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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.

Two More Chechen Human Rights Activists Kidnapped

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Two more human rights workers have been kidnapped in Grozny, the Russian media is reportingAccording to, Zarema Sadulaeva and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were taken by unknown gunmen from the office of “Save the Generation,” a non-governmental youth organization that provides medical and psychological help for youth and children traumatized by violence in Chechnya.  Alexandr Cherkasov of Memorial told Ekho Moskvy:

“Around 2 p.m. unknown armed men entered the office of “Save the Generation.”  Two were in civilian clothing and three were in black uniforms.  They introduced themselves as representatives of the security organs.  They took Zarema and her husband, and after some time returned and took their cell phone and her husband’s car.  When they are now and which agency abducted them is unknown.”

Chechen security organs say that it is too early to say whether Sadulaeva and Dzhabrailov were kidnapped.  “According to eyewitnesses, Saduleava and her husband went into the car voluntarily. No force was used against them,” a representative told Interfax.

Too early to say?  It’s not like this is the first time this has happened.  Well, if they were indeed taken by Chechen security agents then the MVD should know where they are and why they were taken.  If not, then they were kidnapped by persons posing as Chechen police.  I don’t know which is worse.

The kidnappings come a few days after Ramzan Kadyrov denied allegations in an interview with Radio Svoboda that he was involved in last month’s abduction and murder of Nataila Estemirova .  When asked whether he would consider creating an independent commission to investigate her murder, Kadyrov replied,

Why invite people from outside to do that if we have our own laws here? Are investigations in the Russian Federation conducted worse than in other countries? A full investigation is being carried out.

[Memorial head] Oleg Orlov blamed me [for Estemirova’s death]. That human rights defender violated my human rights. He should have protected me as an individual and thought about what he was going to say. But he accused me of being a murderer. He said that Kadyrov killed Estemirova. I told him, “Mr. Orlov, you’re an adult. Be a real person for once in your life and tell me why you violated my rights?” He replied saying, “That’s not what I meant. I meant you in your role as president.”

They [human rights activists] are all lawyers. The texts they write follow the letter of the law. [Orlov] told me he blamed me as president, as the guarantor of the constitution. They’re very good lawyers. But if they say that Kadyrov or his people are to blame, let them prove it. Why would Kadyrov kill women that no one needs?

[Estemirova] never had any honor or sense of shame. And still I appointed her head of a [civil society advisory] commission with the mayor of Grozny as her deputy. I wanted to be objective about addressing the issue. But she didn’t like it. She would say stupid things. I told her, “You’re a woman, and we’re trying to do something for the people. But if it doesn’t work, don’t blame us.” I said I would show her the city budget and told her to try to do better. She said, “Yes, I understand.”

So I said I’d disband the commission, thanks very much for your work, but I don’t trust you. I didn’t treat her gently. I didn’t tell her I loved her. I told it like it was. We were both acting in our professional capacities. She was the head of the commission, and I, as the president of Chechnya, was evaluating her work. So why am I to blame? Let the investigators conduct their work. If Kadyrov or his people are to blame, let them be tried and jailed.

Well that’s reassuring . . .

Here is more Kadyrov in his own words: