Mikhail Chechetov: Suicide or Murder?

Mikhail Chechetov

Mikhail Chechetov, member of Party of Regions, and ex MP

 

The Witch-Hunt of Former Party of Regions Officials Continues

March 05, 2015

by Halyna Mokrushyna

On February 28, a former member of the Party of Regions, Mikhail Chechetov, committed suicide by jumping from the window of his 17th floor apartment in Kyiv. Before ending his days, he left a note saying: “I am leaving. I think this will be better for everyone. A huge thank you to all of you for your support. Forgive me and understand me correctly. M. Chechetov.”

On February 21, Chechetov was arrested by the Pecherskyi court of Kyiv under accusations of malfeasance, abuse of authority and forgery. Bail was set very high by the court–five million hryvnias (app. US$170,000). It was paid by Chechetov’s friends and on February 23 he was able to walk out of the detention centre.

Chechetov was one of the targets of newly appointed Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Shokin, an old-time friend and relative of President Petro Poroshenko. Shokin was appointed on February 10 after former Prosecutor General Vitaly Yarema submitted a letter of resignation under pressure from deputies of the Verkhovna Rada. The pressure came mostly from the faction of the presidential party in the Rada, the Poroshenko Bloc. The deputies claimed that Yarema did not investigate fast enough the sniper shootings on Maidan Square on February 20, 2014 and that he was not quick enough in bringing to justice officials of the previous governing regime of President Viktor Yanukovych. Yarema explained that, naked assertions of the deputies of the new Euromaidan parliament of Ukraine notwithstanding, the Office of the Public Prosecution does not have any proof of “concrete” crimes committed by  Serguei Liovochkin (former head of the Administration of the President of Ukraine under Yanukovych), former deputy and member of the Party of Regions Andrei Kluiev, and the current deputy of the Rada and member of the Opposition Bloc, Yuri Boyko.

Shokin worked under Yarema as deputy prosecutor general. When Shokin received his new appointment as prosecutor general, he started without delay to “restore justice” and call the “former people” to account. Alexander Efremov, the former leader of the faction of the Party of Regions in Verkhovna Rada, was arrested on February 14, 2015 under the same accusations that were leveled against Chechetov. What do these accusations mean concretely? Chechetov as well as Efremov were accused of voting for the “scandalous” and “odious” laws of January 16, 2014, adopted by then-governing Party of Regions and which sought, among other goals, to curb violence on Maidan Square by making stricter rules governing the right to stage public protests. Before I comment on these laws, I would like to say a couple of words about Mikhail Chechetov.

After the February 2014 coup d’état which overthrew the Yanukovych regime and sent him fleeing to Russia, together with several other high-ranking officials, Chechetov remained in Ukraine. He did not participate in the October 2014 election to the Verkhovna Rada and retired completely from politics. He was living in his Kyiv apartment with his wife.

Chechetov was a professor and author of over 500 scientific and current affairs publications. He had a candidate degree in economics and a doctoral degree in public management. His career path is what in Soviet times was called the path of a simple worker.

He was born in 1953 in the Kursk region of Russian Federation. He worked as a fitter in Yenakiyevo (the home town of Viktor Yanukovych), then in the “Yunkom” coal mine of Ordzhonikidze Coal Company.  In 1979, he graduated from Kharkiv Institute of Engineering and Economy with a diploma in mining engineering and economics. From 1982 to 1994, he taught in the same institute and held the position of dean of the faculty of economy. In 1994, he entered big-time politics, being elected a deputy to the Verkhovna Rada. He held high ranking positions in the government related to economic management. From April 2003 to April 2005, he was the head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine, responsible for the privatization of big state assets. Under Chechetov’s directorship, Krivorozhstal, one of the biggest metallurgical complexes in Ukraine, was sold in 2004 for 800 million dollars to a consortium created specifically for this reason by two oligarchs – Rinat Akhmetov and Viktor Pinchuk. Allegedly, this price was five times lower than the true value of the enterprise. When Yulia Tymoshenko became Prime-Minister in 2005, this privatization was declared illegal. In October of the same year, the enterprise was sold for 4.8 billion dollars to Lakshmi Mittal, one of the largest metallurgical conglomerates in the world. Chechetov explained later that he purposefully organized the privatization in such a way that it fell into the hands of Ukrainian, not foreign, owners.

The then-head of the State Property Fund of Ukraine, Valentyna Semeniuk, who oversaw the second privatization to Mittal, later wanted to reverse it because the buyer did not respect certain conditions of the contract, namely, Mittal closed the program of social payments owed to employees, and promised foreign investment in the enterprise did not materialize. Semeniuk objected to the privatization right from the beginning, stating that Krivorozhstal was a strategic enterprise providing not only vital production but also jobs and social security to thousands of Ukrainian workers. (Semeniuk also committed suicide under dubious circumstances, on August 26, 2014 in her country house. Apparently, she shot herself with a shotgun).

