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Russia: Bloggers Discuss the Case of a Cop-Killing Gang

"This is Primorye!" – a Primorye Partisans poster by LJ user eurotat

Russian bloggers are currently having a heated discussion of the recent detention of a criminal group that carried out a series of attacks on police in Primorsky region [EN] in Russia’s Far East. The attacks took place between May 27 and June 8, leaving one policeman dead, three wounded, as well as one damaged police department and one shot-up car.

The attacks on police could be linked to the so-called ‘Appeal of the Primorye Partisans‘ [RUS], a letter that demanded that the authorities dismiss current heads of the police and prosecution, stop violence by law enforcement officials, and start a fight against corruption in government institutions. If the demands were not fulfilled, the authors were going to start a “guerrilla war” against the police, Radio Liberty [RUS] reported. The letter was published online and was sent to a number of Primorye police stations, prosecutor's offices, courts and local newspapers.

On June 11, as a result of a special police operation involving armed vehicles and thousands of policemen, the group was detained. Four “partisans” were arrested; two, according to official sources, committed suicide. Investigators said the group was led by a 32-year-old man with criminal past. The age of other ‘rebels’ ranged from 18 to 22.

Surprisingly, the Russian public warmly sympathized with the gang’s members. According to the Ekho Moskvy telephone opinion poll, 71 percent of respondents considered the actions of “Primorye Guerrillas” as ‘Robin-Hood-like deeds’ and 76 percent said [RUS] they would have assisted members of the gang had they been asked for help. Online, numerous voices in support of the ‘rebels’ were heard. High level of corruption combined with low level of public trust in the law enforcement were the main reasons for such widespread popular support.

The police, however, saw the Russian society's problems as the main reason for support. Mikhail Konstantinov, a Primorye police officer, explained in a Komsomolskaya Pravda interview [RUS] that popular support for the criminals was an indicator of serious problems faced by the Russian people. User Zarazalenka commented on this:

конечно, убийство это всегда страшно, кого бы ни убили, убийство – это прежде всего лишение жизни чьего нибудь сына, отца, мужа, но то, что люди поддерживают бандитов, это не значит, что общество больное, это значит, что оно устало от беспредела, царящего в рядах милиции и во власти, которые в свою очередь являются по большей части еще большими бандитами, чем все банды Приморья вместе взятые. Милиция – это самая большая и опасная преступная группировка в нашей стране. конечно, есть честные люди, исполняющие свой долг со всей ответственностью и в милиции. просто не каждый силен характером, чтобы пойти против укоренившейся системы поборов, коррупции и прочего беспредела.

Of course, murder is always horrible, no matter who gets killed, murder means first of all, taking the life of somebody’s son, father, husband. But the fact that people support criminals does not indicate that a society is sick, it just means that the society is tired of unlawful actions by the police and authorities, who, in reality, are more criminal than all of the Primorye gangs together. The police is the biggest and the most dangerous criminal group in our country. Of course, there are honest policemen, carrying out their duty with all responsibility. It's just not that everybody is strong enough to fight against the system of bribes, corruption and chaos.

To understand better why the local population supports the “guerrilla gang,” LJ user fritzmorgen, a popular Russian blogger, analyzed [RUS] the recent cases where people suffered from the police or authorities. One of the reasons why Primorye people could be angry with the government was the ban on the Japanese car import, which put an end to the welfare of many local families.

During one of the operations, the police beat up heavily one of the classmates of the suspected ‘partisans’. This fact also contributed to the online public opinion. LJ user fritzmorgen wrote [RUS]:

Спрашивается, чего добиваются омоновцы, избивая мирных жителей? Они, может быть, хотят, чтобы в леса к партизанам начали уходить новые и новые люди?… Не надо быть Вангой, чтобы предсказать: в конфликте партизан с сотрудниками милиции симпатии россиян, однозначно, будут на стороне партизан…

My question is, what did [riot police] officers want to achieve with beating up of civilians? Maybe they want more and more people to join the guerrillas?… You do not need to be [clairvoyant] to predict: in a conflict between the partisans and the police, sympathies of the Russians will definitely be on the side of the partisans…

Many sources reported that some members had joined the guerrilla group because they had suffered from unlawful actions of the police in the past. Partizany.org [RUS], a website focused on the coverage of the story, published biographies of some of the ‘rebels’. Below are two of them:

Савченко Роман Владимирович, 18 лет. Его старшый брат при невыясненных обстоятельствах был убит ментами. Наказание за это преступление никто не понес… Кроме того накануне убийств Романа обвинили в том, что он ограбил дачу. Как говорят друзья парня, признания в милиции из него выбивали. Как мы видим, менты сами создали для себя карателей.

Владимир Илютиков. …Владимир жил с мамой, в семье был достаток. Но случилась трагедия: как рассказывают знакомые семьи, при невыясненных обстоятельствах его отца убили милиционеры. Наказание за это преступление никто не понес…

Savchenko Roman Vladimirovich, 18. His elder brother had been killed by the police under unclear circumstances. Nobody was punished for this. Moreover, before the murder, Roman was accused of robbing a cottage house. As the friends of this guy said, the police beat him up to get a confession. We can see that the cops have created their own executioners themselves.

