Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Zubayrayev case - more

Oksana Chelysheva writes:

Dear Friends,

The court session on the suit filed against Elena Maglevannaya took place on 26 March 2009 at 14.00 in Kirovskiy district court of Volgograd. The suit was filed by the chief of the LIU-15 detention colony administration, A.I. Mansvetov.

The main hearing was postponed as the defendant appealed to present the video and photo footage taken by a special commission at the ombudsman of Volgograd region less than a year ago.

Those witnesses who don't live in Volgograd were also questioned, including Zubayraev's lawyer, Musa Khadisov and two Chechen HRDs from the Human Rights Center at office of the Chechen ombusdman, Rosa Shamieva and Madina Astamirova.

The judge didn't satisfy the appeal to bring Zubayraev to give his testimony in court.

The day before the court session Musa Khadisov had a meeting with Zubayraev. During the court session he gave a detailed description of signs of torture on his body: feet with nail wounds going through, a screw in one of his knees, the wound on the head.

Shamieva and Astamirova stated some of the facts from the previous service of V.D Deripasko, the acting chair of the LIU-15 colony. He served in Chernokozovo detention center in the 2nd war campaign in Chechnya. Dogs were set on people on his orders, according to their testimonies.

Written testimony of Zubayraev was also presented to the court.

The next court session has been scheduled for April 7. Witnesses residing in Volgograd are going to be questioned.

The judge also stated that she is going to bring owners of the websites where Maglevannaya's articles were published as co-defendants.

Best regards,


Increased anti-Semitism in Norway - 2

The Jerusalem Post has republished Maya Spitzer's article in an updated version, with some of the linguistic ambiguity that characterized the article in its original form removed.

Tundra Tabloids has some interesting commentary.

Update (April 1) : the Jerusalem Post article has been removed again.

Nordic Voices has some commentary.

Update (April 2): The Jerusalem Post has published a new article, putting both sides of the argument.

See also in this blog: Increased anti-Semitism in Norway

Masters of the Baltic

0008 The Open Library is, among other things, a useful repository of older books which have been scanned in their entirety, and can be read online free of charge. The books are mostly in English, but there are over one million of them, and they include almost everything, from long out-of-print editions of the classics through works of history and philosophy to travel studies and political memoirs. I came across this enormous library via a recent post at the German-language Estland blog, which contains links to a number of fascinating books about the early development of the Baltic States. New Masters of the Baltic by Arthur Brown Ruhl (Dutton, 1921) take a detailed look at the situation of Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in the period immediately following their independence, while The main issues confronting the minorities of Latvia and Eesti (1922) is a consideration of precisely that subject.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Increased anti-Semitism in Norway

In the Jerusalem Post, Maya Spitzer discusses the continuing rise of anti-Semitic feelings and actions among the Norwegian public, which is causing grave concern to Norway's small Jewish community. According to Manfred Gerstenfeld, chairman of the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs,

"the elite, the academics, politicians and media consider themselves to be great moralists, with very little self-introspection. Their self-righteousness, arrogance, and inherited Lutheran prejudices against Jews has led to a huge amount of anti-Israel sentiment. Gaza caused these latent feelings in society to come to the fore."

Rabbi Yoav Melchior, considered the leading rabbi of Norway, said he had been "very scared during the war."

"Hatred spread in a fast, dangerous way. This was blind emotionalism against Israel and against Jews. It gets deep at the heart of Norway's emotional anti-Semitism. The current wave of anti-Semitism shows what people have been holding inside them," he said.

Update:The Jerusalem Post has now removed Maya Spitzer's article from its website following a large number of protests, apparently from Norwegian-American readers. The author has stood by her report, and we are still linking to the article via Tundra Tabloids. We'll continue to watch developments.

For a further update, see Increased anti-Semitism in Norway - 2

See also in this blog: Antisemitism in Norway and Europe

Antisemitism in Norway and Europe - II

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Arnold Meri and genocide

[this is a guest post by Eric Dickens]

Arnold Meri, who died a couple of days ago, shared his surname with the late President of Estonia, Lennart Meri. They were indeed cousins, but what they did for Estonia could hardly be more different.

Lennart Meri was a somewhat eccentric ethnologist and film-maker, who was educated abroad but spent some involuntary years (1941-46) in Siberia with his parents as a deportee. When he had grown up, Lennart went again and again to Siberia, voluntarily this time, to interview and film Finno-Ugrian peoples. And he finally became the first President of a reborn Estonia in 1991.

His cousin Arnold's exploits also led to Siberia, but in a much nastier way. Even after his death, Arnold Meri still stands accused of taking part in the notorious 1949 Deportations from Estonia, when a total of some 20,700 people were sent to various (slave) labour camps in Russia.

Arnold Meri joined the Red Army during the first Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940. He seems to have been a brave soldier and was decorated for fighting against the Germans, whom the Russians had decided were aggressors, once the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had been broken. Arnold Meri ended his WWII military career with the rank of colonel. So far, so good.

As you can read in another posting here, deportations took place in June of 1940 and again in March 1949, which is the reason they are being commemorated now, some 60 years after the latter events. Arnold Meri's hand in all this was that he helped plan and carry out the deportations specifically for the western Estonian island of Hiiumaa (Dagö, in German and Swedish). On the 25th March of that year, 251 inhabitants of that island were rounded up, taken to the Soviet base and port of Paldiski the next morning, and then sent by train (cattle wagons) from there to Siberia.

Arnold Meri also belonged to the central command structure for Estonia for the 39 so-called Destruction Battalions (hävituspataljonid) whose job it was to stamp out anti-Soviet resistance by, for instance, killing off all the Forest Brethren, an Estonian guerrilla group. He did, however, himself suffer Stalinist repression in 1951, and was not rehabilitated until 1956.

By 2003, those Estonians that wanted to bring people to trial for such crimes as the deportations saw that time was ticking away. In August 2007, Arnold Meri was charged with genocide, as 43 of the 1949-deportees in his sphere of responsibility, mostly women and children, had died in Novosibirsk. The trial was resumed in May 2008.

At this point, Russia started interfering. In that same month, the Duma clamoured for the "shameful trial" to be stopped. The Duma was worried that bringing Arnold Meri to trial would discredit the activities of the so-called anti-Hitler coalition. (This coalition seems to have been rather inactive during the validity of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact...) And now, a couple of days ago, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev posthumously awarded Arnold Meri the Medal of Honour.

While Arnold Meri may indeed have deserved such an honour for defending Russia during WWII, it is most strange that the subsequent role of this man has been conveniently airbrushed out of his official Russian obituary.

