Who Is Mister Putin? Anastasia Kirilenko in Washington, DC

May 06 2016

On April 27, 2016, Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative hosted U.S. screening and the English-language premiere of the film “Who Is Mr. Putin?”

Based on investigations by independent journalists Anastasia Kirilenko and Vladimir Ivanidze, the film documents the origins of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s private wealth and subsequent rise to power. The screening was followed by a short panel discussion, moderated by Hudson Senior Fellow David Satter, featuring Anastasia Kirilenko, Karen Dawisha, and Ilya Zaslavskiy.

In December 2015, the film, chronicling Putin’s ascent from the St. Petersburg mayor’s office to the presidency, was placed on Radio Liberty’s site without English subtitles and has already gained over 2 million views on the Radio’s YouTube account.

The film has been lauded by Russian and Western experts for demonstrating how Putin’s ascension to the Russian presidency is explained by an alliance built in the early 1990s between himself, close friends from Leningrad’s KGB, and organized crime groups.

The movie Who is Mr. Putin? attracted the interest of a whole spectrum policy makers and experts and got positive reviews in Washington’s press immediately after the event at Hudson Institute. The screening itself was attended by a various audience and the direct question what the authors expect from Americans to help to combat Russian corruption, was asked. “True change should come from Russia,” said Kirilenko, stressing that it was a 100% Russian production (by Russians residing abroad) and that 2015 was the year of investigations in Russia. She also pointed out that this trend continues and the comprehension of the reality depicted in the film, also confirmed recently in Panama Papers, starts to gradually progress in Russia, especially among intellectuals.

At the panel, Zaslavskiy pointed out this film and investigation behind it show that Putin likes the scheme that Russian organized crime calls – “krugovaya poruka” – that is collective (mutual) gang responsibility. By implicating many people in particular chains of criminal activity, such as his boss mayor Anatoliy Sobchak, Putin made people dependent on himself. He also observed that Putin has employed some of the criminal encroachments on the free market in the energy sector of St. Petersburg, schemes that were later used as a template all around Russia and beyond it.

Karen Dawisha, author of Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? which was a ground-breaking book in western academic world exposing criminal elements inside Russia’s political system, made remarks about current activities of some of the people mentioned in the film and their associates that demonstrate that they are well-connected with the current regime and even exert their influence in high-level international organizations.

Karen Dawisha mentioned among others one character in the movie, a close Putin’s friend Vladimir Smirnov, which links to criminal gang Tambovskaya was subjected to journalistic and Prosecutor’s investigations, especially in Germany. He’s also responsible for the export of Russian nuclear contracts. “And this man is responsible for signing intergovernmental nuclear treaties with the US,” she said.

David Satter, the author of Darkness Before Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State and other renowned books, made remarks about continuous criminal features of the Putin’s regime that have been evident from early 1990’s to nowadays, including the mid-2000s that he researched through a series of investigations and films.

13077016_1706043676301295_7789722572273982549_n

Apart from these events organized by Kleptocracy Initiative, Anastasia Kirilenko, leading journalist behind film’s investigation, and Ilya Zaslavskiy, expert of Free Russia Foundation who specializes in Russia’s export of corrosive practices to the West, saw many representatives of DC’s policy-making community. All these meetings have been organized by Free Russia Foundation and aimed to communicate nature of Putin’s regime to experts in the national capital.

During these visits of to several think-tanks, pro-democracy organizations and places relevant subjects were raised and discussed, from very general to very specific ones. For example, the current Russian civil society’s situation, how Americans can help active Russians to educate themselves or to undertake their democratic projects despite repressive environment which saw American foundations expelled en masse from Russia and denigrated by propaganda. Kirilenko and Zaslavskiy stressed that many activists have already left Russia after protest rallies in 2012 were crushed and especially after the annexation of Crimea, when some activists were forced to leave due to fabricated criminal proceedings against them. Kirilenko and Zaslavskiy suggested that the criteria for eligibility for educational or other grants might be changed and that Russian activists living abroad should be more engaged with western counterparts.

The importance of the project of the Kleptocracy archive (Hudson Institute) and its part dedicated to Russian corrupt officials, was also underlined in the context of the importance of investigations when the press in Russia is not free. Kleptocracy can hardly be uncovered by Russian journalists themselves and last courageous media outlets and journalists personally experience great troubles and threats.

