Today, we have something a little different. After several attempts to coax him into the spotlight, shrinking violet Yalensis has finally agreed to do a guest post, and this one was an eye-opener for me. It could be argued that the hacked Navalny emails and text messages are an old story, but it’s astonishing how many important stories go by without being properly understood, because you only got a piece of it or because it was presented in a fragmented, scatter-gun fashion. Sometimes this is done deliberately, in an attempt to steer public opinion by only presenting the parts of the story that shape a desired impression, i.e: guilty or not guilty, and sometimes it is just sloppy journalism. And in my opinion, journalists everywhere should be banding together to deliver some completely unbiased, shocking kick-ass reporting if they want to save their industry, because journalism as a profession is on the edge of being overrun by bloggers.
Anyway, I’ll get off the soapbox, and let you enjoy this fine piece of reporting. I felt I understood the situation and background a great deal better after reading it, and I’m betting you will, too. Yalensis? (flourish of trumpets, curtain raises)
“Olim Lacus Colueram…”
(“Once I was a beautiful White Swan, swimming freely in the lakes…”)
In early 2009, Aleksei Navalny, then a relatively unknown political Oppositionist, took an important position in the Kirov Region government. Kirov, a city of 500,000 inhabitants, stands in the middle of Russia’s vast forest land. Despite his lack of a forestry degree or experience in this industry, Navalny had been picked by the regional Governor, Nikita Belykh (leader of the Opposition political party Union of Right Forces, to which Navalny also belonged at one point) to help develop the regional lumber industry.
Approximately one year later, in February 2010, after a serious quarrel with Belykh, Navalny fled Kirov in disgrace, alone, in the middle of the night, possible embezzlement charges hanging over his head. Fortunately for him, influential American friends helped him obtain a Fellowship for one semester of study at Yale University’s School of Management, in New Haven, Connecticut. Navalny’s flight abroad saved him, at least for a time. Then, his semester of foreign study completed, Navalny returned to Russia, hoping that all the Kirov unpleasantness was far behind him. No such luck. His case was opened, closed, re-opened, re-closed, at least three times. According to Kirov Vice Governor Sergei Karnaukhov, who is regarded as Navalny’s arch-enemy, a numbered file containing Navalny’s case languished for over a year in the wall safe of Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliev. White-collar economic crimes are notoriously difficult to prosecute and prove!
Eventually, a new set of people came along, a new packet of evidence came to light, and formal charges were finally presented against Navalny, on July 31, 2012.
Много богатства награбили,
Жили в дремучем лесу…
[Russian folk song “Ataman Kudeyar and the Twelve Robbers”]
(“Much loot did they steal whilst dwelling in the primeval forest…”)
According to Karnaukhov, Navalny used his position and influence with Governor Belykh to force a man named Viacheslav Opalev (Director of the KirovLes state-owned forestry collective) to sign a piece of paper, referred to in the Navalny/Ofitserov emails [see below] as “the letter”. This letter authorized a newcomer named Petr Ofitserov (management consultant, author, and entrepreneur) to purchase and re-sell, at a price disadvantageous to the regional government, state-owned raw materials. To conclude this purchase, Navalny and Ofitserov set up a Limited Liability corporation called “Viatskaya Lumber”. After purchasing the lumber, Viatskaya resold it to downstream clients, some of them out of region. Karnaukhov alleges that Navalny/Ofitserov incorrectly laid freight fees back onto the supplier (KirovLes) instead of onto the middleman or end customer; and that they profited from the deal in what amounted to influence peddling.
It goes without saying that white collar crimes are all about the numbers, therefore I’ll try to be as accurate as possible. Viatskaya purchased 10,000 (cubic) meters of lumber, for which the supplier (KirovLes) was paid 14.8 million rubles. The 14.8 million was paid via bank transfer, involving a prominent merchant bank called VTB. According to some accounts, Navalny put up the money himself. According to others, the bank loaned the money, collateral being the actual product that was to be delivered. Either way, the prosecution claims that this price of 14.8 million rubles was 7-9% lower than it should have been. Viatskaya’s job was to re-package (using whose workers?) and re-sell the lumber to approximately 100 downstream customers who had been lined up in advance (by Ofitserov).