For more details about Arnold Meri, plus several links, read the Wikipedia entry here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

U.K. government boycotting Israel

The JC has a leading article on the U.K. government refusal to pass legislation that would prevent the bringing of private prosecutions for war crimes without government assent, after it promised for several years that it would do so. The paper describes this as "a shocking piece of duplicity, double-dealing and hypocrisy". In addition, it notes:

Gordon Brown has convened a meeting next week to discuss the implementation of a scheme designed to facilitate the boycott of goods produced on the West Bank - a meeting at which, conveniently and reprehensibly, there will not be a single Israeli or even Jewish community representative present. It does not take a genius to work out what will come next after a government sponsored boycott of Israeli goods and a de facto boycott of Israeli people: a wider boycott of Israel. The government talks a reasonable fame. But it acts like a street thug. These are worrying times for our community.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Different Russias

Writing in the Finnish newspaper Iltalehti, its editor-in-chief Tuomas Keskinen comments that Russian occupation has meant different things for Finland and Estonia. Sweden's defeat by Russia in 1809 and the subsequent treaty that transformed Finland into a Grand Duchy turned out to be a relative blessing for the country after 400 years of Swedish rule. On the other hand, Russia's occupation of Estonia, which Stalin began in the autumn of 1939, was of a wholly different order, and represented an illegal takeover analogous to the land-grabs practiced by the Nazis in Europe earlier in the decade.  Keskinen says that the publication  of Sofi Oksanen and Imbi Paju's new book, Kaiken takana oli pelko (Fear was behind everything, WSOY, 2009), will help Finns to understand the horrors that were experienced by the people of their smaller neighbour to the south.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Zubayrayev case - further developments

Jeremy Putley writes:

The latest information is that a human rights activist – one of the few incredibly brave individuals who investigate and report on such cases – called Yelena Maglevannaya has been arraigned on charges under article 152 of the Russian Civil Code (honour and business reputation protection), accusing Yelena of spreading information on Zubair Zubayrayev in order to destroy their good name. The first court hearing has been scheduled for March 26, Thursday, and it will be held in the Kirovsky district court of Volgograd before Judge Asatiani.

We await the verdict of the court with interest. Will the court order an investigation of the serious and credible allegations of the torture and other maltreatment of Mr Zubayrayev? Or will Yelena Maglevannaya be found guilty as charged, and sentenced to some form of punishment under what passes for justice in Volgograd these days?

See this post

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Report: cyberattacks on Georgia came from FSB and GRU

Via Axis News:

Security researchers from Greylogic published a report which concluded that the Main Intelligence Directorate of Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU) and the Federal Security Service (FSB), rather than patriotic hackers, were likely to have played a key role in co-ordinating and organising the attacks, The Register writes. More circumstantial evidence has emerged linking the Russian authorities to cyber-attacks on Georgia that coincided with a ground war between the two countries in July and August last year.

The Stopgeorgia.ru forum, which became a fulcrum for attacks of key Georgian websites last year, uses an ISP located a few doors down from GRU headquarters. Greylogic reckons the site was added as a front for state-backed cyber-attacks under the cover of cybercrime.

The StopGeorgia.ru forum was part of a bulletproofed network that relied on shell companies and false WHOIS data to (a) prevent its closure through Terms of Service violations, and (b) to mask the involvement of the Russian FSB/GRU. By mimicking the structure of the Russian Business Network, a cyber criminal enterprise, it creates plausible deniability that it is a Kremlin-funded Information Operation. Greylogic's study concludes: "The available evidence supports a strong likelihood of GRU/FSB planning and direction at a high level while relying on Nashi intermediaries and the phenomenon of crowdsourcing to obfuscate their involvement and implement their strategy." Nashi is a youth group in Russia founded four years ago to counter anti-Russian and fascist tendencies in the country. The group is supposedly funded by Russian businessmen, but a pipeline from the Kremlin is suspected, The Register says. Long-standing rumours that Russia was behind cyber-attacks on neighbouring countries were recently fuelled when State Duma Deputy Sergei Markov claimed that one of his assistants was responsible for instigating cyber-attacks against Estonia in 2007. Shortly after this, Konstantin Goloskokov, a "commissar" in Nashi, claimed he and other associates were responsible for the month-long cyber-assault on Estonia. The Project Grey Goose Phase II report is a follow-up to an October report by the same group of security researchers on the Georgian cyber war.

See also: Moscow called on cyberterrorists to attack Georgian government networks

Das Kapital - the Musical

Daniel Finkelstein's Comment Central blog has an intriguing post about a new musical that's about to hit the stage in China:

The show will take place in Shanghai where enterprising producers are hoping to introduce a new generation to the father of Communism:

We will not rule out any kind of performing style as long as it entertains our audience and helps them better understand the book

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Scottish Nashizm

Scotland's opportunistic nationalist party leader Alex Salmond is currently pitching for the support of young, disaffected Scots whose anger is diffused between issues like the banking crisis and the Middle East, and is trying to steal some of George Galloway's thunder. The results are worth pondering. In an extraordinary analysis published at Harry's Place, Tom Gallagher dissects the wide-ranging peculiarities of Salmond's new attempt to dismember the United Kingdom by means of an all-out assault essentially based in nihilism. Excerpt :

Salmond hopes to acquire leverage on Capitol Hill that will prove useful in any power-struggle with London over the terms of independence if the SNP’s vision blossoms despite the current polar economic climate. At the same time, he is reaching out to regimes in the Muslim world and looking for an injection of cash for infrastructure projects that will enable him to bypass Whitehall. First Qatar was approached in the hope that an investment fund controlled by its rulers could be persuaded to build bridges and schools in Scotland on a supposedly not-for-profit basis. In the last year, visits by Salmond to Qatar have been described as imminent but they have fallen through perhaps owing to the economic problems now faced by the United Arab emirates. Malaysia is now in the Nationalists’ sights. The Scotsman newspaper on 16 March reported that Osama Saeed, the First Minister’s chief adviser on Islamic issues had made contacts with sovereign wealth funds in Malaysia in the hope that they could be lured to Scotland. He is only recently back from the World Economic Islamic Forum in Jakarta which he attended with other luminaries of his pressure group, the Scottish Islamic Foundation. Osama Saeed does not bother to hide his contacts with Muslim Brotherhood organizations and personalities based in Britain. He has convinced not a few movers and shakers in the tight Scottish political establishment that as someone who disavows violence, he is the acceptable face of radical Islam.

Update: the results of all this are beginning to make the headlines.

The Baltic Deportations of 1941 and 1949

[this is a guest post by Eric Dickens]

A group of Russian activists and their Finnish comrades held a meeting in Helsinki yesterday, in order to protest against the seminar being held to commemorate the deportations that took place in all three Baltic countries in 1949. While this mini-demonstration in central Helsinki was copiously covered in both the Finnish and Estonian press, but hardly anywhere else, the core of the whole issue was sadly obscured, i.e. the deportations themselves. As I am a literary translator from Estonian, and the key Baltic participants at the seminar were principally from Estonia, I will focus primarily on that Baltic country. But the same happened, mutatis mutandis, in Latvia and Lithuania.

We can all laugh at the antics of the would-be subversives who got the press out en masse to photograph them and their inadvertently hilarious banner stating: "Hey, governments, STOP CHANGE A HISTORY!". Indeed, according to the Finnish tabloid Iltalehti, the Finns were laughing too. Finnish journalists were quick to point out that the Nashi crowd are a marginal phenomenon.

But this led to one very unfortunate result: the whole purport of the book launch and seminar they were demonstrating against was totally obscured, i.e. the deportations of 1941 and 1949.

A quick overview of these two deportations:

When Estonia was occupied by Soviet troops in 1940, by the orchestrations of Andrei Zhdanov, the Russians wasted no time in rounding up the President, the Cabinet and most MPs (i.e. lawmakers) and sending them to Siberia. They dangled President Konstantin Päts on a line for a while, but he too ended up in a Russian psychiatric institution (as if being the President of a "bourgeois" country deserved such treatment). Also the Chief-of-Staff, Johan Laidoner was first sacked by Päts, by now a mere puppet president, and died in 1953 after more than a decade in various Soviet prisons. The names of all the above people are listed on a plaque in Tallinn, not far away from the Dutch Embassy, up on Toompea Hill.

