Institute for Postinformation Society

Institute for Postinformation Society republishes materials of Ukrainian blogs on Russia aggression related issues (All rights reserved).

Inter agency conflicts

The more power law enforcers in Russia have, the more the controversies between different structures escalate. According to both leaked insights and the intended leaks of data, the puppet elections on Donbass are a result of the consensus achieved between the two rivaling parties in Kremlin. One of these parties may be represented by Vladislav Surkov and Main Intelligence Directorate of MoD of Russian Federation (GRU), the other being Alexander Bortnikov and his Federal Security Service (FSB). Perhaps this is why Denis Pushilin was appointed to be an obedient “president”, while Ananchenko (“prime-minister of DNR” and a close person to Serkey Kurchenko, former Ukrainian oligarch) became his overseer. The former head of Ukrainian intelligence Mykola Malomuzh talked in his interview about the fights of Russian special forces for the “Ukrainian prize”.

Either way, we are witnesses to the backstabbing games of Kremlin’s master faithful servants. Who not only doesn’t stop these fights, but sometimes even encourage them, in his own set of strategies for staff resources.

Law enforcers play a special role in the totalitarian country, where everything is built on the foundation of fear. And the modern Russia is no exclusion. But the more power law enforcers have, the more the controversies between different structures escalate, and even between the different groups in one structure. We get more and more examples of this with every passing day. Let’s consider a few of these.

The conflict between Yevgeny Prigozhin (often referred as “Putin’s cook”) and Sergey Shoigu (Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation) which started long ago, finally came into public space. This was especially obvious when Prigozhin showed on the meeting with Lybian generals, and he sat mere 3 sits aside from Minister Shoigu.

The inevitability of this conflict happening was evident right after the creation of PMC Wagner. Private military companies were able to solve few Putin regimes problems at once. First of all, they allowed for not using the regular army in the Kremlin’s war ventures. That’s how Russia could formally deny the presence of its military in Ukraine or in Central African Republic.

Second, PMC are financed nor from the state’s budget. This let’s much better financing of the mercenaries than Russian Ministry of Defense could allow for. There’s a whole waiting list for joining the PMC. On the other side, this is a perfect opportunity for corruption and embezzlement. The war writes off anything! Third, PMC is still cheaper than the regular army which is burdened by a huge number of brass.

Finally, the best part of it all, PMC (especially working hand in hand with Prigozhin’s security forces) can conduct quite delicate operations, including the elimination of unwanted. So the services of infamous Petrov and Bashirov may not be needed anymore. Especially because PWC Wagner now intends to get the modern weaponry, while the media tells stories about PWC Wagner’s experiments with poisonous weapons in Syria and not only there. Apparently it is not a coincidence at all that the training camp of PWC Wagner is located on the territory where the Main Intelligence Directorate task forces base is located.

So what about the Shoygu place in this story?

He tries to counter in all the ways he can. Recently some leaks to the media took place, suggesting that in February 2018 PWC Wagner was entrapped under the American hit in Deir ez-Zor intentionally, by the order of Sergey Shoigu. And it is no accident that Russian media (including the opposition “Novaya Gazeta”) hosted some sharp critical articles about Prigozhin. This is the last attempt of Shoigu to weaken his opponent. And though one would be worried by such media attack in a free country, there’s little to worry about in a modern day Russia.

One would suffice with simple answer of Putin when he was asked directly about Prigozhin: “Well, you have your Soros, who spreads the democracy everywhere, and who is not an American state as you keep saying to me. And we have Prygozhin.” And this trademark Putin’s grin. He likes it so much that he has such a skilled cook! While the citizens of both Russia and those other states where PWC Wagner surfaces should be really worried, as these are people who are not restricted even by the modern Russian rules. A kind of non-conventional weapon bound by no conventions at all! This weapon doesn’t fit under the conventions of arms limitation, just because it was invented just recently, but it kills people just as well as the conventional weapon does…

Speaking of problems the Russian Ministry of Defense has, we cannot omit all the recent scandals around the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU). From Soviet times everyone was used to the fact that all the most brilliant strategic operations were conducted by the Main Intelligence Directorate of Soviet Army (GRU). Let’s remember the Rozenberg case, and the stealing of American nuclear secrets. And the most famous of them all, the Soviet spy Richard Sorge, was a member of it. All while the First Main Directorate of the Committee for State Security (or KGB) was in charge of all the dirty work, like political assassinations. Starting with the murdering of Leon Trotsky (who actually created the Main Intelligence Directorate), and ending with the staging of the accident, but in reality — a killing of famous artist Alexander Galich.

