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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.

Gaidar Radar

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RIA Novosti is reporting that doctors have “deemed” that Yegor Gaidar was poisoned, but the nature of the poison has yet to be determined. What is interesting about this report, is that it quotes no doctor, only Gaidar’s press secretary, Valery Natarov. The report reads:

Doctors deem poisoning cause of Gaidar’s illness – press-secretary

30/11/2006 20:33 MOSCOW, November 30 (RIA Novosti) – Doctors say the illness of post-Soviet Russian reformer Yegor Gaidar was caused by poisoning, but have not identified the poison, his press secretary said Thursday.

“This is not poisoning by spoilt food products,” Valery Natarov said.

Gaidar’s daughter Maria said her 50-year-old father and former acting prime minister started vomiting and fainted at a conference in Dublin Friday, and remained unconscious for three hours. Gaidar was taken to a hospital in Dublin and later transferred to Moscow.

Natarov said doctors will not be able to give a precise diagnosis by the end of next week, as they have requested additional information from the hospital in Ireland where Gaidar was first taken to.

Natarov said Wednesday that Gaidar’s condition was “stable and noticeably improving.”

Read on . . .

Yet, possible Kremlin involvement has been denied, even by Anatoly Chubais. As the Financial Times reports,

Mr Gaidar is a soft critic of Mr Putin and has repeatedly voiced his concern about the clampdown on democracy in Russia. Mr Chubais, who himself survived an assassination attempt last year, and other people close to Mr Gaidar have ruled out the possibility of a Kremlin-sponsored attempt on Mr Gaidar.

Mr Chubais said: “For me there is no doubt that the deathly Politkovskaya-Litvinenko-Gaidar chain, which by a miracle was not completed, would have been attractive for the supporters of an unconstitutional, forceful change of power in Russia.” Mr Chubais’ line corresponds with that of the Kremlin itself.

I guess Gaidar being a “soft critic” got him a well wishing phone call from Putin himself. Or the Kremlin has finally learned that cold and dismissive responses get you nowhere.

President Vladimir Putin phoned Yegor Gaidar yesterday as the former Russian prime minister recovered in hospital from a mysterious illness his friends claim was an attempt to poison him.

The Kremlin told the Financial Times Mr Putin was concerned about Mr Gaidar’s health and wished him a speedy recovery from the violent attack he suffered in Ireland last week, the day after ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko died in London from apparent radiation poisoning.

The two men had known each other for many years and still met occasionally, a Kremlin sources said.

A good PR move if you ask me.

Events are still unfolding so we’ll see where all of this leads . . .