Vladimir Ilyutikov. …Vladimir lived with his mother in a well-off family. But a tragic incident happened: as fiends of the family reported, under unclear circumstances his farther was killed by the cops. Nobody was punished for this…

Another aspect of the story, which is being actively discussed by bloggers, is the affiliation of one of the members with the NBP – the National Bolshevik Party [EN]. LJ user eduardmedved described [RUS] Andrey Sukhorada, a party-affiliated ‘rebel’, who was killed during the detainment operation:

Andrey Sukhorada during an NBP protest action, 2004, photo by LJ user eduardmedved

он с сестрой приехал в москву в 2003, делать революцию. Революцию тогда делало нбп. Ему было 16, сестре 12. В бункере нбп объяснили, что революция это листовки, газета и митинги с либералами. Он не поверил. Нашёл скинов, им тоже не поверил…
Через шесть лет он ушёл в партизаны…

Together with his sister, he came to Moscow in 2003 to make a revolution. The revolution was being made by the NBP then. He was 16, his sister was 12. In an NBP bunker they explained to him that revolution consists of leaflets, the newsletter and rallies held together with the liberals. He didn't believe this. He then found skinheads, but did not believe them, either… Six years later, he jointed the “partisans.”

The Russian Internet community didn't believe much of the official information about the detention of the gang. LJ user golishev posted a collection of posts [RUS] from one of the Primorye discussion boards. Below is [RUS] the reaction of local forum users to the official media report claiming that two gang members committed a suicide during the police assault:

Больше похоже на убийство!
Девушке Андрея Сухорада в момент, когда начался штурм, позвонил Александр Ковтун и сказал, что Андрея убили. Якобы он вышел с поднятыми руками, и по нему открыли огонь. Девушка, рыдая, сказала, что никто не предлагал членам банды сдаться, хотя у каждого из них есть мобильный и они на связи. !

This looks more like a homicide! When the storming started, Alexander Kovtun called Andrey Sukhorada's girlfriend and said that Andrey had been killed. Supposedly, he came out with his hands up, but was shot down. The girlfriend, sobbing, said that nobody had offered gang members to surrender although each of them had a cell phone and could be easily reached.

а почему родителей не привезли на переговоры, чтоб без стрельбы и шума?
как то все безграмотно, с террористами по два дня переговоры ведут, а тут…

Why didn't they bring the parents for the negotiations, to avoid shooting and noise?
Everything somehow looks unprofessional, they spend two days negotiating with the terrorists, but not in this case…

In the overwhelming stream of often contradictory information, some bloggers were trying to sort out all the facts and clarify what exactly happened. LJ user eurotat created a timeline of all the “partisan”-related events and put them on a map, discovering many inconsistencies in the official information. He wrote:

A map of crimes committed by the "Primorye partisans" – by LJ user eurotat

Каковы мотивы нападать на милиционеров из других районов, а не из своего (где творящийся милицейский беспредел, казалось бы, непосредственно касался участников отряда)? …Пусть есть мент-злодей, который тебе серьезно насолил, и никакой управы на него нет. Не вытерпел, решил взять отомстить. И что, попрешься за 175 км в другой город и убьешь первого попавшегося милиционера? Это уже не месть и партизанская война … Это маразм.
Впрочем, нас и пытаются убедить в том, что эти ребята отморозки и действовали чисто из ненависти к милиции как таковой. А ненавидят они милиционеров потому, что националисты-экстремисты…

What are the motives to attack the police officers from other regions, not from your own (where the gang’s members appeared to have suffered directly from police violence). OK, let's assume that a villain cop did something bad to you and you can't find justice. You couldn't stand this any more and decided to take revenge. And what, would you go to some other town 175 km away and kill the first cop you meet? It is not a revenge or a guerrilla war… it is nonsense.

However, they are trying to convince us that these guys were dolts and just acted out of hatred against the police in general. And they hate the police because they are nationalists and extremists…

LJ user eurotat doubts whether the suspects really committed the crimes they were accused of. He concluded:

Итак, как видно, история крайне запутанная. Возможно, разные происшествия с разными мотивами в разных местах с участием разных групп лиц хотят склеить в одну версию… Не исключено, что ребятам стало известно, что им хотят понавесить за какие-нибудь мелочи “всего и вся” плюс убийство Кеннеди, поэтому и подались в бега…

We can see that the story is really confusing. Probably, somebody is trying to put together into one case different crimes with different motives that happened in different locations and were committed by different groups of people… I can't exclude the possibility that the guys learned that they would be accused in committing all possible crimes, including the murder of [JFK], and that's why they decided to run away…

The gang has been arrested. But is this the end of the story or just the beginning of an armed civil unrest against law enforcers? Will Primorye guerrillas have their successors and followers? During the last two days, the Russian media reported new acts of violence against the police in other regions of Russia. Many would believe that this means that the Primorye partisans’ story is not over…

The case of the ‘Primorye partizans’ indicates several things. First of all, that Russian netizens in their majority considered crimes against the police officers as deeds of some kind of civic justice. Second, the lack of the details and the overall excitement expressed by some bloggers, multiplied by the number of comments on this case, shows how easily manipulated Russian blogs are.

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