At the end of their round of meeting in Washington, Kirilenko and Zaslavskiy were recorded in two interviews, one in English at Voice of America, and one in Russian on Current Time TV program.

 

Based on investigations by independent journalists Anastasia Kirilenko and Vladimir Ivanidze, the film documents the origins of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s private wealth and subsequent rise to power. The screening was followed by a short panel discussion, moderated by Hudson Senior Fellow David Satter, featuring Anastasia Kirilenko, Karen Dawisha, and Ilya Zaslavskiy.

In December 2015, the film, chronicling Putin’s ascent from the St. Petersburg mayor’s office to the presidency, was placed on Radio Liberty’s site without English subtitles and has already gained over 2 million views on the Radio’s YouTube account.

The film has been lauded by Russian and Western experts for demonstrating how Putin’s ascension to the Russian presidency is explained by an alliance built in the early 1990s between himself, close friends from Leningrad’s KGB, and organized crime groups.

The movie Who is Mr. Putin? attracted the interest of a whole spectrum policy makers and experts and got positive reviews in Washington’s press immediately after the event at Hudson Institute. The screening itself was attended by a various audience and the direct question what the authors expect from Americans to help to combat Russian corruption, was asked. “True change should come from Russia,” said Kirilenko, stressing that it was a 100% Russian production (by Russians residing abroad) and that 2015 was the year of investigations in Russia. She also pointed out that this trend continues and the comprehension of the reality depicted in the film, also confirmed recently in Panama Papers, starts to gradually progress in Russia, especially among intellectuals.

At the panel, Zaslavskiy pointed out this film and investigation behind it show that Putin likes the scheme that Russian organized crime calls – “krugovaya poruka” – that is collective (mutual) gang responsibility. By implicating many people in particular chains of criminal activity, such as his boss mayor Anatoliy Sobchak, Putin made people dependent on himself. He also observed that Putin has employed some of the criminal encroachments on the free market in the energy sector of St. Petersburg, schemes that were later used as a template all around Russia and beyond it.

Karen Dawisha, author of Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? which was a ground-breaking book in western academic world exposing criminal elements inside Russia’s political system, made remarks about current activities of some of the people mentioned in the film and their associates that demonstrate that they are well-connected with the current regime and even exert their influence in high-level international organizations.

Karen Dawisha mentioned among others one character in the movie, a close Putin’s friend Vladimir Smirnov, which links to criminal gang Tambovskaya was subjected to journalistic and Prosecutor’s investigations, especially in Germany. He’s also responsible for the export of Russian nuclear contracts. “And this man is responsible for signing intergovernmental nuclear treaties with the US,” she said.

David Satter, the author of Darkness Before Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State and other renowned books, made remarks about continuous criminal features of the Putin’s regime that have been evident from early 1990’s to nowadays, including the mid-2000s that he researched through a series of investigations and films.

13077016_1706043676301295_7789722572273982549_n

Apart from these events organized by Kleptocracy Initiative, Anastasia Kirilenko, leading journalist behind film’s investigation, and Ilya Zaslavskiy, expert of Free Russia Foundation who specializes in Russia’s export of corrosive practices to the West, saw many representatives of DC’s policy-making community. All these meetings have been organized by Free Russia Foundation and aimed to communicate nature of Putin’s regime to experts in the national capital.

During these visits of to several think-tanks, pro-democracy organizations and places relevant subjects were raised and discussed, from very general to very specific ones. For example, the current Russian civil society’s situation, how Americans can help active Russians to educate themselves or to undertake their democratic projects despite repressive environment which saw American foundations expelled en masse from Russia and denigrated by propaganda. Kirilenko and Zaslavskiy stressed that many activists have already left Russia after protest rallies in 2012 were crushed and especially after the annexation of Crimea, when some activists were forced to leave due to fabricated criminal proceedings against them. Kirilenko and Zaslavskiy suggested that the criteria for eligibility for educational or other grants might be changed and that Russian activists living abroad should be more engaged with western counterparts.

The importance of the project of the Kleptocracy archive (Hudson Institute) and its part dedicated to Russian corrupt officials, was also underlined in the context of the importance of investigations when the press in Russia is not free. Kleptocracy can hardly be uncovered by Russian journalists themselves and last courageous media outlets and journalists personally experience great troubles and threats.

