Only a Trial will do This Time

In March 2018, Vladimir Putin will run for the Russian presidency for a fourth time. Following the murder of Boris Nemtsov, early in 2015, his most prominent opponent is Alexei Navalny, who famously denounced United Russia, as the party of “crooks and thieves”.

Yet the problem posed by the Putin regime goes much deeper than corruption, says veteran oppositionist, Vladimir Bukovsky. It is the result, he has argued elsewhere, of issues not tackled in the early 1990s. As a consequence, an unreconstructed KGB lieutenant-colonel, Vladimir Putin, has been president of Russia since the beginning of the 21st century.

Written early in 2013, after two years of rallies and protests in Moscow and elsewhere, this article refers to a period before internal repression was accompanied by external aggression—Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine.

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1. The situation in Russia can no longer be resolved by round-table negotiations, only a trial will do.

Present Russian arguments about whether it is possible to negotiate with the regime of “crooks and thieves” [Navalny’s famous term] misses the very heart of the problem, in my view. We all know we are facing not just thieves or thieves, but murderers. As yet, only a few have had the audacity to say this out loud.

2. This regime began its existence with crimes against humanity, blowing up apartment blocs in 1999 (in Buinaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk), and committing genocide in Chechnya (1999-2005).

For as long as it has existed, Putin’s regime has murdered people: Galina Starovoitova in 1998; Yury Shchekochikhin and Sergei Yushenkov in 2003; Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko in 2006; Yury Chervochkin in 2007; while Stanislav Markelov, Anastasia Baburova, Natalya Estemirova, Maksharip Aushev and Sergei Magnitsky were all killed in 2009.[1] And they are only its best known victims.

Until such crimes have been investigated and those responsible have been brought to justice we cannot say that we have put an end to the Kremlin gang.

3. Why do many of those who so eagerly (and rightly) accuse the regime of corruption, deceit, falsification, provocation and even the usurpation of power, yet hesitate to speak of its most heinous crimes?

Undoubtedly, it is a heavy responsibility to bring such accusations. With crooks and thieves it is possible, perhaps, to reach a peaceful agreement. If they will give back what they stole and leave the scene, that is enough.

When we talk about murder, however, a stolen life cannot be restored: consequently, there can be no compromise with the killers. When companies like Gazprom and Lukoil were stolen from the people and the votes they cast at elections were taken from them, the nation might forgive the thieves. No one can forgive a murderer: the living have no right to do so.

4. Dealing with the assassinations committed by the State is not an abstract moral issue — it is a matter of pressing political importance.

The main slogans of public protest have today been formulated in terms of criminal justice. The country has risen not against a policy or an ideology, but quite specifically against the rule of lawless behaviour throughout Russia.

Such a revolution cannot end with a “round-table” discussion. That would be like a deal between the judicial system and the criminals. This uprising can only end with a trial and, in the worst scenario, with a lynch mob.

5. Attempts to “engage in dialogue” with the regime are not merely harmful – they are suicidal.

Tens and hundreds of thousands of people have been coming out on the street to demand justice, not “round table” negotiations with the punks in the Kremlin. The protestors will see negotiations in such a situation as a criminal conspiracy. Whoever agrees to such talks will be regarded as an accomplice of the mafia.

After living for an extended historical period under a mafia regime, the Russian nation has a quite subtle understanding of how such criminals settle their scores. It is natural, and entirely justified, to apply this understanding to the present confrontation with the Kremlin.

On his deathbed Don Corleone advised his young successor, There’s no way to  avoid a war: the first person who suggests holding talks with the enemy is a traitor. Our people have watched “The Godfather”. Furthermore, they have lived in Russia. Society has little faith in politicians today. Talk of a “dialogue with the regime” will destroy what little confidence remains.

6. Such a firm attitude to our self-appointed negotiators is justified, among other things by our own historical experience.

