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« Etap: Where is Nadezhda Tolokonnikova? | Main | Wonderful Song in Memory of Gorbanevskaya by Kolchenko »

November 10, 2013


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Alex K.

The fact that the ICRF is going after the lawyer is deeply disturbing. However I would not overestimate the bravery of Musaev's Chechen supporters - now that Ramzan Kadyrov has joined them, I suspect they knew they had his backing from the start.

"And it seemed like progress, until Budanov was released." Budanov served nine years out of his ten-year sentence. One could say it was a slap on the wrist by American standards. Not so by Russian standards - the average murder sentence is apparently 8-11 years and with good behavior, it means 6-8 years.

Catherine Fitzpatrick

Alex, where did you see the Kadyrov has joined them?

And in a place like Chechnya, even if Kadyrov decided to take this cause up, getting out in front of him could still be risky.

I still think it's an unusual incident. I have never seen anything like it related to Chechnya.

It would be all too easy for any of these people, particularly Kadyrov, to throw this young lawyer under the bus. They didn't.

In the US, this would be prosecuted as a hate crime and have a longer sentence likely. Budanov being released ahead of serving his term in full sends a bad signal regardless.

It doesn't matter what the standards are for ordinary murder, this was extraordinary.

BTW, Wikipedia said he had only served 8 years:

I appreciate your comments and corrections. But in this, what you're doing is interpreting differently, not correcting, really.

Catherine Fitzpatrick

Also, when people are anonymous in the blogosphere, like you are (Alex K) doesn't tell us a thing, and it isn't on your blogs anywhere), constant knowier-than-though correcting becomes annoying, not enlightening, because we can't tell how it is that you know what you now and what it's basis is.

I totally respect people who are in Moscow covering events directly there who are always going to be way ahead of anyone in the West trying to follow via the Internet (although this makes it a lot easier than it used to be). But what?

Your purpose of making the remarks about Kadyrov or about nothing really so terrible involved in letting out Budanov basically seem to say:

"I'm Russian, Budanov did enough time, Chechens are awful"...or something.

Alex K.

Budanov's conviction was a major breakthrough for those who wanted at least some accountability for the Russian army in Chechnya: he was stripped of his high rank and decorations and sentenced to 10 years in a "strict regime" penal colony despite the fact that the majority of Russians, to say nothing of powerful generals such as Shamanov and Troshev, were in favor of his immediate release. From 2003-2009, Budanov served time in the Ulyanovsk region, where General Shamanov had been elected governor in 2000. Shamanov used his position to have Budanov pardoned in 2004 but failed. With all those efforts to win early release for Budanov, the fact that he served 90% of his term looks more like a victory for the human rights cause.

(Budanov was arrested in March 2000 and released in January 2009. It means he served 8 years and 10 months, close enough to nine years.)

Kadyrov defended Musaev via Instagram, his preferred mode of communicating with the general public. He's talking perfect sense, surprisingly: I don't use Instagram. I have no insider knowledge of any Chechen matters. I have an idea how Russia works, though, which is why I strongly suspect this "initiative group" ( emerged with Kadyrov's backing. I'd like to be proven wrong on this.

You live in a free country and I do not, for the time being. I cannot afford to write under my real name at the moment for a number of reasons. However I've been blogging in English and Russian for ten years so I am not a complete nobody on the net.

Catherine Fitzpatrick

Right. I blogged that, you know (that his conviction was a major and rare event). And that's why releasing him one or even two years before the end of his sentence sends a very bad message. It should be "ot zvonka do zvonka" is a case like that. Yes, I did the math. But it was still not a full 9 years, and that matters. Optics matter in a case like this. It's not like Khodorkovsky isn't being forced to serve every last month -- and then some, as a new sentence is tacked on. That's also the norm to look at.

I'm sorry, but I still am not impressed that generals don't tend to go to prison and therefore we should see this as great magnanimity. Because Russia was accepted into the Council of Europe on the pledge of prosecuting a number of the major Chechen massacres, and never did. It could have, and it would have done its duty and been accepted far more into the international community. It didn't try a single case. When forced to respond to European Court rulings on these cases, yes, the Kremlin opted to pay out some cash here and there but never rectified the wrong fully by prosecutions itself.

