The KirovLes Case and the Navalny/Ofitserov Email Trail

Uncle Volodya says,”Crime doesn’t pay, but at least you’re your own boss.”

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…”

[Carmina Burana]

(“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;
b) repeatedly;
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:

  1. Ofitserov to Navalny – Thursday April 9, 2009,  12:45
  2. Navalny to Ofitserov –  Thursday April 9, 2009, 23:44
  3. Ofitserov to Navalny – Friday April 10, 2009,  08:51
  4. Ofitserov to Navalny – Monday May 4, 2009,  14:32
  5. Navalny to Ofitserov –  Monday May 4, 2009, 15:14
  6. Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 5, 2009, 12:22
  7. Ofitserov to Navalny – Monday, May 11, 2009, 16:21
  8. Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 11:08
  9. Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 11:15
  10. Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 16:20
  11. Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 17:08
  12. Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 17:53
  13. Ofitserov to Navalny – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 18:00
  14. Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 18:02
  15. Ofitserov to Navalny – Wednesday, August 19, 2009, 8:19
  16. Navalny to Ofitserov – Wednesday, August 19, 2009, 9:15
  1. Ofitserov to Navalny – Thursday, February 11, 2010, 12:49
  2. Navalny to Ofitserov – Thursday, February 11, 2010, 13:45
  3. Ofitserov to Navalny – Thursday, February 11, 2010, 14:15
  4. Navalny to Ofitserov – Monday, February 22, 2010, 19:50
  5. Ofitserov to Navalny – Monday, February 22, 2010, 22:45
  6. Navalny to Ofitserov – Tuesday, February 23, 2010, 12:48
  7. Ofitserov to Navalny –  Saturday, April 10, 2010, [no time given]
  8. Navalny to Ofitserov – Saturday, April 10, 2010, 18:04
  9. 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?


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].

Respectfully yours,

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]


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.

N: What?

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.

B: Yo!

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: Yo!

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?]


 “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.

This entry was posted in Alexei Navalny, Corruption, Government, Investment, Law and Order, Politics, Rule of Law, Russia and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

505 Responses to The KirovLes Case and the Navalny/Ofitserov Email Trail

  1. Moscow Exile says:

    This is what she Twittered:

    “Я покидаю вокруг света #спасибопутинузаэто”.

    She was asked by the management to send a corrrespondent to cover a story on the release into the wild of some Siberian cranes, but after having found out that Putin was going to be involved in their release, she refused to do the story. She says that she didn’t want to do a story like the ones that showed Putin saving tigers and finding amphorae.

    So the management gave her the heave-ho, and she says Putin is responsible, which claim makes a far better story for her, of course, than does the release of birds into the wild.


    • Misha says:

      You might recall how she left The Moscow Times with a bang.

      From the point of view of journalism in a more pure and earnest form, it’s quite frankly disgusting how she gets great props over some others.

    • Misha says:

      Felgenhauer being another who left TMT with a BS bang.

      Some replacement in Golts.

    • marknesop says:

      Typical Gessen; it’s all about her, and she is important enough in the magazine that she can refuse to cover certain stories for political reasons and the management will just eat it. I’d love to think this will spell a chain of firings in Russia of Gessen, but other sources hang onto her for exactly that reason – it’s not like she’s a great writer or reporter or something. It’s because she makes people read, even if it’s through gritted teeth.

      And even if every source she scribbles for in Russia canned her, she could still have her pick of the western mags, because they love nothing better than a story of a brave gal who chose principle over paycheque.

  2. marknesop says:

    Not to change the subject again – although we’ve already done so several times – but here is an excellent article on the oil discoveries in Tajikistan; it was the source of my figures earlier, and I should have cited it at that time. This is a new face among discussions of the region, or it is to me, and I have added the link to the blogroll. Highly recommended, very authoritative and detailed.

  3. yalensis says:

    For anyone who has not yet read Mercouris’s piece about the Berezovsky verdict, here is the link:
    It’s really really super-good post. Mercouris just keeps pounding in the nails, one by one, into Don Berezovsky’s coffin.
    Pastukhov’s post, on the other hand, is mostly pro-Berezovsky b.s., although he does make one good point:

    I imagine that many of these protocols will find their way into the full judgment of the decision and will establish a precedent. As a result the High Court will officially establish that all Russian capital accumulated in the wild 90s and the brazen 00s will have been obtained by criminal means, at least from the point of view of Western systems of justice.
    This is the conclusion we now have to live with. No one will be particularly exercised by it for some time, but things won’t be able to continue this way for ever.
    The conclusion is obvious: All, or at least most, of the 90’s privatizations of Russian wealth were ILLEGAL. I see 3 possible consequences:
    (1) People will do nothing, because there is nothing that can be done,
    (2) All companies and illegally acquired oligarchic wealth will be returned to Russian state, or
    (3) (this is the Russophobic variant that Pastukhov seems to propose): Western nations will confiscate all Russian assets abroad, i.e., steal all the loot for themselves. This is what they did to Libyan assets, they simply stole all Libyan gold and cash and said it now belongs to them. This would also fit in with Magnitsky Law, which is another approach to stealing Russian loot.
    I personally prefer Variant #2, but I think that is unrealistic fantasy, on the lines of “Let’s resurrect the Soviet Union and reset to a time when the legal situation of this property was crystal clear.” Variant #3 is possible, but would constitute an act of war. Variant #1 is most likely, although one cannot overestimate the explosive power of this slow-acting legal grenade that was tossed so elegantly by Dame Justice Gloster.

    • marknesop says:

      Pastukhov is simply being petulant, a sort of “I suppose this means…” kind of statement. And if he thought about it for a moment, he would see that this line was already clearly drawn by Putin in his meeting with the oligarchs, when he made it plain there would be no attempt on the part of the state to recover their wealth for the state provided they paid their taxes, reinvested a portion of their profits in Russia and stayed out of politics. There is nothing about that decision that implies the gaining of profits was legal, and it was not, not in the strictest sense of the word. Assets were bought and sold, for a price, to maintain a veneer of respectability, but the financing for the purchases, the final prices and the insider knowledge implied were all as crooked as can be imagined. However, as I have said before, if Putin had elected to go on a crusade against the oligarchs and try to deprive them of their wealth, they would have united against him and he would have lost. It was not the desirable outcome, but it was the practical one in view of reality and the situation was not of Putin’s making; had he been party to the original thefts, he would simply have turned a blind eye while they continued to steal.

      Likewise the suggestion that all wealth acquired during those turbulent years was stolen is simply more petulance, and is not so at all. There were any number of legitimate business deals that would stand up today; they were just less dramatic because there was nothing remarkable about them. You can even include mergers within the companies stolen by the oligarchy; nothing shady about those, and they were often just trying to ensure company dominance.

      Indeed, Alex’s post is superb, as are they all, in the cop-on-the-beat deliberation of systematically closing loopholes and laying out facts. But in the end you can’t really blame Berezovsky. He had just become so accustomed to being legitimized and shielded by the British system over the years, them covering up for him no matter what he did, that he had a natural expectation that this would be more of the same – even though he lied his face off in court, he would just get a mild scolding from the bench and it would then rule more or less in his favour because that’s the way it had always shaken out before. Yes, he knew he was lying, but he knew he was lying all the other times, too – not necessarily all court cases, but incidences of great suspicion and him being questioned and lying his face off and getting away with it.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        Abramovich has without any shadow of a doubt been involved in “shady” (i.e. criminal) business deals and it is alleged that he was involved in the “Aluminium Wars”, in which there were shoot-outs resulting in in the deaths of more than 100 gunmen and. (Berezovsky was allegedly involved in Moscow turf-war shoot-outs as well during his car-sales scam in the early ’90s: his favourite “enforcers” were Chechens.) However, following the end of Boris the Drunk’s reign, Abramovich has been playing the game according to the Putin rules and has some huge investments in Russia, most notably in Evraz, the country’s largest steel producer.

        When Abramovich was governer of Chukotka from 2000 to 2008 he spent an estimated US$1.3 billion plus of his own money on the region. Chukotka is the end of the world, as far as I am concerned, and one of the coldest places inhabited by man.


        Ethnic Slavs always make fun of the Chukchis, who are simple nomadic folk – Russian “Eskimos” really. After Abramovich’s governership there, the Chukchi birth rate has improved, as has their standard of living.

        No doubt as part of a large Abramovich PR exercise, Gorky Park in Moscow is at present undergoing reconstruction thanks largely to Abramovich’s efforts. He made the granting to him of permission to build of exhibition gallery there for his woman friend’s works of art (she claims to be an artist: he divorced his second wife in order to be with his present consort) as a precondition for his investment.


        Since his self-imposed exile in the UK, Berezovsky’s “investment” in Russia has only consisted of persistent attempts to overthrow the Russian government and the fomentation of public disorder in Russia.

        If he had chosen to “play the game” and stay in Russia, I somehow just cannot imagine Berezovsky ever having become the governor Chukotka.

          • Moscow Exile says:

            I remember questions being asked in the UK House of Commons when it was revealed that the millions that Abramovich was offering as a purchase price for Chelsea F.C. just happened to be the same amount the Russian tax authority was claiming he owed the state. The British Foreign secretary at the time, Mr. Straw, made a lot of bluster about this, saying that it wasn’t on buying Chelsea with money that didn’t belong to you etc. and that the matter would be looked into etc., etc.

            Abramovich bought the club.

            And when Berezovsky felt confident enough in the UK to start shouting his mouth off about his plans, real or imagined, as regards Russia and in a Guardian interview stated that “We need to use force to change this regime. It isn’t possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be no change without force, pressure”; that he was organizing a coup in Russia to overthrow the “regime”, the same Mr. Straw hauled Berezovsky into the Foreign Office and wagged his finger at him, warning the criminal liar that if there was any more talk of organizing the overthrow of sovereign states whilst resident in Merry England, he would be out on his ear.

            Berezovsky has also been involved in financing the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” and has on more than one occasion stated that he has supporters in Russia waiting to undertake a “regime change” there. He even last Easter stated that he was organizing a Russian political party – the “Christian Resurrection Party” or whatever.

            And he’s still there, in Misty Albion – but not for long, I should imagine.

      • Dear Mark,

        I don’t know who Pastukhov is but you are absolutely right. He is being petulant. He is also being completely and I suspect deliberately misleading

        Firstly, there is no doubt he wanted Berezovsky to win. His suggestion that because Abramovich paid Berezovsky lots of money this automatically means that Berezovsky owned various of Abramovich’s assets is nonsense. If I give you $10,000 does that mean I own your house? Abramovich gave an explanation for these payments and after hearing Abramovich, Berezovsky and a host of other witnesses the Judge decided that Abramovich’s explanation is true and that Berezovsky is a compulsive liar. There is nothing more to it than that.