We cannot know if young Putin was envious of the much more professionally esteemed Main Intelligence Directorate. But we can say for sure that starting with Putin coming to power, the pressure on the Main Intelligence Directorate starts. It was stripped of its high-trained special task forces, the network of covert agents all around the world was uncovered and leaked out. And perhaps it was no accident at all that Chepiga and Mishkin (aka Petrov and Bashirov) were put out in the spotlight to be laughed at? Were they members of Federal Security Service, perhaps they faith could be a different one? By the way, the well-known Vladislav Surkov also were serving in Main Intelligence Directorate for some time, as his father were.

Still, the Federal Security Service sometimes gets into the grindstones of special forces quarrels. As of now, that didn’t involve the people on the top of the ladder, but the night is young. Let’s remember the case of “Shaltai Boltai” (“Humpty Dumpty”) group, where suddenly it became known that behind the anonymous hackers collecting and publishing the information on high profile bureaucrats, there’s a FSB curator behind them. Perhaps it is forgotten by the general public, but the loudest investigations of Alexei Navalny (regarding the Shuvalov’s corgi dogs, or Medvedev’s sneakers shoes) started with a facts, disclosed by the “Shaltai Boltai” group.

In August 2018 two employees of Federal Security Service were arrested, which were involved into the investigation of former Federal Penitentiary Service head Alexey Reimer. The goal is fulfilled, Reimer resigned, so now we can deal with the ones involved in the operation… And the convictions for the FSB members in the regions is a usual story now. Just recently, in the September 2018, Krasnodar court arrested the FSB mayor for extortion from one of “Gazprom” subsidiaries. Mayor was caught red-handed, while receiving 1.5 million rubles. Funny thing, the 1.5 million rubles seem to be a favorite number either for the extortionists, or perhaps for the ones who stage their arrests. This spring in Samara oblast the chief deputy of FSB economic security department and his assistant were arrested, receiving the exactly same sum as a bribe. They are charged with connections with the local criminals. So having an FSB ID doesn’t give you a status of untouchable after all. It all depends on which side they play on, and who’s winning at the moment. And of course the fight in regions is much more fierce than in Moscow.

Speaking of wars between Russian law enforcers we should remember some high-profile cases where the Investigative Committee of Russia was involved. This summer FSB arrested the former head of the Moscow office of Investigative Committee of Russia general Alexandr Drymanov. Many experts consider Drymanov to be a trustee of head of the Investigative Committee Alexandr Bastrykin. He was in charge of investigation of some high profile cases, such as a case of Nadiya Savchenko, a second case of Yukos Oil Company, a case of military crimes against the people of South Osetia at the time of Russo-Georgian War of 2008.

Arresting of Drymanov is connected to the case of criminal lord Young Shakro (“Shakro Molodoy”), who testified against by Denis Nikandrov. But arrests of such high-level law enforcers are impossible without the sanction from the very high. And of course this is a play for weakening of Alexandr Bastrykin positions. Actually, this story is in full swing at this moment. In September the arrest of Drymanov was extended, in September one of the witnesses of the case Badri Shengelia was killed. And in October Denis Drymanov (whos charges were softened) made some statements. Studying this case we can see the main arsenal of modern day law enforces wars in Russia — arrests and publicity, publicity and arrests.

