In Putin’s Russia, Shooting the Messenger

New York Times

WHAT is the difference between Dmitri A. Medvedev and Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s tag-teaming presidents? It’s the difference between officially asking experts for unvarnished advice, and punishing those experts for giving it.

In early 2011, when Mr. Medvedev (now prime minister) was still president, the Kremlin’s human rights council selected nine experts to scrutinize the 2010 conviction of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was once one of Russia’s richest men but is now its best-known political prisoner. I was invited to serve, the one American in a group with six experts from Russia, one from Germany and one from the Netherlands. We did not mince our words criticizing the Khodorkovsky trial.

That December, Russian television showed the council’s chairman delivering our findings to Mr. Medvedev, with a recommendation that Mr. Khodorkovsky’s conviction be annulled. But then Mr. Putin, who was president from 2000 to 2008 and then bided his time as prime minister, returned to the presidency in May 2012. Since then, for their willingness to speak truth to power, at least four of my Russian counterparts have been questioned in connection with a criminal investigation. The court order used to harass them refers to their “deliberately false conclusions.” Talk about killing the messenger.

You may be surprised to learn that the Kremlin has a human rights agency. Not only has one existed since 1993, but the human rights council, as it is currently known, was active and respected under Mr. Medvedev’s presidency. Its membership was a who’s who of leading Russian human rights personalities, including Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva, the leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a former Soviet dissident.

In the Medvedev years, the council’s work had impact. For example, its study of the death in custody of the Russian anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky forced the state to reopen its own investigation of the event. The United States Congress cited the council’s findings in an act named for Mr. Magnitsky that was passed late last year. That law, which was linked to a lifting of trade restrictions, restricted the ability of the officials responsible for Mr. Magnitsky’s death to move themselves or their assets to American shores. Even more remarkably, the council scrutinized the case of Mr. Khodorkovsky, who is still paying the price for daring to finance Mr. Putin’s political opponents a decade ago. He was arrested in 2003 and was convicted in 2005 of evading taxes on oil sold by his Yukos oil company. He was dropped into the Russian prison archipelago, and Yukos was lost to a state-owned company. In 2010, as he approached eligibility for parole, he was convicted again, this time for embezzling the oil he was previously convicted of selling on the sly; he remains in prison today. Many have questioned the validity of these charges, their sequential filing, and the fairness of his trials.

My involvement began in April 2011, when I received an e-mail from Tamara Morshchakova, a retired justice of the Russian Constitutional Court; she was heading the council’s working group on the case. She asked me to write a report evaluating this second conviction. At the time, I thought this might be a chance to shine sunlight on this shadowy case, and that Mr. Medvedev would be more open to reconsideration than Mr. Putin.

Ms. Morshchakova had written to me: “The expert analysis is to be conducted on a voluntary basis and on the condition of confidentiality.” That meant I worked without pay, and without contact with the council, through that spring and summer, before submitting my report.

I now realize that this isolation was a safety precaution, intended to avoid false accusations of expertise-for-hire or collusion. Only when the work of all the experts was personally given to President Medvedev did I learn who else had written reports and what they had said. The six Russians included leaders in the country’s top academic institutions and prominent professors with expertise in legal scholarship, economics or both.

But once Mr. Putin switched places last year with Mr. Medvedev, my Russian counterparts began to pay for their too-public public service. Just weeks after Mr. Putin’s election last March, a Russian official smeared the council’s impartiality, citing charitable donations Yukos made over a decade ago to nongovernmental organizations whose leaders now sit on the council.

Then, shortly after Mr. Putin’s inauguration in May, search warrants were issued under the pretext of investigating whether Mr. Khodorkovsky had financed the “deliberately false conclusions of specialists under the guise of independent public expertise by paying those who organized their production as well as the experts.” I’m told that, one by one, these experts and people they work with are finding their homes and workplaces searched, their papers and computers seized. They are also being subjected to aggressive questioning.

Meanwhile, many council members, including Ms. Alexeyeva, have resigned in protest of Mr. Putin’s return. Their ranks have been restocked and enlarged, but the council now seems a shadow of its former independent-minded self.

Of course, as an American working outside of Russia, I am insulated from the full force of Mr. Putin’s wrath. Not so these Russian experts. Their work showed true courage, particularly because they must have known the risks.

Punishing the leaders to quiet the herd is an old practice for authoritarian regimes, and this message was intended for news editors, television reporters, bloggers and others who would speak their minds to the public. With Mr. Putin back in the Kremlin, it is no longer safe to express an opinion on public affairs, even if that opinion was requested by the state itself.

Jeffrey D. Kahn is an associate professor of law at Southern Methodist University. unshaven girls срочный займ на карту онлайн https://zp-pdl.com/how-to-get-fast-payday-loan-online.php https://zp-pdl.com/best-payday-loans.php unshaven girl

быстрый займ на киви кошелек credit-n.ru займ онлайн круглосуточно на банковскую карту
займ на карту мгновенно без отказа credit-n.ru займ на кредитную карту мгновенно
микрозайм без залога credit-n.ru деньги онлайн займ на банковскую карту
манимен займ онлайн credit-n.ru займ на киви без привязки карты

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Tumblr
  • StumbleUpon
  • FriendFeed
  • NewsVine
  • Digg

10 Responses to “In Putin’s Russia, Shooting the Messenger”

  1. DLD says:

    The more Putin does, the more convinced I become that all criminal acts of notoriety originate from him. Khodorkovsky’s incarceration obviously is the result of a vindictive Putin, but more & more my gut is telling me Putin had most to gain by stealing Hermitage’s companies & he had misinformation made available for Magnitsky to find to make Klyuev for the most part, a scapegoat. Setting up others to blame for Putin’s own crimes has been a recurring pattern during Putin’s tenure & made him very predictable. It’s also become apparent to me that Putin only is in control of Russia because he controls the death squads. Putin maintains control by making all potential threats to his power live in fear of the death squads.

