Saturday, October 25, 2014


The Power Vertical

Advantage: Navalny

The Kremlin has turned Aleksei Navalny from a cult blogger into a legend.
The Kremlin has turned Aleksei Navalny from a cult blogger into a legend.
For somebody facing multiple criminal probes, Aleksei Navalny seems to be having the time of his life.
 
The Investigative Committee has accused the anticorruption blogger of a dizzying series of crimes: stealing lumber, fleecing a cosmetics company, embezzling funds from a long-defunct political party, and helping to illegally privatize a distillery.

"Cases against Navalny have been flying from the pens of investigators like woodchips from a sawmill," commentator Anastasiya Rodionova wrote recently in the daily "Moskovsky komsomolets."

"There have been meaningful statements from officials and there have been raids on opposition figures' homes, the photographs of which look so impressive on the front pages of the federal newspapers. But the investigations have produced no clear evidence of Navalny's guilt."
 
Navalny, meanwhile, has been busy producing plenty of clear evidence of apparent law breaking by Russian officials.
 
Using a virtual army of online volunteers, Navalny has been digging up information about the undeclared foreign real estate holdings of Russian officials and posting his discoveries online.
 
Navalny's campaign has already claimed one scalp, that of United Russia State Duma Deputy Vladimir Pekhtin. The lawmaker was forced first to relinquish his chairmanship of the Ethics Committee and later resign from the Duma itself, after Navalny uncovered real estate worth an estimated $2 million that he owns in Florida.

In violation of the law, Pekhtin did not include the property -- which includes two condos, a plot of land, and a house with a swimming pool -- on his income and property declaration.

Navalny's outing of Pekhtin's Florida holdings came right after President Vladimir Putin introduced legislation barring certain categories of Russian officials from holding assets abroad -- upstaging the Kremlin's efforts to pretend to care about corruption.
 
Remarkably, the state-run Channel One gave Navalny credit on the air for uncovering Pekhtin's real estate in the Sunshine State.

Adding insult to injury, a viral video mocking Pekhtin -- splicing up a speech where he claims to "love Russia" and replacing it with "I love Miami" -- has since gone viral.

It was all reminiscent of Navalny's exposure of Investigative Committee head Aleksandr Bastrykin's undeclared assets in the Czech Republic last year, after which the blogger dubbed him "Иностранный агент Бастрыкин" (foreign agent Bastrykin).

The Pekhtin affair made the Kremlin look pretty silly, gave Navalny a big stick to beat the regime with, and presented a dispirited opposition an issue to rally around.
 
"Navalny has manifestly put Pekhtin, the ruling party, and the Kremlin in an extremely uncomfortable position," political analyst Tatyana Stanovaya wrote recently on Politcom.ru.

At a time when the Kremlin has pledged to crack down on corruption, it has exposed Putin's inability -- or unwillingness -- to police top officials.
 
And at a time when the authorities are branding NGOs who receive funding from abroad as "foreign agents," one of the top lawmakers in the country is secretly holding multimillion-dollar properties abroad.

"If Aleksey Navalny has ferreted out published documents, the Russian security services are also perfectly capable of probing officials with regard to their exclusive loyalty to the Russian Federation," Stanovaya wrote, adding that Putin apparently "does not have sufficient resources to move against the bureaucracy."

The multiple criminal cases against Navalny and the Kremlin's newfound desire to root out corruption and force officials to repatriate their assets are two sides of the same coin.
 
The authorities are seeking to discredit Navalny while at the same time co-opting his signature issue. But the effort is clearly backfiring. Nobody believes the Kremlin is serious about corruption, and Navalny's stature is only growing as he exposes wrongdoing in high places.
 
"Navalny has changed from a cult blogger...into a figure of federal significance," Rodionova wrote in "Moskovsky komsomolets." 

"Aleksandr Bastrykin's Investigative Committee is successfully turning him into a legend."
 
-- Brian Whitmore

NOTE: This post has been updated to reflect Vladimir Pekhtin's resignation from the State Duma on February 20. A big thanks to RFE/RL's Pavel Butorin, proprietor of the must-follow Twitter feed @RusPoliceWatch for helping me compile material for this post.