In the end, Viatskaya pocketed 16 million rubles for these sales, this price including a 7% commission, alleged to go to Navalny. Assuming the 7% is applied to the 16 million and not the 14.8 million, then, according to my calculations, Navalny’s commission would have amounted to 1,120K rubles, or somewhere in the range of $35,300 American dollars.
Ofitserov earned a separate commission on each of the 100 transactions; he has stated that his commission varied from client to client but averaged 6% overall. I will leave the calculation to the reader, as a homework exercise.
Some three years after these events, on July 31, 2012, Navalny was charged, in a Moscow courtroom, under Article 160, Paragraph 3 the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation , which reads as follows:
Article 160. Misappropriation or Embezzlement
1. Misappropriation or embezzlement, that is, the stealing of other people’s property entrusted to the convicted person,
shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of 200 to 500 minimum wages, or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of two to five months, or by compulsory works for a term of 120 to 180 hours, or by corrective labour for a term of six to twelve months, or by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to three years.
2. The same deeds committed:
a) by a group of persons in a preliminary conspiracy;
c) by a person through his official position;
d) with the infliction of considerable damage on an individual, –
shall be punishable by a fine in the amount of 500 to 1,000 minimum wages, or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of five to twelve months, or by disqualification to hold specified offices or to engage in specified activities for a term of up to five years, or by deprivation of liberty for a term of two to six years, with a fine in the amount of 50 minimum wages, or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of up to one month, or without any fine.
3. Deeds stipulated in the first or second part of this Article, if they are committed:
a) by an organized group;
b) on a large scale;
c) by a person who earlier two or more times was convicted of larceny or extortion,
shall be punishable by deprivation of liberty for a term of five to ten years, with confiscation of property or without such confiscation.
In other words, Chief Prosecutor Alexander Bastrykin has charged Navalny with participating in an organized conspiracy to embezzle property. The three members of said conspiracy would consist of Navalny; Ofitserov; and Opalev. Of the three, Opalev has been cooperating with the prosecution, presumably in return for a reduced sentence.
“We [the Russian political Opposition] have been criticized for not having a leader. There are too many of us, some are heading into the forest, others are going after firewood… [Russian proverb] After the charges were leveled today at Navalny, who is 100% fabricated, the situation has become much more clear…”
(former Opposition Leader Boris Nemtsov, endorsing Navalny, in his characteristic tongue-in-cheek style, on his Facebook page)
Navalny’s innocence is argued most convincingly by investigative journalist Anastasia Rodionova in this piece. (It has lots of background information and also photographs of most of the cast of characters, so helps to put a face to a name.)
Here is Navalny’s side of the story:
It is early spring of 2009. Kirov Region is reeling from the results of the world-wide financial crisis. KirovLes, one of the largest enterprises in the province, is barely limping by. General Director, Opalev, a “sovok” type dinosaur who doesn’t understand even basic principles of capitalist entrepreneurship, is losing control of his filials. Which, in these difficult times, are falling back on bad old ways, resorting to the black market and selling product on the sly. Official sales are falling, and the company is on the verge of bankruptcy. Enter “Real Work Management”, a consulting company led by webinar guru Petr Ofitserov. Ofitserov approaches Navalny and offers to work with KirovLes to help increase sales. The two men organize “LLC Viatskaya Lumber” to act as middleman.
The discounted price of 14.8 million paid by Viatskaya to KirovLes was negotiated according to market conditions prevailing during that period of financial crisis, and not by any “insider” type corruption. Similar discounts were offered to other KirovLes customers, not just Viatskaya.
Gentlemen do not read each others mail.”
(Henry L. Stimson, American Secretary of State, 1940-1945)
Bastrykin has at his disposal two major pieces of evidence: (1) cooperation of one of the alleged co-conspirators, namely Opalev, and (2) all of Navalny’s personal and business correspondence from that era, taken from his Gmail (Google email) account. I am not a lawyer, and I don’t know for sure if the prosecution is allowed to use these emails, since they were obtained without warrant. However, I am guessing “yes”, because the government itself (or police) did not obtain the emails. They were obtained by a private individual, an anonymous hacker who calls himself “Hell”. It was “Hell” who cracked Navalny’s public-key password, decrypted his emails, and published the entire archive on the Internet.
