30 April 2015
UK court implicates Putin in Litvinenko murder
30 April 2015 ~ BBC Russian Service
The High Court in London has published material in the case of the murder of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, including dossiers on Viktor Ivanov, the current head of the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation, considered one of the closest associates of the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. The confidential dossiers were drafted by former KGB Colonel Yuri Shvets in September 2006 for British company Titоn, at the order of Alexander Litvinenko.
According to the former head of Titоn Dina Ettieu, and information obtained in the course of the open-ended inquiry in the High Court in London last February, this file could have become the reason for the murder of Litvinenko, in that the compromising information on Ivanov outlined within it might have derailed a multibillion dollar government contract for which Ivanov was lobbying at the time.
The dossier alleges that Victor Ivanov worked closely with the leader of the so-called ‘Tambov organized crime group [OCG],’ Vladimir Kumarin, and helped him to take control of the St. Petersburg sea port, through which drugs were being smuggled from Colombia to Europe. The author of the dossier believes that the cooperation between Victor Ivanov and the ‘Tambov OCG’ was completely controlled by the current Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
At the end of dossier is an unequivocal recommendation to foreign businesspeople not to have dealings with Viktor Ivanov. Ivanov himself, after the appearance of the files in the London court, called the information a vilification, viewing it as an attack on the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
‘Looking also at the customers – representatives of the Western political elite and their intelligence services – this does not meet the standards of basic decency or a fair justice system,’ said Ivanov earlier.
Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned by radioactive polonium and died from radiation sickness on 23 November 2006. The British police suspect two Russian citizens in the killing – former FSB officer and current State Duma member Andrei Lugovoi, and businessman Dmitry Kovtun. Both completely deny their guilt.
22 April 2015
Stalinist Mass Murder and the Warping of Russian History
In the wake of Ukraine’s enactment of a law banning totalitarian propaganda – both Nazi and Soviet – overt glorification of Stalinism is now being seen in Russian-occupied Crimea. For the upcoming May 9th celebration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, billboards glorifying the dictator Joseph Stalin now loom over residents of the peninsula, as if in reaction to Kyiv’s law.
However one rationalizes the Soviet experience historically, it is important to acknowledge that manifestations of Stalinist revanchism or recidivism in Russia endanger decent societies everywhere. The Russian political figures now attempting to resurrect the ‘glory’ of the Soviet Union are distorting history – whether intentionally or unwittingly – and this feeds a warped mass mentality. Russian President Vladimir Putin himself has fostered nostalgia for the Soviet era as a time when Russia was a global superpower both feared and (by many countries) respected. This is understandable given the catastrophe ex-Soviet people endured after the USSR’s collapse. What should not be accepted is the glorification of Soviet secret police functionaries as principled heroes of a great cause. The reality was very far from this image, and the West should have no illusions about it.
The Soviet state security organs went through several iterations, often combining regular police with counter-intelligence, then splitting and again rejoining depending on the political imperatives of the Soviet Communist Party hierarchy of the time. But in each case, these institutions were characterized by sadism and murderousness as qualities demanded of ambitious climbers within them. When the Soviet state was born, the main organ of police terror and repression was the ‘Extraordinary Commission’ – in full, the ‘All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage.’ It came to be known by its nickname – ‘Cheka’ – a pronunciation of the first letters of ‘Extraordinary’ and ‘Commission’ in Russian (‘Ch’ and ‘K’). The Cheka later became the OGPU (Joint State Political Directorate), and in the mid-1930s was incorporated into the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), which also governed the Soviet regular police.
By the time the USSR collapsed, the original ‘Cheka’ had morphed into the Ministry of State Security (MGB) and finally the Committee for State Security (KGB), in which Putin was a mid-level officer. Today, domestic counter-intelligence is formally the purview of the FSB (Federal Security Service), while foreign intelligence is the responsibility of another institution, and Russia’s domestic police are governed by the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs). Yet the term ‘Chekist’ is still used in Russia today to refer to former and current officials of the security services, and not as a pejorative. The pride Putin exhibits in his Chekist past reflects a warped conception of social virtue.
While it is true, for example, that the current Russian regime admits (quietly) to the culpability of the Soviet NKVD in the murder of tens of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest in 1940, it is also apparently true that many of the main culprits in this crime are not treated as villains in today’s Russian propaganda and official history. Indeed, while many were rehabilitated, they have not subsequently been ‘re-condemned.’ Official Russian complaints about the West often cite Western ‘double standards’ in foreign policy and human rights. Whatever ring of truth such complaints may have, the simultaneous admission of Stalinist crimes and glorification of these crimes’ perpetrators feels far worse. In fact, it reveals a disturbingly deformed sense of national self-consciousness.
This situation parallels the phenomenon of confused Russian citizens showing their Russian patriotic pride by displaying portraits of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, alongside his murderer, Lenin, as if both could be representative of the best of Russia. Under Putin, we have a similar state of affairs: justification of Stalinist mass murder alongside propagation of Russian national glory. Celebration of Russian patriotic pride is in any case anathema to everything the Soviet Union stood for, which was first and foremost the annihilation of national patriotism.
No republic of the Soviet Union suffered more at the hands of the Cheka than Ukraine. The Chekists implemented the terror-famine in 1932-33 that claimed upwards of 6 million lives in Ukraine alone. The Cheka/OGPU/NKVD ran the vast network of concentration camps – the Gulag – with extreme brutality. And perhaps worst of all, the Chekists carried out executions on a scale that defies the human imagination, even today. Following is a story about the NKVD’s chief executioners – how they operated, the number of their victims, and their ultimate fates. The image conveyed in this piece of history contrasts starkly with the official, Cheka-friendly hagiography of the Putin regime. It is translated from the online Russian-language publication ‘Tolkovatel’ (Commentator), and appeared in February 2013.
Stalinists and Soviet patriots are unjustly silent about another type of ‘Stakhanovite’ – NKVD executioners. [Alexey Stakhanov was a Soviet miner who, the Stalin regime claimed, single-handedly mined 227 tons of coal in a single shift. Stalinist propaganda made him a celebrity, and the ‘Stakhanovite’ movement was promoted as a way to increase productivity in Soviet industry. – Ed.] Real champions can be found among these men: General Vasily Blokhin personally shot 20,000 people; Piotr Maggo – somewhat fewer: 10,000.
Most of the executioners died a natural death, were buried with honors, and are still honored by the security forces today. When speaking of Stalin’s repression, it is often only the Gulag [the Main Directorate of Camps, a vast network of concentration camps around the Soviet Union – Ed.] that is mentioned. But this was only part of the repressive machine. Hundreds of thousands of people did not even survive long enough to get to the Gulag, ending their journey in execution chambers or landfills. The NKVD managed to get all the bugs out of the system for shootings, ultimately making it work like a well-oiled machine. The scale of this system is astounding. At the height of repression in 1937, 353,074 people were executed – nearly 1,000 people a day. In 1938, the number was 328,618. The number of executions thereafter decreased dramatically (1939 – 2,552; 1940 – 1,649; 1950 – 1,609. The number of people sentenced to capital punishment every year then remained at about the same level until Stalin’s death). Nevertheless, in these years there was still enough work for these shooting master-craftsmen – for tens of thousands of Polish officers had to be executed, for example: Katyn, Kalinin, World War II deserters.
The majority of executions – up to 60% – were carried out in Moscow, after brief interrogation, release at the Lubyanka, and quick extrajudicial sentencing by the ‘troika.’ [The term ‘troika’ refers to a ‘triumvirate’ of officials who acted as a local summary tribunal judging those accused of crimes against the Soviet state. – Ed.] For this reason, the ‘Stakhanovite’ NKVD worked mainly in the capital as well. Their circle was limited: in all of Moscow, there were only 10-15 people. Such a small number of executioners is not explained by the fact that it was difficult to find people to perform such duties. Rather, the real executioner had to be a master of his craft: with stable psyche (how the psyche of even the most experienced Stakhanovites was broken will be described below), skills, stealth (even the executioners’ closest relatives did not know what their job was in the NKVD), and dedication to the job.
