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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.

Britian Sends Russian Diplomats Packing

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The “Litvinenko Affair” has started to make me to feel a bit like Michael Corleone. “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in!”

The Brits have lived up to their threats and expelled four Russian diplomats. They also plan on suspending negotiations with the Russians over visas, making it more difficult for Russian government officials and citizens to get entry into Britain. David Miliband of the British Foreign Ministry told reporters that “This is a situation the government has not sought and does not welcome. But we have no choice but to address it. We have chosen to expel four diplomats, four particular diplomats, in order to send a clear and proportionate signal to the Russian government about the seriousness of this case.” Well if you want the Russians to take the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi seriously, turning the issue into a full blown diplomatic crisis is probably not the best way. Now the Russian government has pride to stand on.

The Russian Constitution forbids extradition of Russian citizens to other countries for prosecution. But international agreements, Miliband claims, state that Lugovoi could be extradited if he travels outside of Russia.

I wonder how the Russians will answer the British. It wouldn’t surprise me if they suggest a swap of criminals. Lugovoi for Berezovsky or Zakaev. This is what the Russians really want. After all, the trying Berezovsky in absentia just isn’t the same as having him sit in that birdcage in the court room ala Khodorkovsky.

Speaking of Berezovsky, his trial has been suspended after his court appointed lawyer, Aleksander Dudkin, asked for some time to review the case files.

Dudkin discussed his special appointment in an interview with Izvestiia last week. When asked how he came to represent Berezovsky, Dudkin said that it was basically dumb bureaucratic luck. “A telephone message from the court and the manager looked to see who was free and I was.” Dudkin also found it strange that the court appointed a lawyer for an economic crime. When asked how he would defend such a controversial figure as Berezovsky, Dudkin replied that “the case is not personal. Berezovsky or not, there is an obligation to defend him, and it is my duty to do so.” The best answer is line every media outlet is reporting is the following:

Izvestiia: Are you even interested in this case?

Dudkin: Between you and me, I don’t give a damn. I’ve seen more than enough trials in Soviet times. What will the Berezovsky case give me?

Izvestiia: You will become famous. . .

Dudkin: Pff, and what will this do for me? I’m a nobody.

Berezovsky’s legal troubles do not end in Russia. A Brazilian court has asked Interpol to arrest him for his alleged role in a money laundering scheme involving the Corinthians football club. Berezovsky responded that he didn’t know anything about the Brazilian arrest request, saying, “I am not involved in money laundering, nor have I been involved in any dealings connected to Carlos Tevez. I am an Arsenal fan.” He also claimed that the Brazilian charge was “an extension of the Kremlin’s politicized campaign” against him. Yeah that’s it. BAB’s no criminal. It is far more plausible that Putin’s long tentacles are putting the squeeze on the Brazilians. Since Putin is so omnipotent, you think I can ask Putin to put the squeeze on Kevin McHale so he’ll trade Kevin Garnett to the Lakers?

The Brazilian indictment might just be the beginning of BAB’s international legal woes. Kommersant reports that a “well-informed Moscow source” told Interfax that “The Brazilian court’s warrant for Berezovsky is just the first step. A number of other countries which have claims against the businessman may soon take similar steps.” No countries were specified, but the source claimed that “two or three European states” were among several countries “in active cooperation with Russia on organized crime and money laundering.” If true, I would imagine that Switzerland has a good case considering all the money laundering front companies BAB set up there in the 1990s.

Makes you wonder how Britain will respond if more countries follow the Brazilian example.