Within this vast archive, Hell claims that there are 188 messages involving the Navalny/Ofitserov threads. I admit I have not had any luck trying to dip into Hell’s archive. Either my computer cannot handle this kind of volume to download, or I get a virus warning, and I wouldn’t put it past this loathsome hacker to insert Trojan Horses into his downloads! Therefore, I have had to rely more on this blogger, who selected and published 25 messages of the 188 (no doubt picking the 25 that he considered most instructive or perhaps most damning).
The same material can also be found on Stanislav Apetian’s blog, here. Please refer back to these links for the original Russian texts. Or, if you’re feeling lucky, try delving yourself into Hell’s mother-lode, via the link given on his Torquemada site.
My added value to what was already offered by “sporaw” and “Politrash” consists of the following: (1) I have organized the 25 Navalny/Ofitserov email messages in strict chronological order (as opposed to the way they are actually presented, with replies stacked on top of replies, making it more difficult to follow the thread), and (2) I have translated the messages into English to make them more available to non-Russian readers who have an interest in the case.
I have also appended a few text messages that occurred later between Navalny and Belykh, after their personal relationship blew up. These messages allude in passing to the KirovLes transaction. It should be noted that Belykh has not been charged with anything and is not currently considered a suspect. Partly this may be due to the fact that Belykh continues to function as Governor of Kirov Region, in which role he enjoys a certain amount of legal immunity.
Ofitserov initially emails from his consulting company account, then later switches to encrypted Gmail (=Google mail), at Navalny’s request. Ofitserov’s earlier emails end with a standard signature “Respectfully yours”, followed by his name, phone number and email address. After he switches to Gmail, he just closes with “Respectfully Yours, Ofitserov Petr”. Navalny, who is less formal in his language, usually does not bother with signatures or with greetings, other than “Hi”.
Each email contains within itself a computer-generated DateTime stamp, down to the minute and second. Happy is the Prosecutor whose incriminating evidence Timestamps itself, thus making the piecing together of the chronology a cakewalk!
Navalny’s Gmail messages were encrypted using standard public-key technology, and also using a public-key signature algorithm called DKIM (=Domain Keys Identified Mail). This is important to note because the DKIM algorithm provides unbreakable authentication. In other words, the emails could not have been written, forged or altered by anyone other than Navalny. (Or possibly someone who stole Navalny’s password, which is what I would have alleged, were I in Navalny’s shoes!) However, Navalny himself, after some initial waffling, has stipulated that the emails are genuine and were written by him. As to whether or not there is any criminal content herein, relating to Article 160 of the Russian Criminal Code – well, that is a different matter, and no doubt open to much interpretation. (Of which I try to refrain, except in my summary at the end.)
The chronology of the 25 translated messages is as follows:
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Thursday April 9, 2009, 12:45
- Navalny to Ofitserov – Thursday April 9, 2009, 23:44
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Friday April 10, 2009, 08:51
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Monday May 4, 2009, 14:32
- Navalny to Ofitserov – Monday May 4, 2009, 15:14
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 5, 2009, 12:22
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Monday, May 11, 2009, 16:21
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 11:08
- Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 11:15
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 16:20
- Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 17:08
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 17:53
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 18:00
- Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 18:02
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Wednesday, August 19, 2009, 8:19
- Navalny to Ofitserov – Wednesday, August 19, 2009, 9:15
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Thursday, February 11, 2010, 12:49
- Navalny to Ofitserov – Thursday, February 11, 2010, 13:45
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Thursday, February 11, 2010, 14:15
- Navalny to Ofitserov – Monday, February 22, 2010, 19:50
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Monday, February 22, 2010, 22:45
- Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, February 23, 2010, 12:48
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Saturday, April 10, 2010, [no time given]
- Navalny to Ofitserov – Saturday, April 10, 2010, 18:04
- Ofitserov to Navalny – Sunday, April 11, 2010, 8:23
I request that anyone who finds a mistake in any of my translations to please bring this to my attention in the comments section so that I can correct it. There are some names mentioned that I am not familiar with – I note these folks with a question mark in square brackets [?] There are also a couple of people referred to by code names (“Troll”, “Gandalf”), and I cannot figure out who these people are. If anyone can help with this?
