Daily Archives: January 30, 2007

Russian Special Forces Used Litvinenko’s Image for Target Practice

You may recall how various Russophile wackos have claimed that Alexander Litvinenko was too small a fish in the Kremlin’s eyes to justify taking any action against him; in essence, they say, the Kremlin couldn’t care less about him. Reader Jeremy Putley directs us to a report from the Polish newspaper Dziennik, which reports that the FSB has been using Litvinenko’s image for target practice. A video is available here and below is an image from a Russian website with more photographs of the target practice scenes.

One must say that Mr. Putley is far more than just a “reader” and is in fact an important driving force behind the movement for democratization and justice in Russia as a contributor not merely to this blog but also to David McDuff’s A Step at a Time and Norbert Strade’s Chechnya List. La Russophobe is indebted to him for his invaluable contributions to this effort and to this blog, as are all those concerned with opposing the rise of the neo-Soviet Union in Russia.

Putley offers, via Strade’s Chechnya List, the following translation from the Polish press (if any reader has a facility with Polish language and can translate the entire Dziennik article, LR would be delighted to receive it): “Sergei Mironov, the Chairman of Russian Federation Council, the third person in the country, visited a shooting range with targets that had portraits of murdered former FSB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko. On the internet site of the Center of Russian special services Vityaz we have found a photo of Mironov against a background of targets with Litvinenko. Sergei Mironov visited Vityaz on November the 7th. On one of these photos he wears earmuffs and safety glasses. We don’t know if he was actually firing or just wore shooting acessories, because someone else was firing at targets standing beside him.”

This information about Mironov (pictured, below left) was subsequently censored, according to SCL, which adds more translation as follows:

Our source, a person connected with special units, explained to us that this videoclip was taken during practice of spetznaz in the Vityaz Centerm 10 km from Moscow, in the town of Balashikha. Exactly 2 days after the attack on the theater at Dubrovka (23 Oct.2002). This is the base of Russian special units, assembled from veterans of spetznaz, Alfa (units of the former KGB, now FSB) and Vityaz (Interior Ministry anti-terrorists unit). Soldiers of these formations were extracting hostages in Dubrovka and Beslan.

Nervous reaction of Russians

Reaction of Russians when we asked about that videoclip in the Center Vityaz was very fast. From Center’s webpage immediately has disappeared that picture on which a shooting target with Litvinenko’s silhuette can bee seen. We were able to copy it from the site (see above right, photohere)

Colonel Sergei Ivanovich Lysiuk, the commander of the Center, belittles the issue: “It appeared to you (that was him). Nobody fires at picture of Litvinenko” – he told to our journalist. “But on the Center’s webpage we also found a picture on which a target with Litvinenko can be seen” – we were inquiring. “Where it is says that this is Litvinenko? – he asked ironically.

When we phoned him one more time with a question why after our call that picture has disappeared from the Center’s webpage, colonel Lysiak reacted nervously:” Girl, you just think (that was him). Goodbye” – and he hung up the receiver. Military attache in the Russian embassy Vladimir Bietekhin, asked by dziennik.pl to comment about this, he first send us to the department of Interior Ministry in Moscow, and then asserted that he didn’t know Litvinenko. Also added that there’s nothing unusual in firing by the commandos at human silhuettes. “To think like this, we can go too far, because putting questions if soldiers shoot at human silhuettes, to learn to kill something concrete, that’s a complicated philosophy” – he put us off.

UPDATE. Now, Jeremy Putley points out that the AP has got the story. Here’s their report:

A private facility that trains security personnel used pictures of poisoned Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko’s face for target practice during a competition for special forces, the center’s chief said on Tuesday. In video circulating the Internet, trainees dressed in camouflage maneuver between slats in a wall, leap through an obstacle course, then tumble to a semi-sitting position with outstretched arms aiming their weapons at a black-and-white target showing Alexander Litvinenko’s face. Several black holes appear on the target near the ex-spy’s nose before the video goes black. Click here to watch video of trainees firing at the Litvinenko target.

Sergei Lysyuk, Vityaz Center‘s chief, said the video is from 2002 and shows military recruits. He said he was unaware the target depicted Litvinenko, who died of radiation poisoning after eating at a sushi restaurant. The former spy was an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and from his deathbed accused the leader of pulling the strings in a plot to kill him. “The fact that it was Litvinenko, we only found out later from the press,” Lysyuk said. “We did not shoot at Litvinenko; we shot at a target.”

