On Saturday La Russophobe reported on a lengthy article in Russian from Anna Politkovskaya's paper Novaya Gazeta (alternate link to the Russian text is here) regarding the institutionalization of murder as a political tactic in Vladimir Putin's Russia (see also in this regard LR's item on the Kremlin's possible complicity in an an attempt to kill a British judge and David McDuff comments here on related material from Ezhedevny Zhurnal). We are now pleased to provide the professional quality translation of the entire article by our in-house translator, who has put in yeoman effort to make it available as soon as possible. One can't praise highly enough the breathtaking courage of Novaya Gazeta in running a story like this or the efforts of those like our translator who work to open windows to Russia that would otherwise remained closed to the non-Russian-speaking world. (FYI, here is is useful directory of Russian security organs and their abbreviations; it's a confusing alphabet soup to say the least).
January 11, 2007
[TN: *See translator's note at the bottom of the page for an explanation of the title, a play on words in Russian.]
The special services have created parallel structures for carrying out extrajudicial sentences.
How murders are done in the interests of the State.
The secret instructions.
Something happened in
Although the authorities in
Thus, perhaps, the murder of Litvinenko became the drop of information which overfilled our cup of knowledge, and we came to understand something about our country, something that made us feel naked before the universe.
A very important feature was added to that vast life experience of Russians, which is layered into the historical experience of the country. (Just as we now know for sure how and on what orders they killed the Russian political figure Trotsky, the Bulgarian writer Markov, and the Ukrainian nationalist Bandera.)
What about one’s own personal experience? Each of us has his own. I will describe what I had to confront myself, in a mixture of both doubt and fear.
In 1995 I wrote an article about the Larionov Brothers bandit group [TN: Sergei Larionov is pictured at right] which terrorized
They did not refer to themselves as a gang but rather as “The System” and they followed the strictures of a book titled The Aquarium written by former intelligence officer Vladimir Rezun [TN: a/k/a Victor Suvorov] of the GRU. [TN: The GRU is the military branch of the Russian intelligence services. Unlike the KGB, the GRU preserved its name and was left largely untouched after the breakup of the
It was determined that two Colonels of the GRU worked with the gang: Zubov, the acting chief of the human intelligence directorate for Pacific fleet; and Poluboyarinov, the former chief of the operational-analytical center of the same directorate. Poluboyarinov had directly created the gang and also led its analytical center.
The System acted with insolent self-confidence. After each crime was committed, some invisible force always impeded the subsequent investigation, disrupted any criminal cases that were brought, and whisked away any of the criminals that police operatives went looking for. One of those whose professional activity imperiled the very existence of The System was the chief of the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs (“GUVD”) of
At a meeting with him, Slyadnev told me about how from recordings of gang members’ telephone conversations he learned who was behind the organization. “Who?” I asked, curious. “I can’t tell you,” he answered. “But you simply cannot imagine at what level these people are located.” Nowadays I am convinced he had in mind the GRU.
What kind of gang was this, composed of decorated service members, excellently equipped and acting under the patronage of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s GRU? The Prosecutor General could not answer this question. More exactly, he didn’t even try to answer it, because he was not allowed to.
Both of the colonels were labeled “werewolves”. Zubov was fired from the Navy, and Poluboyarinov was killed. The Larionov brothers were also liquidated. The younger one, who led the gang, was killed in his cell after he realized he had been betrayed and announced that he was planning to tell the media about the role of the GRU in the creation of the gang. His female lawyer, having prepared the text of the article, was also killed.
At about the same time that the Larionov gang was working in
An officer of the local FSB office, who first realized that the gang had been created by the leadership of the Main Anti-Organized Crime Directorate (GUBOP) of the Russian MVD, was killed by local police officers in what was supposedly a misunderstanding. As it turned out, the gang was acting not only with the support of the MVD, but also the leadership at that time of the Primorskiy Region. An investigator from the General Prosecutor’s office who began to investigate the Vepsa case, as far as I could tell from meeting with him, became scared when he learned who was behind the group. Perhaps because of this he drank constantly.
Specialists in Wet Affairs [TN: “Wet” in this context is Russian slang for covert actions involving lethal force.]