Tags: Aleksei Navalny

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous from: USA
February 20, 2013 04:40
The US should offer to help the Russian government find all these Duma members' assets in my country, except we'll be accused of interfering in Russian internal affairs...

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 20, 2013 08:57
Navalny should have been given for adoption in the United States when he was a child.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
February 20, 2013 23:15
What? And make Putin cry about yet another case of 'abuse'?... Are you so anti-Russian that you really want to increase the number of poor Russian children sent abroad to labor camps? Have you no soul?
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
February 21, 2013 11:01
You just put your finger on it, Asehpe - I have no heart :-))). As a matter of fact, I would love to have seen Navalny to become one of those brave US soldiers who go to countries like Iraq or Afghanistan to bring the poor people living there such universal values as freedom and democracy. And then, who knows, he could aspire to become a US ambassador to Lybia one day :-)).

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
February 20, 2013 14:33
Nice article, but not sure he has the advantage. How many divisions does Navalny command? How many police brigades? If current trends continue, it will only be a matter of time before this outspoken blogger will be sitting behind bars.
In Response

by: wordorsag from: USA
February 20, 2013 22:13
Yeah, if anything he seems to have lost momentum. Demos have died off, and those tapes of him that are going to figure prominently into his trial aren't helpful to his image as a "corruption fighter." He did win one round here, but overall...no. As a political figure, I don't think that he has that much of a future. As much as many Russia watchers here in the US would like to see him rise to the Presidency in the future and create a Russia highly conducive to US political military and economic interests and corporate investment, I can't see it. Americans don't get to vote in Russian elections, and a lot of Russians (particularly outside of the non-state-affiliated Moscow middle class) see him as a CIA agent...
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 20, 2013 23:17
Yep, but nobody will believe the evidence presented against him. That's the point: behind bars, he'll make an even more compelling case than Khodorkovsky about how irrational and casuistic the Russian legal system is. It will be a discredit to the system. I'm even wondering if Putin isn't toying with the idea of leaving Novalny free just because of that, so that he (Putin) can claim: 'see? we don't automatically jail our enemies here!'...
In Response

by: Marko from: USA
February 21, 2013 11:56
Anonymous, are you saying that Khodorkovsky didn't commit crimes or that justice was selective? I could respect the second argument as intellectually honest... the first, no...


Mark O

by: La Russophobe from: USA
February 25, 2013 07:57
You've got it very wrong. Navalny isn't responsible for this work. In fact, to some extent it's plagiarism. Read the accurate account here: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2013/02/21/a-fistful-of-bloggers-russian-mp-pressured-to-resign/

What's more, this story shows Navalny returning to his roots, abandoning the whole notion of politics and simply picking off corrupt political and business officials as he was doing before he ever dreamed of a political role. It highlights the absolute failure of his so-called political movement.



by: Ben
March 04, 2013 14:17
why the liberal-leftist media booms Navalny who supports the ecstreme rights and participate the fascist` marches? -because aims justified means- his political activity-to stir up the power -is leftist media`s goal. After the marxism`s collapse leftists have lost their pseudo-scientific base.Leftism turne into the religion that means:1) you can`t convince the believer of anything,2) Their Toqyya allows them the any lies.You notice this every day.

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17:49 October 24, 2014

EVENING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

PUTIN ACCUSES UNITED STATES OF 'UNILATERAL DIKTAT'

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)

MERKEL URGES PUTIN TO SOLVE UKRAINIAN GAS DISPUTE

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)

UNHCR SAYS MORE THAN 800,000 DISPLACED IN UKRAINE CONFLICT

By RFE/RL

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 KILLED IN NORTH CAUCASUS

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)

MOSCOW LAWYER IN HIGH PROFILE ORGANIZED CRIME CASE KILLED

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)

17:27 October 24, 2014

LITTLE GREES VOTERS, ANYONE?

17:26 October 24, 2014

SPY VS. SPY

17:00 October 24, 2014
08:29 October 24, 2014

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

UKRAINIAN PM WARNS OF RUSSIAN DESTABILIZATION OF ELECTIONS

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)

RUSSIA DENIES ESTONIAN AIRSPACE VIOLATIONS

By RFE/RL

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)

RUSSIAN COURT POSTPONES RULING ON OIL FIRM BASHNEFT

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

THERE IS NO RUSSIA WITHOUT PUTIN?

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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