Sunday, October 26, 2014


The Power Vertical

Russia's Pussy Riot Frenzy (Updated)

A scrawled message demanding freedom for jailed members of Pussy Riot in an apartment where two women were killed in Kazan.
A scrawled message demanding freedom for jailed members of Pussy Riot in an apartment where two women were killed in Kazan.
Earlier this week, Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Orthodox Church's social affairs department, issued a dire warning in response to vandals chopping down crosses in Arkhangelsk and in Chelyabinsk Oblast.
 
"People who are currently cutting down crosses in the future may turn to violence and murder," Chaplin said on August 26.

The vandalism took place shortly after three members of the feminist punk rock collective Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for an anti-Kremlin protest performance in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in February.
 
Despite the lack of any real evidence suggesting a connection, the state-controlled media quickly linked the incidents to the group's supporters.

Then, four days after Chaplin's comments, on August 30, the Investigative Committee announced that two women were brutally stabbed to death in their apartment in Kazan. Investigators said  the inscription "Free Pussy Riot," written "presumably" in blood, was found in the apartment.
 
It didn't take the pro-Kremlin Russian media long to run with the meme.
 
A headline on the website of the state-run "Vesti" television news program began: "They've Started To Kill For Pussy Riot."

Kristina Potupchik, the former spokeswoman for the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, also wasted no time in drawing conclusions.
 
On her blog, she juxtaposed a photograph of the "Free Pussy Riot" inscription in Kazan with one from the 1969 murders committed by followers of Charles Manson in California, in which they wrote "Death To Pigs" on the walls of their victims' homes. Potupchik wrote that Pussy Riot's supporters "will not get away" with the crime.

And Dimitry Smirnov, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's Department for Relations with the Police and Armed Forces, said that "blood is on the conscience" of those who supported Pussy Riot members during their trial. Smirnov also called on Paul McCartney, Amnesty International, and others to renounce the group.

It was a full-court press. But as the day progressed, holes began to appear in the initial version of events.
 
First, Andrei Sheptitsky, a Kazan-based spokesman for the Investigative Committee, said the evidence suggested the crime was committed by either a psychopath or a drug addict and that the inscription appeared to be an attempt to cover up the crime and mislead police.
 
Then, the online Dozhd TV noted that the initial reports of the crime in the Kazan media, which appeared in the evening on August 29 when the bodies were discovered, made no mention of the "Free Pussy Riot" inscription.

WATCH THE DOZHD TV REPORT HERE:
 

 
And Petr Verzilov, husband of jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, later tweeted a link to a report on the killings in the daily "Komsomolskaya pravda" that said police worked on the crime scene "all night." The report also made no mention of the inscription.

The fact that reports of the inscription first appeared on LifeNews, a website with ties to the security services, also raised suspicions that the official story might not be entirely accurate.

Nikolai Polozov, an attorney for the three jailed members of the group, called the crime in Kazan "horrible," adding that either it was committed by a psychopath or was a "horrendous provocation."
 
In an interview with Dozhd TV,  Geidar Dzhemal, chairman of the Kazan-based Islamic Committee of Russia, said he had no doubt that the attempts to link the killings in Kazan -- and the vandalism against the crosses in Arkhangelsk and Chelyabinsk -- to Pussy Riot supporters was orchestrated by the authorities:
 
This is a blatant provocation by the cops. It's clear that it is anti-Pussy Riot, so it's security services that are behind it -- just as the cross-chopping epidemic (eds: recent cases of Orthodox wooden crosses chopped down in several Russian cities) was also ordered by security services. It seems someone tried too hard because it's not very convincing that it was done by Pussy Riot supporters. It's written in such big block letters, so it's clear it came from the cops.
 
This story is developing very quickly and I am reluctant to draw any firm conclusions just yet. But there is a lot here that raises serious questions. I'll leave it at that for now.
 
-- Brian Whitmore

UPDATE: Police in Kazan say they have detained a man who confessed to killing the two women. The man, identified as 38-year-old university professor Igro Danilevsky, knew one of the victims and denied any connection to Pussy Riot. Interfax reported that he also confessed to trying to "fake a ritual killing" and mislead police by writing "Free Pussy Riot" on the wall.

(A big thanks to my colleague Pavel Butorin of @RusPoliceWatch for help in compiling material for this post.)

