EDITORIAL: Yelena Maglevannaya is Fleeing Neo-Soviet Russia

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Yelena Maglevannaya is Fleeing Neo-Soviet Russia

Yelena Maglevannaya

Yelena Maglevannaya

On February 18, 2009, the Russian government initiated a defamation lawsuit against 27-year-old Yelena Maglevannaya, a reporter for the local newspaper Svobodnoye Slovo (“Free Word”) and the human rights website Civitas.ru in the city of Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad).  She also blogs, in Russian, on Live Journal, and she signed a petition against Russian aggression in Georgia that was joined by many prominent human rights leaders across the country.  

The Kremlin accused Maglevannaya of publishing false allegations about federal prison authorities in a series of articles in which she reported acts of torture being carried out by the local government against Zubayr Isaevich Zubayraev, then housed in the local jail administered by the Russian government (as are all such institutions since all Russian criminal law is federal). At the same time that the lawsuit was filed, Zubayraev’s family in Chechnya, especially his sister, began receiving death threats and fled the country.

Now, Maglevannaya has been forced to flee Russia and seek political asylum in the West, just as if Russia were the USSR, in order to avoid being jailed for the simple act of telling the truth about the activities of the Kremlin.

Relying on an investigation prompted in large part on Maglevannaya’s reporting, the World Organization Against Torture reported that the 30-year-old Zubayraev had been sentenced in August 2007 to five years for allegedly assaulting a Russian soldier, and subjected to a relentless series of beatings by prison authorities which resulted in his hospitalization. For most of 2007 Zubayraev had been missing, and his family heard nothing about his legal status until his conviction was announced, making him just one of thousands to have had such an experience in Chechnya.  Reporters without Borders states:  “At that point, he was able to establish contact with his sister and told her he was being mistreated.”

Maglevannaya’s reports then appeared, and instigated national interest.  RWP continues: “Human rights activists managed to visit the prison camp where he was being held and photographed his injuries. Two leading human rights activists – Lev Ponomariov of For Human Rights and Svetlana Gannushkina of Civil Solidarity – participated in a February 2009 news conference in Moscow about his case.”  Ponomariov was the recent recipient of a brutal beating on the streets of Moscow in retaliation for his human rights work, a  beating that U.S. President Barack Obama raised as an issue of concern to Russian ruler Dimitri Medvedev.

But the Volgograd authorities, and their masters in the Kremlin (which now appoints regional governors) saw things quite differently. 

On May 12th, a court in Volgograd found in the city’s favor and ordered Maglevannaya to pay roughly $5,000 in damages; in Russia, where the average wage is $3/hour, that works out to nearly a year’s salary, a sum a person earning such wages would not be likely to have saved.  A week later journalist Grigori Pasko, interviewed her by telephone and published his account on the blog of Robert Amsterdam, attorney for Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  She relates that police showed video of Zubayraev cowering in his cell from his beatings, and claimed it showed him beating himself, and that the judge refused to allow her attorney to call Zubayraev himself as a witness. Her attorney offered photographs and testimony from Zubayraev’s family members confirming that the beatings had occurred, yet the court still ruled against her.

Reporters without Borders condemned the ruling, stating:

The logic of the court’s ruling escape us. The case involves serious allegations about the torture of a detainee, so why punish the journalist rather than get to the bottom of the case by examining all the evidence, starting with the prisoner’s own statements. If the evidence is sufficient, the judicial system should investigate these inhuman practices instead of prosecuting the journalist. This would be a better way of defending the prison service’s reputation than silencing those who expose the mistreatment of detainees.

 On May 29th, Maglevannaya applied for political asylum in Finland after attending a conference hosted there the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum, where she spoke about the Zubayraev case.  Unable to pay the gigantic fine leveled against her and unwilling to publish a retraction as the court had ordered her to do, she will become subject to arrest and imprisonment.  She feels she has no other choice than to follow the road well trodden by the likes of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and many other Russian dissidents driven into exile throughout history. 

