Russia’s Oligarchy Runs Amok

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Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times (the victim’s husband has started blogging for justice, Global Voices has a tranlsation of some of his material)

On May 13, Interior Ministry employee Roman Zhirov, driving his powerful SUV, hit and killed a 34-year-old pregnant woman on a Moscow crosswalk. Pregnant woman are not particularly known for sprinting across pedestrian crossways out of nowhere and catching an approaching driver by surprise.

Zhirov pulled into the lane of oncoming traffic to pass a car that had stopped at the crosswalk to let the pregnant woman pass. After Zhirov struck the woman, he raced away, but eyewitnesses wrote down his license plate number. In the West, this would be classified as manslaughter and fleeing the crime scene. In Russia, the investigation was handed over to the same department where Zhirov worked. He was questioned briefly and released.

A scandal erupted 10 days later. The victim’s husband wrote that Zhirov was back at work as if nothing had happened. The scandal spread to the Internet, where a record number of posts finally spilled onto President Dmitry Medvedev’s personal blog. After that, the Interior Ministry reported that Zhirov had been arrested.

But this turned out to be false. Zhirov had not been arrested, but only dismissed for “committing an act bringing dishonor to the police force.”

On Tuesday, the Investigative Committee reported on its web site that it has opened up a criminal case against Zhirov and that he would be called in for questioning “in the near future.” But Zhirov has not been arrested. If Zhirov is the prime — and only — suspect, he should be arrested immediately. What is the Investigative Committee waiting for?

Putin personally set the stage for this double standard of who must answer to the law and who gets away with murder — literally. In May 2005, a car driven by Alexander Ivanov — son of then-Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov — struck and killed 68-year-old Svetlana Beridze, who was also walking along a pedestrian crosswalk. Criminal charges were later brought against Beridze’s son-in-law, while Sergei Ivanov publicly declared that his son had suffered intense moral and physical trauma from the incident. Shortly thereafter, the criminal case against Alexander Ivanov was closed.

Moscow police Major Denis Yevsyukov, who went on a shooting rampage on April 27 that left three people dead and six injured, was just unlucky: He was caught red-handed by a surveillance camera. This was the only reason he was arrested. But nobody was filming Zhirov’s car when it killed the pregnant woman, and today he is free.

Yevsyukov’s patron, former Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin, described Yevsyukov as a “worker with a bright future” and called on people not to exaggerate or become overly dramatic about the shooting incident.

When a law enforcement official commits a crime — ranging from extortion to murder — the unofficial code within the ranks of the police provides for mutual protection. The crimes are swept under the carpet and rarely prosecuted.

In every civilized country of the world, the authorities protect the law. In Russia, they commit crimes with virtually full immunity.

12 responses to “Russia’s Oligarchy Runs Amok

  1. It also would not have helped in the case of Svetlana Beridze, that she had a Georgian last name.
    Institutional criminality AND racism, what an all to Russian mix.

  2. The duty of Rashan police is to protect the “elite” and themselves, from the people.

    Not to protect the people.

    People are not important in Rasha.

    Only Putvedev and a select few “elite” are important in Rasha – so they can buy Gucci and Rollie-Royce, not crap car.

  3. I would be not suprised that husband would take justice in his hands. I think such case many would.
    My sister who worked in Moscow for while said that crossing pedestrian crossways is suicide.

  4. Whats worse, even if they arrest Zhirov, he will buy his way out and flee to … oh, London, where he will not be touched. No extradition request will be made, and the police of whatever country he flees to will have no reason to arrest him. This is an extremely common practice in most corrupt nations, Russia especially.

  5. Among the Russian general, Shamanov
    is a symbol of war crimes and butchery even for the pro-Moscow Chechens from Putin’s circle (“like AIDS, drowning in blood”).

    And he just became the commander of all VDV (Russian paratroopers).

    Russia: Investigate General Who Got Promotion | Human Rights Watch

    In a February 2005 ruling, the European Court of Human Rights found Shamanov responsible for a military operation in Katyr-Yurt in February 2000 that involved the “massive use of indiscriminate weapons,” and that led to the loss of civilian lives and a violation of the right to life (Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

    The Russian military heavily bombed Katyr -Yurt in that operation. The court found that Shamanov did not take requisite care in using heavy weapons in a populated area of the village, which Russian forces had declared a “safe zone.” The ruling stated that “using this kind of weapon in a populated area, outside wartime and without prior evacuation of the civilians, is impossible to reconcile with the degree of caution expected from a law-enforcement body in a democratic society.”

    Following the ruling, Russian authorities investigated the operation in Katyr-Yurt, but closed the investigation in 2007, having found no evidence of a crime. In December 2008, though, the Russian government informed the Council of Europe that the Investigative Committee, an agency of the prosecutor general’s office, was examining the investigation and the decision to close it.

    In Alkhan-Yurt, another Chechen village, Russian troops under Shamanov’s command committed at least 14 killings that amounted to extrajudicial executions in December 1999.

    A Human Rights Watch report about the events in Alkhan-Yurt documented that on December 11, 1999, a group of residents from Alkhan-Yurt tried to meet with Shamanov, who was in the vicinity of the village at the time, to raise their concerns about the killings and other violence in Alkhan-Yurt. However, Shamanov refused to listen to the villagers and, one of the women in the group said, swore at them and threatened: “[Get] out of here or I will shoot you right now.”