Twenty-five years ago, the democratic opposition in the USSR wasted a decisive moment on “dialogue” with а Soviet regime that was on its last legs. The crooks and thieves of the old nomenklatura, as a result, were able to calmly redefine themselves as “democrats” and remain in power.

Supposedly, dialogue was then necessary for a peaceful and bloodless change of regime. Within a few years it became clear that there had been no change of regime, merely an alteration in its outward appearance. The same gangsters in a different uniform started killing people in Moscow, in Chechnya and in police stations all over the country …

Instead of a bloodless revolution there were rivers of blood; freedom and democracy remained as remote as ever.

7. The 1989 round-table discussions in Poland was hardly a positive historical example.

Among other things, during the transition period the Communist regime in Poland managed to negotiate for itself two-thirds of the seats in the Sejm and a continued tenure of the presidency. Naturally, the Polish nomenklatura used this breathing space to fortify its own position, and survive, well funded, in the new Poland with control of the regime and of the media. For a generation, the round table held back the healing of Poland as a country and rendered the process more difficult.

As the archives would reveal, there was no need for the opposition to make concessions. As Jaruszelski acknowledged, within his own circle, if it had not been for the round table his regime would have only kept going for a few months. Eventually, the Poles were obliged to put the general’s accomplices on trial. It was twenty years too late.

8. Post-war West Germany is the classic example of a country that rapidly rid itself of the totalitarian plague.

The healing of West Germany after the war became possible, thanks to the Nuremburg Tribunal. Only by uncovering and condemning all the crimes of the Nazi regime could the country move forward. Poland needed almost 20 years before its own experience made it realise the same. Kampuchea required more than 30 years, but, in the end, it had to put the leaders of the Khmer Rouge on trial.

By not deciding, at the right moment, to put the Soviet regime on trial, Russia has paid more heavily than any other “post-Communist” country. I would like to believe, this time, that we shall not repeat that mistake. It is beyond doubt that the Kremlin mafia will strive, at any cost, to avoid such a trial.

9. The present Russian leadership are no longer the kind to fight heroically until the last bullet.

They will make full use of their trump card – the real or illusory threat of bloodshed.

Most probably they will deploy this threat to push us towards round-table negotiations. At the very least, this will provide immunity from prosecution for a whole range of Kremlin thugs and punks.  Immunity is not just a civilized rejection of vengeance: it means that any investigation of their crimes is being rejected.

They may toss a couple of the most hated courtiers (men like Vladimir Churov, say, and Putin himself) onto the halberds of the rebellious guards.[2] It would be dangerous to let Putin live, in any case, because he knows too much and, if a trial was ever held, he might betray his accomplices. It is not stamped on the foreheads of Russia’s myriad crooks and thieves, however, that that is what they are.

A dispassionate investigation and a fair trial are necessary. Granting such figures immunity will be to leave them forever with a presumption of innocence. There will be a change of leaders, certain cosmetic reforms, but no change of regime. Once again, the criminal gang from the Lubyanka will evade responsibility and remain in power, and steal this new revolution from under our noses – they are crooks and thieves, when all is said and done.

10. In short, if the round-table solution is adopted we shall be the fools who allowed a hard-won victory to slip through our fingers.

When, like the the Civil War partisans in the Far East, the whole country rebels and takes the justice it has been denied into its own hands, who will condemn it? The people will not be to blame. The responsibility will then lie with the self-styled leaders of the revolution who betrayed their just demands, crying with them “We shall not forget or forgive!” – only to offer official amnesia and clemency in return for seats in the government.

11. We should not be thinking of a round table now, but of our own debt to history and to our country. We must ensure that justice prevails, and that it takes a civilized form.

Fortunately, while Moscow’s intellectual politicians still nurture such illusions, more responsible people have been found in Russia.

Beyond the capital a movement has begun,  setting up public tribunals to investigate and give a legal assessment of the crimes of the present regime. Even if they are not endowed with punitive functions these tribunals can, on the one hand,  help to avoid lynch mobs and, on the other, to prevent impunity.

