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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.

MI6 Bitch

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So there you have it. Sounds like Andrei Lugovoi was right after all. The London Daily Mail revealed today that Alexandr Litvinenko was indeed a paid MI6 agent. Says the Mail:

Alexander Litvinenko was receiving a retainer of around £2,000 a month from the British security services at the time he was murdered.

The disclosure, by diplomatic and intelligence sources, is the latest twist in the Litvinenko affair, which has plunged relations between London and Moscow to their lowest point since the Cold War.

Sources also say that Litvinenko was recruited by Sir John Scarlett. Scarlett now heads the Crown’s secret service. Before that he was stationed in Moscow. It’s also said that Litvinenko was working for MI6 at the time of his murder.

Litvinenko’s wife Marina denies that her husband ever worked for MI6. But why would she know? I’ve seen enough Hollywood spy movies to know that wives being clueless about their husbands spy work has some grain of truth in reality. Marina Litvinenko is in Portugual trying to lobby European leaders to put pressure on Russia to extradite Andrei Lugovoi. It’s no wonder she would want to deny the MI6 story even if she did know it. I doubt this revelation will garner any sympathy. Regular murders are one thing. But spy vs. spy killings involving radioactive materials. Well that is another . . .

One thing, however, is clear. Mrs. Litvinenko is indeed worried about her husband’s legacy. So much so that she’s bankrolled it into a Hollywood film. It was announced last week that Hollywood blockbuster veteran Michael Mann has bought rights from the Litvinenko Justice Foundation to make a film about Litvinenko’s murder. I don’t know how much the rights were sold for, but I’m sure it can buy a lot of “justice.” Mann’s version (Johnny Depp is said to making a similar film) is based on, you guessed it, Marina Litvinenko’s book (co-written with Alexander Goldfarb) Death Of A Dissident: The Poisoning Of Alexander Litvinenko And The Return Of The KGB. The film deal news coincides with the book’s release in Portugal. What a coincidence! Marina Litvinenko is in Portugal to “lobby” European leaders at the same time her book comes out there, and news about a movie based on said book is announced. Here in Tinsel Town that’s called a publicity tour. Whichever PR firm handling all this gets a gold star!

This is not to sound like I think Marina Litvinenko and her colleagues at the Litvinenko Justice Foundation (whose founders incidentally include Boris Berezovsky, Goldfarb, and their lawyer Louise Christian) are not interested in finding the killer. After all, you can’t make a good film without an evil villain. And spinning the murder into some elaborate Kremlin plot might be too ephemeral for audiences to follow. Just think of the celluloid confusion Syriana induced. For Alexandr Litvinenko to be fully canonized as an anti-Kremlin dissident (that is if his canonization isn’t complete already) , the evildoer needs to be caught. Because if left in the hands of Hollywood scriptmeisters who knows what kind of elaborate tale will be wrought.