The journalist Dima Kholodov [TN: pictured, left] was killed in October 1994, at the same time as the two gangs were being exposed in the
In court it came out that the GRU officers had been used in special operations in Abkhazia, Pridnestrovie and
Already one fact warrants investigation: An officer of the Russian army, on orders from his leadership, is sent abroad to kill the citizen of a foreign country. No matter how you look at it, he committed a crime. Exactly the one they ordered him to commit. But in the course of the Kholodov murder investigation, no attention was paid to this side episode.
Another fact that was not further developed in the investigation was that one of the accused officers had once skillfully placed a bomb under the car of a certain Mr. Vavilov, who at the time was the Russian Deputy Minister of Finance. The bomb went off, but fortunately the deputy minister escaped with his life. Detailed testimony was given about this episode in the Kholodov case, but it was sidestepped. Nonetheless, it was documented in tape recorded conversations between the accused. From their conversations it turned out that a special unit of the 45th Regiment specialized in murders, for which they were well paid.
Materials from the investigation gave basis for supposing that the group of service members were nothing but a brigade of killers, working under special orders.
Unfortunately, the General Prosecutor’s office did not investigate the entire range of issues that came up in the course of the Kholodov case. I believe they did not do this for exactly the same reason that they did not look deeply into the role of the GRU and MVD in the creation of the gangs in
The General Prosecutor was convinced that the involvement of officers of the GRU in the murder of Kholodov was proven. But according to officials associated with the criminal investigation, the accused killers of Kholodov may have been saved from prison by highly-placed protectors, perhaps those on whose orders they were acting. [TN: pictured below is a group of service members from the 45th VDV Regiment, headed by VDV Chief of Intelligence Popovskiy (center) in the courtroom holding area for the accused. The result of their trial: all were acquitted.]
Studying the Kholodov case, I found out that the investigation led not only to the GRU, but also to the MVD GUBOP. This is an extremely important fact, to which we will return and which may help in comprehending the scale of what is happening in
A series of terrorist attacks took place in
Besides that, it also came to light that an attempt to blow up a railroad bridge over the
It turned out that both of the former members of the special services were directly connected to the gang of Maksim Lazovskiy. At least eight of the men working in close contact with the group were current FSB officers. This was established by the chief of the 12th Department of Moscow Criminal Investigations (MUR) unit, Police Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Tskhai. As soon as it became clear that Petrovka [TN:
In connection with the explosions that it turned out involved officers of the security services, working with the Lazovskiy gang, one cannot sidestep the explosions of the apartment buildings which shook
Besides that, the leadership of the FSB has not been able to plausibly explain what sort of training they were conducting in
After the scandal that arose in connection with the “training”, the investigation into the circumstances surrounding it was curtailed.
Do the interests of the State require it to murder people?
One more example. In
It is telling that these circumstances were investigated by neither the FSB nor the Prosecutor’s office. Furthermore, officers of RUBOP refused to investigate information they received on possible criminal activities of the special services.
What is the meaning of all these strange stories? Apparently during the trial of the former KGB lieutenant colonel Vorobyev, who blew up the VDNKh bus, he cried out, “This is a insult to the special services!” What was the former officer trying to say with this? Why in his view is the trial of a man who committed a terrorist act not a completely natural, legal activity, but an insult? Perhaps because, acting on orders, he was convinced that he was working in the interests of the State, a man devoted to his work as a professional, but who had been sent to the plank as a common terrorist? If so, then can you imagine the divide in the mind of this special services officer between the concepts of what is legal and what, in his view, is expedient?
The curious phrase of the lieutenant colonel took on a new meaning when a document turned up in my hands that seems to me has extraordinary social significance. This is, judging from its contents, a 70-page top-secret instruction that explains a lot of what has been happening in this country for the last fifteen years. It brings together dozens of terrorist acts, committed on the
I publicized excerpts from this instruction in 2002, but events associated with the murder of our colleague Anna Politovskaya, former KGB Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko, and the attempted poisoning of Yegor Gaidar, have caused me to consider this document anew.
“The processes underway in the criminal sphere,” reads the introduction to the instruction, “represent developments that could directly affect state security. Organized criminality and its manifestation as criminal terror threatens the bases of state power…. Standing in opposition to our society now are clearly organized structures, founded in the enormous potential of the shadow economy, able to cover their activities with the help of corrupt government officials, and having available first-rate professionals for the liquidation of both non-criminal businessmen and politicians… What is critically needed is a structure with the genuine capability of fulfilling -- through the use of intelligence, agent operations and technical means -- assignments aimed at preventing and neutralizing specific negative developments…
“The direct insertion of personnel from the clandestine services into service, commercial, entrepreneurial and banking structures, agencies of state direction and executive power, as well as the creation of offices and firms covered through the use of contacts within these structures will allow… the creation of a vast agent network.”