  2. DLD says:

    P.S. What I am getting at is we know Magnitsky & Browder were framed & had false charges brought against them. It’s very simple minded of us to think the deception ended with these acts. Putin’s entire time in power has been marked with forced confessions obtained through torture. Putin has kept the Hague busy until most cases ended with his ordering the deaths of everyone that brought suit in the Hague for civil rights beaches under Putin’s rule. The president of Russia through his control of the death squads could bend just about anyone’s will to secure their cooperation with releasing misinformation. If the theft of Hermitage’s companies originated from Putin as the theft of a Yukos did, Klyuev hadn’t much choice but to cooperate. A refusal to launder the money through his bank would likely have given Putin cause to send the death squads after Klyuev. My own experiences over the last 11 years is that if someone says “no” to Putin he orders their assassination. Putin reacts like a barbarian. He’s not a thinker. He’s incapable of logical thought. He’s just an impulsive power hungry greedy leach killing machine.

  3. DLD says:

    P.P.S. “Putin” crime gang & not likely “Klyuev” crime gang. I’m not claiming Klyuev is “lily white,” but I think had he said no someone else fearful for their life would easily have been found as a replacement & a dead Klyuev still would have been blamed. In the Magnitsky affair there already exists a history to blame people already dead.

  4. DLD says:

    I’ve been getting the idea from reading I’ve done that the United Russia Party will only be United for the time Putin controls the death squads. If he should lose control of them the party will break into a load of competing parties. A nation where opposing views are suppressed by death squads controlled by a street thug extending his violent tendencies through the death squads is not a nation that is business-friendly. It’s a nation where if your business is successful the president & his crime ring subordinates will steal your business. If you fight them they kill you.

  5. DLD says:

    Finally, outside of Russia it is possible to survive the death squads on little money but your life is miserable! For those whose cooperation is forced as an act of survival, Magnitsky Act laws shutdown their ability after doing what they needed to survive to then defect & share intimate details of the crime with Magnitsky Act countries. On hindsight I’m considering an exclusion needs to be built in to encourage those coerced into participating in a crime to later whistle blow & be able to find safe haven in Magnitsky Act countries. The written exclusion would encourage whistle blowing & give western nation intelligence agencies valuable information about Putin’s crimes against the Russian and other populations.

  6. DLD says:

    If you have a couple of couple of million dollars (for example, $ 10 million) in reserve you more easily survive the death squads, & can enjoy everyday life. Magnitsky Act countries will need to do far better than UK did w/Perepilichny (spelling?). Security sloppiness of defectors discourages future whistle blowing.

  7. DLD says:

    No one should forget this information to leak-out at the end of 2007: http://m.guardiannews.com/world/2007/dec/21/russia.topstories3. None of Putin’s civil servant jobs came close to paying enough salary to have personally amassed $ 40 billion!
    We need to mold our minds to think of people coerced under Putin as being victims. If the coercion involves them forcibly receiving any benefit they then become targets for blackmail & can be coerced over & over again to commit more crimes. Stuck on Russian soil within Putin’s jurisdiction locks the victims into the Putin crime machine. Those coerced need to be able to defect knowing western democracies will protect them in exchange for the valuable information they can provide.

  8. DLD says:

    People native to western democracies tend to be very judgmental of people involved in Putin criminal conspiracies. It’s an ignorant approach. It’s a natural instinct for all humans to do whatever we must to survive. While I’ve survived a death squad the last 7 1/2 yrs, 14 of my pets didn’t. I’m nearly out of money making basic security tools like alarm central station monitoring no longer affordable, so my daily routine involves many very unorthodox things done to slow down the carnage. My situation is being studied by those that need to know. Studying death squad methods doesn’t save lives. It could save others’ future lives, but when you’re the lab rat your own life is destroyed! Putin’s death squad that includes foot soldiers for just over a year from the Aryan Nation (notable b/c the local boss is Jewish & I’m a natural blond…but my problems erupted over a business dispute) recently murdered another dog. The digg only turned 9 this winter. I paid for an autopsy. The results were she died from asbestosis. I bought a newly constructed house in 1998 that isn’t in a flood zone. It was fully redone in 2010. The dog moved in with me 6/6/11. Dogs don’t contract asbestosis. They die of something else before they could ever contract asbestosis. My dog was murdered! What manifested as asbestosis to a Medical Examiner came from exposure to a toxin other than asbestos & mold from the death squad. This was the 7th pet to perish this way. The choice to do it to dogs indicates homicide, but had it been done to a human asbestosis would have been dismissed as a naturally occurring illness. Like with the former murders a death squad member found an open liquid container to put drugs into to chemically depress me to want to commit suicide. The drugs hadn’t yet dissolved & this time I wasn’t drugged as intended. Life is not a dress rehearsal. You only get to do it once. No one wants to live this way. Anyone that can’t be coerced will live this way so long as Putin is in power. They’re oppressed. They’re victims! If they don’t cooperate the FSB poison factory will be unleashed on them & those they love. Putin is about revenge killings. What I am realizing is that the Magnitsky Act strengthens Putin’s crime machine because it lacks the necessary exclusions to embolden coerced people to whistle blow against Putin. They’re annexed in Russia forced to live a life of crime they might not want helping Putin abuse the power of his posts to personally enrich himself.

  9. DLD says:

    I am glad Mr. Browder & others from Hermitage took the initiative to push for passage of Magnitsky Acts. The legislation is needed. It just needs a small tweak. Mr. Browder & Hermitage did good! :-)

Place your comment

Please fill your data and comment below.

Your comment