But not only politicians. During what are termed the June Deportations of 1941, while the Soviet Union still occupied Estonia, before being kicked out by Nazi Germany, a recent ally from the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a total of around 10,000 people are estimated to have been arrested, about 6,000 of whom ultimately died as a consequence of mistreatment of various sorts.

That was just for starters. The Soviet occupation resumed in 1944. The Germans had already fled in disarray as the Third Reich crumbled. By 1949, the Soviets were at it again. In March, a little earlier in the year this time, they and their Estonian Communist collaborators decided it was time for another bout of deportation. This time they increased the quota, so that around 20,700 people, often branded as "kulaks" because their farming methods were too efficient, were rounded up and sent to Siberia in cattle trucks. So, almost eight years after the June Deportations came the March Deportations. The sixtieth anniversary of the latter will be on 25th March 2009.

What is significant about the Helsinki seminar and book launch is that it was held in Finland at all. The two participants most in the limelight were the half-Estonian prizewinning Finnish novelist Sofi Oksanen, and the Estonian filmmaker Imbi Paju. For many years, Finland has been regarded as a hotbed of Finlandisation, where no one mentions Baltic politics for fear of upsetting the Bear in the East. Now, Oksanen has won the Finlandia book prize with her novel about the results of the Soviet occupation of Estonia, and it has sold well in Finland and is being translated. Paju made a film about the Soviet occupation, which was well-received in Finland. And the two together have just launched a book of essays on the topic, with contributors such as Edward Lucas, Anne Applebaum and the Swedish-born, American educated Estonian President Toomas Henrik Ilves. The book is called Kaiken takana oli pelko / Kõige taga oli hirm (Behind Everything Lay Fear). The seminar itself was sponsored and supported by the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian embassies in Helsinki, the National Finnish Audiovisual Archive, plus the publishing house WSOY.

Rarely has a book launch in Finland attracted some 300 hostile protesters, some from abroad. The protesters included representatives the Nashi (Our) youth movement from Russia, the Nochnoi Dozor (Nightwatch) movement of Russian-speakers from Estonia and their leader, Dmitri Linter, who was active during the Bronze Soldier incident in Tallinn in 2007. And individuals: the Helsinki academic Johan Bäckman who recently published his own book with a small press run by an ex-KGB agent, and the Finnish convert to Islam, Abdullah Tammi.

Estonian ex-Prime-Minister and head of the Estonian conservatives Mart Laar, is quoted in the Estonian daily Postimees as writing on his website: "Two clever women - Imbi Paju and Sofi Oksanen - have organised a seminar on the subject of the March Deportations, where documentary films will be shown about the history of Communism, and the essay collection Behind Everything Lay Fear will be presented."

Zubajraev case: torture and ill-treatment

Jeremy Putley has forwarded the following messages from Russian human rights worker Oksana Chelysheva:

Case RUS 190209
Torture and other forms of ill-treatment/ Fear for safety

The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), a member of OMCT SOS-Torture Network, about the torture and other forms of ill-treatment suffered by Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev, 30-year-old Chechen, currently detained in penitentiary colony ЯР-154/15 (also known as LIU-125 prison hospital) in Volgograd, Southern Russia. 

According to the information received, in August 2007, Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev was sentenced to five years in high security prison and sent to prison colony IAR- 154/25 in Frolovo, Volgograd region, where he was tortured by prison colony officers throughout the period he was held there. The acts of torture included severe beatings, also with full plastic bottles, electroshocks, injection of unknown substances, nailing to the ground and having to stand in the snow with bear feet. He was also placed on several occasions in a punishment cell. 

Following complaints on Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev’s situation, he was reportedly admitted to the prison hospital (penitentiary colony ЯР-154/15) in February 2008, where he is still currently being detained. However, according to the same information, instead of receiving adequate medical care and treatment, he was again subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment, including beatings, allegedly by the chief of the penitentiary colony and his deputy. Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev was also reportedly threatened with psychiatric internment. 

In November 2008, the Volgograd regional prosecutor inspected the prison hospital but reportedly found no fault with the prison authorities. 

According to the same information received, Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev’s health is extremely poor and, due to several head injuries, he might be suffering from epilepsy. Moreover, he would have several wounds on his leg that do not heal. 

His family has reportedly recently received threats, including by a Federal Security Service (FSB) officer, for having denounced his conditions on several occasions. OMCT fears for its safety. 

The International Secretariat of OMCT is gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev following the reports of continuous torture and other forms of ill-treatment and lack of adequate medical care. OMCT therefore calls on the authorities to guarantee his safety at all times, as well as to carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into these reports, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law. OMCT recalls the absolute prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment and recalls article 11 of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment stipulating that, “Each State Party shall keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture”.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities in Russia urging them to: 

Guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev as well as of his family;
Guarantee unconditional access to his lawyer and his family, as well as guarantee that Mr. Zubajr Isaevich Zubajraev is examined by independent doctors and receives adequate medical care, in accordance with provisions of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners;
Carry out a prompt, effective, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the reports of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, in order to bring those responsible before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal and apply penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions as provided by law;
Order his immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges that are consistent with international law and standards, or if such charges exist, bring him before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee his procedural rights at all times;
Ensure the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards.


Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Faxes:+ 7 495 206 5173 / 230 2408, Email: president@gov.ru;
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Yuri Chayka, 125993, Moskva K-31, Ul. B. Dimitrovka, d 15a, Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 (495)692-17-25;
Chairwoman of the Presidential Human Rights Commission of the Russian Federation, Ella Pamfilova, 103132 g. Moskva, Staraya ploshchad, d 8/5,pod 3, Russian Federation, Fax: +7 495 20 64 855;
Vladimir Lukin, Russian Federal Ombudsman for Human Rights, Fax: +7 495 207-74-70;
Minister of Internal Affairs, Rashid Nurgaliev, ul. Zhitnaya, 16, 117049 Moscow, Russian Federation, Telegram: Rossiia, 117049, Moskva, Fax: + 7 495 237 49 25;
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, Smolenskaya-Sennaya pl, 32/34, 121200 Moscow, Russian Federation, Telegram:  Fax:+ 7 495 230 21 30;
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva Av. de la Paix 15, CH-1211, Geneva 20, Switzerland, e-mail : mission.russian@ties.itu.int, fax: +4122 734 40 44;

Zubair Zubairaev has again reportedly been severely beaten on both 18 and 24 February. On a recent visit to the prison his lawyer saw the marks from the beatings on his face and has stated that Zubair Zubairaev’s health has been gravely affected. Wounds on his legs from previous alleged beatings and incidents of torture are not healing and are festering. He is not receiving adequate medical care. After the most recent incidents he was placed in an isolation cell as punishment for allegedly possessing a painkilling tablet.
In August 2007 Zubair Zubairaev was sentenced to five years in a high security prison and sent to prison colony IAR-154/25 in Frolovo, Volgograd region. According to sources close to Zubair Zubairaev, he was tortured and otherwise ill-treated by prison colony officers throughout the period he was held there. This included the use of electric shocks. The sources reported that he was also repeatedly beaten with plastic bottles filled with water, as well as with truncheons and rifle butts, until he fainted, after which guards revived him in order to continue the beatings. No medical help was provided and the injuries he received were not recorded.
After making several complaints about being tortured and ill-treated, Zubair Zubairaev was transferred to prison colony No 9 in Volgograd. In February 2008 he was admitted to prison hospital LIU-15 in Volgograd; however, the beatings and other ill-treatment from the prison officers continued. Zubair Zubairaev complained again about his treatment to the authorities. This resulted in an inspection of the prison hospital in October 2008 by the Volgograd regional prosecutor, which, however, found no fault with the prison authorities.
Officials at the prison, as well as an official from the Volgograd Public Prosecutor’s office, are said to have verbally threatened Zubair Zubairaev that if he does not stop complaining about his treatment in detention, his prison sentence will be extended or he might "accidentally" die in prison. They also made threats against his family, saying "something might happen" to his sisters.