After the Orange Revolution of 2004, when the camp of presidential candidate Victor Yuschchenko won the election late that year, Chechetov left politics and went back to teaching at the institute in Kharkiv. In 2007, he was reelected to the Verkhovna Rada as a member of the Party of Regions. He was part of the leadership of the party. In December 2012, he became First Deputy Chief of the party. In the Rada, he was a member of the committee on industry and investment policies and a member of the board responsible for tallying votes in the Rada.

It was this latter membership which gave rise to the accusations against him of abuse of power and forgery, ultimately leading him to take his life. Ukraine’s prosecutor general stated that on January 16, 2014, Chechetov, Efremov and two other members of the Party of Regions who have since fled from Ukraine to Russia, forged the vote in the Rada. While some deputies were absent, the accused organized voting by hand instead of by using a card, as is the regular procedure. They counted votes of absent members. Chechetov refuted the accusations stating that it was the heads of the parliamentary factions and the head of the counting board who counted the votes, not him.

The famous “dictatorial”, “draconian”, “odious”, “scandalous” laws, as the then- opposition in the Rada and the Ukrainian media, owned by opposition oligarchs, quickly called them, were meant to curb the violence of protesters on Maidan, many of whom, wearing balaclavas and military clothes, were throwing Molotov cocktails at regular police and the ‘Berkut’ riot police and using bars and poles torn from metal fencing to assault police.

On the day of voting on January 16, members of the ruling Party of Regions indeed had to vote with their hands because the deputies from the opposition had disrupted the procedure by snatching voting cards from them. In the highly charged political atmosphere, the following of normal procedure was very problematic. Any initiative by the Party of Regions would be met with great hostility by the opposition. Both sides were accusing each other of breaking the law. And in general, what law can we talk about in the situation of an uprising prevailing in January of 2014 on Kiev’s Maidan Square?

As for the laws themselves, according to one of their authors, Vladimir Oleynik, they were drafted according to the legislation of many European countries. And they are not as “draconian”, as the opposition pretended. For instance, in the Criminal Code of Canada, a person taking part in an unlawful assembly and wearing a mask or other disguise to conceal their identity without lawful excuse is guilty of a (a) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction. If such a person participates in a riot, he/she is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years. The violent Maidan protests largely exceeded the definition of riot according to the Canadian Criminal Code.

In the proposed laws of January 16, concealing of identity of any kind of gathering in public, as well as using fire, pyrotechnical means, or any dangerous object or wearing military clothes imitating the uniform of police or military, was punishable by a fine between 150 and 250 non-taxable minimal monthly incomes or an administrative detention for up to 15 days.

I could give many other examples of how these “draconian” laws were not really so draconian. For those who read Russian, a very good analysis is done by Anatoliy Shariy, a Ukrainian journalist in exile. The problem was not the laws, but their very superficial reporting by Ukrainian media and also the superficial reaction to them by the high-ranking European bureaucrats and politicians who relied on Ukrainian media and promptly expressed their concerns with the “repressive laws”. For instance, Anatoliy Shariy cites the headline in a popular Internet newspaper “Ukrainska Pravda” (Ukrainian Truth) reporting on the laws of January 16: “Citizens are not allowed to travel more than five cars at a time – Rada restrains the rights of protesters”. What the newspaper refers to is a proposed law according to which any procession of more than five automobiles which was not approved in advance by the respective division of the Ministry of Interior and which obstructed traffic is punishable by a fine, namely revoking of a drivers license for up to two years and a possible suspension of the vehicle registration. A Russian liberal newspaper “Novaia gazeta” failed to report an essential part of this law – about the obstruction of traffic.

And of course, these laws were said to be the product of the Federal Security Service of Russia, because, presumably, the members of the Party of Regions are not smart enough to come up with such sophisticated laws.

On January 16, 2015, on the one-year anniversary of the “draconian” laws, Mikhail Chechetov explained that the current parliament has legitimized many of the same laws as those voted one year ago. For instance, in the 2014 laws, it was stipulated that a forceful overthrowing of power and calls for the violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine are punishable. The new law proscribing “separatism” states the same. Chechetov also said that the goal of the laws of January 16 was to decrease the political tension within society, to avoid violence and to peacefully resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

The then opposition in the Rada criticized the Party of Regions, saying it did not follow the correct procedures and did not give the opposition the time to read the text of the bill. It was put to a vote on the same day it was introduced, and voted without discussion. Under those difficult conditions, given the huge political tensions and the impatient crowds on Maidan Square, what legal procedures could have been respected? And how were the actions of Party of Regions deputies any different from the voting of the state budget for 2015 when deputies of the current Verkhovna Rada voted during one, lengthy overnight session on Dec. 29, 2014 for a document they had not seen before and for which there were no accompanying notes or explanations?

