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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.

United Russia Deputy Murdered

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Here’s a murder you probably won’t hear about in the Western press.  Grigory Nosikov, 48, was found dead on Wednesday of stab wounds outside the gates of his house, which is located in the Naro-Fominsk district some 60 miles west of Moscow.  Nosikov was not a journalist, oppositionist, or a human rights activist.  If he was you would probably know his name and his life by heart by now.  But no.  Nosikov was a member of United Russia and deputy of the town council in Kubinka.  Nosikov was also the owner of the Zalesye transportation company, and according to police, it was this, not his politics, which most likely led to his doom.

Nosikov is one of several deputies who have been murdered over the years.  According to Argumenty i fakty, being a Russian deputy is a risky job.  Not counting those in Ingushetia and Chechnya (which would make the list much, much longer), the weekly lists twenty four city and state parliamentary members who have been murdered since 1992.  Twelve of them have been killed since Putin came onto the political scene.  Interestingly, killing a elected official doesn’t seem to carry anymore weight than normal murder.  Police have filed Nosikov’s killing under “murder” as outlined in part one of article 105 in the Russian Criminal Code.  The penalty is a maximum 15 years in prison.

According to Moskovskii komsomolets, Nosikov’s murder occurred just after he and his partner, Ekaterina, returned home last Wednesday.  She went into the house; Nosikov stayed behind to close the gate.  “When the businessman got out of the car, the murder ran up to the courtyard and hit the politician over the head.  After the deputy fell to the ground unconscious, the villain (negodiai) started stabbing him with a knife.”

People who knew Nosikov say that he was a “self-made” man.  A former tank soldier and Afghan veteran, he and his partner started a business called the Kubin Bus Park, which began transporting passengers around the backwaters of the Odintsovsk region.  His business soon expanded to include selling cars and transporting people in the neighboring Naro-Fominsk district.  “But here Nosikov ran into problems” reports MK.

Business became difficult, says one source, once Noskiov entered the Naro-Fominsk market. His success was paid in becoming a target of “threats and demands that pull back his business” by the local mafia.

The mafia.  No, really?  In Putin’s Russia where United Russia dominates the political and economic scene?  Aren’t deputies like Nosikov supposed to be the fleecers and not the fleeces?  So much for that supposed power, prestige, and protection that comes from being a member and deputy for United Russia.