        Secondly the case is no way sets a precedent in the way that Pastukhov says. He either doesn’t understand or deliberately misrepresents what a precedent is. A precedent is a statement by the Court on a question of law not of fact. There were no new questions of law in this case and the case sets no precedents. That the Judge decided that Berezovsky is a liar and a crook doesn’t mean that from now on western legal systems will assume that all Russian businessmen are. As it happens the Judge said that she found Abramovich honest.

        As to your general point about Berezovsky, there is no doubt that his success in fooling so many people here in Britain was what encouraged him to think that he could fool a Judge in the Commercial Court. More fool he. It shows how deluded and detached from reality he has become. However the fact that Berezovsky has found so many takers for his fantasies does not mean he is not responsible for them or for the damage they have done.

      • yalensis says:

        Good points, @mark. To tie back to Navalny, whom I view as a 2nd-gen Oligarch wannabe, who was a few years too young and a few years too late to the trough…
        In several interviews, and in formulating his political platform, Navalny has said several times that he wants to reform Russian laws to regulate and legitimize the privatizations of the 90’s. Per Navalny, the poor Oligarchs live in a constant state of uncertainty. Their little hands tremble with dread. The deal they have with Putin (=they get to keep the loot so long as they follow Putin’s rules and stay out of politics) is a verbal contract only. If Putin were to die tomorrow, who is to say his successor would follow the same guidelines? This is why they cannot sleep at night, tossing and turning with worry. They really want to have it in writing and carved into the fabric of the universe, that they truly own this wealth, which used to belong to the Soviet people. (Actually, the real oligarchs themselves are cool with the deal and don’t worry too much about the future; it’s the younger generation of oligarch wannabes like Navalny who are most concerned about dwelling in this purgatory state.)

  4. Robert says:

    Unfortunately I don’t see the oligarchs ever being dispossessed; the best we can hope for is that the Russian government will find means to tax them more effectively and takes out any oligarch who tries to do a Khordokovsky.

    • marknesop says:

      I don’t see much potential for the rise of new oligarchs, unless they rise simply by business genius, and in that case they probably deserve to be at the top of the heap provided they do it legally. But I agree with you that Russia will not try to repossess the wealth stolen by those oligarchs who remain in Russia. And there will not likely now be any need to repossess Berezovsky’s loot because what there is left of it will mostly go to his lawyers and paying the judgment.

    • Dear Misha,

      Thanks for this.

      The PACE report is the usual tendentious rubbish. It also contains a comment that one repeatedly encounters and which I personally find infuriating. This is that the murderers of Politkovskaya and Estemirova have gone “unpunished”.

      First no criminal justice system can guarantee that any particular murder will be solved. The murder of the BBC journalist Jill Dando who was murdered around 10 years ago in what has always seemed to me a contract killing remains unsolved. It is simply unreasonable to demand that a particular case is solved. As anybody who has any knowledge of criminal justice knows, putting pressure on investigators and courts to “solve” a particular is the best way of ensuring that the case ends in a miscarriage. That is exactly what happened in the Jill Dando case when a mentally ill person was convicted of her murder on what the entire British legal community at the time of his trial agreed was non existent evidence. Eventually when the fuss died down and the doubts became too strong to suppress this person was released and his conviction was set aside.

      However what makes this comment in the PACE report especially infuriating is that there is good reason to think that both the Politkovskaya and the Estemirova cases have been solved. The police have arrested all the people they say were actually involved in Politkovskaya’s murder including the hitman and the corrupt former policeman who supposedly organised the murder and who has now confessed to his part in it. All of these people are due to go on trial soon. The only person involved in the murder who the police say is still free is the person who ordered and paid for the murder and that is only because he is said to be abroad and is therefore beyond the reach of the Russian police. The Russian authorities have not yet released the name of this person but hopefully they will do so at the trial at which point it will be interesting to see how the country which is sheltering this person responds.

      As for Estemirova everything that is known about the case suggests that her murder has been solved. The police have found the murder weapon and the car in which she was driven to her death and have established that these belonged to a known Chechen rebel warlord who was killed in fighting shortly after her death but before these items were found. All the evidence points to Estemirova having been murdered either by or on the orders of this person as part of what looks like an internal feud within the Chechen rebel movement of which let us be clear she was a part. Needless to say the western media and the white ribbon opposition do not accept this explanation (when they report it at all) and insist that the gun and the car were planted by the police. However given the existence of this explanation and the evidence that supports it there is no justification for PACE simply to say that Estemirova’s murder is unsolved and that her murderers have gone unpunished.

      The simple fact is that when I read comments like the one in the PACE report about the murderers of Politkovskaya and Estemirova going on unpunished the whole report is exposed to me as the propaganda it of course is. I also get the feeling that the writers of the PACE don’t really want to see the murders of Politkovskaya and Estemirova solved or their murderers caught and who can blame me?

      • Misha says:

        Dear Alexander,

        A matter of creative artistry at play. With editorializing, one can easily package negatives and conjure up a glum outlook on a number of countries. I’m reminded of the alcoholic who complains about someone else having a drinking problem.

  5. Misha says:

    RFE/RL on American TV stereotypes:

    The TV show Law & Order is mentioned without mention of at least two grossly anti-Serb episodes playing on the bogus propaganda of Serbs raping en masse.

  6. yalensis says:

    This comment is mostly for @AlexanderMercouris:
    Recall, in above thread, we were discussing whether Navalny’s work for Nikita Belykh was a salaried position or not, and we both felt it was likely that the $150K that Navalny says Belykh owed him was back salary.
    I saw something that might contradict this theory. It’s a video that an anti-Navalnyite posted on Navalny’s own blog today. (Navalny, to his credit, does not ban visitors or censor comments on his blog.)
    Anyhow, this video, at 0:58 in, quotes Navalny as saying quite categorically that he never received a government salary, and that his work for Kirov Oblast was pro bono.
    I suppose that settles the matter, and hence that $150K that Navalny says he is owed remains a mystery.
    At 6:10 narrator asks the pertinent question, If this is a personal debt between Navalny and Belykh, then why did Belykh have to wait to pay it back until he closed the ledgers for the fiscal year?
    Note: this video is interesting to me, I hadn’t seen it before, but it covers the KirovLes affair and even quotes from some of the purloined emails, which I now feel I know by heart!
    The video is critical of Belykh and strongly implies that he and Navalny worked together to loot the Urzhumski Distillery of money when they were privatizing it.

    • Dear Yalensis,

      This is very interesting. I should say that in legal terms it makes absolutely no difference to the KirovLes case. Even if Navalny’s work for the Kirov Region was unpaid it would still be a major conflict of interest and actually illegal for him to use his official position (whatever that was) for personal gain. In a way if he was supposed to be working for free then it makes it worse since it implies that his pretence to be working for the Kirov Region on a voluntary basis was a sham.

      However that does raise the question of what the $150,000 Belykh owes Navalny was all about. It certainly wasn’t a personal debt. Belykh says in the emails that the payments had to be sorted out by the end of the financial year, which makes it clear that the money was coming out of the Kirov Region budget. Belykh also says that the money was for work Navalny was supposed to have done but when Navalny brings up the subject of the Urzhum distillery Belykh angrily says that he sees no reason to pay Navalny money for work he never did.

      I still think it unlikely that the $150,000 is Navalny’s cut from some deal involving the Urzhum distillery. That doesn’t seem to me to be in line with the conversation. However if Navalny’s job for the Kirov Region was unpaid then why were Navalny and Belykh discussing the payment to Navalny of $150,000 out of the Kirov Region budget? Why also was Navalny asking for this money to be transferred to him through Maria Gaidar and not directly through a simple electronic transfer? Could it be that when Navalny says his job for the Kirov Region was unpaid he is simply lying? Did Navalny and Belykh have some private arrangement? The person who has the answers is Belykh. What answers is he giving I wonder?

      More questions than answers at the moment. However Investigator Bastrykhin, Hell and chief detective Yalensis are all on the case and I am sure we will know all the answers soon.

      • yalensis says:

        Ha ha, thanks, Alexander! Like you say, more questions than answers in this whole mess. It’s simply hard to keep up with Navalny, that boy has his fingers in every pie. When does he ever sleep?
        Like you say, the Urzhumski Distillery affair, whatever horrors went on there, is NOT part of the KirovLes case. The investigative chaps have already stated that they have no plans to bring charges on this affair. Word on the street is that Governor Belykh was questioned about everything and gave satisfactory answers to every question (which is why he is also not being charged as part of Navalny’s “criminal gang” in KirovLes), Belykh even somehow convinced the investigators that the amount he owed Navalny really only was $150 (without the extra zeroes). Well, either they believed him, in which case I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn that is for sale to them; OR I suspect that Governor Belykh still enjoys some significant “krysha” in this world. Who are what is that “krysha”? if pressed I would have to guess Medvedev.

        • Dear Yalensis,

          That Belykh and Navalny were discussing just $150 is as we agreed before simply rubbish.

          Obviously there could be “krysha” and in that case Medvedev is surely providing it. However I suspect that Belykh is being fitted up for a starring role as a key prosecution witness at Navalny’s trial. In that case it is in the prosecution’s interest to make him appear a person of unblemished integrity. Of course that runs the risk of Navalny spilling the dirt on Belykh during the trial. However it is difficult to see how Navalny could do that without further incriminating himself (“Do you admit to being prepared to steal $150,000 to pay me money I wasn’t entitled to?”) so perhaps the prosecution thinks it’s worth the risk.

          • yalensis says:

            Dear Alexander: Hm… I had not thought of the possibility that Belykh might appear as a prosecution witness at Navalny’s KirovLes trial. If that is the case, then it makes sense for Bastrykin to clean him up. It won’t be too long now before we find out….
            In any case, I found a link to the recent news about Belykh being “cleared” of any charges regarding Urzhumski Distillery:


            This is the local/regional Viatsk newspaper.
            The story basically says that the regional Kirov prosecutor examined the materials in the Navalny-Belykh email trail and found no cause to initiate any charges against Governor Belykh. There were no problems with the distillery accounts. Plus, prosecutor decided that the debt discussed in the emails was personal and based on oral contract only, and since it was a tiny amount not exceeding $100, it was not worthy of further action.
            (Still begs the question why Belykh needed to close his fiscal year first before taking care of this debt!)
            As one of the commenters to the story wryly noted, the regional authorities report directly to Governor Belykh, and have now officially declared that their boss is not a crook!

