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Kashin and Navalny are at each other's throats over Zolotov's sausages

Meduza

Columnist Oleg Kashin and anti-corruption activist and politician Alexey Navalny are at each other’s throats this week, following Kashin’s latest op-ed in Republic, where he speculates that Russia’s Federal Security Service leaked data from its investigation into corruption at the National Guard to Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation. Kashin says Navalny might have received this information anonymously, meaning that even he might be unaware about its origins, and the data could have come from anyone in the government: from a frustrated secretary at the Federal Antimonopoly Service to the very head of the FSB, perhaps wishing to “fight in silence.”

In any event, Kashin says National Guard head Viktor Zolotov must have known about the federal investigations into his agency, and this is presumably why he recently challenged Navalny to a “duel,” in the hopes of shifting the Kremlin’s focus from an FSB investigation to a more sympathetic battle against “unashamed oppositionist-slanderers.” (Kashin insists that Zolotov is institutionally weak and vulnerable to attacks from other law enforcement agencies.)

Navalny is naturally unhappy about Kashin’s suggestion that the Anti-Corruption Foundation acts as a front for the FSB in Russia’s institutional warfare. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Navalny dismissed Kashin as a has-been writer who relies on clickbait essays to fund his expensive lifestyle as an emigre in London, echoing some of the criticism against Kashin and Republic recently voiced by Yevgenia Albats, after Kashin criticized a crowdfunding drive that miraculously saved her magazine, The New Times, from bankruptcy. (Albats objected to Kashin’s “Nazi-type” mockery of Ukrainian culture in an interview with Echo of Moscow.)

Navalny also insists that the Anti-Corruption Foundation unearthed the National Guard’s corruption independently, arguing that his team’s research is far broader than the reported investigations by the FSB and Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office, which are apparently limited to purchases of sausages and hot dogs at inflated prices.

This week, Kashin invited additional ridicule from across Russia’s liberal intelligentsia by appearing on the Rossiya 1 state television network on Wednesday, where he made hawkish remarks about Ukrainian political prisoner Oleg Sentsov. (Less controversially, Kashin also criticized journalist Arkady Babchenko’s “Person of the Year” award from Time magazine.)

Update: On December 13, Russia's National Guard stated that it will conduct an internal audit with the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office and “Russian counterintelligence” to review its food-supply purchases between 2017 and 2018. The agency's press release also lashes out at “manipulative investigative reports” and defends the company “Friendship of the Peoples,” which Navalny's researchers say belongs to someone with close ties to Viktor Zolotov.

Kevin Rothrock

Photo on front page: Pixabay