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Kashin-Yakemenko Feud Heats Up

D-List celebrity death match, anyone?

Just in case you thought the Kashin Affair was going away, think again.  And the story isn’t about the police investigation into who beat the Kommersant reporter half to death last November, though Dimitry Medvedev assured the world last Thursday that progress was being made in the case.  I’m sure most, including myself, were resigned to the fact that Kashin’s attackers would never be caught.

The real story concerns the feud between Kashin and Rosmolodezh chief and Nashi founder Vasili Yakemenko.  Kashin has been indirectly pointing the finger at Yakemenko for his beat down for months.  Kashin’s theory gained new currency this week when media critic Alexander Morozov wrote that investigators are convinced the attackers are followers of Yakemenko, but can’t move forward without political sanction.  In response Kashin reiterated his certainty of Yakemenko’s connection.  “I have no doubt,” he wrote, “in the “Yakemenko” version, and I have no other versions.”

Yakemenko apparently has had enough.  He rang up his lawyer and ordered him to submit a request that a criminal case be filed against Kashin.  A defamation suit might follow in the coming days.

Or in the words of Alexander Sannikov, Nashi’s lawyer:

Oleg Kashin is much more popular not for his beating at the hands of unknown assailants last fall, than for his articles.  Therefore, the story has died down, Kashin has once again decided to throw fuel on the fire, and spread lies about the alleged participation of Vasili Yakemenko in what happened.  His statements about Yakemenko, which, I remind you, don’t even pertain to the investigation, and defame an innocent person. In our view, such fabrications are impermissible.  Therefore Vasili Yakemenko is going to take it to court and win this case.

Another lawsuit!?  Yes another in a long litigious line.  The lawsuit has become a favorite weapon of Yakemenko and his Nashists to wield against their enemies. In September 2010, Yakemenko and his brother Boris won 150,000 rubles from Novaya gazeta and Ekho Moskvy, only to have the ruling rescinded in December. In November 2010, Yakemenko filed a suit against Public Chamber member Marat Gelman for suggesting he was behind Kashin’s beating, and planned suits against Yulia Latynina and Boris Nemtsov.  These are only the most recent.  As the head of Nashi, Yakemenko first got his legal groove on in 2006 when he sued Gazeta.ru for 100,000 rubles for slander.

Nashi has continued the precedent Yakemenko set five years ago.  In the last few years Nashi has filed suits against Alexander Podrabinek, Evgenii Albats, Boris Nemtsov (more than once), Garry Kasparov, Ekho Moskvy, Kommersant, Novaya gazeta, Gazeta.ru and even the French newspapers Le Monde and Le Journal du Dimanche, Germany’s Frankfurter Rundschau, and Britain’s The Independent. Hell, even the Mishki, Nashi children’s group auxilitary, sued Radio Svoboda in 2008 to defend its honor. Nashi’s record has been mixed.  It’s won some, lost some, and had few thrown out of court. United Russia’s Molodaya Gvardiia utilizes the same tactic.

One thing is clear from all this litigiousness.  The number of lawsuits Yakemenko and Nashi have filed to defend their honor is in inverse proportion to the amount of honor they actually possess. But everyone knows that these suits aren’t about honor anyway.  It’s about politics.  I don’t think that Yakemenko & Co. really take these legal moves seriously.  These lawsuits are just irritants, and by now are part of the tit-for-tat political game among Russia lesser political denizens.

I’m sure knowing this, Kashin is taking Yakemenko’s salvo against him as one big joke.

And why wouldn’t he?  Kashin’s nemesis is currently smack-dab in the middle of his own scandal.  An investigative committee in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny in Tatarstan confirmed that Yakemenko was indeed connected to the company Akbars and the notorious “Area 29” gang in the 1990s.  Yakemenko’s connections to Akbars and the gang “29 Group” were first reported by Vedomosti back in November. The “29 Group” was known for chopping off the heads and hands of local traders and was responsible for at least fourteen murders between 1993 and 2001. In 2006, 32 members of the “29 Group” were convicted for those murders and a number of other crimes.

During the investigation into Yakemenko’s connection to the company, Nail Nuriakhmetov, a member of “ 29 Group” gang and co-founder of Akbars, confirmed that Yakemenko worked for the company and had connections with its founders, but stopped short of saying what exactly the head of Rosmolodezh did there. What is clear is that according to records filed in 1994, Yakemenko, along with four others, owned 18.69 stake in the company. Yakemenko’s press secretary claimed that the founders of Akbars illegal used his passport when they registered the company.  Oh, yes, of course, that’s what happened. So much for Yakemenko being a model for youth.

This isn’t the first scandal Yakemenko has been embroiled in the last few months, the most defamatory of which was his alleged affair with a sixteen year old girl named  Anastasia Korchevskaya at camp Seliger in 2008.

Russia being Russia, the land where, according to many, nothing happens by coincidence, suggests that Yakemenko’s connection to Akbars resurfaced (spurred by request by Ilya Yashin, who has been so kind as to supply scans of the relevant investigative materials on his blog) might have a larger subtext. Political analyst Aleksi Makarkin told Nezavisimaya gazeta, “The mere fact that someone was questioned in this affair and the results of the investigation appeared on the Internet indicates a serious bureaucratic struggle.”  There might be some truth to this if you consider last November’s tift between Arkady Dvorkovich and Yakemenko over the latter’s proposal to institute physical fitness in schools and universities as having substance.  Dvorkovich called Yakemenko’s idea a “nightmare,” sparking a mini-drama in the media.  It’s hard to say since it’s always assumed that there is a struggle behind the scenes whenever the dirty deeds of a Kremlin official comes to light.

But if there is some truth to this, Kashin is the last thing Yakemenko should be worried about. That is of course this latest lawsuit is a way to conveniently divert attention away from his alleged criminal past.

Update:

Oleg Kashin was on Ekho Moskvy’s Osoboe mnenie and was asked about Yakemenko’s legal actions.

Tatiana Felgengauer: But all the same, today I shall ask you to talk about your various roles.  For starters, we see Oleg Kashin as a newsmaker.  The issue is that today Vasilii Yakemenko is planning on filing a suit against you for spreading defamatory information. Why is the head of the Federal Agency of Youth Affairs going after you in this way?

Oleg Kashin: The story is this.  I have not received any kind of subpoena and I can’t say anymore.  But colleagues at Interfax, who are also following this affair, confirmed today that he did not issue a suit today.  And I think, I will add, that he will never issue it.  Because we already witnessed how he already promised to issue one against Marat Gelman in November, but there is no trial and no lawsuit.  And for me, I don’t think he generally wants to go to court, his people don’t want to go to court, and bring evidence because that phrase “I don’t doubt the Yakemenko version”, well, he would have to prove in court, that I defamed him, and for all intents and purposes that I doubt the theory.

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