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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.

Russia’s “List of 17”

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Yesterday, the Kremlin’s newspaper Rossiisskaia gazeta released a list of seventeen organizations (and English version is here) that the FSB considers terrorist. The list includes:

Shura of the United Forces of the Mujahedeen of the Caucasus
People’s Congress of Ichkeria and Dagestan
Asbat al-Ansar
Islamic Group (Al -Jamaa al -Islami)
Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhvan al-Muslimun)
The Party of Islamic Liberation (Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami)
The Islamic Group (Jamaat-e-Islami)
Islamic Party of Turkestan
Society of Social Reforms (Jamiat al-Islah al-Ijtimai)
Society for the Revival of the Islamic Heritage (Jamiat Ihya at-Turaz al-Islami)
House of the Two Holy (Al-Haramein)
Islamic Jihad
Jund ash-Sham

According to an accompanying interview with FSB Anti-Terror chief Yuri Sapunov, the groups had to fulfill three criteria to be listed.

First, carrying out activities that set to change the Constitution of the Russian Federation by violence, armed methods, which include a number of terrorist methods.

Second, relations with illegal armed organizations and other extremist groups that are active in the North Caucasian region.

Third, accessories to organizations linked to an international network of terrorists or connections with them.

Many news organizations were quick to note the absence of Hamas and Hezbollah from the list. When asked why they were excluded, Sapunov had this to say:

First, these organizations are not accepted as such the world over, and second, the “List of 17” is a national list of terrorist organizations. And this means that only organizations which present the gravest threat to the security of our state go on it.

Yes, you have named two organizations which fall under the third category, and they are included on many national terrorist lists of a variety of countries. But they don’ apply to the first two criteria.

I give you the following example: It is certainly known to us that at the present time leaders of terrorist movements in North Caucasus Basaev and Khattab actively attempted to persuade the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah to take part in military actions in Chechnya, that is to say, on a reciprocal basis. Envoys of Chechen fighters proposed to them military aid and participation in the struggle against Israel in the winter when fighting in Chechnya is difficult and in return Hamas and Hezbollah would send their fighters to Chechnya in the summer. But neither Hezbollah or Hamas went for this. Not a single terrorist act or a single fighter which carried out terrorist acts in Russian territory was from these organizations.

One also suspects that the fact that Russia recognizes both organizations as legitimate members of the Lebanese and Palestinian governments is another reason. The EU, however, lists Hamas, but not Hezbollah as terrorist. One, then, cannot discount the role of politics on all sides as to which group is terrorist or not. Such recognition for sure doesn’t sit well with Israel or the United States, which sees both as terrorist organizations.

Russia’s political recognition of Hamas and Hezbollah also explains Russia’s criticisms of the scale of Israel’s campaign in southern Lebanon. Though as Yuri Mamchur of Russia Blog points out, Israel did view Putin’s recent condemnation of Hezbollah as encouraging.