One of these masters – a real champion – was Vasily Blokhin. During his long working career, Major General Blokhin personally shot about 20,000 people. Two other medalists, Piotr Maggo and S. N. Nadaraya, were left with a significant margin: a total of approximately 10,000 each. Vasily was born in 1895 to a family of poor peasants in the Vladimir region of Russia. At the age of 15, he began working as a bricklayer in Moscow, and in the First World War he rose to the rank of non-commissioned officer. From 1921 onwards, he was in the Cheka. From 1926, he held the rank of commandant of the OGPU-NKVD-MGB, and from 1926 onward he was the permanent commander of executions until his retirement in 1953. On the job in 1933, he graduated from the Moscow Institute of Architecture and Civil Engineering, becoming an executioner-intellectual. The work Blokhin did was heavy: in fact, he was the only member of a team of about 15 executioners who lived in good health until his retirement. Maybe this was because he always observed the rules of safety at work and didn’t drink on the job. One of the executioners, Yemelyanov, recalled:
Vodka, of course, we drank until we lost consciousness. Say what you like, but the work wasn’t easy. We were so exhausted that sometimes we could barely stay on our feet. We washed with eau de cologne – to our waists. Otherwise, you couldn’t get rid of the smell of blood and gunpowder. Even dogs shied away from us, and if they barked at us, it was from far away.
Unsurprisingly, executioners died early or lost their sanity. Thus, Yusis died of natural causes in 1931; Maggo – in 1942; Vasily Shigalev and his brother, Ivan Shigalev – in 1944. Many retired on a pension, receiving disability due to schizophrenia, such as Yemelyanov, or neuro-psychiatric illness, such as Maggo. The discharge order for Yemelyanov stated as follows: ‘Comrade Yemelyanov is retiring for reasons of illness (schizophrenia) associated exclusively with long-term operational work in the [state security] organs.’ And Piotr Ivanovich Maggo, once having shot about 20 people, went into such a rage that he yelled at Special Department Chief Popov, who was standing next to him, confusing him with yet another victim: ‘Why are you standing there? Undress! Immediately! And I’ll shoot you on the spot!’ The terrified NKVD functionary barely managed to convince this fanatic not to do it.
Once, Maggo got an order from his immediate superior, [Isai Davidovich] Berg. Referring to Maggo, Berg ordered in a written statement that many of the condemned were to die uttering the words: ‘Long live Stalin!’ The resolution of the leadership was as follows: ‘You have an opportunity to educate those sentenced to be shot, so that they do not soil the name of the leader at just the wrong moment!’ Piotr Ivanovich even had to read someone a lecture before they were shot.
How is it possible not to become ill from such work? Yet here we have Vasily [Mikhailovich] Blokhin, who, before an execution, would put on his matching leather uniform – with an apron below the knee, a cap and leggings. Before and after a shooting he liked to have a leisurely cup of tea. He had also loved horses since childhood (as a child of 10, he had worked part-time as a shepherd), and in the breaks between his jobs he would look at illustrated books about horses. After his death, he left behind a library of about 700 books on horse breeding. He was a man who knew how to relax.
Incidentally, Blokhin led the Katyn massacre, and personally shot about 700 Poles there. In 1991, during a deposition in the General Military Prosecutor’s Office of the USSR, one of the members of the firing squad and the former head of NKVD in Kalinin region, whose name was [Dmitry] Tokarev, said as follows: Yablokov (investigator): ‘If I understand correctly, the Polish prisoners of war were shot from ‘Walthers.’ Yes?’ Tokarev: ‘From ‘Walthers.’ This I know well, because they brought a suitcase. Blokhin supervised this personally. He gave out the pistols, and when the work had ended – the guns were taken back. Blokhin collected them himself.’ Vasily Blokhin was buried in 1955 in Novodevichy Cemetery. There, in places of honor, other Stalinist executioners are buried as well, including the medalist Maggo. However, after the arrest of Beria, Blokhin was deprived of the rank of Major General and 8 medals, as well as a pension of 3,150 rubles (the average salary in the country was 700 rubles). Blokhin could not resist such ‘repression’ and died of a heart attack. In the late 1960s, his titles and medals were posthumously returned to him, and he was in fact rehabilitated.
The shooting really turned out to be a kind of art. Piotr Maggo taught inexperienced executioners as follows:
The one you’re taking to be shot must have his hands tied behind him with wire. You make him walk in front, and you walk behind him with a revolver in your hand. Where necessary, command ‘right’ or ‘left’ until you’ve got him to the place where sawdust or sand has been prepared. There, you put the gun to his head and cr-r-rack! At the same time, you give him a strong kick in the ass. That way the blood won’t splatter on your shirt, and you won’t have to give it to your wife to wash again.
And here, the above-mentioned Tokarev describes the massacre of Polish officers near Kalinin on April 5th, 1940:
Blokhin gave a signal, saying, ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s begin.’ Blokhin put on his special clothes: brown leather hat, long leather coat, brown leather gloves with sleeves above the elbow. It made a great impression on me: I’d seen the executioner.
Blokhin and Rubanov brought people one by one down the corridor and turned to the left, where there was a red room. They had hung various propaganda posters about, and there was a plaster statue of Lenin. The ‘Red Room’ or ‘Lenin Room’ was a room of five by five meters. Here, they verified the identity of the prisoner for the last time, asking about his name and date of birth. Then they noted on the list that there was no error.
Finally, they put handcuffs on the Polish officer or policeman and took him to the ‘execution chamber.’ Here, the life of the prisoner ended with a shot in the back of the head. Experienced executioners shot in the neck, holding the barrel obliquely upward. Then there was certainty that the bullet would come through the eye or mouth. There would be just a little bit of blood, whereas a bullet to the head caused profuse bleeding (more than a liter of blood would leak out). At least 250 were killed per day.
The corpses were thrown out of the chamber in which the murder had taken place, through the emergency doors into the courtyard, where a truck was waiting. Every day, fragments of bone and blood were washed off the car bodies. The corpses – 25-30 per car – were covered with a tarpaulin, which Blokhin ordered burned at the end of the ‘operation.’ The bodies, thrown into vehicles, were transported to common trenches, in the woods near Mednoye [a town in the Tver region of Russia – Ed.].
An NKVD functionary named Antonov – an excavator operator – dug these trenches with his assistant.
When all the prisoners of Ostashkov [prisoner of war camp in the Katyn Forest – Ed.] had already been liquidated, Blokhin organized a farewell drink for those individuals who had killed more than 6,300 people. Blokhin received a reward in the amount of one month’s salary. Others were given a revolver, a bicycle or a gramophone as a bonus award.
As mentioned above, after the death of Stalin, the repressions hardly touched the executioners. Nadaraya is considered to have suffered the most. He was promoted to chief bodyguard of Lavrenty P. Beria. A universal specialist – he personally led the investigation, and personally did the shooting. He distinguished himself by his high productivity – up to 500 ‘performed’ in a night. In 1955, he received 10 years imprisonment. He was released in 1965, after which he lived quietly in Georgia as a pensioner.
But as to the executions of lower-ranking functionaries – those who had personally only shot a few hundred people – as it happened, they too ended up being shot. Illustrative is the fate of the NKVD agents involved in the mass shooting of the so-called ‘Solovetsky Phase’ in the Karelian town of Sandarmokh, where about 2,000 people were killed in a few days in October 1937.
The shootings began on October 27th, and then there was a break for four days because the chief executioner, [Mikhail] Matveyev, had got drunk, frustrated by the escape of a prisoner who was soon caught and shot. In November, the executions resumed and continued until November 4th. At the end of the operation, some executioners were rewarded, and others arrested. For example, by an order of the Leningrad District NKVD of December 20th, 1937, ‘For selfless work in combating counterrevolution’ the chief killer in the Solovetsky Phase – Matveyev – was awarded a valuable gift in the form of a radiogramophone and vinyl records, while other members of the operational brigade working with Matveyev were awarded Korovin pistols and watches.