Of course, there must be a national tribunal, to complement these regional tribunals, to investigate the most extensive of the regime’s crimes. Doubtless, it will begin with the “original sin” of the Putin’s regime: the September 1999 blowing up of four apartment buildings in Dagestan, Moscow and southern Russia. If there is a lack of  insufficient evidence and testimony, the release of documents, and the calling of witnesses and suspects, are entirely lawful demands for such an investigation. Moreover, the work must begin today. Tomorrow it may be too late.

12. Of course, the regime will defend itself. It would be naïve and irresponsible to expect an easy victory after holding a couple of rallies.

The regime already finds itself cornered, like the rat Putin once chased as a boy. As it turned to fight him, Putin gazed into its eyes and saw his future. If he did not then understand that prophetic encounter, he undoubtedly realised what it meant in December 2011.

Will we give the rat a chance to attack us, or will we strike first? That is the only question today. And if we are going to strike then we must aim where the creature is most vulnerable. The sooner we finish off this rat, the less painful it will be for Russia.

13. We must not delude ourselves. A showdown with the regime cannot be avoided and we must prepare for it. If we draw on the experience of the Poles, we should look to their resistance after 1981 to the State of Emergency, not to the round table talks of 1989.

The regime will try to seize opposition leaders in Moscow and across the country. We must be prepared for that. We must set aside apartments, telephones, Internet access and simple printing devices against that day.

We must also be ready for communication via Internet and mobile phone to be blocked for some time, and prepare alternative means of communication. Opposition media will not be able to function and we should reach agreement in good time about the organisation of emergency forms of communication and organisation.

14. A confrontation is inevitable: we should be thinking how to avoid bloodshed.

Negotiations are of no help in such a situation – just as it makes no sense trying to do a deal with a cornered rat. You might get the regime’s agreement not to use force, but will that save anyone? Who can trust them at their word? So long as those serial killers remain in the Kremlin the danger of bloodshed will not go away. We must save the country, and save innocent lives, from their clutches – not by reaching agreement with them.

If the regime is strong enough to put down a revolution it will not agree to significant concessions. It will use any talks to divide and compromise the opposition. If the regime is so weak it is ready to hold serious negotiations, then we must not make concessions. In that case, we must demand unconditional surrender. We cannot permit the revolution to spill blood or to be false to itself. Experience shows that a phoney revolution also ends in great bloodshed.

15. Of course, it is impossible to foresee all potential scenarios.

Remember, we are dealing with liars and criminals. We cannot trust them and no compromise with them is possible. The investigation of the crimes of the regime cannot be subject to negotiation, neither can the release of political prisoners or the holding of fair and free elections.

That is the indisputable and clearly expressed will of the people. Any concessions on these issues will rightly be regarded as treachery. And so long as the regime is not ready to surrender, there is nothing to discuss with the country’s present rulers.

First published on 19 January 2013
by the “Echo of Russia” online journal http://ehorussia.com/new/node/7082

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[1] MURDERED OPPONENTS: in chronological order of death