The document spells out in detail exactly where agents should be inserted: into the executive agencies, the financial-banking system, the tax and customs services, the stock markets and courts.
“At the stage of gathering operational materials, penetration and neutralization of gang-formation would also be possible using operational-action methods,” reads the instruction. “A completely secret special branch is being created… In addition to the creation of a central special branch, the creation of regional operational-action groups would also be expedient…”
The organizational form of this extra-legal structure “could be a private detective or guard service. The leaders of the enterprise would for the most part be individuals… released from the operational services of the MVD, FSB and GRU of the Russian Army General Staff.”
“In order to cover these intelligence-gathering and operational-action activities… it is proposed that the creation of social organizations like the ‘Association of Veterans of the Russian Special Services’, etc., would be expedient. The offices of such organizations could be used as safehouses for bringing together operational-action groups and housing employees who find themselves in an illegal situation.”
“On the basis of such structures, it would be possible to create permanent criminal pseudo-gangs, which would come into close operational contact directly with organized crime groups of a bandit type, as well as those specializing in contract murders and terrorism…”
“In order to provide the highest quality cover for non-officially covered employees involved in the conduct of complex operational activities for the swift alias penetration into criminal surroundings, and in order to increase their security, there is a genuine need for organizing in both the regions and at the center fictitious military units with all the proper attributes.”
And further – note: “In cases of extreme need… branches of non-officially covered intelligence services – Spetznaz – could be used for the physical liquidation of leaders and active members of terrorist and intelligence-diversionary groups engaged in conflict with the federal authorities. Physical liquidation can only be carried out on individuals sentenced to death by the Russian judicial organs, or with the aim of preventing severe consequences, also in accordance with existing laws of the
The Special Services Threaten
The current document contradicts, of course, the Constitution, the norms of criminal law, and our conception of government, in which extrajudicial reprisals are not possible. This, in any event, that is what
But should one really believe a piece of text without signature or classification markings? The person who gave the document to me swore that it was signed by one of the heads of GUBOP at the time, the decorated Hero of Russia Colonel Seliverstov, and the person removed the classification markings at the time he photocopied the document in order, as he put it, “not to cause problems for journalists.”
I got in touch with the Colonel. The fact that the secret instructions had fallen into the hands of the mass media, it seemed to me, threw the Colonel into shock. Seliverstov assured me that he had signed no such document, but went on to say, “The person who passed you this document committed a crime against the State.”
In his place, Seliverstov sent a man who presented himself only as “an employee of the competent organs.” He tried to convince me that the document itself was not criminal, in the same way that a knife is not necessarily a murder weapon: “The question is how it will be used -- it could be used to cut bread,” the unnamed man explained. He insistently recommended against publicizing the document, otherwise, he claimed, “problems might arise [for me] as they did for Pasko and Nikitin.” (The reader is reminded that Pasko and Nikitin were former Navy officers who were accused of exposing state secrets. – Author.)
The telephone conversation with Seliverstov and the meeting with his representative convinced me that this secret instruction actually did exist. In addition, experts on the special services with whom I discussed the document noted that such a document could not come into existence without a more general directional document at the level of the government. This was consistent with what was said in the document that was passed: it stated that there existed a secret government decree, in the elaboration of which the instruction was also composed. Yet another person claimed that First Prime Minister Yuri Skokov had a hand in the creation of the decree in the beginning of the 1990’s.
Of course, no one associated with the creation of documents contradicting the law, and thereby providing grounds for criminal prosecution, would willingly admit to this, much less publicly. But might there be a few indications that would allow one to establish with a high degree of certainty that such a document exists and is in action to this day?
For instance, in the beginning of the 1990’s one of the leaders of the MVD in a private conversation told me about how the current methods for fighting organized crime had become obsolete, and it was necessary to develop new approaches. In particular, he said, it was necessary to make it legal for agents inserted into criminal gangs to kill.
