That’s is what it looks like. This paper was given today to a friend of mine with whom we will be observers on March, 4 – during the president election day in the Russian city of Nalchik, on the North Caucasus (I couldn’t come to pick it up myself because I am not in Nalchik now, the photocopy of my passport was enough).
We got the paper in the local branch of the Russian Communist Party even though none of us can be called a Communist or anything near it on the political field. The peculiar thing about Russia at the moment is that the idea of fair election is more important that political views so people get these documents from diffrerent parties, they just need legal passes to the election points.
Just like millions of Russian Internet users I read very many astonishing stories (with photos and video) after recent Parliament elections in Russia (December, 4, 2011) when observers saw unbelievable fraud, amazing in its simplicity. For example, heads of the local electoral committees just marked ballots themselves for the right candidate. Or even simplier: they added dozens or more of ballots to the piles when counting them.
Anyway I am looking forward to see how it works on the particular electoral point #153.
Shamil Basayev’s brother appeared and disappeared in Helsinki within a day. Indeed, it was worth watching. It still is.
Basayev’s name has been a symbol of terrorism in Russia for more than a decade and it stays so even after Basayev’s death. So the news about a trial in Finland on «a citizen of Finland and a citizen of Turkey» excited nobody in Russia. But the news about a trial on Basayev’s brother in Finland was reported by Interfax news agency and copypasted by dozens of Russian media.
Russian search engine Yandex gives at this minute 38 000 pages to the search «брат Басаева суд Финляндия» (meaning «Basayev’s brother trial Finland»).
Not all pages actually tell about the trial but quite many indeed. The news actually were published on the web twice: «trial is to start», «trial is over». Interfax even translated the news to English – « Brother of slain Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev to face trial in Finland» – what a shame, world media didn’t catch it.
If it is a report in Russian then «Basayev» is surely in the headline. Some media referred to a Finnish political author Johan Bäckman who claimed he saw the name «Basayev» in the trial documents, others mentioned just «trial documents». So far I actually didn’t see a single report in Russian with quotations by a representative of the court, by a prosecutor or by the «brother» himself.
The trial might be interesting for some people, it is a case about illegal immigration of Chechens to Finland. The accused one, Finnish businessman Mikael Storsjoconfirms the facts but says he helped Chechens on humanitarian basis and wasn’t paid for that. Immigration service gives political asylum with the same motivation, that’s Storsjo’s argument. Indeed very many Chechens moved to different European countries, they survived two wars during two last decades!
But this is not about Chechens or Storsjo. It is about Basayev’s brother who is on trial in Helsinki. I am based in Helsinki so of course in the morning I ran to the Vantaa court near Helsinki. The hearing was in Swedish because Mikael Storsjo is a Swedish-speaking Finn and Swedish is an official language in Finland. The judge, the prosecutor and lawyeers did mention «Storsjo», and some other names (of the immigrants, I suppose) but – to my surprise – no «Basayev». Why did I come here at 9am?
After 3 hours there was finally a break and I asked the prosecutor Mikko Sipilä:
-There is a young man near Mikael Storsjo. Is he a brother of Shamil Basayev?
-But there were reports that he admitted it.
-I can’t say anything about his relatives but there is no name of Basayev in the legal case.
But I can ask the brother, can’t I? According to the Russian media reports, his name is Deni Berkat (and earlier he was called Abdulkhamid Mechiev). Should I believe the media? Well anyway I don’t know his real name, I didn’t check his passport.
I approached the young man and asked him in Russian:
-Are you Shamil Basayev’s brother?
-But there were reports…
-Who said it? No!
The guy looked realy surprised and later he came to me in the corridor and asked again: who said I am Basayev’s brother? I showed him dozens of reports in Russian on my phone’s screen.
-Basayev’s brother is in Turkey!
-And you are a Russian citizen?
-No, a Turkish one.
-But your Russian is so good!
-My English and Chechen are good, too.
Should I mention that Finnish press was laconic about the hearing? A short report in the main newspaper, that’s all. And no Basayev there! What a surprise.
The only thing I am happy about: not all Russian media reported about Basayev’s brother in Finland. Somebody just ignored the news. Or checked it and saw that there was no brother at all.
This 69 year old man found the remains of two Red Army soldiers while we were filming him. 30 years of experience, a lot of excavations in the East German fields – Erwin Kowalke really knows the subject. They found the place earlier with some equipment and waited for us. He was digging just for 15 min and then took from the depth of half a meter a bone, another one, then a scull. It’s hard to retell what you are feeling at this moment.
He confidently talked about Russians even though there were no documents or Red Stars there. He immediately recognized that the belt wasn’t a German one but one can take a belt from the enemy. It’s easy to understand whether remains of WWII soldiers belong to Russians, he said. The clue is their teeth (I would never guess!).
“I can tell you: Russians had healthy teeth but slightly ground off. This was a young man, 20-25 years old, the teeth are young, can you see it? This jaw belonged to a Russian, I dug a lot, I am sure of it. Germans ate white bread, sugar, honey, all this worsens teeth so at that age Germans already had their teeth filled. Russians might lack one or two teeth but others were healthy”.
I know little about the social composition of the Red Army. But probably it was recruited mainly from the peasants as the population was rural. And those soldiers hardly had fillings in their teeth. In other words, healthy nutrition.
One of the first reactions to the blasts in Moscow underground was anger about Russian television. I haven’t seen it (from Berlin) but bloggers write that first few hours after the terrorist attack none of the main channels reported urgently about the tragedy, none of them rescheduled broadcasts, none stopped showing commercials. It does take some time to make decisions in that industry nowadays.
And I am so relieved that my “merry story” have been cancelled. Just yesterday I was really looking forward to cover a hadron collider event on Tuesday but who needs it now in Russia? And how could I stand in Geneva and tell some details about some particles knowing what kind of information the viewers really need.
I would be happy if I could go back in time and just change something so that people with those esplosives would have exploded alone on empty Moscow streets at night – and then the hadron collider would be just fine, just fine.
Instead of that the whole day – news, news, hyperlinks, photos, videos, personal stories. On such day foreign bureau just stops working. What can I do from Berlin for the Moscovites?