  1. Galina Starovoitova – shot 20 November 1998, aged 52, in St Petersburg. Ethnographer, veteran politician and likely 2000 presidential elections candidate.
  2. Sergei Yushenkov – shot April 2003, aged 52, in Moscow. Ex-army, veteran politician, State Duma deputy, apartment explosions committee.
  3. Yury Shchekochikhin – poisoned and died in July 2003, aged 53, in Moscow: veteran journalist (Novaya gazeta) and State Duma deputy (1993-2003). On the Apartment Explosions committee.
  4. Anna Politkovskaya – shot 7 October 2006, aged 48, in Moscow. Journalist (Novaya gazeta) writing about Chechnya and Putin’s Russia.
  5. Alexander Litvinenko – poisoned 23 November 2006, aged 44, in London. Former FSB investigator, covering links between organised crime in Russia and Spain.
  6. Yury Chervochkin – died on 10 December 2007, aged 22, as a consequence of a severe beating on 22 November. Opposition activist.
  7. Stanislav Markelov – shot 19 January 2009, aged 34, in central Moscow. Lawyer (e.g. Budanov case) and Antifa activist; and Anastasia Baburova, shot 19 January 2009, aged 25, in Moscow. Journalist (Novaya gazeta intern) and Antifa activist.
  8. Natalya Estemirova – shot 15 July 2009, aged 51, in Ingushetia. Journalist (Novaya gazeta) based in Chechnya, close colleague of Politkovskaya.
  9. Maksharip Aushev – shot in October 2009, aged 53, in Kabardino-Balkaria. Ingushetia activist and journalist, succeeded Magomed Yevloyev (shot 2008) as owner of opposition news website.
  10. Sergei Magnitsky – died, aged 37, in Moscow pre-trial detention on 16 November 2009. Company lawyer exposing corruption.
  11. Boris Nemtsov – shot 27 February 2015, aged 55, next to Moscow Kremlin. Deputy prime minister for a while under Yeltsin; opposition activist and leader since 1988.

[2] Vladimir Churov (b. 1953) is a close colleague of the President from Leningrad days. In the 1990s, he worked with Putin in the external affairs department of the Petersburg city administration. From 2007 to 2016, Churov headed the Central Electoral Commission, although he lacked the legal training previously required of anyone holding the post. Today he is an Ambassador at Large for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Bukovsky’s reference to courtiers and rebellious guards is an allusion to the Revolt of the Palace Guard in 1698, when unpopular courtiers were put to death on Red Square.

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Alternative sources (1968-1992)

The 63 published issues of the CHRONICLE OF CURRENT EVENTS (1968-1983) can all be accessed in English translation.

The Russian original ХРОНИКА ТЕКУЩИХ СОБЫТИЙ is also available online; as is most of the Munich-based ВЕСТИ ИЗ СССР (1978-1992), which was translated into English as USSR News Brief.

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Posted in 2.1 pre-1975, 2.2 post-1975, 3.1 the 1960s, 3.2 the 1970s, 3.3 after 1980, 3.4 Andrei Sakharov, 3.5 Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 3.6 The abuse of psychiatry, 4. Perestroika

31 January 1938*, Pb 57/48

Dealing with “Anti-Soviet Elements”. Politburo accepts NKVD request to increase quotas for 1st category arrests (executions) and 2nd category arrests in 22 Republics and Regions across the USSR (2 pp). [R 31 January 1938, Pb 57-48]

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[page one of two]

Return within 24 hours
to the Central Committee Special Sector

STRICTLY SECRET
(From Special File)

CENTRAL COMMITTEE
of the All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks)

Pb 57/48

[?31 January] 1938

To Comrade Yezhov, all pages;
[individually] to the relevant Regional and
National Committees of Communist Parties

Abstract from the Minutes of meeting No 57 of the Politburo
of the VKP (b) Central Committee


 Resolution of 31 January 1938

48. Concerning Anti-Soviet elements

1. Adopt the proposal of the USSR NKVD to confirm additional acts of repression [1] against former kulaks, criminals and active anti-Soviet elements for the following Regions and Republics:

