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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 Nyet?

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As Shamil Basayev’s death moves off the news radar, Kommersant continues to give updates to the story. According to ? correspondent Nikolai Sergeev,

The process of identifying the remains of Basaev has come to a standstill. Visual identification is impossible. Pathologists were able to take the fingerprints of the five fingers that survived the blast and to take biological samples. But they have nothing to compare them with. Basaev’s fingerprints are not on file anywhere and no usable prints were found at the site of the blast. Investigators are looking for a parent, sibling or child of the terrorist, but they have been unsuccessful in their search so far.

The reigning theory now is that the FSB has taken Basayev’s 24 year old brother-in-law, Ibragim Tsakaev, into custody as a way to pressure the remaining members of the slain terrorist’s family to help identify his remains. There is no other reason, argues Sergeev, because Tsakaev is no longer in active combat and his activities consist of difficult to prove allegations of raising money for the movement. “Representatives of the Ichkerian regime living abroad say that Tsakaev is practically a hostage and only Basaev’s close relatives can free him only by meeting their demands. They want biomaterial: blood samples, hair samples or nail clippings,” explains Sergeev.

Nothing could be more downright embarrassing for the FSB and Putin. Not only does their difficulties in identifying the body further prove that they did not have a hand in his demise, it shows their utter desperation. Putin’s prize is quickly revealing the FSB’s incompetence. What is more disturbing is that the arrest of relatives is a standard FSB strategy.

A similar strategy was used last year when the relatives of former Ichkerian president Aslan Maskhadov. Several of his relatives were rounded up in an effort to discover his location. Authorities did not succeed in that goal, but held them until close relatives agreed to give biological samples. The genetic material received from them was used in the eventual identification of Maskhadov’s body.