Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Power Vertical

The Seizure Of Leonid Razvozzhayev

Leonid Razvozzhayev speaks to journalists outside the police investigators' offices in Moscow on October 11.
Leonid Razvozzhayev speaks to journalists outside the police investigators' offices in Moscow on October 11.
How badly did Russian authorities want to nab Leonid Razvozzhayev? To answer that question, you will need to separate the Kremlin's virtual reality from, well, actual reality.

First the virtual, I mean official, version  -- courtesy of the Investigative Committee.

Razvozzhayev, an aide to opposition State Duma Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov, surrendered to authorities and voluntarily wrote a 10-page, handwritten statement admitting that he, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, and Udaltsov aide Konstantin Lebedev conspired to provoke mass unrest in Russia.

The operation, according to Razvozzhayev's alleged confession, was financed by former Georgian lawmaker Givi Targamadze.

The allegations are based on a report, "Anatomy of a Protest-2," that was broadcast on October 5 on the Kremlin-friendly NTV television station. (As I blogged last week, NTV is quickly becoming Siloviki TV, the security services' media outlet of choice to smear opposition figures before prosecuting them.)

This official version was already in doubt even before the Investigative Committee made its announcement on October 22. Earlier in the day, reports surfaced in Kyiv that Razvozzhayev, who had earlier fled to the Ukrainian capital, had been snatched off the street days earlier and had disappeared.

The same day, a video appeared on the website showing Razvozzhayev being led to a car by police officers. "They promised to kill me. I was abducted in Ukraine and tortured for two days," he shouted at the camera.

And then, in the evening, the Kremlin's alternative version of reality truly crashed and burned.

Here is a full statement from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees:

Kyiv (Ukraine) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is deeply concerned about the disappearance of Leonid Razvozzhayev from Kyiv, Ukraine on 19 October 2012. 
The individual approached UNHCR seeking international protection and was invited to be registered at the office of UNHCR’s partner organization, an NGO providing free legal assistance in Kyiv.  The legal counselor at the organization conducted a registration interview and began to provide free legal counseling to the individual.  During a break in the counseling session, the legal counselor contacted UNHCR in order to discuss the situation, and meanwhile Mr. Razvozzhayev said he would go to a nearby cafeteria for lunch and left his personal belongings in the office. When he did not return to the interview and the lawyer could not contact him on the phone, a missing person’s report was immediately filed with the Solomiansky division of the police. 
A functional asylum system requires that persons seeking international protection have confidence in a fair and equitable asylum system that will allow them to make their claim and to have their human rights, notably their physical integrity and personal data fully respected and protected by the host State.  Any removal to the country of origin not respecting existing procedures may lead to the State being held responsible for a grave violation of national and international law.  
UNHCR expects that the incident will be thoroughly investigated by the relevant law enforcement authorities and awaits the results of official investigation.
A report in quoted Yevgeny Golishkin, a leader of the leftist Ukrainian organization Borotba, as saying that Razvozzhayev arrived in Kyiv two days earlier and had decided to seek refugee status.

Razvozzhayev fled Russia and went into hiding after he, Udaltsov, and Lebedev were questioned on October 17 by agents from the Investigative Committee, which opened a criminal case against them in connection with the May 6 demonstrations.

Lebedev was kept in custody. Razvozzhayev and Udaltsov, who remains in Moscow, were released and ordered not to leave the capital.

One has to wonder why the authorities went to such lengths -- and took such risks -- to seize Razvozzhayev on foreign territory. Until now, he appeared to be a bit player in a case that, at least until now, seemed aimed primarily at Udaltsov.
The Investigative Committee could be seeking to broaden its list of targets in the case and considered Razvozzhayev key to that effort. If that is the case, Razvozzhayev's boss, Ilya Ponomaryov of the opposition A Just Russia party, could be in for a rough ride.
On October 23, Vladimir Burmatov, a Duma deputy from the ruling United Russia party, called on Ponomaryov to surrender his parliamentary mandate -- and thus his immunity from prosecution -- due to his affiliation with Razvozzhayev and the May 6 demonstrations.

(Thanks to Pavel Butorin of RusPoliceWatch for help compiling materials for this post.)

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Sergei Udaltsov,Leonid Razvozzhayev,Russian Investigative Committee

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: La Russophobe from: USA
October 24, 2012 07:05
Putin is exposing a core weakness of the opposition. So desperate has it been for support from any quarter that it has allowed the likes of Udaltsov and Limonov to infiltrate its ranks, when it ought to have purged them. Now the opposition is caught between a rock and a hard place. Support Udaltsov and look more and more like a fringe group subject to further arrests; spurn him, and look disloyal and craven. Of course, the opposition is not wrong in thinking that it cannot afford to alienate any support. We have watched their street demonstrations fall in size by 90% after being promised they would double, and their recent "election" was a total farce. But continuing down the current path is a dead-end that leads to suicide.
In Response