In the imaginary contemporary pyramid of law enforcers, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs is perhaps located at the very bottom level. First of all this is connected to the personal weight of minister Kolokoltsev, the rumors of his resignation are constant. The arrests of his subordinates don’t help as well. Just few days ago, again by the FSB, Oleg Grehov was arrested, a head of Ministry of Internal Affairs department in Sverdlovsk oblast. He is charged with taking bribes in a particularly high amount. But the inside sources tell that his arrest might be connected to the fact of wiretapping of the former Yekaterinburg mayor Yevgeny Roizman. We must note that this arrest is miraculously coincided with the circulating rumors of possible resignation of the governor.

Bribes are not the only crimes the members of Ministry of Internal Affairs structures are charged with. A wave of arrests went through Bashkortostan recently. The scandal started because of raping of the investigator by the three high-profile figures of republic’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. Because of cleanup started, a number of employees were arrested from extortion and abuse of power. Some experts consider this to be an imitation of the fight against corruption staged by the local officials to stay in power. Another question is, would we even know about this rape at all, if the victim wouldn’t be a daughter of the high-level officer of National Guard of Russia?

Of course, the fight between the law enforcers started not yesterday. They were back in times of USSR. Let’s remember Nikolai Shchelokov case. Leonid Brezhnev son-in-law was removed from his position of Minister of Internal Affairs, then striped of all commendations titles. The next day Nikolai Shchelokov shot himself dead with a hunting rifle. At leasts, that’s the official reason for his death. Many consider this to be one of the most prominent episodes in the fight between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the KGB.

We can witness the new chapter in this never-ending fight right now. And the degree of confrontation we can see says that the transition of the power in Russia already started, even though everyone will deny this fact.

 

Sergei Skripal and Spain

 

Six months after the Sergei Skripal murder attempt in Salisbury, England, National Court of Spain acquitted of all charges 17 suspects, which were investigated by Spanish prosecutors and intelligence service for a duration of over 10 years. They have just withdrawn accusations against people, who were called nothing but “Russian mafia” for a decade.

According to Alexander Gofshtein, a Russian lawyer who defended one of the suspects, a Russian State Duma member Vladislav Reznik, there were no actual acquittal announced in the Spanish court. Perhaps, Spanish officials tried to at least save their faces. Spanish lawyers employed by Russian suspects were simply invited to the court and were presented with a document which said that their clients are accused no more.

Inglorious outcome, yet another “Putin’s victory” over European Union, that’s how ended the heavily publicized “Operation Troika”, which aimed to uncover the money laundering schemes of Russian elite’s funds of criminal and corruption origin in European countries.

We may consider this a “victory” for Putin simply because all and any operations and large scale schemes where Russia is involved are connected with Russian president, one way or another. Still, there are some other facts which we should consolidate to see the big picture.

Operation Troika

Almost 11 years ago, a judge named Baltasar Garson started the investigation, which by year 2015 grew into 460 pages of charge sheet alone. The prime figures of Spanish intelligence and law enforcement investigation were Gennadiy Petrov and Alexander Malyshev, which (according to information from Russia journalists) met each other many years ago in detention facility of St. Petersburg, a well-known “Kresty Prison”.

Spanish detectives believe that Petrov and Malyshev represented the interests of Russian Tambov and Malyshev criminal gangs, respectively. After some time these gangs joined, and were mentioned in the media as “Tambov-Malyshev” group. But this brotherly love didn’t happen overnight.

It was always assumed that the leader of Tambov gang was Vladimir Kumarin (later he took his mother’s last name and became Vladimir Barsukov). In 1989 Tambov gang, which were recently formed back then, had a massive shootout with Malyshev gang, which led to over 70 people from Tambov gang being investigated by Soviet law enforcers.

But after some years gangsters accumulated power and evolved. Just recently Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny was involved into comical duel challenge from Viktor Zolotov, a head of the National Guard of Russia. And during the arguments Navalny reminded to his opponent about the photos from funeral of the Petersburg mob boss Roman Tsepov, where Vladimir Kumarin also can be seen.

Back then, Viktor Zolotov served as a bodyguard to politician Anatoly Sobchak and his daughter Ksenia Sobchak. But let’s not rush things.

