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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.

Human Rights Lawyer, Journalist Executed in Moscow

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As many already know, human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Novaya gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova were gunned down in Moscow  near the Kropotkinskaya metro on Monday afternoon. According to reports, a man in a green ski mask approached Markelov from behind and unloaded a few rounds into his head, execution style.  Baburova was seriously injured when she tried to intervene.  She died in a local hospital a few hours earlier. The gunman fled the scene.

Kommersant gives this description of the killing:

At 2:45 p.m. Stanislav Markelov exited the International Press Center with Novaya gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova.  They went down Prechistenka toward the Koprotkinskaya metro station. The assailant, a young man of around 180 cm height, dressed in a black trench coat. dark jeans and a green ski mask, went from across the street towards them. He followed he followed his victims for several minutes, and then, not far from the metro, he crossed the street and shot the lawyer in the back of the head with a pistol with a silencer.  After Stanislav Markelov fell, the killer quickly made his way down Gogolevskii boulevard. Shocked by the incident, Anastasia Baburova gathered herself, screamed, and what eyewitnesses say, she instinctively went after the murder.  That sealed her fate.  The criminal turned back and shot the young woman in the head. “Not many men would dare act in such a situation as she did,” Dmitrii Muratov the editor-in-chief of Novaya gazeta told Kommersant. According to him, Anastasia was a night student in the journalism department at MGU, and had worked for the newspaper since October of last year. Her writings dedicated to investigating the activities of neo-fascist groups.  She died from her wounds in the evening. She never regained consciousness.

Robert Amsterdam has already done a rapid fire blitz of posts on the incident. I recommend readers to point their mouse there.

Markelov was clearly the victim of a contract killing.  He was representing the family of Elza Kungayeva, 18, a Chechen woman who was allegedly raped then strangled to death by Colonel Yuri Budanov in 2000.  Budanov was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2005, but was paroled after serving three for “good behavior.”  Markelov called his release “illegal” and fought to keep the defrocked colonel behind bars.  Budanov walked nevertheless.  Now he has his revenge.

The Russian news coverage has been extensive.  Reactions have been quick.  More will certainly be forthcoming in the days ahead. Suffice to say that the murders prove that Medvedev’s “legalistic” Russia is no safer for human rights workers, lawyers, or journalists than Putin’s Russia. Hopefully, Medvedev won’t make the same mistake his mentor did by keeping silent after the Politkovskaya murder.  All international eyes will be focused on Russia waiting for any gesture of recognition on the part of the President. For as Sergei Mitrokhin, the leader of Yabloko, stated that “This crime shows that political murder remains a determinant in Russian society.” Unfortunately, he’s right.

Here is Russia Today‘s report: