Recent Posts

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.

Lugovoi and Kovtun, Guilty?

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on reddit

I just can’t get away from it.

It appears that the British police are about to find their men. Scotland Yard has decided to interrogate Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun as key witnesses in the Litvinenko murder. Lugovoi, 41, a Russian business man and former KGB officer was questioned by British and Russian investigators today. He also received tests for radiation posing, but vowed he would not to release them to the public. In a press conference, Lugovoi professed his innocence, adding, “Someone is trying to set me up. But I can’t understand who. Or why.”

Dmitry Kovtun has been the hospital with radiation poisoning for a week. And it was announced today that his ex-wife, her boyfriend, and her two children were hospitalized with contamination of radiation. Kovtun accompanied Lugovoi to meet Litvinenko on Nov. 1 at the Millennium Hotel in London. He is now being investigated by German police for being possession of radioactive material. British and Russian authorities questioned him last week. The British now want another crack at him. Kommersant reports,

The London police consider Dmitry Kovtun a witness in the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko. For its part, the Russian General Prosecutor’s office considers him a victim of attempted murder. Last weekend, however, Hamburg chief public attorney Martin Kenke announced that Dmitry Kovtun, who has a German residency permit, is being charged by the Hamburg police with the illegal possession and mishandling of radioactive materials. According to Mr. Kenke, the German investigators have grounds to believe that Dmitry Kovtun is not only a victim of radiation sickness but also the “poisoner” in the Litvinenko case.

Yesterday a representative of the Hamburg police told Kommersant that “the police currently cannot answer the question of what legal consequences the collected evidence against Mr. Kovtun could lead to.” “The investigation has several working versions, but we currently cannot comment on them,” said the police spokesman. In general, however, the Hamburg police believe that Dmitry Kovtun transported polonium-210 to Germany from Moscow on October 28. On that day, according to the police report, he flew to Hamburg on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow together with another Russian citizen, whose name has not been disclosed. Mr. Kovtun spent the night of October 28-29 in his ex-wife’s apartment on Hertzberger Street, where traces of polonium-210 were found. The next day he bought a pair of pants in one of the stores in the center of Hamburg, leaving traces of radiation behind. He spent the next night in his former mother-in-law’s apartment in the Haselau region, where radiation was also discovered.

It looks like Scotland Yard might have itself two potential suspects, that is, if they live. Or if they would even be extradited to Britain. The Russians have set conditions for the British investigation. Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said last week that the Russian Constitution doesn’t allow extradition of Russian citizens to Britain, and that all interrogations would be done by Russian officials. Though there were hints that the investigation would go smoother if the British allow them to interrogate, and possibly extradite, Boris Berezovsky and Akhmed Zakaev in return.

And to top off everything, Litvinenko’s wife, Marina Litvinenko, 44, is speaking out. She told the Daily Mail, ““Sasha was a very emotional person. He could blame Putin. Obviously it was not Putin himself, of course not. But what Putin does around him in Russia makes it possible to kill a British person on British soil. I believe that it could have been the Russian authorities.”

The Charlie Rose Show has a roundtable discussion on the Litvinenko Affair with Prof. Stephen Cohen, Former Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Jack Matlock, Edward Jay Epstien, and Litvinenko’s co-author, Yuri Fleshtinsky. Watch it courtesy of Russia Blog.