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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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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on 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