Russia’s regions grow increasingly hostile to Mr. Navalny. Alexey Navalny’s campaign coordinator in Barnaul was stabbed by two men when trying to enter the local city hall building to apply for a demonstration permit. Artem Kosaretsky told reporters that he sewed up the wound himself and didn’t need to be hospitalized. Police have detained the attackers, though security guards at city hall reportedly refused to believe that Kosaretsky had been stabbed, attributing his wound to a scratch or even a mosquito bite. Hours earlier, unknown persons in Barnaul reportedly tried to set fire to Navalny’s local campaign headquarters.
(Source: Meduza‘s daily “The Real Russia. Today” e-mail newsletter, June 26, 2017)
How do these incidents, no doubt arranged by the local security forces, prove that “Russia’s regions have grown increasingly hostile” to Navalny?
Everyone needs to make the Supreme Leader happy once in a while, even Russian media “exiled” to Latvia.
P.S. Or is the guy who writes Meduza‘s English summaries increasingly hostile to Navalny? I can easily imagine that’s the case. Just as I can easily imagine that he doesn’t live in Russia, Latvia or anywhere in the vicinity. These days, you can just phone it in, so to speak, while living the good life in Albuquerque or Austin.
“The Regime Is Making New Enemies with These Arrests”
Irina Tumakova Fontanka.ru
June 22, 2017
The arrestees who served ten days in jail after Russia Day shared their plans for the future. They once again included the Field of Mars, and Navalny, and the special detention center on Zakharyevskaya Street they had just left.
A new group of prisoners, who had finished serving the jail sentences they were given after Russia Day, was released on Thursday, June 22, from the Interior Ministry’s special detention center on Zakharyevskaya Street in central Petersburg. They had been sentenced to ten days in police custody, meaning they had committed violations of “moderate severity.” The die-hard violators, who were sentenced to fifteen days in jail, will not be released until next week. The least malicious violators, who had already been released, greeted their recent cellmates with soda pop, flowers, and rounds of applause. The former prisoners were cheerful and praised the prison food. They came out of jail with the same clear conscience they had when they left the Field of Mars in paddy wagons.
The Interior Ministry’s special detention center on Zakharyevskaya is a historical landmark. Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) and Felix Dzerzhinsky had done time there prior to 1917. In June 2017, people who attended an anti-corruption rally on Russian Independence Day were jailed there.
Around 10,000 people had gone to the Field of Mars on the national holiday. Some people celebrated, while others were arrested. Nearly six hundred hundred left the celebrations in paddy wagons, headed to police precincts round the city. From June 13 on, the city’s district courts worked like a conveyor belt for meting out punishment. The arrestees were sentenced for going to the anti-corruption rally and for failing to obey police orders to leave the rally, i.e., they had violated two articles in the Administrative Offenses Code. The majority of those detained at the event got off with 10,500-ruble fines [approx. 158 euros], but a hundred and fifty people were sent to jail, sentenced to terms of three to fifteen days.
The release of the prisoners whose time in jail ended on June 22 was due to start at two o’clock in the afternoon, when the lunch break ends on Zakharyevskaya. At the very same time, as recorded in their arrest records, exactly 240 hours had passed since the first of the “ten-dayers” had been detained. In fact, they had been detained and hauled to the courts wholesale. But the law enforcement machine was carefully counting off the minutes. One prisoner could be released at 2:30 p.m., but another had to be released at 4:00 p.m.
The Support Group
At a quarter to two, people holding plastic bags form a semi-circle at the exit from the detention center. Two vehicles are cruising nearby. One, emblazoned with Open Russia’s logo, is ready to give the released detainees a lift to the courts, where lawyers are waiting to appeal their fines. The other, emblazoned with the police’s logo, is also ready to take them somewhere.
“I’m going to detain you for jaywalking,” a policeman standing on the sidewalk warns me.
“Please arrest me for jaywalking,” I smile back at him, standing on the same sidewalk. The policeman goes back to his car.
The bags of the people waiting outside the detention center are stuffed with bottles of soda pop. There is also a bunch of pink chrysanthemums. Later, the chrysanthemums will be divided and given to the liberated comrades. Everybody knows who nice it is when people are waiting for you with chrysanthemums when you get out of jail. And you are also really thirsty when you get out. The greeters know all of this from personal experience.
“I was in for five days and got out last week,” says a man standing near the gates of the detention center. “And today the guy I shared a cell with is getting out.”
The man’s name is Oleg Maksakov. He is forty-three. He doesn’t know why he was sentenced to five days, while his young cellmate got ten days. They didn’t know each other before they were jailed, but they made friends in the cell.
“The propaganda has no effect on the people aged eighteen to twenty-five who came to the Field of Mars,” Maksakov says of his “accomplice.” “What matters even more is that they’re not afraid. They’re not downtrodden. They have no experience of the Soviet repression machine. I mean, now they are finding out, of course. But it doesn’t scare them. It only makes them mad.”
Another person who celebrated Russia Day at the Field of Mars approaches us. In terms of age, Pavel Ilatovsky is one of the “non-downtrodden.” You could say he lucked out. He got off with a 10,500-ruble fine and spent two days at police precinct while he waited for his court hearing.
“Yeah, I was lucky,” Ilatovsky agrees. “I had my hearing at the Krasnoye Selo District Court, and the judges were okay. They said right off the bat there was no room in the cells, and so they were going fine us.”
The figures assembled by volunteers back up what Ilatovsky says. The Krasnoye Selo District Court heard 59 cases, and no one was sentenced to time in jail. The Kalinin District Court proved to be the most cruel and greediest. Among the 44 cases it heard, around three fourths (the volunteers don’t know for certain) resulted in fines alone, while the rest resulted in fines and jail time. The same court handed down the harshest sentence: fifteen days in jail plus a 20,000-ruble fine.
Ilatovsky volunteers with the detainees assistance group. The group brought care packages to Zakharyevskaya all ten days and raised money to pay the fines. And now they have brought a vehicle, soda pop, and chrysanthemums. This system of assistance improves with every series of arrests. It has started working like a well-oiled machine.
“There are lots of us,” says Ilatovsky. “And we know that if someone wasn’t detained this time round, he or she could be detained next time. When I was at the police precinct, they brought us water and helped out with food. They even brought us shawarmas.”
We are chatting next to the prison’s entrance. Everyone’s mood is upbeat, even joyful. Finally, the iron door opens and a young man exits holding his passport. He is carrying a backpack, and a container of liquid soap pokes out from the pocket. A yellow-and-blue ribbon is pinned to his jacket.
“Oh!” says Oleg Maksakov, rushing towards him. “I spent five days in a cell with that guy!”
“I Hung Out with Interesting People”
Denis Uvarov went to the Field of Mars with a purpose. He wasn’t celebrating the holiday, but combating corruption.
“This dude was walking around with a bullhorn and ordering everyone to disperse, but no one dispersed. Therefore, they did not obey [the police’s orders],” he says by way of explaining why he was convicted of disobeying the police.
Besides, Uvarov chanted slogans offensive to our president, and what is worse, waved the flag of Ukraine, with which he sympathizes. He caught flak for it: ten days in the slammer. He admits it could have been worse. He twice received care packages of food from complete strangers, and that amazed him most of all.
“Of course, we didn’t really need anything in the cell, but it’s nice knowing that you’re in there, and somebody cares,” says Uvarov.
In the two-person cells in which the June 12 arrestees were held, they really did not need anything. Uvarov compared it to a hospital, adding, only, that he couldn’t go into the hallway. But they were taken out for walks every day.
“The biggest problem was not being able to wash up,” he says. “They let us take a shower only once over the ten days. Well and, excuse me for mentioning it, but going to the toilet when you’re not alone in the cell, is, you know . . . Otherwise, it was okay. There was nothing to do, so I read a pile of books, slept in, studied English a bit, and hung out with interesting people.”
The interesting people were other prisoners sentenced to jail for June 12. Uvarov says it was the first protest many of them had attended. Some of them ended up there by accident and were not interested in politics.
“Now they say they’re going to be more active and angrier,” Uvarov continues. “So the regime is deliberately making new enemies with these arrests, as it were. You can do fifteen days in jail, after all. As long as there is a point.”
“What about twenty?” I ask. “That’s nearly a month.”
“Twenty?” says the young man thoughtfully. “Yes, I could probably do it.”
“Yeah, but don’t you need to be arrested twice in six months,” Uvarov asks uncertainly. “I’ll probably need to take that into account. I’ll think it over.”
“I’ll Go to Jail Again”
Ivan Gerasimyuk is one of the young people who collided head on with politics at the special detention center. He looks about twenty years old.
“I was just hanging out on the Field of Mars,” says the young man. “There was a celebration of four eras taking place there. I looked at pre-revolutionary tanks, and then I went to eat kasha in the field kitchen. That’s where the police grabbed me. In court, I said I wasn’t interested in politics, but the judge didn’t believe me and gave me ten days in jail. It turns out you cannot attend celebrations in our country.”
Gerasimyuk thought jail was awful, especially the fact the prisoners were fed not according to schedule, but whenever. And his cell was very dirty.
“I don’t want to go back there,” Gerasimyuk frowns. “But I’ll definitely go to a protest rally now. We have to combat this lawlessness. Well, so I’ll go to jail again. But then other people won’t have to go.”
Alexander, who refuses to tell me his surname, works in a school. He won’t say what he does there, but he deals with young people like Gerasimyuk, only a bit younger.
He shakes his head.
“I don’t talk with the kids about politics at all. I don’t need to. They know it all anyway. They read about Navalny and Putin in the internet. Although what gets them hot and bothered is memes and all, not politics. But their teachers propagandize them, and they see it doesn’t synch with what is happening around them. That generates distrust in them.”
Alexander went to the Field of Mars knowing a rally was supposed to take place there, but he had no plans of taking part in the protest. He only wanted to watch.
“The numbers of true believers who were arrested were small, in fact,” he grins. “It was the rubberneckers like me who got caught. After doing time in jail, some of them are now true believers. But I’ve also spoken with other people, who say they would never do it again. As for me, I’m definitely going next time.”
Vladimir Drofa, who is released right after Alexander, has become a true believer. Or, at least, he says so.
“Until my arrest I was a sympathizer,” he says, looking at my dictaphone. “But now I’m a convinced revolutionary. I will devote the rest of my life to making sure I change places with the people who put me in here.”
“You want to sentence them to ten days in jail?” I ask.
“I’d start with ten at least.”
Drofa knows that, before him, his namesake Vladimir Ulyanov was imprisoned in a nearby cell.
“Let Them Bust Me!”
The convicts opened the iron door one after another. The young women who were released were mobbed by other young women, who gave them bouquets and squealed in delight, as if they were greeting movie stars. The female arrestees who were the last to be released wearily thanked the public and refused to talk to the press, because they wanted to go home. Ksenia Morozova, a social media marketing manager for Sobaka.ruwho had become famous over the last ten days, set her bags on the pavement. She held up a placard reading, “Freedom is within.” She did not hold it up very high, only as high as her own neck
“This is my first picket on the outside!” she yelled. “Let them bust me if they want!”
She was not busted. Her girlfriend grabbed her bags, and the flock of young women ran off towards the subway.
The young people were applauded as they left the jail. They were also given flowers, the very same pink chrysanthemums, until the entire bunch had been divvied up and was gone. The press drifted away. The bus emblazoned with Open Russia’s logo left, taking with it those who wanted to appeal their sentences to meet with lawyers. The last of the dozen and a half “ten-dayers” emerged from the jail after four o’clock, saying almost exactly the same things their special detention center cellmates said. None of them broke their toothbrushes at the doors of the prison.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade Uvarova for the heads-up
On June 13 and 14, 2017, emergency courts, expressly forbidden by the Russian Constitution, were set in motion in St. Petersburg.
What were the peculiarities of the court hearings that took place on June 13–14, 2017, in St. Petersburg?
— The unprecedented scale. On June 13 and 14, 2017, 943 administrative cases were heard by 123 judges in sixteen of St. Petersburg’s twenty-two district courts. The defendants had been charged with violating Article 19.3, Part 1 (“Disobeying the lawful order or demand of a policeman, military serviceman, penal system officer or Russian National Guard member in connection with the performance of their duties to protect public order and ensure public safety, as well as obstructing the performance of their official duties”) and Article 20.2, Part 5 (“Violation, by a participant of a public event, of the established procedure for holding a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession or picket”) of the Russian Federal Administrative Offenses Code (KoAP). The overwhelming majority of those detained on the Field of Mars on June 12, 2017, were simultaneously charged with both offenses, regardless of the circumstances of their arrests.
— The unprecedented speed with which cases were heard: zero minutes (eleven district courts), one minute (seven district courts), etc.
— The unprecedented numbers of cases heard by individual courts in a single twenty-four-hour period: 95 (Kalinin District Court), 106 (Krasnoye Selo District Court), 110 (Frunze District Court).
— Violation of territorial jurisdiction. All the administrative cases should have been heard by the Dzerzhinsky District Court, in whose jurisdiction the Field of Mars is located. At the request of the persons charged with administrative offenses, their cases could also have been transferred to the courts in the districts where they are registered as residebts. In the event, the detainees were bused from police precincts to sixteen district courts. Their cases were assigned to judges regardless of territorial jurisdiction.
— Violation of the right to a defense. No more than a quarter of the defendants enjoyed the services of a lawyer or public defender. Some judges rejected appeals for adjournment so that defendants would be able to secure defense counsel. Some judges gave defendants a ridiculously short amount of time to secure defense counsel. Defense attorneys and public defenders were physically unable to get into the majority of the courthouses, especially after six o’clock in the evening.
— Violation of the right to a public trial. Information about the court hearings on June 13–14, 2017, was posted on the courts’ official websites only several days after the hearings themselves. People who might have wanted to attend the hearings had no way of finding out what cases were being heard, nor when or where they were being heard. Judges’ rulings have not been published in full. Currently, only 26 of the 943 rulings, which have already taken force, have been published on the courts’ websites.
— Violation of the principle of adversarial proceedings. There were no prosecutors or police officers present at any of the hearings, and the judges essentially acted as prosecutors.
— Night courts are forbidden. But even on official court websites the starting times of hearings are listed well past midnight, e.g., 12:23 a.m. (Krasnoye Selo District Court), 12:45 a.m. (Kalinin District Court), 5:00 a.m. (Kolpino District Court), 5:20 a.m. (Frunze District Court).
Despite the violations, listed above, the St. Petersburg City Court has rejected all appeals filed, moreover, in the very same fashion as the district courts. This means the people who organized and launched the conveyor belt of emergency justice in St. Petersburg have direct control not only of the police and the Russian National Guard but also the of district and city courts.
Are you wondering how you might react to this nastiness, especially if you live far from Petersburg? Here’s one simple suggestion. FIFA’s Confederations Cup is currently underway at four venues in Russia (Kazan, Moscow, Sochi, and St. Petersburg). Take a gander at the match schedule and the list of corporate sponsors (which includes Adidas, Coca-Cola, Visa, McDonalds, and Bud). Give them a call or send them an email saying that, because of the way the Russian leadership treats its own people when it comes to the freedoms of speech and assembly, and the right to a fair trial, you won’t be buying their products anymore, since they make common cause with flagrant tyrants.
You can also get in touch with the TV channels broadcasting the Confederations Cup matches in your city or country and tell them you won’t be watching the matches and why you won’t be watching them.
These are simple ways to show your solidarity with the six hundred and sixty some people who were arrested on Petersburg’s Field of Mars for no good reason on Russia Day, a national holiday celebrating the country’s independence from the Sovet Union, and then put through the kangaroo courts, as described above and elsewhere.
These are also effective ways of showing the Russian leadership, who set great store by their power to win bids to host major global sporting events like the Winter Olympics and the Football World Cup that we are not impressed by their prowess, especially when our Russian sisters and brothers live in conditions of such rampant unfreedom and poverty. TRR
Below, you will find a brief, eyewitness account of the rough custom to which people detained at the anti-corruption protest rally on the Field of Mars in Petersburg on June 12, 2017, have been subjected by police as the have been slowly “processed,” sometimes with no legal representation and in gross violation of their rights as detainees, by the police and courts.
