Sunday, February 26, 2017

List of Kremlin-Linked Deaths Since Nemtsov’s Murder Continues to Lengthen

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 26 – Today, many people around the world will be commemorating the second anniversary of the murder of opposition Russian politician Boris Nemtsov near the Kremlin, but it doing so, they should not forget all the other journalists, opposition figures or those who “knew too much” who have died since that time, Kseniya Kirillova says.

            Appended to her recollections about Aleksandr Shchetinin, the Russian-Ukrainian journalist behind the Novy Region-2 portal who died in mysterious circumstances the day before Nemtsov was killed is a list of those who have died in the intervening period in what appear to be somewhat mysterious circumstances (

            Kirillova notes that this is “only an incomplete list” of “the large number of strange deaths, sudden suicides, and unsolved murders” during this two-year period alone.  It includes the following:

·         Mikhail Lesin, a Moscow propagandist found death in a hotel room in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 2015. The local coroner ruled his death an accident but that hasn’t answered “a multitude of questions” about what actually happened.

·         Vlad Kolesnikov, a young Russian who committed suicide on December 25, 2015 after being persecuted for his support of Ukraine. As Kirillova writes, he may have died by his own hand, but it would be wrong to call him anything but “a victim of Putin’s Russia.”

·         Aleksandr Shushukin, the deputy commander of Russia’s air strike forces who took part in the seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea, was pronounced dead on December 27, 2015, “from a heart attack.”

·         Igor Sergun, head of the GRU, died of a coronary on January 3, 2016. He lead the Crimean Anschluss and also in June 2013 organized the visit of now ex-US National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to Moscow.

·         Nikita Kamayev, former director of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency connected with the athletic dopinc scandal, unexpectedly died on February 14, 2016, again reportedly of a heart attack. His death took place less than two weeks after the death of Vyacheslav Sinev, another former head of the same organization.

·         Pavel Sheremet, a Belarusian and Russian opposition journalist, was killed when his car exploded on July 20, 2016.

·         Arseny Pavlov (“Motorola”), a leader of the Donbass militants, died of an explosion in the elevator of his own home. Shortly before that, other separatist commanders, including Pavel Dremov and Aleksandr Bednov were also “liquidated.”

·         Oleg Yerovinkin, a senior official at Rosneft who had been head of the secretariat of Russian vice prime minister Igor Sechin in 2008-2012, died of a heart attack at the end of December 2016. His death appeared suspicious not only because he was linked ot the man who prepared the anti-Trump dossier but also because it coincided with the arrest of Russian cyber security experts on charges of spying for the Americans.

·         Valery Bolotov, former DNR militant leader, died in Moscow at the end of January 2017 ofa  heart attack.

·         Mikhail Tolstykh (“Givi”), another Donbass militant, died on February 8, 2017.

·         Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, died of a heart attack on February 20, 2017.

            Moreover, there were other cases in which it appears efforts to kill someone fortunately failed, the most prominent of these being the case of opposition journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza who was poisoned on February 2, 2017, but who survived and has now emigrated.

            This list, the US-based Russian journalist says, includes “not just opposition figures and journalists, but defectors, informers, potential informers, loyal but excessively fanatic militants and those who simply ‘knew too much.’” It may even include some who just happened to die in exactly the ways the Moscow media have suggested. 


Rumors and Lines Played the Role of Social Media in 1917

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 26 – If one had been reading Russian newspapers in the first weeks of 1917, there would have been little indication that the country was on the brink of a revolutionary explosion; but if one had been listening to the rumors spread among people waiting in line for bread, one would have had no doubt that the Romanov dynasty was living through its last days.

            Indeed, Svobodnaya press commentator Georgy Yans argues, these lines and the rumors spread along them were “’the social networks’ of that time” and “the catalyst of the February revolution,” an insight that says a great deal about Russia a century ago and perhaps even more about Russia and other countries today (

            “Few supposed that the demand for bread would lead to revolution,” he writes. “The paradox consisted in the fact that an important component part of social protest which in the end led to the overthrow of Nicholas Romanov consisted of rumors” spread like wildfire as people waited in lines.

            “’The social networks’ of that time were the unending lines. There was sufficient supply [of food] in Petrograd, but the authorities weren’t able to take into consideration the factor of rumors.”  And they didn’t recognize that shortages were being created because people believed that there were shortages and were buying up more than they needed.

            One Russian historian has written, Yans continues, that  “the significance of rumors at that period was great also because” residents, as they came to rely on rumors rather than the news media, underwent” a definite kind of psychological change.”  And that led them to behave differently than they had up to then.

            Having become a crowd rather than a group of residents, the historian adds, the people of Petrograd began to manifest “a collective unconsciousness” and to engage in “mass pogroms” and thefts from stores, apartments and state institutions. And they were aided and abetted in this by criminals recently released from prison.

            Very rapidly, “these processes began to take on an irreversible character and prompted Aleksandr Kerensky to ask the people of Petrograd “What are we? Free citizens or revolting slaves?” Were they citizens or slaves? Yans asks now a century later. It didn’t really matter because “de facto the Russian autocracy had ceased to exist.”

            What remained was to give this de jure form.

Russia’s Failure to Crack Down on Cruelty to Animals Opens Way to Cruelty to People, Eidman Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 26 – Leo Tolstoy famously observed that “a society which treats animals badly will always be poor and criminal.”  Two events this month and the reaction of Russians to them suggest that Russia is just such a society and that the mistreatment of animals both reflects and leads to more mistreatment of human beings, Igor Eidman says.

            On February 10, Russian media reported that a woman in the Altai had thrown her child into the snow where he was saved only by a homeless dog who kept him warm until others could rescue him, and then on February 19, Daghestanis began killing dogs in massive numbers after a rapist and murderer used dogs to hide his crime (

                With regard to the first, the Russian commentator says, what was striking is that media outlets focused only on the mother and not on the hero dog who apparently “remains on the streets, homeless and unneeded by anyone. Where she is today, no one can say,” yet another indication that in today’s Russia no action no matter how sad or horrific will surprise anyone.

            With regard to the second, Eidman continues, it has become obvious that the Daghestani police and the Daghestani population was all too willing to accept the version of events that dogs and not a man had killed the young girl. Residents thus went on a killing spree against homeless animals.

            Comparing these two cases, he says, shows that “in Daghestan a blood libel turned out to be sufficient to awaken people and lead them to kill innocent dogs,” and that in the Altai, despite evidence of the heroism of the dog, “no one was found who would provide a home for even this one dog.”

            How easy in Russia it turns out to be to organize mass murders (“in this case, ‘only’ of dogs”) and “how difficult to awaken in them mercy” for a homeless dog “who saved a child from certain death!”

            Tragically, these are only two cases of animal cruelty in a country where every year there are hundreds of thousands of them.  A few awake the sympathies of some and the animals are saved from death; but all too often, Eidman says, they end in disaster and no one or at least not Russian officials seems to care.

            Animal rights activists have long sought the adoption of a federal law that would protect dogs, cats and other animals from mistreatment and death, “justly pointing out that if those who are cruel to animals remain unpunished, [they likely] will not stop at the murder of animals” but will move on to human beings.”

            But there seems little chance of such a manifestation of mercy in a country where people are “zombified” by television into thinking that killing people in Ukraine or in Syria is the right and proper thing to do, Eidman says.  Given that, the future not only of the dogs and cats of Russia but of the Russian people is anything but promising.