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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.

Basayev Killed by Dagestani Terrorists?

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My apologies for belaboring the Basayev story. But I find the whole thing rather fascinating. And as expected more and more details of the incident and commentary surrounding it are coming out.

Kudos to Kommersant which has consitently attempted to peel the layers of the onion so we will know the true story behind his death. Today’s edition presents a new theory: Basyaev’s death was possibly carried out by the Dagestani terrorist group Shariat. The theory is based on the fact that forensics now believes that a bomb was indeed planted in the car Basayev was traveling in. His “alleged body” (I say “alleged” because some people in Russia, one of which includes Prosecutor General’s Office Alexander Solzhenitsyn, doesn’t believe that it is Basayev’s body. When can we say enough already?) had wires and shrapnel that are the signature of Shariat chief Rappani Khalilov. The bomb was far too crude to be the work of the FSB. The FSB, with all its supposed high tech, wouldn’t use “a primitive hand-made bomb, since there is always risk that such bomb will explode at a wrong time or in a wrong place or will not explode at all.” According to experts this finding also dismisses the rumors that he was assassinated by a remote bomb, missile, or flame thrower. A James Bond operation this was not. The article, however, gives no reason as to why Shariat would want to kill Basayev.

In the same edition of Kommersant, Ekho Moskvy commentator, Yulia Latynina, muses about why Basayev’s death couldn’t be the work of Russian Special Forces. Her reasoning is simply that most of the time Russian Special Forces are too busy raping and pillaging Chechen and Dagestani civilians to carry out such a precise operation. She writes,

Do you know what it looks like – a special operation in Caucasian mountains? That’s how it looks: several hundreds people arrive on armored troop carriers to Chechen village of Nuradilovo in Dagestan. The result of it: they demolished the corner of a local school, lifted a shop, and shouted to children: “You, Chechens, should all be killed!”. The terrorist, whom they came to capture, escaped, leaving some people dead and some—injured. He was in the village because the talks on pardoning him were held. In Kabardino-Balkaria, police goes to capture terrorists. They do not find any. Coming back through the village of Kendelen (17,000 people), they arrest young men out of spite, then keep them in jail for a day, and then let them go.

Are these the special forces who finished Basaev?

Hardly, she answers. Because the real reason for war in her opinion has little to do with the Basayevs of the world. Instead it has to do with “Russian special forces who make robbery instead of a special operation, cops who demolish houses with tanks, and butchers who kill people and then offer their bodies to victims’ relatives for $10,000.”