My latest for Russia Magazine, “Did Vladislav Surkov Help Fund Neo-Nazis?“:
It’s long been rumored that Vladislav Surkov funded and directed football hooligans and Russian nationalists to attack Russian oppositionists. But there has been little direct proof to pin on the Grey Cardinal of the Presidential Administration (PA). It was all just rumors, albeit believable ones. The truth, however, might be coming out. Since last May, the security services have been collecting information on Surkov’s connections with right-wing groups, particularly in the formation and funding of the neo-Nazi group Russkii obraz. The significance of this possible connection is big. Russkii obraz is where Ilya Goryachev got his start in the neo-Nazi business. Goryachev is currently on trial for masterminding several murders as the leader of the Military Organization of Russian Nationalists (BORN) between 2007 and 2010. Goryachev was extradited from Serbia last November to stand trial in Russia. BORN’s kill list includes Federal Judge Eduard Chuvashov, antifascist activists Ivan Khutoskii and Ilya Dzhaparidze, Thai boxing world champion Muslim Abdullaev, the lawyer Stanislav Markelov, and Novaya gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova. If Goryachev’s alleged links to the Kremlin implicates in several murders. And Goryachev’s connections to the Kremlin are coming from an unlikely source: Nikita Tikhonov, a former compatriot of Goryachev and co-founder of BORN. Tikhonov is serving a life sentence along with Yevgenia Khasis, who’s serving eighteen years, for Markelov’s and Baburova’s murder in 2011. Tikhonov is providing testimony in Goryachev’s upcoming trial, and some of the transcripts point to a link between neo-Nazis and the PA. Is Tikhonov testimony true? Is there a deeper meaning behind outing Surkov and his allies’ connections to neo-Nazis?
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By Sean — 9 years ago
The barrage of mass protest fired in Russia’s far east ten days ago echoed with a whimper as opponents of the import car tax hike staged actions across Russia. Today’s protests lacked the manpower of the previous ones, and in Vladivostok, the epicenter of the movement, OMON easily dispersed a crowd of around a 500 people. Police detained about 30 100 people among them included protesters, onlookers, journalists, and broadcast footage by REN-TV’s Valentina Troshina. Here’s a BBC video of the zachistka.
The columns of cars which were so successful in paralyzing Vladivostok ten days go also had limited success. One column of around 40 cars were able to make it to the center of town where the honked their horns. Another column of about 30 cars jammed Magnitagorsk street, while a third of about 30 cars waved flags as they circled the town center. No mass traffic disruption seemed to materialize.
In addition to Vladivostok, sparsely attended protests occurred throughout the country. Actions in South Sakhalin, Barnaul, Blagoveshchensk, Tomsk, Kemerovo, and Khabarovsk were without incident. Police reported that about 25 people (another source says 150) gathered in legal protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg, a number that was completely overshadowed by the 1,500 police and 600 GUVD officers mobilized to contain the actions. About 300 people gathered on Lenin Square in Novosibirsk without incident.
The Vladivostok protests were called hastily, poorly organized and mired in confusion. According to RIA Novosti, the call for today’s protests came from car enthusiast websites. Auto organizations said that they never called for a protest and weren’t going to participate in it. In fact, Dmitrii Penyaz, the leader of the Society for the Defense of Drivers and provincial Duma rep, urged his supporters to not participate in Sunday’s illegal action claiming that they were the work of opportunists. “Now we clearly see the jobbery of our problem among you–unknown provocateurs encourage mass disorder for the purpose of not solving our painful problems, but for the destabilization of the situation in the region.”
It does appear that opposition parties of all stripes are jumping on the tax protest bandwagon. For example, in Kaliningrad, the local branches of the KPRF, Patriots of Russia, the Left Front, and the National Bolsheviks used the car protests to agitate against corruption, high fuel costs, and public services. Most of the protesters, however, carried signs and slogans about the car tax. On Friday, the newly constituted “opposition” force, Solidarity, gave their support to the car tax protesters. In a statement published in Ezhednevnyi zhurnal, they said the tax hike was Putin’s effort to “protect oligarchs close to him, the owners of automakers S. Chemezov (AvtoVaz) and O. Deripaska (AvtoGaz). Such actions have no use except to raise the price of cars and preserve the remaining Russian auto industry. In fact, in choosing between the 20 million motorists and the oligarchs, Putin chose the latter.” The statement went on to call for officials to drive domestic made cars.
To Solidarity’s and other Russian liberals’ chagrin, the domestic upheaval they’ve all been wishing and waiting for didn’t happen. And if recent polls are any indication, they won’t happen anytime soon. Plus if the nightmare scenarios being peddled in relation to the proposed changes to the treason law have any validity, the Kremlin won’t let it happen anyway.
One possible reason for Sunday’s low turnout is that Putin made a preemptive strike. Putin’s move: economic nationalism to feed protestors’ economism. First, he called on the social sector, police and rescue services to buy domestic cars, saying the government would allocate $450 million to fund. He encouraged state owned companies and large private companies to do the same. In addition, Russia’s state investment bank is considering giving Russia’s “Big Three” a total of $616 million in loans to help prop up the industry. Lastly, Putin suggested that next year the government would begin to subsidize loans for individuals to buy domestic cars under $12,500 or less. Whether this will change Russians’ preference for foreign cars is unknown, and probably unlikely.
This is all nice, but wholly ineffective in the long term. Especially since Russia is now intimately tied to global capitalism. The current economic crisis has shown that while capital remains uneven, it shockwaves bat all nation’s shores. Remember VVP, as Marx famously wrote, capital batters all “Chinese walls.” You might as well recognize that Russia’s walls are in the dead center of capital’s cannonade.Post Views: 50
By Sean — 10 years ago
The Russians are evil and pose a clear and present danger to Britain. That’s at least what being spewed in the British press. Recent days have been a reminder of the frozen relations between Britain and Russia.
First there was the short but tense meeting between British PM Gordon Brown and Russian President Medvedev at the G8. The latter gave the former “short shrift” reports the Financial Times,
Mr Medvedev was in no mood to give ground in the hour-long talks, believing that Mr Brown had deliberately soured the atmosphere by raising the issues, instead of looking exclusively to the future. Russian diplomats were also furious at reports in the British press last week which suggested London was awash with Russian spies. Moscow believes the leak came from MI5, the British security service.
Then there is the belief among the British security service that Russia presents the third greatest threat to British security. The Slavic nation follows Al-Qaeda and Iran. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride. Oh, how we wish for the days of the Cold War. Or are the British suggesting an new Axis of Evil?
Well, one could ignore the British report and the Medvedev-Brown tiff as business as usual. That is if it wasn’t followed by some outlandish assertions regarding the Litvinenko Affair and the FSB’s apparent love for poison.
The BBC’s Mark Urban is claiming that a senior British security official believes that “the Litvinenko case to have had some state involvement; there are very strong indications that it was a state action.” Also thanks to MI5’s deftness, an assassination attempt against Boris Berezovsky was thwarted last June. The supposed assassin, a certain “Mr. A,” was arrested and deported on 21 June 2007. Berezovsky told Newsnight that Mr. A wasn’t put on trial because “British intelligence did not want to reveal the source who had warned them that Mr A was traveling to London.” Ian Flemming couldn’t have plotted it better.
True, the Litvinenko story went beyond sense months ago. So much so, I wouldn’t be surprised if Berezovsky digs up Litvinenko’s radioactive corpse and starts wheeling it around a la Weekend at Bernie’s just to squeeze more press out of it.
Litvinenko is back in the funny papers just in time to draw interest in Andrei Nekrasov’s anti-Putin diatribe, Poisoned by Polonium. I saw the film a few weeks ago and I have to say that it was two of the most excruciating hours I’ve spent in a long time.
The plot is simple. Here we have good matured Sasha Litvinenko, who after becoming disillusioned by the FSB’s brutality in Chechnya and corruption among his colleagues, dedicates his life exposing its corruption and criminality. Conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory follows. The FSB blew up those Moscow apartments in 1999. The FSB conspired to take over the Russian state. The FSB engaged in all sorts of smuggling, extortion and mafiaesque acts. The film clearly uses Litvinenko’s book Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror as its Bible and like any biblical tale is full of folklore and prophecy.
The problem with Nekrasov’s portrayal of power, corruption, and brutality in Russia’s secret police is that he lumps the real with the fiction. Real conspiracy with its theoretical musing. There is no doubt in my mind that FSB agents, especially in the 1990s had links to organized crime. Just like I believe that there are elements in the FSB who continue to do so. But to equate the completely outlandish with the probable and then have no evidence to actually prove either makes the viewer walk away thinking that the only nuts in the celluloid jar are Nekrasov and Litvinenko.
Moreover, the film isn’t really about Litvinenko’s poisoning at all. It is merely the cherry on top of a decade long plot by Putin and his gang. Images of a bald, feeble Sasha doesn’t appear until the last 15 minutes or so. Most of the time we see a fit Sasha incessantly rattling away at his ideas. So the viewer learns little about Litvinenko’s actual poisoning. The perpetrator, Putin through his FSB proxy, is merely a logical conclusion of a long string of nefarious deeds. Chief suspect Andrei Lugovoi does makes a short appearance where he speaks nonsense. His presence, however, allows for the film’s only intentional comedic moment. At one point he offers Nekrasov a cup of tea. The filmmaker politely declines.
There are some notable people missing. Sure Berezovsky is there and he always good for a few laughs. Surprisingly, BAB’s chief propagandist, Alexander Goldfarb, is absent. As is a single interview with a British or Russian investigator to corroborate any of Nekrasov’s or Litvinenko’s allegations. Nor is it ever explained how Litvinenko, who was never that high in the FSB hierarchy, was able to know so much. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that Anna Politkovskaya also comes off as a total nut. Not so much from what she says but the fact that she’s looks and moves like a crazy person.
If pressed to say one positive thing about Poisoned by Polonium, it would be that Nekrasov is a master visual propagandist. His film eye is excellent. He has a knack for angled shots that add drama and suspense. His editing of stock footage, news clips, and interviews makes for a visually interesting film even if the content is complete crap.
Even if Litvinenko has slid to the back pages, it seems that there might be another toxic corpse on the horizon to pin on the Russians. About a week ago, British super spook Alex Allan, who chairs Britain’s Government’s Joint Intelligence Committee, was found unconscious in his home covered in blood. He now lies in the hospital in a coma. Given Allan’s position, British investigators haven’t totally ruled out foul play. Such beliefs, whether they are true or not makes from some good kompromat. And if you’re looking for kompromat, look no forward than the Sun, Britain’s newspaper of nonsense.
“Top security expert” Chris Dobson told the Sun for sordid “Did Russians or al-Qaeda poison Britain’s top spy?” that Allen is a prime target simply by virtue of his job to oversee and coordinate “every aspect of [the British” intelligence community.” Dobson continued,
“The nature of his sudden illness, if it is an assassination attempt, points towards the FSB, successors of Russia’s KGB. They are the masters of assassination by poison.
“They were blamed by Britain for the death of Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive polonium poisoning in London in 2006. And anti-Russian Vicktor Yashenko was horribly disfigured by poison which almost killed him during the election which made him President of the Ukraine.
“So Mr Putin, the former KGB colonel who runs Russia, ‘has form’. And he has become increasingly aggressive towards Britain, accusing us of espionage plots against Russia. Al-Qaeda is another suspect.
They would see his death as a great victory, fulfilling Osama Bin Laden’s threat to strike at the heart of the ‘infidel enemy’. What better target than the man whose job is dedicated to wiping them out?”
“He is therefore a prime target. The nature of his sudden illness, if it is an assassination attempt, points towards the FSB, successors of Russia’s KGB. They are the masters of assassination by poison.”
So I guess it’s just a matter of picking your poison. Al-Qaeda or the FSB. Or maybe they are just working together! Now there’s a plot for Poisoned by Polonium II.Post Views: 47
By Sean — 1 year ago