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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.
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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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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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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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

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