Amnesty International regularly receives reports of torture or other ill-treatment in places of detention across the Russian Federation, including in prison colonies, and of the frequent failure of the authorities to investigate effectively such allegations and to bring those suspected of violations to justice. In February 2007, the UN Committee against Torture expressed its concern regarding the inadequate health care provided to people in pre-trial detention centres and prison colonies.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Russian, English or your own language:
- calling on prison authorities to ensure immediately that Zubair Zubairaev is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, including psychological;
- calling for an immediate, thorough, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of torture or other ill-treatment and threats against Zubair Zubairaev and his family, with the results made public and those found responsible brought to justice;
- expressing concern at reports that Zubair Zubairaev is still not receiving the medical treatment he needs;
- urging that Zubair Zuibairaev is examined by independent doctors and receives all necessary medical care, in accordance with provisions set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

Director of the prison colony IAR-154/15:
Mansvetov Andrei Igorevich
Uchrezhdenie IAR-154/15
400048 Volgograd
Russian Federation
Fax: +7 8442 35 57 00
Salutation: Dear Director

Director of the Federal Service for Execution of Sentences :
Yurii Ivanovich Kalinin
Federal Service for Execution of Sentences
Ul. Zhitnaia, 14
119991 GSP-1, Moscow
Russian Federation
Fax: +7 495 982 1930
Salutation: Dear Director

Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation :
Yurii Yakovlevich Chaika
Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ul. Bolshaia Dmitrovka 15a
125 993 Moscow
Russian Federation
Fax: +7 495 692 1725 (fax may be switched off outside of office hours (four hours ahead of GMT)
Salutation: Dear Prosecutor General


Ombudsperson for Human Rights of the Russian Federation :
Vladimir Petrovich Lukin
Miasnitskaia ul. 47
107084 Moscow
Russian Federation
Fax: +7 495 60739 77
Salutation: Dear Ombudsperson

Prosecutor of Volgograd région :
Leonid Leontievich Beliak
Pr.Lenina, 8
400066 Volgograd
Russian Federation
Email: pochtaproc@vlpost.ru
Salutation: Dear Prosecutor

Ambassade de la Fédération de Russie
Avenue De Fré 66,
1180 Bruxelles
Fax : 02.374.26.13
Email : amrusbel@skynet.be

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 14 April.

From: Oksana Chelysheva [mailto:o.chelysheva@gmail.com]
Sent: 20 March 2009 16:11
To: Jeremy Putley
Subject: Fwd: a case in Volgograd

Dear Jeremy,

I am sending the news below for your information. I have known Elena Maglevannaja for three years.
On March 20, 2009, the administration of Volgograd-based detention colony LIU-15 lodged a suit against a human rights defenders and a journalist Elena Maglevannaja. The administration is discontent with Elena’s effort to draw attention to the desperate situation of one of the inmates of this colony, an ethnic Chechen Zubajr Zubajraev. The suit is lodged under article 152 of the Russian Civil Code (honour and business reputation protection). They are accusing Elena of spreading information on Zubajr Zubajraev in order to destroy their good name. I talked to Elena on phone today. She tells that the first court hearing has been scheduled for March 26, Thursday. It will be held in Kirovskiy district court of Volgograd by the judge Asatiani.
Elena Maglevannaja also told about torture that Zubajraev was subjected to during his custody (including nailing his feet to the floor which was proved by photos) and subsequent denial of medical treatment. Maglevannaja also assisted in organizing the visit of a Chechen activist Imran Ejiev who came to Volgograd on behalf of a member of the European Parliament Bart Staes. Numerous signs of ill-treatment and torture were documented during that visit.
Elena Maglevannaja told on phone, “I am going to use the court room as just one possibility to speak up for Zubajr”. In her words, she is going to prove that the staff of the colony beats him up and then accuses him “of smashing his head against the wall”.
On 10 February, in the Moscow-located Independent Press center a press conference was held during which the situation of Zubajraev was raised. Imran Ejiev, Zubajraev’s sister Madina, Lev Ponomarjov (the leader of “For Human Rights” movement). Svetlana Gannushkina participated in that press conference. A few days after it, information came that the Zubajraevs sisters were subjected to threats on the train during their trip back to Grozny.
Zubajr Zubajraev fled Russia with his family during war hostilities. They got asylum in Austria. But in 2007 they family decided to return to Chechnya. Soon after their return, Zubajraev was detained by local force agents. He was missing for some period as his relatives didn’t know anything about his whereabouts.
In August 2007 Zubajraev was sentenced to five years in custody “for assault at a force agent and illegal arms possession”. He was transferred to serve his sentence in Volgograd colony. When he managed to reach his sisters, he told that he was continuously beaten up.
The case of Zubajr Zubajraev was raised by Amnesty International and World Organizations against Torture. However, it has not changed for the better.
Oksana Chelysheva

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Silence of the Silenced

Interviewed in the Finnish political weekly Nykypäivä, the Russian dissident Oksana Chelysheva sees a change taking place in Russian public opinion under the impact of the present economic crisis. In particular, she is at pains to challenge some of the perceptions about Russia that are widespread in the West (my translation):

To foreign observers Russia can easily seem like a political monolith. The power may lie with the Tsar, the Politburo or the Prime Minister, but the forms and methods by which that power is exercised are always the same: central control, concentration of power in the hands of the state, and an emphasis on external threats.

Chelysheva believes that trying to interpret Russia in terms of its “submissive” national character is an oversimplification. The article continues:

She does not accept the argument that however authoritarian Putin’s regime may be, it represents stability compared to its predecessor, the government of Boris Yeltsin, which combined freedom with social chaos.

“It’s true that in the Yeltsin era there was chaos, but one could talk about it. Now there is a chaos which cannot be mentioned.”

Another misconception widespread in the West live is that the vast majority of Russians are satisfied with things as they are.

“The Russians haven’t fallen silent about their lot, they've been silenced. There is a certain difference.

Many people in the West believe that while the dissidents are right in principle, in their support for democracy and freedom of speech they represent only in a small elite that is composed of the Russian intelligentsia.

Chelysheva does this accept this view either.

“The situation is exactly the opposite. It’s not the intelligentsia who are criticizing the Kremlin, but ordinary people.”


At Z-Word Blog, the AJC's Ben Cohen has posted a YouTube link to the short film he wrote and directed about the world media's vilification of Israel.

Chechen Ghosts

Ghosts of Alexander writes about the media campaign to implicate Chechens in the Taleban insurgency in Afghanistan. As he makes abundantly clear with numerous detailed demonstrations of proof, the Chechens for the most part quite simply aren't there:

So who is telling these “misrepresentations of reality?” The originators would be the Russian FSB and the Kremlin, trying to tie in the fight against the Chechens into the American war on terror and legitimizing their operations in Chechnya. Many in the Russian media picked this up and ran with it. They were very soon joined by American journalists who were repeating the Russian journalists, and most importantly, the US Department of Defense. The DoD likely did so out of sheer ignorance (an ignorance shared by many stateside). However, it is possible that the desire to show Russia the need for an American base in Central Asia to support the war in Afghanistan was a motivating factor. Also, the US would like to portray the resistance to them in Afghanistan as coming from crazed Jihadis from far off lands when really it’s coming from locals and Pakistanis. This joined the Americans and the Russians in some mutually beneficial storytelling.