When Poroshenko heard about Chechetov’s suicide, he said it was not a contract killing. There are not and there never will be contract killings in Ukraine, said Poroshenko.

And yet, I have doubts. Chechetov in his public speeches always reiterated that he was for a negotiated resolution of the conflict during Euromaidan. He participated in various television programs explaining the position of the Party of Regions. He did not flee Ukraine, as other high-ranking officials of the Yanukovych regime did.

Since the appointment of Poroshenko’s proxy Shokin as prosecutor general, the Ukrainian justice machine has advanced accusations against several public figures, such as Alexander Efremov and Hennadiy Kernes (mayor of Kharkiv), of being “separatists”. Efremov and Kernes deny the accusations. The Opposition Bloc in the Rada made an official statement on February 28 that the government in power in Ukraine drove Chechetov to kill himself by its cynical hounding and public humiliations of him. In Bloc’s opinion, the current power holders are driving its citizens to extreme despair. Some, such as Chechetov, are driven to despair by hounding and groundless accusations; others by war, poverty, lack of employment and of any hope for the future.

I rather agree with this statement. Prosecution of the former officials from the Party of Regions resembles more victors’ justice than a lawful investigation of abuses of power and corruption.

Halyna Mokrushyna is currently enrolled in the PhD program in Sociology at the University of Ottawa and a part-time professor. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and MA degree in communication. Her academic interests include: transitional justice; collective memory; ethnic studies; dissent movement in Ukraine; history of Ukraine; sociological thought. Her doctoral project deals with the memory of Stalinist purges in Ukraine. In the summer of 2013 she travelled to Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk to conduct her field research. She is currently working on completing her thesis.

Judge Limits Evidence on Role of Main Perpetrator of Boston Marathon Bombings

 

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The federal trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Dzhokhar-Tsarnaev-yearbookTsarnaev got under way Wednesday amid extraordinary security surrounding the Boston courtroom, which was packed with reporters and victims of the April 15, 2013 bombings.

Boston police closed off streets that, even during major trials, are normally kept open. Barricades kept the public at a distance, while K-9 units guarded the building, a helicopter hovered overhead, and police boats stood by in Boston Harbor.

Even before the jurors were seated, Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. issued a ruling limiting the ability of lawyers for the 21-year-old defendant to discuss the role of his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in the planning and execution of the terrorist attack that killed three people and wounded another 264. The judge granted a prosecution motion to largely exclude evidence concerning the relationship between Tamerlan and Dzhokhar until the sentencing phase of the trial.

The ruling indicates the government’s intention to tightly control the information emerging from the proceedings so as to marginalize or exclude questions relating to extensive contacts over a period of years between the FBI and Tamerlan, who is believed to have organized the attack. The older Tsarnaev brother was killed in a shootout with police on April 19, 2013, four days after two pressure cooker bombs packed with nails and shrapnel were detonated near the downtown Boston finish line of the marathon.

In their opening statements to the jury, neither the prosecution nor defense lawyer referred to the still unexplained failure of federal agencies such as the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security Department to prevent the bombings, even though the FBI and CIA had been warned multiple times by the Russian security service of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Islamist terrorist sympathies, the FBI had questioned the older brother and his parents, and Tamerlan had been placed on US terror watch lists.

Last year, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team filed papers with the court alleging that the FBI had attempted to recruit Tamerlan Tsarnaev as an informant. The defense has requested all information relating to the FBI’s investigation of the older brother, but the government has objected to the release of such documents.

The defendant is charged with more than 30 counts relating to the bombings, many of which carry the death penalty. The charges include the killing of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology policeman on the evening of April 18, three days after the bombings.

In 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In her opening statement, however, lead defense counsel Judy Clarke acknowledged that her client was involved in the terror attack. “It was him,” she told the jury. She called the bombings a “series of senseless, horribly misguided acts carried out by the two brothers,” and said Dzhokhar should be held accountable for his crime.

But she argued that her client had been lured and bullied into participating in the attack by his older brother, who was the author and chief protagonist of the crime. Clarke, who has represented defendants in a number of high-profile capital cases, is clearly seeking to convince the jury to spare her client’s life and instead sentence him to life imprisonment, the only alternative sentence if he is found guilty.