The Russian “legal and law enforcement” systems are shambles, for the simple reason they don’t exist at all. They are fictions.
What does exist is the supreme will of the blood monkey who answered questions all day yesterday on TV or something like that, and the lesser wills of his cronies and satraps.
So when asking the question of who exactly ordered the arrests of the six hundred and fifty some arrestees of June 12, 2017, and the harsh sentences of five to fifteen days in the hoosegow and fines of up to 15,000 rubles most of them were handed by the city’s district courts (again, in conditions where many of them were dehumanized constantly, despite the best efforts of Petersburg’s wonderful Aid to Detainees Group and other volunteers and well-wishers to support them) you need look no farther than the head blood monkey in the Kremlin and his precious “power vertical.” They are the ones who gave the orders to treat the protesters this way, not anyone on the ground.
I was irked to hear the BBC’s Moscow correspondent refer, the other day, to the concurrent protests on Tverskaya, in Moscow, where a similarly large number of people were arrested, as “illegal.” Setting aside for a second the rights to free assembly and free speech enjoyed by all Russian citizens, as enshrined in the 1993 Russian Federal Constitution, the Petersburg authorities several years ago designated the Field of Mars as the city’s “Hyde Park,” the place where city dwellers could go, supposedly, to air their grievances without making a special application to the authorities. (This need to apply for permits is itself a mostly unconstitutional practice, backed, of course, by the country’s kangaroo higher courts, who are also a part of its so-called telephone justice system).
In reality, Petersburg authorities have let their so-called Hyde Park be used the way it was intended only when the numbers of protesters or their particular grievances have not been threatening enough, although, of course, police are still always on hand to photograph, videotape, and ID the protesters, and even copy down the slogans on their placards, which they immediately radio to their superiors. Just in case, you know, and to make sure the protesters know the state is monitoring them
When, on the other hand, the topics raised and/or numbers of protesters have not been to the liking of the powers that be, local or otherwise, Petersburg’s “Hyde Park” has instantly been deemed yet another no-go zone, the protests declared “illegal,” and the protesters and, sometimes, the counter-protesters, dragged off into paddy wagons and taken to police precincs.
Sometimes, the protesters are merely held in police custody for a few hours or overnight, and then released scot-free. But when the regime wants to teach them a lesson about how much freedom they really have in the world’s largest “sovereign democracy,” they get the book thrown at them, as we have seen over the past several days in Petersburg. That is, for one and the same legal/illegal act, either nothing will happen to you or your life will be scuttled for two weeks or a month (as in the case of “ringleaders” like Alexei Navalny, who was arrested at the door to his block of flats before he could get to the “illegal” protest and sentenced to thirty days in the slammer), and your already meager finances will have a nice dent put into them.
So, if I were a BBC or other foreign correspondent, I wouldn’t be so quick to dub any protest in Putinist Russia “illegal.” That’s tantamount to saying that the police and courts have the right to do with Russians detained for real or imaginary offenses what they will.
It’s also an admission on the part of these foreign correspondents that, in the case of the protesters, they don’t understand the offenses are wholly imaginary, i.e., trumped-up, that they are, in fact, a little bit of the ultra-violence, meted out in smallish doses to discourage the kids from coming out again. TRR
* * * * *
16% of the St. Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission Facebook
June 15, 2017
I am deciphering my conversations with arrestees:
“We were driven to the courthouse in handcuffs, and tied to each other. We arrived, they untied us, and took us upstairs to the courtroom. We had no defense counsel. The court sentenced us to five days in jail and a fine. We were driven back to the police precinct, where we cuffed to chairs and each other. (The cuffs immediately caused pain to the second person.) The guy with the keys to the handcuffs went off somewhere. We were cuffed for two and a half hours. We asked to go to the toilet, to uncuff us, but our requests were ignored. This happened next to the cells. The cells were not locked.
“Then they uncuffed us from the chair, cuffed us to each other, put us in a van, and took us to [the temporary detention center at] Zakharyevskaya Street, 6.”
This incident occurred on June 13, at the 78th Police Precinct, in St. Petersburg’s Central District
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Jenya Kulakova for the heads-up on the link and Sasha Feldberg for the photo.