And they have now been joined by Pakistan, who is trying to convince the world that all problems back home are the result of foreigners, hence the stream of reports about the masses of Uzbeks and Chechens in the tribal areas. And when Afghan and Pakistani locals talk about Chechens they are doing so because they both know what the interviewer wants to hear, they are repeating what local leaders say, and they are trying to deflect attention away from the ethnic Pashtuns (usually locals) who are being identified as “Chechens.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The True European

In an interview for the Sunday Times, Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, tells it like it is about Europe and the EU:

European identity exists as a feeling of belonging to European continent, it is a feeling based on common history, culture, values, but it cannot be a politically constructed and imposed identity. For me, this feeling is certainly weaker than the feeling of belonging to my country. I think identity is not something you can give up and I do not think that some people feel their European identity as something in opposition to their national identities. It is an additional, not substitute identity.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Russia's Islamist insurgency

Jamestown's North Caucasus Weekly has published an exclusive interview by Fatima Tlisova with the Chechen guerrilla leader Anzor Astemirov, in which the Caucasus Emirate's Sharia legislative head expresses some interesting thoughts on the current status of the Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus, and answers recent accusations by figures in the Russian military about suspected links with Western and Arab countries:

Financial support from the West or Arab countries is an absolute lie and a myth. If we received any support—even meager, not to mention significant—we would be much more successful in all respects. We created and systematized internal support techniques, and Sharia gives us clear rules for collecting military zakat (taxes). We prepared regulations and orders, which were distributed on our territories by our naibs (deputy commanders). In today’s situation, financial or any other types of support are no longer voluntary actions but fard ‘ain (compulsory) for every true Muslim because we are in war. We do not take anything that is above a fixed percentage rate, we do not rob poor families or those who suffered from the regime; instead, we support them as much as we can afford. For those who deny obeying the law, accepting their duty, we do use various penalties, including physical threats or even death. However, we prevent our people from unnecessary violations; we always recommend beginning with persuasion by the word rather than by the gun.    

Also in North Caucasus Weekly, analyst Mairbek Vatchagaev writes about the major crossroads now being approached by the Ingush insurgency, as the real intentions of the recently-appointed President Yunus-bek Yevkurov start to become apparent.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Unknown Soldier

At Nordic Voices in Translation, I'm serializing some excerpts from my new translation of Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier), Väinö Linna’s classic novel about the Finnish Continuation War of 1941-1944. The third excerpt is here, and you can access the earlier excerpts at the foot of the page. I'll be publishing more of these over the next week or two.

Facebook - 2

Last September I said that I didn't want to join Facebook - however, as if to prove that we will all be on Facebook - or something like it - soon, I've changed my mind and joined. One of the factors that led me to do so was the sight of reasoned and intelligent discussions of Baltic and Nordic issues, not disrupted by trolls or troublemakers, taking place on Facebook in a calm and relaxed atmosphere. A step up from the comments boxes of many blogs and other public fora that explore such subjects.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The decline of Russia's intellectual community

Paul Goble's Window on Eurasia has a link to an interesting essay by the Russian historian Irina Pavlova which examines the way in which Russia’s intellectual class has declined under the influence of the Soviet past and the readiness of most Russian intellectuals to put power before moral and ethical principles. Excerpt [my tr.]:

I am struck, for example, by the image that has emerged of Vladislav Surkov as the cleverest man in Russia, to whom the members of the Academy of Sciences listen with servile attention. And the "talking heads" Sergei Markov and Maxim Shevchenko, who have never done any historical research, but who give instruction to historians in how to study the famine of the early 1930s. And the specialists, rendered wise by experience, who support the chairman of the recently created Historical Memory foundation, Alexander Dyukov. With enviable fervour this young man is bringing to life a new prison-guard conception of Soviet history that is based on blind faith in the documents given to him from the archive of the FSB. And the liberals, who are placing their hopes in a new democracy led by President Medvedev. And the abuse and invective hurled at the Russian people, who don’t want democracy and support the current government. All this, in my opinion, is evidence of a profound intellectual and moral crisis, which is no less dangerous than the economic one. Whom God wishes to punish, he first deprives of reason.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Russia's S-300 deal with Iran is going ahead

In a report headed Russia has not delivered S-300 missile systems to Iran - source, the RIA Novosti agency makes it clear that the contract for the delivery has none the less been signed and is going ahead:

S-300 systems have not been yet delivered to Iran under the contract concluded two years ago. The contract itself, though, is being gradually executed," the source in the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service told RIA Novosti.

The news comes just days after reports speculated that Russia might be reconsidering the deal, which if implemented would effectively preclude the chance of a negotiated settlement with Washington.

Helsinki to mark 20 years since fall of Iron Curtain

Book Presentation

The Finnish-language article compilation "Fear Behind Us All" ("Kaiken
takana oli pelko"), which was compiled by authors and columnists Imbi
Paju and Sofi Oksanen, will be released in Finland in Monday, 23

The publication of the anthology marks 60 years since the March
deportations took place in Estonia and 20 years since the fall of the
Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. "This is a book about the price that
Estonia had to pay in order for the most violent utopia known to
mankind to be implemented-- about how Estonians lost their history and
then got it back," reads the press release by the compilation's
publisher WSOY.

The compilation "Fear Behind Us All" addresses the situation behind
the Iron Curtain in occupation-era Estonia and the other Baltic
countries and searches for an answer to the questions of whether the
KGB was able to sway Western representations of history; why victims
of Soviet terror could not talk about their experiences in public and
what has been the effect; and how people managed to get by in a system
supported by fear, discrimination and propaganda.

The collection compiled by Paju and Oksanen is written by well-known
researchers of Estonian history and crimes against humanity,
journalists, figures in society and victims of Stalinist terror,
including President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Anne Applebaum, Edward
Lucas, Iiva-Anna Masso, Lauri Mälksoo, Enn Soosaar, Sofi Oksanen, Imbi
Paju, Vladimir Bukovsky, James Wertsch, Olaf Mertelsman, Heino Noor,
Aigi Rahi-Tamm, Ivo Juurvee, Jukka Rislakki, Leo Kunnas, Maimu Berg,
Igor Kotjuh, Toomas Hiio, Martin Arpo, Peeter Tulviste, Mart Laar,
Tauno Tiusanen, and many others.

The book release will be followed by a history seminar on the same
topic and the premier of Jüri Reinvere's music and video composition
"Requiem" in the cinema "Orion" at 17.00. It will also be possible to
view the film programme "Fear Behind the Wall" (Pelko muurin takana),
compiled by Sofi Oksanen and Imbi Paju, at the cinema "Orion" from 24
March to 28 April.

Information for journalists

On 23 March at 15.00 the book release will take place in the
Sanomatalo in Helsinki. The creators of the compilations Imbi Paju and
Sofi Oksanen as well as political scientist and columnist Iivi-Anna
Masso will all be given a chance to speak in a discussion led by
journalist Tuomas Enbuske. Questions can also be directed to many of
the authors that will be present, including Toomas Hiio, Martin Arpo,
Jukka Rislakki, Tauno Tiusanen, Ivo Juurvee, Igor Kotjuh and Jüri

In order to set up interviews with the authors participating in the
book release or the creators of the collection, please contact
katri.wanner@wsoy.fi (Finnish authors) or andry.ruumet@mfa.ee
(Estonian authors) or the compilers directly: imbi.paju@yahoo.com;

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Putin-Jugend in Helsinki

Via FinRosForum:

The Russian government-supported youth movement, Nashi, plans to hold demonstrations in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, on 23 March 2009 against a seminar organised by the Estonian Embassy in Helsinki. Johan Bäckman, leader of the self-declared “Finnish Anti-Fascist Committee” (Safka), said Estonia’s pro-Moscow Nightwatch (Nochnoy Dozor) organisation will also take part in the demonstrations. The organisers of the planned demonstration repeat Kremlin’s assertion that the seminar, Fear Behind the Wall, is “anti-Russian” and “pro-Nazi.”

The Estonian Embassy will organise the seminar in cooperation with the Latvian and Lithuanian embassies, Finnish book publisher WSOY, and Finland’s National Audiovisual Archive (KAVA). The seminar will mark 60 years since the March deportations in Estonia and 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. Political scientist Iivi Anna Masso will interview authors Imbi Paju and Sofi Oksanen, editors of the article compilation, “Fear Behind Us All.”

Speaking on Russia’s state-run First Channel, Johan Bäckman claimed that “anti-Russian forces” have spread their activities from the Baltic States to Finland. He claimed prized Finnish author Sofi Oksanen and Estonian-born political scientist Iivi Anna Masso were spreading “fascist, pro-Nazi propaganda” in Finland. Bäckman characterised the series of documentary films, “Fear Behind the Wall,” to be screened at the Finnish National Audiovisual Archive’s Orion cinema, as a series of “anti-Russian films”.

Bäckman has made numerous provocative statements against Estonia and in support of Kremlin policies. He has published books that are uncritically supportive of Russia’s official party line and denigrating Finnish critics of the regime in Moscow. Bäckman’s novel, “Saatana saapuu Helsinkiin,” smeared late journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya and Finnish critics of Putin’s rule; the book “Pronssisoturi” accompanied Moscow’s anti-Estonian campaign after the riots in Tallinn that followed the transfer of the Soviet war memorial, the “Bronze Soldier,” in spring 2007.

Bäckman has launched several blogs, which he uses to spread disinformation about politics in Russia, Finland, and the Baltic States. Many well-known critics of Russia’s current regime are constantly being targeted with verbal attacks in Bäckman’s various blogs. Those at the receiving end of Bäckman’s verbal abuse include, among others, Jarkko Tontti, vice-chairman of the Finnish branch of International PEN; Jukka Mallinen, former chairman of Finnish PEN; Finnish political scientist Iivi Anna Masso; Estonian journalist Imbi Paju; Finnish novelist Sofi Oksanen; and Ville Ropponen, chairman of the Finnish association of progressive artists and writers, Kiila.

These absurd allegations are eerily reminiscent of Soviet disinformation campaigns and can be seen as a form of political pressure. Their intended purpose is clearly to intimidate critics and to impose a new form of self-censorship in Finnish public debate. Bäckman has adopted an aggressive tactic of accusing his opponents of defamation, thus deflecting attention from his own libelous allegations against a wide spectre of Finnish cultural and political figures. His latest venture, bringing Russian pro-regime street thugs onto the streets of Helsinki, takes his campaign to a whole new level.

Senior figures in the Russian presidential administration encouraged the creation of the Nashi movement, which by late 2007 had around 120,000 members. The Kremlin’s primary goal may have been to create a paramilitary force to harass and attack Putin’s critics and members of the democratic opposition. Nashists have also inflitrated opposition groups as the regime’s paid spies. Recently, Nashi members claimed responsibility for cyber attacks that crippled Estonia’s internet infrastructure amidst a diplomatic quarrel with Russia in spring 2007.

The demonstrations planned in Helsinki on 23 March 2009 may be part of an attempt by Johan Bäckman and his cohorts to spread Nashi’s venomous intimidation of critics of Russia’s ruling regime outside of Russia’s borders. Bäckman has actively propagated the same inverted logic of “anti-fascism” that Nashists adhere to. Recently, Bäckman launched an initiative to establish a “Russian People’s Party” in Finland. This, and previous ventures, are clearly an attempt to mobilise Finland’s Russian-speakers into supporting Moscow’s cynical, anti-integrationist policies in its “near abroad.”

See also: Bäckman protest

Finnish Islamists back Russia

Monday, March 16, 2009

British leftist says anti-Semitism is "understandable"

The left wing British film director Ken Loach is quoted by the UK's Parliament Magazine as saying that the current EU-wide increase in anti-Semitism is "not surprising and understandable". Norman Geras has a comment.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Friends and Enemies

The Useless Dissident has some recent posts that are well worth reading - especially this one, on the Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov.

Hat tip: Mark

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hobsbawm's Choice

At Cif, Tristram Hunt is trying to claim that the historian Eric Hobsbawm is the victim of a "philistine" campaign by political right-wingers whose "bile" is aroused by Hobsbawm's communism. Yet the fact remains that in 1940 not only did Hobsbawm oppose any efforts by Britain to oppose Hitler - after 1941 he also actively worked to "make the British people understand their international obligations", and thus welcome the Red Army. In spite of his generous contribution to the history of French and British society, in retrospect it's ultimately hard to see him as anything but a willing tool of the Kremlin. Later in life, when asked in a television interview whether 20 million deaths would have been justified if the communist experiment had been successful, he is reported to have replied"yes".

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nieghbourhood Watch - 2

Back in September last year I wrote a fairly lengthy post on this blog about thoughts that were prompted by Finnish president Tarja Halonen's swipe at Estonia on Finnish television in the context of Europe's reaction to the Russian-Georgian War. In the post I described some of my experiences in Finland during the 1980s and my conversations with Finnish intellectuals and literary figures, some of whom subsequently acquired official status in the Finnish government.

Rereading that post now, with its probably unrealistic view that Finland ought once and for all to declare its solidarity with Europe and the West as a whole on the matter of NATO defence, I'm impelled to the reflection that in many ways Finland does in fact share the responses and reflexes of European politics and politicians. In its reaction to the recent events in Gaza and the Middle East, for example, Finland seems to share in the generally negative assessment of Israel - there is not much sense in the public debates that Israel has a right to defend itself. And one of the people I mentioned in the original post, a former government minister, has now published a collection of autobiographical poetry which contains a fair portion of leftist "received wisdom" on issues like global warming, the war in Iraq, and the like, expressed with such ease and fluency that one guesses that in wide circles of Finnish public opinion such "wisdom" is a kind of oxygen, a supportive climate of orthodoxy that makes thinking about global issues possible at all. There is really nothing wrong with this, of course - except when one comes to the issue of the Middle East, of Israel, Hezbollah, and (ex post facto) Israel, Hamas and Gaza. And then the gloves are suddenly off, and one sees the "criticism of Israel" for what it really is. Stanza 23 of (black book 1) reads:

What is happening in the Middle East is drifting towards its final solution
The Wall is growing towards the sky that is filled with exploded human beings
Easter is coming along with its bloody lambs

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Neither calm nor peaceful

In a debate on the spread of anti-Semitism among the political left in Sweden, Svenska Dagbladet's Per Gudmundson has responded to Left Party leaders who marched under Hamas flags in Malmö last Saturday as they took part in an anti-Israel demonstration outside the closed Davis Cup tennis tournament, and defended their actions afterwards (my translation):

It is being said that the “Stop the Match” demonstration in Malmö was sabotaged by a few troublemakers, and that the protest was really an expression of peaceful criticism of Israel. "Other participants behaved in an exemplary manner," wrote Dagens Nyheter. There is reason to doubt it. Open anti-Semitism was visible In “Stop the match” – and the video recordings show it.