Yes, Initiative Groups in places like Chechnya usually come from the top down. But it's interesting that it didn't emerge as Kadyrov first creating it or blessing it, but the group having a round table first, then him sending the Instagram. Of course people like that may have had their fingers to the wind. But maybe on something as basic as the ability to have lawyers for clients is something that actually Kadyrov, only for reasons of sovereignty-as-power-base, got behind it. There's a limit to how much you can push even Soviet-style professional people to the breaking point, even in a place like Chechnya. It's not like it's so easy to produce this educated and experienced class again. So even dictators have some restraints on them by these approved "civil society" bodies at times.

To me, it's interesting that Caucasian Knot, which is far, far more experienced in Chechnya than you because they have been there and have correspondents there didn't see fit to pitch it in the cynical way you did, although they might well have.

That's not to say that it won't turn out to be orchestrated. No matter. The point is to rescue the guy and it's not important how contrived it is as the principles are correct.

Navalny blogs with his name So do a lot of other Russians. They take their knocks for it. I don't demand that people deliberately take knocks, but I reject that "you live in a free country" bullshit, as if we are supposed to be oh-so-gingerly and oh-so-sorry. Not when other people in your country are brave and suffer for it. Don't put it on me; put it on yourself. Have that decency at least.

And again, when you play anonymous know-it-all, you don't inspire trust. To be honest, I never heard of you in these 10 years but I wasn't so active in the Russian blogosphere for years, being more involved in Central Asia for some 6 years in the early 2000s.

Alex K.

"I'm sorry, but I still am not impressed that generals don't tend to go to prison and therefore we should see this as great magnanimity." That would alienate both the army and the majority of the population. Putin is too much of a populist coward to attempt that.

"And again, when you play anonymous know-it-all, you don't inspire trust."

I do not play know-it-all because, as I've said, I use mostly public sources. It's not my fault that I have a decent memory and brain. I'm trying to inspire trust, as you put it, by studying issues and being open to discussion. As long as my opponents and I argue in good faith, I don't see why pseudonymity (as opposed to anonymity) should be a problem.

"Not when other people in your country are brave and suffer for it."

I only tried to argue the merits of my case; you chose to act the moral bully. Fair enough.

Alex K.

"But maybe on something as basic as the ability to have lawyers for clients is something that actually Kadyrov, only for reasons of sovereignty-as-power-base, got behind it. There's a limit to how much you can push even Soviet-style professional people to the breaking point, even in a place like Chechnya. It's not like it's so easy to produce this educated and experienced class again. So even dictators have some restraints on them by these approved "civil society" bodies at times."

Yes, this is a valid point and it gives even me some hope.

Catherine Fitzpatrick

No, Alex, you're anonymous, and therefore unaccountable. It's not about the sources being public; that's not the point. It's about whether YOU are.

And so modest! "It's not my fault that I have a decent memory and brain."

You don't inspire trust when you show up incessantly to correct -- on so many stories -- and it turns out that you're not correcting for the sake of truth and accuracy, and advancing the greater good and knowledge, but to play one-up-manship and ultimately to serve the Kremlin's version of the story. I finally saw what it was, and no, it's not in good faith.

YOU are the one who is a moral bully when you show up to take a part a story basically to undermine people who stood up to the regime in Moscow. I pointed out that it's rare for such people; it's odd; but you had to come along and say "Oh, it's all Kadyrov behind it because he put something on Instagram after they did."

Now, that all may be true, that he instigated all of it behind the scenes. But we don't know that. And we could take it for what it is: a professional act of defense. And note that it might be because of Kadyrov, but *even* Kadyrov had to join in.

You're merely exploiting the default animosity toward Kadyrov to make a point.

You're also playing the moral bully when you try to correct on a pedantic point -- which I put there knowing that you would do it and waiting to see if you would do it. And indeed you did. Anyone can do the math, and it was "almost" 9 years although technically 8 years, 10 months. But instead of accepting the larger point that in this case -- the only case where impunity was challenged -- it really mattered to serve the sentence for moral reasons of justice, you had to challenge it. Odd, that.

I have no idea what your game really is here, because you're anonymous. Were you assigned to me, Alex?

In any event, my default is to keep comments open and anyone can leave a comment unless they incite violence or damages.

Alex K.

Your posts would be less vulnerable to criticism if you incorporated my comments. When you make errors of fact or sweeping judgments, you open yourself up to attacks from your adversaries. You come across as a propagandist, which most people resent. Your valid and valuable points get swamped in your own high-pitched diatribe.

