MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti)
Opposition to Hold Meeting in Support of Detained Comrades
TV host Leonid Parfyonov said yesterday the political opposition would hold an unauthorized meeting in support of their detained comrades on Saturday. Members of the public oversight commission, led by Valery Borshchyov, said they had met with detained Left Front activist Leonid Razvozzhayev and promised to investigate his claims of psychological torture.
Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights, has sent a letter to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Investigative Committee asking them to investigate the allegations. But none of the above has made the picture any clearer.
But how did Razvozzhayev arrive in Russia? This is a crucial question, because if Russian citizens can be abducted in adjacent countries, it means that we are still living in the era of Ivan the Terrible. And if not, there is still hope for justice. It is generally assumed that the man was abducted, and the Investigative Committee has done nothing to dispel this assumption, for example by presenting Razvozzhayev’s air or rail return ticket. On the other hand, few seem to be concerned about this issue, which is more than a mere technicality.
Razvozzhayev has complained about psychological torture. If his captors threatened to persecute his relatives, why did he refute the 10-page confession he signed earlier? Have his relatives left Russia? And why hasn’t he sent an official complaint about torture to the Investigative Committee, or officially requested the assistance of lawyers, who are willing to defend him?
Human rights advocates said, after visiting Razvozzhayev at Lefortovo Prison, that the authorities had devised a new method of dealing with dissenters. They claim that the man was unnaturally sluggish. Valery Borshchyov was shocked by Razvozzhayev’s account of his detainment: “They are using the experience of Stalin’s [persecution] campaigns of the 1930s, when White Guard generals were kidnapped and killed. They’ve used torture [against Razvozzhayev]; not physical but horrible psychological torture, ultimately forcing him to give false testimony.”
Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov has been invited for an interview with the Investigative Committee tomorrow. He will most likely be charged with organizing mass riots. “This is the all out political persecution of Udaltsov and his team, including Razvozzhayev,” said Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the movement For Human Rights. Mikhail Fedotov has appealed to Prosecutor General Yury Chaika and Head of the Investigative Committee Alexander Bastrykin “to personally oversee the case of Leonid Razvozzhayev: the strange story of his abduction and subsequent surrender.”
Fedotov has asked Bastrykin to help members of the Human Rights Council meet with Razvozzhayev and then discuss the results of their meeting with law-enforcement officials. Bastrykin has not yet replied to this proposal.
The Kremlin has declined to comment. Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said: “This is hardly a case on which the Kremlin can or should comment. Rather, it’s a case for investigators, prosecutors, judges, lawyers and human rights organizations.”
United Russia Collects Signatures to Strip Officials of Foreign Property
State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin criticized a bill that would restrict government officials’ from owning property and bank accounts abroad, apparently voicing the Kremlin’s position. At the same time, the ruling party has collected 550,000 voter signatures supporting the bill.
According to Naryshkin, this purported anti-corruption bill would have the opposite effect: “It will force even those who post honest property declarations to move into the shadows. It will cause many people to leave the civil service and scare off effective individuals who could have otherwise used their proficiency to promote Russia’s development.”
Two bills regulating Russian officials’ ownership of foreign property and bank accounts were brought before parliament last summer. The milder option, drafted by A Just Russia’s Ilya Ponomaryov and deputy Duma speaker, United Russia’s Sergei Zheleznyak, required state officials to post their declarations on designated websites. The stronger proposal, developed by a group led by Vyacheslav Lysakov from the Russian Popular Front, banned ownership of property and bank accounts abroad unless it is justified by service or health or education needs.
President Vladimir Putin approved it publicly, while United Russia leader Dmitry Medvedev said banning foreign property makes no sense. Although Lysakov’s bill was generally approved by the government, an official conclusion signed by Government Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov warned that a full ban could prevent “private sector specialists” from joining the civil service.
Not all Duma deputies took Naryshkin’s statement as criticism. Zheleznyak is convinced that the speaker was calling for an “informed discussion,” while Lysakov admitted that the requirements could be relaxed if someone proposes an equally effective policy.
The Communists, in turn, expect a change of policy. Secretary Sergei Obukhov said United Russia is unlikely to heed the popular demand to strip officials of foreign property, not after its fake victory [in local elections] on October 14.
At the same time, a Kremlin source said United Russia is going to present millions of voter signatures in support of the bill in November. “Property owners are not happy of course. But look how many voters eagerly supported this initiative. Without it, the ruling party would not have achieved its high results in the October 14 elections,” he said. Since September, the party has collected as many as 550,000 signatures, Zheleznyak said.
Political analysts believe that the speaker voiced the position of state officials who are resisting the anti-property initiative. Yevgeny Minchenko is confident that Naryshkin must have discussed his statement with the prime minister and the government chief of staff and that the Duma will eventually adopt a milder version. On the other hand, Alexei Makarkin believes this was the new official position of the Kremlin “which became concerned the bill would have the opposite effect, thus forcing the ruling elite to oppose the government.” Stanislav Belkovsky doubts the bill will be passed at all because a mutiny of discontented officials scares Putin “far more than [opposition leaders] Udaltsov and Navalny.”
Federal Guard Service to Arm Itself with Model Kalashnikovs
Elite security personnel will train for armed confrontation by following the KGB’s example: shoot each other with plastic balls.
The Federal Guard Service (FSO) plans to purchase almost one million rubles worth of Kalashnikov rifle knock-offs made for strikeball games. The game weapons will be used for tactical drills by FSO officers. Experts claim that training with these sporting guns is very effective. Only elite KGB units used this training method in Soviet times.
The contract specifies the details of the strikeball rifle. It “must have the same size and weight as the 5.45-mm AK-74M Kalashnikov assault rifle with a folding stock. It must be fired by a battery-powered electro-pneumatic piston.”
The FSO is prepared to pay over 20,000 rubles for each strikeball rifle, an item that normally retails for 7,000 to 8,000 rubles in stores.
The FSO says the weapons are necessary “for tactical personnel training.” The replicas are expected to fire both single shots and bursts and to “cause no injuries.”
The specifications include the following: 80 meter range with 6 mm plastic balls, weighing 0.2 gram, a velocity of about 130 m/sec, and a 30 meter sighting range. Each rifle is to be fitted with two clips each containing 70 to 150 balls.
This is an unusual purchase for a security agency. There have been only two similar contracts over the past two years: by the Voronezh Institute of the Interior Ministry and the Department for Protection of Administrative Facilities of the Dagestan Interior Ministry.
Iosif Linder, president of the International Counter-Terrorism Officers Training Association, explained to Izvestia that strikeball weapons are used by the security services to train special-purpose soldiers.
The Soviet Union bought similar pistols from Japan in the 1980s. Until 1991, any information about officer training with such weapons was strictly classified, and only KGB officers were cleared for the training. These pistols were used to train shadow agents for operations in restricted or closed spaces or in crowds during special missions, Linder explained.
An officer who has undergone this type of training is four to six times more efficient than one who has only been through conventional drills, Linder says. Instructors continue coming up with new methods for training and new situations in which to practise, to the tune of about 500 new techniques a year.
An Izvestia source in the secret services said it was no accident that the FSO opted for Kalashnikov knock-offs. Kalashnikovs are commonly used to protect special facilities, especially in city centers or crowded places. Strikeball practice is indispensable for an officer facing a critical situation to quickly assess a course of action, and to avoid hitting colleagues or innocent bystanders.
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