            • yalensis says:

              Additional research re innocence of Nikita Belykh in issue of the Viatskaya newspaper:


              To summarize: Vigorously defending himself (against accusations made on the basis of the Navalny emails) Belykh asserts that the 2010 Kirov budget is completely in order, no money is missing.
              “On the subject of the Distillery, I have no idea what Aleksey was referring to,” the Governator writes. “The controlling shares of all the distilleries in Kirov Region were privatized even before I became Governator. The only thing that happened on my watch was the sale of a minority share of Urzhumsky… The entire transaction was transparent and public, was covered in the media…”
              Uh huh…
              Now about that bridge in Brooklyn.. It’s in pretty good shape, a bit of a fixer-upper, but the price is decent….

              • Dear Yalensis,

                This is extraordinary work you are doing.

                The claim that the debt discussed between Belykh and Navalny is $150 looks absurd. If the amount was that small why would it be the subject of such a lengthy discussion over several emails with Navalny complaining that Belykh was reneging on his promises to pay it? Why also would Belykh be obliged to explain that it could only be paid once accounts had been settled at the end of the financial year? As for why the money is not missing from the Kirov Region’s accounts, we know the reason – Belykh after Navalny tried to blackmail him refused to pay it!

                Something odd was going on but either Belykh is indeed being protected by someone like Medvedev or a deal has been done to enable him to give evidence at Navalny’s trial.

                • yalensis says:


                  It could be like one of those French drawing-room farces in which people hide in closets and overhear snippets of conversations and draw completely wrong (and sinister) conclusions about what is going on; when there is a perfectly innocent explanation.

                  For example: Maybe during one of their duck hunting trips together, Navalny bet Belykh $75 that he could sneak into his tent in the middle of the night and give him a super-cosmic wedgie without waking him up. Belykh lost the bet, but then went double or nothing, adding that if he lost he would send his girlfriend Maria Gaidar to deliver the money to Navalny personally, carrying the American currency in her bra. Belykh lost again, so now he owed $150.
                  Belykh never did pay up, though, because he and Maria got into a huge row (over other matters), and she refused to play along with his little game. From that time onward, whenever Belykh felt that his friend Navalny was ignoring him, he would try to lure him back, as in, “Come on, speak to me, L’okha, remember how I still owe you a little something?”
                  Similarly, whenever Navalny was mad at Nikita, he would yell at him, “You still owe me my f**king money, and Masha needs to bring it to me in her bra!”
                  As for the Fiscal Year thing, well that is admittedly harder to explain away, But maybe “Fiscal Year” is just their buddy code for something like “Cosmic Wedgie”, and Belykh is humorously threatening to get even with Navalny for that incident in the tent?

                • marknesop says:

                  I’m afraid that is beginning to sound like a believable scenario.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      “The rise of the Orthodox Church — and its popularity with young people — is striking.”
      From the American Thinker linked above.

      I should think that the American Thinker that wrote the above linked twaddle has probably never set foot in a Russian Orthodox church and most certainly not of late.

      Packed with young people nowadays they are most certainly not.

      • marknesop says:

        The author is fond of talking in bold generalities without providing any specifics, and appears to rely heavily on scary booga-booga punchlines that probably will not be challenged by the people who regularly read the American Thinker (which also frequently features our old friend Kimmie Zigfeld). Shoshana Bryen’s true passion is Israel, and how she can more closely align the interests of the USA with Israel’s interests, more firmly commit the USA to defending its security. Russia defends Syria, and Syria refuses to recognize a Greater Israel which stretches from pretty much wherever its government would like to whichever other arbitrary point, regardless if someone else already owns that land, and Syria contests the ownership of the Golan – therefore, by extension, Russia is evil. Since the spat between Pussy Riot and the ROC it has become popular to say the church is flexing its muscle and the lines between church and state are blurring, Patriarch Kirill is a shameless shill for Putin, bla, bla. Therefore Ms. Bryen sees all manner of signs and portents that the church is making a big power grab. Suggesting it is popular with young people provides a handy explanation for why revolution and overthrow of the government is not more popular with young people, and it does not need to be accurate because it is pandering to low-information voters.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          I thought La Russophobe had gone into retirement.

          She’s still alive and well, it seems, though I think the term “well” is hardly fitting when describing someone who is clearly suffering from such a severe psychological disorder as she most clearly is.

          In today’s Moscow Times there is an editorial entitled “Why Moscow Isn’t as Bad as You’ve Heard”, which headline immediately made me think that I have never heard anything as half as bad about Moscow and the whole of this vast country as I have read in the pages of that “newspaper” almost daily for the past 20 years.

          In the editorial one can read:

          ” But Moscow is not trapped in the Dark Ages. As the Kremlin seeks to showcase Russia at the APEC summit, which opened Wednesday, here are four positive developments that you might have missed in the headlines or, if you live here, overlooked in the bustle of everyday life…”

          The MT then lists good news for businesssmen in Moscow, the first being that “U.S. investors can rejoice over three-year visas, which will replace one-year visas next week. The groundbreaking agreement, initiated by Washington and two years in the making, is the envy of many countries. The Kremlin is keen for visa rules to be eased for Russians, so visa deals with other countries may be in the offing”.

          Enter La Russophobe in the comments section:

          “This is some pretty hilarious stuff! Russia making it easier for American businessmen to get around in Moscow? But what is the reason? Only to lure them to the city like a mouse into a trap! Once there, the most corrupt major nation on this planet has only one goal — to steal their resources and send them packing. Russia has done nothing to establish the rule of law, and Russia hates foreigners the same as it always has. Just ask Bill Browder! There’s only one word for an American who hopes to profit in Moscow, and that word is sucker! What’s more, any American who does profit from Russia only does so at the expense of helping fund the Putin dictatorship, a malignant regime that is creating a new USSR as fast as it can, obliterating American values it despises. Any such American is a disgrace to his nation”.

          Definitely in need of urgent treatment.


        • Misha says:

          Without meaning to get overly involved in polemics, Ms. Bryen appears to be living in a 1970s neocon time warp, fast forwarded to the present.

          Richard Pipes has been the preferred neocon academic on Russia. Bryen’s comments are in line with what he has suggested over the course of time. Meantime, others with an emphasis on Israel have seen how things have changed for the better in Russia. With Bryen’s kind of thinking in mind, a comparative point in this piece is made regarding Russia and Israel:

        • I found this article a classic example of Russophobia dressed up in scholarly language. Russia is wicked, dictatorial, corrupt and expansionist because it is Russia. Because that is what Russia is, that is what Russia was under the tsar and the Communists and what it is now under Putin and what it will be in the foreseeable future and possibly forever. This is written about the country of Pushkin, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, of Repin, Malevich and Tatlin, of Eisenstein and of Mussorgsky, of Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovitch. If that is not racism what is?

          • Misha says:

            There’s little if anything “scholarly” about Bryen’s piece.

          • kirill says:

            Funny that. The USA, UK, Germany, France were all expansionists (US still is). I could say all of them were wicked, dictatorial and corrupt too if one is going to take all of history for this evaluation. This sort of “analysis” is by and for imbeciles.

            Why should white collar crime in Russia figure in the analysis? What relevance does it have? Are the owners of Adelphia Cable to be trotted out to evaluate the USA, or Bernard Madoff for that matter? When the russophobes find a serious example of government corruption in Russia then they should let the world know. They are endlessly implying that is rampant after all.

      • Misha says:

        That AT article was picked up here:

        Someone sent me this reply –

        “What is this crap? I first thought it read like a farce – points to be ridiculed and set straight, but this was for real? I thought this site was tor better “understanding”.

        What a waste. Your commentary should get picked there front and center!”


        I suspect at play is an effort to be “fair”. Such fairness isn’t often so fair to a given valid view getting downplayed.

        This includes panels featuring some not always so great insight in contrast to what can otherwise be offered.

        As I recently communicated to someone within the establishment, I’m understandably reluctant to play a noticeably secondary role as some others appear to get their egos egos massaged in managed (not so intellectually challenging) situations.

        • kirill says:

          Such “fairness” does not apply from the other end. How many articles taking the pro-Russia view of such caliber are to be found in the MSM? I would say zero.

          • Misha says:

            This is about as good as it gets:


            All things considered, not so bad. There’s the seemingly obligatory negative on Russia’s government.

            • kirill says:

              QED. The duly elected government of Russia that is doing a good job considering that flipping economics and political systems is something that most societies cannot do easily and without severe negative impacts. Much like trying to replace all the bricks in a building while it is still standing.

              Supposedly Putin hasn’t saved every small businessman from the predations of corrupt bureaucrats. Well, Putin isn’t a dictator and he clearly does not have totalitarian resources to chase down all the “enemies of the people”. Here is an interesting example:


              Supposedly he is a victim of 3rd world style corruption. But this guy smells like Navalny.

              “In September 2008 the headquarters of Yevroset were searched in connection with its handling of Andrey Vlaskin, a Yevroset employee who in 2003 stole mobile phones worth around 20 million Russian roubles (approximately US$1 million). Vlaskin was caught by Yevroset security in Tambov, moved to Moscow to a Yevroset-owned apartment and after some time agreed to compensate Yevroset for their losses. While between 2004 and 2007 Yevroset and Vlaskin apparently had no claims on each other, in 2008 Yevroset was accused of kidnapping, illegal imprisonment and extortion. On 21 September 2008 Chichvarkin sold 100% of Yevroset stock to Alexander Mamut.[1] The volume of the transaction was US$400 million.[1] In January 2009 Chichvarkin moved to United Kingdom and on 23 January 2009 on Russian federal search list in connection with the Vlaskin case.[7] On 28 January the Basmanny Court of Moscow approved Chichvarkin’s arrest (in absentia).[1]”

              • astabada says:

                The West has problems with Russia, but that’s not due to “race”. Of course the common man sees the world in black and white, as he’s been educated to do.

                However the people in charge don’t like Russia because of its power, as it results from a combination of material (resources, military, science) and spiritual (a strong identity, an independent vision of the world, …)
                These are about the same reasons why the West yells at Iran. If our governments had problems with dictatorships, corruption, militarism don’t you think they would concentrate on Saudi Arabia, to name one?

                Well found by the way!

                • kirill says:

                  It is sad that the west is so irrational about Russia. There really is no deep cultural, religious and philosophical divide. The new cold war looks like a squabble between western oligarchs and the uppity newcomers in Russia who refuse to roll over and submit. Germany and Japan submitted after WWII and now they are part of the “normal” west. I think the average man on the western and Russian street does not have such criteria and only goes along with MSM propaganda. Although in the case of Russia, the MSM is traditionally not given the benefit of the doubt.