Prosecutor William Weinreb focused on the horror of the bombings and the terrible physical and emotional toll they took on innocent bystanders, including an eight-year-old child who was one of the three fatalities. He insisted that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was an independent actor, motivated by an Islamist extremist ideology and outrage over the US government’s treatment of Muslims around the world. His statement made clear that the government intends to seek the death penalty.

The Boston bombings became the occasion for the police-military lockdown of Boston and its environs, an area with over one million residents, on April 19, 2013, following the killing of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and escape of Dzhokhar. Boston and its surrounding communities were flooded with thousands of heavily armed police and National Guard troops. They occupied the streets, supported by machine-gun-mounted armored vehicles, Humvees and Black Hawk helicopters.

Residents were ordered to “shelter in place” while police, with automatic weapons drawn, carried out warrantless house-to-house searches. The mass transit system was shut down, passenger train service was halted, and businesses, schools, universities and other public facilities were closed.

It was an unprecedented police-state operation. As the World Socialist Web Site noted at the time, the scene resembled the American occupation of Baghdad. This massive mobilization of police power was deployed, supposedly, to track down one 19-year-old suspect.

Just as there was virtually no expression of opposition to this dry run for dictatorship by any section of the media or political establishment at the time, the lockdown of Boston has been omitted from current commentary on the opening of the trial. This makes all the more important the posing of some of the unanswered questions regarding the events of April 2013, which are likely to be excluded from the court proceedings as well as the media coverage of the trial.

These include:

· Why did the FBI and CIA fail to respond to warnings from Russia’s security agency FSB in 2011 and 2012 concerning Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s support for Islamist separatist and terrorist organizations in Russia’s North Caucasian regions of Chechnya and Dagestan? Why did they ignore Russia’s request that Tsarnaev be prevented from traveling to these regions?

· Why did the FBI clear Tamerlan Tsarnaev of harboring terrorist sympathies in 2011 after supposedly carrying out an intensive investigation? Why did the agency claim there was no “derogatory” information against him, even though it suspected him of having participated in the Waltham, Massachusetts murder of three Jewish men, including a “best friend,” on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks?

· Why was he allowed to travel to Dagestan in January of 2012, without even being questioned at the airport? He remained there for six months and reportedly made contact with Islamist groups that have carried out terror attacks against Russian targets. Why was he allowed to return to the US without even being stopped at the airport and questioned on his return?

· Why did the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security Department fail to inform their state and local counterparts on the Boston joint terrorism task force of their contacts with Tamerlan Tsarnaev prior to the Boston Marathon?

These unanswered questions strongly suggest that US intelligence was seeking to use Tamerlan Tsarnaev to further its covert anti-Russian operations among Chechen and Dagestan separatists. These regions also supplied many of the foreign fighters recruited by the CIA for its proxy war for regime change against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

This connection is underscored by another critical fact ignored by the US media—the role of Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers. In the 1990s, Tsarni ran a US group called the Congress of Chechen International Organizations, which helped supply anti-Russian insurgents in Chechnya with military equipment. The organization was registered at the home of his father-in-law, Graham Fuller.

Fuller had been vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA under President Reagan, and had worked for the agency in a number of countries, including serving as CIA station chief in Kabul.

Head of Nobel Peace Prize Committee Is Fired, Requests Obama to Return 2009 Peace Prize?

 

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For the first time ever, the head of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee nobelhas been fired. It happened on Tuesday, March 3rd.

Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, and former Norwegian Prime Minister, said, on the way out the door, that it would be “really nice” if President Barack Obama were to return the prize.

The White House had no immediate comment. (This reporter just now, at 1:47 PM Eastern time, specifically asked the White House whether there yet is a comment, and still there is none. Maybe he will volunteer to return it?)

President Obama received the prize on 9 October 2009 after 9 months in office. There is question whether he had already perpetrated the 28 June 2009 coup that overthrew the progressive democratically elected President in Honduras, Manuel Zelaya and installed the narco-regime that followed after, but Obama and especially his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certainly were the key people in enabling that regime to remain in power after almost every other government in the Americas and many around the world had declared them illegal. The following year, Honduras became the world’s highest-murder-rate nation, which they have since remained.

Then, President Obama in 2011 bombed Libya into anarchy and turned it into a failed state with rampant tribal and religious wars.

In 2014, President Obama carried out a Ukrainian coup which removed the democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with a racist-fascist anti-Russian regime which is bombing the area of Ukraine that had voted 90% for Yanukovych.

Perhaps nothing in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize has embarrassed that Committee as much as the premature granting of this Prize to the man who is increasingly viewed around the world as George W. Bush II.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.