  1. Armenian SSR — 1,000 persons – 1st category & 1,000 – 2nd category
  2. Belorussian SSR — 1,500 – in 1st category [1]
  3. Ukrainian SSR — 6,000 – in 1st category [1]
  4. Georgian SSR — 1,500 – in 1st category
  5. Azerbaijani SSR — 2,000 – 1st category
  6. Turkmen SSR — 1,000 – 1st category
  7. Kirgiz SSR — 500 – 1st category
  8. Tadjik SSR — 1,000 – 1st category & 500 – 2nd category
  9. Uzbek SSR — 2,000 – 1st category & 500 – 2nd category
  10. Far East Region — 8,000 – 1st category & 2,000 – 2nd category
  11. Chita Region — 1,500 – 1st category & 500 – 2nd category
  12. Buryat-Mongol Region — 500 – 1st category
  13. Irkutsk Region — 3,000 – 1st category & 500 – 2nd category
  14. Krasnoyarsk Region — 1,500 – 1st category & 500 – 2nd category
  15. Novosibirsk Region — 1,000 – 1st category
  16. Omsk Region — 3,000 – 1st category [1]
  17. Altai Region — 2,000 – 1st category & 1,000 – 2nd category
  18. Leningrad Region — 3,000 – 1st category
  19. Karelian ASSR — 500 – 1st category & 200 – 2nd category
  20. Kalinin Region — 1,500 – 1st category & 500 – 2nd category
  21. Moscow Region — 1,000 – 1st category
  22. Sverdlovsk Region — 2,000 – 1st category

(see next page)

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[page two]

Workers of All Lands, Unite!

STRICTLY SECRET
(Special File)
Must be returned

CENTRAL COMMITTEE of the All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks)

page 2

Continued

Item No. [48] of [57th] meeting of the Politburo, dated [31 January] 19 [38]

RESOLVED

2. Propose that the USSR NKVD to carry out the entire operation, but that the above-mentioned Regions and Republics complete no later than 15 March 1938, and the Far Eastern Region no later than 1 April 1938.

3. In accordance with this Resolution prolong the work of troikas [2] examining the cases of former kulaks, criminals and anti-Soviet elements in the Regions and Republics listed in item 1.

In all other Regions and Republics the work of the troikas will end no later than 15 February 1938, having finished and examined all cases within the quotas established for these Regions and Republics.

CENTRAL COMMITTEE SECRETARY

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NOTES
[1] Subsequently, the NKVD in the Republics, or the local Party bosses, would ask for yet further increases in their quotas, as other documents in this archive show — in the Gorky Region, in Ukraine, the Omsk Region and Belorussia. See, for example, 4 February 1938* (No 95/111), 17 February 1938* (Pb 58/57), 10 May 1938 (Pb 61) and 17 July 1938.
[2] The troika was a local extra-judicial, three-man tribunal (with representatives, typically, from the Party, the NKVD and the Procurator’s Office) that rubber-stamped lists of those already condemned to imprisonment or execution.
General
1. Notes and additions by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];
2. Text added by hand is indicated in italic script;
3. when a handwritten phrase, figure or word has been inserted
in a previously typed document it is indicated by underlined italic script.
Translation, John Crowfoot

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Posted in 2.1 pre-1975 | Tagged ,

29 December 1980*, Pb 230/34

Politburo decision. Financial assistance in 1981 (US $) to Communist Parties and movements (USA, 2 million; France, 2 million; Finland, 1.4 million; Portugal, 700,000), in total 57 recipients (5 pp). [R 1980, 29 December]

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[page one of three]

Workers of all Lands, Unite!

[Text in top left hand corner of page]
Must be returned within three days
to CPSU Central Committee (General Department, sector 1)

COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE SOVIET UNION. CENTRAL COMMITTEE

TOP SECRET
SPECIAL FILE

No. Pb 230 / 34

To Comrades Andropov and Ponomarev

Excerpt from Minutes No. 230, the Central Committee Politburo meeting
on 29 December 1980

