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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 Face of the “Killer”

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Wanted: Rustam MakhmudovThe investigation into Anna Politkovskaya murder took another turn yesterday when the Russian news site published the photo of the main suspect. According to the website, the suspect, Rustam Makhmudov, the older brother of three individuals arrested by Russian authorities in August, is said to be hiding in London. doesn’t say where this information comes from or who leaked the photo to them, but the London connection is sure to fuel the belief that Berezovsky is behind the whole thing.

This is what the Prosecutor’s Office thinks. Thus far, Russian investigators have insisted that Berezovsky was behind the murder. When Izvestiia asked Dmitrii Dovgii, the chief investigator at the Prosecutor Generals Office, who ordered Politkovskaya murder, he answered, “Our profound belief is that its Boris Abromovich Berezovsky through Hoj-Akhmed Nukhaev” (Nukhaev is said to also have organized Paul Klebnikov’s murder.) Shortly before the Izvestiia interview, Dovgii was removed for taking bribes amounting to over 3 million euros. So much for his credibility.

This isn’t the first time Makhmudov’s name has been connected with a terrorizing journalists. He’s been on the run since 1997 in connection with the kidnapping Elena Masiuk, a reporter for NTV. Her demise was averted by none other than Berezovsky. He shelled out $200,000 for her release in a widely publicized story. Late last month, Makhmudov’s new designation as murder suspect #1 was leaked to Komsomolskaya pravda.

The release of Makhmudov’s name and photo doesn’t bode well for the investigation. It down right pissed off the editors of Novaya gazeta, who are conducting their own investigation into the killing. The day after Makhmudov’s name was published in KP, Novaya deputy editor Sergei Sokolov said that he had “no doubts that it was done intentionally.” In his view it was done to “warn the killer” and prevent others from giving testimony. The release of Makhmudov’s photo sparked similar indignation. In response, Sokolov told the Moscow Times, “The people who give these leaks and the journalists who feed off them are not worthy of discussion.”

This of course doesn’t mean that Novaya isn’t going to do its best to stir the cauldron of alleged plotlines. Sokolov published his own broadside against the leaks suggesting that they are originating from individuals in the FSB. Sokolov believes the FSB is connected to Politkovskaya’s killing through an elaborate string of criminal and secret police connections. For Sokolov, however, the issue is not so much about a FSB plot to eliminate Politkovskaya, but the revolving connections between the FSB and the criminal underworld. Welcome to the moral gray area of cloak and dagger.

My only question about this is that if people in the FSB are leaking information to warn whoever, then why through the press? If the FSB is all that omnipotent and crafty, is it really necessary for them to go public? I’m sure they have all sorts of back channels to relay such information.

It all just goes to show that the Politkovskaya murder investigation is still mired in politics and conspiracy theories. It’s enough to make your head spin.