Are there any more questions about who’s in charge? I think this says it all . . .
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By Sean — 9 years ago
Anyone who watches the goings on in Russia knows about last week’s police raid of the human rights organization Memorial in St. Petersburg. The six hour search by masked, truncheon wielding agents has received forceful, cautious and hysterical condemnation as people try to figure out why the hard drives and computer files, financial records, archival documents about Stalinist repression were confiscated. While the English language press is shrieking Stalinism redux (A strange assertion since a very large international academic conference on Stalinism took place in Moscow this weekend.), the Russian media is hardly mentioning Stalinism and are playing up other but no less fantastic angles. For example, one theory that is gathering steam is that Memorial was raided because it recently screened the film Rebellion: Litvinenko Case.
If the conspiracy theories put forward to explain the raid weren’t strange enough, the official story is even stranger. According to LJ user lev_k, who has given a step by step account of the raid, the search is connected to an extremism investigation of Novyi Peterburg. The extremist track in question is an article published last summer called “General Rodionov – There’s a Real Candidate!” by K. Chernyaev. The article spews all sorts of anti-Semitic allegations that the Gluag was created by Jews and goes so far as to suggest the occurrence of a number of ritual blood murders in Krasnoyarsk in 2005, 2006, and 2008. The authorities say that Novyi Peterburg and Chernyanev have some connection to Memorial based documents seized in a search of the newspaper’s offices. Memorial, of course, denies any connection whatsoever. “Neither Andreev [the editor of Novyi], the article’s author, or Novyi Peterburg has any connection to Memorial. We have neither good nor bad relations. We are simply not acquainted. Just how Memorial is connected to this criminal case is unknown to us.”
I assume that if there is any real connection, it will (hopefully) come out in the coming days. I doubt it. Part of me thinks that the Petersburg authorities made a bad mistake, which could be even worse because now they’ll probably do whatever necessary to save face. Nevertheless, given how extremism is being applied in all directions these days also makes me wonder if something more nefarious is at work.
Many in the Russian press believe something is afoot and are attempting to peal back the onion and discover the real story behind the “official” one.
Nezavisimaya gazeta has connected the dots as follows. The head of the investigation is Mikhail Kalganov, who has already had his name “connected to many political cases” in St. Petersburg. The most memorable was his involvement in the arrest of the Yabloko leader Maksim Reznik earlier this year. Apparently Kalganov also detained a television crew for filming a large fire in Russia’s second capital. Therefore since Kalganov has a history of harassing liberals and media, the raid against Memorial must be part of this trend.
Russia’s liberals have fed this theory. Reznik told Kommersant that “It is difficult for me to comment of activities of Investigator Mikhail Kalganov. He leads my case at the moment. How can you comment on the actions of a person who has a portrait of Felix Dzerzhinskii next to an icon in his office? If this isn’t by his own initiative, then I don’t understand why the prosecutor gives him such political cases. If this is an order from above, then this is one of the most atrocious demonstration of the country’s legal system.”
In regard to whether the raid is connected to the 20 November screening of Rebellion: Litvinenko Case, Yulii Rybakov, a Memorial worker and former Duma rep, said the following: “This film asks questions that those in power don’t want to answer.” Well, it seems that Rybakov has never seen the film and is making assumptions based on Andrei Nekrasov’s other conspiracy laden films. I’ve seen Rebellion (it as called Poisoned by Polonium when it showed in LA) and I the only reason why I could see Russian authorities not wanting to answer any questions in it is because said questions are complete nonsense. If the raid is an atrocious example of Russian governance, then Rebellion is a similar example of filmmaking.
So what was the real reason for the raid on Memorial? Do they have an embarrassing connection of a nationalist rant as the official version suggests? Do the Stalinist redux, liberal or Litvinenko conspiracy versions hold water? Or was the whole thing a serious f-up on the part of the St. Petersburg’s keystones?
As of now, I’m with the latter. That is until more information is released. For some reason, I can’t help being reminded of Jello Biafra’s faint words at the end of Lard’s “Drug Raid at 4 a.m.”
“Um, sorry, wrong house.”Post Views: 217
By Sean — 10 years ago
While the latest VTsIOM numbers demonstrate the continued collapse of Russian liberal parties, it seems that their not the only ones with a “dark cloud” hovering over their heads. Political winds appear to be pushing Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party into the rocks. As the Moscow Times summarizes:
One of its billionaire benefactors has jumped ship, while a second has disappeared and is wanted by the Prosecutor General’s Office, analysts say. In addition, Zhirinovsky’s right-hand man has left, and Alexei Mitrofanov, the party’s second most prominent member, announced last week that he was moving to A Just Russia, a pro-Kremlin party.
Still, Zhiri’s fervent nationalistic banter is expected to garner enough votes with among its mostly under 35 male demographic to slip into the State Duma. Plus even without billionaire backing, the LDPR has enough cash to last through the election cycle. This might prolong the LDPR’s collapse a little while longer. Plus ever a political showman, Zhirinovsky will certainly not disappoint when backed against the wall. While his party may soon be on its last electoral leg, I’m sure Zhiri will be around a long time hocking his brand of political buffoonery.Post Views: 43
By Sean — 9 years ago
Last Friday the State Duma passed the first reading of a law that would alter how Russian courts prosecute terrorism cases. The law, “On the making changes to individual legislative acts of the Russian Federation on the question of combating terrorism,” essentially looks to amend five statutes in the Russian criminal code to give tougher sentences to crimes committed by “terrorists.” But the stiffing of sentences is not all. The law’s authors, Vladimir Vasilev, the chair of the Duma Committee for Security, and his deputy Mikhail Grishankov, both United Russia members, also want to change Article 30 of the criminal code to allow the removal of juries in trials that not only deal with terrorism but “hostage taking, mass disorder, rebellion, espionage, sabotage, unlawfully armed organizations, high treason, violent seizure of state power.” The main argument for the removal of juries is that “in the southern regions of Russia cases are becoming more frequent where the rendering of verdicts by juries is lenient toward defendants who have been found through investigations to be members of illegally armed groups or criminal organizations who engage in terrorist and criminal activities on Russian territory.”
The reason for the leniency, according to Vasilev is that “These are republics where up to 80 percent [of people] have kinship, tribal, and family connections and traditions which forbids testifying about or act against relatives.” In addition, an atmosphere of fear exists because “jurors and their relatives are well known to terrorists.” So either juries have relational and cultural restrictions against judging kin, are being intimidated to go soft, or there is a general sympathy for rebels in places like Ingushetia. Either way, no jury, no problem.
For good reason, human rights groups and opposition parties are up in arms about these amendments. Lev Levinson from the Institute of Human Rights told Kommersant that the power of jurors “needs to be widened not reduced.” Henry Reznik, a lawyer from the Public Chamber, referenced the circularity of history, saying that “The State Duma has done what was done in Tsarist Russia after the acquittal of Vera Zasulich.” Zasulich was acquitted by a sympathetic jury in 1878 for the attempted assassination of St. Petersburg governor General Theodor Trepov. After her acquittal, juries were removed from all trials concerning state crimes. Then as now, if juries are sympathizing with “terrorists” maybe the problem is far deeper than one that can be solved by their removal.
Duma representative Viktor Iliukhin from the Communist Party basically called the law racist because of its specific reference to the “southern regions.” He called the law “an insult to the people of these regions who are depicted as indecent and unscrupulous.” Well, yes the law does seem to be based on some pretty racist assumptions. Plus, why make a real effort to protect juries when you can just do away with them?Post Views: 48