Sunday, November 23, 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.

The Power Vertical Feed

In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

19:16 November 21, 2014


On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

09:14 November 21, 2014
09:11 November 21, 2014


09:09 November 21, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:

Ukrainians are marking a new national holiday on November 21 -- the anniversary of the start of Kyiv’s Euromaidan protests that led to the ouster of the country’s former pro-Kremlin regime.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed decree on November 13 that declared the holiday for annual “Day of Dignity and Freedom” celebrations.
The protests began with a few hundred people who met spontaneously on a vast square in central Kyiv of November 21, 2013 – disappointed by then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a landmark deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
After that first night, as the protests quickly swelled to tens of thousands of demonstrators, brutal police efforts to disperse the crowds with batons and teargas backfired.
As the crowds got bigger, the protesters began to call for Yanukovych’s ouster – which came in February 2014 after more than 100 people were killed in clashes with police that failed to end the demonstrations.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was expected to announce an increase in nonlethal U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on November 21 as he meets in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The talks come on the first anniversary of the start of the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv that toppled Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin regime.
As Biden arrived in Kyiv on the evening of November 20, U.S. officials told reporters that he will announce the delivery of Humvee transport vehicles that are now in the Pentagon’s inventory of excess supplies.
They said Biden also would announce the delivery of previously promised radar units that can detect the location of enemy mortars.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not specify a dollar value for the assistance. 
Russia on November 20 warned the United States not to supply weapons to Ukrainian forces.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich cautioned against "a major change in policy of the (U.S.) administration in regard to the conflict" in Ukraine. 
He was commenting on remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama's choice to fill the number two spot at the State Department, Anthony Blinken, who told a congressional hearing on November 19 that lethal assistance "remains on the table. It's something that we're looking at."
The U.S. State Department's Director of Press Relations Jeffrey Rathke on November 20 told reporters that "our position on lethal aid hasn't changed. Nothing is off the table and we continue to believe there's no military solution."
He added, "But, in light of Russia's actions as the nominee mentioned [on November 19] in his testimony, as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at."
The aid expected to be announced by Biden on November 20 falls short of what the Ukrainian president requested during a visit to Washington in September when he appealed for lethal aid - a request echoed by some U.S. lawmakers in response to what NATO allies say is Russia's movement of tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine.
In September, Washington promised Ukraine $53 million in aid for military gear that includes the mortar detection units, body armor, binoculars, small boats, and other nonlethal equipment for Ukrainian security forces and border guards in the east.
The United States and its European allies have imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia for its seizure of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine.
(With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and TASS)

Russian Olympian hockey player Slava Voynov – who plays with the Los Angeles Kings NHL hockey team – has been charged with felony domestic violence against his wife.
Voynov faces one felony count of spouse abuse with a maximum penalty of nine years in prison. If convicted, he also could be deported.
Prosecutors say Voynov “caused his wife to suffer injuries to her eyebrow, check, and neck” during an argument at their home in October.
Voynov has been suspended from the NHL since his arrest early on October 20 at a California hospital where he took his wife for treatment.
Voynov’s attorney, Craig Renetzky, says his client didn’t hit his wife.
Renetzky blames the charges on a misunderstanding between police and Voynov’s wife, who speaks very little English.
Voynov – who played on Russia’s team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics -- faces arraignment on December 1.
(Based on reporting by AP and Reuters)

NATO says Russia's growing military presence in the skies above the Baltic region is unjustified and poses a risk to civil aviation.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Tallinn on November 20 that the aircraft regularly fail to file flight plans or communicate with air controllers and also fly with their transponders off.
Speaking at the Amari air base, he said alliance fighters have intercepted planes more than 100 times in the Baltic region alone so far this year, a threefold increase over 2013. 
He did not say how many of the intercepted aircraft were Russian.
Stoltenberg also said that, overall, NATO aircraft have conducted 400 intercepts to protect the airspace of its European alliance members in 2014 -- an increase of 50 percent over last year.
(Based on reporting by AP and AFP)


16:55 November 19, 2014


Konstantin Eggert has a commentary in "Kommersant" on Russia's anti-Americanism. He opens like this:

"Sometimes I have this feeling that there are only two countries in the world - Russia and the United States. Of course, there is Ukraine, but it either to join us or the Americas. Russian politicians and state television are constantly in search of the 'American hand' in all spheres of our life. In Soviet times, the United States was formally considered to be our number one military and ideological enemy. But even then it didn't occupy such a large space in the minds of the political leadership and citizens. And the paradox is that, on one hand, officials and the media regularly talk about the decline of America as a great power, and on the other declare it to be the source of all evil in the world. This contradiction does not seem to disturb anybody."

