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.

The Litvinenko Drama Continues

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The British Crown Prosecution Service has charged Russian businessman Andrei Lugovoi with the murder of Alexandr Litvinenko. The question if anything will come of it. First off is a major legal hurdle. Article 61 of the Russian Constitution bars extradition of Russian citizens. It states, “a citizen of the Russian Federation may not be deported out of Russia or extradited to another state.” And this is the line the Russian government is taking. Marina Gridneva, a spokeswoman for the Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office, told RFE/RL, “A citizen who has committed a crime on the territory of a foreign country can be prosecuted on the basis of materials provided by that country, but only in Russia, if there is an analogous crime punishable under Russian legislation.” So it might come down to how much Britain is willing to make a diplomatic issue out of Litvinenko’s murder.

One carrot they might dangle in front of the Russians is the extradition of Boris Berezovsky and Chechen exiled leader Akhmed Zakayev. But that also might cost Britain too much politically. The fact that the UK granted Berezovsky and Zakayev political asylum prevents any extradition. Last June a British court ruled that Berezovsky “was protected by the Geneva Conventions which say that no individual can be extradited if he has been given political asylum.” I guess if things get to hot for Berezovsky he can beg the Israelis for his citizenship back. He held Israeli citizenship from 1993 to 1996. He had to renounce it when he became Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council.

Lugovoi had the following to say in response to the charges: “I believe the decision is a political one – I did not kill Litvinenko, have no connections with his death, and I have grounds in expressing my distrust of evidence collected by British law enforcers.” He then added that we will be hearing more from Mr. Lugovoi in the coming weeks. He vowed to make several public announcements “which will be a sensation for public opinion in Britain and will fundamentally change assessments of certain events, which have been surrounding some persons of Russian origin in Britain in recent years.” Those Hollywood script writers working feverishly on the Alexandr Litvinenko movie better put down their pens and hold on the brainstorming sessions. (I suggest just move your energies over to the Anna Politkovskaya movie boys. That case seems to be going nowhere.) To think we thought the drama was over. It’s only just beginning.

As more scrutinizing commenters suggest, the murder charges might just be yet another salvo in a vast cover-up. Copydude thinks that the wholr thing smells of “black propaganda.” He asks the simple question: Lugovoi’s motive? “Lugovoi is a security professional,” he writes. Professionals use fast acting toxins that don’t leave traces. End of story. Professional assassins don’t turn up for assassinations with their own passports and register at hotels in their own names. While millionaires like Lugovoi have people handle any dirty work. He doesn’t even clean his own shoes.” “Murderers need a motive, too,” he adds. “Lugovoi was neither FSB nor politician. Nor was he among the long list of people informed upon, duped or blackmailed by Litvinenko.”

Some see the more plausible explanation is that Litvinenko poisoned himself while trying to smuggle polonium to make a “dirty bomb.” AJStrata writes on The Strata-Sphere, “What still makes no sense is the fact the amount of Po-210 that killed Litvinenko was so small as to be invisible to the human eye. It does not take three trips to move a micro-gram. In fact, it is hard to handle a microgram. It would be nice to see how this case pans out, except I am not sure it will go to court. The other option – a smuggling effort for Berezovsky being handled by his comrades Litvinenko and Lugovoi – still appears to me to be much more plausible. And a court case would expose the evidence and give us a chance to see what the prosecutor’s know and see why they went with the wild murder charge.”

Could it be that Litvinenko, the much applauded “fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin” (So fierce that curiously no one had heard of him until his demise) was really just bungling terrorist who fell victim to his own nefarious plot? Boy, wouldn’t that be a riot.

The real question is how many points on the Amazon Sales Rank Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror will shoot up as a result of all this.

I know one thing. If I didn’t have to ever see that damn photo of Litvinenko lying in that hospital bed looking like a cancer kid again, it wouldn’t be too soon. Surely news agencies have better stock photos than that.

A shout out to UK Daily Pundit, Copydude, and Strata-Sphere for the links.