Day: December 23, 2006

Inversions of the Truth – II

In EJ, Marina Litvinovich, editor-in-chief of the Truth of Beslan website, protests about the lies and distortions in the official Russian report on the Beslan tragedy [my tr.]:

For a start, it’s important to make it clear that no report has been published, although the commission promised to do this. All that has happened is that the commission’s head, Alexander Torshin, read out this report – so far there is no printed text anywhere.

No one was invited to hear the presentation of the report – not journalists, nor victims, nor hostages nor relatives – no one. Everything is being done in a hurry and in secret. On the eve of the holidays, on Friday, so that no one would even notice what was taking place. Moreover, after the report the Federation Council has already voted to close the activity of the Commission of Inquiry into the terror act in Beslan. In other words, as far as the Federation Council is concerned, the matter is now closed.

Now the State Duma is to have its say. But the text of the report was presented in the lower chamber of parliament only yesterday evening, and the Duma Council has not yet had time to study it. But at today’s session already they are already trying to raise a motion for the closing of the commission’s activity. Meanwhile, not a single deputy has actually seen the text. Thus, they propose to vote blindly.

Let us move on to the text itself. The report is very similar to the one that was published in August – in fact, the commission has not worked since then. The commission did not meet in September, or October, or November, or December. And it’s totally unclear what the new report is based on, because no work has actually been done, there have been no expert assessments, no new evidence has been examined.

Moreover, Torshin’s report is based on the same assessment of the actions of operational staff which was removed from the judicial process six weeks ago. An assessment, in other words, that has been acknowledged to be illegal and invalid. As for the report’s principal conclusion – that the first shots were the result of the actions of the guerrillas – this conclusion has not been confirmed in any way. By no mathematical calculations or technical analyses – it is all empty words. Thus, Torshin asserts that the federal forces did not fire flamethrowers at the school in which the hostages were held. Yet one has only to enumerate the people who were killed or injured as they stood in the windows – from this it follows naturally that the shooting came from the street. There is much evidence to support the contention that there was also firing from tanks.

Another of the report’s conclusions is that 32 people took part in the school seizure, of whom 31 were killed and one has been sentenced in court. This is simply ridiculous. Even the Prosecutor’s office has already admitted under pressure from us that there may have been more of them. It’s a mystery why this figure has not changed in Torshin’s reports since 2004 – there is a mass of evidence which refutes it.

All this is being done for one purpose alone – to close the question of Beslan. And to bring an end, as the government representatives say, to “the speculations and insinuations” on this subject. But I think, these efforts are in vain – those who suffered will not give up. Whatever the lies that Torshin gives them, they lost their children and they will go to the end.

What is more, the investigation continues: expert analyses are being made, there are studies, examinations of witnesses. It’s only for Torshin that the question is closed – he is the only one for whom it’s all clear. He has cleared it all up and decided not to do any more work, taking into account the fact that in any case he has actually done no work for the past six months.

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Khodorkovsky to Face New Fabricated Charges

Via Mikhail Khodorkovsky Press Center

Defense Lawyers Claim Khodorkovsky, Lebedev Being Transferred to Chita to Face New Charges

December 22, 2006

Mikhail Khodorkovsky defense lawyer Natalia Terekhova said today that Mikhail Khodorkovsky was transferred from his penal colony to a detention center in Chita on December 20 in advance of the announcement of new charges against him and former business associate Platon Lebedev.

Moreover, Khodorkovsky defense lawyer Yuri Schmidt received a notification from the Prosecutor General’s Office today claiming that “on December 26 at 10:00am, your client Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky… will face investigations wherein you are entitled to participate.”

Platon Lebedev lawyer Evgeny Baru issued a statement that seemed to confirm the new charges. He said: “We have been informed that an inquiry involving Khodorkovsky and Lebedev will be carried out in Chita on December 27. I understand a new charge will be made.”

Robert Amsterdam, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s attorney, comments:

“This regime has lost its moral authority to dispense justice. If new charges come to light, no one doubts that they would be purely politically motivated. What needs to be examined today is the criminality of certain people in or near the Kremlin.”

Mr. Amsterdam stated that while he would be appalled by new charges, they would not surprise him. “They arrested an innocent man. They put on a show trial reminiscent of Stalinist tactics for dealing with political opponents. Defense lawyers were threatened with disbarment or deported. They sent Mr. Khodorkovsky to the gulag in a remote location in Siberia. They destroyed his company with absurd tax charges, amounting to eight dollars of tax per dollar of revenue in 2004. They forced the closure of his charitable Open Russia Foundation, the first example of modern Russian philanthropy. They sent masked officers armed with machine guns into the orphanage for war victims run by his parents, turning over every last stone in their search for his remaining funds. They announced the seizure of his house, threatening to throw out his wife and school-aged children. Should anyone be surprised by new charges designed to bury Mikhail Khodorkovsky?”

Putin’s New Power in Ukraine

From TimesOnline:

Russia demonstrated its renewed influence over Ukraine yesterday during the first visit by President Putin since the Orange Revolution swept pro-Western reformers to power.

Mr Putin met President Yushchenko in Kiev in what both leaders described as an effort to mend relations after the revolution and the “gas war” in January that cut off supplies to Ukraine.

Mr Putin told reporters: “We had a very constructive, good, friendly dialogue. Everything was very pragmatic and businesslike.”

Inversions of the Truth

Another sign of the hardening of Moscow’s position on human rights issues. As predicted, the official “parliamentary commission” of inquiry into the deaths at Beslan has exonerated the Russian special forces, leading many of the surviving relatives to despair of finding justice:

Many relatives blamed their children’s deaths on the botched rescue operation, in which fire engulfed the school, in the Russian Caucasus republic of North Ossetia.

A campaigner representing victims’ relatives, Ella Kesayeva, voiced anger at the Torshin commission’s findings.

Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio, she said the report gave the Russian authorities the green light to “use banned weapons with impunity”.

“The next time hostages are taken the security services can do whatever they like, they can do what they did in Beslan,” she said.