In the part of the demonstration that marched under the green flag of Hamas a well-known anti-Semitic chant was repeatedly heard:

'Khaybar, Khaybar, ya yahoud, jaish Muhammad saufa ya’ud " translates as "Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, Muhammad's army will return ". The verse alludes to a battle in 629 AD, when a Muslim army under Muhammad's command captured the mainly Jewish oasis of Khaybar. With insignificant losses the prophet crushed the numerically superior Khaybar army and forced the inhabitants into submission. A few years later the surviving Jews were driven out completely.

The chant, which is aimed specifically against Jews and not against the State of Israel, is common in the Middle East. The fact of its being shouted under the flags of Hamas is to be expected. Hamas is an anti-Semitic movement that refers to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its charter. This is well known even to people who don’t know Arabic.

In his speech to the demonstrators on Saturday, Lars Ohly deplored the criticism of “Stop the match” as an attempt to “associate the strong, grass-roots protest with extreme acts of violence and anti-Semitism.” In the aftermath, the Left Party has found itself in the wrong where the riots are concerned. A blind eye is turned to anti-Semitism. In the party’s statement it says that the “riots ruined a completely calm and peaceful demonstration.”

Ohly ought to explain why he thinks that slogans which explicitly threaten ethnic cleansing and the slaughter of Jews are “calm and peaceful” criticism of Israel.

See also: Anti-Israel rally in Sweden turns violent

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The True Female Patriot

In his weekly review, Prague Watchdog's Dzhambulat Are writes (in my tr.) about the status of women in Ramzan Kadyrov's brave new Chechnya, and describes a recent public gathering:

The high point of this event was a competition called “The True Female Patriot”. The girls had to describe how happy they were in the new era of national greatness and presidential policies. There were prizes for the best national dress and the best performance of a national dance, a recitation of Chechen poetry about women, a brief presentation on the themes of what it means to be a female patriot and to possess a knowledge of the culture of one’s people, and numerous other items which emphasized the qualities which the new generation of Chechen women must have.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nordic Voices in Translation

Nordic Voices in Translation is a new blog devoted to the English translation of the literatures of the Nordic countries - Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. It is also hoped to include Estonian writing in the published material and discussion.

Gatayev case

Jeremy Putley has forwarded the draft text of a letter he has sent to the Lithuanian Ambassador in the United Kingdom:

His Excellency the Ambassador
Lithuanian Embassy in London
84 Gloucester Place

Your Excellency

Persecution of Chechen émigrés: Malik and Khadijat Gatayev

I write in order to draw to your attention a matter which I regard as very serious, and of high importance, concerning the treatment of Mr and Mrs Gatayev, who are at present in the custody of the State Security Department in Lithuania.

In case you are not aware of the background to this case, Mr and Mrs Gatayev are Chechens, legally resident in your country, who are internationally very well-known and highly respected as heroic figures, especially Khadijat Gatayeva, for their work in running orphanages in Kaunas and in Grozny. They are the central characters in the best-selling book by Asne Seierstad, The Angel of Grozny. In addition, films have been made about their work, notably the Finnish Melancholian 3 huonetta in 2005.

It has become clear in recent months that, on the initiative of the present ruler of Chechnya, the so-called president Ramzan Kadyrov, and with the active support of the Russian FSB, a campaign of murder and intimidation has been carried out in Europe against members of the Chechen diaspora. I would refer you to the enclosed reports in which it is confirmed or credibly alleged that agents of the government of the Chechen Republic have been active in Norway, Austria, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and possibly Germany.

It is, therefore, unlikely to be a coincidence that Mr and Mrs Gatayev have found themselves being victimised by what appears to be wholly unjustified persecution by your country’s State Security Department who, apparently, are carrying out these actions at the request of the security services of the Russian Federation, and on their behalf. I respectfully submit for your consideration that the actions of the Lithuanian SSD are likely to bring your country’s international standing into disrepute.

It appears that the arrest and the ongoing trial of Mr and Mrs Gatayev in Kaunas exhibit violations of human dignity and of the presumption of innocence and right to defence, as spelled out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; violations of the right to a fair trial as spelled out in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as well protection of the dignity of the human being, presumption of innocence and the right to a public and fair hearing of his case by an independent and impartial court, as stipulated by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

Malik and Khadijat Gatayev were arrested in Kaunas on 15 October 2008. Until their arrest, the couple ran two large orphanages for children from Chechnya, one in Grozny, capital of the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation, and one in Kaunas. Mrs Gatayeva first established an orphanage in a refugee camp in Ingushetia, with help from foreign sponsors, and later moved back to Grozny. Her husband, Malik Gatayev, has been residing in Lithuania for the past decade and until his arrest was running another orphanage there. Mrs Gatayeva kept alternating from Chechnya to Lithuania.

The arrest of Mr and Mrs Gatayev was carried out by the Lithuanian State Security Department (SSD). Considering the nature of the charge against the Gatayevs, which I understand is that they extorted money from their adult children (out of 17 children of the orphanage, eight are young adults), this was a criminal matter requiring the involvement of the Criminal Police. The extortion charge brought against the Gatayevs does not fall under the authority of SSD, whose main tasks are intelligence, counterintelligence, protection of state secrets, anti-terrorist activities and protection of the national economy and strategic objects.

The SSD has been heavily involved in the Gatayev case ever since the arrest of Mr and Mrs Gatayev and has – in close cooperation with Kaunas Regional Prosecutor’s Office – taken arbitrary measures and thus influenced both the pre-trial investigation and the trial process. The first private lawyer, Mr Dalius Mecelica, who started working on the case in October 2008, dropped it shortly after his spouse was ‘warned’ that she would lose her job if her husband continued working on the case.

The SSD initially blocked any access to the Gatayev orphanage and kept it under strict surveillance. There is evidence that the adult children of the orphanage were subjected to psychological pressure by the SSD officials, and forced to report and cooperate with its agents, which in the end resulted in some of them testifying against their foster parents.

In addition, there is evidence that the Prosecutor in charge of the case, Ms Nomeda Oškutyte, and the SSD, are currently putting pressure on the adult children of the orphanage who are considered to be victims in the case, but who want to provide positive testimonies in defence of their foster parents. One of the adult children, Denis Volkovskoi, expressed his wish to provide positive evidence in person during the second hearing in the case at Kaunas City District Court on 24 February 2009. The court, however, took a decision to have a closed hearing and did not ask the opinion of the alleged victims present at the hearing, Denis Volkovskoi and Magomedsalakh Gabayev. Next morning, 25 February, the SSD agents took Denis Volkovskoi to the SSD Kaunas office, where he was interrogated for six hours by 6-7 employees. During the interrogation session, the agents threatened to imprison the Chechen youth for two years if he refused to provide evidence against his foster parents, or deport him from Lithuania. After Denis refused to change his position, they suggested that the best option for him would be to leave Lithuania till the court trial was over. After the interrogation Denis Volkovskoi was diagnosed with a psychological trauma and started undergoing medical treatment. I enclose a photograph of the young man taken in hospital.