The majority of the functionaries involved in or concerned with the shootings of the Solovetsky Phase were arrested and sent to Moscow. These were: Chief of the 10th Prison Department of the GUGB [Main Directorate of State Security – Ed.] of the NKVD, Muscovite Nikolai (Luka) Antonov-Grisiuk; and another Muscovite, Senior KGB Major and Deputy People’s Commissar of Water Transport Yakov Markovich Weinstock. Chief of the 2nd Department of the Karaganda Correctional-Labor Camp [KarLag] Vsevolod Mikhailovich Krukovsky, who had been specially summoned from KarLag for the operation, was arrested; troika member and Leningrad District Prosecutor Boris P. Pozern was arrested and taken to Moscow.
All were convicted in Moscow, shot, and taken for cremation in a crematorium in Donskoy as spies and saboteurs. Interestingly, the one who shot them was once their former colleague, the very same Vasily Blokhin. All these shot NKVD agents, themselves being executioners, were rehabilitated in various years.
The chief perpetrator of the Solovetsky Phase shootings in Sandarmokh, Matveyev, was arrested with the approval of Beria after a year and a half, in March 1939 (in the so-called ‘Beria Purge of Units’).
The fate of Matveyev, unlike many other Solovetsky executioners, turned out to be all right. The Military Tribunal of the NKVD LVO [NKVD of the Leningrad Military District – Ed.] convicted him under Article 193-17 ‘a’ of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR and sentenced him to 10 years in a correctional-labor camp. But retrial by the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court reduced his term to 3 years. He was not deprived of his awards. He was serving a sentence at Volgolag [Volzhsky Corrective-Labor Camp – Ed.], and besides, he was released early.
During the war, he served as chief of the internal prison of the UNKGB; adding the Order of Lenin to his previous honors. Sometimes he returned to his tradecraft – and shot prisoners. He died of natural causes during the Brezhnev era. Another Solovetsky executioner, [Vladimir] Garin, who only personally shot about 400 people in the spring of 1938 and was transferred to camp commandant in Karelia in 1940, died of a heart attack. But he was buried with military honors in Moscow at Novodevichy Cemetery.
Executioner [Alexander] Rayevsky, who shot about 300 people, was arrested with the approval of Beria as ‘one of the leaders of a counterrevolutionary rebel organization that existed among the prisoners on the island of Solovki,’ and served his sentence in Unzhlag [Unzhensky Corrective-Labor Camp – Ed.], where he was in charge of the solitary confinement chambers.
Following Khrushchev’s rehabilitation policy, he was restored to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. The executioner Kollegov, who had a hand in the affair as well and was also ultimately shot, was rehabilitated in 1959. All these butchers are now considered ‘victims of Stalinist repression.’ Some have been inducted into the FSB Hall of Fame.
22 April 2015
Russian MP: Ministry of Internal Affairs should be renamed ‘Cheka’
On the 145th anniversary of Lenin’s birthday, a member of the Russian parliament has suggested that the name of ministry governing the country’s police force be changed to ‘Cheka,’ the abbreviated title of the organization that implemented the Red Terror after the Bolshevik Revolution.
22 April 2015 ~ Snob.ru
A State Duma member of the ‘A Just Russia’ party, Tatiana Moskalkova, has suggested renaming the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) the ‘All-Russian Extraordinary Commission’ (Cheka), writes the newspaper Kommersant.
Such a decision must be taken in conditions of crisis, says Moskalkova. She also suggests giving the MVD appropriate authority ‘for the restoration of order and the preservation of peace and security in the country in peace and security.’
On April 22nd at the government hour in the State Duma [lower, elected house of parliament], Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev read the report on the work of the agency. He cited the main achievement of 2014 as the maintenance of order in the preparation for and during the Olympic Games in Sochi.
The leader of the ‘United Russia’ faction, Vladimir Vasiliev, was troubled by the fact that Kolokoltsev had focused on ‘quantitative indicators’ in his report. He recalled that on March 4th, Russian President Vladimir Putin had ‘said that a cardinal fracture was necessary, a new quality of work of the Internal Affairs Ministry.’ In the report of Kolokoltsev Vasiliev ‘heard nothing about a cleansing, about establishing conditions for business in modern conditions.’
‘Are we changing the course of the MVD or not?’ asked Vasiliev.
The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was established on December 7th, 1917, and was abolished February 6th, 1922, with the transfer of powers to the State Political Administration (GPU) under the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) of the Russian Federation. The founders of the Cheka were Felix Dzerzhinsky and Yakov Peters.
The Cheka was the organ of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ for the protection of state security and ‘the governing body of the struggle against counter-revolution throughout the country.’ The organ compiled lists of enemies of the people, executions of ‘enemy agents, speculators, thugs, hooligans, counter-revolutionary agitators and German spies,’ and ‘individuals connected with White Guard organizations,’ and implemented the ‘red terror.’
13 April 2015
11 April 2015 ~ reply.net
Gennady Zubko, the minister of housing and communal services and construction, as well as the minister for regional development, said on Saturday at a press conference that the Donbas needs about half a billion dollars to rebuild the infrastructure of the region. According to the latest information, the United Nations plans to provide about three hundred million for the restoration of the affected areas. The remaining funds will have to be found in the budget or from requests to European countries.
In an interview, Zubko said that on April 28th a conference is to be held at which the support of our state will be discussed. It is expected that the meeting will bring together representatives of many countries. According to Zubko, the conference will touched upon democracy in modern Ukraine, by which our country progresses further and further, and which will allows it in the near future to be closer to Europe. According to the minister, all countries interested in the development of Ukraine should be involved in this process. Zubko is convinced that the state cannot single-handedly rebuild the areas affected by the war, or help internally displaced persons or people left without shelter and livelihood.
Zubko and his colleagues have already made a preliminary assessment of the needs in the recovery area, as well as the humanitarian response plan. According to experts, the Donbas needs half a billion dollars, and this is the minimum amount. In the current difficult economic situation, Ukraine will not be able to help five million people in the affected regions and one million displaced persons. Zubko has said that to solve the basic problems requires a specific program of action that needs to be set up very carefully. Our President is trying to stop the war in the LNR [Lugansk People’s Republic] and the DNR [Donetsk People’s Republic], and high-ranking officials are working to create a strong line of defense. However, despite all the efforts of the Government and Petro Poroshenko, the separatists continue to conduct attacks. Infrastructure in many areas of the Donbas is severely damaged, and the restoration will take years.
13 April 2015
Because of the continuing flow of arms and military equipment across the Ukrainian-Russian border onto the territory controlled by pro-Russian rebels, the Ukrainian army must confront enemy firepower. As of April 8th, 2015, the force in service with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR, respectively) consists of almost 700 tanks, more than 1,100 armored combat vehicles, 600 artillery systems and more than 380 multiple launch rocket systems (MRLS). This data was released by the deputy commander of the Anti-Terrorist Operation, Col. Valentyn Fedychev.
If we compare the statement made by Fedychev on March 15th, 2015, over the course of three and a half weeks the separatists have lost 80 tanks and 40 MLRS, but at the same time their arsenal has been replenished with 100 artillery systems and 70 combat armored vehicles.
It is worth noting that the military power of the DNR and LNR mercenaries is the envy of many European NATO members. So, the armies of the Baltic countries consist of only three tanks (Estonia and Lithuania have none at all). In addition, in the arsenal of the ground forces of the same Baltic countries, Spain and the Czech Republic there is no MRLS, and Poland gives the separatists a numerical advantage of 230%.
This is indicated by the data of the annual report, The Military Balance 2014, prepared by the British International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) think-tank. The Military Balance 2014 is a kind of reference book containing detailed data on the types and number of troops of the armies of the world as of 2013.
