in September to regain state ownership of Bashneft, citing alleged violations in the privatization and subsequent sale of the company to AFK Sistema investment group.

Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder of the conglomerate, is under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering during the firm's acquisition in 2009.

Yevtushenkov, 66, was arrested on September 16.

He is ranked Russia's 15th richest man by U.S. magazine Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

11:11 October 23, 2014


According to a report in the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia," deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi that Western politicians "do not understand the essence of Russia."

"Volodin stated the key thesis about the current state of our country: As long as there is Putin there is Russia. If there is no Putin, there is no Russia," Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society, told "Izvestia."

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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