One of the occupational habits of following Russian politics is contracting conspiracy theorism. The problem is that Russia is truly machiavellian and intrigue-ridden often enough that you can’t rule out all the the theories all the time, even if in the main you really are getting what you see. The latest potential conspiracy gnawing at me relates to the arrest (and probable release) of FBI-Most-Wanted gangster Semyon ‘Seva’ Mogilevich, currently going as Sergei Schnaider.
Mogilevich was arrested in 2008 and is still in prison, even if his trial looks set to collapse. Despite US pressure for him to be extradited to face trial on a massive fraud, this is not being considered.
At the time he was arrested, there was a persistent and plausible suggestion that he was detained by accident, that the real target was the man he was with, Vladimir Nekrasov, and that it was if anything an embarrassment that the Russian authorities had in custody a man Washington was eager to try and also a man who, by virtue of his role as a money-laundered and middleman to crooks of every shape and size, knew where far too many bodies were buried.
It was also suggestive that Seva was arrested by a ‘gruppa zakhvata’ (arrest or snatch squad) of the Investigations Department of the TsFO, or Central Federal District Command of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). An operation like this, in Moscow, would usually have been handled by the Moscow police itself or else one of the central MVD directorates: Criminal Investigations or Economic Security.
What gets me excitedly playing the conspiracy theory game is the news that I have belatedly noticed, that in June of this year President Medvedev sacked Colonel Valentin Kirshenman, the deputy head of the TsFO. As I understand it, this would be the man who would have signed off on the operation tat netted Mogilevich and Nekrasov. This came by presidential decree, with no explanation. Ample fodder for seeing retribution for seizing a man who seems, after all, untouchable and who circumstances in the form or surprisingly-sloppy prosecutory paperwork may be about to spring from prison…