Click here to see web page with graphs (in Russian)
IISS estimates that the tank fleet of the pro-Russian insurgents is comparable with the total number of tanks in service with the armies of Germany, France and the Czech Republic! Poland boasts a more impressive fleet (893 tanks). As for artillery power, the volume of arms of the DNR and LNR surpass all the Baltic countries together, as well as the German, French and Czech armies. The only indication of where the European members of NATO (except for the Czech Republic and the Baltic states) have an advantage over the separatists is in the number of combat armored vehicles. The French army’s fleet of armored vehicles is five times greater than that of the DNR and LNR.
Click here to see graph comparing Ukraine with DNR/LNR (in Russian)
As for Ukraine, in 2013 the arsenal of our ground troops is slightly inferior to the current equipment of the separatists only in the number of MLRS. The number of Ukrainian artillery systems exceeds the reserves of the DNR and LNR 2.5 times, and combat armored vehicles – 2.3 times. In the armored fleet of the armed forces of Ukraine there are more than 2,500 pieces of equipment, 43.6% of which are in a state of full combat readiness. According to this indicator, the opponent lags behind the Ukrainian side more than four times. It is obvious that our country has not only the resources to reflect the rebels’ attacks, but also to overcome their firepower.
The below graphs show the volume of Ukraine’s hardware relative to DNR/LNR (Ukraine is shown in red)
11 April 2015
Toppling Soviet monuments in Ukraine goes beyond Lenin
The removal of monuments to Soviet Communism in Ukraine has now gone past tearing down statues of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin. As reported by hromadske.tv, on April 11th in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, three statues of other Bolsheviks were toppled at night by unidentified masked figures claiming to be enforcing a law passed on April 9th. The law bans all propaganda and symbolism of both Nazism and Soviet Communism. Law No. 2558 ‘On the condemnation of Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and the prohibition of propaganda using their symbolism’ followed close on the heels of another law officially renaming the ‘Great Patriotic War,’ so that in Ukraine it is now referred to as ‘World War Two.’
Under current circumstances, this renaming was a natural political development: to refer to a war as ‘patriotic’ when it is referred to as such by an aggressor state (Russia) seems absurd. Furthermore, the Soviet Union was not an entity whose official ideology valued ‘patriotism.’ It was the antithesis of patriotic sentiment, since it believed all nation-states were worthless, and only international proletarian revolution had ultimate value. The proletariat – according to Marxism-Leninism – did not identify with nation or country, but only with a workers’ revolution and overturning the old order. The title ‘Great Patriotic War’ was a ruse conceived by Stalin’s regime to win sympathy for the war effort in desperate times. It was a trick to appeal to the Soviet masses to fight Nazi Germany, with which Stalin had heinously and foolishly attempted to form an alliance.
The destruction of Soviet Communist hagiography is not popular with many in Ukraine, particularly in the east. While western Ukrainian cities long ago removed images of Lenin and other Communist leaders from their public areas, in the largely Russian-speaking east, most residents have viewed such figures – until recently – with a shrug at worst, and at best as heroes. The reality is that most of these people were monsters. Lenin, Dzerzhinsky, Stalin and others still viewed with respect in Russia were responsible for the torture, starvation and deaths of millions of ordinary people. Whatever anyone may feel about Communism as in some way a ‘good cause,’ those responsible for creating and consolidating the Soviet state that existed from 1917 to 1991 were mostly murderous and tyrannical. There is a point at which ordinary people’s misconceptions as to the integrity of figures from their own history must be dispelled – for the good of all.
The Bolshevik figures whose statues were torn down in Kharkiv are Nikolai Rudnev, Yakov Sverdlov and Sergo Ordzhonikidze. The masked figures who toppled them posted a video of their acts to youtube. It is evident from the footage that no officials from the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD – the national police force) attempted to obstruct or stop them.
Nikolai Rudnev (1894-1918) was made deputy commissar for military affairs of the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic, an artificial entity set up by the Bolshevik government in Moscow to carve territory away from Ukraine during the Russian Civil War and carry out mass slaughter in the Ukrainian countryside. A true believer in the Bolshevik cause, Rudnev was mortally wounded just shy of his twenty-fourth birthday, and was buried in the Russian city of Tsaritsyn (later renamed Stalingrad, then Volgograd) in October 1918. His body was later disinterred and re-buried in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where a city square was named after him.
Yakov Sverdlov (1885-1919) was a Soviet Politburo member and chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) for over a year after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917. A close ally of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, Sverdlov played a critical role in organizing the Bolshevik Revolution. He helped close down the Constituent Assembly (the elected Russian legislative body that briefly existed into the Bolshevik era), and carried out Lenin’s order to execute Tsar Nicholas II and his family. The city where the executions took place (Yekaterinburg) was named ‘Sverdlovsk’ until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Grigol (‘Sergo’) Ordzhonikidze (1886-1937), a Georgian, was a close confidante and ally of the dictator Joseph Stalin. In 1920, he directed ‘de-Cossackization’ as head of the North Caucasus Revolutionary Committee, deporting inhabitants that had rebelled against Bolshevik rule and burning entire villages to the ground. He became a full Soviet Politburo member and was at one point People’s Commissar of Heavy Industry. He later criticized collectivization (which led to the famine in Ukraine and other areas of the Soviet Union) as a ‘disaster’ and also opposed the purge of fellow Communists in the 1930s. Although the official report of Ordzhonikidze’s death specified that he had died of a heart attack, it is now generally believed he committed suicide by blowing his brains out at Stalin’s behest. He was buried in the Kremlin Wall in Moscow.
10 April 2015
Ukraine chooses ‘WWII’ over ‘Great Patriotic War’
The pro-Western Ukrainian leadership has taken another step toward rejecting Ukraine’s Soviet legacy by jettisoning the term ‘Great Patriotic War’ – in reference to the Second World War – in favor of ‘World War Two.’ The term ‘Great Patriotic War’ was a term conceived by the Stalinist Soviet regime at the time of WWII to garner public support for the war effort. In fact, it was a cynical ruse designed to trick the population of the USSR – ordinary people who would die by the millions at the hands of the Hitler’s Wehrmacht – after Stalin had tried to form an alliance with the Nazis to divide Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union. Now, Ukraine’s parliament has rejected the Stalinist term with new legislation. This news report from the Russian press covers the story in a negative light, alleging that most Ukrainians do not support the move, and wish to go on celebrating ‘Victory in the Great Patriotic War’ on May 9th, as was done in the Soviet era. It is a momentous symbolic step, and it is not by chance that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko made the announcement during a visit to Ukraine of his Polish counterpart.
Poroshenko has laid equal blame on Stalin and Hitler for the outbreak of the Second World War.
KIEV, April 9 / TASS / The Verkhovna Rada has set May 8th as the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in honor of all the victims of the Second World War.
261 MPs voted for the corresponding bill ‘On perpetuation of victory over Nazism in the Second World War of 1939-1945.’
The document repeals the Law of Ukraine ‘On the perpetuation of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945’ and names May 9th as ‘Victory Day over Nazism in World War II.’
The bill proposes using the term ‘World War II’ and abandoning the term ‘Great Patriotic War.’ During the commemoration of those who fell during the years of World War II, according to the draft law, the use of Soviet symbols is abolished.
As the head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, Vladimir Vyatrovych, said from the podium of the Rada, it is necessary to remove ‘Soviet cliches.’
Statement of Poroshenko
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said he considers the roles of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin in the outbreak of the Second World War to be equal.
‘Hitler and Stalin together unleashed the carnage of World War II and then tried to split and divide Europe,’ he said in Kyiv during a visit of President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski to the Bykivnia memorial grave.
The statement by the President of Ukraine in Kyiv continues his campaign to rewrite history and vilify the Soviet period.
Rejection of the celebration of Victory Day on May 9th in Ukraine is a ‘side effect of European integration’ and ‘historical amnesia,’ Leonid Slutsky, head of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots, said earlier.
‘May 9th is a holy day for all nations and peoples that were part of the Soviet Union, of victory over the ‘brown plague,’’ Slutsky recalled. According to him, by creating a bill to postpone the celebration of Victory Day, ‘Kiev MPs are behaving like vassals of the West, forgetting their own history and spitting in the face of the descendants of those who gave their lives in the struggle against fascism.’
