The Real Russia. Today. Russia’s amazing appearing, disappearing troops in Ukraine

Thursday, December 16, 2021

International: Another accidental peek at Russian troops in Ukraine, and Navalny’s daughter grants an interviewLaw and order: The businessman bearing the blame for the Listvyazhnaya coal mine, Ivan Safronov’s extended pretrial detention, Agentstvo Media investigates Safronova’s FSB tormenter, Moscow police arrest Mitrokhin for meeting with his constituents, Ivan Sachkov says he has hopes of acquittalPublic policy: (opinion) Tatiana Stanovaya breaks down Russia’s new public administration reforms, QR codes come closer to public places, a filmmaker apologizes for upsetting people with talk of politics, and Russia’s Central Bank is reportedly suspicious of crypto

International

⚖️ Journalists uncover Rostov court verdict referring to Russian military personnel deployed to ‘people’s republics’ in eastern Ukraine (3-min read)

In a verdict handed down in November, a Russian court openly referred to the presence of Russian military personnel stationed in the “DNR and LNR” — the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics” in eastern Ukraine. As first reported by RFE/RL’s Russian Service, Leonard Sholokhov, a district court judge in Rostov-on-Don, mentioned ration supplies intended for “military units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation deployed on the territory of the DNR and LNR” in a sentence handed down in a bribery case on November 10. The text of the verdict disappeared from the Kirovsky District Court’s website after it attracted media attention, but it’s still accessible via web archive.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Daria Navalnaya, Alexey Navalny’s daughter, grants interview to Der Spiegel (In the text, she recalls her father asking her not to attend protests, says Navalny’s inclusion of his family in political campaigning is more “democratic” than “American,” and describes learning about her father’s poisoning and arrest upon returning from Germany. She says the poisoning changed him more than being imprisoned has. For her part, she hopes to get a master’s degree in psychology and return to Moscow.)

Law and order

👮 Russia jails prominent businessman Mikhail Fedyaev in connection with deadly mine accident in Siberia (4-min read)

One of the richest people in Russia, prominent businessman Mikhail Fedyaev was once predicted to take over as head of Siberia’s Kemerovo region. But on Wednesday, December 15, he was jailed pending trial in connection with a methane blast that killed 51 people at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine in November. Investigators charged Fedyaev with abuse of authority entailing grave consequences, making him the ninth defendant in the criminal case initiated over the accident. Earlier, on December 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly chastised Fedyaev over the mine’s safety. The businessman’s arrest on Wednesday coincided with Investigative Committee Head Alexander Bastrykin paying a visit to the Listvyazhnaya mine and urging the investigation team to establish “the role of the mine’s owners in the tragedy.”

⚖️ Moscow court rules to keep former journalist Ivan Safronov in pre-trial detention into January 2022

Evgeny Razumny / Vedomosti / TASS

A Moscow court has upheld the decision to prolong the detention of former journalists and Roscosmos communications advisor Ivan Safronov, who is awaiting trial for treason. For the first time in a long time, journalists were allowed to attend the hearing. Before the court announced its ruling, Safronov wished everyone a happy New Year and said that he had begun to receive letters again after several months of being denied the right to correspondence at the request of investigators. The court ruled to extend Safronov’s detention until January 7, 2022. By that time, he will have been in pre-trial custody for 18 months — the maximum period of detention at the preliminary investigation stage. However, since investigators have already handed over the case materials to the defense for review, they can petition to prolong his detention beyond this period. 

🕵️ Agentstvo Media releases report about FSB senior investigator Alexander Chaban running treason case against Ivan Safronov (The article describes how Chaban breaks down suspects with threats and empty promises, fooling these people into accepting legal assistance and even psychiatric care from individuals reporting back to the FSB. Agentstvo also found evidence of “dynasties” in the intelligence and defense sectors, as well as a rare photograph of the tiny jail cells at Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison. On Thursday, Safronov’s lawyer informed Novaya Gazeta that Chaban will seek a court order in late January for additional limits on the defense attorney’s access to the case materials.)

👮 Police arrest Moscow City Council member during meeting with constituents (Sergey Mitrokhin was trying to speak to locals about unpopular changes to public transit in the city. The authorities accused him of staging an unpermitted demonstration — an offense punishable by up to 10 days in jail. Since November 20, Moscow has changed more than 200 bus routes in a campaign to reform the city’s transportation flows. The erosion of local politicians’ freedom to meet with constituents has accelerated during the pandemic.)

⚖️ Treason-accused cybersecurity figure pens prison letter saying that his case is unrelated to Group-IB and his work there (Ilya Sachkov says this fact gives him “some hope” that he can be exonerated. Sources told Bloomberg that he allegedly gave the U.S. information about the “Fancy Bear” military intelligence operation that sought to influence the 2016 American presidential race.)

Public policy

🪆 (Opinion) The pursuit of political stability is leading Russia to a more centralized and brittle form of government (3-min read)

Political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya warns that reforms recently adopted by the State Duma to further the centralization of power in Russia’s federal government could endanger the entire political system by pinning too much on the presidency and the Kremlin’s “subjective and closed insider logic.” “Constitutional Putinism” is supposed to weed out remnants of the destabilizing “opportunism” elevated in Russia’s “Yeltsin Constitution,” Stanovaya argues in a recent essay for the Carnegie Moscow Center, but Putinism could prove to be even more prone to opportunism if it is incapable of accommodating the multiple power centers that would emerge in a serious political crisis (for example, the loss of United Russia’s parliamentary monopoly or a severe decline in the president’s popularity).

👊 Lawmakers scuffle as Russian State Duma approves first reading of controversial vaccine pass legislation (the new law would require people to present QR codes to access certain public places)

🙏 Filmmaker apologizes for suggesting that Moscow jettison the North Caucasus to protect the Russian Federation’s cohesion (Alexander Sokurov says he’s sorry for causing a public scandal and upsetting the Kremlin. In a letter to the head of the Presidential Human Rights Council, he also said he hopes Putin will protect him from any attempts on his life by offended Chechens, referring to criticism by Chechen Governor Ramzan Kadyrov.)

🪙 Sources tell Reuters that Russia’s Central Bank wants to ban investments in cryptocurrencies in Russia (the bank reportedly sees risks to financial security in the rising number of crypto transactions, though plans move ahead for a digital ruble)

Yours, Meduza

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