Use of the target at the center, which held a competition for Russian special forces, became known this week after Russian media published photographs of Sergei Mironov, head of the Russian parliament’s upper house, visiting the center in early November. His visit, to present awards in a competition for Interior Ministry special forces, came about a week after Litvinenko fell ill; one photo shows the Litvinenko target in the background behind Mironov.

Lysyuk insisted his company does not normally hold such contests and was granting a favor to former Interior Ministry colleagues, whose own training ground was being repaired. Litvinenko, once an agent in the Federal Security Service, the Soviet KGB’s main successor, fled to Britain and was granted asylum after accusing his superiors of ordering him to kill Boris Berezovsky, a Russian tycoon and one-time Kremlin insider who also has been granted British citizenship.

Dmitry Peskov, a senior Kremlin spokesman, said using a person’s face as a shooting range “was ethically incorrect,” but stressed it was that company’s responsibility and insisted government troops were not involved in the exercises. “There is no talk of such shooting ranges being used by Russian special forces or by the Vityaz unit,” Peskov told AP in a telephone interview. “This [company] has no relation to the elite Vityaz troops.”

Unfiltered Chat (and game!) Now Available

LR is pleased to announce another new feature offered by this blog: If you are not a member of Blogger, you may be interested to know that you can now talk back to La Russophobe (or to other LR readers) by means of a scrolling chat located at the bottom of the sidebar (it also has its own webpage). Anyone can enter text in the chatbox any time she/he feels like it, with complete ease and anonymity. However, if you want LR to pay attention to your remarks, you should identify them with a unique name when you post and you should avoid vulgarity. You will not get a reply otherwise. Remember, Blogger membership is free and easy, so consider signing up and joining us in the blogosphere! Note that the chatbox is supplied free to LR by a host company and is funded by tiny advertisements appearing on the box. LR receives no revenue of any kind as the result of these advertisements and continues her policy of refusing financial support from any source and charging readers nothing for her content. LR assumes no responsibilty for the content of the chatbox and, since it is unfiltered, warns those who may be faint of heart or weak of stomach to ignore it.

You may also want to try your hand at our new game, Russian Life, just above the chat box. Use you mouse to aim your telescopic site and click to blast away at the lurking KGB agents before they liquidate you.

Update on Svetlichnaya-Heartfield

Letters, we get letters, we get lots of cards and letters every day!

When last we heard, little miss Julia Svetlichnaya was planning to sue Aftenposten and the Sunday Times for reporting that she had connections to the Kremlin which might have caused her to shade the truth when she reported that Alexander Litvinenko was a corrupt wacko (only after his demise, when he couldn’t defend himself) in the British paper The Observer. As you may recall, her collaborator in the nasty business of smearing Litvinenko was one James Heartfield, whom we had identified as a wacky Marxist with a shadowy past. Turns out, the fellow is even more far out then we imagined. A reader writes with some additional details:

On the subject of James Heartfield, I looked at the sourcewatch link, and what caught my eye was the Living Marxism reference. But first I looked at his membership of the (British) Revolutionary Communist Party and saw the claim that he actually co-authored their manifesto! Well, to see what kind of Party they were, you can look at the quote below from the website of an ordinary regular leftie who was once a member of them:

……I attended a London-wide planning meeting at which the RCP’s attitude towards the crisis in the Middle East was worked out on the basis of a thirty minute presentation, ‘what is the rest of the left not saying?’ It’s hard now to convey the oddity of that experience. For the RCP then claimed some 500 members (and would peak two years later at over 1000). To calculate the errors of the entire British left meant taking into consideration not just Labour, and the larger Marxist parties (Militant and the SWP), but even the smallest of the sects (Socialist Organiser, Workers Vanguard, Workers Hammer): the views of each of these group had to be considered before an RCP line could be drawn…..

It really makes me wonder how he became the almost mainstream journalist and writer that he now is. Anyway, on the subject of the Living Marxism magazine, I happen to remember the fact that they went bankrupt after losing a libel case brought against them by British news agency ITN. This was because the magazine falsely claimed that ITN had fabricated evidence to make a television programme about concentration camps in Bosnia in 1992. I understand that the programme was instrumental in pursuading NATO to attack Serbia in 1995.