‘Such is the side effect of European integration – historical amnesia and joining the chorus of those who want to substitute the results of the Second World War, who deny the role of the Soviet soldier – and this includes Ukrainians – in the victory over Nazi Germany,’ said Slutsky.
Most Ukrainians are against the abolition of the Victory Day celebrations. According to a poll conducted by the ‘Social Monitoring’ Center and the Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute of Social Studies, almost 80% of Ukrainians want to retain the celebration of Victory Day on May 9th.
‘78.1% of respondents believe that the country should continue to celebrate Victory Day on May 9th,’ noted the study.
In this case, 8.3% of respondents believe it is not necessary to mark Victory Day, and 8 out of 100 respondents propose to celebrate this day on May 8th, following the example of Western Europe.
The survey was conducted from 13-20 March, and 2,800 people responded to the questions of the sociologists. The theoretical margin of error does not exceed 1.89%.
4 April 2015
Did Putin order the killing of Boris Nemtsov?
Often what happens in Moscow affects Ukraine. When Russian opposition politician and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was killed in central Moscow on the night of February 27th, the Ukrainian government lost one of its most vocal advocates in its war with Russia and Russian-backed proxies. Shortly before his death, Nemtsov had said he planned to publish damning evidence of the regular Russian army’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, something the Kremlin had always denied. Nemtsov was also planning to lead an opposition demonstration in Moscow within a few days to protest the war in Ukraine.
Nemtsov’s murder has generated several theories in press and media over who carried out the killing, on whose orders, and why. A new article written by Nikolai Kopash and published on the Russian-language ‘Analytical Investigations’ website (entitled ‘By whom, how and why Boris Nemtsov was murdered’) delves into known details of the murder to reach a credible conclusion as to who did it and why. However, unlike most other published analyses (See: Analysis: Who’s turned against Putin – and why), the article does not attempt to deflect blame for the killing away from the Russian president himself. In fact, it concludes that the most likely explanation – given all we know – is that Putin ordered the murder. Putin delegated the task of liquidating Nemtsov to his Chechen ‘gauleiter,’ Ramzan Kadyrov, and Kadyrov in turn ordered his cousin, Adam Delimkhanov, to actually carry out the killing. Indeed, another post on this site (linked to an article from an anonymous author) tagged Delimkhanov as the killer very early after Nemtsov’s death.
As many people may be aware, the immediate vicinity of Nemtsov’s killing was captured on video from a distance, at the actual time the victim was shot. The surveillance camera, filming at night, did not offer high-resolution imagery, but the video was posted on YouTube and has been analyzed often, with a white circle superimposed on the footage to identify the location of the victim as he walked along before being shot. The time is also visible in ‘hour:minute:second’ format. From this, it looks as if Nemtsov was concealed from the camera and the street by a street-cleaning truck at the exact time of the shooting, and for the first time we are presented with the possibility that the street-cleaner was part of the plot. As the author writes:
In the recording at 23:30:30 one can see how a white circle focuses attention on Nemtsov and his companion [identified as Ukrainian model Anna Duritskaya – Ed.], who is in a white (!) coat… At the same time we see that a street-cleaning vehicle comes onto the bridge… how it moves to catch up with the victim… and conceals the crime from passers-by… Then the circle focuses directly on the street cleaner, and if you look closely, in the time interval from 23:30:40 to 23:30:55 a man (the killer) is walking in front of the truck but then hides behind it. The speed of the street cleaner is about 9 km/h, a very fast pace for a man, indicating that his movement is intentionally aligned with the vehicle so that he cannot be seen from the roadway.
Once the street cleaner catches up to Nemtsov and his companion at 23:31:14, just in front of the pole of the streetlight, the killer allegedly delivers 6 shots in 2 seconds, and at 23:31:16 he is already moving quickly out onto the roadway to meet a passenger car that is driving up (23:31:20). After another 3 seconds (23:31:23), the car leaves with the killer. This pickup car was traveling at the speed of the street cleaner, behind it at a distance of exactly three streetlamps (75 meters)…
The detailed analysis of moment-by-moment events captured on the video surveillance camera of the TV Center television station concludes that several different people were involved in the hit on Nemtsov. This was not simply a case of an assassin and his driver. Rather, several vehicles and pedestrians took part in both the killing and the immediate aftermath, verifying the victim’s death and monitoring the immediate vicinity. The post-shooting timeline is as follows:
23:31:48: A person (Person 1) is clearly visible walking toward the crime scene from the right.
23:32:10: Anna Duritskaya runs to the street-cleaner and talks with the driver for about 3.5 minutes.
23:32:50: Person 1 stops at Nemtsov’s body.
23:33:07: Person 1 walks toward Duritskaya and the street-cleaning truck.
23:33:30: A second person (Person 2) appears from the left side – from which there has not been a single passer-by in all this time.
23:33:50: Person 1 has returned to the body of Nemtsov, and Person 2 approaches the street-cleaner.
23:34: 30: A third person (Person 3) walks past the crime spot without even slowing down.
23:35:30: A passenger car (Car 1) stops for 10 seconds behind the street cleaner.
23:35:30: Duritskaya returns from the street cleaner to Nemtsov’s body with Person 2, and Car 1 departs the scene.
23:36:06: The street-sweeper quickly departs from the scene of the crime without continuing to clean the street.
23:37:00: Another two people (Persons 4 and 5) approach the crime scene from the right, and a passenger car (Car 2) drives past before braking sharply after forty meters, then reversing quickly back to the crime scene.
23:37:20: Car 2 stops back at the crime scene, and Persons 4 and 5 move away from Nemtsov’s body with Duritskaya, as if they have been ordered to move out of the light of the street lamp.
23:37:40: Another car (Car 3) slows down for 5 seconds near Car 2, and someone in Car 2 obviously gives a command to drive off, as both cars depart the scene of the crime simultaneously. The image of Duritskaya with Persons 4 and 5 is lost.
23:42:30: After fast-forwarding the video, one can see Duritskaya with Persons 4 and 5 standing eighteen meters from the crime scene, and a police car is pulling up as Duritskaya returns to the body with Persons 4 and 5.
From the twelve-minute chronology, we can deduce that apart from Persons 1-5, there were the drivers of Cars 1-3, the killer, the driver of the getaway car, and the driver of the street-cleaning truck. This means that there were at least eleven people at the crime scene at or around the time of the shooting, not including Duritskaya (whom the author does not exclude from complicity) and whoever else may have been in the various vehicles. In other words, the author concludes, this was an ‘operation’ involving a substantial number of ‘not random people.’ It suggests – he believes – ‘excellent teamwork in a security services operation.’ He also credits the professionals with having completely hidden the murder from both the video camera and the street using the street-cleaner. Even if only half the minimum number of people verifiable at the crime scene were in on the plot, that would be half a dozen, and the analyst believes that ‘trained commandos’ had a hand in the crime.
The author’s conclusions are based on a number of clues related to the victim’s wounds.
In the official version, the murderer put 6 bullets into the victim. Analysis of the timing suggests that the killer had only 2 seconds, and this fact – 6 shots in 2 seconds – has caused a lot of doubts and assumptions to the effect that not one person, but two fired shots (the second later, as a control shot to make sure the victim was dead).
The author refutes the idea that one person couldn’t have fired 6 shots in 2 seconds, even though he admits that special military ‘commando’ training would not account for it. Such shooting, he asserts, is used ‘in very rare cases,’ and ‘mainly in the personal protection of VIPs.’
A more likely explanation, he says, is that the killer did not use a common type of Russian pistol – a Makarov – as the official version of events alleges. Rather, the killer used a Stechkin automatic pistol (APS), which shoots like a sub-machine gun and is only employed by the security services. The Makarov fires only 5 shots per second, whereas the APS can fire 10.