THE KIROVLES EMAIL MESSAGES
“Я идейный борец за денежные знаки.”
[Ilf & Petrov, “The Golden Calf”]
“I am an ideological warrior – for bank notes.” – Ostap Bender
1) Ofitserov to Navalny – Thursday April 9, 2009, 12:45, Subject = “Contract”
Greetings! Take a look [at this attachment].
General Director of the Consulting Company “Real Work Management”
2) Navalny to Ofitserov – Thursday April 9, 2009, 23:44, Subject = “Contract”
Looks okay to me. Did you happen to include the agent and commission fees? Where is the 7% (commission)? Can you simply confirm this verbally in advance and include in the price?
Also, I don’t understand the payment schedule. Where is the deposit? Or is this a delayed payment plan? Or do we pay cash on delivery? For example, suppose Viatskaya gets an order from Kazakhstan for 500 cubes of lumber. We give the order to KirovLes, they hand the lumber over to us, and we deliver it to Kazakhstan. When does Viatskaya pay KirovLes? After the lumber is received in Kazakhstan, or after Kazakhstan pays the initial deposit? And what if there is no deposit?
3) Ofitserov to Navalny – Friday April 10, 2009, 8:51, Subject = “Contract”
Greetings! Well, this is how I was thinking of doing it. Otherwise things could get (too) complicated. For example, agreements with the Central Bank of Kirov and [FK?] are more long term, the term could be 3 days and maybe even 30 days. The volume we are talking about could be from 1000 to 4000 cubic meters. Five days might be okay, but 35? Whereas we can strike a deal with KirovLes for (a term of) 15 days. But where do we get the money? Therefore I decided it would be easier and fairer, at least during the first stage (of the operation), to compose a separate attachment for each client [i.e., retail customer]. There will be a boatload of them, but we’ll manage somehow. For example, in each attachment we indicate that we are delivering (goods) to, say, the “Romashka” company for prepayment, then five days after this, I send the money to KirovLes, and if the term is 30 days, then naturally after 30 days. This is a pain in the ass, to be sure, but who cares, at least for each delivery there will be a separate attachment according to the technical characteristics (of local transportation and so on). Therefore, if there are any additional expenses, it will be more convenient that way. Or so I believe.
4) Ofitserov to Navalny – Monday May 4, 2009, 14:32, Subject = “Solikamsk”
[NOTE: Solikamsk is a city in Perm Krai]
(Even) if the product is loaded piecemeal, it still comes to a lot. After the entire 16 million, the balance is only 4.5 cubes. Although, as you know, it might still be the case that the railroad doesn’t care about cubes, it considers a wagon to be 60 tons, and there are 20 tons of lumber, but we count by the wagon or even by a single unit of measurement. One cube = one ton. That’s more realistic, I think.
5) Navalny to Ofitserov – Monday May 4, 2009, 15:14, Subject = “Solikamsk”
Pete, I have an important favor to ask you. Can you send someone from your trusted posse to buy a cheap Nokia cellphone (in the neighborhood of 3,000 rubles) with a one-time-use SIM card, and put 1,000 rubles on it. Buy the phone under whatever name you want, just not your own name. Make sure it’s a pay-go phone without a contract, it just needs to work well and fit (in my pocket?) Then tomorrow morning send me the phone, not in a box, just a ready, working phone. I really need this.
Also, you need to switch to Gmail, you don’t have any sense for security! [smiley face]
6) Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 5, 2009, 12:22, Subject = “Solikamsk”
Do you still need that phone? I just got it in the mail. If you still need it, then they’ll bring it to you.
I already have [a Gmail account], I just forget to use it (sometimes), I find it awkward.
What are your plans for today?
7) Ofitserov to Navalny – Monday, May 11, 2009, 16:21, Subject = “Gmail”
Here is the link to the program, install it and (then we) will exchange encrypted files. You need to think up a password no fewer than 7 characters. Something that is easy to remember. [smiley face]
8) Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 11:08, Subject = “letter” [this one is from Ofitserov’s regular consulting business account, not Gmail.]
Greetings! I have attached a draft of the letter. Take a look, criticize, anything to add, delete, etc.
9) Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 11:15, Subject = “letter”
It looks great! Except that the word “chaotic” appears twice. But my main (correction, the phrase): “This is why we need this”… What in fact do we need?
10) Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 16:20, Subject = “letter” [switching back to Gmail]
I have attached a supplementary variant (of the letter).
11) Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 17:08, Subject = “letter”
Hey. It’s not realistic to give budgetary guarantees. I have corrected that bit. Collateral is needed. Let’s strike that out (for now).
12) Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 17:53, Subject = “letter”
Then what do we need? Just an official approval? Then: “Okay, kids, here’s some money, now run off and play?”
But in that case, under what (guarantee) will the bank give us the money? Under Chairman Funt’s [?] guarantee? Funt’s not the kind of altruist who would just throw out 15 [million rubles] for such a risk(y business).
Because we need legalization [for our project], and this letter will lead to that? That’s the only thing it can give us. But we need to dig up the money (ourselves), or (risk) straining our Friend “O” [Opalev] too much. But, on the other hand, the sale of 1000 meters of cut boards will net us 3 million, that’s 3-5 transactions. All of that done on Friend O’s dime. Okay, okay, fine, do you need it [the letter] brought to you tomorrow with the signature and stamp?
13) Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 18:00, Subject = “letter”
Okay, let’s go back to our (original) plan with Kogup[?], let’s work through him and quietly lay the foundation for (further) developments, namely, we see if it’s possible to purchase the product under the aegis of a letter of approval from the Governor.
In addition to that, how can the letter help us? Because after they sign it, it will be harder for them to throw obstacles (in our path). Or at least it would be specific obstacles (which we could address).
Or maybe leave the dollar amounts in the letter, that would prevent, for example, “They didn’t give us any dollar amounts, so throw a wrench in the wheels?” Think about it. I’ll phone you tomorrow, we can discuss it then. Because this letter [the way you are proposing it] can be the basis only of general instructions, in the style of “Offer support to the initiative of LLC Viatskaya Lumber Company for the creation of a single trading network”, which also actually sounds pretty convincing.
Think about it, I’ll call you tomorrow.
14) Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 18:02, Subject = “letter”
Precisely. What we need is legalization, institutionalization, and recognition. The “single network” project is precisely for that purpose. You give us the money, you get your lumber.
15) Ofitserov to Navalny – Wednesday, August 19, 2009, 8:19, Subject = “Greetings”
Greetings, Legend of the Russian Land! How’s life? Are we meeting today?
16) Navalny to Ofitserov – Wednesday, August 19, 2009, 9:15, Subject = “Greetings”
Hi. I’m in Moscow, and I’ll be here till the end of the week. I agreed with B[elykh] and Sh[?] that we’ll be creating a working group on KirovLes issues, and you’ll be in this group. Stop by Sh’s[?] today and come up with a working plan for this working group. Plus, we tentatively agreed that you will be appointed his unpaid Advisor.
17) Ofitserov to Navalny – Thursday, February 11, 2010, 12:49, Subject = “Greetings”
Greetings! How’s it going? Anything new with you? Any (new) developments, or has everything been postponed to Friday, and then to Monday, and so on?
Did you hear about the notice hanging on the bulletin board, something about a “Constructive offer”? I have the sense that everybody there is from Administration, no regular people.
I have a question – people have been found who are ready to invest 7-10 million Euros in the Kirov Region. Forests, (of course). What do you think?
From first impressions it seems like these are serious people, not empty talkers. They want to rent 100,000 [kilometers?] of forest, normal price, it goes without saying, market price.
(However), (others) are saying that there should be no discounts from either side, (these new investors) shouldn’t receive any forest at the expense of the Kirov development project, lest they lose (other) investors money.
We can discuss the situation.
The issue is, is it even realistic in today’s conditions to help people invest their money? To organize some wood for them, and then have the forestry department nix the whole thing after all that effort?
Tomorrow I am meeting with an interesting person.
What about you, will you be in Kirov on the 22nd to 26th? (If so), I’ll come around, and you and I can have dinner together and chat with Barman [=Belykh].
18) Navalny to Ofitserov – Thursday, February 11, 2010, 13:45, Subject = “Greetings”
Hi. I haven’t seen Barman [=Belykh] yet. They started to get their asses in gear after I raised a fuss, but I still haven’t seen any results. I sketched out a plan of action and sent it to Barman [=Belykh]. He’s in Moscow right now, I’m in Kirov. Then we switch places. We’ll see each other on Tuesday.
To your second question: I am not convinced that it is worth getting involved with the Kirov Province (deal) under any circumstances.
19) Ofitserov to Navalny – Thursday, February 11, 2010, 14:15, Subject = “Greetings”
I agree with you, I’m just passing on what people want. It’s entirely possible that this is no trivial investor. The main thing is to verify, and to give an impetus, and then let them duke it out among themselves. But (only) after verifying (their claims), of course.
Although I think, as far as Kirov Region is concerned, yes, there is little chance of coming to an agreement.
As concerns “getting asses in gear”, whatever emotions this might invoke, but I am taking a trip to (visit) those nice men who (work) not far from the Children’s Toy Store. [i.e., FSB headquarters in Moscow, where Ofitserov is presenting a complaint against the man he calls “Troll”]. Now, that’s what I call a result, and everything else is just words. That’s where you need to look for results. “I promise I won’t do it again, scout’s honor” –coming from Troll[?], as you know yourself it’s just empty bullshit. Even if he were to give his word to Barman in public, you understand, he and many others don’t keep their word.
Therefore it is necessary to do business based on results.
And one (such result) would be the official recognition of [Troll’s?] accounting as inaccurate. And, it goes without saying, a REAL audit of Mordor.
20) Navalny to Ofitserov – Monday, February 22, 2010, 19:50, Subject = “Greetings”
I have just fled from Kirov. I escaped in my car. And I don’t plan to return. On somebody’s orders they’ve started to undermine me, judging by everything I know, along the lines of the VTB [Commercial Bank]. That asshole Barman is applying the brakes [to me?], or is directly condoning it.
There is no danger to you. But I need you to turn to the court and the prosecutor’s office immediately (to help me). If you need any supplemental expenses for legal help – let me know.
All this is top secret. I told everybody, including the bookkeeper, that I had some important business to take care of, and therefore I am going away for a month or so.
Don’t mention this to anyone. If the people start to sense that I am really gone, and “I am no longer cool and no longer in the game”, this will create big problems. That’s how things stand with me.
21) Ofitserov to Navalny – Monday, February 22, 2010, 22:45, Subject = “Greetings”
Greetings! I understand. Are you sure I’m not in any trouble?
What do you mean by “undermining you”, after all you weren’t involved in the business, you only discussed (it), you had no official responsibilities?
Julia and the kids are in Moscow too?
I understand, I will also support (you too).
How can I help?
As for legal help, I’ve arranged it all, we’re (submitting a complaint) to the court Wednesday or Thursday, Dima will be General (counsel), I’m “Administrative” (no salary).
The lawyer, to be sure, is dubious about our case, he says there is very little evidence, and the delay bothers him. But in any case, (he says) there will be a movement to vindicate us.
Well, okay then, I’ll keep poking around. It’d be cool to leak some info to the press later, but if not, then not.
If you need any help – just call me.
You could also give me some advice, as a former lawyer yourself.
22) Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, February 23, 2010, 12:48, Subject = “Greetings”
No, (you’re not in any trouble).
Arz[amaztsev] & Company [the auditors] are tearing their hair out that they didn’t listen to us and left Mister O [in his job].
Now they want to burn Mister O[palev] to a crisp.
Julia left with the children yesterday.
Yes, they are undermining me in every possible way. Who ordered this? VTB [bank], more then likely. Even though I don’t have any official duties, they can still cause me a lot of unpleasantness.
23) Ofitserov to Navalny – Saturday, April 10, 2010, [no time given]
Greetings! Here is an interesting link, I think it reeks of certain possibilities, what do you think? Will this [new] guy be conducting an audit? Will he have the power to sign off on (it)? It would certainly be in his interests to do so. Any thoughts? [smiley face]
The link that Ofitserov sends Navalny is to this article, announcing the appointment of Vladimir Sysoliatin as the new director of the KirovLes collective.
24) Navalny to Ofitserov – Saturday, April 10, 2010, 18:04
I know him [Sysoliatin] pretty well. He is a genuine rogue, but on the whole a normal guy. He is totally Gandalf’s [?] man, they even did some (questionable) deals together in the past.