In the secret instruction, I noted an echo of the thoughts of the General about the use of non-traditional methods in fighting organized crime: “…The capabilities and methods of the special services and law enforcement agencies for fighting organized crime… are insufficient to requirements. The documentation of criminal activities is being perfomed at a low level of professionalism and on a weak material-technical base… non-traditional approaches are needed, methods and decisions for the conduct of operational-investigation activities.” It would seem the General was musing about what had already been laid out in the lines of the government decree and agency instruction.
There is yet another indication that the document was not a fake: real life. A large number of crimes were conducted literally according to the scenario quoted in the document. Compare the activities of the groups that we already discussed with the instructions. They coincide completely. Can one not conclude that the criminal gangs of the Larionov brothers in
The instruction speaks of the need to create -- “in order to cover these intelligence and operational-action activities” -- “social organizations, for example the ‘Association of Veterans of the Russian Special Services,’ etc.”. Look around – there are now dozens of such associations.
Going back to the instruction: “What is critically needed is a structure with the genuine capability of fulfilling -- through the use of intelligence, agent operations and technical means -- assignments aimed at preventing and neutralizing specific negative developments…” Were such structures created? I think so. This was probably the top-secret branch of the FSB created at the beginning of the 1990’s, called URPO. The expansion of the acronym was: Directorate for the Investigation of Criminal Organizations. It was headed by General Yevgeniy Khokholkov. The branch had a staff 150 officers, whose job it was to insert clandestine members into criminal surroundings. On the basis of personal conversations with Khokholkov, I came away with the impression that URPO was created for the specific objectives laid out in the instruction.
The country learned about URPO in 1998, when five members of the directorate held a press conference and announced that a secret branch was performing extra-judicial reprisals. In particular, the officers said that the leadership had hatched a plan for the physical elimination of Boris Berezovskiy. Senior government officials ridiculed the press conference. At the time, it seemed to me that the senior officials were right. Nowadays I do not so unequivocally accept their arguments. It is hard to imagine that five officers of the FSB – all solid lieutenant colonels and colonels – all of a sudden lost their minds and publicly started talking nonsense, knowing perfectly well that they would not escape punishment. (Today one of the participants lies murdered, a second was thrown in prison on fabricated charges. The remainder, having repented, helped “expose” their comrades who refused to repent.)
After that press conference at which the true role of URPO emerged, the Directorate was quickly shut down and re-formed, and it leader at the time, FSB Director Kovalev, was sent into retirement.
How to Make “Avengers”
By then in
“The Deputy was interested in knowing,” said the former FSB officer, “what, in my view, was required for the physical elimination of someone. I answered that for this purpose one might consider using a convict who was serving out his sentences in a labor camp. Having done this, he would be securely concealed from any pursuit. The Deputy agreed, but proposed his own variant. He noted that one could use the relatives of someone who had been killed. The person would be predisposed to vengeance, and with this emotion could be made use of: promise to punish the murder of someone close to him, and he in turn would promise to fulfill our request – take out whoever we indicated.”
And then Litvinenko told the 10-year old story of the Larionov brothers’ gang, which I recognized from the beginning. When I had studyied this case, I was never able to find an explanation for the murder of GRU Colonel Valentin Poluboyarinov. He had been intercepted by his own people on the road to the airport, then strangled along with his son. This is what Litvinenko said:
“The deputy director of the special service had noticed that disloyalty was running rampant in their system. So he made an example of Poluboyarinov, saying, ‘The Colonel planned to betray us, and he paid for it.’” Could this mean that Poluboyarinov was planning to go to
From their outset, the activities of the operational-action groups working with the criminal leaders killed no one guilty of anything. Besides that, not one of the criminal leaders sentenced to death by the special services was ever even brought to trial. Not one of them presented a threat to general security with consequences for widespread ruin or human casualties. But their physical elimination was justified based on exactly these two circumstances.
Obviously, the creators of the secret instruction, relying on supposed Russian law regarding the implementation of extra-judicial reprisals, were being openly deceptive. They were simply untying their hands.
Who Makes the Decision to Kill?
The techniques for extra-judicial reprisals have been fully developed out in
In the instructions given to us not a word is said regarding at what level and by whom the decision would be made to physically eliminate someone. According to the Constitution, only a court can determine the guilt of a person and method of his punishment. But outside a court? The head of a Department? A Directorate? A Service? Or is it someone higher, depending on the level of the accused? And what arguments are sufficient to justify the sentence?