The case against “Russian mafia” which were widely covered in Spanish media since year 2008, were based on the isolated facts of Saint Petersburg businessman transferring their funds to Spain over a period from 1996 to 2008. Supposedly they did this to launder the money.

S list of suspects, which were also mentioned in the document of the termination of criminal proceedings, doesn’t really have familiar or well-known names.

But with some degree of certainty we can assume that some of the names of suspects or their partners in crime were known by Sergei Skripal.

Spanish phase of Russian intelligence

On September 28th, 2018, Mark Urban, a British journalist, wrote an article for Daily Mail talking about his book The Skripal Files, published by Macmillan in October 4th. In the article Urban gives us a synopsis of his book. In particular, he mentions that after the fall of Soviet Union, an officer of Main Intelligence Directorate Sergei Skrypal was so disappointed in his service that he thought about leaving the ranks. But he was not allowed to, and instead in September 1993 he was sent to Russian Embassy in Madrid to serve as a secretary in matters of science and technology.

According to Mark Urban, who interviewed Skripal a lot, it is there and then Russian intelligence officer first was noticed by British MI6 intelligence. Later, in 1996, when Russian officer’s term was nearing its end, a member of British intelligence tried to recruit him, and succeeded.

Perhaps the book by Mark Urban will give us even more information about Skripal, but even now we can conclude that professional agent of Russian Main Intelligence Directorate was collecting and analyzing information in Spain just at the same time when gangsters of Saint Petersburg and Russia built their money laundering schemes in Europe. Was he aware of that?

Yes, he was, think Michael Schwirtz and Ellen Barry, authors of a large article on Sergei Skripal which was published in The New York Times on September 9th 2018. According to them, Skripal visited Spain for numerous times, where he had some contacts with a local CNI intelligence. Spanish intelligence played a large role in the investigation and criminal proceedings against “Tambov” gang. Intelligence officers even acted as a witness. And Skripal himself was poisoned right in the middle of a trial in Madrid, which started February 18th and ended in April 2018.

Thus, it is not surprising that journalists immediately connected the names of Skripal, Litvinenko (who was poisoned just as well, right when he already had a ticket to Madrid) and Vladislav Reznik, a deputy of Russian State Duma, and a former successful Saint Petersburg businessman, who’s employee at some point of time was Dmitry Medvedev himself.

More even, during the criminal proceedings there were a number of facts and hearsays which led directly to Vladimir Putin and his entourage.

Where the Litvinenko came from?

On September 11th 1998 Yevgeny Primakov was appointed as Prime Minister of Russian Federation. That was a hard blow for the Yeltsin “clan”, which in fact controlled the whole country while the president was sick. But to keep the balance the independent figure was mandatory. Especially once prime minister Sergey Kirienko (who now serves as a first deputy of Putin’s Presidential Administration) pronounced the economical default of Russian Federation on August 17th 1998.

By the way, assorted studies of causes of Russian default of 1998 mentioned Boris Berezovsky as one of the reasons. A successful businessman and one closely connected to president Yeltsin’s clan, he was actively speculating on the market of short-term government bonds.

When Primakov became a prime minister, Boris Berezovsky was an executive secretary of CIS, which technically was a decorative diplomatic post. But according to prime minister himself, Berezovsky urged to be a kind of power behind the throne, which of course was unacceptable for intelligence man Primakov.

Being appointed to position, first thing Primakov did was unofficially invited all the heads of security, and asked them for help fighting the embezzlement. (One of those heads of security actually was Vladimir Putin.) During the Davos economic forum he mentioned his strict policy against economic crimes, which cause a plain hysteric reaction of Boris Berezovsky, who criticized the prime ministers openly.

So, when the conflict between Primakov and Berezovsky already was public knowledge, on November 17th 1998, Lieutenant Colonel of Russian Federal Security Service Alexander Litvinenko, along with a few of his colleagues, gave a quite comical press conference to Interfax news agency. They claimed that Federal Security Service administration forces them to assassinate and kill Boris Berezovsky, Litvinenko claimed to know personally since 1994.