                • marknesop says:

                  Interestingly, “normal western” Japan holds almost $900 Billion in U.S. Government debt, the second-largest foreign holder of such debt. Since its economy is on the brink of total collapse, it is going to have to liquidate that debt in order to survive and even that may not be enough.

                  I wonder where they will find a buyer, and what kind of terms they will have to accept. Since China continued to buy U.S. debt through front companies and offshores even after the U.S. became alarmed and reduced the amount it was borrowing from China, I wonder if they will now acquire this huge amount of liability from the Japanese. That would, needless to say, leave the USA in a very exposed position.

  7. yalensis says:

    In case people don’t know, Putin gave an extremely good and wide-ranging interview to RT on all possible and serious subjects, world events, etc. I wanted to link the interview, which is translated in full on RT, but for some reason RT is down right now, at least on my computer.
    Which leaves me no choice except to link the sauciest, most trivial part of the inteview, i.e., Putin’s views on Pussy Riot and the advantages of group sex! (The advantage, see, is that an individual can afford to slack off every now and then, since this is a team effort.)
    Egads, this is pure yellow press, what am I becoming? On the other hand, this is classic Putin, complete with his sharp wit and irrepressibly salty tongue:

    On a more serious note, this section of the interview should be shown to every gay activist in Europe and America who is running around waving “Free Pussy Riot” signs; since Putin makes a very good point that Pussy Riot, in one of their performances, called for violence against Jews, homosexuals and guest workers. “I think,” Putin remarks, “that the authorities should have paid (more) attention to that at the time.”
    This statement gives me hope that Putin, through gentle nudging, might be able to educate more Russians to be more tolerant of gay people. Putin has so much credibility among ordinary Russians, maybe even some homophobes will listen to him!

    • peter says:

      … Putin makes a very good point that Pussy Riot, in one of their performances, called for violence against Jews, homosexuals and guest workers.

      Somebody somewhere has got it all mixed up, especially the “Jews” part.

      Москва, 7 сентября 2008 года. Активисты арт-группы “Война” символически повесили в одном из торговых центров пять человек – это подарок Юрию Лужкову на День города. “Повешенные” – представители самых нелюбимых мэром Москвы категорий граждан: три гастарбайтера (“Южное общество”) и два гомосексуалиста (“Северное общество”, по аналогии с пятью повешенными декабристами)…

      • yalensis says:

        So, these were live actors?? Not чучела ? My goodness, what a dangerous stunt, somebody could have been hurt!
        You are saying the point of this performance was to defend Gastarbeiter and homosexuals from Luzhkov’s bigotry?
        If that is the case, then I retract my comment and feel more sympathy for the activists, although I still do not approve of their shocking and narcissistic displays.

        • marknesop says:

          And according to this post on Leos’s blog, signs accompanied the Tajik-looking hangee which read, “Go Home Where You Belong”, or words to that effect. Who would have guessed the performance meant just the opposite, and suggested the state should be more tolerant of guest workers??? Damn, the activists of Voina are subtle. And yes, that is Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the “It Girl” of Pussy Riot, which puts paid to the theory that Pussy Riot and Voina are separate entities with no particular connection.

          • Misha says:

            Leos has a new piece up which offers a different view of the Russian language issue in Ukraine, from what has been evident in Forbes, the RIA Novosti (RIAN) affiliated and now defunct Russia Profile, among other English language mass media/English language mass media influenced venues:


            Mykola Riabchuk refers to Russian language speakers as carrying on in a manner akin to Pavlov’s dogs:


            Riabchuk wouldn’t take too kindly to such a comment directed at folks preferring Ukrainian. The Economist affiliated blog “eastern approaches” uncritically refers to Riabchuk as a “Ukrainian intellectual” as opposed to “nationalist” – in modern day usage, the latter has been suggestively used as a negative form of a patriot.

            Riabchuk’s commentary has been regularly featured a number of times at the anti-Russian leaning venue known as openDemocracy (oD). On a RIAN affiliated show he has hosted, Andrei Zolotov referred to oD as a respected London based internet magazine. The oD venue has advertised itself as being involved with the RIAN affiliated Valdai Discussion Club.

            At the more high profile of English language venues, a constructively critical pro-Russian advocacy continues to be hindered, care of ongoing biases and cronyism.

            Regarding RIAN, Zolotov, and oD, along with some other tangential matters:


            If Putin and RT can be criticized without penalty, it’s the high point of hypocrisy to shield others in media and body politic with an opposing slant.

          • peter says:

            And according to this post on Leos’s blog…

            According to the same post, “Пестель” is Russian for crayon. Maybe you should be more careful who you listen to.

            • marknesop says:

              I’m pretty sure he said in the post that he wasn’t confident of what that message meant, and he is not a native Russian. On the other hand, there is not a lot of subtlety to “Central Asia for Asians” or other blunt suggestions that those of a particular race belong only in those regions to which they are native. If indeed there were any such signs – I didn’t see any, but I also didn’t see any sign of Nadya Tolokonnikova in the original video, and I looked for her. And if indeed it was not a terribly clever protest against state racism by exhibiting racism. If so, their message control needs some work; hanging white girls and transvestites along with Asians is kind of confusing; there’s nothing like a good old, “End discrimination on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation” sign to make it all clear. I agree “crayon” does not make sense – What does the message actually say? Something hard-hitting and understandable, or another of Voina’s sardonic inside jokes?

              In any case, suggestions that the Russian government pay attention and listen to these ditzes and perhaps give them some say on domestic policy remains laughable. No other country would hand political power to sociopaths just because of a such an exhibition. Note also that police or security or whatever simply led them away calmly instead of roughing them up.

              • Moscow Exile says:

                The Pestel (Пестель) in question was a person, a certain Pavel Ivanovich Pestel (Павел Иванович Пестель) who was one of the leaders of “The Decembrists”, which people tried to institute by means of an army revolt in St. Petersburg a constitutional monarchy in December 1825.

                Needless to say, the revolt failed. It’s five chief organizers, including Pestel, were hanged. However, the majority of the Decembrist leaders, many of whom were army officers that had spent time in ocupied France, were sent into exile in Siberia. Their wives followed them there. So all in all, the Decembrists were treated far more leniently than I am sure they would have been if their revolt had taken place in the UK in 1825 or, for that matter, the USA.


                “Пестель на х&й не упал!” (uncensored: “Пестель на хуй не упал!”) is that which Voina called their “artistic” demonstration that depicted, amongst others, a Tajik “Gastarbeiter” being hanged by the neck, which title was wrongly tranlated in an Austere Insomniac blog as “The crayon F@*$ng didn’t fall”. (In better, uncensored English: The crayon didn’t fucking fall”.)

                “Pestel didn’t fucking drop!” is, in my humble opinion, what Austere Insomniac should have written.

                The connection between Pestel’s drop through a trapdoor at his place of execution in 1825 and the imagery of a Tajik hanged by the neck is, for me in any case, somewhat tenuous.

                No doubt she who shags in public and who demanded in court that her dignity be respected can give a thorough explanation of the “event” and its title in an interview conducted in the place where is is at present incarcerated. She has already given an interview there to Der Spiegel.


                • Leos Tomicek says:

                  Thank you very much for explanation, let me see if I listed that post as WTF?…

                  I am a bit wiser now, but still not wise enough on what that protest action was about.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  As regards other “street art” performed by Voina, I should imagine that the deep “artistic” meaning of their infamous chicken stunt can only be “explained” if one has a knowledge of vulgar Russian slang.

                  This aforementioned “event” was entitled “Пошто пиздили Куру?” (poshto peezdeelee kuru), which formally translates as “Why Did You/They Steal a Chicken?”

                  There is a play on words here, for the slang vulgarity “пиздить” (peezdeet) means “to pinch” or “to swipe” or “to nick” etc. (past tense, imperfective aspect: пиздил [masculine singular], пиздила [feminine singular], пиздили masc/fem. plural]). The play on words that led to the jolly jape in St. Petersburg is that in Russian “пизда” (peezda) means “cunt”.

                  I should say that the closest translation into English of “Пошто пиздили Куру?” that would match the grossness of the event is “Why Did They Snatch a Chicken?”, as “snatch” is US English slang for “pudendum muliebre”.

                  When in 2010 the “artistic” chicken stealing event was undertaken by a woman member of Voina, other members of that talented artistic group of performers held up large paper rectangles and on each of which was painted a letter of the Cyrillic alphabet so that the “activists” could spell out the word “безблядно” (bezblyadno), which can be translated as “without whoring” (без = without; блядь = whore, which latter word, by the way, is held to be extremely vulgar in Russian). This spelt-out vulgarity was in its turn a play on the word “безплатно” (bezplatno), meaning “free of charge”.

                  All this was supposedly meant to express the group’s rejection of paid employment.

                  So there you have it! A real work of “art”.

                • marknesop says:

                  For my part, I can think of no more sensible action on the part of the government than for them to free Pussy riot and give them a role in domestic policymaking. Putting advocates against paid employment in charge of the economy would be a sure vote-getter. And what gets me is that the same westerners shouting that Pussy Riot must be freed and listened to are largely the same group that yelled, “Take a bath, hippie!!” at the free-love generation, whose message – albeit gentler and absent the disgusting stunts – was much the same.

                • Dear Moscow Exile,

                  As always you are an absolute mine of information. Yet again I find myself in awe of your understanding of Russian. I am not exaggerating when I say that you know and understand Russian slang much better than I understand English slang.

                  I can explain the rationale behind these two incidents if anyone is interested.

                  On the subject of the two incidents, they fit in well with Voina/Pussy Riot’s culture of historicity and illegalism. An obsessive trait of the group is its attempt to present itself as somehow the inheritor of the revolutionary and avant garde traditions of the Russian intelligentsia. The reference to Pestel is a case in point. It is obviously intended to imply that the present government of Russia is as much of an autocracy as the government of Tsar Nicholas I and that it governs Russia in the same ruthless and abitrary way that Nicholas I did. There is therefore the performance of a hanging with the difference that instead of the target being a Decembrist as in Nicholas I’s time it is a Tajik, who is supposedly a comparable victim of government persecution today. By the way I understand that Voina also performed a mock hanging of a homosexual.

                  At the same time by invoking Pestel Voina/Pussy Riot seek to link themselves to a revolutionary tradition extending all the way back to the Decembrists.

                  The absurdity in all this is of course that the Russian government does not hang anyone today as it did in Nicholas I’s day whilst Pestel as an idealistic liberal republican had a totally different ideological standpoint from that of the anarchists of Pussy Riot and Voina.