The reader suggests the Guardian’s March 15, 2000 report “Poison in the Well of History” for further fascinating details.

Meanwhile, what about Julia’s threatened lawsuit? Suddenly, she seems to have gotten very quiet. Hmmm, wonder what that means . . . it’s either the calm before the storm or the hiding after the fraud.

More Orphanage Horror Stories from Russia

The Binghampton (New York) Press reports:

Ann Marie Schaeffer had never been to Canada or Mexico, so contemplating a mission trip to Russian orphanages seemed like a wild — and maybe pointless — idea. Her mind kept returning to one question, Schaeffer, 42, says: “What can smiling for a few hours at these children really do?” The answer came from her father, Tom Rittwager of Deposit, who had lived in an orphanage himself as a youngster. “You can’t think that way,” he said. “If someone spent an hour with me, it meant everything.” So last November, she went. And in many ways the trip changed her life.

Sponsored by the Bainbridge Rotary Club, she traveled as part of the nonprofit Orphan Cry ministry established in 2003 by Ken Wilcox of Bainbridge and David Ford of Binghamton. Volunteers travel to the places where the region’s most challenged children can be found: orphanages, boarding schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers and youth prisons. They hand- deliver “Care Paks” filled with toys, school supplies and messages of Christian faith, as well as food, clothing and medicine. Sometimes the Orphan Cry mission unfolds in the shape of one-on-one encouragement and small gifts; other times it means working toward building new facilities, and acquiring beds, medical equipment and supplies to care for those children.

Schaeffer was horrified to learn of the fate awaiting many of the young teens she met: As outcasts in their society, they are generally ineligible for more education and thus unable to get good jobs. Too often, their only options in life can be found in the underbelly of their world — in drugs, organized crime and prostitution — or in homelessness, incarceration or suicide. And because of the number of such children and the cost of housing them, young teens are often asked to leave the orphanages to find their own way in life.

Orphan Cry is scrambling to gather money for scholarships, so it can give at least a handful of the children the golden opportunity of education. Memories from the trip are etched indelibly in her mind and thoughts of the children she met cross her heart every day.

A 20-something woman named Tanya was older than most of those Schaeffer and her companions met, but her story was no less poignant. Afflicted with multiple inoperable brain tumors, Tanya lives in a hospital whose stench almost made Schaeffer gag. Tanya is blind, but must go on a bus to get her own medication — and when she returns to the hospital, she must dodge the “bandits” known to wander its halls.

“I felt so overwhelmed with grief for her situation,” says Schaeffer, who — with husband Mike — has three children of her own. “I cried in the van; it was too much to bear that night.” She no longer wonders if she wasted time and money in taking that overseas trip. Instead she’s spurred by her awareness of all that’s left to be done. “The fact that she went there may have touched one of those children or one of those who worked there,” Rittwager says. To those in the orphanages, she represented a world of possibility they were ordinarily unable to grasp. Those who never experienced such a life might not understand, but in extending her smile and her heart to those children, he says, she gave them an unfathomable gift.

Cartoon: Putin Gets His Balls

Recently, the Kremlin decided that nobody would be allowed to have flashing lights on their personal vehicles, so as to allow them to speed through Moscow’s nighmarish traffic jams, except the President and certain high government officials. Specifically, this meant stripping the flashing lights from members of the Duma, Russia’s parliament. Here’s one Russian take:

Actual Translation:

Apparachik: “Mr. President, we’ve finally managed to get those
blinkers* away from the Duma members, like you asked”
Putin: “I was talking about the flashing lights on their cars.”

*A play on words, the Russian word “blinkers” could mean
either eyes or the flashing lights on cars like police vehicles have,
but which many Russian government officials are known to have appropriated.

Alternate caption from LR:

Apparachik: “Mr. President, we’ve finally located those items
everyone says the Duma urgently needs.”
Putin: “Who said anything about EYE balls?”

Source: Ellustrator.

NB: LR’s in-house professional translator has nothing to do with this post. So don’t blame her/him! It’s the amateur effort of LR herself and, as such, undoubtedly fraught with errors of which LR will be delighted to be advised by Russian readers and linguistic efforts (they in turn will no doubt delight in informing her). However, the general gist is correct and LR finds them both amusing and insightful. Other “alternative” captions are welcome in the comments.