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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.

The House of Cards Trembles

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It’s already falling like a house of cards.  Two more suspects in the Politikovskaya murder were taken off the list today.  Prosecutors announced that Oleg Alimov, one of the former Moscow police officers, has been freed from custody.  Alimov and his three colleagues were suspected of working with former FSB officer Pavel Riaguzov, police Major Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and three Chechen brothers in the murder.  However, Kommersant is now reporting that “an integral part of the Prosecutor’s map of the crime fell apart with the suspects Riaguzov and Khadzhikurbanov.  The General Prosecutor presented both with charges of abducting people, violating the privacy of homes, and abusing their position and using excessive official authority.”  These charges are for crimes the two men committed with their were a spook and a cop in 2002.  “I don’t understand on what basis they tried to tie my client to the Politkovskaya murder case,” Riaguzov’s lawyer told Kommersant.  “The charges that they presented to Riaguzov have no connection whatsoever to the murder.  A direct connection between both cases is found in the minds of the Prosecutors.”  We can probably expect the release of more suspects in the coming days.

Russian officials acknowledge that releasing suspects in a normal practice.  “An investigation is being conducted and if the charge doesn’t fit, the suspect is freed.” Some feel that there is pressure for the Politkovskaya investigation be quick, leading to mistakes, rush to judgment, and not fully scrutinizing sources and leads.  I can buy that.  I’ve seen Law and Order.

It all makes you wonder though if Chaika shot his load too early.  Or the announcement is merely part of a campaign to let the world know that the Russians are looking.  Another possibility is as Iuliya Latynina suggested, and perhaps she is right, that the “shit was beginning to ooze” and the public was going to find out anyway.  If that’s the case, the Prosecutor’s Office might have figured they might as well get some propaganda value out of it.  Unfortunately for them, the release of more suspects might squander whatever value is left.