Recent Posts

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.

Politkovskaya Trial Opens Behind Closed Doors

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The Anna Politkovskaya murder trial opened today and it’s already being marred by secrecy, conspiracy theories, and suspicion.  Despite efforts by Politkovskaya’s newspaper, Novaya gazeta, the trial of Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov will not be open to the public.  The trial will be a military one because, officials say, the case involved many classified documents, particularly documents referring to Pavel Ryagunov, a former FSB officer tied to the murder.

A closed trial is not the only thing that has raised eyebrows.  Yesterday, Karinna Moskalenko, the lawyer for Politkovskaya’s family, suddenly fell ill before leaving for Moscow to attend the trial.  She’s suggesting that someone tried to poison her with mercury pellets found in her car. “People do not put mercury in your car to improve your health,” Moskalenko told Ekho Moskvy. “I am very concerned because there were children in that car.” She also added that she believes that the attempt was more of a warning.  “I think it may have been a demonstration because there was lots of it. How could you not notice it?”  As for who might have done this, she has no clue.  Was this a murder attempt, a warning, or just paranoia?  Results from toxicology tests are still pending.

The trial’s opening comes on the heels of the second anniversary of Politkovskaya’s murder.  There were several commemorations around the world marking it.   In Helsinki, Amnesty International activists  with 350 others held a small ceremony outside the Russian embassy.  In France, a series of actions to remember Politkovskaya will take place over a two week period.  In Moscow, a few hundred people came out in the pouring rain.  OMON officers were there for security and didn’t interfere with the gathering. A number of memories and thoughts about Politkovskaya can be read on Global Voices.

As for the big question of where is Rustam Makhmudov, the alleged trigger man, and who is the person or persons who ordered the hit, here is what Petros Garibyan said in a recent interview with Novaya gazeta:

Q: As for the supposed killer Rustam Makhmudov. His photo it is possible to see on the Interpol’s site. Does it mean he is hiding in abroad?

A: I can’t say for sure whether he is hiding in abroad or on the Russian territory. Even if I knew that, I wouldn’t say, as this is the secret of investigation. Wherever he was, he is looked for everywhere. He has been put on the federal and international wanted file on two criminal counts. There a sanction for his arrest wherever he were found.

Q: And what about organizer or organizers? Have you managed to narrow the circle of those suspected?

A: Well, we have suppositions about possible involvements, which is not bad in such a hard case. I cannot narrow this circle and so I check everyone. And the circle itself is not so big to be narrowed – that’s about 2-4 people. Now we are working exactly about the supposed organizers. Everyone must be checked and proved guilty or not guilty, and only then they must go to court and get sentenced.

So the trial made be starting behind closed doors, but the search continues and will so for some time.