                  By contrast the crude word play in the chicken incident is straightforward illegalism. This is an anarchist doctrine whereby an anarchist rejects all conventional methods of self support and adopts a criminal lifestyle to sustain him or herself. It is based on the anarchist rejection of property and of authority and of conventional structures lifestyles based on paid work. The intention in this case was obviously is to link the idea of paid work to prostitution. The theft of the chicken was intended to show that members of Voina support themselves through criminal behaviour which sets them economically and socio politically “free”. All this is classic revolutionary anarchism. The obscenity is Voina’s own special contribution.

                  Having said all of this, I don’t think there is actually much point in trying to “understand” these actions. What is important is not their “meaning” but the fact that they are illegal and dangerous and disgusting. The “hanging of a Tajik” is especially disturbing. Since it again happened in a public place (a supermarket) I again ask myself whether anything was done to stop children seeing it. To my mind there is a strong subcurrent of violence and sadism in all this. As Yalensis says the mock hanging could easily have resulted in someone getting badly hurt and I can’t imagine that stuffing a frozen chicken up her vagina did the girl who did it any good and I can again see how that could have gone horribly wrong. I have no doubt that if Voina/Pussy Riot had been allowed to continue with these pranks sooner or later someone would have been killed or at the very least seriously injured.

                • marknesop says:

                  Not to get sidetracked by triviality or anything, and while I agree completely with your analysis vis-a-vis anarchist doctrine in general, most accounts speak of the chicken in question as frozen. I haven’t see the whole video and have no interest in seeing it, but I have seen the beginning when the “artists” are holding up the chicken and it appears to be fresh, not frozen. Not that it would not be extremely uncomfortable regardless, but at least the issue of deep frostbite is off the table.

                  My first wife had a cousin whose wife worked at Massachusetts General Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts. She told us women came in all the time to have bizarre objects – in one memorable case, a Porsche stick shift – removed from their nether regions. It’s equally true that men from all walks of life have also had to repair to the hospital to have fairly bizarre objects removed from their wobbly warheads.

                  Please, let’s leave it there, and let this not provoke a flood of “my cousin told me, this one time…” stories. My wife’s cousin’s wife spoke from the standpoint of a medical professional, and I’d just as soon not wallow in the gutter.

                • cartman says:

                  Did one of them actually trademark Pussy Riot? So they are doing well on the rejection of authority front.

                • Indeed they have. There is no ideological consistency to this bunch. In the end any analysis is a waste of time.

                • cartman says:

                  Since they would not have done that if they did not expect the law to enforce their rights to the Pussy Riot brand, I think it would be great if some entrepreneur decided to test them with PR t-shirts or Barbie or Bratz dolls with balaclavas. More offensive to them is better.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  And there’s more “good copy” concerning PR in yesterday’s UK Daily Telegraph, in which its Moscow correspondent breathlessly reported that members of that “punk band” burnt in public a picture of the Evil One and thanked Madonna and others for their support.

                  What a stunningly brave thing of them to do! Knowing full well that it is illegal to speak badly about the Russian president anywhere, anytime and that by doing so they are putting their freedom or even their lives at great risk, we in the West can only salute the courage of these brave “girls” and offer them whatever moral support that we can in their determined fight for freedom against this evil tyrant.

                  They not only burnt a picture of Putin but also one of his nefarious sidekick in Belorussia as well, whilst one of the “girls”, donned in her trademark balaclava, stated “These men think it’s illegal to call yourself a feminist and to sing punk music These men think that you can’t criticise your government”.

                  So there you have it! The mesage is clear: it is illegal to criticize the government and to be a feminist and to sing punk music in those two authoritarian states and we in the West must support their demand for such freedom of expression that we have grown accustomed to enjoy in our democracies and the right to do anything we damn well please and to hell with those in authority or anyone else that tries to curtail these rights.


                  Yesterday’s UK Independent covered the same story with an AP report:


                • marknesop says:

                  These are the people who eschew salaried employment, and live by stealing food and drink from stores. These are the people who – they always name their activist “happenings” – named the famous chicken stunt “The Tale Of How One Cunt Fed The Whole Group”. I would so want my daughter to hang out with them, they are such role models.

                  Westerners who admire them so much ought to invite them to move to their community when they get out of jail. They can purchase a special “We Love Voina and Pussy Riot” house where they can all live, and of course the members of the community can drop off donations of food because they are anarchists who don’t believe in working to support themselves – wait, what am I thinking?? They would disdain such support, they need to steal in order to maintain their activist credentials, so local stores would have to pretend they didn’t notice them stealing. Who knows, you might round the corner of the kiddies section at your library, looking for something featuring the Berenstain Bears, and stumble over some of the members engaged in grunting sex right there on the floor! Won’t that be exciting? Of course you will have to pretend you are shocked and offended, or it won’t be art. They will probably remain anti-social and aloof, since that’s how they guard their ideological purity from poisoning by your bourgeoisie wage-slave imbecility, but if they should happen to thaw a little and invite you round for chicken stew, take my advice. Say you have to stay home to draw giant dicks on the walls, or something.

                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Полная хуйня!


                • Moscow Exile says:

                  Now here’s a turn up for the books!

                  The presenter of the TV show “Man and the law”, Aleksei Pimanov, has claimed that the Pussy Riot lawyers had “done everything so that the girls would get sent down”.

                  Pimanov claims that he wrote a letter addressed to the PR lawyers asking them to plead the excuses of their clients in order to help them in their case. He claims that this letter was received “with hostility” by the PR lawyers.

                  Pimanov is quoted in the article linked below:

                  “Я абсолютно считаю, что адвокаты Pussy Riot сделали все, чтобы девушки сели. По непрофессионализму ли, потому ли, что они сами с крайне либеральными взглядами, и изначально к этому относились как к политическому процессу. Они нарушали все возможные этические нормы.

                  Что должен сделать адвокат? Он должен наладить отношения с судьей. И работать на процессе не как политический деятель, а как адвокат. Ты не должен писать в Твиттере оскорбления судьи, ты не должен задавать ей вопрос: а вы сама православная? Мы внимательно отсмотрели все, что они там делали на суде. Повторю: они сделали все, чтобы девушки сели!”

                  I absolutely believe that the Pussy Riot lawyers did their best so that the girls would be sent down. Whether through their lack of professionality or because they have very liberal views, from the very start they treated the trial as though it were a political one. They violated all possible ethical rules.

                  What must a lawyer do? He must establish a relationship with the judge and deal with the process of law not as a politician, but as a lawyer. You should not write on Twitter insults directed at the judge; you should not ask her if she is an Orthodox Christian herself. We closely observed all that they did there in the courtroom. I repeat: they did everything so that the girls would get sent down!


                  It should be noted that Pimanov’s opinion as regards the PR defence team is exactly as that voiced by Alexander Mercouris many weeks ago at the very start of the PR trial.

                • marknesop says:

                  I find it extremely believable, and repeat that “the girls” are only useful as a symbolic cudgel with which to beat the Russian state if they remain in Russia and if they are jailed. Likely the defense was dismayed that the state was not only not going for the maximum sentence, but had already reduced it to less than half at the outset. The western narrative technique of isolating talking points and repeating them stubbornly until they become conventional wisdom is very much on show here, as they continue hammering on “Putin is jailing a rock group for hooliganism”, thus combining the western nostalgic love for the rebellion of rock music (nobody who grew up on Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Grateful Dead would recognize the squalling Pussy Riot likes to call music) and its deep conviction that the Russian state is repressive and omnipresent.

                • Misha says:

                  Moscow Exile,

                  Alexander, yourself and yours truly noted the manner of the PR legal counsel. One senses this way of carrying on was done with the approval of PR to get them greater fame. If this seems bizarre, consider how much less publicity they would’ve received for such a performance in an area that’s generally understood as being acceptable enough for street performers.

                  The relatively high profile coddled brat pundits who’re weak on the specifics involving this case aren’t as primary a source of blame as the elites giving them the stature/clearance to expresss such views, while downplaying greater realities which contrast with the desired spin.

  8. kirill says:

    Well, looky here. The bimbo that cut down the wrong cross for the wrong reason in Kiev has fled to freedom in the west. Nice racket, pretend you are persecuted and get asylum from the hypocrite west. I guess she will not be cutting down any memorials in the west.

    • What has happened to the other three persons involved? One of them looks to me like a man though again because of my eyesight I cannot see this person well.

      • kirill says:

        The two others holding the cords while the bare breasted bimbo uses the Stihl chainsaw are both females. The one on the right has short, dyed hair. There are bunch of “journalists” filming and photographing this act of violence. This is like knocking down grave stones. I say throw charges at the onlookers too. You are not supposed watch a crime in progress, you are supposed at least try to call police.

        I think we will see the two other females run off to freedom soon. They deserve jail time for this crime. Since they filmed themselves doing it, they need a quick trial by a judge that should take one hour tops.

        • Dear Kirill,

          It seems to me that the two other women are as guilty as Inna Shevchenko, the one with the chainsaw who has run away. As for the journalists what can I say? Their conduct is utterly disgraceful. I understand that in France it is a criminal offence to stand by and watch whilst a crime is being committed. That isn’t so everywhere. It isn’t here in Britain. Watching film like this I sometimes feel it should be.

          One of the most bizarre things about these activities in the brazen way in which crimes of this sort are now carried out in public with the criminals giving as much publicity to their crimes as they can. In an odd way I think that works to their advantage and makes few people realise that what they are watching are crimes. If Shevchenko and her accomplices had sawn down the cross in secret people would look upon what happened differently. It’s like what people say – that the best place to hide something is where everyone can see it.

          By the way as I said in a comment I have posted on Leos Tomicek’s blog I have no doubt that Shevchenko and the others knew exactly what they were doing. To be precise I am sure that they knew that the Cross they were cutting down was a Catholic Cross and not an Orthodox Cross and that it had been put up to commemorate Stalin’s victims. Though FEMEN is by no means connected to Pussy Riot and the two groups are even antagonistic towards each other they are both militantly anti Christian and in FEMEN’s case that extends to the Catholic Church which FEMEN has repeatedly attacked. I think they chose a Catholic Cross on this occasion partly to balance the anti Orthodox action carried out by the FEMEN activist who was wearing the “Kill Kirill” T shirt but also because they specifically wanted to outrage Catholic nationalist opiniion in the western Ukraine by desecrating a Catholic monument that commemorates Stalin’s victims.

          • Misha says:

            “Though FEMEN is by no means connected to Pussy Riot and the two groups are even antagonistic towards each other they are both militantly anti Christian and in FEMEN’s case that extends to the Catholic Church which FEMEN has repeatedly attacked. I think they chose a Catholic Cross on this occasion partly to balance the anti Orthodox action carried out by the FEMEN activist who was wearing the “Kill Kirill” T shirt but also because they specifically wanted to outrage Catholic nationalist opiniion in the western Ukraine by desecrating a Catholic monument that commemorates Stalin’s victims.”