At the end of their round of meeting in Washington, Kirilenko and Zaslavskiy were recorded in two interviews, one in English at Voice of America, and one in Russian on Current Time TV program.

 

Lukashenka’s Ryanair Hijacking Proves Human Rights is a Global Security Issue

May 24 2021

The forced diversion and landing in Minsk of a May 23, 2021 Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania, and the subsequent arrest of dissident Roman Protasevich who was aboard the flight, by the illegitimate Lukashenka regime pose an overt political and military challenge to Europe, NATO and the broad global community.  NATO members must respond forcefully by demanding (1) the immediate release of Protasevich and other political prisoners in Belarus, and (2) a prompt transition to a government that represents the will of the people of Belarus. 

The West’s passivity in the face of massive, continuous and growing oppression of the Belarusian people since summer 2020 has emboldened Lukashenka to commit what some European leaders have appropriately termed an act of “state terrorism.”

The West has shown a manifest disposition to appease Putin’s regime —Lukashenka’s sole security guarantor. It has made inappropriate overtures for a Putin-Biden summit and waived  Nord Stream 2 sanctions mandated by Congress. These actions and signals have come against the backdrop of the 2020 Russian constitutional coup, the assassination attempt against Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment on patently bogus charges, the arrests of close to 13,000 Russian activists, and the outlawing of all opposition movements and activities. All this has led Putin and Lukashenka to conclude that they eliminate their political opponents with impunity.  

Today’s state-ordered hijacking of an international passenger airplane—employing intelligence agents aboard the flight,  and accomplished via an advanced fighter-interceptor—to apprehend an exiled activist, underscores that violation of human rights is not only a domestic issue, but a matter of international safety and security.  Western governments unwilling to stand up for the victims of Putin’s and Lukashenka’s regimes are inviting future crimes against their own citizens. 

Absent a meaningful and swift response, the escalation of violence and intensity of international crimes committed  by Lukashenka’s and Putin’s regime will continue, destabilizing the world and discrediting the Western democratic institutions. 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – THE KREMLIN’S INFLUENCE QUARTERLY

May 20 2021

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly, a journal that explores and analyzes manifestations of the malign influence of Putin’s Russia in Europe.

We understand malign influence in the European context as a specific type of influence that directly or indirectly subverts and undermines European values and democratic institutions. We follow the Treaty on European Union in understanding European values that are the following: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are guardians of European values, and among them, we highlight representative political parties; free and fair elections; an impartial justice system; free, independent and pluralistic media; and civil society.

Your contribution to The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly would focus on one European country from the EU, Eastern Partnership or Western Balkans, and on one particular area where you want to explore Russian malign influence: politics, diplomacy, military domain, business, media, civil society, academia, religion, crime, or law.

Each chapter in The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly should be around 5 thousand words including footnotes. The Free Russia Foundation offers an honorarium for contributions accepted for publication in the journal.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter, please send us a brief description of your chapter and its title (250 words) to the following e-mail address: info@4freerussia.org. Please put The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly as a subject line of your message.

Criminal operations by Russia’s GRU worldwide: expert discussion

May 06 2021

Please join Free Russia Foundation for an expert brief and discussion on latest criminal operations conducted by Russia’s GRU worldwide with:

  • Christo Grozev, Bellingcat— the legendary investigator who uncovered the Kremlin’s involvement, perpetrators and timeline of Navalny’s assassination attempt. 
  • Jakub Janda, Director of the European Values Think Tank (the Czech Republic) where he researches Russia’s hostile influence operations in the West
  • Michael Weiss, Director of Special Investigations at Free Russia Foundation where he leads the Lubyanka Files project, which consists of translating and curating KGB training manuals still used in modern Russia for the purposes of educating Vladimir Putin’s spies.