And closes like this:

We still have not been able to use the opportunity that we were given with the collapse of the communist regime - to arrange our lives based on liberty and civic virtue. And today, we, as a people, want to go back to the starting point, to beat everyone. And the Soviet Union, with its absence of sausage and freedom, again suddenly seems sweet and dear. But it won't happen. I will put it banally: you can't go into the same river twice.

Read the whole thing here (in Russian, with audio)

15:53 November 19, 2014


MIchael Weiss, editor-in-chief of The Interpreter magazine, appearing on Hromadske TV to talk about Russia's information war.

Michael and Peter Pomarantsev recently co-authored an excellent report "The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money." Both also appeared recently on The Power Vertical Podcast to discuss the report.

15:42 November 19, 2014


Oleg Kosyrev has a snarky and clever blog post on the subject up on the Ekho Moskvy website. 

1) The United States is the ideal opponent. "It is big and strong and your self-esteem increases when you fight somebody really influential."

2) The United States is not fighting with Russia. "They aren't really interested. They have enough of their own problems and dreams. It's nice to fight somebody who is not fighting you."

3) It is a substitute for the authorities' inability to benefit Russians. "How convenient. Who is to blame for rising food and gas prices? The U.S.A.. Who is to blame for the fact that Russian has political prisoners? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for people demonstrating on the streets? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for the fact that independent international courts denounce the Russian court system? The U.S.A. You can even blame the U.S. for the fact that the light doesn't work in the entrance to your apartment building."

Read it all (in Russian) here.

15:23 November 19, 2014


14:47 November 19, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Ukraine says it will not tolerate pressure from any other country over whether or not it seeks to join NATO.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyynis spoke made the remark to reporters in Kyiv on November 19, after the BBC quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in an interview that Moscow wants "a 100 percent guarantee that no-one would think about Ukraine joining NATO."

Hitting back with a reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Perebyynis said Kyiv would like guarantees that Moscow will not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs, send in troops, or annex Ukrainian territories. 

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, told journalists on November 19 that any decision on seeking to join NATO could be made only by the Ukrainian people, not by Russia, Europe, ar the United States.

The Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, made a similar statement on November 19.

(Based on reporting by UNIAN and Interfax)


President Vladimir Putin says that Russia is ready for cooperation with the United States as long as Washington treats Moscow as an equal, respect its interests, and refrains from interfering in its affairs.

Putin spoke November 19 at a Kremlin ceremony during which he received the credentials of foreign envoys including John Tefft, the new U.S. Ambassador to Moscow.

Putin said, "We are ready for practical cooperation with our American partners in various fields, based on the principles of respect for each other's interests, equal rights and non-interference in internal matters." 

The remark echoed a formula Putin set out in a foreign policy decree at the start of his third term in 2012.

Tefft, 64, is a career diplomat who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania. 

His posting starts at a time when ties are badly strained over the Ukraine crisis. 

Tefft replaces Michael McFaul, who was ambassador from January 2012 until February 2014. 

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)



Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has signaled that a landmark nuclear arms treaty with the United States is not in jeopardy despite severe tension over Ukraine.

Speaking to Russian lawmakers on November 19, Lavrov said the 2010 New START treaty "meets our basic strategic interests and, on condition of its observance by the United States, we are interested in its full implementation."

The treaty, one of the main products of President Barack Obama's first-term "reset" of ties with Russia, requires Russia and the United States to have their long-range nuclear arsenals under specific ceilings by 2018.

But Lavrov said the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which President Vladimir Putin suspended in 2007, is "dead" for Moscow. 

NATO has refused to ratify a revised version of the CFE treaty without a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova and Georgia.

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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