She told the Moscow Times:  “All this is the honest truth. I am not going to publish a denial, which means I can be prosecuted as a criminal. I want to remain safe and continue doing my job.”

Maglevannaya is not the first Russian to seek political asylum abroad on the basis of a claim that Russia has become and oppressive, dangerous neo-Soviet state.  The Moscow Times reports:  

In April 2008, former Kommersant reporter Yelena Tregubova, who published a tell-all book about her days covering the Kremlin, received political asylum in Britain.  In 2007, Alexander Kosvintsev, a journalist who fled Kemerovo over threats from local authorities, received asylum in Ukraine. Also in 2007, Radio Liberty reporter Yury Bagrov and Regnum news agency editor Fatima Tlisova, who both wrote about human rights abuses of Chechens, received political asylum in the United States, Kommersant reported.

The MT quotes Oleg Panvilov, director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, who says that ” more than 15 Russian journalists covering political issues have requested asylum abroad since Vladimir Putin assumed power nine years ago.”

It’s getting harder and harder to distinguish the Russia of Vladimir Putin from the USSR of Leonid Brezhnev.  Not only do we see the same political repression, we see the same economic malaise.  Vladislav Inozemtsev, the director of the Research Center for Postindustrial Society, sums it up in devastating fashion:

According to the World Bank, every employed Russian contributes only $16,100 to the country’s gross domestic product, compared with $38,100 in South Africa, $48,600 in Greece, $59,400 in France and $74,600 in the United States.  But these numbers alone do not reflect the true scope of the problem. Russia’s low productivity is exacerbated by the fact that the country is dominated by natural resource extracting with relatively little industrial development in the real sector. Although the overall productivity in Thailand ($12,500 of GDP for an employed person), Brazil ($16,700) or Malaysia ($22,900) do not differ from Russia’s in a dramatic way, in these countries’ high-tech industrial exports account for 16.2 percent, 22.4 percent and 36.7 percent of all exports, while in Russia they constitute a meager 2 percent. Thus, Russia suffers not only from a low level of productivity but also from a counterproductive economic structure, slow technological progress and outdated labor relations.

With failure this extensive, it’s not hard to understand why the Kremlin would wish to clamp down on journalism.  Serious protest activities are sweeping the country, and the Kremlin is right to be worried and seek to choke off the flow of information, just as the USSR always did.   It’s not very likely that if Russians really understood the basic facts they’d still have such a lofty opinion of their rulers, and as the country suffers the worst economic downturn of any major nation, facing double-digit unemployment and inflation, one would expect considerable public unrest. 

Yet Putin’s Russia, like the USSR, remains much too calm as it waits for national collapse, because the people of Russia have proven themselves to be a nation of cowardly lemmings who don’t deserve a patrotic hero like Maglevanna struggling to save them.  We welcome her to the Western fold.

14 responses to “EDITORIAL: Yelena Maglevannaya is Fleeing Neo-Soviet Russia

  1. Yet another chapter in the hard-line efforts made by President Putin’s henchmen to control the news media was the Russian government’s take-over of the NTV television network in 2001, through the agency of Gazprom, a state-owned company. Russian officials have repeatedly announced their intention of gaining tighter control over the news media’s “strategic sector.” This policy aimed at “strengthening the State medias” in charge of “broadcasting reliable information to the Russian people,” was announced and outlined in the “Doctrine on Information Security” approved by President Putin in September 2000 and systematically implemented. The power struggle orchestrated by the authorities against the news sector’s “oligarchs” was thus resolved by the pure and simple take-over, by the Russian government, of NTV-the only privately owned television network with a national audience. A short time later, they seized control of the semi-public ORT television network, which boasted the biggest audience on the Russian Federation’s territory. Boris Berezovski’s share of this television network’s capital was acquired by the Sibneft oil group-a state-owned company-thereby bringing it under state control. The Soviet Union’s former television network, which had been partially privatised in 1993, and had been especially critical of President Putin concerning the Kursk submarine affair, thus joined the RTR state-owned network and was brought under state supervision.


