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Russian Socialists in the Struggle for Democracy

For the past few weeks, protests for fair elections in upcoming municipal polls have become weekly in Moscow and St. Petersburg as thousands have defied authorities to attend unsanctioned rallies. The police crackdown has been particularly harsh in Moscow. Protests on July 27 and August 3 resulted in over 2000 detentions. Images of police in riot gear wrestling citizens to the ground and beating peaceful protesters were reminiscent of the mass protests against election fraud in 2011-2012.

Members of the Russian Socialist Movement, a small Marxist, anti-Stalinist organization active in the Russian left, have been participants in local electoral campaigns and in the protests. Two RSM activists, Valeria Kovelishina and Ilya Budraitskis talk about the Russian Socialist Movement, their electoral work, the protests for democracy in Russia and what they might mean for the future.

Witnessing the Collapse of Communism

Roundtable discussion marking the 30th anniversary of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Participants include Timothy Garton Ash, Bridget Kendall, and Jens Reich.

The Evictors

Around Moscow, there’s a whole industry of so-called “black creditors” — microfinance institutions (or MFOs) that swindle and seize debtors’ homes. Ivan Golunov’s investigation for Meduza has discovered that almost 500 apartments have been seized from their owners over the past five years without so much as a court order. In fact, this scheme involves more than simply “squeezing” people from their homes. It is possibly part of a wider, international money-laundering system. Here’s Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov on the ins and outs of this industry.

Russian Diplomats Executed in Iraq

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This came over the Reuters newswire about an hour ago:

Video shows Russian hostages killed
Sun Jun 25, 2006 4:28 PM BST

DUBAI (Reuters) – An Iraqi al Qaeda-led group said on Sunday it had killed four Russian embassy staff it had taken hostage, according to a statement posted on the Internet.

The statement said the posting included footage of the “execution”. The group had demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from Chechnya and release all Muslim prisoners.

The Web posting showed video footage of the killing of two men it said were Russian hostages and the beheaded body of a third man.

It showed two militants beheading one of the men and the shooting of a second, after showing four men speaking in Russian in video statements dated June 13, 2006.

In Moscow, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman could not immediately confirm the report of the deaths.

The four embassy staff were kidnapped and a fifth was killed when gunmen blocked their vehicle in Baghdad on June 3.

“This is the video for carrying out God’s ruling against the Russian diplomats…in revenge for our brothers and sisters for the torture and killing they received at the hands of the infidel Russian government,” a statement by the Shura al-Mujahideen said.

The al-Qaeda-led Council said in an Internet posting last week it was holding the four Russians and had decided to kill them after Moscow failed to meet its demands.

Why did the Shura al-Mujahideen kidnap these Russian diplomats? In a comment on the incident, George Mason University Professor Mark Katz argues that the incident has direct links to Chechnya. Despite the Chechen War, Putin has attempted to portray Russia as a friend to the Muslim world. After all, with its population of over 30 million Muslims, the Kremlin can’t afford to increase religious tensions within its borders. This policy of course would have no impact on the internationalist jihadism of an Al-Qaeda linked group. In statement on June 19, which is posted on their English website, Shura al-Mujahideen justified the kidnappings with:

It is clear for anyone following the world events what the Russian government has been doing to our people in Chechnya and Afghanistan including all crimes of killing and making their people homeless. This government supported by its people has not only done this but also added to its launched war on Islam another chapter to the chapters of the world war against the Islamic movement around the world but this time in Iraq. It sent its diplomats to Iraq to support the crusade campaign lead by America to provide the world support and legitimate cover to the exhausted Iraqi government.

Allah enabled the lions of Tawhed to capture four Russian diplomats and kill another one. We expect to receive calls of petition to release them from those who think good of themselves claiming that Russia had a clear stand in rejecting the war on Iraq. We tell those that we are fighting the enemies of Allah to establish the rule of Allah on earth, all the earth. Every Muslim on earth is our brother and we will sacrifice ourselves, our money and our families for their sake whenever they face injustice.

We wonder how come you ask to forget what the oppressed Muslims suffer from the Russian government and its people. We advise you to keep your so called diplomatic immunity for yourselves. As far as for us the only respected immunity in our Islamic lands is for those whom Islam has preserved their money and blood. We have neither respect nor obedience to the laws of the UN that were enforced to serve the goals of the arrogant infidels and enable them to oppress the weak ones and in particular the Muslims.

The question now is: What will Putin’s response be?