A Russian Maidan in the Works?

RusBookCover-Bolotnaya Dec 2011

By Gordon M. Hahn

On March 1st, at the Russian opposition’s ‘anti-crisis’ demonstration (transformed into a march of mourning for slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov), police arrested Aleksei Goncharenko, a deputy of Ukraine’s parliament, the Supreme Rada. It remains unclear why a Ukraine Rada deputy would be in Moscow given the strained relations between the two countries. Goncharenko, a member of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc in the Rada, was arrested for disobeying a Moscow policeman’s order during the march and released hours later. According to the liberal oppositionist, but also state-funded Ekho Moskvy radio, Goncharenko previously had been interrogated by Russia’s Investigations Committee, which considers him a suspect in connection with the 2 May 2014 terrorist pogrom in Odessa, Ukraine by Ukrainian ultra-nationalists in which more than 40 peaceful anti-Maidan demonstrators were burned alive or otherwise killed (http://echo.msk.ru/news/1503058-echo.html). Goncharenko was at the time a deputy in the Odessa region’s parliament.

As I have documented previously, the ultra-nationalist, neo-fascist ‘Right Sector’ group claimed responsibility for the Odessa attack days later on its website, declaring that Right Sector’s leader Dmitro Yarosh “coordinated” the attack described as a “glorious day” in Ukrainian history. Right Sector was also instrumental in the violation of the February 21 agreement and overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovich and the illegal seizure of power in Kiev one year ago, and its fighters have been in the vanguard in various Ukrainian volunteer battalions such as Aidar and Azov, which have have been accused by human rights organizations of war crimes during Ukraine’s nine-month civil war.

At about the same time Rada deputy Goncharenko was in Moscow, a different figure, one Aleksandr Gontcharuk, figured in alleged emails supposedly hacked and published on February 18th by the pro-Russian ‘CyberBerkut’ internet investigating unit of unknown origin and affiliation showing alleged plans to parlay the March 1 demonstration in Moscow into a Russian Maidan. Although it is not possible to verify the authenticity of the alleged copies of the emails, the early and mid-February emails show Gontcharuk in contact with Nikolai Lyaskin, a close associate of Alexei Navlanyi (http://vk.com/wall-71999219_1710, http://www.politonline.ru/interpretation/22880564.html, http://news-front.info/2015/02/19/perepiska-kieva-i-oppozicii-na-akcii-1-marta-dolzhen-nachatsya-gosperevorot/).

In the first email, from February 5th, Gontcharuk is forwarding an email from Lyaskin to Andrey Revutskiy identified as an advisor of Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the first sentence of which reads: “According to our concept, the March 1 anticrisis demonstration should establish the beginning of regime change in the RF (Russian Federation) along the lines of the events on the Maidan.” Lyaskin allegedly requests “informational support” (propaganda) and “Maidan activists”, presumably to be sent to Moscow. In response, Revutskiy says it would be good to open “a second front” inside Russia. In a responding email Gontcharuk asks Revutskiy for assistance in “agitation” on all the major social media, from Facebook to VKontakt (http://vk.com/wall-71999219_1710, http://www.politonline.ru/interpretation/22880564.html, http://news-front.info/2015/02/19/perepiska-kieva-i-oppozicii-na-akcii-1-marta-dolzhen-nachatsya-gosperevorot/).

On February 6th the Ukrainian Rada deputy and Lyaskin allegedly exchange emails in which Gontcharuk claims he can send 200-300 Maidan activists, and Lyaskin replies that the number of people is “sufficient” and each can be paid “1,000 rubles per day” while in Moscow. In an alleged February 14th email exchange, it is indicated that groups are already being sent from Kiev to Moscow. One group of 28 is said to belong to one Sergei Poleshchuk. In an exchange on February 16th, Gontcharuk laments that Poleshchuk has been drafted into the Ukrainian army, and Revutskiy promises to resolve the issue apparently so he can lead the group to Moscow (http://vk.com/wall-71999219_1710, http://www.politonline.ru/interpretation/22880564.html, http://news-front.info/2015/02/19/perepiska-kieva-i-oppozicii-na-akcii-1-marta-dolzhen-nachatsya-gosperevorot/).

In relation to this weekend’s events, an alleged February 10th email from Gontcharuk to Revutskiy states that the disagreements within the Russian opposition movement are a problem, notably thar Nemtsov and Navalnyi regard Khodorkovskii as “pro-Kremlin” (kremlyovskii). Revutskiy responds: “What’s the difference? There is no other kind of opposition in Russia” (http://vk.com/wall-71999219_1710).

Concluding Questions

Is not Goncharenko’s activity – his participation as a parliamentarian of a foreign country in another country’s domestic politics – of the kind we saw US Senator John McCain and Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland engage in on Maidan one year ago? Is not such activity a clear violation of the Helsinki Final Act, as I have demonstrated previously? Could it be that Rada deputy Goncharenko’s disobedience to the police command at the march was intended to spark violence that could be parlayed into the Russian Maidan allegedly being organized by Navalnyi, Lyaskin, Gontcharuk, and Revutskiy?

Are Russian security services planning to frame Goncharenko and a series of pro-Maidan Ukrainians with charges of attempting to overthrow Putin? Is the CyberBerkut release of what could be fake Gontcharuk-Revutskiy-Lyaskin emails an initial salvo in, or clue about any plan to charge Goncharenko? If the emails are fake, then could the reference to Nemtsov’s and Navalnyi’s suspicion that Khodorkovskii is ‘kremlovskii’ be an attempt to drive a wedge between the domestically based opposition and Khodorkovskii’s based abroad?

If the released Gontcharuk-Revutskiy-Lyaskin emails are authentic, do we not have evidence of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk advisor Revutskiy’s engaged in a similar violation and is Yatsenyuk involved? If they are authentic, then it appears that close Navalnyi associate Lyaskin might have been conspiring to overthrow the Russian government with foreigners, specifically with Ukrainians having ties to the government in Kiev. In that case, are the Gontcharuk-Revutskiy-Lyaskin emails evidence of a revolutionary plot that was intended to begin with Goncharenko’s act of civil disobedience?

Whether or not Kiev or elements within are acting on their own, is not this kind of interference bound to provoke Moscow to undertake more aggressive actions against Kiev?

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About Gordon M. Hahn