    • Hi Les, That four year sentence for one of the few decent Russians was a terrible price to pay. At least the Japanese moved on this and committed funds to help Roosha store nuclear waste and recycle nuclear submarines. A worthy effort not wasted on the Japanese whom would be first to suffer.

      And wait for this….. Rooskie Army chief of staff, Makarov complained that the Georgian armed forces were now better equipped with weapons, and military hardware than they were in the August war. Making Georgia more capable in defending herself. So now Rooskie Pederastic Army will carry out large-scale military exercises in Belarus this September. This could be a move to annoy Ukraine, and remind Lukashenko in Byelorus who his daddy is.


  2. Most of us know this, but, Gregory Pasko is a regular contributor at Robert Amsterdam’s blog. He’s wonderful.

    Here’s a news item today from the WSJ that caught my eye:

    BEIJING — China plans to require that all personal computers sold in the country as of July 1 be shipped with software that blocks access to certain Web sites, a move that could give government censors unprecedented control over how Chinese users access the Internet.

    The government, which has told global PC makers of the requirement but has yet to announce it to the public, says the effort is aimed at protecting young people from “harmful” content. The primary target is pornography, says the main developer of the software, a company that has ties to China’s security ministry and military.

    How long before Putin using the same bogus protection from pornography moves in that direction?


    Sick, sick, sick. Those who cannot remember history . . .

  3. After Obama’s cowardly and risable speech in Cairo, in which he essentially threw all human rights concerns under the bus of religious appeasment, I despair about the West standing up to the neo-Soviet Union. Keep up the good work, LR, these outrages demand coverage.

  4. Maybe you should hold a poll, like the one in your previous post, asking who is the ugliest “hero journalist” – Ms. Maglevannaya, Ms. Yulia Latynina (http://m.piter.fm/img/persons/350×350/00/00ea738fded9c8e5505ab4676d63ecc7.jpeg) or, e.g., Ms. Elena Tregubova (http://image.newsru.ua/pict/id/large/71844_20080402105418.jpg)


    You simpleton, you don’t seem to realize that the point of that poll was to undermine the claims of insane Russian nationalists like you that Russian women are prettier than women from other countries. All the women you listed are Russians, so if they are in fact ugly, that would only further undermine the claim. Dolt.

    However, we admit that we feel all three of these ladies are smoking hot. But since we’ve never denied that Russia has the same share of pretty girls as every other country, no more no less, that is not surprising.

    If you’d care to submit a photo, we’ll be happy to run a poll asking who is uglier, you or Peter Lavelle. Up for it?

    • Oksana Makarova

      Hey Kim, I can guarentee you one thing….. I am much prettier than you.

      I saw your picture in the eXile and you have one fat bumper honey.

      How about we ask your readers to vote in a poll? I’ll send my photo if you send yours.

      What do you say honey?


      We say you are lying about the photograph and you’re banned from commenting further as are result.

      Have a nice life, honey.

      • Oksana Makarova, put your vodka bottle down, are you an idiot or what, you can’t even prove to us that you have teeth in your mouth.

    • Hey, Eugene, you are really out of credible mature content when the best you an do is try to demean people physically.

      Any truth to the rumor that you are a fat slob posting from mom’s pizza box strewn basement? You fit the profile.

      Here’s a piece of advice, I’d get back on your acne management program, shed some pounds, find some friends, get some sunshine and salvage what you can of your life.

      Oh, and, stop the anger that mom named you Eugene. Or, that you picked a dorky troll name. Whatever.

  5. Somewhat related:

    The Lessons Of Colonel Kovalyov

    June 08, 2009

    By Ilya Milshtein

    It’s a shame. The article that immortalized the name of one Russian military historian has been removed from the website of the Defense Ministry.