Supreme Court Rules Courts Have Right to Deprive People of Right to Speak during Administrative Hearings Echo of Moscow
June 13, 2017
A plenary session of the Russian Supreme Court ruled today that courts have the right to deprive people of the right to speak during administrative [misdemeanor] hearings. As Interfax reported, the move was requested by the Prosecutor General’s Office, which had argued it would speed up administrative proceedings and prevent the misuse of procedural rights. This argument was made in a statement by the Prosecutor General’s Office issued after the plenary session, at which Deputy Prosecutor General Leonid Korzhinyok was present. In an interview with Echo, Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer and head of the Team 29 association of lawyers and journalists, said the Prosecutor General’s Office’s motives were clear. According to Pavlov, the office, headed by Yuri Chaika, realizes the judicial system simply cannot cope with the number of detainees under the standard procedure, as stipulated by law. Pavlov added that, unlike laws, rulings by plenary sessions of the Supreme Court take effect immediately, so today’s ruling can be applied from now on. The Supreme Court’s plenary ruling “On the Use of Procedural Coercive Measures during Administrative Hearings” renders the court system meaningless. Such was the opinion voiced to Echo by Elena Lukyanova, professor of constitutional and municipal law at the Higher School of Economics. She added that a broad public discussion of the issue would be needed to force an overturning of the ruling.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Alexei Kouprianov for the heads-up
Almost everyone in our precinct has had their court hearing and been convicted. Nearly everyone who tried to file appeals and not plead guilty was given the maximum sentence: up to fourteen days in jail + fines of 10,000 rubles and greater. Those who plead guilty and make no attempt to defend themselves get off easier: one of them got three days in jail. The only person in our precinct who got off without a jail term was the husband of a pregnant woman.
In this regard, everyone’s mood is dominated by legal nihilism. They have been chewing out the human rights activists, who they say have only made things worse. Apparently, that is the real objective of all these hearings.
By the by, there are truly random people among the detainees in our precinct, but they are more aggressive towards people like me than to the authorities. They give the protesters and human rights activists hell, and ask why we’re dissatisfied. (After thirty hours in police custody, there in other word for this than Stockholm syndrome.) [One person who commented on the original post, in Russian, suggested that these “random people” were, in fact, police provocateurs and spies. Planting them in the cells of political prisoners and dissidents had been a common practice under the Soviets—TRR.]
One of these random detainees is a lawyer. He came down on everyone harder than anyone else, saying we should withdraw our appeals and refuse legal assistance. What irony: he has a master’s degree in law.
Before they are sent to the detention center, the police forcibly take everyone’s fingerprints, although this is against the law.
We are in a decent precinct. The conditions are terribly unsanitary and crowded, but the staff treat us like human beings. They let us charge our telephones, let us have smoke breakes, and sometimes even take us to the can, where there is an actual toilet, not a stinky hole in the floor. On the other hand, among themselves they talk about how everyone who protested on the Field of Mars did it because they had been promised 5,000 rubles.
Yesterday, we spent the night in the cells. There were sixteen bodies and six beds, but we had mattresses, pillows, and bed linens even. Today, non-political prisoners were brought to the cells. (When one of them refused to remove his crucifix, four officers threw him on the floor, cuffed him, and forcibly removed the crucifix. Another of these prisoners is obviously in a bad way. He beats the walls, scratches the window until he bleeds, and screams. He wet himself in his cell, but no one has any intention of taking him to hospital.) So we spend the night sitting in the corridor.
Me and one other young man have still not been taken to court for our hearings.
Andrey Kalikh Facebook
Saint Petersburg, Russia
June 14, 2017
St. Petersburg’s Frunzensky District Court is the apotheosis of evil. The hearings began at eleven p.m. One, apparently very angry judge is handling the cases. Everyone is being sentenced to ten to fifteen days in jail, plus they are fined ten thousand to fifteen thousand rubles. We fearfully await the sentence he will give our friend the father with four children.
People are kept on the bus before the hearings. They are exhausted, the conditions are tortuous, and something has to be done about this court. It is monstrous.
UPDATE. Our dad with four children emerged from the courthouse at two in the morning. He had been fined 10,700 rubles [approx. 167 euros]. He said that of the 106 people who had been sentenced at that point, only six had got off with fines. Everyone else had been sentenced to five to fifteen days in jail, plus had been fined ten thousand to fifteen thousand rubles.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade SK and Andrey Kalikh for the heads-up
The Russian National Guard Has Been Crushing the General Staff
Alexander Goltz, Military Observer The New Times
June 5, 2017
A calling card of a militaristic society is the tendency of the authorities to respond to all challenges by means of force, military or otherwise. The Kremlin’s fear of so-called color revolutions has materialized into a buildup of the resources available to the recently minted Russian National Guard (Rosgvardiya), which was designed to quell unrest. Unprecedented powers have now been added to its resources.
“So that everything is just so” (Chtoby vsyo bylo v azhure). Exhibits at a trade show, organized by the Russian National Guard, dealing with law enforcement equipment. Krasnomarmeysk, Moscow Region, May 25, 2017. Photo courtesy of Anton Lukanin/TASS
“By decision of the President of the Russian Federation,” reads the document, “the units and divisions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, as well as other military formations and bodies, can be transferred to the tactical subordination of the district commander to perform tasks assigned to National Guard troops.”
A New Kind of War
In both Soviet and post-Soviet times, the possibility was envisaged that the Internal Troops of the Interior Ministry, on whose basis the Russian National Guard was established in 2016, could be subordinated to the Armed Forces. After all, an external foe could have gained the upper hand over the army, and to repel it, it would have been necessary to concentrate all the country’s military forces into a single fist. Units from the Internal Troops have been involved in all major military exercises in recent years under the command of the army. But it has never been suggested that army units would be subordinated to the command of the Internal Troops.
There were no hints in last year’s law, which instituted the Russian National Guard, that army units could be subordinated to Guard commanders, for such subordination could mean only one thing: the Kremlin regards domestic threats as much more dangerous than foreign threats. These domestic threats are so serious that, at some point, the Russian National Guard might lack the strength to repel them, although, according to its commander-in-chief, Viktor Zolotov, its troop strength has doubled in comparison with the Internal Troops (which had 187,000 men in its ranks before their reassignment), i.e., the Russian National Guard has close to 400,000 soldiers. The president’s decree means the authorities concede the possibility of large-scale unrest that would affect the entire country. Under such circumstances, all reserves would be deployed, and the army would be engaged in performing their notorious “internal function,” something the military has avoided like the plague both in Soviet and post-Soviet times.
In 2014, however, at a conference organized by the Defense Ministry, the generals, wishing to oblige the Kremlin, came to the stunning conclusion that so-called color revolutions were a new form of military action. Thus, in the new edition of The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, published in December 2014, we read that modern military conflicts are characterized by the “integrated use of military force and non-military political, economic, informational and other measures, implemented with extensive use of the populace’s protest potential and special tactical forces.” As we see, the “populace’s protest potential” is equated with the actions of enemy saboteurs.
At this point, seemingly, it was incumbent that something be done. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has on several occasions ordered several military institutions (including the Academy of the General Staff, for example) to carry out research on how the Armed Forces should react to such threats, but the outcomes of this research are still unknown. Likely as not, the officers corps did not wish to dirty its hands by planning how to deploy troops against its own people. All they could force themselves to do was come up with the idea of subordinating the army to the Russian National Guard, thus shifting responsibility to it for using force on the streets of Russia’s cities. Yet the commanders of the army units assigned to the Russian National Guard will themselves have to decide, when push comes to shove, whose orders to carry out and how to carry them out.
Last summer, units of the Russian National Guard and the Airborne Forces engaged in joint exercises in Volgograd Region. Servicemen from two brigades of the Russian National Guard and the Special Ops Centers, as well the Fifty-Sixth Airborne Assault Brigade of the Airborne Forces were involved in the exercises: a total of four thousand men. However, a member of the Defense Ministry, Lieutenant General Andrei Kholzakov, Deputy Commander of the Airborne Forces, was in charge of the maneuvers. The general explained then that the exercises were the first to take place “after the reformation of the Internal Troops. We have been working out issues of interaction to understand how to cooperate in the future.” The reason why, during the initial stages, army generals were tapped to command the exercises is obvious. Their colleagues in the Russian National Guard did not have the know-how and experience to plan large-scale operations. But now, the president’s decree would have us think, the Kremlin favors loyalty over knowledge and ability, and it has subordinated the army to the police. By hook or by crook, the army is being prepared to put down its own people.