Tags: Pussy Riot

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by: Mark from: Victoria
August 31, 2012 01:39
Let me help you - the police fabricated the inscription in order to implicate Pussy Riot supporters, or at a minimum to negatively influence their chances of being freed on appeal. That's where you're going, isn't it? Oh, wait, I know - first Putin killed the women, then called the police and directed them to paint the phony inscription!! Now we know he at least knows the lyrics to "Blueberry Hill" and "Free Pussy Riot" in English.

Here's a crazy idea - what if the pulled-out drawers and the overturned furniture were the deception, meant to point police in the direction of a robbery? There seems to be a concerted effort to push opinion in the direction that the "Free Pussy Riot" phrase was the red herring. Maybe it's not.

Quite possibly the reason early reports of the murder did not mention the phrase was because reporters were not given free run of the crime scene, and were told only that two victims had been murdered.

Or perhaps Andrey Sheptitsky is the murderer. He certainly seems to know a lot about the killer considering the investigation has only started, certain already that it was a psychotic or drug addict who is trying to avoid suspicion by pinning the crime on Pussy Riot supporters. Alternatively, he may have suggested these were possibilities, whereupon sites like this one quickly gave his speculation the weight of a conclusion. If the evidence suggested such clear deductions only hours after the crime was committed, Russians must be a great deal faster at processing crime scenes than their western counterparts.

But then, they already know Putin did it.
In Response

by: Sergio from: The Netherlands
September 01, 2012 23:34
No, let ME help you. The police didn't fabricate it -- the killer took advantage of the situation to throw attention away from him. The police may have swallowed it (till the culprit was arrested), but maybe they didn't; they didn't say. Now, the media and the Orthodox Church.... they did swallow it, bait, hook and line. And on they went, saying that, of course, Pussy Riot supporters are willing to kill anyone, anywhere, just to get attention.

True?

See, here's the point I think you're missing -- whatever the situation in the crime scene, both the media and the Orthodox Church ran away with claims that this is what they are now going to do. No 'let's wait and see', as you're asking for here: just a quick "yes, that's what it is".

Putin probably didn't do it. But I'm willing to bet he smiled when he heard of it. Or do you think he cried for the victim?...
In Response

by: Gregory from: UK
September 07, 2012 19:19
Amnesty UK on their Facebook were alleging fabrication (by Putin) of the VOINA sex orgy museum video and cat throwing film! Sadly, that background stuff is only too authentic. VOINA are not nice people, and they inspire other people who are not very safe.

by: Sergio from: The Netherlands
August 31, 2012 02:02
Will this perhaps simply remain as one of those events in Russian political history -- like the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow and other cities -- that will remain unconclusively investigated, and will be cited by both sides as evidence that their opponents are evil?
In Response

by: Mark from: Victoria
August 31, 2012 15:58
By now we all know the murderer has been found and confessed: a Kazan professor who had been an associate of the younger woman, and who ransacked the place in order to remove any evidence of the connection. He also confessed that he injected the "Free Pussy Riot" phrase in order to misdirect the police. Hopefully everyone can now have a good laugh at Geidar Dzehmal for his asinine suggestion that it obviously was "the authorities" who put the phrase there in order to discredit Pussy Riot, and his even-more-asinine suggestion that it had to have been the cops who did it because they printed in large block letters. My, yes, that's a giveaway, isn't it? Much like fool columnist Lucas Harding's assertion in his cliffhanger stories that you can always spot the FSB - it's comically easy, really - because they wear leather jackets.

What will be spun from this, I wonder? That "the cops" simply put the arm on some poor mentally-deficient citizen and forced him to confess? Otherwise we would have to face the acknowledgement that it was pretty fast police work - maybe some benefit was derived from working on the crime scene "all night" when they were implied to have been faking the Pussy Riot slogan which would have taken less than 5 minutes to write.

It's hard to stay out in front of cases like this one, since comments remain in moderation for something like 10-12 hours and I never see mine until next day after they were posted. I have no way of knowing how quickly others are put up.
In Response

by: Sergio from: The Netherlands
September 01, 2012 23:39
Yes -- and let's all also have a laugh for the speed with which the media and the Orthodox Church came to the conclusion that the criminal -- who turned out to be this Kazan professor -- had been Pussy Riot's knight in shining armor since early childhood.