            Are the two (PR & Femen) definitely opposded to each other? Pardon my comparative lack of knowledge on such a matter, as there’re arguably more important things to concentrate on.

            I recall Yalensis suggesting that Femen didn’t give much thought to which denomination and political leaning they were disrespecting.

            Regardless, all around stupidity getting way too much attention, relative to what appears to be (IMO) more important matters.

            • Dear Misha,

              FEMEN and Voina/Pussy Riot are not “opposed” but they are definitely antagonistic. First of all there are philosophical differences between the groups of a sort that would be altogether too tedious to discuss in any detail. However Voina/Pussy Riot are at least supposedly hostile to property rights and authority in a way that FEMEN iare not. FEMEN for its part has opportunistically used Ukrainian nationalism in a way that Voina/Pussy Riot would never use Russian nationalism. I ought to say that in my opinion (and contrary to what some people who comment here think) FEMEN’s “Ukrainian nationalism” is bogus just as Pussy Riot’s “feminism” is. FEMEN’s feminism is however real and is a major motivator for the group.

              Beyond this there are marked personal differences. Here is where not having a knowledge of Russian is a problem for me but I got the strong impression that Pussy Riot see themselves as intellectually and ideologically superior to FEMEN. FEMEN whatever you may think of them at least do deal with real issues like prostitution, gender stereotyping, abortion rights etc. Voina/Pussy Riot are all “theory” and “art” and I got the clear impression that Pussy Riot feel a certain disdain for FEMEN’s focus on straightforward protest and practical questions.

              One thing that was absolutely clear to me was the jealousy Pussy Riot felt for the much greater publicity FEMEN were getting. Again lacking a knowledge of Russian and of Russian social attitudes is a problem but I wonder whether some of the resentment might not also have come from irritation that Voina and Pussy Riot in St. Petersburg and Moscow were somehow falling behind the backwoods “provincials” who are FEMEN in Kiev. Whilst saying that the escalation of Pussy Riot’s behaviour in the weeks before their arrest was driven by jealousy and and a sense of competition with FEMEN surely goes too far an element of rivalry was certainly there. FEMEN’s response to the blizzard of publicity Pussy Riot has got in my opinion shows that this feeling of resentment and rivalry is fully reciprocated. The “Kill Kirill” T shirt and the cutting down of the Cross are surely FEMEN’s attempt to move the focus away from Pussy Riot and back on to them.

              • Misha says:

                Thanks for the follow-up Alexander. Like I said, these groups don’t impress as being particularly intelligent, while also getting much attention – thereby further encouraging me to concentrate on what IMO are more important matters.

                FEMEN going after an Orange (if you may) cross contradicts the Ukrainian nationalist spirit. On faux nationalism, I once again note how Navalny doesn’t come out with a reply to the negative commentary against his “nationalist” views in openDemocracy.

                • peter says:

                  … don’t impress as being particularly intelligent…

                  That’s rich coming from someone whose academic achievements are limited to a BA in History or something from a third-tier university. Compared to you, Voina’s founding member Kozlyonok (formerly Natalya Sokol) is a positive genius.

                • marknesop says:

                  Come on, Peter; don’t be an alma mater snob. I didn’t even finish high school, I got my high school equivalency via GED when a mature adult (well, at least at the age when adults are normally mature). So, compared to Kozlyonok, I am an invertebrate. Just when I thought I didn’t have any feelings left to hurt. I hope you’re pleased with yourself.

              • Misha says:

                “Third tier” is incorrect as usual.

                Moreover, intelligence and stupidity aren’t always indicative by paper credentials – formal education included – something that has been readily acknowledged by the best and brightest among us.

                So much for the scumbag troll who selectively targets people whose views he apparently doesn’t agree with or like. Instead of directly confronting them, he typically resorts to sleazy off topic banter.

                Note how he/she/it/whatever never seems to engage in such manner against individuals harboring the views along the lines of a La Russophobe.

                In point of fact, the scumbag troll in question (not too along ago) uncritically quoted LR in a thread at this blog.

  9. Moscow Exile says:

    “In an interview with the 1+1 TV channel, Femen said it planned to open a ‘Femen training center for activists” in Paris, where “activists from Europe and all over the world will be invited.'”

    A FEMEN training centre!

    The mind boggles!

    I wonder what the proposed training programme will consist of?

    • cartman says:

      Public nudity is still a crime in many Western countries. After their prison sentences, they will be branded with rapists and pedophiles for years to come. Of course they may not cross the lines like they did in their home countries.

    • marknesop says:

      I loved the part about “The organization’s council ruled to evacuate activist Shenchenko..”. They sound like children playing war.

      And on the same page, under “Most Read”, a delightful story in which the U.S. State Department actually praises Putin for his part in the freeing of the Siberian cranes, an endangered species, saying this shows that Putin is personally engaged in conservation!!! I’m sure he’s no more stoked about it than the average Russian and it was just another government photo-op. But that’s not the delicious part. That’s the story Masha Gessen was fired for refusing to cover. That’s the delicious part.

      • yalensis says:

        In the end, Putin was only able to free 2 cranes, the others got confused and just flew off somewhere. However, saving even 2 birds is a good thing. Plus, it looks like tremendous fun to fly around in that thing!

        • One would have thought that Putin’s entirely benign stunt with the cranes would at least be immune from the usual jeering and criticism. Not a bit of it. The Guardian still manages to find something sinister in it

          Apparently the episode is supposed to tell the Russian people how Putin “as their benevolent zookeeper” controls their lives. The fact some of the cranes went their own way is supposedly a sign of that the Russian people are starting to resist him.

          In my opinion the Guardian’s criticism of Putin and of Russia is now so far over the top that it is beginning to provoke a backlash amongst its readers. Notice how critical the comments on Comment is Free to this article are. We all know how heavily policed Comment is Free is so we can assume that there have been far more critical comments about this article than those which the Guardian has allowed to appear. I suspect there are a lot of Guardian readers out there who may be strongly critical both of Russia and of Putin and who may share many of the common western prejudices against them but who are nonetheless becoming increasingly bored with this incessant and obsessive drumbeat of articles about them. It’s not as if there aren’t other important things going on in the world.

      • Moscow Exile says:

        According to a report in the Russian press, the editor of the chief competitor of “Around the World”, which until quite recently had been edited by Gessen, has stated that that resident in Russia, Russo-American negative critic of all things Russian got the chop because the sales of “Around the World” have been falling steadily for several years; that it has been losing money hand over fist, its lost readers preferring to buy copies of its chief competitor, which is owned by National Geographic; and that since Gessen’s appointment as editor there had been no improvement in sales at all.

        Gessen, acording to this commentor, is a political journalist and questions concerning nature, the environment etc. are not her forte. So when she saw the opportunity to make a political gesture against the Evil One by refusing to do a story about an endangered species and the great outdooors, which story also featured, in the shape of Vladimir Putin, that person whom Gessen perceives as the condensation of all that as wicked and vile in Russia, “Around the World” told her to get on her bike.

        I presume that the owners of “Around the World” had thought that by appointing as editor someone who is a recognized “oppositionist” that just loves to bitch constantly about Russia, the magazine sales might have somehow improved. The logic behind this reasoning is rather unclear, but I should think that many of those who read “Around the World” are those members of the bourgoisie that like to wear white ribbons and to camp out on the Garden Ring or go on mass protest walks.

        Anyway, sales continued to fall and Gessen got the chop because of her petulance.

        Or Putin told her bosses to fire her.


    • yalensis says:

      Probably will involve some Ninja training. Article said Shevchenko had to slither down a balcony to escape coppers! I think end result will be some kind of Kung Fu Academy attracting many acolytes to Paris. They will train for many years until they are able to catch a fly with chopsticks. At that point they will be finally ready to go up gainst Judo blackbelt Putin.

  10. yalensis says:

    Everybody should watch this video. There is a wonderful twist at the end.
    New York City cops are the coolest…..

    • yalensis says:

      P.S. – The irony and pure ludicrosity is simply too exquisite for words: An anarchist carrying a sign reading “ABOLISH ALL AUTHORITY” goes running crying to the police begging them to arrest a counter-protestor!

  11. Canada breaks off diplomatic relations with Iran

    I’m sure few of us have doubts that Mark is behind this decision, being a notorious warmonger that he is. You have better come clean about this, Mark!

    • kirill says:

      Indeed, Mark is pulling Harper’s strings. You neocon sith lord you, Mark!

    • marknesop says:

      Sssshhhh!! You’ll blow my liberal peacenik cover!!!

      It’s sad for me, personally, to see my government behave so shortsightedly and in such a lapdog manner, hoping to curry favour. There is absolutely no evidential basis for this; the government is just doing what it thinks will please the USA and trying to be ahead of the curve. If I recall correctly, Canada was also first to condemn the Palestinian elections which brought Hamas to power, even though international monitors had signed off on them as free and fair. I guess that like the pigs in Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, some of us are more equal than others.

  12. yalensis says:

    This comment is for @MoscowExile: I concur with everyone that you have done yeoman’s work in decoding the obscure ironies and puns behind the PussyRiot “parables” [above thread]. For example, the decoding of the “snatching chickens” parable (“Пошто пиздили Куру?” ) was masterful, and proved that you are a Cunning Linguist indeed, as James Bond might say.
    Tying back to Navalny: Our boy uses this particular slang word (спиздить) quite a lot. It is a regular part of his lexicon, almost, like, every other word.
    Recall that in his famous email with Nikita Belykh, Navalny accused Belykh of “snatching” the Urzumski Distillery:
    мы уже много лет это обсуждаем. Спиртоводочный завод спиздили, а долгов не возвращаем”.
    So, literally, Navalny is saying that he and Belykh tucked the distillery into their lady parts, and then ran off carrying the whole distillery with them in this manner.
    In my translation into English I rendered this as:
    “We swipe the distillery, then we don’t pay our debts.”
    Based on your scholarly comments I would now modify my translation to: “ We snatched the distillery…”
    Sidebar: In my translation, I struggled over the correct pronoun to use with the verb спиздили, it can’t be “You”, because Navalny and Belykh are on ты with each other. I settled for “we”, but that makes it sound like Navalny is admitting partial guilt in this “snatching”. Which is not normal for him.

    For the last time, since the Kirov prosecutor has closed this case so it is now moot, here is the entire context:

    23 декабря 2010 года: [вот и наступил тот самый “конец года” – прим.]

