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The Real Russia. Today. Chechnya’s war on an anti-torture activist’s family
Wednesday, February 2, 2022
- The Yangulbayevs: Meduza explains the family’s history, Chechnya’s Supreme Court joins the battle, and Kadyrov boasts about an ancient meeting
- Public policy: An even more convoluted political asylum system, proposed requirements for YouTube, Poklonskaya’s new gig, (opinion) Kirill Shulika tears down the KHL, and Moscow threatens retaliation against Germany for banning RT
- The Ukraine crisis: Novaya Gazeta interviews Security Council veteran Vladimir Denisov about the Yeltsin administration’s failure to stop NATO enlargement, and (opinion) Andrey Pertsev explores the new ‘repertoires’ in Moscow officialdom
Chechnya vs. the Yangulbayevs
On Wednesday, February 2, the Chechen authorities reported that 400,000 people had joined a rally in Grozny to protest the family of prominent anti-torture activist Abubakar Yangulbayev. The demonstration came a day after Russian lawmaker Adam Delimkhanov threatened to decapitate members of the Yangulbayev family. The activist’s father, retired judge Saidi Yangulbayev, fled Russia along with his daughter on January 23 — three days after his wife, Zarema Musayeva, was forcibly taken to Chechnya. The threats against the Yangulbayev family echo menacing remarks made by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has also been leveling accusations against Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina (who is known for her investigative work in Chechnya) and human rights activist Igor Kalyapin (who, like Abubakar Yangulbayev, works for the Committee for the Prevention of Torture).
⚖️ Chechen Supreme Court chairman moves to revoke Saidi Yangulbayev’s immunity and community of judges membership (his immunity as a retired judge allowed him to avoid arrest last month when Chechen police raided his home in Nizhny Novgorod and took his wife prisoner)
🤥 Ramzan Kadyrov’s spokespeople publicize meeting with Putin, attaching photo to press release from meeting in 2017 (The Chechen leader’s aides appear to be trying to signal the president’s support. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters this week that Putin has no plans to meet with Kadyrov anytime soon. The Kremlin’s website does not indicate a recent meeting with Kadyrov, either.)
Russia’s Interior Ministry has submitted a draft of a new federal law — “On granting asylum on the territory of the Russian Federation” — for public consultation. If it is adopted, a definition of the institution of political asylum will appear in Russian law for the first time ever.
Questions asked and answered: So there’s no definition of political asylum in Russian law? Do people apply for political asylum in Russia? What about Edward Snowden? Will the new draft law make it easier to obtain asylum in Russia? Will this draft law be adopted? Are many Russian citizens granted political asylum in other countries?
📺 Professional group asks Russia’s Digital Development and Culture Ministries to require YouTube and other foreign video platforms to report reasons for content removals (the Association of Professional Users of Social Networks and Messengers says YouTube enables scammers to claim copyright ownership and force legitimate videos offline, though music industry spokespeople say it’s not a major problem)
✍️ Putin appoints Natalia Poklonskaya to serve as deputy director of Russia’s Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation (the former Crimea attorney general and State Duma deputy recently abandoned a separate appointment to serve as Russia’s ambassador to Cape Verde, citing changed “personal circumstances”)
In an essay for Republic, columnist Kirill Shulika condemns Russia’s Continental Hockey League (KHL) for failing to keep its postseason on schedule during Russia’s Omicron coronavirus wave, and he calls out the league for showing no sensitivity to sexual assault allegations against several of its Western players. After describing the disaster that possibly awaits Russia’s out-of-practice national hockey team in the upcoming Winter Olympics, and after noting that state corporations and regional budgets bear the costs of the KHL’s nightmarish season, Shulika lists the handful of Westerners now playing for Russian teams despite criminal allegations back home, including Reid Boucher, Slava Voynov, Jake Virtanen, and Brendan Leipsic.
Meanwhile, the Omsk Avangard ice hockey team felt compelled to deny rumors that adult entertainer and AVN 2021 Best New Foreign Starlet Eva Elfie received an official jersey from the team in mid-January 2022. The team later commented on the incident, denying any part in the gift. In other words, a KHL team responded to an innocent run-in with a porn star, but the league refuses to address felony charges against its players, whom it seems to recruit deliberately.
📺 Russian Foreign Ministry threatens retaliation against YouTube and German media outlets after German government bans RT DE (On February 2, Germany’s Licensing and Supervision Commission ruled that the Russia Today subdivision was broadcasting without the necessary distribution permits. RT disputes this finding.)
The Ukraine crisis
🛡️ (Interview) Russian Security Council official reflects on Moscow’s failure to stop NATO expansion in the 1990s
The newspaper Novaya Gazeta interviewed Vladimir Denisov, who served as a deputy on Russia’s Security Council in the 1990s under General Alexander Lebed, to get his recollection of how the Yeltsin administration failed to prevent NATO’s westward expansion. According to Denisov, the discussion was already in the open by 1994, though American officials apparently insisted to their Russian counterparts that enlargement was merely “hypothetical.” At the time, NATO’s future as an institution was uncertain, says Denisov, who attributes the alliance’s endurance to lobbying by its several thousand bureaucrats. “They would have staged a revolution in Europe just to save themselves,” he told Novaya.
Denisov says Washington was aware of Russia’s military collapse, which was on full display in the First Chechen War. That embarrassment convinced the U.S. that the Kremlin was only bluffing when it voiced objections to the growth of NATO. Moscow struggled to confront both the separatists in Chechnya and NATO expansion in Eastern Europe, but Denisov says Russian officials nevertheless made it clear that enlargement then would ensure “serious problems” later. The Kremlin itself was divided and unsure in its outreach to the West. Figures like Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and future President Vladimir Putin remained hopeful for years that Washington would eventually understand Russia’s security concerns. The Yeltsin administration devotedly relatively little energy to NATO — even the Security Council had no formal instructions to pursue the matter, said Denisov.
In meetings with NATO officials, General Lebed and other Russian military officers found a common language that acknowledged the shortsightedness of the alliance’s expansion, Denisov told Novaya Gazeta. American General George Joulwan allegedly told Lebed that Russia had suffered either a “knockout” or “knockdown” in its clash with the United States, arguing that it should stay down and accept defeat.
Reflecting on the evolution of tensions with NATO expansion, Denisov said Russia at least had the West’s trust back in the 1990s, but that has run out now. “The situation [in Ukraine] will blow over, but we’ll be in a worse position,” he told Novaya. “It will be either NATO’s continued expansion or Russia risks implementing its military-technical responses, and that’s a road to nowhere.”
In an essay for Republic, political expert Andrey Pertsev says Russia’s escalated tensions with Ukraine have driven many of the most visible politicians in the Putin regime — Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Vyacheslav Volodin, and others — to step outside their usual “repertoires” and behave publicly in new ways. For example, Peskov has answered a few sensitive questions more directly than usual, and Vyacheslav Volodin has indulged in some “trickster” provocations in the State Duma. Senior officials will likely return to their regular programming before long, says Pertsev, but for now Moscow’s various actors are trying to insulate themselves against others hoping to capitalize on the international tumult.
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