At the press conference “officers” of the Federal Security Service wear black glasses, and one even wears a ski mask, supposedly to follow the secrecy guidelines.

When the conflict reached an impasse, in the beginning of February 1999, task forces were storming offices of Aeroflot and Sibneft companies, which were considered to be a financial source for the Yeltsin’s clan. While Yeltsin were in a hospital, Primakov promised to “strengthen the fight with a crime and corruption”. After that Berezovsky counter-attacked him in a public media. And got attacked back. Yeltsin initiated the procedure of relieving Berezovsky from the post of secretary of CIS, while Primakov was trashing him in media.

After the press conference where Litvinenko openly attacked the heads of Federal Security Service, another video surfaces up. In this video the so-called “journalist” Sergey Dorenko (who confessed not once to be working for Berezovsky) supposedly conducts an interview with an officers of Federal Security Service, namely the department in charge of in investigations and fight with organized crime.

Dorenko claims this video to be shot at the night of April 20th 1999, but there is no proof to this. On the video you can see a few people from the 7th department of Federal Security Service (in charge of gang violence): the head of department lieutenant colonel Alexander Ivanovich Gusak, the deputy chief of department lieutenant colonel Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko, and senior operative worker of the same department major Andrei Valerievich Pon’kin.

It is worth of notion that many of the Federal Security Service staff mentioned in this video are also present in the lists of Mirotvorets Center, as the participants of the military activities and war crimes in Chechnya.

Among the people on video the most prominent is Litvinenko, who’s smiling and eager to talk about how his sources and his colleagues told him, not once, that Berezovsky will be killed.

Also, officers on the video tell about getting orders from their superiors to arrange the kidnapping of Husein Jabrailov, the younger brother of Umar Jabrailov, with a purpose of freeing their colleagues captured in Chechnya.

Both Umar and Husein Jabrailov are well known. Umar was a running candidate for President of Russian Federation, while Jusein was running for presidency in Chechnya. Umar was a member of United Russia party until 2017, when he was discharged for gun shooting in the Four Seasons hotel.

It is worth to mention that officers of Federal Security Service in those videos talked about high ranked administrators of the Security Service, but Vladimir Putin is never mentioned in those videos. This is of interest, as Putin was appointed a head of Federal Security Service on July 25th 1998, two months before Yevgeny Primakov was appointed for a prime minister. That means that he should have been at least well aware of all the activities of Primakov in the area of security. Including a demarche of such scale as press conference of the Federal Security Service officers.

 

Federal Security Service’s Department of Hitmen

World community became aware of the existence of Federal Security Service’s department in charge of in investigations and fight with organized crime in November 1998, when five of the department’s agents called a press conference to tell how the department is involved in extrajudicial killings. In particular, the agents claimed that security service administration planned a physical elimination of Boris Berezovsky.

Aside from this, agents told about the administration plans to “set straight” one of the officers, Mikhail Trepashkin, who recently resigned and got a job in the tax police. According to the administration of the department in charge of in investigations and fight with organized crime, Trepashkin supposedly kept the security service ID to extort the local businessmen. That’s why he must be “dealt with”.

Both at the press conference and in interviews Alexander Litvinenko told that he was assigned the task of planning how he and his colleagues will deal with the former coworker. And “deal with” supposedly meant to beat up.

Department in charge of in investigations and fight with organized crime of the Federal Security Service was formed in 1996, and was initially named the Department of Promising Programs. There’s plenty of information about this department which can be accessed by the public. Still, we know nothing about how this preserve of hitmen really functioned.

It must be noted that virtually every member of this department (Litvinenko included) had a military action experience in Chechnya. That means, killing, elimination was not something extraordinary for them. Apparently, the initial context of this department creation were the tasks of analytical and operational managing for Caucasus and Asian regions of Russian Federation and neighboring states. Especially considering the migration waves from these regions to Moscow and other crucial cities of Russia.

