Stark divisions within Russia’s elite were exposed Monday when a hot-mic mishap showed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev slamming security forces as “jerks” for launching an early morning raid against a filmmaker.
Medvedev gave an extensive end-of-year interview Friday to five Russian channels in a clear bid to keep up his profile after ceding the Kremlin to his mentor, Vladimir Putin, earlier this year.
But attention has focused less on the interview than on a six-minute video posted on the Internet of Medvedev’s supposedly off-the-record conversation with journalists that came afterward.
In a relaxed exchange, Medvedev is shown bantering on topics ranging from wristwatches to whether Santa Claus exists. But most notably he also launches a blistering attack on the habits of the Russian security forces.
Medvedev slammed Friday’s predawn raid by investigators on filmmaker Pavel Kostomarov, who has been working on a documentary about the Russian opposition called “Srok” (“Term”).
“Everything is going to be fine, do not worry,” Medvedev tells one of the interviewers, NTV television newscaster Alexei Pivovarov, one of the documentary’s coproducers.
“They (the investigators) are jerks for showing up at eight in the morning,” he said, using a colloquial insult — “kozly” — that literally means “goats.”
“It’s basically just habit. . . . I have many people who work in the security forces and they think that if they come at 7 a.m. they will get everything.”
The spokesman of the Investigative Committee that carried out the raid then hit back, defending the raid as completely legal and condemning Medvedev’s comments.
“It’s very strange to hear comments that do not just insult Russian investigators but also undermine all the security forces of the country,” spokesman Vladimir Markin said.
That comment was later removed from the Investigative Committee’s website with a source telling RIA Novosti this was due to a formulation “allowing an ambiguous interpretation.”
But Markin told the Kommersant daily Monday that he was not withdrawing his comments. “That would mean the investigators acted illegally, which is not the case,” he said.
Medvedev, a lawyer by training, has no professional background in the security services — unlike Putin and some of his closest allies who emerged from the Soviet KGB.