25) Ofitserov to Navalny – Sunday, April 11, 2010, 8:23
“Mister O” has started to muddy the waters at LesInform [another lumber company]. That is, he wants to get involved in lumber (again). They say he is going to transfer everybody there. I am interested in one question only: will Mordor be audited, or not? If so, then all will be okay; everything will turn out well for all the honest people. Later when we meet I’ll tell you some cool gossip, you’ll laugh your head off. There is already a mythology surrounding me! [smiley face]
THE NAVALNY/BELYKH TEXTING SPAT
Fast forward six months.
Best friends and hunting companions during Navalny’s Kirov period, Navalny and Governor Belykh have had a dramatic falling out, as shown in these hacked instant messages. The conversation mostly concerns a completely different business transaction, involving the famous Urzhumski distillery. However, the texts are also relevant to the topic at hand, because Belykh does allude at one point to the lumber deal, and also implies that he devoted quite a lot of his energy to protecting Navalny from “cops and FSB investigators”.
B = Governor Nikita Belykh
N = Aleksei Navalny
19-24 November 2010
B: L’okha, speak to me.
B: I have some business with you. I texted you several times, you never replied. There is something I need to take care of before end of year, I need to close out those “dubious accounts”, you know which ones I am talking about.
N: Nu, okay, okay. Please just send [the money] to M[aria Gaidar], and I’ll get it from her.
B: Okay. But why haven’t you called me or responded to my messages?
B: Aleksei! Why don’t you answer me?
B: L’okha, can you explain why the fuck you are acting this way? Why don’t you answer me?
N: I get 200 e-mails a day. I’m way behind in answering all of them. I simply have no time.
B: Well, I used to write to you before you became famous.
N: I never received any emails at this address.
B: And text messages?
N: I haven’t used my old phone since the middle of July.
B: Okay. Are we good, then?
B: And again, silence…
N: (1) You are spamming me, (2) I am good with everybody, (3) Maybe instead of writing to me you should write to Arzamaztsev’s[?] auditors, yeah, write to him and all those other crooks who, under your protection, are fabricating evidence against me and disseminating it all over the place. You never fulfilled a single one of your obligations (to me). Not one.
B: (1) I’m not spamming you, you’re an idiot, (2) You know that’s not true, and (3) I fulfilled all my obligations both then and now, and you’re throwing hysterical fits like a pregnant blonde.
I thought you’d be able to handle it and discuss this in a rational manner.
I have no reason whatsoever to consider myself guilty of anything or to be obligated to you in any way. With one exception: I admit I was wrong when, in the course of my routine quarrel with Marie [Gaidar, Belykh’s mistress], I mentioned your name, you know, that situation that occurred when Ella [presumably Belykh’s wife?] arrived. [Translator surmise: Belykh to Ella: I swear I’m not sleeping with Masha any more, she’s dating L’osha now…]?
That is the sole thing for which I feel guilty and for which I am even prepared to apologize. Everything else is just bullshit that you, with your fevered brain, blew up way out of proportion. I always considered, and still consider, you to be my friend, and it is unpleasant for me that you conduct yourself like this.
B: And again silence…
B: Are you still alive?
B: Are you familiar with the name Shkurkov, or maybe Oshkurkov, or maybe Ashkurkov?
Navalny [awaking from his stupor]: Maybe. Why?
B: Certain high-ranking personages are convinced that he [Ashkurkov] (was the one who got you shares in) Rosneft. And today they fucked over Friedman, who they think is somehow connected with him [Ashkurkov].
N: This all sounds highly dubious to me. Especially without a source of information. I hope this info can be vetted? By Votinov. [Andrei Votinov, another advisor to Belykh, now serving a 3-year sentence for trying to export a bribe]. He has fucking connections in the MVD [Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Volga Federal Okrug]. Or by [Sergei] Karnaukhov. After all, he has a fucking medal on his chest!
B: What you talking about? I was there!
N: I don’t understand.
B: Stop fucking around. The attack against Friedman happened right in front of me, it was because of Ashkurkov (I think that’s how his name is pronounced) getting Rosneft shares for you.
N: Masha told me that she didn’t receive anything yet.