By all the rules, the shots should have been to the head. First, they said that one shot was to the head, but then… it was a fatal wound to the heart. In the photo one can see that there are three entry bullet holes in the victim’s back, but not in the area of the heart… Judging by the injuries, the shots were fired from the left side and from a short distance, about 2 meters. The short time of 2 seconds made it impossible to aim… This shooting without aiming, combined with the short distance, makes it impossible to immediately fire at two parts of the body – head and back. Therefore, the shooting of all 6 bullets could only be in the back, but not the head.
Furthermore, the nature of the wounds indicate that a Makarov would probably not have passed all the way through the body, as they did in Nemtsov’s case:
In the photo it can be seen that the bullets passed from the top of the left shoulder, and then horizontally to the area of the waist… Bullets fired from a Makarov pistol rarely cause injuries that pass straight through, because they have a relatively low initial velocity and fairly high caliber. In other words, they have great stopping – as opposed to penetrative – power. But those same bullets fired from a Stechkin automatic pistol have a higher initial velocity, and that means they already have a greater penetrative capacity and likelihood of inflicting pass-through wounds. Thus, according to two factors – the rate of fire and the exit wounds – it is much more likely that an APS was used than a Makarov.
These facts point to a very well planned, criminal ‘special op,’ the author says, with the only mishap being that the street cleaner forgot what it was supposed to do and abandoned its job. The author attributes such expertise to a ‘group of professionals operating at the level of the special units of illegal intelligence agencies such as ‘Vympel,’ which was designed to eliminate not only strategically important targets, but also very important actors in foreign countries in the event of armed conflict.’
The author cites brief information from the Kavkaz Center:
“Kavkaz Center 03.03.2015 – 03:57 Twitter
“Putin personally delegated the task of Nemtsov’s liquidation to Kadyrov, who in turn personally gave the order to his cousin, Adam Delimkhanov… In addition, there is information that the killer who actually did the shooting was Adam Delimkhanov.”
Adam Delimkhanov, the former driver of the terrorist Salman Raduyev, is now a member of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament – the State Duma – and a leading member of the ruling ‘United Russia’ party. He is said to have extensive experience in contract killings.
So, on 18 November 2006 Delimkhanov took part in a police operation during which the former commander of the ‘Gorets’ (Highlander) battle group, Movladi Baisarov, was killed in Moscow.
In April 2008, in an interview with ‘Rosbalt,’ Delimkhanov accused the Yamadayev brothers of having ties with Boris Berezovsky and promised that Yamadayev ‘doesn’t have much time left to soil the good name of the Chechen people.’
Five months passed, and on 24 September 2008 in the area of house № 10 on the Smolensk Embankment in Moscow, a few hundred meters from the White House [the building of the Cabinet of Ministers – Ed.] in a specially protected area, Ruslan Yamadayev was killed. When Yamadayev’s ‘Mercedes’ had stopped at a traffic light, a killer emerged from a BMW 525 and, walking up to Yamadayev, opened fire on him through an open window with a silenced Stechkin automatic pistol. In total, about 20 bullets were released, virtually the entire clip. The organization and execution of this murder is also credited to Delimkhanov.
Six months later, on 28 March 2009, in the garage of an elite residential complex in Dubai, Sulim Yamadayev, the former commander of the GRU’s ‘Vostok’ (East) Battalion, was killed by three shots to the back from an APS.
On 5 April 2009, the Dubai police announced that they had arrested the two direct participants in the assassination of Yamadayev, and three citizens of the Russian Federation – including Adam Delimkhanov – were now on the international wanted list.
On 6 April, the Dubai police posted on their website a photo of the weapon that the prisoners had in their possession. It was a gold-plated Stechkin automatic pistol. The police had evidence that Adam Delimkhanov – using his diplomatic immunity – had imported the APS into the Emirates during one of the visits of the Chechen delegation, and had given it to the ‘groom’ of Kadyrov. The Russian authorities do not deny these statements.
Another fact: on 3 December 2013 in the State Duma there was a conflict between Delimkhanov and his colleague, MP Alexei Zhuravlev. According to the words of eyewitnesses, during the fight Delimkhanov’s gold APS fell out.
As the author explains, all of this evidence is circumstantial, but there are at least candid examples, such as an Instagram post by Aslanbek Delimkhanov, Adam’s brother, which was later deleted:
But in general, writes the author, these facts ‘fit fully and without contradiction into the overall picture of the crime.’
Incidentally, we should not expect the subsequent death of the killer, but rather his reward and promotion… It is only surprising that the contract killers did not care about the fact that the video from the TV Center would be published. One might think that the blurred picture would not provide important information. Or, as mentioned above, they were simply unaware of the existence of this device or for some prosaic reasons it just fell out of their zone of attention.
With regard to motives, the analyst says Putin’s motives for eliminating Nemtsov were ‘both personal and public’ in nature.
On a personal note, Boris Nemtsov had insulted Putin a few times, calling him a total loser… and a ‘fuckhead.’ For a godfather, such insults are totally inexcusable. Nemtsov posted the ‘loser’ remark on Facebook in early September, and half a year is the standard period for the proper preparation, organization and execution of a contract killing.
In social terms, Boris Nemtsov was the organizer and coordinator of all mass actions of protest. So the fact that his murder was organized and executed on the eve of the opposition march was, likewise, anything but coincidental.
At the state level, Boris Nemtsov’s prospects in the 2016 State Duma elections, and in 2018 presidential elections, were very real…
But most importantly, Boris Nemtsov had lobbied at the international level for the levying of economic sanctions against Russia, which had a strong moral and material impact on the personal, social and public prestige of Putin.
So, Putin personally had a reason for resenting Nemtsov, and for feeling endangered by his constant and convincing criticism, because Putin has feared any open competition from the beginning of his ascent to the throne.
Yet another deadly pattern is that in all the years of Putin’s rule, neither a single terrorist act, nor any blatant contract killing has been uncovered.
As the author notes, Putin’s rise to – and time in – power (a period of roughly 20 years) is associated with a long series of killings and suspicious deaths. Well-known political figures have either been outright murdered or else died under circumstances that tended to generate doubts as to the official explanation of ‘natural causes.’ Of course, the unusual number of untimely deaths does not prove the hand of President Putin himself, but the blasé nature in which the Russian regime appears to treat these deaths – the lack of proper investigation, the hurried conclusions as to causes, and the business-as-usual attitude afterwards – strongly implies culpability. The author provides a list of only some of these notables. It is by no means exclusive, and for some reason does not include such people as liberal Russian MP Galina Starovoitova or Chechen human rights activist Natalia Estemirova (see ‘The Murder of Boris Nemtsov: Real ‘contractor’ and executioner named’). Nevertheless, the list is long, and is reproduced below, together with short biographies:
[Borovik was an investigative journalist who died in a plane crash at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on 9 March 2000, three days prior to the scheduled publication of materials about Putin’s childhood. He was also conducting an investigation into the Moscow apartment bombings of 1999. The Russian presidential election, in which Putin was running as the Kremlin-backed candidate, was scheduled for March 26th. – Ed.]
[Sobchak was Mayor of St. Petersburg from 1991-96. His administration was notorious for corruption, and Putin served as his deputy during Sobchak’s entire tenure. On 20 February 2000, less than a week after meeting with Putin, Sobchak died suddenly in a town in the Kaliningrad region while on a trip to support Putin’s election campaign. A criminal investigation into Sobchak’s death was opened only on 6 May 2000. The Democratic Union party made an official statement that Sobchak and two of his aides had had heart attacks simultaneously, indicating poisoning. Two other men were present with Sobchak during his death, but their names were not publicly disclosed. – Ed.]
[Lebed was a popular Russian army general who placed third in the Russian presidential election of 1996, receiving 14.5% of the nationwide vote. He served as Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation before being elected governor of Krasnoyarsk Territory, Russia’s second largest region, in 1998. He remained a political threat to Putin. In 2002, he was killed when the Mi-8 helicopter in which he was flying collided with power lines in foggy weather. – Ed.]