When you write: "And it seemed like progress, until Budanov was released," you ignore not only the fact that Budanov's serving out 90% of his term WAS progress; you ignore the fact that Perelevsky of the Ulman group, Arakcheyev of the Khudyakov-Arakcheyev case, and Sergei "Cadet" Lapin are still serving terms for war crimes in Chechnya. Their appeals have all been rejected and there is no sign of early release for them, even though Perelevsky and Arakcheyev were twice acquitted by juries. In addition, several officers remain on the federal "wanted" list.

"you show up to take a part a story basically to undermine people who stood up to the regime in Moscow"

This is pure spin. I support Russia's recognized opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, and his movement. I voted for him and I've taken to the streets to support him. I believe the Chechen bureaucrats are doing the right thing in backing Musaev, but suspect that for them it is a matter of loyalty, not a matter of legal principle. Calling them brave sounds off-key to me. Even if it's truly bravery, it's not the bravery of a liberal Westerner standing up to a brutal dictator; it's the bravado of a tribal horseman riding into battle ahead of his chief.

On a side note, Musaev played a role in subverting whatever remained of the rule of law in Russia in the 2000s. Nothing to do with his role as a defense lawyer, more with his mission as Kadyrov's emissary in the Ulman and Arakcheyev cases. Very feudal in essence.

Calling me a Kremlin agent was vile. It's a virtual equivalent of a spit in the face. Hence this is my last comment here, barring apologies from you.

Catherine Fitzpatrick

There's no need to incorporate the silly, outdated threaded mode of old geeky Internet discussion forums on my blog. Your comments are already visible, no need to reprint them within a comment.

I didn't make errors of fact on this story about the Chechens. I read the available stories, and I made a judgement based on what was reported by a credible source, Caucasian Knot. THEY didn't report the story with arch cynicism that it was all a put-up job -- nothing in their story even hints at that.

So I took it as a story about people who are usually not outspoken or brave stepping up in an unusual act this time -- and that's the case.

If Kadyrov appears later on Instagram, that's a useful fact to add depth to the story, but it doesn't mean that everything is a charade -- it's a bit more complicated than that. It's more about ethnic pride and fighting for the rights of an autonomous region, such as it is, than "human rights," but still something, to go up against moscow.

It isn't progress for only one high-ranking military man to be tried for the vast number of crimes in Chechnya. Not at all. Therefore to demonstratively release such a man merely for the technical "good behaviour" grounds of his in-prison comportment sends the wrong message.

Sure, there are a few other cases, but they are not as well known or as high ranking. Budanov was a very high profile case, so to let him out would be like letting out Sirhan Sirhan for good behaviour or Madoff.

That's great that you voted for Navalny and have even "taken to the streets" to support him. That means at least you're not a Kremlin shill. But then you do open yourself up to charges of the same nationalism than Navalny illustrates, when you have trouble conceding that Chechens deserve justice and that sometimes Chechens are brave, even if coopted officials.

I'm glad you've corrected your intervention to say that you think they are doing the right thing, and not merely facetiously said that "you hope you're right". Because regardless, they *are* doing the right thing.

The bravado of tribal horsemen riding into battle ahead of chiefs is probably as good as it gets, and that's okay. I wouldn't sneer at it. Musaev needs to get exonerated.

As for Musaev playing "a role in subverting whatever remained of the rule of law," I think Russian troops played the major role here, and I'm going to find it hard to be persuaded that a Chechen lawyer is the problem. As for his role as "emissary," I'd have to study it and get a second opinion, given your affiliations.

I didn't call you a Kremlin agent. I asked if you were assigned to me. Because you are behaving as if you are. And when I see where you're posting from, I re-double my questions.

I don't do apologies for my valid opinions. This is a little blog where only a few people ever put comments. When someone comes here day after day to post elaborate fact-checking oppo-research type of comments, valid as they may be at times, I have to wonder "what's up". Why is it so important to make sure that a brief acknowledgement of some Chechens' bravery, as compromised as it may be, gets pummeled into the ground?

When people accuse me of working for US intelligence, which they do every week, I simply say, "No, I don't, these are my own opinions." I don't feel as if anyone has spit in my face or that I need an apology or a 19th century duel.

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