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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.

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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 the Liar

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With all the hoopla around the Anna Politkovskaya murder case, we’ve forgotten to check in with good ol’Andrei Lugovoi to see how he’s doing. Whether valid or not the Politikovskaya murder is often linked with the Litvinenko murder with the following terms–dissident, “fierce Kremlin critic,” Berezovsky, Chechnya, KGB/FSB, and, of course, Putin.

Unlike the Politkovskaya case, however, the Litvinenko case remains stuck in a bureaucratic-diplomatic-legal quagmire. The Russian government has repeated refused allowing Lugovoi to be extradited to Britain. And so far the Russian authorities have been unsatisfied with what the British have provided by way of proof of Lugovoi’s involvement. “We have not received any evidence from London of Lugovoi’s guilt, and those documents we have are full of blank spaces and contradictions,” Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the committee investigating the Litvinenko affair at the Russian Prosecutors Office, told Rossiiskaya gazeta. The UK Crown Prosecution Office, surely tired of inquiries and what it considers statements that amount to nothing more than ravings, declined to comment on Bastrykin’s recent comments. They simply referred statements made on 22 May that stated that the Crown had sufficient evidence to try Lugovoi.

Though his future remains uncertain, that doesn’t mean Lugovoi is keeping his mouth shut. In a press conference held today, Lugovov rattled off a spite fire of allegations against, you guessed it, Boris Berezovsky. Lugovoi claims that not only is BAB responsible for the Litvinenko murder, but also Politkovskaya’s murder and sought to mastermind a plot to off Elena Tregubova. Tregubova is the author of the scandalous political tell all Tales of a Kremlin Digger. She applied for political exile in Britain earlier this year claiming that her book put her life in danger. If she really was on Berezovsky’s kill list, why the hell would she flee to Britain? I guess Andrei forgot to explain that one.

But he did say this, “At the meeting with Berezovsky held in London in late October of 2006, only one topic was under discussion – arranging protection for Elena Tregubova. Having analyzed Berezovsky’s persistent interest towards whether or not the protection of this journalist would be executed in the name of an employee of my firm,” and “that Boris Abramovich was preparing an alibi for himself and simultaneously building a chain to remove Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, Tregubova or Politkovskaya, Tregubova, Litvinenko.” He went on to suggest that Berezovsky represents the “fifth estate” in Britain.

It as if Boris didn’t already have enough to worry about. His name has been splashed all over the news after Russian general Prosecutor Chaika made veiled implications that he ordered the hit on Politkovskaya. Earlier this month, Russian authorities filled a sixth warrant for his arrest for embezzling $13 million from SBS Argo Bank in 1997. He already has the Brazilians on his back and now the Dutch and French are vying for some space on there too. Do ya feel the heat yet, Boris? Do ya?

One thing is for sure. Lugovoi should keep his pie-hole shut because he can’t seem to keep his story straight. For example, Kommersant has discovered that the supposed “analytical documents” Lugovoi said he and Litvinenko sold to British intelligence for 10,000 euros turned out to be a scam. They weren’t government documents at all, but written by the staff at the Center for Political Information. When asked about the confidentiality of the papers, CPI head Alexei Mukhin told Kommersant that

“The excerpts that Vlast quoted were taken from our reference publication, “The System of Moscow Clubs. Elite, Lobbyists and Brain Centers” issued in 2006 and our monitoring for the balance of forces in high ranks [#122 as of March 2006]. We have been publishing these monitoring issues every other month since 2001. The reference guide on night clubs was compiled from my own information gathered by students of Russian Social University, so it can’t confidential by any means. The students went to closed clubs to gather information, so they actually carried out a journalist investigation. The monitoring of the balance of forces is an exclusive material. It is a limited edition which is distributed among CPI’s clients only – there are no more than a few dozens of them, anyway.”

When Kommersant asked Lugovoi about the documents he said “
I’ve never said Litvinenko and I sold informational and analytical files about Russia to anyone in England. Litvinenko is a traitor who deserves the worst treatment by all Russian citizens!” Ah, right . . . But did you sell the documents, Mr. Lugovoi? Silence. Oh, nevermind. We’ll just use your statements from 31 May: “So, we were offering them various analytical materials in different spheres of the economy. We received money for these materials directly, and Litvinenko got 20 percent in cash from them. This is what he told me. If they were to transfer, say, $10,000, they would transfer $8,000 and give the rest to Litvinenko.”

Insert foot in mouth.