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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.

Nashist Dumped from United Russia List

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I’m desperately trying to catch up with several items that I’ve encountered over the last week. Joera Mulders of the excellent Russia Watchers sent me the following story about Nikita Ivanov, a former official in the President’s administration, who was kicked off United Russia’s electoral lists.

According to Vedomosti, the Central Election Committee noticed that United Russia electoral list was one short of the 600 named at its party congress. The missing name turned out to be Ivanov, though he participated in ER’s much touted, but virtually unknown to the public, “primaries.” Ivanov has a long history working with the Putinistas. He got his start working as an advisor to Presidential aide, Sergei Prikhodko in 2000.  From 2005-2008, he served as the deputy head of Office of Communications with Foreign Countries.

Apparently, Ivanov also served, and here is where it get juicy, as a liaison between the Presidential administration and pro-Kremlin youth under the direction of the Grey Cardinal himself, Vladislav Surkov..

According to a former employee of the Office of Communications, Ivanov’s special duties was to coordinate between the administration and organs of Internal Affairs on street demonstrations. “In 2005, young people who arrived on a bus attacked one of the opposition meetings with baseball bats. The police detained the hooligans, delivered them to the District Internal Affairs office, and held them for several hours. Then some employee from the President’s administration came to the division and after that all the detainees were let go without charges,” says oppositionist Ilya Yashin, then a member a Yabloko. According to him, it came out several days later that this employee was Ivanov, and he wrote about in a newspaper. “After that the deputy chairman of Yabloko, Sergei Ivanenko, forwarded me a message from Ivanov from a contact in the Kremlin: if there are similar articles in the future, a lot of unpleasantness would befall on me,” Yashin remembered.

According to a person close to the Kremlin administration, Ivanov is directly under the first deputy head Vladislav Surkov and has informally worked with pro-Kremlin youth, and after Manezh [riot], football fans.  While doing this, he was transferred to United Russia’s executive committee. According to United Russia, however, no one ever saw him at the executive committee and what he does is unknown.

Why was Ivanov kicked off United Russia list despite his loyal service to Surkov? It unclear. All Vedomosti cites is a supposed “conflict with important Kremlin officials.”