It was logical to some degree to appoint as a director of a department a Federal Security Service general Evgeni Grigorievich Khokholkov, who previously served in Uzbekistan KGB. His deputy was Alexander Konstantinovich Makarychev. It was him who was overseeing the 7th department, the one which officers came to the press conference together with Litvinenko.

Approximately in the same period of time, or perhaps a little earlier, the rumors about “The White Arrow” appeared, a rumor about some secretive department of the Russian security service, which had a license to shoot gangsters and mob members.

But in fact, the task of this department were not just the gang members, or better say, not them at all. For a while the media discussed if it is possible for departments like this to be involved into a killing of Anna Politkovskaya, and other journalists in Russia.

From killer to Russian politician

Of course you should not trust to articles in World Wide Web, especially since Russian troll factories turned it into a cesspool. But aside from anonymous publications, there are some signed documents.

Not long before his death (or in fact, not long before he should have had travelled to Spain to testify), Alexander Litvinenko met with some agents of Israel law enforcement, to give them information about Russian Federal Security Service criminal activities.

 

Alexey Klimovich Antropov, the head of the 3rd division of the Department in charge of in investigations and fight with organized crime of the Federal Security Service, is virtually the sole agent of the department who has a background in intelligence forces. He graduated from the Academy of Foreign Intelligence, a well-known manpower source for the Soviet and Russian intelligence. He graduated from the Russian Academy of Public Administration in 2007. From 2009 to 2014 he was in positions of deputy director general and chief security officer of Atomenergomash company.

In February 2014 Antropov became the deputy director in strategic affairs of Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, and simultaneously became a member of the boards of directors of a few companies, all in the field of atomic energy.

Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant is a Russian project in Turkey, a power plant built and financed for Russian money. After the incident with the Russian plane, which was shot down by Turkish military after trespassing of the border, the building of a plant was stopped, and the employees of the “Akkuyu Nuclear” got oral notifications of layoff, with no reasons or explanations.

Disgruntled employees of the project are willing to talk in web forums and social networks about how Antropov uses his post for enrichment, and they also remember to him his ordering of Nefteyugansk city mayor assassination.

Not only Antropov made it big after the service in the “Hitmen Department”. Lieutenant general Yevgeni Khokholkov, a former head of the department, was in the top 10 of the “Russian Patriots” party candidates list during the State Duma elections in 2016. It scored 0.59% of the votes. In 2018 his party supported Vladimir Putin on the presidential elections. We may assume that both the names of Antropov and Khokholkov, the hitmen from 90s, will be heard not once again.

President with a license to kill

Some international experts who study the activities of secret services, and one of them being the world-wide famous Mark Galeotti, said that the infinitely stupid and misplanned operation of Sergei Skripal’s assassination is a kind of message from Vladimir Putin to the Western world. A kind of statement. “I can do anything I want in your countries. I can shoot down planes, I can poison a person. And in case you have something against this, well, here’s my nuclear rockets. If anything, I will go to Heaven.”

We should not be under illusion that Putin is stupid. Instead, we should think of how he could profit from extremely complicated conflict between Yevgeny Primakov and Boris Berezovsky. It was Putin who managed to eliminate Alexander Litvinenko, who might have been more than just a source of information for the law enforcers of the civilized world, regarding assassinations, embezzlement, corruption and money laundering.

Apparently Sergei Skripal was a victim of narrow-minded hitmen, who felt they have an impunity. And he became their victim for an obvious reason, as he might have had a risk of disclosure of the criminal background of the whole Russian political elite.

Unsolved murders of Vlad Listiev, Anna Politkovskaya, Boris Berezovsky, Oleg Lisin, Galina Starovoytova, Boris Nemtsov, Christophe de Margerie, and many others, they all play into the hand of Russian President.

In the meantime, Spanish court stops the 10-year-long investigation about money laundering for St. Petersburg gangs, which figurants most surely had business together with Sobchak-Putin mayor office. All while European leaders call for renewing relations with cold blooded killer and terrorism patron Vladimir Putin.

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