The way to fight crime, which seemed so easy and simple – and most importantly, effective – in reality has thrown
Tsepov was killed in
Let’s recall the horrible death of the well-known banker Ivan Kivilida. I met with Efim Brodskiy, a leading researcher at the laboratory of the Institute for Evolutionary Morphology and Animal Ecology, who established the identity of the poisonous substance that had been applied to the banker’s telephone receiver.
“This poison was a nerve-paralyzing agent that acted like Sarin,” said the researcher. “It is exclusively a poison. Establishing its presence can be done only by a specialist who works with similar substances in the laboratory. Identifying who did this should not present any special difficulty: there are only a few laboratories that can work with such a substance, and only a very few people have access to it.”
Then why doesn’t this happen? Why don’t they look for them?
Two years ago yet another mysterious murder took place in
In a handbook compiled, apparently, by one of the specials services at the end of the 1990’s, and which landed in my possession, it was claimed that Tsepov gathered tribute from commercial structures in Saint Petersburg, primarily casinos, and personally delivered it to a high-ranking member of the FSB in Moscow.
When I inquired with some Saint Petersburg-based colleagues as to whether they were friends with Tsepov and whether he was a financial “purse” for a certain important government personality, my colleagues replied: “He was the lock on this person’s purse.”
The doctor who treated Tsepov, the head of a department at Saint Petersburg Hospital 32, Peter Perumov, in great detail told about how his patient’s illness progressed. “Tsepov had symptoms of poisoning, severe vomiting and diarrhea,” said Perumov. “But at the same time he had neither chills nor a fever. I invited in specialists from various clinics around the city, but we could not understand what was wrong with him. I think it was Colchicin, a medication given for the treatment of leukemia.”
From a source in the Prosecutor’s office in
Who would dare to kill such a powerful person, closely connected to the Kremlin?
In contrast to how straightforwardly, quickly and thoroughly Scotland Yard is conducting the investigation of Litvinenko, the investigation into the murder of Tsepov in
To emphasize: This final circumstance is one of the most characteristic for murders of this type. As soon as the tracks from the crime lead into the GRU, FSB, SVR or MVD, they are snatched away on the spot. This was how any sort of trail was broken off during the investigation into the circumstances of the death of Yuri Shchekochikhin, the Deputy Editor of Novaya Gazeta and Duma Deputy, who’s horribly unusual death occurred as a result of an illness, the symptoms of which were remarkably similar to those of Lieutenant Colonel Litvinenko. In 2003, no case was opened. To date, there has been no response to our demand, sent to the General Prosecutor in 2006, to reconsider investigating the circumstances of Shchekochikhin’s death in light of the new circumstances.
We still do not know for sure who killed Litvinenko and who gave the order for his elimination. But, let’s agree, against the background of everything that is happening in
The facts presented give reason to suppose that, in violation of the Constitution, the Russian special services, or more likely the family “funds” associated with them, have been given special powers. Through their illegal and quasi-legal branches they have become one of the primary levers of control over this country. They have acquired a strength that presents a danger both to society as a whole and to each individual citizen in particular. Including the President himself.
As a citizen of
1. Conduct an investigation to determine whether a secret government decree exists establishing for the special services powers to use so-called non-traditional methods for fighting crime.
2. Do instructions exist, prepared in the basements of the special services and MVD, elaborating on this decree?
3. Determine whether branches were established in the bureaucracy in connection with the above-mentioned secret decree and instruction, and what function they have today.
Igor Korolkov, commentator for Novaya Gazeta
P.S. – As this issue went to press, we received a response from the General Prosecutor: Regarding the opening of a criminal investigation into the facts surrounding the death of Yu. P. Shchkochikhin -- refused.
[*TN: The title "Spare Organs" is a play on words. It plays off the russian term "zapasniye chasti", usually shortened to "zapchasti", which is "spare parts" -- like you might have for your car, in case the original parts don't work for you any more. "Organi" is a Soviet-era word, refering nowadays almost exclusively to the security services, though it also used to refer to the more powerful parts of the Communist Party, back when they exercised some control over the KGB. "Spare Organs" means you have some other security/judicial "organi" that can be used when the regular ones don't suit your needs. It sounds a little bit absurd in Russian too, because they also use the word "organi" to refer to body parts -- that's part of the mystique of the political "organi", that they're irreplaceable -- but that's what makes it kind of funny too: the notion that you can just have some spare "organs of state control" sitting around to be deployed whenever you find the current ones inconveniently hamstrung by legal restrictions. ]