B: I haven’t given her anything (yet). I already told you (if you would only read something other than text messages) that I can close this thing out before the end of the Fiscal Year.
N: She’s been waiting. It’s already the end of the year.
B: For YOU it’s the end of the year. For us, not all the adjustments have been input yet into the budget. End of the year – December, second half (of the month). After I balance the ledger I’ll see what we have (left) and hand it over (to you).
23 December 2010
B: Hey, dude! Let’s meet. I’ll be in Moscow on Sunday – Monday.
B: Aleksei? What’s up? You don’t answer your mail?
N: I already replied to you. You write the same thing every time, but you don’t do anything.
For example, you owe me, as before $152. [Note: Add 3 zeroes to each number.] You gave me 40E. 152 – 40Х1.32 = $100 [Translator Note: i.e., Belykh owes Navalny $100K American dollars…]
We’ve been talking about this, like, forever. (You) swipe the distillery, then (you) don’t pay (your) debts.
B: Go fuck yourself! Swiped distillery (my ass), you under-achieving lumber magnate! You’re still hoping to get money for work you didn’t complete? Whassa matter, you spent all your [American] grant money?
B: Prima donna thinks he’s a big fucking star now. Phew! You know something? I have no desire to talk to you any more, you asshole, you won’t have me to kick around any more or help get you out of your scrapes with the cops and FSB by telling them you’re helping out the so-called “lumber industry” in Kirov oblast.
B: I don’t owe you anything. Fuhgeddaboutit. If you don’t know how to treat your friends, then go fuck yourself. And, by the way, give me back all the money you already took (from me). Just in case [I get audited?]
SUMMARY AND INTERPRETATION
“The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich!”
[Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman]
I do not personally know any of the men involved in this affair. In my attempt to remain objective, I fell back upon the training I received when I was a literature major. I approached the emails as literary artifacts and employed what lit majors call “structural textual analysis”. In other words, one analyzes the text as a pure work of art, in a frame, free of extraneous context. (I also cheated and read external sources, such as Ofitserov’s Twitter feed and his and Navalny’s respective blogs.)
Certain clues within the 25 email texts whispered to me that Ofitserov, albeit a bit of a hustler, was pretty much what he claimed to be: a consultant just trying to make an honest buck, peddling his fancy webinar trainings and his new-fangled accounting practices, and his management consulting services.
I came to see Ofitserov as a sub-type of the “Stoltz” prototype in Russian literature: a vigorous go-getter who wants to rouse the lazy Kirov forestry industry from its “Oblomov”-like stupor. Andrei Stoltz, meet Ostap Bender! Soon the wandering webinar guru finds himself in way over his head, trapped in a byzantine web of standard Russian corruption and brutal office politics.
Alarm bells should have gone off in Ofitserov’s head when Navalny asked him to buy the untraceable cellphone. He should have replied: “Buy your own damned phone.” But, like poor old Willy Loman, he just wanted to land that killer deal that would make him rich. To do that, he had to please Navalny, the Grand Vizier who stood at the right hand of powerful Governor Belykh. As Willy’s boss liked to lecture him, “It’s not enough to be liked. You have to be WELL liked.”
Ofitserov demurs about switching to encrypted mail, something just doesn’t feel right to him: “It feels a bit awkward to me.” He should have trusted his gut. When he puts together the semi-final variant of “the letter” (see #8), he emails it in the clear, not encrypted. He is trying to hang on to his illusion that this is a normal business deal, with normal business people. In #19, Ofitserov actually welcomes the prospect of an AUDIT, believing that the audit of “Mordor” will vindicate him. If this does not constitute mitigation, then I don’t know what does! (Mental Note to Ofitserov’s attorney.)
I see Navalny as the seducer, he portrays KirovLes office politics as a struggle between good and evil; New Men versus Old Guard. Ofitserov is vulnerable to Navalny’s ideological slant. He sincerely believes that Navalny is the “Hope of the Russian Land”. They are off to fight the good fight, and make some money in the process. But soon Ofitserov finds himself on the losing side of a vicious power struggle within Mordor. “Am I in any trouble?” he asks anxiously.
When war breaks out between Navalny and Belykh, Ofitserov is simply collateral damage.