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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.

Porno Billboard Bandit Busted

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It just goes to show that the sleuths in Russia can work fast when the want to.  Witness how it took them a mere month to catch the internationally infamous hacker who placed porno on a Moscow billboard. And get this, they caught him not in Moscow, but some 760 miles away in the southern city of Novorossiisk. If only they moved so ardently when a journalist is murdered . . .

Anyway, the officials from the MVD’s Department K, which handles cyber-crime, has not released the name of the perpetrator or when they arrested him.  But this is what we do know.  He’s a 41-year-old unemployed systems administrator, alleged former pot dealer and taxi driver.  There were several reasons for his prank: “curiosity,” “to sharpen his skills,” and simply “to entertain people.”  I don’t know if he satisfied from first two, but he hit a home run with the last. I was certainly entertained.

The suspect also thought he was smarter than he was.  “He operated very ingeniously and was certain of his invulnerability” a MVD rep told Rossiiskaya gazeta.  “The server, which controlled the electronic billboard in Moscow, was hacked through a proxy server [located in Chechnya].  After the server was hacked, he released the porno.  He says that he simply wanted to amuse people and thought that the screen was in some store.”  Oops!

Oops is right.  Unfortunately for him, his desire to amuse might land him two years in prison.  His stunt violated two articles of the Russian Criminal Code: Article 272 the illegal access to computer information, and Article 242 unlawful distribution of pornographic material.  The cops, however, don’t think this is a reason to keep in the pen.  He was released on his own cognizance with the promise that he wouldn’t leave Novorossiisk.

h/t to Jesse Heath.