    Никита Белых: Хай, браза
    Хочу встретиться . Буду в Москве в воскресенье и понедельник
    Никита Белых: Алексей, ты не охренел,часом?
    Ты даже на мэйл не отвечаешь!
    Алексей Навальный: я тебе уже ответил. ты пишешь всё время одно и то же, но ничего не делаешь.
    Вот например долг оставался $ 152. [поднимите руки те, кто считает, что речь не о тысячах – прим.]
    ты передал 40 Э
    152 – 40Х1.32 = $100
    и чо? мы уже много лет это обсуждаем. Спиртоводочный завод спиздили, а долгов не возвращаем [наиболее вероятно, речь идет об Уржумском или Яранском спиртзаводе- прим.]
    Никита Белых: Пошел ка ты на хуй!
    Спиздивший спиртоводочный завод, лесопромышленник недоделанный!
    Еще и деньги за несделанную работу получить хочешь?
    Не все Гранты отработал?
    Никита Белых: Совсем себя звездным почувствовал! Тьфу!
    Любое желание общаться отпало, сам хуярься с мантами и фсбшниками за свою “помощь лесному хозяйству” Кировской области [а вы думали, кто закрывал все дела на Навального в Кирове? – прим.]
    Никита Белых: Нет никаких долгов-забудь.
    Не умеешь ценить хорошего отношения – ебись сам
    И эти деньги тоже верни на всякий случай

    • Moscow Exile says:

      In “Мы уже много лет это обсуждаем. Спиртоводочный завод спиздили, а долгов не возвращаем”, I think the perfective active past in “Спиртоводочный завод спиздили,…” would be better rendered passively in English, thereby giving in full: “We’ve been discussing this for many years. The distillery was stolen, so we don’t settle our debts”.

      The active voice is used much more in Russian to express that which is more often expressed in the passive voice in English, e.g. Построили дом 10 лет назад, which literally means “They built the house 10 years ago”, but is more frequently expressed passively in English as “The house was built 10 years ago”.

      As regards the Russian usage of many vulgarities that have “пизда” as their root, I feel that native English speakers would vulgarly use the verb “fuck”, e.g. “Мне пиздец, они меня убьют!” – “I’m fucked! They’re going to kill me”; “Ну, пиздец, пора кончать пить!” – “Well fuck it! Time to stop drinking”.

      Following this argument, whereas the vulgar use by some Russians of the verb “пиздить/спиздить” is often expressed in English translations as “to swipe”, “to pinch” etc, e.g. “Ты не можешь спиздить немного сигарет у отца?” – “Can’t you swipe a few cigarettes from your father?” I should think a better translation that conveys the obscene vulgarity of the original would be: “Can’t you fuck off with a few of your father’s cigaretttes?” A literal translation would be more like “Can’t you cunt off with a few of your father’s cigarettes?”, but nobody says that in English – I think.

      I should add that many Russians are also fond of using vulgarities that have as their root the obscene term for the male organ, namely “хуй”. With their liberal usage of words having “пизда” and “хуй” in their roots, one cannot, therefore, accuse Russians of either misogyny or misandry: bad-mouthed Russians, it seems, are not sexists.

      As I wrote below the Pussy Riot promotional video (above) that has only recently appeared on You Tube: Полная хуйня! – politely translated as “Total rubbish!” but more accurately meaning something like “A load of fucking cock!” in English, although, literally, “хуйня” is a vulgar term for sperm.

      (Hope I’ve not offended anyone with this digression about some vulgarities that one can hear in that most expressive of languages. 🙂 )

      • Dear Moscow Exile,

        Not all at least not on my part. It’s fascinating.

        I wonder if I could ask you a rather more banal question? The young Russian dancer Sergei Polunin who the Royal Ballet was intending to make its big star suddenly resigned (“defected” is not too strong a word) from the Royal Ballet a few months ago and has turned up in Moscow where he has joined the Stanislavsky Nemirovich Danchenko Opera and Ballet Company. This is delicious revenge for the appalling British role in engineering the defection of Soviet ballet dancers such as Nureyev, Baryshnikov and Makarova. However that is not what I wanted to ask you about.

        Polunin is covered with tattoos, which he acquired here in London. We have been having hot and sunny weather here for the last few weeks. When that happens people dress more lightly and tattoos become visible. Every summer it seems to me a larger proportion of the population seems to have tattoos and (what would have been unthinkable once) most young women now do. I personally have no problem with this but I was wondering what the Russian take on tattoos is and whether women in Russia now have tattoos or whether this is still taboo? Will Polunin as a classical artist face any problems or prejudice because he has them?

        • Dear Moscow Exile,

          Since the thread above is getting very thin I thought I would just comment here to say viz your comments about the “Man and Law” TV programme that I am delighted to hear that the conduct of the defence lawyers is now coming under criticism. I would add that in my opiniion Judge Syrova’s conduct of the trial was little short of exemplary given the abuse and pressure she was under.

          Perhaps I should say that one hears a great deal of negative criticism of the Russian justice system but whenever I have had to pick over the pieces of a case my impression has been that it manages things fairly well. Obviously I only know what goes on in high profile cases Moscow, which presumably get the best judges. I accept that the situation may be very different in deepest Udmurtia. Having said this I still think the Russian justice system is nowhere near as bad as it’s cracked up to be and I know for a fact that that is also the opinion of the President of the European Court of Human Rights who since he actually has to hear cases coming out of Russia is arguably the best person to judge.

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Dear Alexander Mercouris,

          As regards the wearing of tattoos in Russia, as far as I can discern, in Moscow at least, they are rapidly becoming as popular with young women as they have apparently already become in the UK. These tatttoos are usually discrete and tastefully done, e.g. a small bird or butterfly on the shoulder, and there are also “hidden” tattoos that some women have had done on the small of their backs, which tattoos I have noticed when on the beach. However, I suspect that many of the tattoos that I see on young women here are fake.

          As regards men wearing tattoos, I see more and more frequently young men with large areas of their arms and legs covered with oriental-style designs, but these men are in a minority and seem to be “artistic” types, avant-garde youths and punks.

          Most Russian men, I feel, do not have tattoos. I think this is because there is a particular style of Russian tattoo that is usually associated with criminality. These “Soviet”-style tattoos are not as ornate as traditional British ones, indeed they usually consist of monochrome, dark-blue, almost black, designs. There are also members of the extreme nationalist fraternity that like to sport tatttoos that have symbols asociated with the Russian Orthodox Church.

          One Soviet criminal tattoo that I remember well but haven’t seen for almost 20 years now simply consisted of the three Cyrillic letters СЭР tatooed on the knuckles of one hand. The letters stand for Свобода Это Рай – Freedom Is Paradise.

          I should add that none of my Russian colleagues and acquaintances, both male and female, have tattoos – at least none that are visible to the casual observer.

      • yalensis says:

        I don’t enjoy vulgarity myself, but I guess it’s part of life.
        I once took a class in Old Russian literature, and Professor mentioned Russian obscenity, which some people used to believe was a borrowing from the (much maligned) Mongol-Tatar hordes. (Like, before that, Russians were refined and civilized, and only spoke of high-level matters.)
        Then Professor mentioned that birch-bark artifacts covering with writing in Old Russian discovered in Novgorod (centuries before Tatar yoke) were full of obscenities, “хуй” and “пизда” and the rest, proving that my Russian ancestors loved to swear long before the Mongols arrived! (Maybe it was the Russians who taught the Mongols how to swear.)

        • Moscow Exile says:

          Funny thing is, in Soviet times obscenities didn’t officially exist. Nowhere in any Soviet dictionary could any be found. I remember when I was a student in the USSR commenting upon this after having fruitlessy scoured for them in my Smirnitsky (Russo-English), Müller (Anglo-Russian) and Ozhigov (Rus-Rus) dictionaries that I had bought upon my arrival in Russia. I had also brought with me my Oxford Anglo-Russian / Russo-Anglo dictionary. When I showed the English obscenities therein to my Russian student room-mates and the Russian equivalents thereof, my erstwhile colleagues were dumbfounded. Word soon got around the students’ hostel of this treasure trove of obscenities that I possessed and for several days to the cramped quarters that I shared with three others I had a regular stream of visitors who wanted to gaze upon the unthinkable: Russian obscenities in print.

          Time passed and, having graduated in the UK, I returned to witness the chaos of the Yeltsin years. It was New Year 1992 when my Russian girlfriend presented me with a very slim volume of “mat” (obsenities), the first publication, I think, of them in Russia. And now one can buy quite bulky tomes of Russian criminal slang, youth slang and obscenities. But you never hear these words on TV, in the theatre or in the cinema, although I have to say that it seems that slowly, slowly there have been attempts by the avant-gardistes – that is to say, those lovers of freedom of expression anywhere, anytime – to slip into dialogues that which has beeen up to now the unspeakable.

          It’s quite funny really, because in dubbed Hollywood films, the numerous English expletives are clearly heard but their Russian translations bear no resemblance to their vulgar and obscene content. “Fuck you!” for example, is usually given in Russian as “Go to hell!” or “Go to the devil!”

          Be that as it may, the term “fuck you” is now so commonplace amongst certain Russians that the term has become almost an adopted standard phrase in their mother tongue.

          Many of those Russians who are fond of using English expletives I always feel are the ones who are trying so hard to appear “Western” and “cool” in the company of their peers. I call them “vowfakyuse”, because that’s what their pronunciation of “Wow, fuck
          you” often sounds like to me.

  13. yalensis says:

    Okay, boys and girls, let us summarize what we have learned so far about Pussy Riot:
    Thanks to @MoscowExile we have learned that they are an anarchist collective of artists and poets who prefer to speak in obscene parables, replete with interesting puns.
    Thanks to @peter we have learned that they politically support the rights of vulnerable minorities such as Gastarbeiter and homosexuals.
    Since I also support such rights of such minorities, and since I also enjoy word-play, I suppose logically I should come out in support of Pussy Riot. However, any sympathies I might feel for their views are overridden by my visceral blood hatred of anarchists. I mean, I really really really really dislike anarchists. I think in all the history of the world, starting with their founder, Bakunin, anarchists have done more to harm political discourse than almost any other group in the history of the world, and that even includes fascists.
    Everybody, please watch that Times Square video again, this is Anarchism in a nutshell: A group of anarchists march around waving signs reading “Abolish All Authority”. They want to abolish the entire state apparatus: police, government, army, the works. According to them, people should have full freedom to do or say whatever they want.
    But there is a catch: this only works when everybody is in full agreement on every single issue with the self-appointed leadership of the anarchist collective.
    The moment a counter-demonstration appears, disputing their point of view, the anarchist “leader” (a contradiction in terms) flies into a panic. She goes running to the representative of authority, two easy-going New York cops lounging on the sidelines watching the antics. “He’s not with us!” the anarchist desperately gestures at the counter-demonstrator, clearly willing the cops to arrest that lone dissident.
    “Well, what’s he doing?” one cop laconically asks.
    “He’s shouting very loudly…”
    “Well, so are you…”
    “And by the way,” the other cop nudges gently, “do you guys have a permit for this demonstration?”
    The anarchist bristles. Permit? What permit? “We have freedom of speech!” she declares.
    “Yeah, well so does he,” the cop points out.
    This tiny interchange gives you the whole picture in a nutshell, what an anarchist “victory” would look like. Upon sweeping away existing power and assuming power themselves, within, like, 5 seconds, the anarchists would have instituted a brutal dictatorship that tolerated no dissent and arrested anybody who disagreed with their crazy views!