[Yushenkov was a liberal Russian politician who became famous as a fighter for democracy, free markets, military reform and human rights in Russia. He argued that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) had orchestrated the Russian apartment bombings in 1999 to generate public support for the Second Chechen War. He stated publicly that Putin’s rise to power represented a successful coup d’etat by the FSB. Yushenkov was assassinated on 17 April 2003, hours after registering his political party to participate in the December 2003 parliamentary elections. – Ed.]
[Shchekochikhin was a Russian investigative journalist and liberal lawmaker in the Russian parliament who wrote about and campaigned against organized crime and corruption. As a journalist for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, he investigated the Russian apartment bombings of 1999 and the Three Whales Corruption Scandal, involving high-ranking FSB officers and money laundering through the Bank of New York. He died suddenly in July 2003 from a mysterious illness, just a few days before his scheduled departure to the United States where he planned to meet with FBI investigators. His medical documents ended up ‘classified’ by the Russian authorities, but the symptoms of his illness fit a pattern of poisoning by radioactive materials and were similar to the symptoms of Alexander Litvinenko (see below), who alleged that Shchekochikhin’s death was a politically motivated assassination. – Ed.]
[Yandarbiyev was a Chechen writer and politician who served as acting president of the breakaway Chechen Republic of Ichkeria between 1996 and 1997. In 2004, Yandarbiyev was killed in exile in Qatar by a bomb. The day after the attack, Qatari authorities arrested three Russians. One, the first secretary of the Russian Embassy in Qatar, was released due to his diplomatic status. The other two, both Russian military intelligence (GRU) agents, were charged with assassinating Yandarbiyev, and Russia’s acting Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov declared their imprisonment illegal. The Qatari prosecutors ultimately concluded that Ivanov – a close ally and long-time friend of Putin – had personally ordered the suspects to murder Yandarbiyev. In June 2004, both Russians were sentenced to life imprisonment, the Qatari judge stating they had acted on orders from the Russian leadership. In December 2004, Qatar agreed to extradite the prisoners to Russia to serve out their life sentences, but the agents received a heroes’ welcome upon returning to Moscow, and then disappeared. – Ed.]
[Kadyrov was the Moscow-approved president of the Chechen Republic for seven months from October 2003 until his death from a bomb explosion in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in May 2004. Regarded as a traitor by Chechnya’s guerrilla commanders, and by his predecessor as president, Aslan Maskhadov, Kadyrov despised Maskhadov and envied his respect among the Chechen people. Kadyrov’s son, Ramzan, who had rapidly gained a reputation for thuggery and corruption, claimed to have tried to reach a settlement with Maskhadov, but said he had been sabotaged by Russian intelligence. The Kremlin strongly opposed any attempts to reach an accord with Maskhadov and the Chechen opposition. The bomb that killed Ahmad Kadyrov was not detected by either his security services or sniffer dogs because, reportedly, it had been built into the concrete of a supporting column in the structure in which he was located at the time of the blast. This fact casts doubt on the idea that the bomb was the work of opposition Chechen guerrillas. – Ed.]
[Maskhadov was a leader of the Chechen independence movement and 3rd President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. He was elected President of Chechnya with 60% of the vote in January 1997, in elections deemed relatively fair by international observer groups. Following the start of the Second Chechen War in August 1999, he returned to leading the guerrilla resistance against the Russian army. He was killed in Tolstoy-Yurt, a village in northern Chechnya, in March 2005, less than a month after announcing a unilateral ceasefire in hostilities with Russian forces. The head of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) Nikolay Patrushev announced that his special forces had carried out the operation, intending to capture Maskhadov alive but accidentally killing him with a grenade. Putin awarded those responsible for the killings with medals. – Ed.]
[Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist, writer, and human rights activist known for her opposition to Putin and the Second Chechen War. She made her reputation reporting from Chechnya. Her investigations and publications appeared in Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper known for its often-critical investigative coverage of Russian political and social affairs, and which now operates from abroad. In September 2004, after the Beslan hostage crisis had resulted in the deaths of 385 people (mostly hostages), Politkovskaja wrote in The Guardian newspaper: ‘We are hurtling back into a Soviet abyss, into an information vacuum that spells death from our own ignorance. All we have left is the internet, where information is still freely available. For the rest, if you want to go on working as a journalist, it’s total servility to Putin. Otherwise, it can be death, the bullet, poison, or trial—whatever our special services, Putin’s guard dogs, see fit.’ She was found dead in the elevator in her apartment building in central Moscow on 7 October 2006, Putin’s birthday. She had been shot twice in the chest, once in the shoulder, and once in the head at point-blank range. –Ed.]
[Baisarov was a Chechen warlord and former Federal Security Service (FSB) unit commander who was shot dead in central Moscow in November 2006. He had accused Ramzan Kadyrov of directing numerous political murders and kidnappings, and of trying to hunt him down to eliminate competition. A few days before his death, about 50 Chechen police officers arrived in Moscow from Chechnya. Information indicated that the first deputy prime minister of Chechnya, Adam Delimkhanov, was supervising the group. Baisarov’s FSB guard was suddenly removed, and several of his comrades were taken into custody and sent back to Chechnya. Two of three oil wells controlled by Baisarov outside Pobedinskoye were destroyed.
Allegedly, Baisarov had intended to give evidence on the Anna Politkovskaya assassination. In Moscow, he tried to make contact with the Lubyanka (FSB headquarters) to prove his innocence, but was soon told not to call any more. He was killed as he emerged from his car and approached a group of plain-clothes Chechens, who shouted and fired at him with automatic weapons before fleeing by car. Most of the bullets struck him in the head. The Moscow prosecutor’s office classified the killing as murder and determined that Baisarov had suffered 11 bullet wounds. Shells from assault rifles, standard-issue police pistols, and a Stechkin APS machine pistol were found at the scene. Most of the shots were fired at point blank range. – Ed.]
[Litvinenko was a fugitive officer of the Russian FSB who specialized in combating organized crime. In November 1998, he and several other FSB officers publicly accused their superiors of ordering the assassination of the Russian tycoon and oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko was arrested twice in 1999 and 2000 but released both times. He eventually fled to London with his wife, Marina, and family, and was granted asylum in the UK, where he worked as a journalist, writer and consultant for British intelligence. On 1 November 2006, he suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized. His illness was attributed to poisoning with polonium-210, a radioactive isotope, after the Health Protection Agency found significant amounts of the highly toxic element in his body. Litvinenko stated that he had met with two former KGB agents early on the day he fell ill – Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoy. A leaked US diplomatic cable revealed that Kovtun had left polonium traces in the house and car he had used in Hamburg. The men also introduced Litvinenko to a tall, thin man of central Asian appearance called ‘Vladislav Sokolenko,’ described by Lugovoy as a business partner.
Litvinkenko died on November 23rd. On 20 January 2007, British police announced that they had ‘identified the man they believe poisoned Alexander Litvinenko. The suspected killer was captured on cameras at Heathrow as he flew into Britain to carry out the murder.’ The man in question was the one introduced to Litvinenko as ‘Vladislav.’ As of 26 January 2007, British officials said police had solved the murder of Litvinenko. They discovered ‘a “hot” teapot at London’s Millennium Hotel with an off-the-charts reading for polonium-210, the radioactive material used in the killing.’ In addition, a senior official said investigators had concluded the murder was ‘a “state-sponsored” assassination orchestrated by Russian security services.’ The police wanted to charge former Andrei Lugovoy, who met Litvinenko on 1 November 2006, the day officials believe the lethal dose of polonium-210 was administered.
