The president’s authorised representative to the State Duma, Alexander Kosopkin, who died in a helicopter crash on 9 January 2009, truly did take full part in the killing of wild rams. The announcement was finally made by a representative of the authorities, the district deputy prosecutor, Sergei Pindyk, during the reading of the indictment. In the district court of Kosh-Agach, Altai Republic, hearings are underway in the wild ram poaching case that led to the crash of a helicopter and the death of seven people.
It took the government two years and three months to tell the truth. The length of time is not coincidental: the defendants are accused of a crime under Chapter 2 Article 258 of the criminal code (the premeditated unlawful hunting of an animal protected from all pursuit by the law by a group of individuals with the use of aircraft and resulting in serious damage or loss), punishable by fine or up to two years imprisonment and classified as a misdemeanour. If two years pass from the day the crime was committed, the accused is released from criminal liability. The statute of limitations passed on 9 January, and the accused are now freed from any serious repercussions.
As a result, what is evident is not so much the government’s desire to get to the bottom of a vile incident as its intention to forget about it like a bad dream, teaching a lesson not to the bureaucrats, which would be logical and the right thing to do, but to the subordinate population, as if to say: have no illusions about it – we are above the law. On 14 April, the day following the start of legal proceedings, the district prosecutor, Yevgeny Morozov, as had been expected, requested a year in prison for reach of the accused, and that all be freed from serving it on account of the statute of limitations having passed.
The first court session was set for 26 January of this year, but not one of the accused showed up in Kosh-Agach for it, and the session was carried over four times. On 13 April the assistant director of the Moscow Institute of Economics and Law, Nikolai Kapranov, arrived in court. Besides him, formal charges had been brought against the former Deputy Prime Minister of the Altai Government, Anatoly Bannykh, and the General Director of the limited liability company Ineko, Boris Belinsky. Charges were not being laid against the fourth survivor of the crash, the pilot of the helicopter, Maxim Kolbin.
Thus, judging by the indictment, it follows that Kosopkin was personally involved in the shooting of the wild rams. After their discovery, the president’s authorised representative alighted from the helicopter together with Victor Kaimin (Chairman of the Republic’s Committee for the Protection, Use and Reproduction of the Animal World) and Sergei Livishin (a Member of the Duma staff, former Assistant to the Director of the Administration of the Russian Presidential Department of Domestic Policy). They lay in ambush, waiting for the victims to appear in their sights. The helicopter frightened the herd, conveniently moving them forward along the bare slope towards the Kosopkin, Kaimin and Livishin, with one wild ram being shot from the helicopter itself. The next one was killed in the ambush. I quote [Deputy District Prosecutor Sergei] Pindyk according to RIA News: “Kosopkin, Livishin and Kaimin, located on the ground and taking advantage of the approach of the wild rams to within firing range, each fired at least one shot, with the intention of killing their prey, resulting in Kaimin’s successful killing one Altai mountain ram”.
Keep in mind that the helicopter crashed later on, when the third wild ram was killed and the carcass was to be loaded on board. Descending and executing a right turn, the propeller caught on a slope of the Black Mountain, sacred to the people of Altai.
Kosopkin, former Head of the Presidential Administration’s Chief Domestic Policy Department, and one of the founding fathers of the United Russia party, who had pushed through, by the way, not long before the hunting trip a package of new anti-corruption legislation (did he record his trip in accordance with the guidelines of this legislation as a gift to government officials?), was buried with honour.
Later, a helicopter carrying Irkutsk Governor Igor Yesipovsky would also crash, and although it was recounted that he had been flying on government business, and the official account says nothing of the aircraft attempting to lift a dead bear, the person who had lifted the carcass into the suspension is alive and well, and well-known. The helicopter crashed in a ravine in Malyshkino, where the nobles are known to shoot Manchurian deer and bears. Yesipovsky took three other human lives along with him.