Russian National Guard Units in Russia (Districts and Cities Where Units Are Deployed. Source: www.rosgvard.ru
Super Law Enforcement Authority
The authorities, however, have not been hiding what jobs, the most important, as they imagine, the Russian National Guard will have to take on for the state. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin quite seriously dubbed it the “most belligerent military unity solving problems inside the country.” Even so, he underscored that the “Russian National Guard must be armed to the teeth, and not just to the teeth, but with the highest-quality weapons.”
True, the Guard itself is steadily becoming a super law enforcement body, a secret service backed up by thousands of troops. Relatively recently, for example, it transpired that the Guard was establishing a service for monitoring social networks on the internet.
“We see today the areas where we would like to develop. IT is in first place. […] The Russian National Guard plans to train IT specialists and specialists for monitoring social networks,” said Colonel General Sergei Melikov, deputy commander of the Russian National Guard.
According to Melikov, “such training groups” were already functioning at the Perm Military Institute.
Russian National Guardsmen during combat training. Moscow Region, February 2017. Photo courtesy of Dmitry Korotayev/Kommersant
General Melikov claimed the new unit would tasked only with tracking terrorists and preventing their attacks. But it is more likely the cyber-guardsmen will identify groups of “rebels,” including people planning to take part in protest rallies.
In the meantime, the media has reported on the Russian National Guard’s intentions to obtain permission to perform investigative work, thus establishing their own version of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department (MUR). So far, high-ranking officials in the Guard have decisively denied this. However, General Melikov revealed that the Russian National Guard would train the appropriate specialists if the authorities decided to give them these powers.
Finally, the top brass has consistently been involved in guiding the National Guardsmen ideologically. It would seem their ideal is the NKVD, for the authorities have not limited themselves to naming an tactical division of the Guard after Iron Felix. So, in the very near future, Dzerzhinsky’s name will be resurrected, incorporated as part of the name of the Guard’s Saratov Institute. The Guard’s units and divisions are supposed to be given the insignias and honorary titles of glorious predecessors. Uniformed historians have been tasked with finding something heroic about the NKVD’s troops. It is curious what they will write about the involvement of these “glorious warriors” in wholesale deportations and whether they will use these “heroic examples” to educate the Guardsmen.
The Potential Enemy
For the time being, the Russian National Guard’s commanders insist that its main objective is confronting terrorists and armed gangs, underplaying its role in dispersing civilians. But the same day the president’s decree was published, May 20, an article with the byline of Yuri Baluyevsky was published in the Independent Military Observer. In the recent past, Baluyevsky had been chief of the Armed Forces General Staff; he was later deputy secretary of the Security Council, and is now an adviser to the Russian National Guard’s commander-in-chief. His article is notable for its frankness.
“As a military man,” writes Baluyevsky, “I compare our country to a target. The center is the leadership and political elite. The second circle is the economy, the third, infrastructure, the fourth, the populace, and the fifth, the Armed Forces. Currently, it is not the Armed Forces who are being attacked, but the civilian population, since, compared with the military, it is the segment of society most vulnerable to the forces and methods of psychological warfare. The scenario for how events unfold is known from the color revolutions. The organizers get millions of people shouting ‘Down with the government!’ to take to the streets. The authorities start to lose control. Next come sanctions and an integrated attack on the country’s economy. The armed forces don’t know what to do. All of this leads the country to collapse. This is how a modern war could unfold. The emergence of the National Guard is a response to the challenge to our society, to the threat posed by the use of so-called nonviolent resistance, which it would be more accurate to call a ‘color revolution.'”
Thus, society’s allegedly least responsible segment, the civilian population of one’s own country, has been transformed into a potential enemy against whom the Russian National Guard and the army will be allowed to use force. They will be allowed to use military force against their own people.
Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AKH for the heads-up