On 22 May 2007 the Crown Prosecution Service called for the extradition of Andrei Lugovoy to the UK on charges of murder. Lugovoy dismissed the claims against him as ‘politically motivated’ and was later elected to the Russian parliament as a member of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) of Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Kovtun was hospitalised in Moscow with radiation poisoning in December 2006. He said he had only one explanation for the presence of polonium: ‘It is that I brought it back from London, where I met Alexander Litvinenko on October 16th, 17th and 18th.’ British detectives, on the other hand, believe Litvinenko was not contaminated until the meeting on November 1st. On 2 October 2011, The Sunday Times published an article in which the chief prosecutor who investigated the murder of Litvinenko publicly expressed suspicion that it was a ‘state directed execution’ carried out by Russia. Until that time, British officials had stopped short of directly accusing Russia of involvement in the poisoning. In January 2015, it was reported in the UK media that the National Security Agency had intercepted communications between Russian government agents in Moscow and those who carried out what was called a ‘state execution’ in London: the recorded conversations allegedly proved that the Russian government was involved in Litvinenko’s murder, and suggested that the motive was Litvinenko’s revelations about Vladimir Putin’s links with the criminal underworld. – Ed.]
[Patarkatsishvili was a Georgian businessman who came third in the January 2008 Georgian presidential election with 7.1% of the vote. He became the wealthiest citizen in Georgia with an estimated wealth of $12 billion, and was one of the country’s biggest philanthropists when he died. He had supported the rise of Mikheil Saakashvili in 2003 when Eduard Shevardnadze was losing his grip on power, and had close ties with exiled Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky, a sworn enemy of Vladimir Putin. However, Patarkatsishvili reputedly had close ties to Putin as well. In February 2008, at age 52, he collapsed in his mansion in Surrey, England, and was pronounced dead in less than ten minutes. Preliminary reports indicated a heart attack as the cause of death, and coroners apparently found his death ‘consistent with death due to coronary heart diseases.’ Surrey police treated the case as ‘suspicious,’ however, and some believed assassination a serious possibility. –Ed.]
[Troshev was a Russian Colonel General and formerly the commander of the North Caucasus Military District, including Chechnya, during the Second Chechen War. He was awarded a Hero of Russia award. Early in the Second Chechen War he declared that the shattered city of Grozny should never be rebuilt so as to serve as a warning to Russia’s ethnic minorities against ‘treason.’ Putin signed a decree dismissing Troshev from his post in 2002, after the general publicly defied the suggestion of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov that he be transferred from the North Caucasus to the Siberian Military District. Troshev died in 2008 when the passenger plane he was flying in crashed, leaving no survivors. Russian officials have dismissed public suspicions that the plane might have been sabotaged. A week after Troshev’s death, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov renamed a street in Grozny after Troshev. – Ed.]
Patriarch Alexy II
[Alexy II was the 15th Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’ and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Elected Patriarch of Moscow eighteen months before the collapse of the USSR, he became the first Russian Patriarch of the post-Soviet period. During his first official visit to Germany in 1995, he publicly apologized for the ‘Communist tyranny that had been imposed upon the German nation by the USSR.’ In response, Russian Communists and the Russian National Bolshevik Party accused him of insulting the Russian nation and of treason. Alexy II also generated opposition within the Russian Orthodox Church by engaging in ecumenical dialogue with representatives of other religious groups and by publicly condemning anti-Semitism. He responded by saying that such people did not represent the opinions of the church, but were instead expressing their own private views as free citizens. He died of heart failure in his home in 2008 at the age of 79. – Ed.]
[Gaidar was a Soviet and Russian economist and author, and Acting Prime Minister of Russia from June to December 1992. He was the architect of the controversial shock therapy reforms administered in Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Many Russians held him responsible for the economic hardships in the 1990s that resulted in mass poverty and hyperinflation, although liberals praised him for doing what was necessary to save the country from complete collapse. According to the BBC’s Andrei Ostalski, ‘There were only two solutions – either introduce martial law and severe rationing, or radically liberalize the economy. The first option meant going all the way back to the Stalinist system of mass repression. The second meant a colossal change, a journey – or, rather, a race – through uncharted waters with an unpredictable outcome.’ On 28 November 2006 during a conference in Ireland, the 50-year-old Gaidar fainted as he was finishing a speech. He lost consciousness and was rushed to hospital near Dublin, where doctors said there was no serious threat to his health. He soon felt better, but mass media noticed that this had happened shortly after Aleksandr Litvinenko (see above) died of polonium poisoning. In December 2009, at the age of 53, Gaidar died suddenly in his home outside Moscow while working on a book. Commenting on the death, Vladimir Putin, prime minister at the time, described Gaidar as a ‘genuine citizen and a patriot.’ – Ed.]
[Magnitsky was a Russian accountant and auditor who alleged large-scale theft from the Russian state, sanctioned and carried out by Russian officials. He was arrested and eventually died in prison seven days before the expiration of the one-year term during which he could be legally held without trial. In total, he served 358 days in Moscow’s notorious Butyrka prison. He developed gall stones, pancreatitis and a blocked gall bladder, and received inadequate medical care. A human rights council set up by the Kremlin found that he had been beaten up just before he died. His case has become an international cause célèbre and led to the US government’s adoption in 2012 of the Magnitsky bill, by which those Russian officials believed to be involved in the auditor’s death were barred from entering the US or using its banking system. In response, Putin signed into law a bill banning all adoptions of Russian children by Americans. – Ed.]
[Kalmanovich, born Šabtajus Henrikovicius Kalmanovicius in Kaunas, Soviet Lithuania, was a KGB spy who later became known in Russia as a successful businessman, concert promoter and basketball sponsor. His family emigrated to Israel when he was in his early 20s, and he began to spy on Israel for the Soviet Union. He even served as a double agent, passing Soviet secrets to Israeli intelligence. He relocated to Lithuania after the fall of the Soviet Union, and became active in business both there and in Russia.
On 2 November 2009, Kalmanovich was waiting at a traffic light in Moscow in his armored Mercedes when a Lada Prior pulled up and opened fire on him. He was hit by at least 20 bullets and died immediately. His driver was also wounded. News reports said that $1.5 million in cash was found in the car. The murder was never solved. – Ed.]
[Berezovsky was a Russian businessman, politician and mathematician who became an opponent of President Putin after the latter’s election to the presidency in 2000. In late 2000, the Russian Deputy Prosecutor General demanded Berezovsky appear for questioning, and he instead sought asylum in the UK, which granted his request in 2003. Berezovsky had made his fortune in Russia in the 1990s when the country went through privatization of state property. In 1997 Forbes magazine estimated Berezovsky’s wealth at $3 billion. He was at the height of his power in the later Yeltsin years, when he was deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council and a friend of Boris Yeltsin’s daughter Tatyana. Berezovsky helped fund Unity – the political party that formed Vladimir Putin’s parliamentary base – and was elected to parliament from Unity. However, following the Russian presidential election in March 2000, Berezovsky went into opposition and resigned from the State Duma. After he moved to Britain, the government took over his television assets and divested him from other Russian holdings. He was convicted in absentia in Russia of fraud and embezzlement.
Despite an Interpol Red Notice for Berezovsky’s arrest, Russia repeatedly failed to obtain his extradition from Britain, which became a major point of diplomatic tension between the two countries. In 2012, Berezovsky lost a London High Court case he brought over the ownership of Sibneft – a Siberian oil company – against the London-based Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, in which Berezovsky sought over £3 billion in damages. The court judged Berezovsky an ‘inherently unreliable’ witness who ‘regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be molded to suit his current purposes.’ It said: ‘At times the evidence which he gave was deliberately dishonest; sometimes he was clearly making his evidence up as he went along in response to the perceived difficulty in answering the questions.’ The court concluded that Berezovsky had never been a co-owner of Sibneft. He was found dead at his sprawling home near Ascot, Berkshire, on 23 March 2013. A post-mortem examination found his death consistent with hanging with no signs of violent struggle. However the coroner at the inquest into Berezovsky’s death later recorded an open verdict. An unidentifiable fingerprint was detected in the bathroom where Berezovsky’s body had been found. –Ed.]
‘I know for sure. Even searching for the so-called sacrificial victim among any number of significant people. I’m sorry, but they themselves crack, and then they blame the authorities.’ ~ Vladimir Putin, 29 February 2012