After Yesipovsky, Minusinsk Mayor Anatoly Kekin, drowned in the Yenisey. The Investigations into the incident were once again fictitious. It is known, however, that the mayor drowned in the Khakhalev channel, near Khovey Island, in sturgeon territory, and he drowned while sterlet were spawning. And he had made his way to these parts with friends, specifically to go fishing, though no one from Kekin’s group had sought approval from the Department of Fishing Control and couldn’t have anyway, as all fishing in these parts was strictly forbidden until the freezing-over of the river. The catching of any fish from the sturgeon family is a criminal offence.
Now the responsibility for changing leadership lies with nature, not society. These are only the most notorious cases that come to mind and took place after the death of the “wild ram killers”.
What goes on with officials in public life, their addiction to absolute power and impunity, clearly incurs misfortune when they show up in the mountains, the coniferous forests and on big rivers with the same thuggish attitude. The sudden death of officials in nature, as banal or sorrowful as it may sound to some, is but one more proof of the existence of a power that is mightier than big bosses and more influential than Putin himself. If you like, it is proof of the existence of destiny, fate, justice – of the One whom the masters of this life seem to feel they have taken by the beard.
The aborigines believe that the souls of the wild rams, of the sacred Black Mountain, of those parts are extremely strong. And it makes no difference whether you believe in the soul or not, just as it makes no difference whether you are a demigod with everything that can protect civilisation from nature. In the mountains of Siberia this will not save you, where nature reigns with its eternal, unshakeable laws and unseen powers. The grave mounds – the end result of the Siberian adventures of governors, mayors, deputies and so forth, is proof of this fact.
Josef Stalin, exiled to the Yenisey during the Russian Empire, described vividly the horror inspired by the river and the surrounding regions. Almost like Anton Chekhov, writing in the land of Krasnoyarsk, “the forest is strong and unconquerable, and the expression ‘man is the king of nature’ sounds nowhere more timid and insincere than it does here”. Stalin understood the weakness of man in the face of the elements. The new rulers of Russia have overcome this timidity. Putin makes the acquaintance of a snow leopard and polar bear, drugged with tranquilisers for the occasion.
The scene of a Japanese dog, touchingly filled with concern for his fellow-being, became a hit on the Internet and then on television. The point being whether or not to include animals in the topic of human relations. Sympathy is the highest expression of humanity, and dogs just happen to be very good at expressing it. As are certain other mammals. As kids, we were all read books about animals that could talk, feel sadness and joy, and were capable of friendship and love. We all looked at the pictures so full of tender emotion. And then what happens to us? Precisely with us, because it wasn’t Putin who caught the snow leopard in a trap. And somebody had to help Kosopkin track the wild rams. Remember who was with him lying in ambush? Kaimin, the chief environmental protection man in Altai. It was his shot that was right on target. That’s how it’s been done in Russia for some time now, that the people who are paid to protect the flora and fauna are the ones organising the leaders’ vacations. This wasn’t the first time Kaimin had been caught organising poaching, but he got away with it.
The main blame is not to be laid on those in power – as if hunting was a new thing among the nobles. No, it’s the lick-spittle people, those specific people who make the nobles arrogant.
The goal of capturing Mongol the snow-leopard (Novaya Gazeta wrote about it in issue No. 32 from 28 March), as declared by A.N. Severtsova of the Institute of Problems of Ecology and Evolution (IPEE) under the Russian Academy of Sciences, was to attach a satellite receiver to the animal, which would allow for the following of its movements from afar. The enormous collar that Mongol took with her when released after Putin posed with the animal is visible in the photo. Independent specialists can be wrong, but they have expressed serious doubts over whether Mongol will be able to retain her dominant status, whisk around the mountains and hunt as she once had. Mongol was caught during her oestrus period. The collar could have been attached and the animal released, but instead Mongol was taken to Khakassia, where it spent a week in a cage awaiting the prime minister. On Putin’s website these people are called “scientists”, though using this title for the given Russian Academy of Science employees raises a lot of doubt.
…Acquaintances of mine in Altai tell me that there are many stories about what actually happened during that hunt. One says that the helicopter carrying the VIPs was hit by a gamekeeper or shepherd with an old rifle. This is complete nonsense, of course, though it is very telling.
Whatever the case may be, none of the locals came to the help of the freezing and slowly dying men (not all seven died immediately) or lent a hand in organised searches.