A request from the International Department of the CPSU Central Committee

1. Provide financial aid in 1981 to:

  • The US Communist Party2,000,000 dollars
  • The French Communist Party2,000,000 dollars
  • The Finnish Communist Party1,400,000 dollars
  • The Portuguese Communist Party – 700,000 dollars
  • The Greek Communist Party – 700,000 dollars
  • The Chilean Communist Party500,000 dollars
  • The Indian Communist Party500,000 dollars
  • The Venezuelan Communist Party400,000 dollars
  • The Israeli Communist Party400,000 dollars
  • The Lebanese Communist Party – 400,000 dollars
  • The Danish Communist Party – 350,000 dollars
  • The People’s Party of Iran – 300,000 dollars
  • The Peruvian Communist Party – 300,000 dollars
  • The Swiss Labour Party – 300,000 dollars
  • The Progressive Party of Cyprus (AKEL) – 300,000 dollars
  • The Iraqi Communist Party – 300,000 dollars
  • The Colombian Communist Party – 260,000 dollars
  • The Austrian Communist Party – 250,000 dollars
  • The Syrian Communist Party – 250,000 dollars
  • The Uruguayan Communist Party – 250,000 dollars

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[page two]                                                                                                  2.

  • The Luxemburg Communist Party – 200,000 dollars
  • The El Salvador Communist Party – 200,000 dollars
  • The Costa-Rican Party of the People’s Vanguard – 200,000 dollars
  • The Egyptian Communist Party – 200,000 dollars
  • The Canadian Communist Party200,000 dollars
  • The Guatemalan Labour Party150,000 dollars
  • The Dominican Communist Party150,000 dollars
  • The People’s Party of Panama – 120,000 dollars
  • The Honduras Communist Party120,000 dollars
  • The Sri Lankan Communist Party120,000 dollars
  • The Moroccan Party of Progress and Socialism – 100,000 dollars
  • The Swedish Communist-Workers’ Party – 100,000 dollars
  • The African National Congress (South Africa) – 100,000 dollars
  • The South-West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) – 100,000 dollars
  • The Problems of Peace and Socialism periodical – 100,000 dollars
  • The Paraguayan Communist Party – 100,000 dollars
  • The Socialist Workers’ Party, Nigeria – 90,000 dollars
  • The Madagascan Congress of Independence – 90,000 dollars
  • The Socialist Party of Australia – 75,000 dollars
  • The Party of the Socialist Vanguard, Algeria – 75,000 dollars
  • The National People’s Party of Bangladesh – 60,000 dollars
  • The Bangladesh Communist Party – 50,000 dollars
  • The Martinique Communist Party50,000 dollars
  • The Irish Communist Party – 50,000 dollars
  • The Jordanian Communist Party – 50,000 dollars
  • The Norwegian Communist Party – 50,000 dollars

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[page three]                                                                                                3.

  • The Turkish Communist Party – 50,000 dollars
  • The Chilean Socialist Party – 50,000 dollars
  • The Workers’ Party of Jamaica – 50,000 dollars
  • The Chilean Workers’ and Peasants’ Party (MAPU) – 40,000 dollars
  • The Maltese Communist Party – 40,000 dollars
  • The San Marino Communist Party – 40,000 dollars
  • the Guadaloupe Communist Party – 35,000 dollars
  • The Association of Egyptian Patriots Abroad – 30,000 dollars
  • The Tunisian Communist Party – 20,000 dollars
  • The Saudi Arabian Communist Party – 20,000 dollars
  • The Lesotho Communist Party – 10,000 dollars

2. Transfer of these funds is entrusted to the KGB.

SECRETARY OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE

[pages four and five are an Order issued by the USSR Council of Ministers in response to a request from Frelimo (the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique)]

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NOTES
Comparison with a similar list compiled 12 years earlier (8 January 1969*, Pb 111/162) shows more recipients, a change in their ranking (e.g. Finland), and the disappearance of some.
In 1969, for instance, two Italian political parties were to receive at least 4-5 million dollars. A document from 1983 shows that direct subsidies to the PCI had been replaced by indirect subventions under the guise of trade.
General
1. Notes by translator and editor are bracketed, thus [ ];
2. text written by hand is indicated in italic script;
3. when a handwritten phrase, figure or word has been inserted
in a previously typed document this is indicated by underlined italic script.
Translation, John Crowfoot

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Posted in 5. CPSU & Communist world, 7.1 in the West, 7.2 in the Middle East, 7.3 in Africa, 7.4 in Latin America | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment