news

The Real Russia. Today. A journalist is threatened for reporting millions spent on helicopters; a Krasnodar judge’s daughter gets married in style (and controversy); and Ramzan Kadyrov is laughing about LGBT people

Meduza
13:17, 17 july 2017

Follow the money

Get to the chopper! This year, the Russian state oil giant Rosneft will spend 21 billion rubles ($354 million) on helicopter transportation — more than any other oil company on the planet. This is according to new calculations by the newspaper Vedomosti, which added up procurement orders placed by Rosneft and its subsidiaries. In terms of helicopter transportation spending, Rosneft’s nearest competitor appears to be the Norwegian company Statoil, which spent 17 billion rubles ($284 million) last year. Vedomosti’s study indicates that Rosneft by itself is ordering 1,640 hours of helicopter flights for $235 million, meaning that every hour will cost roughly $143,300 — significantly more than rival companies reportedly pay. Story in Russian

  • Context: Transparency International has pointed out that there are no limitations on Rosneft’s helicopter spending, and transporting Russian state officials on these flights is not regarded legally as a bribe.

And what happened to that story’s reporter? Vedomosti journalist Rinat Sagdiyev has filed a police report claiming that he started receiving threats after writing about Rosneft’s spending on helicopter transportation. Sagdiyev wrote on Facebook that he believes the threats are likely coming from someone connected to the companies that are providing the helicopter services to Rosneft. Vedomosti’s publisher, Business News Media, says it’s taking the threats against Sagdiyev seriously, insofar as the messages indicate that the reporter could be under surveillance. Story in Russian

A wedding to remember. A judge in Krasnodar has denied allegations that her daughter was recently married in a ceremony that supposedly cost $2 million. Over the weekend, a lawyer named Sergey Zhorin published footage from the wedding, showing several Russian pop stars in attendance. Zhorin says the bride was also gifted a Bentley. Judge Elena Khakhaleva, meanwhile, says her ex-husband, a wealthy businessman, paid for the engagement, and denies that it cost so much. She has also accused Zhorin of working on behalf of certain interests who allegedly sought to blackmail her into siding with them on some case, though she’s offered no names. Story in Russian

  • Context: The Krasnodar regional judicial council says it has found no reason to investigate Khakhaleva’s finances. In 2016, according to her financial disclosures, she earned 2.6 million rubles ($43,800). In June 2017, a local pensioner filed a complaint with the Kremlin against Khakhaleva and several other judges in the Krasnodar region, claiming that they reached verdicts illegally in order to transfer land away from people to a former partner of a mafia group once led by Sergey Tsapok.

Sistema’s ongoing struggles. Russian conglomerate Sistema said on Monday it had run into a technical default on 3.9 billion rubles ($66 million) of debt due to an asset freeze as part of its legal dispute with oil company Rosneft. The default, which is due to non-compliance with certain conditions of some of its credit facilities, is purely formal in nature and Sistema continues to service its obligations in a timely manner and in full, it said in a statement. Story at Reuters

Law and order

A journalist’s police troubles. Police in Orenburg have refused to open a criminal case in response to an attack on a local journalist. On July 6, a pro-Kremlin activist smashed Maxim Kurnikov’s smartphone, when he approached outside Alexey Navalny’s campaign office in Orenburg, where a group was protesting. Officials say Kurnikov never filed a police report, though the journalist insists that he did. The man accused of breaking the phone says he only covered his face with his hands, and Kurnikov merely dropped his phone on his own. Story in Russian

  • Context: Since early July, police have been raiding Navalny’s campaign offices across the country on claims that his staff is conducting illegal campaign activity. Earlier this month, Meduza examined the legality of this charge. Story in English

Crypto-extremism. After receiving a suspended criminal sentence this May for inciting hatred and offending the feelings of religious people, videoblogger Ruslan Sokolovsky has switched his crowdfunding efforts to cryptocurrency, following the Russian government’s decision to block access to his accounts on PayPal and WebMoney, in light of his extremism conviction. Sokolovsky is known for filming himself playing Pokemon Go inside a cathedral in Yekaterinburg in order to test the country’s laws against sacrilegious behavior. Story in Russian

  • Context: Also this week, several prominent Russian videobloggers have petitioned the Russian government to amend Russia’s law against hate speech, which is often used as a pretext to prosecute Internet users for dissident behavior online. The bloggers are also asking that Ruslan Sokolovsky be removed from the federal government’s list of terrorists and extremists. Story in Russian

More food for the wrecking ball? Moscow city officials might include an additional 1,500-1,600 buildings in a controversial plan to remodel aging Soviet-era apartment homes, two unnamed sources close to the mayor’s office told the newspaper Vedomosti. The decision will reportedly depend on a homeowners meeting scheduled for July 20, though voting on the renovation project wrapped up on June 15. Story in Russian

  • Context: In voting held between May and June, 4,079 apartment homes reportedly voted in favor of the city’s renovations. Resident in homes slated for demolition will have three compensation options: resettlement in another home of equal market value or equal square footage, or a cash payment. Muscovites will be resettled in the same districts they currently inhabit. The offer also extends to commercial enterprises in affected buildings.

Laughing about LGBT

  • “Regarding Kadyrov’s interview, honestly it’s pretty often that his comments are just taken out of context. If you look at them in context, nothing out of the ordinary was said.” ~ Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesman

Ramzan Kadyrov says if there are any gay people in Chechnya they should be removed in order to “purify the blood of the Chechen people.” In an interview with HBO’s “Real Sports,” the head of the Chechen Republic said, "We will put the world on its knees and screw it from behind." The full interview airs on Tuesday, July 18. Watch advance excerpts on Twitter

Yours, Meduza