  6. The criminal enterprise is ruling rasha. So why not to protect the criminal, their own. One sits in Duma and meets with Medvedev (Lugovoi), the other is a top commander. What a civilized nation!!!! yoe-moe.

  7. More criminal behaviour from Russia’s “leaders”

    “MOSCOW (RFE/RL) — When the governor of the Irkutsk region died in a helicopter crash earlier this month, the question on many minds was whether he was illegally hunting bear at the time.

    Officials asserted Igor Yesipovsky was on a business trip when the private helicopter he was riding in crashed May 9, killing him and three others.

    But the incident bore a striking similarity to a poaching case earlier this year, raising suspicions that regional authorities are increasingly using helicopters to track and kill wild animals, including endangered species.

    The incidents have sparked outrage among local populations who see the authorities as putting themselves above the law.

    Aleksandr Kosopkin, the Kremlin’s envoy to the State Duma, was among seven people who died in January when the helicopter they were riding crashed into the side of a mountain in Russia’s Altai region.

    Dead Sheep

    Initially, the crash was seen as a simple accident. But photos from the site leaked to a local website told a different story: near the wreck of the helicopter lay the carcasses of two rare argali sheep, one with a knife stuck in its haunch.

    An investigation concluded Kosopkin and the other officials on board the Mi-171 were shooting the animals from the air.

    Oleg Mitvol, who served as the deputy head of the Natural Resource Ministry’s environmental agency at the time of the incident, said he was shocked by the hunting expedition

    “To destroy them from a helicopter with an automatic weapon is absolute blasphemy and vandalism. I can say that I understand the outrage of locals who saw this happen,” Mitvol said.

    “I think that the fact that this information was not kept quiet is important for the formation of our society.”

    Hunting from any moving vehicle is illegal in Russia. But a report from the Federal Air Transport Agency was unambiguous — the Altai hunting party had been using the helicopter to herd animals onto exposed terrain where they could be easily shot from the air.

    The report, together with the leaked photograph of the slain argali sheep — which are featured on Russia’s endangered species list — sparked outrage in Altai.

    Local journalists dubbed the scandal “Altai-gate.” The fact that the helicopter passengers included an Altai environmental officials only heightened the anger further.

    Hunters in Altai can obtain licenses to hunt more abundant animals like red deer and Siberian goats. But many hunters are drawn to the region’s natural expanses in search of more elusive game, undeterred by laws restricting the hunting of endangered animals.

    Aleksei Vaisman, who works for the Russian branch of the WWF wildlife-protection group, was among those fighting for the truth to be told about the Altai poaching case.

    Local Anger

    He says local residents were angry that officials were acting as though their positions of authority put them above the law: “There was huge indignation because all ordinary citizens saw it as a personal insult. It was a demonstrative breaking of the law by those who are supposed to keep it.”

    The outrage over the Altai case only heightened suspicions in the case of Irkutsk Governor Yesipovsky.

    Local leaders in far-flung parts of Russia often use helicopters as an essential mode of transport. But odd details about the trip stirred speculation the crash took place during a hunting expedition.

    Yesipovsky was traveling not in his official helicopter, but in an American-made Bell helicopter belonging to a businessman acquaintance. No official flight plan had been made before the flight, and the pilot had allegedly failed to undergo a mandatory medical examination.

    Some reports also suggested a hunting gun had been found in the wreckage following the crash.

    Police are investigating flight-safety violations, but have not opened a poaching case.

    The Natural Resource Ministry, in a statement on its website, suggested the heavy forestation at the site of the crash rules out the possibility of an airborne hunting expedition.

    But Mitvol and others still have questions.

    “The info that is there now partly confirms the hunting version. If it is proven that it was a bear hunt from a helicopter, especially one in a national park, then a criminal case has to be opened,” Mitvol said.

    Top Russian and Soviet officials have a history of illegal hunting.

    Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was accused of having bear cubs tied to a tree so he could shoot them with ease. There are also stories, perhaps apocryphal, of divers attaching fish to the hook of Nikita Khrushchev’s fishing rod.

    More recently, “Novaya gazeta” newspaper reported that officials were involved in an illegal helicopter bear hunt in the Far Eastern Kamchatka peninsula last October.

    Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Center in Moscow says illegal hunting expeditions are seen by many as a demonstration that top Russian officials feel themselves to be above the law.

    “I think there is a very serious problem which is becoming especially visible now because of the incidents in Altai and Irkutsk,” Petrov said.

    “It is the complete ignorance by high-ranked bureaucrats of norms and rules that exist for ordinary citizens, but that do not exist for them.” ”

    • Yeah, it’s not the first time those idiots (“Russian government officials”) died while hunting protected animals from a helicopter.

      All I can say, more power to them (and by “power” I mean the choppers to crash).

  8. Russia’s [new] chief of elite forces ‘implicated in Chechen village massacre’

    “Russian prosecutors began an inquiry into events at Katyr-Yurt after the [European] court’s ruling, but concluded that there was no evidence of a crime.”

    Apparently it’s “genocide” only when Georgians kill the “Russian citiziens” – if it’s Russians, it’s not a crime of any kind at all.

    Up to several hundred people were killed in the attack.

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