Prosecutor Nomeda Oškutyte and two employees of the SSD visited the orphanage on 13 January 2009, the day of the first court hearing in the Gatayev case. The prosecutor and SSD agents asked the young adults how they had found out about the hearing and, in an attempt at intimidation, the prosecutor vaguely threatened to detain some of the youths.

The SSD has also been putting constant pressure on the friends and supporters of the Gatayev family who showed interest in their arrest and tried to help them and the children of the orphanage. Thus some of the Gatayevs’ friends and acquaintances were detained for short periods and harassed by SSD agents. On 2 February 2009, Prosecutor Oškutyte with two law enforcement agents arrived at the office of a translation company in Kaunas, which belongs to the family friend and supporter Gintautas Bukauskas. Law enforcement agents raided the office and confiscated two desktop computers and all the available files of documents, thus effectively depriving Mr and Mrs Bukauskas from the means to run their business and earn income. The prosecutor remarked that the company of Mr Bukauskas had been “very active” in the Gatayev case and that he had obtained a lot of testimony letters from the acquaintances of Malik and Khadijat Gatayev to be presented at the court. The prosecutor also told Mrs Bukauskas that if she does not want her husband detained for two weeks, he should better stay away from the Gatayev case. Another raid by the Prosecutor Oškutyte and SSD was carried out at the company of Mr and Mrs Bukausksas on 2 March 2009 and Mr Bukauskas was arrested.

The SSD and the Kaunas Regional Prosecutor’s Office also appear to have helped to sustain a slander campaign in the Lithuanian media where the Gatayev couple were presented as abusers of children right after their arrest, and during the pre-trial investigation, thus violating their presumption of innocence. More recently, news portal Alfa.lt published a story after the second court hearing on 24 February 2009 in which judge Almantas Lisauskas was quoted as saying that none of the victims – adult children of the orphanage – had arrived at the court, and suggested that after 10 years of life with their foster parents the adult children are still afraid. However, as mentioned above, two of the victims were present at the hearing and one of them had expressed his wish to testify in favour of his foster parents.

At the request of the prosecutor, the judge A. Lisauskas decided to hold the hearing behind closed doors; the concern is that secrecy is required so that a false verdict can be brought by the court without the possibility of public scrutiny.

All of these worrying instances of the manipulation of facts, and the dubious application of law and court procedures, by Lithuanian authorities, suggest a clear intention to achieve a pre-determined outcome of the trial: namely, a finding of guilt against Mr and Mrs Gatayev, and their deportation from Lithuania.
I would like to draw to your attention that their return to the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation would put their lives in the gravest danger. The Gatayev family have previously been harassed by the Kadyrov government in Chechnya.

The measures taken by the authorities in your country, as described above, have resulted in the violation of Mr and Mrs Gatayev’s right to a fair trial – especially their right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law, in a public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, and to examine or have examined witnesses against them, and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on their behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against them.

I ask that, in consideration of the serious nature of the case, you will now refer my concerns to your Government. In addition I draw to your attention that Mrs Khadijat Gatayeva has a serious medical condition, requiring treatment, and I request that your Government will take immediate note of the importance of ensuring that her health is taken care of. I repeat that the actions being taken by authorities within the Russian Federation amounting to unlawful intimidation and persecution of Chechens living abroad, including murder by assassination teams within the countries of Europe, are a matter which should be of grave concern to your Government.

I respectfully suggest that it should be of serious concern to your Government, also, that two individuals whose noble concern for orphaned children merits their being regarded nationally and internationally as humanitarian benefactors of heroic stature, are instead being persecuted instead of being honoured, and wrongfully imprisoned by the authorities of your country.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The mop-up of Europe

Disturbing news of the arrest by masked Lithuanian security police of Khadijat Gatayeva and her husband in Kaunas, Lithuania. Khadijat Gatayeva is well known for her work in helping orphans of the war in Chechnya.

Meanwhile, the state-sponsored killings and attempted killings of Chechen dissidents in Europe continue. Anzor Maskhadov, son of the murdered and legitimately elected former Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, has sent a letter (in Russian and my English tr.) to Prague Watchdog on the subject of this growing harassment which, as in the case of Lithuania, appears to have the support of some European security forces.

Also at Prague Watchdog, Chechen exile community leader Magomed Ocherhadji talks about "the mop-up of Europe".

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Anti-Israel rally in Sweden turns violent

Via the Jerusalem Post:

Dozens of anti-Israel activists clashed with police Saturday as they tried to storm a closed arena where Sweden and Israel were playing a Davis Cup tennis match.

The activists hurled rocks and firecrackers at police vans as they tried to break through the barricades set up to keep protesters from the arena. Hundreds of riot police pushed them back using truncheons.

From Reset to Overload

A "symbolic mistake"

перезагрузка  (f.) - reset

перегрузка (f.) - overload, overloading

Friday, March 06, 2009


Of all the analyses of the current stand-off between Russia and the U.S. over the Iran nuclear threat, those of Sky's Tim Marshall have struck me as being among the more perceptive. For one thing, it was Marshall who noted the presence of Russian officials, including the nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko,at the opening of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant - a development that cast strong doubt on the likelihood that Russia will co-operate with the other UN permanent five members to compel Iran to open up all its facilities for inspection - missile defence deal or no. Now, Marshall suggests, the last hope may lie with the prospects of talks between Tehran and Washington. Marshall has another article on the subject today in his blog.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

No deal

The NY Times/Washington Post "secret deal" story appears to have been yet another bit of media noise raised by Washington lobbyists pressing for a softer U.S. policy on Russia, led by those who, like Senator Charles Schumer, would like to see a return to the past. At all events, the "deal" has now been denied by the person who is supposed to have offered it.

See also: Obama's Schumer problem

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ingush realities

At Prague Watchdog, Valentin Tudan makes a return visit to Ingushetia's capital city of Nazran, and shares his impressions (The tr. is mine). Excerpt:

Some changes in the city’s appearance are, however, striking. The new, European-style buildings, the facades of which are almost entirely covered with glass, the store windows, with electronic goods, clothing, furniture, all of which have been designed with a claim to metropolitan lustre. But all this does not change the overall picture, since the range of architectural styles is dominated by red brick and mud.

“Mussa,” I asked my friend who was showing me round, “let's go to the bookstore. I want to see what history books they have.”

“There is no bookstore in Nazran,” Mussa said gloomily, spreading his hands in a guilty manner. I had to make do with the meagre assortment available at two kiosks to which my escort took me. I must admit that I was shocked by the absence of a bookstore in Ingushetia’s most densely populated city.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Kadyrov approves honour killings in Chechnya

In a further sign of the advance of political Islam within Russia's borders, Chechnya's Moscow-backed President Kadyrov has defended the shooting of seven young Chechen women, the Moscow Times reports. Commentators have preferred to see Kadyrov in opposition to figures such as Dokka Umarov, who heads the Islamist "Caucasus Emirate", but the report suggests that Kadyrov is at least as intolerant and misogynist as his supposedly more fanatical rivals.

Ramzan Kadyrov said the women, whose bodies were found dumped by the roadside, had "loose morals" and were rightfully shot by male relatives in honor killings.

"If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them are killed," Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny.

The 32-year-old former militia leader is carrying out a campaign to impose Islamic values and strengthen the traditional customs of predominantly Muslim Chechnya in an effort to blunt the appeal of hardline Islamic separatists and shore up his power.