I actually like the fact that there is a long wait before the comments are published. This makes it harder to have those long, aggressive threads with commenters yelling at each other that are so sadly frequent in the interwebs these days. Maybe the waiting period will make people more rational about their arguments and ideas, and less prone to emotionality.

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
August 31, 2012 12:56
I listened to some of Viktor Shenderovich’s commentary on Echo Moscow yesterday, and he suggested that this murder was analogous to the Nazi’s Kristallnacht. According to VS, the Kremlin authorities were frightened this past winter and devised the plan to use/abuse the ROC to divide the protest movement. He might be correct. The Pussy Riot story has certainly deflected the anger and frustration that many Russians felt after the questionable Duma election results and Putin’s swap with Medvedev. I suspect that some Kremlin officials will be willing to spill more blood and sprinkle more holy water to protect the status quo.

by: Mark from: Victoria
September 02, 2012 16:51
"Yes -- and let's all also have a laugh for the speed with which the media and the Orthodox Church came to the conclusion that the criminal -- who turned out to be this Kazan professor -- had been Pussy Riot's knight in shining armor since early childhood."

I think we have to consider that this was precisely the murderer's intent, and that he deliberately adjusted the evidence to point to that conclusion. However, you are right that they did rush to the incorrect judgment.

Of course you are deliberately exaggerating with that "Pussy Riot's knight in shining armor since early childhood" stuff, and it's good - I like it. If English is your second language, your command of it is remarkable. But Pussy Riot is demonstrably a new phenomenon: why, it wasn't that long ago they were staging "art happenings" like the one featuring a make-believe Tajik with a noose around his neck and signs suggesting "the blacks" from the Caucasus should go home where they belonged.

http://www.austereinsomniac.info/blog/2012/8/31/the-hanging-of-a-tajik.html

Yes, that's today's "it girl", Nadya Tolokonnikova, in the photo. Since she's only, what, 21? , this couldn't have been too long ago.
In Response

by: Sergio from: The Netherlands
September 16, 2012 12:21
Indeed, English is my second (actually, third) language; I was born in Brazil, and my native language is Portuguese. But I use English every day for my work (the international language of science, etc.), so I really needed a good command of it.

One of the curious things about Russia is how things are confused there, and how people outside shouldn't think those who fight Putin are thereby in agreement with all the current "good" liberal opinions. Not only do I find it possible that Ms Tolokonnikova defended opininos I disagree with -- I find it inevitable. (I will bet that many a supporter of Putin, or perhaps even Putin himself, was happy to see that painting; they would certainly agree with its spirit.)

Just as Lincoln's opinions on Blacks would today strike us as quite racist, so would the opinions of many a Russian anti-Putin protester (you only have to look at Udaltsov's record...). This doesn't change the fact that Lincoln represented a step forward in racial equality in the US. Nor does this photo change the fact that Ms Tolokonnikova et al. were right in condemning and protesting against Putin. And their condemnation was politically, not religiously, motivated. That's the point here.

Solzhenitsyn was a great dissident--but he wrote wrong things on the topic of Ukraine. Gorbachov is a good guy, as far as I can tell--but he made a number of bad decisions during the fall of the Soviet Union. Mikhalkov is a great, talented director--but he decided to support Putin.

Such is life.

by: Don Ake from: United States - Canton,OH
September 03, 2012 13:04
Men everywhere should fear this movement - http://akespains.blogspot.com/2012/08/preventing-female-riots-and-sex-strikes.html

by: Gregory from: UK
September 07, 2012 19:14
The blood on the wall incident was predicted in advance. The entire VOINA thing was already being compared to the Spahn Movie Ranch. There is a perfectly valid legal connection between the killings and P*ssy Riot. It is perverse to suggest there is not. If the name was on the wall, then that is enough of a connection, to establish that Article 19 UDHR should not be allowed to subordinate Article 18 UDHR. The law prohibits X (Cathedral protests) to protect the moral order and to deter Spahn Movie Ranch style happenings. The blood on the wall, that is good enough to go to the ECHR as direct evidence of 'the harm' of the original protest. The writing didn't say 'Adolf Hitler' it said something else.

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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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