The event will take place on Tuesday, May 11 from 11 am to 12:30pm New York Time (17:00 in Brussels) and include an extensive Q&A with the audience moderated by Ilya Zaslavskiy, Senior Fellow at Free Russia Foundation and head of Underminers.info, a research project on post-Soviet kleptocracy

The event will be broadcast live at: https://www.facebook.com/events/223365735790798/

  • The discussion will cover Russia’s most recent and ongoing covert violent operations, direct political interference, oligarchic penetration with money and influence; 
  • GRU’s structure and approach to conducting operations in Europe
  • Trends and forecasts on how data availability will impact both, the Kremlin’s operations and their investigation by governments and activists; 
  • EU and national European government response and facilitation of operations on their soil; 
  • Recommendations for effective counter to the security and political threats posed by Russian security services. 

YouTube Against Navalny’s Smart Voting

May 06 2021

On May 6, 2020, at least five YouTube channels belonging to key Russian opposition leaders and platforms received notifications from YouTube that some of their content had been removed due to its being qualified as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

They included: 

Ilya Yashin (343k YouTube subscribers)

Vladimir Milov (218k YouTube subscribers) 

Leonid Volkov (117k YouTube subscribers)

Novaya Gazeta (277k YouTube Subscribers) 

Sota Vision (248k YouTube Subscribers)

Most likely, there are other Russian pro-democracy channels that have received similar notifications at the same time, and we are putting together the list of all affected by this censorship campaign. 

The identical letters received from YouTube by the five account holders stated:

“Our team has reviewed your content, and, unfortunately, we think it violates our spam, deceptive practices and scams policy. We’ve removed the following content from YouTube:

URL: https://votesmart.appspot.com/

YouTube has removed urls from descriptions of videos posted on these accounts that linked to Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting website (votesmart.appspot.com).

By doing this, and to our great shock and disbelief, YouTube has acted to enforce the Kremlin’s policies by qualifying Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting system and its website as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

This action has not only technically disrupted communication for the Russian civil society which is now under a deadly siege by Putin’s regime, but it has rendered a serious and lasting damage to its reputation and legitimacy of Smart Voting approach. 

In reality, Smart Voting system is not a spam, scam or a “deceptive practice”, but instead it’s a fully legitimate system of choosing and supporting candidates in Russian elections who have a chance of winning against the ruling “United Russia” party candidates. There’s absolutely nothing illegal, deceptive or fraudulent about the Smart Voting or any materials on its website.

We don’t know the reasons behind such YouTube actions, but they are an unacceptable suppression of a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the Russian people and help the Kremlin’s suppression of civil rights and freedoms by banning the Smart Voting system and not allowing free political competition with the ruling “United Russia” party. 

This is an extremely dangerous precedent in an environment where opposition activities in Russia are being literally outlawed;  key opposition figures are jailed, exiled, arrested and attacked with criminal investigations; independent election campaigning is prohibited; and social media networks remain among the very few channels still available to the Russian opposition to communicate with the ordinary Russians.

We demand a  swift and decisive action on this matter from the international community, to make sure that YouTube corrects its stance toward Russian opposition channels, and ensures that such suppression of peaceful, legal  pro-democracy voices does not happen again. 

FRF Lauds New US Sanctions Targeting the Kremlin’s Perpetrators in Crimea, Calls for Their Expansion

Apr 15 2021

On April 15, 2021,  President Biden signed new sanctions against a number of officials and agents of the Russian Federation in connection with malign international activities conducted by the Russian government.

The list of individuals sanctioned by the new law includes Leonid Mikhalyuk, director of the Federal Security Service in the Russian-occupied Crimea.

A report issued by Free Russia Foundation, Media Initiative for Human Rights and Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in December 202, identified 16 officials from Russian law enforcement and security agencies as well as the judiciary operating on the territory of the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula currently occupied by the Russian Federation. These individuals have been either directly involved or have overseen political persecution of three prominent Crimean human rights defenders – Emir-Usein Kuku, Sever Mustafayev and Emil Kurbedinov.

Leonid Mikhailiuk is one of these officials. He has been directly involved and directed the repressive campaign in the occupied Crimea, including persecution of innocent people on terrorism charges and massive illegal searches. The persecution of Server Mustafayev was conducted under his supervision. As the head of the FSB branch in Crimea, he is in charge of its operation and all operatives working on politically motivated cases are his subordinates. 

Within the extremely centralized system of the Russian security services, Mikhailiuk is clearly at the top rank of organized political persecution and human rights violations.

Free Russia Foundation welcomes the new sanctions and hopes that all other individuals identified in the report will also be held accountable.