    • Misha says:


      I’ve known an anarchist friendly radio show exhibiting such hypocrisy.

      On a lighter side: seeing how the subject of Russia and Belarus was recently touched on (further up this thread), congrats to Victoria Azarenka on her US Tennis Open semifinal victory over Maria Sharapova:

      Purists are likely to especially scorn Azarenka’s dance bit as being on the goofy side. I’ll take that over the kind of high profile goofball commentary getting the nod at the more high profile of venues:

    • kievite says:

      In Russian blogosphere a real master who really is able “to speak in obscene parables, replete with interesting puns” is a blogger who writes as Papasha Muller in Live Journal (

      Some examples:
      “Лучше ж-ль в небе, чем курица в п-де.” (c)

      Sep. 6th, 2012 at 10:08 PM
      Глубоко по смыслу, неисчерпаемо по содержанию, верно по природе, свежо по вкусу, в меру остроты, даже соли – ровно как я люблю.

      “Мальчик Ваня пукнул в храме”, а Макаревич – на Ютубе.

      Sep. 9th, 2012 at 1:00 AM
      Нет, товарищи, – ну, натурально, возможны варианты. Если он не сейчас спятил – то, значит, всю жизнь не-мудаком притворялся. Порою даже успешно. Ибо разницу между нечаянным пуком несмышленыша и злонамеренным репетативным отрепетированным бздежом под нос вагинновожатых, тьфу,-отмороженных – “поймет не только взрослый, но даже карапуз”.

      Ты тоже бздишь, Макарыч.
      Бздунок. Будто не 58 – а 15.
      Балаклаву еще натяни на лысину.

      ЗЫ. Это было Твиттерное, если что.

      “Бурленье говн не терпит суеты…” (с) я

      Sep. 3rd, 2012 at 7:24 PM
      “Главный редактор журнала «Вокруг Света» Маша Гессен покидает свой пост
      Впервые сообщение об этом появилось в блоге главномго редактора журнала «Наука в фокусе» Егора Быковского: «Издательство Вокруг света досрочно расторгло договор с Машей Гессен. Только что». ”
      (одна гражданка говорила)

      “Пустяки, дело жидейское.” (с)
      Это говно скоро всплывет еще где-нибудь, помяните мое слово.
      Мало ли у нас водоворотов, камрады?
      Мало ль у нас радиостанций, “гонящих волну” ?
      Прямо скажем – не заладилось у Маши со светом.
      Ей больше к лицу журнал “Вокруг пальца”…

      “А тут еще парашютист этот… Ну так заебал!…” (с)

      Aug. 31st, 2012 at 12:46 AM
      В роли парашютиста у нас сегодня на манеже, как вы уже наверное догадались, о мои проницательнейшие партайгеноссе, – председатель совета по правам общечеловеков т. Федотов.

    • hoct says:

      I wouldn’t over-analyse Pussy Riot’s politics. Pussy Riot are not about politics, they are about attention. Maybe they support rights for gastarbeiters etc, but they do so in order to draw attention to themselves. Supposed political engagement is merely a vehicle for them to reach the goal that really drives them — gaining their 5 minutes of fame.

      • Misha says:


        Their added punch is the kind of foreign sympathy they’ve received, unlike some others with legitimate gripes.

      • marknesop says:

        I completely agree, and what a lot of observers mistake for a martyr’s bravery at their sentencing is simply giddiness at being so famous. Besides, how bad can prison be, really, when you’re used to squatting in abandoned buildings and stealing to eat? And at least they can credibly claim not to be salaried employees.

        • Misha says:

          One senses PR are looking at a bigger picture, in terms of what they will likely experience when they’re let out.

          Their fame might end up being limited from what they and some others are hoping for. The BS factor in support of them is quite collapseable.

  14. yalensis says:

    OMG, Mark, Please delete or correct above comment if you can ASAP. I made a terrible mistake, I intended to post Monty Python spoof of anarchism, not attack Spanish anarchists.

    Oi… now people will think I am some kind of Franco fascist…

    Here is the real video I inteded:

    • Misha says:

      “Oi… now people will think I am some kind of Franco fascist…”


      In addition, there were pro-Soviet elements who shunned the Spanish anarchists.

      Reminded somewhat of the scene in Z, when the Greek generals discuss the leftist threat in their country (as they saw it) , as they look forward to seeing the visiting Bolshoi (if I’ve the correct group) perform.

  15. yalensis says:

    Okay, I give up. It is supposed to be that hilarious clip from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.
    You know, the one where King Arthur arrives in a village, and the peasants tell him they are an autonomous anarcho-syndicalist collective which does not recognize his authority.
    I don’t know why it keeps coming up with Spanish Civil War. I certainly don’t want to open THAT can of worms…

    • Don’t worry Yalensis. For my part I know the scene well.

      Anarchism is a movement with a long history. Its heyday was in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. At that time in my opinion some good came out of it especially when Kropotkin redirected it away from terrorism and towards anarcho syndicalism (which was the form it took in Spain). At that time it also had an important cultural impact which in my opinion was also positive. Both Malevich the Suprematist and Tatlin the Constructivist for were at one point in their careers anarchists.

      However anarchism has always had a wild side, which in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries often took the form of terrorism. One of the most famous victims of anarchist terrorism was the Empress Elizabeth of Austria. Terrorism is an abhorrent practice. Also there has always been a strongly egotistical and exhibitionist streak to anarchism, which you saw perfectly on display in the Pussy Riot case. In that it is very different from Socialism which as a collectivist movement has always been based on social responsibility. As I recently pointed out on someone’s Facebook page, anarchism and liberalism by virtue of their individualism are philosophically much closer to each other than either is to Socialism.

      Today anarchism is a shadow of what it was a century ago. Still it does have its followers some of whom are serious people. The American linguist and commentator Noam Chomsky is an example (though I personally find him impossibly conceited and to be frank a frightful bore). However far too much present day anarchism is simply an excuse young people use to misbehave. When that happens and it goes too far (as it often does) it becomes a pain in the neck.

  16. kirill says:

    Alexey Eremenko spouting his drivel again at RIAN about the APEC summit.

    Here as some points of hilarity:

    1) Russia does “only” $100 billion in trade with APEC but the EU does $200 billion. No shit Sherlock, the GDP of the EU was $17.6 trillion in 2011 while the GDP of Russia was $1.885 trillion in 2011. Eremenko the innumerate can’t see that Russia does vastly more trade with APEC than the EU adjusted to the size of its economy.

    2) Poor roads and buildings near the APEC summit. Wow, this is the same trope trotted out on the CBC yesterday (Eremenko should be sent to look for employment in Canada!). This is supposed to show that Russia is really a 3rd world country. I remember a CBC piece in the 1990s where they shove a camera in an outhouse. This was to prove how “backward” Russia was. How about invoking real measures of prosperity. The per capita incomes are over $800 per month and I can find outhouses and poverty in the USA too!

    3) Alleged $21 billion price tag *for the summit*. Another inane trope which is simply a brain dead lie. The bridge will allow Vladivostok to expand into badly needed new real estate. Take a look with Google Earth if you think this is a “waste of money for some summit”. Obviously the university was not built for the APEC summit. Also, when western governments spend billions in poor regions to bolster the economy this is considered good policy, but when it comes to Russia it is all bad, bad, bad and horrible! So Putin is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

    3b) Regarding the corrupt bridge to nowhere. Locals supposedly not missing a chance to take a stab at “the corruption and embezzlement it *must* have involved”. LOL. So this clown can’t even be bothered to look at the price tag and compare it to similar projects! He just assumes there was corruption. Wow, what breathtaking inanity. I would say that based on the fact that this bridge was completed on time and without massive cost overruns that there was no corruption and embezzlement. Prove me wrong, I dare anyone. I don’t want to hear about some petty theft as if it is enough to demonstrate “corruption”.

    4) “Yet the region’s population still plummeted from 2.2 million to 1.9 million between 1989 and 2010, while corruption bloomed.” Nice to see the Yeltsin era and collapse of the USSR being used as a benchmark for progress under, by implication, Putin. What happened between 2000 and 2012, you slimy sack of shit, Eremenko? How much corruption under Yeltsin and how much under Putin, eh?

    5) “They ignored us for so long”. Well, they aren’t ignoring you now are they? This reminds me of Quebec in Canada. The political grievances are all based on history before 1960. A delayed reaction resentment syndrome where most of the people doing the resenting never lived through the bad times.

  17. Misha says:

    *More on Pussy Riot:

    Forwarded to my attention, the presentation of a Polish Barbarossa action in 1812:

    Regarding the featured general:

  18. marknesop says:

    Mmmmm….here’s something interesting. Ksenya Sobchak filmed by LifeNews enjoying some quality time in the Tverbul pub with Ilya Yashin. Wide discrepancy between the two stories, naturally, with the reporters saying Yashin and Sobchak smashed their camera, and the “activists” saying the journalists simply erased the film after being asked to do so by “security” at the Tverbul.

    Anyone else find it curious that you could be entitled to privacy – enforced by security guards – while you’re eating lunch, but if a bunch of colourfully-dressed squallers want to burst in on you while you’re praying and start jumping around and screaming, you should just suck it up?

  19. Misha says:

    Moscow Exile,

    Further up this thread, I think it was you who noted the PR legal counsel questioning the judge’s impartiality by asking if she’s Orthodox Christian. (Pardon if it was someone else.)

    In some courts worldwide, there’s a basis for the defense or prosecution or judge to respectfully seek a different judge. The key word is respectfully, as opposed to disrespectfully editorializing.

    Regarding the specific instance, PR (if I’m not mistaken) has claimed that their act wasn’t against the ROC. The aforementioned challenge of the judge’s impartiality if she’s ROC serves to underscore the BS that PR’s manner wasn’t negative against the church in question.

  20. Misha says:

    Turkish officers take command of Syrian rebel brigades. N. Israel on alert

  21. Pingback: L’infâme Nikita – Part I | Awful Avalanche

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