    Incidentally, it was on the site long enough that lovers of historical jokes had time to reproduce it on other sites. For instance, you can read it here. And, of course, the printed version of Colonel Sergei Kovalyov’s article can be found in printed form in the “Military-Historical Journal” (No. 7, 2008).

    So you might wonder why this scandal erupted just now. Why is it that only one year after the publication of Kovalyov’s “Fantasies And Falsifications In Evaluating The Role Of The USSR On The Eve And At The Beginning Of World War II” are we finally paying any attention to it? What were we doing?

    The answer is simple — Russian society has been in a deep sleep for at least the last nine years. In addition, in a country where the shelves of bookstores are overflowing with books with titles like “Stalin Against The Global Conspiracy,” the sensibilities of even the most devoted consumers of historical literature are bound to be dulled.

    You look over the cover, sigh quietly, and then wander over to see what is on offer in the poetry section. That is the extent of your protest.

    But Kovalyov was unlucky.

    His sensational opening of a third front (after Ribbentrop and Molotov) against Poland appeared on the website of the very ministry that is the successor to the Red Army. Moreover, it was still on that site when the Russian government suddenly took up the struggle against the falsification of history and created a commission comprised of staffers from the Federal Security Service, Military Intelligence, the General Staff, the Foreign Ministry, and other obedient agencies.

    Only then did some members of the public rub their eyes and utter: What are you saying? What were you, comrade Red Army soldiers, fighting for in 1941? Comrade Colonel, do you know what you are writing?

    The Whole Truth Revealed

    Indeed he did. The occupation of Poland by units of the German Wehrmacht and the Red Army is one of the most shameful episodes in the history of World War II for us. And the whole war began from this “episode.” Furthermore, it is known that there was a joint parade of Hitler’s troops and Stalin’s in Brest, and don’t forget Comrade Molotov’s gleeful declaration that “Poland — that ugly child of the Treaty of Versailles — no longer exists.”

    This shameful chapter had to be rewritten, and 70 years after the fact Comrade Kovalyov has demonstrated admirable political acumen, telling us how the Poles themselves were to blame for everything (they impertinently refused to give Danzig to Hitler!) and were wrong to expect help from their Western allies. Colonel Kovalyov’s historical “truth” rhymes nicely with the Kremlin’s current truths that aim to counter Poland’s efforts to conduct pro-Western policies and to build elements of the U.S. missile-defense system on Polish territory.

    But I think there must be something in the word “antifascism” that resists the efforts of any commission on falsification, any bureaucratic nonsense, any politicking. After all, you can’t wage a holy struggle against the Yushchenkos of the world and various Baltic peoples while simultaneously being mistaken for the Fuhrer, who harbored the touching dream of acquiring Gdansk.

    You can’t describe the demands of the Nazis as “reasonable” if you recall that they didn’t stop at Poland and less than two years later Hitler also attacked the Soviet Union. You can’t be sympathetic to the aggressive policies of this cannibal without running the risk of being considered a traitor to your own country. And to the millions of its citizens who gave their lives in the war with the same cannibal.

    And that is why Kovalyov’s article couldn’t remain on the Defense Ministry’s site. Which is a shame, from the historical point of view since that text revealed the whole truth of the ideology of our official Russian historians in epaulets without concealing anything.

    But the archives of the Internet, unlike state archives, are open to all. And future historians will read with interest about how scholarship was reduced to empty nothingness.


  6. Anna Politkovskaya was killed as she came home with some groceries on a Saturday afternoon, October 7, 2006, Vladimir Putin’s birthday.

    [Read rest at link:]


    • May God forgive me, but… a dog’s death for a dog!


      Would you mind giving us your name, telephone number and address so we can report your call for cowardly, terrorist murder to the proper authorities? You can see if you can convince the world of your correctness at your trial. We can’t thank you enough for documenting the true nature of the Russian nationalist barbarian in such a short space. The horror is now plain for all to see.

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