by: Marko from: USA
October 24, 2012 19:33
Other than the brief period that followed the swap and the parliamentary elections, the opposition has always been fringe. Limonov/Udaltsov/Navalny and co. may espouse whatever ideology, but they are all bascially Western tools and will be rejected as such. Hardly anybody in Russia wants the 90s back (and folks that is what the West running Russia looks like). Putin will be there until he gets tired of running the place or the economy goes really upside down on him. No sign of either; he seems reinvigorated generally and is still a very deft economic manager. Besides, the West has its own very big problems. I would say that Russia "ought" to be evolving in a somewhat less authoritarian direction at this point, but there is no "liberal patriotic party" to carry that out-- no real alternative to Putin's tough approach. Whether that is the fault of something inherent in Russian political culture or due to the West's constant destructive and self-interested interference in the country (which Putin now seems determined to end) is debatable. I'm sure La Russophobe has his opinions on that, but I would say that it is a bit of both. Putin's recent labeling of the current opposition as "husks" and "opportunists" is dead on. The claimed turnout of 80,000 for the oppo poll in a society of 140 million people is also beyond pathetic...
In Response

by: boris
October 25, 2012 22:18
Yes, of course, it's all 'the West'. 'The West' elected Yeltsin, 'the West decided that after having the rule of law in its history exactly never, corruption would rule, 'the West' decided that oil-gas prices would dive and thn rise for Putin, damn that 'West!' And yet somehow, unlike everywhere else normal, the opposition has no support at all, it's all a toolof 'the West.'

Do you realize how absurd you sound?

Until Russia gets past its sad old Cold War habit of blaming everything on foreigners, I'm afraid this is how people will think.
In Response

by: Sergio from: The Netherlands
October 26, 2012 16:16
I have to agree. One of the think that really saddens me is to think of how great Russia could be if only it were to shed its curious belief that all evils are foreign born, that the world is trying to 'run Russia' or, better(?) yet, 'enslave' it.

Russia's future is, as always, in Russia's hands.

If someday Russians learn to trust the Russian people to make right decisions -- rather than always relying on their "Father Tsar" -- there is no limit to how great this country could become.

All it takes is strength, will, and a commitment to reality.
In Response

by: Marko from: USA
October 26, 2012 17:56
The West didn't support Yelstin-- really? I missed that... The West didn't have old drunken Boris sign production -sharing agreements for oil and natural gas that gave Western companies pretty much everything and the Russian people pretty much nothing -- really? Have you read the original Sakhalin II deal? Didn't Yeltsin sign agreements taking the whole of Soviet debt on to Russia in return for nothing (at the West's urging) in return for nothing -- he did. Did Yelstsin have US camapaing advisors and American money to get "re-elected" in 1996 while polling at 4% approval in Russia (no complaints about cheating in that election strangely enough)-- he did. Does Russia today have problems --yes (so does every other country in the world). Were Russia's problems worse in the 90s under the West and the liberals-- undoubtedly.

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
October 24, 2012 08:03
After Putin recognized аbkhaz thugs -murderers of women and children, abduction and torture of individuals seems childish prank.
Chief of the Investigative Committee of Russia- drunk Bastrykin in a state of delirium tremens, chasing Russian citizens with a shout:"I'll kill you bastards!!"
Forcibly drags journalists in the woods to a grave dug in advance by the FSB agents (Be careful, Mr. Whitmore...) with a shout:"I will bury you alive scum!!"...
"Do not scold him ladies and gentlemen, he joked"-Putin's reaction-))))
at the same time, Putin carries out testing of nuclear strikes against the U.S. and Europe from the sea, land, air..
What to expect from these people?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
October 24, 2012 08:18
Aha, look, some Washington-Saudi-paid trolls were going out of their way just about 10 months ago - promising a "humiliating defeat" of Vladimir Putin, as well as him following the suit of Muammar al-Khaddafi (I guess, the US embassador in Moscow is glad that the latter did not happen :-))).
And instead of that, every day we read in the news that one more of those "democracy fighters" is ending up where s/he belongs - in a labour camp :-)).
Congratulations, guys, you have won again :-)).
In Response

by: Sergio from: The Netherlands
October 24, 2012 09:13
They've certainly won you. But that was cheap, wasn't it?

by: Pete
October 31, 2012 17:07
He is a troublemaker serving foreign interests, the Russians have every right to follow their rule of law.
In Response

by: H. Hamlin from: Seattle, Washington USA
November 05, 2012 02:55
A proper law is, according ot Blacksone:

1. Clear, concise and easily understood.
2. Enforceable equitably upon all violators.
3. Does not have concomitant excessive or unjust penalties.
4. Limited in scope to the specific offense.

"Hooliganism" is not a clear and specific offense. "Defaming the State" is not a clear offense either, and should be no offense at all. Russian law is moving towards the enablement of the State to define virtually any dissent as criminal and any foreign contact treasonous.

Years in the Gulag for insulting a church is not justice; thirty days for trespassing would be sufficient.

Consider the case of Razvozzhayev. At least nine Ukrainian statutes, three international treaties and a dozen Russian laws were violated by the FSS before he ever faced a prosecutor. Do you think these international criminals will ever face justice? Don't hold your breath.

"The lights are going out; so briefly lit, the lights are going out."
Anon. 1919

Boris Goudonov would be proud.

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17:49 October 24, 2014


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)

17:27 October 24, 2014


17:26 October 24, 2014


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


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